But I have made time to hang out with some people before leaving. After seeing Alex and Anil in the earlier part of last week, I closed out the week by taking some time to talk with Bob and Chelsey on Thursday and Friday evenings. Bob and I played tag for a bit because of my packing schedule, but he grabbed me while I was on campus Thursday working in my office and surprised me with dinner at a place I'd not heard of before: Nonna Mia's Cafe and Pizzeria, out near city central on Esplanade. He also gave me a going-away present of a number of albums by The Band. I've heard their music here and there through the years, of course, and some of the Freeks were fans, and so I remember some of that stuff being played on people's stereo systems at Notre Dame, or even covered occasionally, but I've never listened to it in a serious way. So that's on the iPhone now as part of the soundtrack of the train trip north and of the summer. He proceeded to give me a learned lecture on the material while we drove up Carrolton to the restaurant, with asides for highlighting personal favourites.
We got a great table on the front porch and started studying the menu. He was pleased to take advantage of their having Peroni, an Italian beer, on tap (his enthusiasm leaving me bummed once again about being such a bad Irishman that I have no taste for beer), and I found a glass of Zonin, a Montepulciano that I hadn't tried, that I found enjoyable enough. It took us a little bit of time to decide what to have because the options sounded so good. Bob eventually went with their Lobster Ravioli, served in a vodka cream sauce, which I had a taste of and which was scrumptious beyond reason (making me somewhat regret having anything else). But I went with one of their dinner specials for the night: the most fabulous seared salmon with capers, asparagus, and a zucchini and squash medley. It equaled the other dish and left me interrupting the conversation throughout to wax rhapsodic on the radiant joy of food!
So we talked about wine, women, and song – all manner of good things. He told me some more about growing up in Louisiana, about his family and the circle of friends he's cultivated down here. I couldn't help but admire his taste in knowing what the basic Good Stuff of life seemed to be. We compared travel notes, and he told me about high school adventures and misadventures in Rome when he took an overseas trip his senior year, and we talked about the attractions of Italy as we drank some more of what Italy had to offer.
The next night, I had made plans to catch up with Chelsey. Her sports internship kept her working well into the night, and so it was after eleven when we finally met at The Columns Hotel for drinks. There was a pretty huge crowd there, and I realized that I had tended to avoid it on Friday and Saturday nights exactly for that reason, and so I was pleased to have it thin out while we talked. And talked we did. We ended up closing the place down and then some: after originally finding space to sit and talk in the brunch room, and then later in the front room when the crowd had thinned out, we then moved out to the porch as the staff was preparing to shut things up at 2am, having our drinks switched to plastic glasses, and being told that we were welcome to sit on the veranda as long as we desired. We only sort of noticed in passing the other stragglers heading off as we continued to chatter, finally getting up to leave at 4am, after having had the space to ourselves for at least an hour.
There was more background talk than we'd ever had before, telling stories of family and where we had come from than we had known of one another, and I heard a lot more about growing up in the New Orleans area and some of its peculiar cultural tendencies than I had perhaps heard from other students. Unlike a lot of New Orleans natives that I had met, Chelsey wasn't utterly married to the idea of remaining in the area, whereas so many others are so taken with the city and its culture that they cannot imagine living anywhere else. (As devoted as New Yorkers, I've said, but not so arrogant about their place being the only place to live.) As far along as she was with her work in sports promotion, she had a number of other sites where she would be interested in working once her current internship was over. And so there was a certain amount of conversation about living in different places and the changes that come with different job prospects. There were only touches of "shop" talk having to do with the coursework we did together, most recently being my Modern Christian Thought class, other than her laughing about her mother noticing that since graduation she's been reading a lot more freely in the ethics direction, and so we talked a little about the temptation that some further graduate work has for her in wooing her away from the kind of business work she's been preparing for for so long.