Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 22

Over the past nearly six years with my blog, I’ve seen frequently how writing–just like educating myself–has rarely ever been just about my personal peace of mind, but about shining a light on the specter of the world around me.

In Los Angeles, that shadow has consistently loomed through the confines of poverty. And the interest to speak out and create awareness about this world hasn’t been just a light, but a conflagration in my mind and a roaring passion in my spirit I suspect won’t vanish until every breath in my lungs for a better world leaves my body.

I glance at the past. A hundred years ago, if it weren’t for Malcolm Little coming to share a home with his single mother and eight other siblings, I wonder if he’d still have been able to stand at the intersections of Detroit and Harlem, calling out to the streets in the name of justice as he eventually came to do.

A hundred years before Malcolm X, in Harriet Tubman rose a woman with no formal education who still understood the most important issue of her time: that slavery was an offense to the history of the human species. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act notwithstanding, she literally led others to freedom.

When I think back to Los Angeles then, a city at once quite removed from the history of slavery at the same time that it’s steeped in slave wages and disinvestment in its communities, I see a world where education has never been more accessible at the same time that it’s deeply devalued.

I also see a world where, long after the coronavirus passes, our communities will continue struggling to honor a few basic tenets of humanism: that every child deserves an education empowering them; that every human being deserves a living wage and a place to call home like any other; that no community should be victim to policing, jailing, and conviction simply for being the least resourced among our society. The same world that loomed over Malcolm, Tubman, and so many more. I also see myself moving through these worlds, searching at each turn for a better way to unite and advance them.

Earlier today I filed Articles of Incorporation for Quien Es tu Vecindario, a special step for the collective that it’s turned out to be. If approved, it will be the first step in officially recognizing the group’s arts and education work in East Hollywood as non-profit work, making it eligible for funding such as grants as well as partnerships to sustain and expand its noble movement through Los Angeles.

During this time of so much resetting, and so much reflecting, small acts like these keep me not only wondering, but looking forward to what such work can still bring to the future of my community. Because from one generation to the next, we have to keep standing, calling out, and running: the fight for a better world continues. It is a long road towards all of our freedom.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 21

I tried something a little different today, making my way out to Koreatown, followed by some time past MacArthur Park. I saw a city voided of its usual color and character, marked only by what’s been left behind.

I.

First, there was Koreatown, where I decided to pick up a cup of coffee for old time’s sake. On spotting a 7-11, I walked up to the doors, took a napkin from my pocket and clasped it between my fingers, then pulled the handle to enter; before the door would close behind me, a man in front of the counter, on seeing me, launched into a tirade.

What the (expletive) are you looking at?” he groaned in my direction.

I had had my sunglasses on, and had just lowered them beneath my chin to scan the store for the coffee station in the instant the man yelled out. On hearing his voice in my direction, and sensing his stare, I realized he was yelling at me.

I looked up perplexedly in the man’s direction, made eye contact briefly, then quickly looked away, walking more hurriedly towards the end of the store to take my distance, as well as since the coffee station is usually found at the end of the sotre.

Behind me, the man kept yelling, though not necessarily in my direction anymore, but out-loud into the open. It became clear to me then that the gentlemen was unwell, yet somehow, I still kept my mission through the moment: searching for the coffee, for which there was neither a single cup nor jar at the station. I saw a sign: for coffee, I needed to ask the attendants.

My mind diverged in two ways at that instant. I knew I had to speak with one of the attendants, but also realized that doing so would mean I’d have to be closer within range of the gentlemen again, who was still yelling, although by then, less than a minute after shouting at me, it sounded like he had redirected his ire towards the store clerks opposite of him at the counter. I went ahead and walked up to the reception area, where I spotted one of the clerks, a tiny, Bengalese woman, whom asked her for a cup of coffee. Over the yelling still going on, I had to ask her to repeat her question to me over which type of coffee I’d like.

Regular, or hazelnut?” she said behind her face-mask.

