Kareem's Memoir & Bio

1982

Moved to Hercules 
My family moved to Hercules, California. The one thing I immediately recalled about moving to this city was that it was so darn hot there. And there were no signal or street lights, no gas station, and no green grass anywhere. As we entered Hercules, there was a huge mural that had been painted by residents that illustrated the history of Hercules starting with the creation of the world, the Ohlone Hercules, Ca Sealindians, home development, and mass transit. Mass transit then was called West Cat. The West Cat "buses" weren't actually buses at all. They were Dodge campervans that were modified to have a fare collecting container, grip bars to hold onto when the shuttle was in motion, and passenger seats. On the side, it read "West Cat, Dial A Ride, 724-RIDE". The shuttle service provided transportation only to and from anywhere within the City of Hercules for the cost of just .25. The homes there were very big and all of them looked very similar in style and were that kacky biege color. We became familiar with the city as being divided into two sections: Sunstream Homes and the Laderas Estates. The Sunstream homes had streets named after birds while the Laderas Estates were named after flowers and trees which is how we started referring to our neighborhood. We lived in the "flowers". The local park had just been opened a year before. It was Refugio Valley Park. We often walked down to the park, to feed those ferocious ducks and geese. The only store in Hercules, was a very small store which specialized in Filipino food and pastries. It was called the "Sycamore Place".

Filipino Food
We lived on Poppy Street when I met some of my first neighborhood friends, as a teenagerLumpia. Their names were Linda and Joe. My sister and I often played "house" with the them. Later, as we got to know this family, they invited us to their family potluck. It was to be our first experience with Filipino food. We were introduced to Lumpia and chicken Adobo.

Hercules School 
For fourth grade, I attended Hercules Elementary school where I had a teacher who Hercules School, 1983actually would doze off for a nap in class while we worked. I remember those long hot days when the teacher would doze off and the classroom grew extremely warm because of the poorly functioning AC. While attending Hercules School (known known as Lupine Hills) my sister and I attended a daycare located next to the school. The daycare happened to be run by two very nice people, Jim and Lupe. They also had two sons Marty and Tommy who were our ages and we often played with them before school. When it was time for school, we would simply walk through an alley which lead to the school's playground.

Ohlone Elementary School
Several months later, I was enrolled at Ohlone Elementary School where I met my most favorite teacher, Mrs. Ohlone ElementaryLease. I also had my first teacher crush on my science teacher, Mrs. Saulberg. I met many people at Ohlone, including the principal Mr. Collison and many of my other peers.

WEBELOS, Cub Scouts
I joined the WEBELOS Cub Scouts. I learned my scout motto, " I Kareem Lanier, promise to do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country..." and so on. I also had to learn the acronyms for WEBELOS as "We Be Loyal Scouts". My mother often took me to the Scout meetings. I sure loved wearing my uniform. I didn't have many badges since my participation was short lived, but I sure thought I looked good in my navy blue shirt, shorts, and boy scout cap.

First El Nino Weather experience
During this year, the bay area was hit with a period of unusually heavy rain and winds. This was the year I was introduced to El Nino. I remember watching many television news reports of the extensive damage in Marin County as mudslides and flooding were wreaking havoc there. But right here in my home town of flood trafficHercules, things looked very bad too. The most dramatic event was when the lake at Refugio Valley Park breached its banks and flooded the park, play areas, lawn, and the busy intersection of Sycamore Avenue and Refugio Valley Road. During school, an announcement came over the intercom alerting the students they that they were going to be sent home early since the immediate area was starting to flood. WestCat provided free transportation service taking students to their homes from school. Since both of my parents were at work, I was also given a ride home via the WestCat bus. One of the most dramatic scenes I can remember is the moment when the bus drove past the scene of the flooded park. The intersection nearby which was normally filled with the occasional vehicle, was now inundated with about 2-3 feet of water and swimfallen treeming ducks. As we turned past the park and drove down Refugio Valley Road, we came to an area that was underwater. The bus slowed down to a crawl. As we slowly rolled through the water, I watched the steps on the bus as the water crept up onto the steps of the bus. I pulled my feet off the floor and my knees to my chest as I gazed at the murky water that was now inside the bus. The bus continued through the deep water until it came to an clear area. There were large Eucalyptus trees that had been toppled by the winds. Some of these trees had a diameter of at least four feet. The winds were ferocious and mean. Later that night, as I watched more news coverage of the wild weather's effects in the Bay Area, I will never forget the image of a man who was actually windsurfing down his street on the choppy water submerged his neighborhood. I was even more surprised at how many of my other friends at school had seen the same image of the windsurfer on evening news. We laughed and talked about at this at school the next day.

