Michael Mattice: A 300-Square-Foot East L.A. Apartment For Two

Photo: Michael Mattice (left) with Uncle Sam and Nicole Miller. Photo by Christian Lainez / Studio for Southern California History.
Photo: Michael Mattice (left) with Uncle Sam and Nicole Miller. Photo by Christian Lainez / Studio for Southern California History

KCET Departures asks, "What's your or your family's Los Angeles arrival story?"

Today, we hear from Michael Mattice, a student at Cal State LA:

"I was born in Utah. I lived in Park City until I was two years old.

"Then I was raised in Corona, California until I was ten. When my parents divorced, I moved to Nuevo, California -- which is the ghetto boonies. It's in the middle of nowhere, near Lake Parris and Moreno Valley. It's a one-horse town.

"Because of the economy, our house was foreclosed and we had to move to Ontario. It turned out to be a great experience because I got to go to Chaffey High School and I met my partner, Nicole.

"The high school is historic, it's like 100 years old. It's a great school. You can do as well as you want there or as poorly as you want -- as many of the students have shown.

"Because of Chaffey, I got to take a trip to New York City. That made me come back and want to be part of something. Los Angeles was the closest big city, so I wanted to have an L.A. experience.

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"My high school guidance counselor suggested that I go to Cal State Los Angeles - partially because it was less impacted than the other schools [by budget cuts] and partially because it had a good theater program.

"I made the final decision to come to Cal Sate L.A. because of an opportunity at the school's honors college. The college offered something called, 'community engagement.' I figured that would lead to going into the community and helping the homeless or something like that. I wanted to be involved.

"Nicole attends the Otis Art Institute. We were both living in Ontario and the August before school started, we decided to move in together.

"We found a 300-square-foot studio apartment in East L.A. It was near Alhambra and Pasadena and it was close to everything. We could get to Downtown easily, whenever we wanted to.

"Our parents were kind of worried about us because of the stereotypical East L.A. stories you hear. But it was actually pretty similar to the other places I've lived. The area was highly industrial and at night it was mostly empty.

"I ended up having a lot of really good experiences. Except for once, when my Nicole's car - a 1995 purple Thunderbird LX - was the victim of a hit-and-run. There was a lot of street racing where we lived on. So there was a racer and Nicole pulled out to come pick me up from rehearsal and she got hit.

"Here's something very cool: Our apartment had an east-facing window. On New Year's we stayed in the apartment and there were fireworks from the hill across the way and we could just sit in our apartment and watch.

"I was reluctant to move out of East L.A., but we had to move back for a while to Ontario. Last August, the two of us and a roommate moved back to East L.A. - this time in a two-bedroom apartment!

"That first time we moved, we had the help of Nicole's mom's friend's truck. We just drove on the 10. I really feel like the 10 Freeway is a big part of L.A. and a big part of my neighborhood -- or neighborhoods. We traverse it so often.

"When we lived in Ontario during school, we'd take the 10 every day. We'd wake up at 5am to get on the road at six to be in the city by seven. Without a doubt, that road is a big part of my Los Angeles experience."

-- Michael Mattice
(as told to Jeremy Rosenberg)

**Jeremy Rosenberg has written for the Studio

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