I asked her for the regular, with two regular creams on the side. The woman handily served my coffee, and provided me with two creams, two sugars, and a stirring stick. A handful of feet away at the reception area, the confrontation with the gentlemen reached its bittersweet end.

I’m sorry, sir. That’s all we can do right now.

A nanosecond later, the gentlemen left, taking all the bitterness of his scornful growling with him. The store clerk then saw me, and apologized on his behalf. It turned out his EBT card had just been declined.

I let the lady know there was no need to apologize. Behind a face-mask over her mouth area, she looked to be an African-American woman, perhaps somewhere in her mid-forties. The woman then told me that it was her second escalation of the day.

“At another store, a man spit at me,” she said, “then threw his coffee on the floor.

I replied that it was clearly a difficult time for the city’s most vulnerable, with nearly no public restrooms being available, nor many places they could rest, or even the nearby welfare office for them to take their grievances to.

She agreed, but also said the day had made her rethink which line of work she should be in. Even so, a part of me couldn’t hold back from insisting,

There are better days ahead,” I told her. As I left the store with my coffee, once again, I used a napkin to push the handle outward. Although just when those better days would arrive, I realized afterwards, I couldn’t dare to try and say.

II.

On reaching the west end of MacArthur Park, I put my camera to work, snapping a few shots while cupping my coffee between my left arm and left side. I pointed my camera upward towards the sky, in reverence of architecture I once again saw with fresh eyes after a long time far away from the area.

After a few clicks of the shutter, when I fixed my sight towards the ground-level again, I saw a familiar though somehow changed setting: ahead of me stood the city’s myriad of unhoused Angelenos, whose tents and voices seemed to loom larger than they ever had over the sidewalks .

I also saw the scores of central-American men whom had little to nowhere else at the moment. Some of the men wore masks, while others looked as they would any other day navigating past grass grown only longer due to more rain this year.

The difference this time, was that the stores were missing, and deeply missed. Mama’s tamales was shuttered, as was the MetroPCS store. The Pollo Campero was closed, as were its neighboring shops. There were no central-american families to be seen waltzing through the sidewalks, nor even the usual police cruisers typically scanning the area nearby.

All there was, was an air of unknowing, which to be sure, was an air that was always present amid the landscape, ruminating underneath the day’s more familiar hustle and bustle of people, but which this time consumed the whole of the park and its surroundings no matter how brightly the daylight after a night of rain shone.

I walked patiently with my camera, searching all around me for what scenes would give. Across the street from me a dozen or so men stood near a blue tarp with earphones, chargers and other miscellany for sale. There weren’t many passersby to solicit, though. Farther ahead of me, a man and woman walked in my direction with face-masks on. They walked with more certainty than most of the other people I’d come across by then, and I moved aside to make way and not to discomfort them with my camera. Then, back in the direction of the park, I spotted a paletero. He was also searching as he walked through the trail of the park, ringing the bells of his cart within reach of other loners nearby whom had no response. A few more clicks of the shutter.

It felt like a deeply missed day for Los Angeles.

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 20

Rainy days at school were my favorite because of the way they swept over the whole environment. It would seem like every feeling became more urgent as an audience of raindrops fell to stir them from within.

Today, I just hoped the rain was enough to keep more people home. It’s as if the weather was trying to smile upon Los Angeles, urging it to rest and be dormant during this time. But I also know that not far away at all, conditions were not as sparing. I thought of those people still resting their backs underneath the 101 freeway, and how the winds surely pelted them with droplets showing no relent.

I also learned today of the Chicago Tribune report showing that Black patients for COVID-19 in Chicago are dying at nearly six times the rate of white patients.

Indeed, some of the hardest hit communities on the South and West sides have struggled with unemployment and health care access for generations. As a result, residents have higher baseline rates of diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and high blood pressure — the chronic conditions that make the coronavirus even more deadly.

