The wallpaper in his bedroom was of old-timey airplanes, a relic from the previous 1970’s era home owners, kept in perpetuity because, well, old-timey airplanes are cool as shit. No shame in the airplane, youknowhatImean?

In the afternoon, I’d sit on his bed, my fingers tracing the side of his desk, circling the giant, reflective stickers he likely got from the 50 cent machine at the Roller-Rena. John would be sculpting a lump of clay or drawing on a sketch pad, always something to keep his hands busy. We’d split a baggie of Pop Tarts (cherry, no frosting), sip on his family’s limitless supply of Sprite, and get to business.

“So, do you have any news?”

News, we called it. Our code for “do you know anyone who may or may not want to kiss us on the mouth?”

We were twelve years old, and exchanging “news” was probably the greatest bonding experience any straight tween girl and straight tween boy who were very best friends could possibly have. Indeed, people assumed that at some point John and I would fall in love, but we both knew that ship (pun intended) sailed long ago — most notably at age three when strangers confused us as twins at the grocery store. John was never going to be my boyfriend. He was going to be something much more important than that. And at age twelve, the most important thing in the world was news.

Because this month marks John’s 35th birthday, I wanted to write about him today. Or, more specifically, I wanted to attempt to write about him. To write about us.   

God, were we obsessed with “news.” We really fancied ourselves little investigative “crush” reporters, moles of our gender, siphoning insight from the world of the opposite sex. For the first time in our lives, John and I felt we had a powerful upper hand in understanding the world exclusively because we had each other. We were on a mission to gather engrossing, top secret information like:

Did they talk about us when we weren’t around?

How did they talk about us when we weren’t around?

And most importantly, did any of them what to ask us out?

Now mind you, the world of boys was not one I was completely unfamiliar with – I had long been the token girl at the Ninja Turtles birthday parties, largely due to my friendship with John. (We matched vice versa – John was often the sole male attendant at all the neighborhood’s My Little Pony shindigs.) Regardless, as the zits and tits developed, there was a sudden “off-limits” thing happening in the gender divide. Like us kids couldn’t really let our hair down until the one girl/boy went home. John and I discovered we could infiltrate these “hair down” gatherings, armed and ready to divulge all the horny details to each other, i.e. the “other side.” It was the perfect covert mission… with just one problem.

There was no news to be had.

Here is a direct transcript from a typical “news” session between me and John:

“So… does Josh ever talk about me?” “No. Does Ashley ever talk about me?” “No. Did Nick ever mention that funny conversation we had in the hallway yesterday?” “No. Do you think Yolanda likes me?” “No. Do you think Jeff would ask me to the dance?” “No.” “Okay then.” “Yeah. Okay.”

Session over.

Yup. In the end, John’s group of buddies didn’t think that much of me, other than I was bossy and/or funny. And not many of my gal pals thought much of John, except that he was very nice and very funny. (Hey, at least we had being funny!)

Mind you, in just a few years John would definitely be kissing many of my friends (not so much me with his, except I did kiss his cousin that one time), but at age twelve – the time of the “news” – we were kidding ourselves in thinking we had some sort of edge. If we gained anything from those sessions, it was the realization that we weren’t alone in our spring awakening confusion. It was nice to know that we were both equally clueless, and both equally not getting any. Which, I guess you could say was the even bigger life lesson.

Lesson #1 from my friendship with John: NO ONE EVER GETS KISSED AT AGE 12.*

(*please don’t fact check or revise, this is the decree.)

I have wanted to write about my friendship with John for a long time now, but I’ve put it off for years because, in all honestly, it might be the most difficult relationship to incapsulate into one blog post. We have been so close for so long. The sheer amount of data surrounding our intertwined existence would be enough to fill multiple external hard drives. (And yes, John was the first person to teach me about external hard drives.)

Where do I start? How do I explain? Which John and Alison do I reminisce about?

When you have someone who is that constant in your life, how can you possibly summarize your relationship with them? It feels like an impossible task.

Alas, I love impossible tasks. I love a challenge. And I love John, so, for the first time in over ten years of writing this blog, I’m going to give “talking about John” a whirl.

(Besides – the longer we are alive, the longer it will take to continuously capture our friendship in words, so I may as well start now then circle back in twenty years and go from there.)

