Secret Agent: How to Discover Your Neighborhood in Los Angeles

Kev with the new Los Cuentos Black & Gold Cap; Summer 2019

So it’s the second week of summer and you read How to Beat Summer 2019 Parts I III, 10 Ways Not to Beat Summer 2019, and even How to Outline Summer 2019, but you’re still not quite sure what to do with all this newfound time on your hands.

In this case, you’re likely making it just a tad more complicated than it needs to be (I know from experience). But with this blog, we’re going to give it one more shot in a last-minute challenge for you.

The only requirements for this challenge are a few hours of time on your hands, permission to go out for a few of those hours, and either a parent, friend, sibling or pet turtle to accompany you. Okay, maybe not the pet turtle. Sorry pet!

Ready? You’re now officially a secret agent going on an adventure. Your mission: to explore the second most populous city in the world and bring some of its top secrets back to headquarters. Your key ‘weapons’ for the mission are: walking shoes, a smart-phone, a Los Cuentos hat, and a water bottle.

There are also no cars allowed for the assignment. Metro buses and rail-lines only.

Ready to find out where you’re going? You will choose one of the following places for this mission:

  1. Little Tokyo
  2. Plazita Olvera
  3. Koreatown

In true secret-agent fashion, you’re not visiting these places just to ‘have fun.’ You’re going to ‘excavate’ them for some classified info like a world class spy. Sure, you can go with your people, get some ice cream at the stores, and check out the stuff on sale like a lookie-loo. But the real purpose of your visit to these other places will be to find out the following:

I. Where is ‘the heart’ of the neighborhood? (As in, where is the public square, or main area? What kind of businesses are there? Is there any kind of art you see there?)

II. How does it differ from your side of town? (What kind of people are there? How many languages do you hear spoken? And what can you tell about the ‘other’ kids at this other part of town?)

III. How might your neighborhood ‘be’ more like this one? (Could there be a different Metro Station to make it easier to get to your side of L.A, like with these other neighborhoods? If you could choose the stores you’d have in your neighborhood’s main area, what would they sell? And apart from the stores, where would the kids in your neighborhood hang out? Would they have their own main area too, or public square?)

That’s it! It’s true that these are quite a few different questions to remember during your visit to the assignment, but we both know you can glance at this blog while you’re out there on assignment.

We also both know that this is a mission you can definitely accomplish in three to four hours. Metro’s lines were made for you to use for exactly this kind of challenge, just as these ‘other’ places were made for you to visit and learn about.

At the end of the assignment, you’ll feel accomplished for learning about a new part of Los Angeles for yourself, send me the answers to your questions for a top-secret review, and receive a brief follow-up mission, if you so choose.

So, what are you waiting for? Give this last-minute challenge a shot and get out there, young storyteller. Your city is counting on you!

J.T.

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It’s Going to be Another Trailblazing Summer in Los Angeles

Last summer when the First Ever Back to School Party made its way to East Hollywood in Los Angeles, it was following in the steps of an earlier precedent set in the neighborhood by the First Ever Open Mic at Cahuenga during Spring 2018.

Each event was designed from scratch, essentially made up of ‘thin air’, and would go on to create reverberations in and around the neighborhood for days. Now, with a 2nd Annual Open Mic Night at Cahuenga Library officially done and documented, and with the official start of summer just over a week away, it’s my pleasure to announce a 2nd Annual Back to School Party (BTS II), once again at El Gran Burrito in Los Angeles on Saturday, August 24, 2019. BTS II will coalesce with several other projects by yours truly, including the East Hollywood Neighborhood Survey, an upcoming Summer Writing Challenge for Students in L.A., and more Los Cuentos Merch, among other goodies.

In other words, it’s an exciting time to prepare for summer heat in The City, where our marks under the sun wait once again to be remade. In celebration and anticipation of the next ‘BTS’ Party, it’s also my pleasure to publish the gallery in this blog, each picture courtesy of Samanta Helou, of This Side of Hoover. Samanta’s pictures are proof of the power that emanates so boldly when communities come together unapologetically seeking something new for themselves. My world changed magnetically in the flicker of time that was the event–just as it would in the time following it–and I know I’m not the only one for whom that’s true.

I look to create the same opportunity and more for The City alongside my team this next Summer 2019. Expect nothing less than the world!

J.T.

Schoool (For the students of Los Angeles)

A little remix of 21 Savage’s billboard-topping ‘a lot’ by yours truly for the students of Los Angeles:

“How much homework you got? (straight up) 
How much homework you got? (straight up) 
How much homework you got? (straight up) 
How much homework you got? 

