From Roommates to Neighbors

From Roommates to Neighbors

How three college friends ended up living on the same street in Gaithersburg--30 years later

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Left to right: Fernando Palacios, Joseph Esparraguera, Jim Moy. Photo by Liz Lynch

Fernando Palacios remembers the exact day he met Joseph Esparraguera.

It was the Saturday of Live Aid—July 13, 1985—Palacios says, and he was sitting in the Armand’s Chicago Pizzeria in College Park, eating mozzarella sticks.
Palacios had ordered food at the bar with a friend and, as a joke, kept telling the staff they hadn’t gotten their order, even after receiving several plates of mozzarella sticks. Esparraguera, who was working in the kitchen, thought something was amiss.

“Finally, Joe came out, thinking, ‘Who is this guy who’s not getting the sticks?’ ” Palacios says. “And he saw us there with something like eight plates of mozzarella sticks.”

They joked about it and struck up a friendship. Within months, the two University of Maryland students were roommates.

Now, more than 30 years later, Palacios lives on the same street in Montgomery Village as both Esparraguera and Jim Moy, another of his college roommates. “It’s something we never even joked about in college,” Moy says.

The living situation is part coincidence, part calculation. Palacios, a real estate agent, had kept up with Esparraguera, Moy and other college friends over the years. When a house became available in the Kings Point neighborhood of Montgomery Village where Palacios lived with his family, he showed it to Moy, whose family happened to be in the market for a new home.

The Moys liked it even more than Palacios expected, and in 2002, they moved in. Not long after, Esparraguera and his family began looking to leave their neighborhood in Olney just when another house became available on Palacios’ street.

“That’s when I said, ‘You know what? Let’s move in by Jimmy and the boys,’ ” Esparraguera says.

The men meet at least monthly for beer and cigars. Their children grew up with each other—some danced on the same teams, others carpooled—and the families have gone on vacations together to Ocean City and the Grand Canyon.

But it’s not just the husbands who have a shared history—two of the wives have known each other even longer. Moy’s wife, Kathy, and Palacios’ wife, Shelly, attended the same junior high school in Poolesville and had lockers next to each other in eighth grade. Friends ever since, they introduced Moy and Palacios after both couples began dating at the University of Maryland.

“Sometimes proximity might ruin a friendship, but this turned out to be the other way,” Jim Moy says.

Esparraguera says the men try not to “over-reminisce,” although there are times when their wives are frustrated by their focus on the past, like when the guys talk about parties from the ’80s or a basketball game they played in college. “They just roll their eyes,” he says.

While their conversations today are largely about new topics—including jobs, kids and politics—the men still have the same old jokes from college—and many of the same traditions, too.

The group used to go to basketball games together, and they still go out to watch the Terps play. Cole Field House, which housed the basketball team for decades, is currently closed for renovations, and Palacios is helping the university raise money by selling the arena’s old seats.

Palacios is buying a few chairs for his basement—and he’s trying to convince Moy and Esparraguera to do the same. “I’m not gonna let those guys leave without some seats,” he says.

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