To start, I think it’s best to separate our friendship into phases.

Age eleven to fourteen –  that was obviously the “News Phase.”

Before that there was the “Telescope Phase,” and before that was the “Castle Grayskull Phase,” then… I guess I’ll make it easy on myself and say the “Baby Phase.”

After the “News Phase,” there’s the “Making Movies Phase,” then the “Las Casitas Phase,” then the “Vegas Phase,” and now I guess we’re in the “Current Adult Phase.” (Boring name, I know, but I gotta be honest, I love being a boring adult.)

I’m already worried that I’m missing something and/or doing this wrong but, alas, I’m barreling through.

After all, you can’t do the impossible perfectly.

So let’s begin, shall we?

“Baby Phase” –  John and I have lived across the street from each other since our births. Our parents still live in those homes to this day, and, funnily enough, John and I are also currently a few blocks away in our own Los Angeles residences. Over and over again we’ve been told that as babies, John and I looked remarkably similar – big ass heads, light blonde hair, mischievous smiles, and ridiculously huge eyes (though mine are blue and John’s are hazel/green). I’ve been told that our siblings (we both are the youngest in our family) used to make us kiss by bobbing our baby heads together until our lips touched…  laughing very hard about it as they did. There was one time I was told that as toddlers my mom made me a wedding dress dress-up for my birthday and so I went over to John’s house in that dress and everybody thought it was me asking John to marry me and thought it was freaking adorable. (Really I bet I just wanted him to put on his karate gear so we could kick ass in our equally awesome dress-ups.) There are many photos of us together at this time because we were so damn cute, one is even a magnet on my fridge (a gift from his mom at my bridal shower). Not many personal memories here but alas the “Baby Phase” was when it all began. How many people are still friends with their baby friends, I ask? Not many, I reckon. (But please tell me if you are!)

Lesson #2 from my friendship with John: IF THEY ASK YOU IF YOU ARE TWINS, JUST SAY YES. IT’S EASIER THAT WAY.

“Castle Grayskull Phase” – This is the time where I begin to truly remember our friendship, like the memories are authentic and not dictated from our elders (siblings). Age four to seven our child’s play was the perfect mash-up of Badass Action Hero and Pretty Pretty Princess. And the center of our combined universes was always an epic toy – The Castle Grayskull. It was John’s castle, it was sick as hell, and it was FUNDAMENTAL in our everyday imagination. The castle was basically a Barbie Dreamhouse but instead of an elevator it had a skull’s mouth drawbridge, instead of a closet it had a trap door the threw you into a dungeon, and instead of being pink it was, well, gray. I loved that castle. While John used it as a home base for Terminator to prep for his next mission, I used the castle to, what else, play house. Barbies were a little too big for the castle, but John had one female action figure with blond hair and a crystal on her forehead that I claimed as my own. Not a clue what hero she was but she did a fine job keeping Castle Grayskull a nice place for Terminators and dinosaurs alike to eat dinner and tuck in for the night. That toy completely embodied John’s and my merging friendship. At that early age, John and I were never annoyed by our differences – my girly girl aesthetic, his “pew pew pew” sound effects –   instead we found a way to be ourselves and invent stories side-by-side. To this day, John and I have opposite tastes in just about everything, but we know that the differing passions have merit, and 100% support them, no flinching. My lady action figure may not have gone out to shoot up T-1000, but she did put the skull draw bridge down for when it was tea time.

Lesson #3 from my friendship with John: BEING OPPOSITES DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T FIND COMMON GROUND.

“Telescope Phase” – John and I had the briefest of falling outs in elementary school, and that was mostly due to the fact that someone somewhere had the audacity to put us in different classes 1st through 3rd grade. (Let’s be real, in elementary school, if you were put in a different class than your bestie from the previous year, then that bestie may as well have been dead.) In 4th grade we both landed in Mrs. Sharpe’s class, which lead us to rediscovering that we lived across the street from each other and got along really well. I don’t remember the beginning or the ends of this specific story – again life with John has been very, very long – but at some point there was a day where John and I were in class and were talking about telescopes. He said he had a telescope, I asked if I could see it, and that night we hung out in his backyard looking through an itty-bitty purple child’s telescope that was focused on the hardest thing to see in the sky — the full moon. Here we were, two kids sitting in a familiar backyard, drinking sodas, and looking at the stars. I remember thinking “Hey! I got my best friend back!” and that was that. We walked to and from school together every day after that.

