This is an essay I wrote for my Creative Nonfiction class. I like the piece but I’m not turning it in because my assignment is due on Keanu’s birthday and I felt it more fitting to write about my adoration for him.
There is a condominium complex in Culver City. Say that ten times fast. A grey cement wall protects hundreds of stand-alone two-story buildings, painted poop brown and bland beige. They look like small houses, with slanted roofs and windows that either face a busy street, a community college campus, the inside of the complex, or the neighbors. There is a smattering of green trees. The entrance has those automated arms you see in a parking garage. There are two lanes going in and one lane going out. If you live in the complex you drive in through the lane on the right. You swipe a key card over an electronic pad and the arm goes up. If you’re not paying attention it’ll refuse to open and you’ll plow through it, breaking the wood arm and causing residents to have to use the visitor entrance. I’ve never done this but on one occasion I watched someone do it and couldn’t help blaming myself for the gaffe. He was someone I knew, he was saying hello to me, a visitor on that day, and in his distraction, he annihilated the gate arm with his Jeep Cherokee.
If you are visiting, the guard has to call the resident before they can let you in. It all seems very upscale and very fancy. It isn’t. One black asphalt street with those speed humps that only wish they could stop cars from speeding runs through the complex which takes up at least three blocks. There are two pools and a community rec center with bland, low-pile maroon carpet and one or two dark brown leather couches. There’s a murky duck pond and trails that wind in and out of the buildings, all cement and grey with small patches of grass and some flowers. I grew up here, though it is not where I spent my childhood. My mother, brother and I moved in when I was thirteen. My first memory of Maytime Lane is a story my family likes to tell about my grandfather, who, at the expense of our not-so-much a Mensch realtor, despite what the license plate on the Mercedes he drove said, pretended to be racist. The exchange as I’m told, went like this: Unmensch Realtor: Magic Johnson lives here. Grandfather, deadpan: They let Schvartze live here? Message sent. Grandpa was not going to overpay for a condo just because a famous person lived there, no matter how popular the Lakers were at the time.
We moved into a three-bedroom two-bathroom lower unit at the far end of the complex, to the right of the guard gate. It faced the local community college campus which we could see just behind the trees as we stared out of our sliding-glass door. We had a gas-powered fireplace adorned with stones and wood paneling. There was a wet bar. It was in this condo I laughed so hard I peed my pants, in front of my high school crush. Sang Madonna at the top of my lungs while a friend and I made up our own choreography. And discovered I was a Goonie for life.
Shortly after we moved in my mom made friends with a couple who lived by one of the pools. I babysat their kids as we all got older. It was their condo where I played video games on a Nintendo 64 and fell in love with a guy 5 years older than me, who looked like Brad Pitt. We are still friends with the family today. Their daughter has two children of her own now. Not Brad Pitt is still in the picture sometimes too. My love for him isn’t.
When I was fifteen a couple moved into the condo above ours. They had a daughter a year older than me. Alice’s parents didn’t really like to drive. In fact, her mother didn’t drive at all. So, we became Alice’s ride to school, and she and I became friends. I had two other friends in the complex. Tiffany lived right near the front gate, and Tammy lived just past it to the left. Like me, Tiffany was disabled. Severe arthritis in her left knee and in her hands meant she had trouble walking, like I did, and her fingers were permanently bent inward. We didn’t let it stop us. The Madonna choreographing, lip sync duo who trick or treated in the complex well past the suggested age of the traditional costumed candy seekers. Tammy was just a normal girl who lived in an upper level condo with her divorced father. Thinking of it now, I met her when her father and my mother dated, briefly. Last time I saw him he was driving a Jeep Cherokee.
My memories of Tammy are vague. We had a lot of sleepovers. We had a lot of teen angst. She got a car right at sixteen and her father sent her to live with her mother soon after she started dating boys. I spent a lot of time with Tiffany. We went to camp and school together. She moved away for college and we stayed in touch briefly but eventually we moved on. Tiffany and Alice got me a singing telegram for my sixteenth birthday party, which we were having in the very bland rec room in the center of the condo complex. I still get hot with embarrassment at the memory of being surrounded by my family and having a very good-looking twenty-something singing Happy Birthday entirely too close to my sixteen-year-old face.
