By Diane Ako
Old friends are great friends. I love that different people represent different stages of your life, and know you in different ways. I'm a good pen pal. I still have friends from elementary school. Recently, I connected with a good friend from my early twenties.
In the beginning of my news career, I lived in Roswell, New Mexico. I was anchoring and reporting at my second job, at KOBR (NBC) in a tiny news market. It was one of the best years of my life, though it didn't start that way.
I got the job sight unseen, by just mailing in my resume tape and then having a telephone interview with the news director. This is pretty standard for a small market that doesn't have the money to fly talent out for an in-person interview.
My college boyfriend drove out with me from San Francisco, where we were living and working, to the Land of Enchantment. It was a two or three day drive.
I had no idea, really, what to expect. I had only ever lived on the coasts and Hawaii, and I expected every city to be a metropolis. I was already quite nervous about moving to a strange city to live alone, far from anyone I knew. Approaching New Mexico, we first hit Albuquerque, which was very southwestern and appealing. I felt assured that my new city wouldn't be so bad.
However, after you leave Albuquerque, you hit three solid hours of grassy plains where you might see cows, or you might not. This is where the deer and the antelope play. There is nothing- zip, zero, zilch. When Roswell finally emerges in the horizon, it's a dinky little cow-town of dingy buildings. Let me put it this way: I knew I was in for disappointment when I noticed the anchor store at the mall was Target.
I started crying and told my boyfriend I wanted to go back to California. He was such a nice guy. He talked me through my anxiety, helped me get set up in an apartment, and then flew back to the Bay Area.
One of the first people I met was my new neighbor, Mari Fran, a newly minted social worker who had also just taken a job in Roswell. She was two doors down in the complex, and we became inseparable over the year that I worked at KOBR. We were close in age and stage of life, and shared enough similar interests that we had lots of fun together. We spent nearly every weekend together. We took monthly trips to Santa Fe, and were able to fill the silence of a four hour road trip with our non-stop chatter. We're pretty compatible.
She has never left the southwest, while my journey took me from Roswell to the east coast to the Islands. Now I'm ensconced in Hawaii, and the more layers one adds to one's life, the harder it is to fly away to see someone. It dropped down to Christmas card status. I accepted that as part of life.
It had been over a decade since I last saw her in person, when she e mailed to say her company was flying her to Hawaii for a convention, and could we meet up? She even added a couple of days onto her trip so she could stay at my house.
We had a blast. I was looking forward to seeing her but a little curious to know if we'd still be as compatible as before. One never knows how time and distance changes things. We were pleased to find out early on that we were still the same.
I had forgotten how hilarious she is, and how good with children she is. I didn't realize what a great memory she has, because she was dragging up very old stories about me, some of which I still didn't remember.
We had such a nice time at my house that I went to visit her at her hotel mid-week. It's a five star hotel. We laugh that one of the only things that's changed in our friendship is the rack rate; whereas our Santa Fe special was the $65/night Motel 6 (give us a break; we were 22), now we were in a $650/night luxury property.
The other thing is our bedtime. Mari Fran, her travel partner Steph, and I had gone to eat at a nice restaurant. After dinner, we went to the room to reconvene and see where to go next. I left them for ten minutes to arrange something at the Front Desk. When I came back, the lights were dim and they were in their beds. Mari Fran was snoring. It was 10 o'clock.
I laughed and decided I could turn in for the night, too. After all these years, we're still on the same wavelength.
Also reach me via DianeAko.com