Lesson #4 from my friendship with John: THE MOON IS COOL.

“News Phase” – Been there done that. See above.

 Lesson #5 from my friendship with John: NO NEWS IS SOMETIMES BAD NEWS.

“Making Movies Phase” –  Oh this is a fun one. Maybe peak childhood. Very Rob Reiner coming-of-age vibes happening in this phase. You see, as we outgrew Castle Grayskull and Super Clean Team (a fake superhero team that cleaned up the neighborhood, there’s not enough time to explain that one so just cliff-noting it here) John and I fell head-over-heels in love… with movies and all things entertainment.  We definitely weren’t “outdoor” kids – unless you count jumping on the trampoline in his backyard, which we did all the time because I wasn’t allowed to jump on the trampoline in his backyard.

In middle school I felt that I had personally discovered John Hughes and Kevin Smith and was extremely proud of my growing VHS collection. Meanwhile John was developing his WWF wrestling persona, owning a thing called an “X-Box,” and collecting new, trendy movies disks called DVDs. On Dollar Tuesdays we’d ride our bikes over to Showtime Video, and scour the place with intense anticipation of the newest releases at a $1 price tag. (Yes, I am one of those old souls who misses the video store aisle. I know I know.) Fun fact, my future husband worked at that very Showtime and because he knew us as “Wendy’s little brother and Brian’s little sister” he’d let us rent Rated R movies, no parent approval needed! (Swoon, right?) In between John’s drum lessons and my theater rehearsals, John and I felt it necessary to watch every extra a DVD rental had to offer. We watched the movie once normal, once with the director’s commentary, once after watching all the bloopers and all the cut scenes, and then once more with fresh eyes.

It was only a matter of time that John and I started making movies of our own.

We filmed “Dunbar Ct. – The Movie” on a home video camera with a pop out screen previously used exclusively by parents at soccer games and/or dance recitals. John filmed and edited and directed and I just starred — which is to say I did nothing and John did it all. We forced all our friends to be in it, rewrote the script multiple times, and it took nearly two years to complete. All that said, Dunbar Ct. had a beginning, middle, and end (a run time of an hour and ten minutes!) and made sense. We dumb kids actually made a movie that made sense! For me, the biggest lesson from that experience was that movies are very, very hard but also very, very fun.

It is so strange to recite this portion of our lives, because it reads so rose-colored glasses –  a chapter taken out of a showbiz guru’s autobiography that waxes poetic about the power of film. But whatever, we made a god damn movie! And that little movie sort of solidified the trajectory of our lives. It was definitely a turning point, a coming-of-age pivot into what John and I ultimately grew up to be – story tellers.

Lesson #6 from my friendship with John: FINISH YOUR MOVIE. JUST FINISH IT.

“Las Casitas” Phase – I recognize I’m making the largest leap here in terms of phases, so to quickly sum up the in-between: John and I graduated high school (a picture of us hugging in our cap and gown graced the front page of our local newspaper. Cute, right?), I moved to Tempe, Arizona for college, John moved to Broomfield, Colorado with his best buddy (and also one of my best buddies) David. I got involved with the improv and sketch comedy clubs, John made a second movie and a web series. Both of us saved money to move to our perspective “big cities,” only his city was Tinsel Town and mine was the Windy One. I went and he went, keeping in touch, telling each other about our big city adventures. Then two years after being miserable in Chicago, I ventured out to visit the west coast. It only took one night of sleeping on John and David’s couch to know that I was going to join them. I figured, if I was going to follow my dreams, I may as well follow them to the city that had my best friend.  And so I talked my boyfriend (the former Showtime Video manager who just finished grad school!) to venture with me to LA. I was right in knowing I’d be happier here.

