I'm sitting in the auditorium at Brookwood High School in Gwinnett County, listening to my daughter Amy sing in the school's fall chorus production.
Amy is, of course, the star -- at least to Dad. She's only a freshman, and in the pecking order of such activities, that means one of her biggest roles is as the 10th wave from the right during the rendition of Disney's "Under the Sea." I'm sure that Amy (the actual name that is eternally engraved in Dad's love-besotted brain is "Precious Amy") could have excelled as the Little Mermaid, but that will have to wait for a couple of years.
When the troupe does "Hand Jive," Amy edges into the limelight -- center stage wearing a bright orange 1950s dress. Impossible to miss (at least for Dad).
The name "Louis Sutera" pops into my mind. Wow, that's an odd association, I think, and promptly push the name out of my misfiring synapses.
I don't do the art reviews around here, but for my money ($5), this Brookwood evening is darn good stuff. I'd expected a rather tedious night of singing that was alternatively off-key or screeching. Nope, some of these kids -- many of them, in fact -- are professional quality. I'm impressed.
"Louis Sutera." There it is again. "Louis Sutera."
The name is nagging at me. It's like when your uncontrollable mind reminds you that you only have three days to finish your income taxes.
The music is a good distraction. I muse: This isn't your grandfather's Gwinnett County. One marvelous duet features a black young man and white young lady singing about love and, ohmygod, actually holding hands. Bravo. Maybe there's hope for this wretched state. ...
"Louis Sutera." Damn it, damn it. Get lost, Louis.
... A couple of the songs, including "Joyful, Joyful" (from Sister Act) are distinctly Christian. I hope my pals in the ACLU don't tune in. I'm all for a sky-high, mile-wide wall between church and state, but geez, there are some things that are just so good, we should all take a breather from political correctness.
"Louis Sutera." I push back once more, but I have the feeling I'm going to have to dredge a face out of the past, a decades-old memory I'd just as soon stay buried. My ancient memories add another word to the name: "Sgt. Louis Sutera."
Finally, I can't repel Sgt. Sutera any longer. When a Hispanic youth elegantly sings "I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You," half in English, half in Spanish, I know one reason I'm thinking of Louis Sutera. The face in my memory looks a lot like this kid on stage, whose skill has made him a repeat performer during the night. The kid's name, I see on my program, is Stephen Santana, a hallowed moniker for a musician for someone of my generation. "Santana. Sutera."
Louis Sutera was just a guy at my high school, Palmetto, in Miami. Why am I remembering him now? The best I can come up with is that the last time I recall seeing Louis Sutera, we were sitting next to each other at an event very much like the one at Brookwood. My school had an all-girl singing group, the Triple Trio. I think Louis dated one of the elite squad. Or maybe more then one. He was pretty popular.
He was a year ahead of me in school and we were members of rival high school fraternities. But we both had a certain panache as hell-raisers, and that creates bonds among adolescents. If we saw each other across a crowded room, we'd likely walk toward each other with a "Hey, John!" and "Greetings, Great Louis!" He rated that respect because he was on the football team, an all-around good guy.
Louis was recruited by the University of Georgia. He played tackle, or was it guard? Not one of the glory positions, but that was Louis. He worked hard and allowed others to reap the praise. You can find his name in the UGA archives, but not much more.
The reason is that Louis Sutera became cannon fodder. Always the good guy, he enlisted in the Army before the draft called him. In 1967, he died. I never learned the details, other than he was killed in a helicopter somewhere in Vietnam. He was the first from my high school to die in the Southeast Asia conflict. He wasn't the last. No, not the last.
Too bad I can't abandon politics for one evening, I think. Or, maybe not. I'm scared to death for these kids on stage. It's not just the boys that are likely soon to be in harm's way, but the girls, too. Cannon fodder, for a war built on a president's lies, for a war that has made the threat of terrorism immensely greater, for a war in which the only winners are the corporate profiteers.
I hope -- no, I pray -- that Santana's only similarity to Sutera is his looks. And before I say "amen," I also ask that a few decades down the road, my Precious Amy isn't recalling who was the first of her class to die in a war that never should have been fought.
Read more of Group Senior Editor John Sugg at www.johnsugg.com. His column appears occasionally in Creative Loafing.
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