In Los Angeles, metrics for the 173 deaths from coronavirus reported so far are still preliminary, but so far do appear to show consistency with what’s been seen in Chigago, Milwaukee, Detroit and Washington D.C.: that Black Americans are disproportionately dying from COVID-19 compared with other groups.

I know that this brings great sadness, as well as great anger to Black people across the nation. I also know that if this is to change for future generations, it is imperative for the immigrant community in cities like Los Angeles to learn about how we are inextricably connected with the African-American community in almost every walk of life.

I think of the Metro Blue Line, which was the first modern rail line in L.A., running from Long Beach through South Central and onto downtown L.A. at Figueroa and 7th street. L.A. Metro now has seven such railways spanning towards every main thoroughfare in the city, and its services are lifelines for my mother and millions of other humble travelers like herself. Black people in South Los Angeles played no small part in making these services accessible, just as Rosa Parks in Montgomery not only freed bus seats all over the south but also cleared the way for the civil rights movement.

Across America, hundreds of years before the word “immigrant” was used to describe people from other lands here, there were Black people lifting, nursing, farming and raising America to be carried into the arms of the next generation.

Today, as the coronavirus exposes further a racial wealth gap that our public discourse nearly forgot about between Obama’s final days in office and Trump’s first, it’s clear we’re only a few passages removed from these pages of history.

In the coming days, as conversations continue over how to respond to these reports, immigrant communities, along with every ally in America, need to voice unequivocal support for the Black community in outrage at this discrimination in our health-care system and everywhere else where segregation and complacency still undercut America in half: one where its children deserve a future, and another where children are left to die under the overpass.

Immigration rights advocates cannot expect an end to attacks from ICE or a closing of all immigrant detention facilities based on merit and hard work alone; success in these movements requires recognizing the interests our communities share with prison abolitionists and other current civil rights leaders in the African-American community, particularly at this moment looming over all of us.

I do believe that 52 years ago, it’s what the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his contemporaries sought to teach all of our communities before yet more innocent lives were unnecessarily lost. Now, when is it time, Los Angeles?

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 19

The question of how to continue educating and organizing for communities during this public health crisis is burrowed in my mind, and I am moving forward with more vision. Today, I am announcing the launch of an official website for Who Is Your Neighborhood/Quien Es Tu Vecindario in East Hollywood, Los Angeles, primarily written in Spanish, which will serve as a tool and resource guide for las familias in the neighborhood to learn about grassroots efforts to support our community during the pandemic.

The fact of the matter is that before the coronavirus swarmed over each walk of life, JIMBO TIMES was only getting started with bringing together the vecindad; two consecutive Back to School Parties and two Open Mic Nights for youth and families in East Hollywood were just the beginning. This year, before the shuttering of L.A.’s schools and libraries, there was already a 3rd Open Mic Night scheduled at local Cahuenga Public Library for this April 9th, replete with another flyer by The Think Farm. That event is of course now cancelled, and it’s a question as to whether there can be a 3rd annual Back to School Party this August 2020, but I do know this: there is no need to wait until summer to rise once again for the uplifting of our communities.

Indeed, there is already a community at work each day with or without any organization making a formal commitment to it. There are neighbors speaking with their neighbors, daughters dialing their mamas, friends texting, emailing, and face-timing each other, bloggers passing on the latest to subscribers, and more.

Even so, I know it’s not easy for many of the humble gente still carrying this wondrous city on their backs while quartered at home, whose kids rely on school meals, and whose work relies on the good will of many they’ve now lost touch with; people who don’t quite have the time to read the L.A. Times reports–even if they’re en Español–and whom also therefore still have much to learn to get through these times still better prepared for the future rather than not.

For these reasons, the new site will seek simply to build upon what their voices and manos have already taught this blogger (or is it blogero): to be honest with our intentions, graceful in our learning, and ever ambitious in our will to go the distance no matter the depth of the road.

We can do this, Los Angeles. Or is it, si se puede!

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 17

The city of Los Angeles’s strength lies, as for most cities, in its workers. Its strength lies in its creative sector. Its strength lies in its entertainment and food, and in bustling competition within each of these “sectors.” But that does not mean that these sources of strength are not in need of support or themselves. I think mostly of the workers.

