Sunday afternoon we decided to visit lots of graduate schools for philosophy. We called and in Raleigh/Durham and in Mobile, and asked whether we could stay there on short notice. All our friends were very generous in offering a place to stay, and in the end we decided to go to Mobile because we couldn’t find a cheap place to stay in Jacksonville.
Sunday night we arrived in Tallahassee and stayed at a wonderful Holiday Inn Express, where our room (bigger than some apartments) had a Jacuzzi, a nifty showerhead, and a very comfortable bed that prompted Jodi to mention that we really need new pillows at home. The cinnamon rolls are all they’re cracked up to be, and the cold, peeled hard-boiled eggs were a nice touch.
Monday we visited FSU’s philosophy program. Prof. Peter Dalton made us feel very welcome, gave us lots of useful information, and sent his regards to Prof. Brook Sadler, among others. After exploring the campus a bit, we drove to Mobile and collapsed gratefully onto the guest bed.
Tuesday we drove to New Orleans, visited Tulane’s philosophy program, and were greeted by a secretary who offered no information other than the reproach that we ought to have checked their academic calendar before visiting, and that there was no printed information available because it’s all on the Web. Their unrepentantly non-ADA-compliant campus (legal because the buildings are historic) was equally forbidding, so we went to the Cafe du Monde for cafe au lait and beignets, then to the former Old Dog New Trick, formerly on Exchange Alley, now on Frenchmen and called Thirteen, for lunch. Their mushroom and eggplant soup was amazing — it took a full day’s cooking to produce a vegetarian broth worthy to replace a good beef broth. We would return to New Orleans for the food any time.
After lunch Tuesday, we drove to Baton Rouge, where I had once entertained a job offer from the state library, and toured the LSU campus. Prof. John Whittaker, chair of the LSU philosophy department, received us warmly and spent so much time answering our questions that he was late in setting off for his next obligation. Jodi was so impressed by his courtesy that she now ranks LSU among her top choices. The campus is also very beautiful, and Baton Rouge is a city where I would likely be able to get a job fairly quickly, I think.
We stayed at another Holiday Inn Express that was unworthy of the name. The bathroom sink was badly caulked, the grab bar in the shower wobbled at a slight touch, and the showerhead was not the advertised design wonder but an anemic thing stuck halfway between a weak massage and a weak spray. I tried to adjust it and got a squirt in the eye for my trouble. It was owned by a franchisee, and I don’t hold this experience against Holiday Inn Express, but I’ll never stay at that location again. I’d much rather return to the luxury of the Holiday Inn Express in Tallahassee.
Wednesday morning we visited the LSU campus again to see the LSU Dairy Shop, where we breakfasted on fresh ice cream made by dairy science students. We also stashed a bit of LSU-made cheese (3lb of cheddar, actually) in our car’s refrigerator before heading to Hattiesburg.
Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is a smallish oasis of urban life surrounded mostly by wilderness. (The drive from Baton ROuge was unrelentingly boring: I would actually have welcomed the occasional billboard.) We felt very welcome at USM’s philosophy department and on the campus in general. Prof. Paula Smithka was enthusiastic about Jodi and about the program, candid about city people’s experiences in a small Deep South college town, and said that at the moment there were two fellowships available, and when was Jodi planning to apply? While numbers fluctuate, it seems to me that there will be at least a few programs willing to offer a 20hr/wk graduate assistantship that will cover tuition, with a stipend that will be more than enough for books and fees. This was very encouraging, since we were afraid that student loans were our only option. We now know that there will probably be some fully funded options available to us. I’m not sure how many library/IT jobs are available, but the campus has a wireless network with MAC address filtering, and there’s a nice-looking hospital nearby, so I imagine there’s at least some demand for technology workers.
The drive from Hattiesburg to Mobile was also fairly uninteresting until we got within 30 miles of Mobile, at which point it quickly became annoyingly suburban. We got an oil change and met a fellow geocacher, RESE, who tempted me sorely with descriptions of nearby caches we had no time to find. We had dinner with Nina and Tim at Guido’s in Daphne, and will include it on any future culinary tour of the Gulf Coast.
We spent the rest of the evening listening to Selected Ambient Works Volume II and talking about old friends in Florida and North Carolina. Arlo and Batty Ratkins graciously consented to be petted, and I am about to join Jodi in the guest bedroom.
Tomorrow we’ll go to Tampa, and on Friday we’ll go to Miami, and on Saturday we’ll go to Stuart, and Sunday we will finally be home in Tampa for at least five days. Two thousand miles in a week is fun, but I’ll enjoy getting back to a normal commute.