My bedroom walls were plastered with posters of teen idols ripped from the pages of BOP, Teen Beat, Tiger Beat. Kirk Cameron. Michael J. Fox. The Corey’s. It changed monthly as new idols appeared on the scene. Alice liked KIDS Incorporated. Some of you may remember the show. Some of you have heard of it because it’s where Fergie got her start. Some of you might have stopped reading to look it up. I had seen the show a few times. But Alice. She was a Fan. Alice wrote in to BOP Magazine looking for other KIDS Inc. fans. The magazine posted her letter in the pen pal section. In a small town in Pennsylvania a girl our age was also looking for KIDS Inc. fans. Michelle and her cousin had gone to their local market and read Alice’s BOP letter. They memorized her address repeating it to each other as they walked home. Michelle wrote Alice a letter. The magazine had printed Alice’s address wrong. But we lived on Maytime Lane. We knew the mailman. He looked like Richard Greico had stepped off our walls and decided to become a member of the Postal Service. We giggled when we saw him anywhere in the complex. He knew us.
Alice and Michelle continued to write each other letters, also adding Susan from West Virginia into the growing KIDS Inc. Fan clique. They started traveling to Los Angeles in 1988. We all became friends. They the KIDS Inc. lovers, me, Alice’s friend and downstairs neighbor.
Somewhere in the middle of the L.A. KI Fan Exodus, my mom, brother and I moved into an upper unit just past the very tiny playground. It was here I had my YMCA camp friends over for 24 hours of movie watching and whatever else teenagers who don’t drink do to hang out. I fell asleep shortly after they left and woke up in a panic that I’d be late for school. When I looked at the clock it said it was 7. I thought it was 7 a.m. It was 7 p.m. I haven’t taken a nap since. I’m forty-seven.
It was here I consumed countless pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and pieces of Pioneer Chicken which I got by paying my brother hard earned babysitting money to walk to the shopping center across from Maytime Lane. There was a supermarket, a pizza joint, a sandwich shop and the Pioneer Chicken which is now a Chinese restaurant. Why struggle up and down a full flight of stairs when you can pay your younger brother to do it?
This condo became the KIDS Inc. Fan Summer Exodus hub. Alice’s condo had parents in it. My brother and I tended to be left on our own. Summer after summer the KIDS Inc. pen pal group would descend on Maytime Lane and we’d take over the condo and terrorize the city. And by terrorize, I mean drive around Hollywood, eat at Ed Debevic’s and Jerry’s Deli and hang out on the set of KIDS Incorporated. That story will have to wait for another time. The summer I was twenty, two new KIDS Inc fans came in to play. Michele from New Jersey and Tatiana from New York. It was an infamous summer. Another story for another time.
Michelle moved to Los Angeles when we were twenty-one. It had been her dream all along, to move out here. She stayed in the loft of our condo until she and I, along with Alice, got an apartment a few miles from Maytime Lane. We lived there for a year. When our lease ended, we came back to the condo complex in Culver City. We rented the condo below Tammy’s father who was still living there at the time. It was in this condo that we experienced the Northridge earthquake. The worst in my lifetime, so far. It was here Michelle and I edited a video of Mario Lemieux, the greatest hockey player in the NHL, using a VCR, a video-camera, and a cassette tape player. It took three days to do what it takes three minutes to do today. It was here I promised our landlord our two cats, Lemieux and Ziggy, were good boys who’d never do any harm. They promptly destroyed the wallpaper in the wet bar.
We lived in this condo for a year.
Michelle moved into her own place by the beach with her high school friend Amy who’d moved here from Pennsylvania and had been sleeping on our pull-out couch. Michelle lives in Hollywood now, Amy’s in Texas. Alice bought a condo in the complex and is still there today. I live in Westchester, not too far from Maytime Lane. Michelle and I are still close. A series of unfortunate events forced Alice to take sides in a dispute with Susan. She chose the one that wasn’t mine, as did Michele who is still in New Jersey. Tatiana is still in New York and actual Mensch that she is, never took a side.
There is a condominium complex in Culver City. When I drive by it now it is tradition to tell anyone in the car with me “I know someone who lives there.” Their job is to nod like it’s the first time they’ve heard me say it, even if it’s the millionth time. Behind the grey cement walls sits buildings painted poop brown and bland beige where I made life-long friends, laughed until I peed, scared myself out of naps, fell down and fell in love. Got my heart broken and broke the rules. I am someone who lived there.