Well, graduation has come and gone, as have the parents and my sister. Let's get this thing started, shall we?
They got here on Thursday in midafternoon. We went up to campus to look around and see the campus, since only Mom had ever been on it. Managed to make Elisa sick, since Lubbock, where she goes to school, has neither hills nor curves in the roads; Baton Rouge itself was making her sick, ha! (Sorry, Elisa.) Once we'd exhausted the possibilities of campus -- which didn't really take that long, since what I consider 'campus' (i.e. where I go) is only a small subset of the actual campus -- we went to Highland Coffees, where only I had coffee, the rest of the family thinking it vile :) Following that we went to Chelsea's, which everyone pronounced wonderful. (I'm pleased, since it's one of my favorite places in Baton Rouge.) Mom and Dad went back to their hotel, and Elisa and I sat around in my bedroom and watched TV. We agreed that we love Will and Grace
, but feel dirty watching it on Lifetime (Television for Pharmaceutically Emotionally Suppressed Women).
Friday morning, graduation morning! Fifteen minutes before the parents were supposed to be here to pick us up, Mom calls and tells us the car won't start (because it wouldn't be a Bierschenk family event without some form of car trouble). Shorthanding it, we jumped the van from my car, got it to the Honda place, and still got to the main commencement ceremony in plenty of time. I'm really glad of this, because although I was willing to miss it if I had to, I put a lot of stock in speech acts (that's what a career in linguistics and literary theory will get you!), and it's at the main ceremony where the degrees are actually granted.
Dick Cheney was indeed the speaker, and I have to say my opinion of him was changed by his address. I still strongly disagree with his politics and policies, but I'm not sure if I can ever really call him the Dark Prince anymore, at least not with any true venom. He was very personable and human, and his speech was apolitical but for one or two brief moments of rhetorical grandstanding. I've seen more than my fair share of commencement addresses by politicians (two by George W. Bush), and they tend to come out as stump speeches, more or less. Cheney (and his speechwriters) really earned a large measure of my respect by engaging the matter at hand, that is to say celebrating the work of the assembled graduates and sending them out into the world.
The diploma ceremony was pretty bloody long, as every single bachelor's and master's degree recipient had their name called as they crossed the stage. Nevertheless, I was glad to do it; I'm a sucker for ritual milestoning. Kip Holden, the Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish, gave a nice short speech that acknowledged the difficulties of the past year while setting sights firmly on the future. And then I had my diploma, and was officially an alumnus of Louisiana State University.
And then came dinner. I had been looking forward to dinner for the whole week, because we had a reservation at Mansur's on the Boulevard, one of the nicer restaurants in the city. They serve beautifully done Creole cuisine; it's where we (Dept. of French Studies) tend to take visiting lecturers and dignitaries if they're in town for more than a day or so. I had never been, though, so I was very excited: I was in no wise disappointed. I started out with a cup of the Creole seafood gumbo. The broth was rich and velvety, and the seafood was perfect: not overcooked, just right and tender. Seasonings were beautifully balanced. Of course, the gumbo did nothing but whet my appetite for the entree that followed: roast duckling with a blueberry and Chambord liqueur sauce. I can't really give the best description of this, because I kinda tuned out a bit, having died and gone to heaven. I remember the flesh of the duck being rich and succulent, a fine contrast to the crisp, caramelized skin. The sauce was deep and textured, and was offset nicely (in color and taste) by a stalk of what I'm going to tentatively identify as broccoli rabe. A cluster of grapes made a nice palate cleanser between bites, so the flavors could burst out all over again in my mouth. I finished with an absolutely gargantuan slice of bread pudding (with blueberries, raisins, and walnuts), which had a nice dense crumb that I never manage to achieve in my own efforts. The rest of the family was equally pleased: Dad's redfish roasted on a cedar plank was apparently amazing, and both Mom and Elisa loved their salmon special (brown sugar and pecan crust, served over lump crab and a mango-pineapple salsa). The cheesecake, raspberry sorbet, and white chocolate macadamia brownie were all also enjoyed (and devoured). All in all, it was a wonderful dining experience. The waiter needed a bit of a refresher course in basic serving technique (serving and clearing methods, etc), but I was pretty much too enthralled by the stuff on my plate to really give a damn what he did as long as he didn't drop a plate on my head (he didn't).
Before the food came, Mom and Dad decided to give me my graduation present. They handed me a card in an envelope, so I expected there to be a check inside -- not unique, but also not unwelcome. Instead, I found ( this )
This morning, the four of us went for breakfast at Louie's, which I think you need to experience if you come to Baton Rouge. It's one of those things. They all liked that too, as they had all the BR restaurants I took them to: as Mom put it, "We've eaten really well this trip!" Thank you, South Louisiana. I drove them over to Team Honda to get the van (it was a battery problem, turns out), and they left. I came home and caught up on sleep.
I'm happy. I'm also sad. I've been seesawing wildly between extremes for the past couple of days, sometimes switching from minute to minute. I'm happy with my accomplishment, I'm proud of myself, I'm excited about going to Ohio. I'm sad to be leaving Baton Rouge and all my friends here. I find myself cataloging memories of the city and the university, from laying on the floor in the house on Oakland with Jeff and a Baton Rouge street map trying to figure out the major streets I'd need to know, all the way to going to Fleur de Lis Pizza with Erin and Mandi tonight. It's been a good road. I've still got months here, and I'm going to try not to ruin them with maudlin sentimentality, but for right now I'm a little bit of a basketcase. I hope to be better tomorrow morning, so I can leave behind the sadness until September and instead just enjoy the hot Louisiana summer, eating the good food, hanging with the good friends, driving around in my (my
) car, soaking it all in. Good night, y'all.( A Picture of a Graduate )