Clad in too much tartan, Diane and I head to NYC to see Letterman

I didn’t particularly care for college. In high school I was pretty much considered a loser outside of my little group of friends, and college was no different, except I didn’t have the little group of friends. That made it all the more dismal. There were many times I would look out my dorm room window and see a pack of people from my floor heading to the dining hall, realizing that nobody had bothered to ask if I wanted to come.

Sob story aside, my problem was my school was filled with dipshits. Here I was a gal from north Jersey with a penchant for things slightly off beat and funky lost and adrift in a sea of drab bores from PA and Maryland who leaned towards bobbed hair, penny loafers and pearls. It was a true clash of the co-eds that I had endured for three years at the U of D.

As I entered into my senior year, I was looking forward to graduating and getting the hell out of Dodge. I can’t recall the exact place we were, or whose room we were in, but it was early in the fall semester that I met Diane. She was an exchange student from Toledo who was going to spend one glorious semester at the University of Delaware, for what reason I could not imagine. But there she was, and it didn’t take much for us to become friends.

She got me. It was as simple as that. She could appreciate my sense of humor, and it didn’t bother her that on occasion I would wear green and black zebra striped pants. It was cool that I had Partridge Family albums and could recite episodes of the Brady Bunch. She just got me.

And I was so fucking grateful that she was there. We were thick as thieves before long, and it was a relief to have someone to pal around with – to roam the campus with – and to be myself with. For so long I had tried to fit into the stale mold that was your typical U of D student that I had stopped being myself. I started to believe that the person I was inside wasn’t worthy of any sort of attention – otherwise I would’ve had friends by now.

With Diane, I could be loud. And funny. And quirky. And creative. She and I could go to parties where we knew nobody and just sit in a corner and bust on dopey dudes with turned up collars. We would laugh at silly headlines in bad newspapers like The Sun and The Globe. We both agreed that using “ ‘n” in place of “&” was funny. It wasn’t bad to be different anymore. I began to feel confident and valued, and in turn, more people began to accept me.

A few times we spent weekends at my home in New Jersey. She came home for Thanksgiving that year and marveled at my very small Aunt Carol eating a very large turkey leg. We roamed around Greenwich Village trying on stupid hats and bad 80’s sunglasses. And we saw a taping of the David Letterman Show. Now that was an adventure.

I had written away for tickets months before, and as luck would have it, they came during that first semester of my senior year. Diane was a huge Letterman fan, and was simply beside herself with glee at being able to sit in the audience and view a live taping. We secured a ride up to Jersey and embarked on what was to become a star-studded adventure.

While roaming around the lobby of Rockafeller Center, we ran into a few minor celebrities. Arlene Frances of “What’s My Line” fame was sashaying through by in a red sequined gown. Diane and I yelled out to her where she turned, smiled and waved with a flourish. Then we spotted Gene Shalit, the movie critic for the Today Show, and a resident of my home town in Jersey. I had actually gone to school with his son, and was pretty good friends with him too. I figured I could really impress Diane with my close personal connection to this beloved, frizzy haired TV personality, so I walked up to him and said, “Hey Mr. Shalit! I’m Tracy and I was friends with your son Andrew when he went to school in Leonia! How is he these days?”

To this he replied, “This dry cleaning is very heavy” and walked away. With anyone else I would’ve been mortified, but this shameful twist of events actually made our evening that much more hilarious and fun. Like I said, she got me.

Could my glasses be ANY bigger?

We also ran into Larry Bud Melman. This was truly a wondrous event seeing as we were headed up to see Letterman. He good naturedly posed for a photo with us. I can’t remember who we got to take the picture, but it was relatively safe in any stranger’s hands. I’m sure they weren’t too tempted to run off with my spiffy 110 camera.

Before the Letterman show started, Dave came out and chatted with the audience. I can’t remember how the series of events began, but I found myself asking him a question. I told him that Diane and I were crazed fans who had come all the way from the University of Delaware to attend this very taping and we had no way to get back to school in time for classes the next day. I asked if it would be possible for him to arrange a limo drive back to Delaware after the show.

Pretty ballsy move for sure. We didn’t get a free limo ride courtesy of Mr. Letterman, but he did come up to our seats and kiss both of our hands for being such big fans. We watched the taping of the show in a Dave-haze, and wound up taking a train back to Delaware, where we had to walk 2 miles from the station to our dorm. But we didn’t care. That’s what was great about Diane. Everything was fun – humor could be found in just about any situation.

When the fall semester ended, she went back to Toledo, and I spent the last 4 months of my college days missing my good friend and looking forward to graduation. The impact that friendship had on me was substantial. I had a new found confidence. I was going to be myself, and if you didn’t like it, my attitude was in the mindset of “who gives a shit.”

This attitude helped me greatly after graduation. When I started my first job at Tiger Beat magazine, I became good friends with many of my fellow artists and had what I consider to be the best 3 years of my entire life. I was liked. I was included. I could throw a party and people would come. Lots of people. Life had done a total 180, and I think Diane had a lot to do with it.

We stayed close for a few years after college – writing letters and getting together a few times. But as happens often, time and distance caused us to drift apart. We are now friends through Facebook, and will occasionally trade quips with one another, but we will never be close like we were back in our days at Delaware. And even though we seem to be merely acquaintances now, I wonder how different my life would’ve been  had I never met her.

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