One question I’ve not heard asked of mayor Garcetti or governor Newsom yet is the following: once the crisis is through, what’s the city’s–and the state’s–plan for the millions of workers currently staffing cash registers, stocking store aisles, cleaning and disposing of our garbage, and more? As in, how do Los Angeles and cities across California plan to protect these most essential workers not only at this moment, but from here on out for their critical part in supporting our communities’ daily movement?

In the mayor’s final update for this week, he noted that Trump’s $2 trillion dollar stimulus package will serve as the main engine for supporting small businesses in Los Angeles, with just one discrepancy: the money will be overwhelmingly distributed in the form of low-interest, “forgivable” loans, even though details about which businesses may qualify for “forgiveness” are unclear, and even while such loans should be zero interest; small business owners are not at fault for the health-care crisis. The U.S. government, on the other hand…but let’s not digress:

Garcetti’s address also noted that $50 million dollars are on the way from the Housing and Urban Development department for the crisis.

However, in Los Angeles, $50 million for housing is the equivalent of finding a couple of nickels under the vending machine at the laundromat; though it’s an addition to your pocket, you don’t get much added value. Just consider what Governor Newsom’s $50 million at the start of California’s shutdown was allotted to: some 1,300 travel trailers and under 1,000 leases for hotel rooms in which to place the state’s unhoused population. There are an estimated 150,000 unhoused citizens in the state, nearly 20,000 of whom lost their housing or started living in their cars just in the last two years.

In other words, in California the state’s response to the coronavirus is increasingly highlighting a greater, far longer-term public health crisis: a lack of affordable housing for millions of the state’s workers, taxpayers, and other essential contributors. The situation remains crucial in Los Angeles.

But after COVID-19, there should be no more bus drivers in Los Angeles who can’t afford to live in L.A. County, nor anymore grocery store clerks, restaurant chain employees, sanitation workers, veterans or youth, elderly and others without options for affordable housing, adequate access to health-care, and on.

As UCLA’s professor of epidemiology and community health sciences, Kim-Farley, recently noted:

There is life after COVID-19.

I’d say the time to start discussing and planning for that life is now. In Los Angeles, we can look to the city’s past for some instruction.

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 16

L.A.’s streets in the early evening are curled into misty shadows. Once again I walked through the city, moving to the drum of its dimmed pulse. I know this is a privilege that not just everyone gets to enjoy. I am thankful for what I have, and hopeful that by sharing that through this blog, I can still make a difference.

A friend asked me earlier today how I’ve been getting through the times, and I responded that I’ve been reading, and writing. Then repeating. During this process it’s become more clear to me how over the course of these last few years, as I’ve picked up my smartphone more frequently, I’ve picked up my paperback and hardcover books less and less.

This has been obvious enough of a case for most everyone, but through the course of the quarantine season, I’ve seen only more clearly how work and school and the rest of my time dashing through time and space have been divided in so many different directions, and how the smartphone became a bridge to connect these things.

That is, until now, when in lieu of these most recent events, my phone has become less of a necessary bridge. While I still need to set my reminders, I don’t need to rely on the screen for them. And while I still have appointments, I take them one day at a time.

In these times, Jimbo Times: The L.A. Storyteller has been the more necessary bridge–my daily reminder–or my way to not only remain connected but to become even more ensconced withing my community and culture.

Since so many of my daily treks across the road have vanished, I’ve gotten back to my reading goals in a way that seemed virtually out of reach only a month ago. In the first week of the shutdown, at long last, I finished Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace. Today, during this third week, I finally got past 600 pages of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Almost in celebration, I published an “early” review (or is that a critique) of Infinite Jest on the site, the first review in months for J.T.

At this rate, if I’m able to continue my sudden return to the classics, maybe I can finally get back to Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, not to mention W.E.B. Du Bois’s Reconstruction. These are books that have sat on my shelf for years now, but which at this particular juncture, for all intents and purposes, I can see and pick up again with refreshed eyes.

