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Southern California's Young Faces : Cover Story


Jason Gordon Got Very, Very Tall. His Brain Went Into Overdrive. 'Do You Know That Men Spend 90% of Their Time Thinking About Sex?'

April 22, 2001|MARLENE ADLER MARKS | Marlene Adler Marks last wrote for the magazine about Calabasas and its lessons for Los Angeles

What's it like to come of age in a place defined by outsiders and their cliches: surf, gang turf, Hollywood, Vine, the land of milk and honey? Do our children grow up too soon? Is Southern California the great springboard to a life of opportunity? On the following pages you'll find 17 children who are moving toward adulthood. Their stories are not the stuff of headlines or extremes: young criminals, star athletes, child movie stars. Rather, we went in search of "typical" kids. We talked to teachers, parents, tutors, coaches, counselors and school officials. Scores of names tumbled out. We then asked a dozen writers to spend time with these kids, and to try to find the small slice of each one that said something about their lives in Southern California. It is, we hope, a telling collage.


First of all, you'll want to know how much I've grown this year. That's what most adults are interested in; my hormones fascinate them. I'm Jason Gordon, and the taller I get, the more they pay attention to me and my opinions. I've grown about 5 inches, but now I'm 6 feet, and it scares my mom, Marika, to look up at me. I am bigger than everybody in the family except my dad, Don, and I stand eye to eye with him. At 14, being tall is great, but my sister, Ariel, who is 20 and away in college, was furious about my size. When she moved out of our house in Playa del Rey, Mom and Dad didn't let me move into her bedroom, even though my stuff takes up so much space. Ariel kept her room, but I got more of her chores. So let's not talk about fair. I can reach the door frame with one hand.

Do you know that men spend about 90% of their time thinking about sex? That leaves a whole 10% for everything else, including playing Diablo II online with my friend Erik. I am busier than every one of my friends in the ninth grade with extra activities, but that's OK. School is OK, especially biology (of course). But if I weren't busy every afternoon with swim practice or doing advanced computer games with my honors math teacher, my parents would probably find more chores for me at home, just to keep me from being on the Internet or thinking about sex. Ever since Dad began teaching in the inner city, my parents have been even more worried about my free time and whether I'll be a success. I am not worried at all.

The way I look at it, there's no evidence that humans are the most evolved species, so what's my rush? What are we trying to prove? Dolphins are very good at math, you know. And we are the only species that can't seem to get along with nature. I've always liked reading about other civilizations, both fantastic and futuristic. The question that I keep thinking about is, is there a moral system, like a philosophy, that can provide rules people can live with? I'm not sure if there's a God, or what religion is for, since humans are always making war. I'm keeping an open mind, though.

Before I got to high school, I thought I was a nerd. But now it's cool to be a nerd. Most of my friends are very smart and very popular. I didn't have a date to the semiformal, but that was OK because no one else did either. That day I was in a regatta in San Diego, and I was two hours late to the dance. We all danced as a group. Then I went back to a friend's house with four guys and we watched movies and played video games all night. No one talked about girls. No one.

The most fun is sailing my 13-foot Laser racing boat with the Del Rey Yacht Club junior racing team. This year I've been selected for an advanced clinic, which trains world-class sailors. I'll be sure to put this on my college application. I've also been swimming with Team Santa Monica every afternoon since I was about 6, and now I'm also on the new Crossroads School Roadrunners swim team, which means some days I have two practices.

Sports are very important to my whole family, especially Dad, who I know would have been a great sports announcer if he weren't already a teacher and a lawyer. Mom, a health-care consultant, is big on team spirit. My sister was a swimmer first and I just followed. This year I hope to have a summer job as a junior lifeguard. The money is good, much better than my first job as a bag boy. It was really cold. I have to start saving money if I want a car when I start driving next year. My parents didn't exactly say they'd buy me a new car but I'm trying to convince them.

One great field trip was to Activision. All these guys who work there, the oldest was about 30. And they play all day with their computers, creating games. That's what I want to do for a few years during college, before I grow up too much like my parents. Nothing could be better than to have the best computer equipment, and get paid to play.

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