Novak (novak) wrote,

Personal: Graduations

It wrapped things up neatly to then get to celebrate graduation with some of the students I've really gotten to know this year. I spent Saturday on the 12th in downtown New Orleans, which was replete with Loyola graduates and their families after the ceremony in the Superdome.

I spent the afternoon with Michael Kammer's family, seated between an aunt and Alexia, Michael's delightful 2011 Loyola-grad girlfriend visiting from Paraguay, who I had met earlier in the week. They held a graduation lunch over at The American Sector, the restaurant attached to the National World War II Museum downtown, which featured a kind of amusing menu that mixed New Orleans cuisine with WWII-era dishes, perhaps in somewhat refined form. I was curious as to whether I could find that famed Army dish euphemistically called "Chipped Beef on Toast" by some, in order to get a sense of maximum authenticity. The family conversation was hopping, and I was engaged steadily by the aunts-and-uncles tier of the family, along with Michael's parents, with occasional side conversations with Alexia. I finally met Michael's Uncle Fred, a Jesuit who exerts a dynamic influence on Loyola's campus as the Executive Director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute, but who I hadn't yet had occasion to encounter directly. Was I more directly engaged in social justice research and activity, he would have been someone to seek out as a mentor at Loyola, and even though those aren't my own areas of expertise and especial interest, I had a fascinating time talking with him. As the family was more within the region, they dispersed relatively early, and I hung out at the restaurant, waiting for the rain to stop before I walked over to the French Quarter for my dinner engagement.

I spent the evening over at the Bourbon House restaurant, where the infamous trio of Chris Bauer, Jeffrey Ramon, and Jimmy Elcock were celebrating their graduations with their families in an upper banquet room reserved for the occasion. I had heard a great deal about the restaurant from Chris, who had worked as a line chef there, but had not yet been there, myself. The décor was certainly elegant, and the sitting was very casual, and so that gave me a little more time to digest my late lunch before having to jump into another meal.

After greeting everyone, and finally meeting Chris's parents face-to-face (his mother had written me a lovely letter at the end of last semester about the independent study course I did with Chris in 20th Century Systematic Theology), I had the additional good fortune of finally meeting Sylvester Tan, S.J., a young Jesuit that I had heard many of my students talking about with great enthusiasm, and who had begun teaching this year in the Department of English, doing such things as Arthurian Literature. So he and I found ourselves talking for a time out on one of the interior balconies lining the second floor of the Bourbon House, talking various educational interests and experiences, chiefly, but with the primary result of leaving me disappointed that this was someone with whom I wouldn't get a chance to collaborate in the foreseeable future. (A number of students had become Facebook friends" of mine after the semester concluded, and some of these had particularly remarked upon the academic strength of Tan's courses, and so I was amused to then discover this Tweet pictured off to the right which had apparently been sent out from Jeffrey from back in April.) So we talked about teaching and students (in general) as well, and I heard more detail about the course he had been teaching (which I had heard about in some detail from students) on film adaptations of Authurian legend. I had even thought of tagging along with one student to catch an evening showing of Lancelot du Lac, which I had never seen, in the course, not knowing the instructor, though, and a bit shy of being a faculty member suddenly showing up and asking to be admitted, which could be alternatively rude or even threatening.

As the evening went on, I enjoyed more conversation with Remi, Chris's Mom, and with his aunt Becky, down from Nashville for the festivities, and whose wonder at being at her nephew's graduation tickled my imagination with how strange that will one day seem to me to be at the graduations of the nieces and of Nathan. There was more time to talk with Chris himself, more talk with Jimmy, with Michelle and with Alex, and with Natalie, who I had recently officially met, and all the crew in a whirl. I finally cut out by around nine, as the graduates were starting to contemplate meeting up with other grads for an assault on the rest of Bourbon Street, and so that seemed like a good point to catch a streetcar and call it a night for me. I had been (frequently) on my feet for about nine hours by that point, in a newish pair of dress shoes, and I would end up going on to pay for that with foot cramps throughout the rest of the night.
Tags: loyola, personal, students, teaching

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