But after two weeks, I’d say I’ve gone on long enough about myself. What are the people of L.A. reading? And what might they recommend for yours truly to review on the site? At least for the time being, time appears to be just enough on our side for the matter.

J.T.

Five Times David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest FAILS (Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 15)

In an effort to write about something other than the Coronavirus for a moment, even if it’s just one moment, I’m now on page 592 of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. This means I’ve got just a little less than 400 pages to go before completing the late author’s famous magnum opus. If I can keep up with my reading schedule, I should spend no more than two weeks from today finishing the legendary novel.

David Foster Wallace was a brilliant writer and thinker whose non-fiction I really enjoyed before his fiction, but I’ve actually got quite a few issues with Infinite Jest. The vast majority of reviews hail the work as pure genius, but today it’s clear that such reviews are of a different time, and mostly written by white generation X-ers like Mr. Wallace himself. This makes it so that as a millennial Latinx blogger from Los Angeles, I’ve got a different take to share. So here are Five Times David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest FAILS:

1. When the book is highly unreadable. Sure, the epiphanous literary oases that make up each “chapter” (or Sierpinski triangle) of the novel read musically for book-worms or lovers of Dead Poets Society everywhere, but at some point they tend to muddle the author’s point more than clarifying it, and this is not helped by the author’s titanic footnote excavations or “side-explanations.” As a result, it takes nearly 400 pages into the novel to get a firm sense of who’s who and just where the characters of Infinite Jest may be going. And I get it. Wallace wanted to challenge his readers in a critical way, demanding their full and undivided attention during what he rightly saw as an era of mass distraction. He was prescient for seeing how reductive and repetitive American pop culture was becoming in its numbing of attention spans everywhere, but how much did he really need to pontificate about aerodynamic theories as divulged at elite institutions like his book’s Enfield Tennis Academy’s? In 2005, during Wallace’s famous speech at Kenyon College, at one point during his lecture the author skips through his own lengthy descriptions, saying “etc, etc., [I’m] cutting stuff out because it’s a long ceremony.” At many moments throughout Infinite Jest, it feels exactly like one of those “long ceremonies” that could use some cutting out.

2. When the book is totally White and from the Mid-West, meaning that yes, it frequently enjoys throwing racist jabs at minorities. The year was 1996. Nirvana and MTV ruled the billboards, ratings, and t-shirts. Black superstars were either “latchkey” kids from New York or South Central L.A., while “Latinos” were basically Mexicans “randomly” spread throughout the states (according to the dominant pop culture). Infinite Jest, despite frequently being called “ahead of its time,” offers virtually no alternative reading of these groups’ contributions to American culture, instead relying on stereotypes as much as any other novel during our beloved 90s era. But ask these types of groups today if treating their culture as such was as grossly reductive then as it is today, and yeah, it totally was then too, and is only more so now.

3. When the book treats women in its plot really, really badly. In 2020, three years after the rise of the #metoo movement–and despite nationalist white guys in tandem insisting otherwise–treating women in pop culture as objects serving mostly for men’s barbarities is by and large fundamentally unacceptable, worthy of the utmost scrutiny. As with the part about minimizing Black and Latino characters in its story to “n-words and spics,” this is another area where Infinite Jest was actually not only NOT “ahead of its time,” but waaaaay privileged and condescending. This really demonstrates the first point about the writing “going on and on” in a way that’s not only unnecessary, but downright obnoxious. A case in point, in one sequence of Infinite Jest Wallace describes an abortion for one of the many side-characters in truly harrowing detail, presumably to give us “an example” of his Ennet [Rehab] House’s many dysfunctional characters. But what purpose does the detail serve? Is it supposed to be like gore in a horror flick? It comes off as indulgent. Moreover, the fact that treatment of women throughout the novel in this way is almost never discussed in the vast majority of the book’s reviews also speaks to the “trade-offs” overlooked when reviewers praised Wallace’s literary genius.

