Bianca woke me up shortly before seven this morning. I was supposed to be at the Superdome for eight. Tulane’s unified commencement ceremony was to start at nine this morning. We left the house shortly before 7:30, ahead of everyone else. On the way we stopped a burger king for a little breakfast. I might have been content to go without but I was eventually glad I ate something.

After we parked in the dome garage, Bianca entered at gate G. I had to walk around the dome to gate C where the graduate entrance was. From there I went to one of the “robing rooms” where students gathered to get their gowns on and form the lines that would enter the floor in front of the stage. The room I was in was for continuing studies, liberal arts and public health and tropical medicine students. I recognized quite a few people there but most were just passing acquaintances. Roy and Ash from my Practicum class last year were there. I sat next to them during the ceremony.

We were led out on to the floor of the dome back stage where we had to remain for a good bit before we filed out to our seats on the floor as Dr. White’s Jazz band played. I didn’t hear Sir Edward Elgar once. The unified ceremony was an elaborate and impressive affair. There was good music and not an excessive number of speakers. Anderson Cooper of CNN delivered the keynote address. I was initially disappointed when I learned he would be the speaker but I was pleasantly surprised. He delivered a funny and sufficiently substantive address. I’ve heard more than a couple self centered graduation speeches and this was not one of them.

The unified commencement ended with Wanda Rouzan and Dr. Michael White performing a rendition of “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans.” Then university president Scott Cowon declaring “Let’s have some fun” and thousands of little green and white beach balls rapidly descended from above. I think a disproportionate number of them landed on me and those immediately around me.

There was a 15 minute intermission before the undergraduate diploma ceremony. Those receiving graduate degrees had later events elsewhere and departed. During the intermission I got to find Bianca, Ed and my immediate family in the audience. Bianca walked down to the front row to talk and take some souvenirs off my hands.

The diploma ceremony proceeded just like any other. Names are read and the students walk across the stage to receive their diploma (covers). Those in the school of public health and tropical medicine went first. Second was my school, continuing studies. My walk was not really different than anyone else. I did half wave at the for the jumbotron camera because I knew I was some distance from my folks. After we walked off stage we posed for two separate photographers. As I was walking back to my seat, a professor I had a math class with walked up to congratulate me. I thanked him and said I wish I did better in his math class.

The diploma ceremony concluded at about 12:45. Immediately after that, all the students walked back stage to receive an envelope containing their actual diplomas. I was quick to get there and beat the long lines that quickly formed. With my diploma in hand, I went out to meet Bianca outside who was waiting for me. Everyone else departed a bit earlier to make a 1:15 reservation at the cheesecake bistro on St. Charles. I went there with my family the evening of my high school graduation and thought it would be cool to visit again.

It was raining a bit when I walked out. After I met up with Bianca and made it to her car, the rain picked up a bit. It took a few minutes to clear the parking garage but the traffic wasn’t too bad. My folks already had a table and drinks when we arrived. I felt like drinking champagne so we ordered a bottle. I wanted to save room for cheesecake and dinner later so I only ordered an appetizer. A few of us including myself had the banana’s foster cheesecake which of course was excellent. After our lunch and conversation with my folks and Ed which wrapped up around four, Bianca and I parted company with them and went out to the mall. She expressed an interest in going shopping while here and I figured I could probably use a couple things for my trip next week.

It was still rainy but we got covered parking outside Macy’s. In addition to other stores with visited, we went through a few looking to get a sport coat for me. I was hoping to find something not terribly formal. A gentleman at Dillard’s was very helpful but I didn’t find anything I liked under $300. I was hoping to spend $200 or less. Ultimately I bought a navy blue coat at Banana Republic. We spent about 20 minutes in Sephora and Bianca bought some makeup.

After we left the mall we headed to the quarter for dinner. Bianca insisted on treating me to dinner and she took me to Mr. B’s Bistro. I’ve mentioned the place in passing several times since it shares my nickname. It was going to be a surprise but there was an issue with her reservation. We walked in around eight and were seated at about 8:30. She had the filet mignon and I had grilled fish, both of which were quite good.

Later we met up with Andrey and David at Pat O’Brien’s. I think there were supposed to be more people with them. We got to hang out for a couple hours and stopped in a few different places, none of which I think Bianca enjoyed. She wanted to dance to pop music and that’s not exactly our thing. We walked to Frenchman Street, wandered a bit and then went to BMC on Decatur Street. I’m not sure who the band was but it looked like a high school brass band… not exceptional musically but entertaining. After that we walked across Esplanade to the Dragon’s Den. It was quiet but eventually a rap act got started which I thought was interesting if nothing else. Bianca was rather tired by this point though, midnight maybe, and both of us eventually left early. We took a cab back to the garage near her restaurant where she parked her car. I offered to drive but she was okay to drive. I think we made it back home before one.

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