John and David lived in the Las Casitas apartments in North Hollywood. It was a great hub apartment, had a nice “young person hang out” vibe. They graciously allowed Zach and I to dump all of our possessions into their living room as we began our own apartment hunt. We found one around the corner, but in all honestly Zach and I spent way more time at Las Casitas, hanging out and watching John and David film “Them Roomies.” John and David’s walls were expertly decorated in floor to ceiling movie posters, with their bathroom displaying the movies that belonged “in the shitter.” John worked at the Arclight movie theater, David helped me get a job as a CBS Page. They introduced us to all of their friends who then became our friends. They showed us the affordable bars, the tourist places to take visitors, and gave us directions to the all important IKEA in Burbank. John and David and I eventually started a sketch team called Charming Cheetah that still it probably my favorite comedy collaborations to this day. If it weren’t for these two, Zach and I would have never been able to find our footing in this difficult city. We were given this built-in Los Angeles family, complete with a welcome gift basket of an old city guide and a case of top ramen.

Lesson #7 from my friendship with John: HOME IS WHERE THE WEB SERIES FILMS

“The Vegas Phase” – There seems to always be this in-between phase in young adulthood where you aren’t quite “pay in quarters to get a PBR at the bar” anymore but you also aren’t quite at the “buy a brand new car off the lot” degree of financial security. It’s this phase where you have just enough expendable income to enjoy a night or two in Vegas, and the maturity to actually remember it. John and I have only gone to Vegas together twice, but I feel like those trips really captured that “on the brink of transition” time in our lives.

The first time there were six of us, piling into a rented minivan and sharing one hotel room on the strip (five guys and me, really reverting back to “the only girl at the Ninja Turtle party” lifestyle). We agreed that the first night we wanted to be “classy”, so we got dressed up and went to see Evil Dead: the Musical – just barely avoiding our most expensive outfits getting splashed with blood. The next night we attended the Punk Rock Bowling festival, where we moshed to our heart’s content. (The one pop culture thing John and I can agree on? Punk rock is awesome. Obvi.)

The second time to Vegas was a similar excursion – again it was to see the punk rock festival — but in the few years span between these Vegas trips, Zach and I had gotten engaged, John had moved in with his amazing girlfriend Michelle (who joined us so there were two women on this Vegas trip! Huzzah!), David had gotten married (to Gabrielle!), and the group could actually afford multiple hotel rooms and multiple drinks by the pool before heading to a restaurant (NOT a food court) for dinner. I chose that trip to ask John to be my Best Man, and as we were moshing to Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, it felt like we were marking an end to an era. There was no Las Casitas hub any more, just homes we were making with our significant others. There wasn’t seeing each other every day, just full workloads and planned dinners weeks in advanced. Still, it was nice to know that John and I were going to be grown-ups together. I think we were ready for our version of it.

Lesson #8 from my friendship with John: DRESS FANCY IN VEGAS, IT’S MORE FUN THAT WAY.

“Current Adult Phase” – and here we are. I know I’ve missed a lot and I know I didn’t capture all that I wanted to capture but it’s the best I can do at the moment. Considering John and I are still in the midst of this phase it’s certainly the hardest to comment about or summarize, but essentially we are both in the thick of doing what we love (I’m writing on a TV show called Twisted Metal, he’s writing a book series and corresponding card game called Mere Mortals), living with the person we love (my husband Zach, his girlfriend Michelle) in the place we love (Cali livin’ babyyyyy). We both have two cats, four total – Story & Typo, Jiji & Kylo. We both live close, but are pretty busy so only see each other a few times a month when we can swing it. It’s obviously not the same as playing Castle Grayskull or spreading the “news,” but sometimes I think that just knowing John is there, that he is right there, is enough of a reminder that I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I have the friendship of a lifetime.

My best friend is named John. We’ve been friends since we were babies. He lives down the street and is impossible to summarize… but worth the shot anyway.

John is kind, he is brave, he is funny, he is focused, he is inquisitive, he is passionate, he is introverted, he is good in front of a crowd, he is a night owl, he is a creative soul, he is my opposite, and he is my twin.

Now if only we could find that wallpaper of the old-timey airplanes. Airplanes are dope.

Lesson #9 from my friendship with John: THERE ARE STILL MANY LESSONS TO LEARN!

  • One L

“Hello lamppost, what’cha knowing, I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t you got no rhymes for me? Doo-ait-n-doo-doo, feeling groovy
Ba da-da da-da da-da, feeling groovy.” – Simon and Garfunkel, often sung by John and Alison


2 thoughts on “John

  1. Amanda Barnes says:

    I remember the first conversation I had with John, and the way his face lit up when he realized with both knew you. I think the line was, “You know Alison Tafel? She’s my best friend!”

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