Beverly M. Collins: The Mist

It’s 8:30 pm. I become aware of the cold

Temperature of the station bench through

My clothing. The train’s headlight appears

On the track, a distant sun blinking so far off

There is no warmth from its rays.

The feeling draws me back to our afternoon

Meeting announcement that a re-organization

Is about to disorganize my life and reveal

Accumulated dust in its corners

It’s funny how one sentence can tighten temples,

Add pepper and vinegar to a fresh cup of coffee

And suck all the air from the room at the same time.

These moments come out of the mist,

Bringing a chilly foul odor with a perfume label.

An appointment with insomnia placed before

Me with the dash of a stiff smile

Back at my desk, my attention creeps over

To the upside. I recalled insomnia visiting me with

Increased frequency over the past two years.

Let me see: demands, aching hands and insomnia

Versus insomnia and a new start. The cup before

Me was suddenly half full. It is not too sweet, but it

Has some cream.

B.M.C.

(First published in Poetry Letter and Literary Review, CSPS)

Beverly M. Collins is the author of the books, Quiet Observations: Diary Thought, Whimsy and Rhyme and Mud in Magic. Her works have also appeared in California Quarterly, Poetry Speaks! A year of Great Poems and Poets, The Hidden and the Divine Female Voices in Ireland, The Journal of Modern Poetry, Spectrum, The Altadena Poetry Review, Lummox, The Galway Review (Ireland), Verse of Silence (New Delhi), Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine (London), Scarlet Leaf Review (Canada), The Wild Word magazine (Berlin), Indigomania (Australia) and more.

Why Work in Los Angeles? For the Stories

Damn my co-workers. I’ve grown to care about them now, and quite fervently, at that!

It just happened: over the last couple of months they’ve turned into more than colleagues, but something of another wacky little family I’ve had the fortune of stumbling into.

Now, long after every drink and customer is served, and even after the lights go out, I catch myself wondering about my co-workers while we’re apart, and reflecting on all of the conversations we’ve had:

In the span of just a few months, through every word we’ve exchanged we’ve built whole worlds around each other. I’ve learned greatly from these worlds, and I can only keep learning from them. It is as exciting as it is strange.

On the one hand, it’s exciting because every day at work both my coworkers and I are getting closer to the next part of our lives, or to the next version of ourselves that we need to be. To do this alongside each other is to share a process of culmination. As we each grow by ourselves, we also influence one another to grow, creating a kaleidoscope, or an ever-expanding process of new perspectives.

In this way, I can see why people remain at certain jobs for years and even decades of their lives. It’s all a matter of taking one day at a time, filtering through the minutiae, and showing up again the next day because each time is so different from the last.

On the other hand, it’s scary to think of how my job has grown on me.

It happened more quickly than I could recognize it. One day I just got up from bed and found myself not only ready to go to work, but committed to it. At a time in my life when commitments are rather daunting ideas, the commitment to work is something different.

In the moment I realized I didn’t just have to go to work–but that I wanted to–I stopped seeing my coworkers as just some other group of people, but as my team: a cast of individuals who–like myself–were showing up to the task in order to keep the fight going.

At the same time, the meaning of work changed: apart from being a responsibility, work became a journey to create sustenance in the face of an uncertain future. It became about building a life, and building a life became a grand privilege to enjoy.

Alongside my coworkers — these People of Los Angeles — the privilege of building became something fun. It became mysterious to think about how we’d get through another shift together, and fascinating to think about how we always found a new way to joke and laugh together.

It’s even more fascinating to think about how I’m still there. As a result, every day with my coworkers isn’t just new, it’s a ride, a puzzle, and a story. Sure, the ride isn’t always a smooth one, but one thing’s for sure: it’s always an adventure.

In this vein, yours truly has been adventuring, and rest assured: the best is yet to come. As the holiday season brings us together again, there’ll be a world’s worth of more to share and enjoy.

With Honor and Respect,

J.T.

There is supposed to be some shame in falling,

Or a great regretting.

Yet now I only marvel at the slip.

Born from dreams that died midair to begin,

There are other hopes now growing from the daze:

Fierce, wanting, and fighting for the ground ahead.

Crossing the Streets in East Hollywood

My eyes begin to waver, and my heart seems to nearly stop in its tracks. In a city rushing like this one, it’s even a dangerous act, to stand still in the middle of traffic. If not for rushing engines, a flaming swath of footsteps behind my body threaten to overtake me. Yet in the midst of the crowd, there lies another appointment for me to meet, something beyond what’s written in my calendar.

As I filter through the streets, something divine is at work. On the one hand, I’m just like any of the tiniest specimens that make up the universe, as ephemeral as any other. At the same time, I reflect new worlds within the universe, filled with new possibilities.

Suddenly, going through the day isn’t just about arriving somewhere on time. It’s about being alive in a world that doesn’t always exactly feel like it’s living.

The strangers around me are suddenly not so strange; they’re the closest thing to family outside of my actual family. In the midst of an earthquake or some other catastrophe, they’d be the closest people to push past the apocalypse with.