How many homeworks you got (a lot) 
How many quizzes you got? (a lot) 
How many teachers done doubted you? (a lot) 
Kicked you out the class? (a lot) 
How many lessons you lost? (a lot) 
How many field trips it cost? (a lot) 
How many laughs did you caught? (a lot) 
How many admins you shock? (a lot) 
How many times did you try? (a lot) 
How many times was it pride? (a lot) 
How many times you cold feet? (a lot) 
How many times did you sigh? (a lot) 
How many times your hope grieve? (a lot) 
How many times did it cry? (a lot) 
How many chances rap done gave you? (a lot) 
Thuggin’ round words like poets (a lot) 

Every day that I exist, I’ma side with the kids 
I’d rather be paid their thoughts than collect like Trix 
Told my students take my cred if my speech starts to cringe 
But I’m J.T. forev ain’t no way I’ma fidge(t)”

We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground 
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we make L.A. go ’round.

Huge potential outcomes if you state a couple facts 
Your dream so bold you could put it in your cap 
Fam vs the world, me and moms, it was us 
Then school sent me to da station and they really cuffed me up 

My father broke wives so he failed to be my teach 
My brothers popped ice and it fell em to the streets 
I been through the court but it turned me to J.T. 
Now the other side is sunny, I get paid these thoughts on sheets 

How many homeworks you got (a lot) 
How many quizzes you got? (a lot) 
How many teachers done doubted you? (a lot) 
Kicked you out the class? (a lot) 
How many lessons you lost? (a lot) 
How many field trips it cost? (a lot) 
How many laughs did you caught? (a lot) 
How many admins you shock? (a lot) 
How many times did you try? (a lot) 
How many times was it pride? (a lot) 
How many times you cold feet? (a lot) 
How many times did you sigh? (a lot) 
How many times your hope grieve? (a lot) 
How many times did it cry? (a lot) 
How many chances rap done gave you? (a lot) 
Thuggin’ round words like poets (a lot) 

We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground 
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we make L.A. go ’round. (x2)

How many sent to the deans’? 
For throwin ‘ they shots like vaccines 
I can see behind the phones and filters 
Egos ain’t big as they seem

Intersects like a string
Everybody got they thing 
Some students make dean’s list, other students make lean
I’m gon’ reflect on the scene
I’m not gon’ choke, I’ma free ‘em 

I don’t wan hear your concerns 
This ain’t no parent-square but I’ma care 
When they dragging kids down for expressin’ they heritage 
U know kids can learn from rap battlin’ and culture 

I guess you were hoping the rules would just tame they true selves
But these bars flowin ‘ college of self

OK, I got it, we’ll show up on everyone’s algorithm 
You know what bro Malcolm would preach 

Bettin ‘ a thousan

It’s got to the point that these schools ain’t even always the safest to be 
Fuck it cause that’s where this Los Cuentos fashion just hit me
It led me to save kids a spot, on a new remix to drop 
Shout out to “a lot, ” I polish the hook and I jot 

Pray for our schools cause they robbed like Iraq 
I picture the slaves on the fields pickin ‘ cot 
Respecc how they made it past all em cops 
Risking no less than they death if they caught 

I pray for the students who think they should cut 
Just want you to know your lives matter, my kiddos 
If I never met you, still know that you special 
And that the world needs you, don’t doubt it, for reala 

All the real teachers, stay solid, amigos 
I’m only tellin ‘ it just how I felt it 

I saw this parent look lost and abandoned  
When told that her kid goin ‘nowhere by standin’ out,’ I got amends 

It’s said that ur grades all about ur success, jot this dissent 
Flow on a mission reflectin’ how goals at our schools got be bigger 
Before we relent, reala

How many homeworks you got (a lot) 
How many quizzes you got? (a lot) 
How many teachers done doubted you? (a lot) 
Kicked you out the class? (a lot) 
How many lessons you lost? (a lot) 
How many field trips it cost? (a lot) 
How many laughs did you caught? (a lot) 
How many admins you shock? (a lot) 
How many times did you try? (a lot) 
How many times was it pride? (a lot) 
How many times you cold feet? (a lot) 
How many times did you sigh? (a lot) 
How many times your hope grieve? (a lot) 
How many times did it cry? (a lot) 
How many chances rap done gave you? (a lot) 
Thuggin’ round words like poets (a lot)

We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground 
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we make L.A. go ’round.

J.T.

Two Sides of Wonder (An 8th Grade Student’s Poem on Being)

U sit and wonder in class,
U sit in wonder at home,
I wonder why,
Why do I wonder,
Why do u wonder?

But isn’t it all wonderful
When we wonder
About being wonderful,

Or when we wonder about
What makes us wonder.

I wonder why, actually
I wonder why we wonder,
And what we wonder.

I wonder about my lady
Who’s got me bubbling lately,
Says my side is where she stay
But what happens when u drift away.

Look back at my pops, wonder where he’s at all day,
No kap, I’m just a young Black teen
Who wants to grow up and pursue his dreams.

A young visionary who wants to make sure
It’s always food in mom’s fridge,

Who wants to rise, uplift his friends,
Get bands, and count up the dividends.

KD