4. When the book enjoys ridiculing disabled people. Readers need to look no further than the constant reminders of Mario Incandenza’s difference from from others as the prematurely-born and oddly figured member of his family, which tend to run on in a way that aren’t just expansive, but which border on sadist. Take the following passage, for example, when Wallace describes the one romantic experience of Mario Incandenza’s life:

“[A girl] was trying to undo Mario’s corduroys but was frustrated by the complex system of snaps and fasteners at the bottom of his…Velcro vest [which supports his disabled figure]…it was when [Kent] wrapped one arm around his shoulder for leverage and forced her other hand up under the hem of the tight vest and then down inside the trousers and briefs, rooting for a penis, that Mario became so ticklish…”

As a reader, on the one hand, I know that Wallace wants to endear readers to Mario’s extraordinary physical makeup, which in spite of its difference, doesn’t keep Mario from having a strange sexual interaction like any other teenager out there. On the other hand, idunno, it feels like Wallace is–as in other sequences–exploiting the character’s “defects” too. I’m not sure if it’s Wallace just doing Wallace, or if he’s being humorous at the expense of someone else’s “deformity,” which brings up another question I don’t recall being posed to Wallace by popular reviewers: why so many “disabled” characters? If Wallace was in an editing room today, I’m sure he wouldn’t get off as easily with such literary devices just because at the end of the day the writing is simply so witty.

5. When the book blames poor people for their own damn problems. Although the “middle class” kids who make up the Tennis Academy’s student body are all grotesque personalities in their own way, they mostly get away with this for being young and really smart. By contrast, when it comes to say, a Randy Lenz, who’s got issues that go way back to his (Lenz’s) working-class background, when Wallace makes psychoanalytic exhibitions of these types of characters’ experiences with such things as incest, rape, child abuse and other issues that tend to face people in poverty, it doesn’t come off as “just witty,” but as narcissistic, and not in an ironic or ‘gotcha’ kind of way. This makes it so that at many points in Infinite Jest, Wallace seems to view urban Boston as just another petri dish of lost or abandoned characters the way just another white kid in a Michigan basement would view “dirty city-life,” his literary prowess notwithstanding.

(5. Continued) But what about, say, white-collar types who are also addicted types and not far off from the city, exploiting those same “lost or abandoned” types in their own grotesque ways when they aren’t promulgating pop-culture to keep the American population dormant to America’s inequalities? Why not expound on the idiosyncratic mannerisms, of say, an Alan Greenspan or Bill Clinton? Wallace does NOT achieve a “fair-share” of doling out his psychoanalysis even with say, “President Gentle,” who is only a “background” character, the descriptions of which only make him a shallow political figure and nothing else, even though presidents in American history tend to play a major role in “shaping” pop culture. And Enfield Tennis Academy–for all its cruel, elitist tendencies–does NOT come off as an “equal” counterpart to Ennet House’s “trashy” makeup, so the book falls short of juxtaposing these groups for Wallace’s larger point about American culture’s wayside decline.

Okay, even with these gripes, is the massive 1,100 page book still worth reading? If you don’t count the footnotes, the novel is not that long, weighing in at more like 981 pages. And yes, it’s still worth reading. Despite these and other shortcomings, Wallace’s writing still challenges readers to imagine finer, more complex prose as a form of expression. And no matter what verdict different readers might give Infinite Jest, it’s worth pointing out that rather than breaking the rules, Wallace’s book bends them, expanding the bandwidth of literature overall to elasticize the reader’s ability to imagine different ways of expressing ideas.

I just would chill on all the boundless praise that earlier reviewers have tended to give the book, but would still recommend readers to be challenged by its virtuoso achievements. I would also say it’s an especially approachable book during these times, when literary oases have never more been needed to get away from the news. Speaking of which, that’s enough of a retreat. Let’s get back to our coronavirus woes.