But before the great inevitable catastrophe–of ruined bones and sunken skin–where would we draw the line between saving others, and saving ourselves?

For myself, feeling for others is as natural as breathing, or as natural as opening my eyes in the morning. Not because it’s as if we’re all made of the same flesh and bone, but because we are all made of the same flesh and bone.

In my heart, I want all of us to live triumphantly, indelibly, indefinitely.

But the truth is that regardless of who might be saved or not: everything has to end. And before then, everything has to fall apart.

This is where it becomes strange. On most days, my little part of Los Angeles feels like the exact opposite of just a moment in time and space. It’s as if the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory have always been there, staring at the stars like they do tonight.

Yet these places have only been a part of my world as long as I’ve known it.

Eventually, through the same process that placed our paths at this certain intersection of time and space, at another intersection, we’ve got to go our separate ways from one another.

Each of us suddenly has to disappear, as if to go back to the untraceable time and space from where we came. Just like all matter in the universe.

I should know this, though. If there’s one thing anyone who lives in L.A. should know, it’s that even a city of stars can’t last forever. All stars are made to shine, and then to burn out and transform.

The death of a star may then seem tragic. But it’s also more than that.

The death of a star is the birth of new worlds; if it wasn’t for the stars that erupted across the skies before ours, we couldn’t be here now, in between clouds, meteors, and the countless other matter making up the galaxy surrounding the little intersection at which I’m standing.

Every street and boulevard, then, every palm tree, all the squirrels burrowing through, and the city-goers who feed them, all of us, whether we’re driving at 95 miles an hour over the freeway, or waiting hours for the bus late into the evening, whether we’re on our way to or with our loved ones, or to rest our bodies after another long day at work — no matter what or where we are — we all have to go, and to keep going.

No matter how much we’d like to resist the movement, the moment has to pass. I’ve got to realize that I’m standing in the middle of traffic, and that no matter how beautiful it might appear, I can’t afford to get lost in its brilliance indefinitely. Not today.

But with this note, I can crystallize the moment for someone other than myself; I can take the radiance I see all around me, and chuck it out into the universe like a satellite in search of other intelligence.

I can also now let the moment pass, to get to that scheduled appointment. I finally submit to the flow, becoming one with the swath of footsteps.

Let’s go Los Angeles.

J.T.

Working-class L.A. is Real and Will be Heard

While posts have been far and fewer this month, I can assure the people of J.T. that their friendly local neighborhood writer hasn’t actually been away, but that in addition to Starbucks, I’ve also been on a super-secret assignment as of late.

I’ll detail the specifics of the assignment when the time is right, but for now, what I can say to the people is that it has everything to do with L.A., and everything to do with yet another crucial part of what’ll make The L.A. Storyteller a premier source for the working class voice in Los Angeles.

And what a powerful thing it is to call J.T. an experiment for the working class. Just a few years ago, any discussion about “where I came from” was one I avoided more often than not.

During college it was easy, after all, to talk about anything except myself. There was an English course to discuss, or a philosophical argument to pose. There was news to review with friends, or some traveling to chat about. It was all fascinating subject matter, of course, and I couldn’t count how many passionate conversations I enjoyed with so many people. But what I didn’t realize while I was having those conversations was just how much my perspective was actually influenced by the environment that I was born and raised in.

I always knew I came from ‘the hood’, but I didn’t exactly view ‘the hood’ as anything more than a fact of life. Or, I didn’t view my upbringing as anything which was truly unfair, but as something which was just unique in its own regard, like anyone else’s upbringing.

I still view things this way, but I’m more interested than ever in how the different backgrounds in L.A. got to be this way. I’m interested, for example, in just how LAUSD’s 2008 class graduated only 48% of its students on time.

I’m similarly interested in how over 58,000 people ended up on L.A.’s streets and parks. I wonder during which mayoral administration homelessness took off so much, and just how shelters and civic groups have failed to catch up throughout the years.

I’m also interested in the link between L.A.’s role as the largest jail system in the country, which books over 171,000 people annually, and the 450 hoods claimed by over 45,000 gang members throughout the county.

Critics and sociologists have long recognized a ‘school to prison pipeline’, but with J.T., I’d like to create space for discussions that consider the individuals referenced by such phrases as actual people, not as statistics. I’d like to do this for the simple reason that I’ve been one of the statistics described above who’s also met a number of other people with stories that have been ignored, neglected, or flat out denied.

Moreover, I can see that just as it has been for me personally, it’s also true that many of the youngsters at schools today may not exactly know how they’re being marginalized, although they do understand that something is tragically unfair about their environments.

And so, as I was fortunate enough to meet people from so many different ealks of life through the course of my education who’d encourage me to see a different side of the world, I want to serve as a motivating source for the next generation of individuals who will make L.A.’s schools, governing offices, and much more.

I now see this “working class L.A.” then, not as a hopeless world, but as a sleeping giant, filled with the potential to create a world in the 21st century which the people of the 21st century deserve.