Walking in the mud...
The next day following the El Nino storms, I walked home through Refugio Park. By then, the scene was more calmer. The water had receded, the sky was mostly clear, and the gusty wind had subsided to a slight breeze. But covering the sidewalks, park benches, lawns, and the nearby streets were tons of thick, gooey tar-like mud. It was perhaps up to 5 inches deep in some areas and it smelled terrible, like rotten eggs. Many of the Eucalyptus trees at the nearby parks of Refugio and Ohlone were toppled, leaning precariously onto other in the mudtrees (trunks were 3-5 feet in diameter!) and even leaning toward homes. There were many that had actually fallen across Refugio Valley road as if some angry giant had laid them there to prevent any vehicle traffic from escaping. I could hear chainsaws buzzing all day long. Today, you can actually find many Eucalyptus tree trunks uprooted and lying around as an erie reminder of the devastation El Nino caused during the storms of the 1980's. Power outages seemed to be quite frequent after this storm. Behind Ohlone School, a large mud slide had turned into a large pond. Several months later, frigid temperatures caused the pond's surface to freeze. My fourth grade teacher, Miss Lease allowed the class to walk around this frozen pond which rested in a plateau of mud. One of my classmates, Kim Munson, managed to get her shoe stuck in two feet of mud as she tried to run around the lake on her own. Mrs. Lease had us write stories about our experiences.

The Golden Gate Bridge
Another remarkable evens during this stormy season was the time when the Golden Gate Bridge was closed for three hours because it was swaying. That December afternoon, hurricane force winds pushed the span to its limits. TV news crews had set up video cameras at each end of the now barren bridge to broadcast "live" footage of the slowly undulating roadway. You could actually hear the steel suspension cables pounding into each other and flexing as the gusts, some of which were as high as 90 mph, slammed into them.

In the movies!
There were two popular movies that our family saw this year. My sister and I both cried when we saw the movie E.T.. We saw it at what used to a be what we called the "walk-in theatres" at Hilltop Mall. This was thePoltergiest clown place to go see a movie. We went with our Aunt Ona who used to baby-sit us often. Another movie which turned out to be scary and we saw it on VHS tape was Poltergiest. VHS tapes were just starting to come out and homes were starting to own VCRs. This movie was scary and very funny. We loved watching it with our godsisters and brothers Ashika and Hiawatha. Everyone was frightened of the clown and how its face suddenly changed from smiling to an angry grimace as it pulled the little boy under the bed. The other scene from that movie was when one of the poltergeist experts was staring into a mirror, sees a raw steak crawling along the counter and finds himself eating a piece of chicken that is infested with maggots. And then the best ghastly part is when he starts tearing the flesh from his face only to realise later that he was only hallucinating. We would rewind this part and watch it over and over again.

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Television continued to treat us to memorable moments. Our family watched Knight Rider

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and Family Ties. I was so in love with Justine Bateman who played the character Alex's (Michael J Fox) sister, Mallory. On occasion we would see public service announcements that would talk about various safety issues such as eating healthy, not smoking, and staying away from drugs. One such ad was the famous anti-drug ad showing an egg frying in a pan. "This is your brain on drugs..

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