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 14

The sunshine was only stronger above Los Angeles today, beaming radiantly across its limestone sprawl. As my feet navigated past glowing concrete underneath I wondered for a moment just how many times the earth has soaked in sunny days like today over the course of its lifetime.

Although I’ve learned to think of my life as the center of the universe, in actuality, I’m only one part of a larger existence.

Even this time, as extraordinary as it may be during this moment, is itself encompassed in a grander expanse of time.

One day, someone else will waltz through the same roads I’ve walked, and absorb the same sunshine I’ve wondered at to make their own meaning of it all.

I only want them to know, that even in spite of all the gravity of this particular moment for so many friends, families, neighbors, and more, there was still much boundless life and love and beauty to be found and enjoyed.

There were still delicious cheeseburgers to pick up, oozing with mouth-watering grilled cheese atop charbroiled patties. And there was still spaghetti, elegant in its dance around our silver forks. There was still scrumptious cereal, groveling to the silky tune of cold almond milk. And more than anything, there were still our fellow human beings out there, not far at all even if separated from us by land and sea and many winds.

For me today, there was the city of Los Angeles, roaring with might in its brightness as if to remind me, as if to insist to me, that no matter the darkness it’s seen–and which it will continue to–it’s still got many, many days to love ahead for us.

I felt extremely lucky. The sunshine flooded out any gloom which may have parked itself within me the last few days to lift every other whim up towards a smile. I am still here. I may even get one more day after today. I reflect the sunlight and am terribly thankful, Los Angeles.

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 13

In lieu of brighter skies and calmer winds, the city of Los Angeles felt more alive today, yet it was still yearning to live, with more than half of its population nowhere to be seen. I know that this is what cities across America have looked like these last few weeks, but there was something different about today; whatever hope might have been taken from the sight of clearer sunshine felt marred by a great “settling in” of the fact that the emptiness will hold well into the foreseeable future, until this crisis is through.

I know that where business was already dreadful, it became only more barren. And I know that where the feeling was already somber, it fell still further to approach resignation.

The heaviest of the days are yet to come, but it already feels like the end of not one, but many Americas.

If feels like after decades of minimizing the issues of warfare, incarceration, and poverty and addiction in America as if they were simply the costs of running America, our way of life now screeches to a halt being entrapped by all of these costs at once. They have come to collect, to take us for everything we’ve got.

The pandemic has been called an invisible war, which says a lot about our way of processing a challenge, and which is also far from original; see the war on poverty, war on drugs, war on terrorism. Now the war is on every doorstep, and we can hardly touch the knob without fearing its germs will metastasize into a date with death.

The crisis feels like an incarceration. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Lebron James, Donald Trump, or one of the 3.3. million Americans who filed for unemployment these last two weeks. We are all on hold now. Our day in court is still not within range. We need to forget about it for a while.

The shutdown is also a great impoverishment of the whole of our society, like a great darkening where there was once light and openness. But if you were to ask Black families in Chicago whom were forced to make their housing in the ghettos due to the federal government’s Redlining, you may find a haunting similarity between what took place for them then and what’s happening to families in all of our neighborhoods now.

And the pandemic is like coming to terms with an addiction once it’s been torn away from our grasp. Our political landscape has become addicted to polarization, addicted to belittling the other side for merely having the time to do so. Now, reducing the other side with euphemisms is simply irrelevant, utterly wasting time and costing lives. Even the unlikeliest of presidents may be starting to see that.

To be sure, I don’t see this massive humbling of American power as necessarily leading to a re-balancing act, nor do I take any pride in the crisis as some sort of retribution, or–as Malcolm X once said–chickens coming home to roost. But I do hope that our communities can reflect meaningfully on what is at stake here when that time approaches, that is, in terms of what we want to save once we get through the worst it has to offer. I hope we do this not only for the moment, but as if our whole future depends on it. Indeed, I believe that’s just what we’re getting to.

Let’s have a better day tomorrow, even if it takes our damnedest best to get to it.

J.T.

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.