After all, it was just in 2013 that LAUSD increased its graduation rates to 66%! By the same token, in 2014 voters in California passed Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for petty drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, lowering the potential number of people sent to California’s overcrowded prisons instead of treatment centers or clinics.

And while L.A. hasn’t yet committed itself to ending homelessness on its streets, I’ve got a feeling that we’re getting there.

One step in commitment at a time,

Wow

The world is to be found in the things we overlook every day, and yet we can’t find the world when we look for it. We can only find it when we accept ourselves, and when we accept that doing so may not lead us to find anything at all. With this in mind, however, whether it was just another day or not: if you can draw another breath, you can draw another miracle.

And more soon,

^.^

In just over two weeks, JIMBO TIMES will complete its first year around the world.

I know, I know:

What a baby! But what a year it’s been, too.

A year with J.T. also marks a year since I got off the graduation bus to make my way into adult-land; like the page views for my website, adult-land has been a steady mixture of rising and falling through a world that goes with or without the contributions we make to its winds.

Adult-land has also been like a fresh plate of debts and demands to dig into, served to yours truly with a slight sense of freedom: the freedom to either reject or embrace the cold plate in front of me.

Ultimately, I’ve made the choice to embrace the plate, as I embraced the city of L.A. when I returned to traffic under its palm trees from the easy-going bike lanes of Davis, but make no mistake about it: it’s not been an easy thing to do.

One moment, being an adult seems like its the greatest stream of consciousness I’ve ever known, where its offerings make me feel like I can climb mountains or hop on a plane to leave America without a worry in the world. The next moment, I take a look at my bank account, and I freeze: consciousness turns into a whirlpool, and I’m pulled into a cold world of uncertainty over what the future holds.

Then in just as much of a flash, the whirlpool unwinds and it turns out my concerns are just pebbles skipping through a lonely pond. Adult-land is a sequence of variable environments to wade through like this, each containing myriads of different characteristics to adapt to, but all — like the debts and demands — asking only one thing of me: to make peace with how much I can control, and let go of what I can’t, or not.

Or as Mr. Moltez, my ole middle school principal, once put it, to “make it a great day or not, [because] the choice is [mine].”

With JIMBO TIMES, I’ve chosen not only to make it a great day in adult-land, but to make it an ambitious one as well — which more than anything — has led me to participate in the world with other ambitious minds. First with The Plus Me Project, then with the Beautiful Gate, later with VONA, and now with the InsideOUT Writers.

All of the people at these organizations have opened up their hearts to J.T., and in doing so, they’ve helped yours truly to beat back the debts and demands of adult-land with a true cast of allies, teammates, and supporters alongside me.

They’ve also led me to meet a wealth of other new people in my life, through which I’ve learned and relearned how regardless of where we hail from, we’re all fighting our own battles in a world that’s never short of them. I’m thankful for this gift, and hopeful that J.T. has only so much more growing to do with its contents in the days ahead.

Of course, I’d be a jerk to recognize my supporters without counting my friends and ‘fans’ from the days before The L.A. Storyteller, and those friends from the days in between all the different ‘work’ with the organizations named above. Then again, these people never read my stuff, or if they do, they never comment on it, so forget them! J.T.’s good without them.

But really, I couldn’t do it without each and every single subscriber, so to those three friends reading this: please don’t unsubscribe! It’s taken a year to reach over 600 people with my posts, and I’m not going to start moving backwards now! However, if you do unsubscribe, well, don’t bother resubscribing! I’ll know who you are, and I’ll name posts after you! Ahem.

Anyway, it’s been fun reflecting, but now I have to prepare to meet with another ambitious mind in The City. I’ll be back with more on Quartz soon, but in the meantime:

Make it a great day everyone! Or not.

The choice is yours.

</:D

LADOT/DASH bus along Florence Avenue in South Los Angeles

Driving VS Riding in L.A.

We drive when we want to dictate things, swerving past one another, dodging death at every turn, trying and trying to get away. When we finally reach our destination, it’s the greatest feeling over the gravel, but we don’t get away from death; we just get away from each other.

Taking the bus, on the other hand, is what we do when we don’t want control; when we’re ready to let deadlines go. We reflect on the bus, and observe the lives of everyone else there, making peace with every parcel of it, somehow, as we flow into the abyss, together.

J.T.

Ashley Yu: America’s Next Top Ambassador

Where some friends go far, other friends can’t stop reaching for the wackiest, wildest ends. Meet Ashley Yu: a recent college graduate whose already got her Masters, teaching credential and experience, and a journey ahead of her that will make even the most adventurous Angelenos take note.

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Ashley Yu, America’s Next Top Ambassador; Little Tokyo, Los Angeles

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Melvin G: Winning with Calm

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Melvin G: A fellow workaholic; East Hollywood, L.A.

“I want to travel more than I want a car.”

In L.A., this is almost blasphemy. But Melvin means it. Just this past summer, he visited London and Paris on a getaway from life in East Hollywood, checking out everything from Stonehenge to The Louvre, Notre Dame, and more.

“I want to go back,” he tells me, “but for longer next time.”

Continue reading “Melvin G: Winning with Calm”