Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 26

I’ve seen how little by little, people are now are embracing more the isolation that’s been popularized through this public health crisis. This is best demonstrated by the prevalence of the face mask, the new symbol of acceptance for a more precarious reality. I think of people in Beijing, China, who came to terms with precarious conditions years ago once realizing their city’s air was one of the most polluted in the world. 

But it’s now clear that China isn’t the only nation that can act swiftly and with authority towards a serious public health threat. For this reason, climate change, and curbing carbon emissions worldwide, should be a renewed issue that all the nations of the world should pay attention to with refreshed eyes.

After witnessing the quickness and consistency with which the entire globe has treated the threat of COVID-19, can the presidents of the world’s nations, particularly this one, continue insisting to people that climate change is another “hoax” we should pay no mind to, or which at the very least we shouldn’t take some precautions for? 

Throughout this crisis, an abundance of data, from reports of the Black community’s disproportionate death rate in relation to the disease, to reports of the shortage of access to testing in places like South Central Los Angeles and Palmdale, where Latinos make up the majority of the population, demonstrate how existing healthcare inequalities are only exacerbated by public health threats which, income brackets notwithstanding, pose a risk to every member of society. 

If given a true moment to pause, can the president of this nation–in the case he is reelected–genuinely walk away unmoved by what the crisis has revealed about our inertia towards radical changes in society? More importantly, can the president see how despite a response which was globally slower than it should have been, nations everywhere have managed to enact serious policies to curb the damage wrought by this pandemic? 

This leads to another question our elected officials and voters everywhere must ask: how committed are we to the differences that divide us, separating rich from poor?

I think of Mitch McConnell, who in my opinion has been the most dangerous member of Congress for over a decade now, placing the health and well-being of American workers in harm’s way at the mercy of corporate executives and hedge fund managers. Clearly McConnell has not been shaken by this moment in our nation’s history to move in support of transformative and overdue changes to our way of life here–universal healthcare access, a new federal minimum wage, gun safety legislation, student debt forgiveness being a few that come to mind–so we have to ask: what’s left?

Love it or hate it, it appears that all we have now is November. I wish there were a better answer, but for now we’ve got to make do with what’s in front of us. Something I’ve come to know well over the course of time.

Let’s get to it, Los Angeles.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 24

I’d like to dedicate today’s writing to any human being out there besides myself who’s had a difficult time of late due to the health crisis. Although I’ve frequently written about this moment in our nation’s history as something of a collective experience, it’s still true that there are many out there who don’t have the privilege to reflect on time in this way.

In the world before the shutdown, some of my favorite pastimes included boarding the Metro 704 bus across Santa Monica boulevard, or the Metro 754 bus south of Vermont avenue. There was also the Red Line, which I sometimes loathed and sometimes loved, but which was crucial for connecting to Koreatown and Union Station, transporting my footsteps to these and so many other different swaths of L.A. Now, the only time I’ve come together with any of these services has been through the photographs I’ve taken of them while walking along the intersections.

I can still walk, another privilege not everyone has, which makes it more accessible for me to keep up with a new routine despite the challenges. I stroll to places like Villalobos Market, as well as Jons for tortillas and jamón. When time permits, I like to scour the nearby Pacific French Bakery or Guatemalteca Bakery for the conchas I continue holding so dearly.

Nowadays, each of these places are transformed as grocery stores and bakeries all over the world might be, but they are still what they’ve always been: tiny places still storing a world of goods for a people to continue living, for a culture to continue surviving.

When a friend and I spoke for my podcast recently, she mentioned that on seeing the liquor stores and the neon lights illuminating the storefronts, she knew she was in my vicinity. Until she made that comment, I hadn’t stopped to realize just how much I actually reflect these humble establishments. I wonder for a moment exactly when each of these places first came to be, and just how many people’s lives they’ve touched over the years, how magnified that process is now. I see them with renewed eyes, and it’s a privilege to be able to recognize them as stalwart pillars in the community clothed in humble dress; as old and new pueblos in Los Angeles for the way people make them, and for the way they make people.

In Los Angeles, where people daily crush engines rushing past such pueblos in a scramble for their freeways, and where they rush past the silhouettes whose steps extend the life of these pueblos, like photosynthesis, pumping fresh air into the entirety of the land, I hope they can see it all just a little more clearly now; this is our home, our vecindario, overseen by flocks of angels in fluttering strides at every corner.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 12

Because more than one reader has asked, it’s a relief to note that Doña Ana was able to find some toilet paper for herself and her boys not too long after her cuento was shared on the blog. She has been home with her boys the last two weeks, taking the precautionary measures extra seriously. In addition to her duties looking after her sons, Doña Ana also manages her blood pressure for type 2 diabetes; needless to say, illnesses already take an extra toll on her immune system, so she is simply not taking any chances with coronavirus.

All across Los Angeles are mothers sheltering in place with their mijos, watching diligently for their needs by the minute, and rising to meet each call with grace that is also fierceness that is also deep compassion and communication.

Since our report yesterday, an additional five cases have been recorded in East Hollywood for a total of ten (10), while the adjacent Silver Lake area has reported an additional eight (8) for a total of eighteen (18) cases there. The numbers will keep growing through the next few weeks, but there’s reason to be hopeful.

L.A. continues to lie like a ghost-town, and while I know that our officials have to be cautiously optimistic, meaning that they should say little at this point over the effects of the stay at home orders, it’s clear that in Los Angeles–as everywhere else the restriction of movement has been taken seriously–the orders will have a positive effect in slowing the rate of the spread.

Even so, already the city is changing immeasurably. Already it is becoming something that will also take time to unravel from when the winds turn back in the other direction. Doña Ana is looking after her and her kids’ well being with vivacious fervor. She is adapting to meet the moment by taking on a set of new customs given an unsecured environment. These new customs will not simply vanish into thin air once the worst of the coronavirus passes.

All of society can be thought of as a child; once that child is taught a new behavior, the longer the new behavior is maintained, the more it stands to become a part of that child’s permanent character. Humans aren’t born to be afraid just as they aren’t born to discriminate against each other, but they learn these things over time.

I heard recently that a society is based–most of all–on trust, a trust in institutions. When a couple trusts that they can live within a certain area, they take their chances and move in there. When a set of parents trust the schools within their range, they take their chances and allow strangers at those schools to parent after their kids for a while.

With this health scare, however, trust is ebbing out with each day. Trust is changing. And it won’t simply crawl right back in haste. To the science which will show that diseases like the coronavirus are manageable with enough purposeful planning, many people will turn away. To the invitations to socialize with others for the benefit of time as a community, more people will choose to save the hassle and spend time at home instead. To love, people will ask themselves, do I want love, or life?

Our society will feel lonelier as a result of being changed by this collective experience. It will feel traumatized. But it’s perhaps exactly then that we can begin a process of collective recovery inclusive of all of our well being. What a time to a just be a witness for all of it. What an extraordinary time. Here’s to JIMBO TIMES being here.

J.T.