Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Old School, Part Deux

Well, the lads from the Jesuit High School Class of '71 finally got their collective act together at the eleventh hour in time for a 40-year high school reunion. Rumor has it that Jesuit administrators put the "Jersey squeeze" on one of our former classmates, Tom Manning (currently a teacher at Jesuit) to make some calls.

And so it was, on Friday, September 16, I ventured to Portland to join longtime buddy Tim Nashif in attending the second of two high school reunions this summer. This one was held at Ernesto's, an Italian restaurant immediately adjacent to Jesuit High School in Beaverton.

The agenda included a social and buffet dinner, followed by the "Holy War," the annual football fracas between the Jesuit Crusaders and their chief rival, the Central Catholic Rams.

Some say that your sense of smell can trigger more memories than any other of the five senses.

As we entered Ernesto's, the unmistakable aroma of Tuscan cuisine penetrated my nostrils and every other fibre of my being. But this establishment wasn't just any Italian restaurant; the scent was eerily familiar.

I couldn't put my finger on it, until a little later in the evening.

After checking in at the registration table, we chatted with old classmates while watching the first half of the football game out the window at Ernesto's, which beamed directly down onto Jesuit's Cronin Field. No fooling, it was kind of like being in a skybox.

We adjourned to the field in the second half, where the Crusaders blocked a field goal attempt by the Rams in the final seconds, escaping with the win in a 14-12 nailbiter.

Later, we met the owner of Ernesto's -- Mike Ceccanti. I explained my nasal nostalgia and he had an answer: his family had owned the old Monte Carlo restaurant on Southeast Belmont near 10th Avenue, one of our favorite eateries. His grandfather -- Ernesto -- opened the Monte Carlo in 1927; unfortunately, the eatery burned down in 2002.

"That's it," I replied. "That's the smell I remember from my youth."

Oh, and one more thing: you've gotta love high school reunions. It's where geeks morph into doctors and jocks become caricatures in a Bruce Springsteen ballad.

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