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My Brush with Fame

Sometimes I ask my students if they’ve ever met anybody famous. Some haven’t but many have. A shy girl they knew in high school is now a porn star, or they met Rick Flair, a professional wrestler. “I almost met Pam Anderson,” says one student. Almost?

“I met so-and-so,” says somebody.
“Who’s so-and-so?” I ask.
“Haven’t you ever seen [insert name of television show here]?”

I then tell them about my own brush with fame. I don’t tell them about meeting Mark Fidrych, because, unless they are baseball nuts, they have never heard of him. After all, when they were born, he had been out of baseball for years. I don’t tell them that Joel Dean, of the Dean and Deluca gourmet grocery chain, was my mom’s cousin. (I never met Dean, who was estranged from his family, but I vaguely remember his mom, “Aunt Melba.”)

When I lived in Durham, my apartment was near West Campus, but I taught on East Campus. I used to walk every morning, probably about two miles. I would go down this back alley parallel to Hillsborough Street, along the railroad tracks (one thing I miss is living near a train track and listening to trains go by). I always liked the decadent feel of that alley, the sort of place where you would expect to see drifters or winos, or characters from a Tom Waits song. There was an old African American cemetery there, where I once noticed evidence of some sort of “roots” ceremony. At the end of the alley, I’d cross the tracks and continue down Hillsborough Street.

One day, on my way home, a car pulls up, down goes the window on the passenger side, and there is Dom Deluise at the wheel. He asks me where some bank is. He must have been in town to lose weight at one of Durham’s famous fat farms, I mean …. dietary retreats. I tell him where the bank is, or more likely that I don’t know where the bank is. He asks me if I want a ride. No thanks, I reply.


Dom Deluise

I almost met him.

January 2019



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