All Great Cities are Must-See, for their People

In just one lifetime, cities like Shanghai have transformed from trading hubs for merchants only to internationally renowned metropolises for tens of millions of people finding a way to make a piece of the city their own. In China, Shanghai’s trajectory to stardom over the course of some seventy years is not so different from that of L.A.’s rise to global recognition. For each city, migrants and migrant culture are indisputably what make them so rich in flavor, style and depth. At the same time, in cities so large it’s difficult to keep track of just where everything is going, that is, in terms of who’s staying or who’s going, who’s coming, who we’ve lost, and how we might support those who we find along the way again. In my own life, at one point cities seemed to be the very end of the world themselves, places with no end for good reason: to explore indefinitely. Now, I view cities as another destination through the road, but not the end-goals outright; even after all we might achieve with beautiful skylines, bustling financial centers, and a litany of food and retail choices, so long as our people remain in need, still there must be something better to find, something better to create. Shanghai, you’ve inspired me to create again! To think BIG.

J.T.

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Top 5 NOs to Remember with Relationships this Summer

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It’s time for the Relationship talk.

Okay, so this is a very special post, and for some of my teens out there, it’s going to be the most important post you’ll read on my blog all Summer 2019! You can count on one thing: I will be as authentic as possible with these tips because I’ve been there and I know it’s not easy! So, are you ready? Okay, here we go with the real.

1. NO, you DO NOT need to be in a Relationship this Summer. It may be hard to believe, and I know that for some people, this very “No” will turn them away from the post entirely! I can live with that. But what I can’t live with is failing to let you know that NO, you DO NOT need to live like all the celebrities, or like all the characters on TV, or like those other friends who are with somebody else right now. How can this be, even if you feel like the only thing that would save your summer would be to finally just be with that other person? Because being with that other person IS NOT the magical solution to how tough things get for you this Summer 2019. Think about it this way: if we pretend for a moment that finally being with that other person does make your life better–at first–is that really how you want to live the rest of your life? That is, do you really always want to depend on someone else for your happiness? The answer starts with a capital ‘N’ and ends with a capital ‘O.’

2. NO, you DO NOT need to message the other person every day to make sure you’re still together this Summer. If you are in a relationship with someone else, you may ask yourself: how do I make sure the other person doesn’t start talking to somebody else? Your answer might be: we should message each other every day. This is WRONG. And it’s wrong because your life is incredibly important. It’s wrong because your life is THAT MAJOR. What do I mean? Scientifically speaking, it’s a miracle that you were even born, which makes you truly unique. In fact, you’re so unique that you actually owe it to yourself to explore that uniqueness on your own. Just like the other person owes it to themselves. I AM NOT PLAYING. You have to discover whether you can truly play that guitar like Jimi Hendrix, or if you can truly pick up that paintbrush like Salvador Dali, or if you can in fact design your own clothing brand like JIMBO TIMES. These are possibilities you’ve got to find the answers to all on your own.

3. NO, you DO NOT need to just get away to be alone with each other. Ever heard of Romeo and Juliet? It’s an old story. Like a 424 year old song on repeat, actually. And SPOILER ALERT: when Romeo and Juliet try to escape their realities without being quite prepared for it, it doesn’t go well. In fact, they both take the biggest Ls. Have things changed much in 2019? Nah’. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t like the other person; I’m not even saying that it’s wrong to want to just be alone–and left alone–with them. What I am saying is that if you insist on spending time with each other, you have to be thoughtful, finding safe spaces to be in together and not just by yourselves, where you risk making assumptions about what you’re ‘supposed do’ when everyone else isn’t looking. TRUST.

4. NO, you DO NOT have to buy each other gifts to make each other happy. This one makes a lot of sense when you hear it at first, but it’s easy to forget it as you go along. Do you ever wonder just why that is? As in, why people spend so much money on things we don’t really need? I’ll give you a hint: it’s because we’re surrounded by movies and music telling us how when we really care about someone, we have to buy things to show them. It’s a very ‘American‘ way of doing things, but the alternative is much better: you just chiill. Again, be thoughtful about how you show someone that you care for them. You can write a song, land a somersault or kickflip, or simply run three miles for them. It’s not just that these options don’t cost you as much, but that they’re more creative. And 90% of the time being more creative with your life is just better. TRUST.

5. No, you DO NOT have to “prove” to each other that you’re loyal to each other or call each other out once the relationship ends. At the end of the day, we live in a world filled with choices. And if the other person chooses to be ‘disloyal’ to you, that’s their decision. You CANNOT control every decision the other person makes, or ‘control’ which way the relationship goes. Nor would you want to, because you have your own life to lead. Plus, if you truly care about each other–just as it is with your friends–you have to respect the other person’s differences. Does that mean that if someone you’re with suddenly chooses to break up with you, that you don’t do anything about it? Yes, actually. It means that if someone doesn’t want to be with you, you just leave them alone. Just like you would want them to leave you alone if you suddenly chose to work on yourself instead of working a relationship. Don’t call them out. And don’t respond to being called out. It’s a waste of your time. Didn’t you have a clothing line to design?

BONUS: (Relationship or no relationship) You DO NOT need to act on every emotion this Summer. Let’s be honest: a lot of us have our phones with us nearly 24/7, and this makes it difficult to get away from all the instant ‘goings-on’ over the screen, especially if it feels like “nothing else is goin’ on.” So we end up watching each other–especially people we have feelings for–coming up with ideas or ‘implications‘ about what we see, and then we get caught up in all these feelings. But often times our feelings actually cloud our way of seeing things for what they are. So even if your feelings tell you that you just have to message that other person–or those other people–it’s probably better to talk it over with an adult you can trust first. NOTE: I am not that adult. It needs to be someone who’s been in your life longer, and who you can trust will keep your feelings secret if you tell them how you’re thinking of approaching someone over an instant message or two.

Now, does this list cover all the NOs you should remember when you’re with someone else, or when your feelings seem to overwhelm you this summer? NO. The truth is that even if you read this list, I don’t expect it to ‘save’ you every time you get into an issue with someone you’re with, or when you get into issues with your own feelings. It takes time to learn. And we have to make mistakes before we learn. Lifetimes of mistakes. But if there’s just one part of this list to remember, it’s this:

Respect the other person to get respect yourself. If you put respect out there for them, you will see it come back to you. It’s like a circle; you get back what you put in. Doesn’t this take time to master? OH YES. But you have every reason to give it a shot. It’s a beautiful journey, friends.

Now, it’s been one month of summer already. Have you tried your shot at the free Los Cuentos Hoodie yet? You’ve got lifetimes to work on relationships, but only a few more weeks before the Hoodie Challenge is over. Get on it!

J.T.

Introducing J.T. The L.A. Storyteller Podcast, Episode 1

In our first official podcast ever, Ed and I describe community organizing in East Hollywood, fundraising for our 2nd annual Back to School Party, and facing down other challenges in grassroots coalition building through Los Angeles. We also tell you a little bit about ourselves and why our experiences matter for our work with youth and education.

J.T.

How to Beat Summer 2019: Part II

Greatness Looming; Spring 2019
Los Cuentos with David; Spring 2019

So it’s the second day of summer and you did everything outlined in How to Beat Summer 2019: Part I, even though you didn’t quite do everything (since I’m still waiting for my next round of (five) subscribers). But even after that you feel like you’re still not enjoying the most awesome summer of all time yet. Why? This is because if you’re anything like most humans, sometimes your mood–like the weather–is simply going to change by the day. First, understand that June Gloom is totally real. Second, fear not! Below are three additional tips for you to start making Summer 2019 your best right now, right away:

1. TAKE A BROOM AND DUSTPAN. FIND AN AREA. SWEEP THAT S***. Try this for just an hour. Admittedly, an hour of sweeping floors at home will seem to pale in comparison to an hour with your team on Fortnite, but all of us know it’ll eventually be time to put the game down. When that time comes, think about this: everything at home besides the game, from the distance between the couch and the TV, to the way the pictures in the living room are framed, to the fake art on the walls and the old toys, and even to the boogers you hide underneath the desk, is all arranged exactly the way it is because of somebody’s doing.

And so, if you can make just a few simple changes to the way your living room, kitchen, or some other spot at home looks with just a little bit of cleaning, you right away boost your chances to create change in your social and emotional life too. How? Because the person you want to be out there needs to start with the person you are at home first, and the person at home always needs to get organized before they can do big things out there. Now, the hardest part of cleaning house is just getting started with the cleaning, but I guarantee that once you get going, you can really get into renewing the space around you as a therapeutic experience. Don’t believe me? Watch THIS.

2. WRITE (or PAINT, or DRAW). It may come as no surprise to you that I’m something of an ambassador for literacy, or the ability to read and write. In particular, I like reading books and talking about books and telling others about books they’ve never heard of and also looking for new books and different ways to get those books and even different ways to read them and—you get my point. However, have I told you about how much I actually enjoy WRITING, too?!

Here’s another secret for you to keep in mind. This entire website, and all of my creative work everywhere, started with just a little bit of writing when I was a teen. Don’t believe me? See it with your own eyes, skeptic. This is why I believe the most important part of summer is the creative work that you emerge with at the end of the season. Now does this mean you still have to write even if you’re not much of a “writer”? Actually, yes it does, because writing is a proven way for anyone to release emotions. But doeit mean that writing is the only way to release emotion? No. You can also paint or draw, or even dance. As long as you’re picking up one of those pencils (or brushes or feet) of yours and splashing ideas on to the paper (or canvas or floor) of something authentic to you, you’re setting up for some major payoffs this summer. Now, what to write about, you ask? Oh, don’t worry about that, How to Beat the Summer: Part III will have plenty of options for you.

3. LEARN HOW TO CUT YOUR OWN HAIR. THEN DO IT. Okay, now this tip doesn’t need to be read too literally. As in, let’s move one step at a time here. But think for a moment about the benefit of learning how to cut your own hair this summer:

I. You’ll save $15 every two months, which in a year becomes nearly $100 on savings since you won’t need to go to the barbershop or salon (much love to the barbers and all the stylists out there, though). $100 can get you a lot of Los Cuentos Merch.

II. You can’t get mad at yourself for a bad haircut (because when it’s your fault instead of someone else’s, it’s all good). The same is true when you make your own eggs, pancakes, or other meals. And ON THIS NOTE: substitute “Cut” for “Cook” and “Hair” for “Mac & Cheese” and then message me as soon as you need someone to taste the samples. It shall be arranged!

III. You stand to love yourself for cutting your own hair (or cooking your own Mac & Cheese, because if you look fresh or eat good all thanks to your own genius, that’s what it feels like to be a rock-star).

Now let’s be frank, neither haircutting or home-cooking are quite for everyone, so it’ll be okay with me if you actually avoid this last tip (though if you’re brave enough to actually cut your own hair, let me know). Your cleaning and your writing, however, will be absolutely key if you hope to win the next contest for Los Cuentos. Expect the announcement of our next contest in How to Beat the Summer: Part III, scheduled for this next Saturday, June 22, 2019 at 8:00 AM. Set up a reminders! You will not want to miss it.

J.T.