Tony Bao Tang: Song Unsilenced

Let loving words unsaid remain

In place of lost goodbyes withheld

For unsung verses bittersweet

In songs of memory shall obtain

A timely voice without conceit

Untuned yet echoing harmony

Lyrics unheard yet ever felt

Our song unsilenced bidding farewell

T.B.T.

A few words from the author: I’ve realized recently that the more living, learning, and loving you do, the more you have left to do. It’s a perpetual cycle, so it seems, but I kind of like it. Writing has become one of my vehicles to express and reflect upon this cycle. Come along for the journey, if you so wish, HERE.

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Invest in Los Cuentos Snapbacks. Why?

To support Los Cuentos is to support a vision for the city of Los Angeles with a small nod or tip of the hat. In the beginning, ‘Los Cuentos‘ was just a motivational phrase for yours truly, something to push me towards seeking and appreciating ‘The Stories‘ that come with living in The City. It was also based off the blog, the full title of which is JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller. Then came the clouds.

In the same way that the bubbly wandering epaluettes of the sky can appear from nowhere to draw our attention, the clouds for Los Cuentos symbolize the importance of mystery in our lives and imagining something different than what our immediate surroundings might offer. They also remind me of the far away places my people came from even before they became the ethnic and working-class communities highlighted throughout this blog. 

This is why the Los Cuentos Snap is just the right fit. The mission of my work over the last five years with JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller has been to highlight and celebrate the magical and far-reaching ways of so many of our people out here. Now, with this hat, I can invite the rest of the world to celebrate their magic with me. So, pick up your first Los Cuentos Snapback, or support one for a student, and together we’ll nod to this great city in style.

J.T.

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.

Show and Tell: The Sock-Puppet

I will never forget the anguish I put my mother through as a child. So many dreams. Dreams that are memories now and also pain mixed up with love and a desire to let them be known.

I remember the sock-puppet for show and tell. It was a cloudy afternoon when the dim orange lighting of the kitchen washed over the peeling walls as I begged and pleaded with mom to help me with my show and tell project.

I needed something to show. Mom worked in needles. She worked in sowing, in making something out of nothing but a string of yarn. She agreed to help me then, making my anguish into her anguish as the hours seemed to trap both of us in their midst. It was still early in the afternoon when I sidetracked her with my last minute request, and we could take the whole evening if need be, but the next day still loomed like the clouds through the windowpanes, into our souls and slowly more coldly.

As night encroached I didn’t know if we would make it. All I could feel was my heart pouncing as time managed to swerve right above our every angle and motion.

Mom kept her personal sowing machine in the kitchen, and it didn’t dawn on me that she did so because that’s where she could get more work done for her shift at the garment warehouse the next morning. It didn’t occur to me that she had already had an eight hour work-day by the time I made my request to her, and that she had already picked us up from school, and that she had even managed to prepare dinner for us to curl into the evening with our bellies full.

All that dawned on me was my show and tell. The sock puppet needed to be real, and to come alive like the ones on Mr. Rogers’s. I needed to be able to hold my puppet, and to tell its story like an expert.

So I went back and forth between the kitchen and the living room checking on mom and her hands at work, keeping an eye on her angles as she shaped the dimensions of the puppet underneath the magic needle. She gave life to my dream on that day, which was also my pain, in one of the earliest instances of a lifetime of last minute races against time and everything that seemed possible that I’d embark on with her. We would share anguish over each other and one another’s fates through the course of many years in this manner. Years which would also seem to dash just above our heads as we scrambled to meet them with our best minds.

Before late into the night, mom stretched the hands and legs of the tiny sock-puppet before my eyes. I remember looking at it in that moment, as if to look into the depths of imagination itself, and feeling at once that it wasn’t like what I expected.

Made purely of black yarn, it didn’t look like the sock-puppets from Mr. Rogers’s. And it barely fit through my hands. I also couldn’t move the legs if my fingers were placed through the puppets’ hands, and likewise couldn’t move its hands if my fingers were placed through its legs. At least, not in the seamless way that appeared to be most right.

What’s more, our sock-puppet had no face. It was just the figure of a body, but it had no personality.

I barely mustered a thank you to mom before taking it from her hands then, as I figured that I could maybe still make it work, if only I gave it some eyes and some lips and a nose. I then retreated into the living room with the soft garment in my hands, placed the puppet’s body down on the plastic table where my brother and I did our homework, took some scratch paper out of my backpack, and set out to give the tiny figure its rightful personality.

I won’t ever forget the face I would forge on the sheet then, because it was the most natural face that came to mind in that moment; the only one in the entire galaxy that I could draw with some ease. After cutting out the circle of paper that we’d glue onto the figure’s circular-shaped head, I gave the sock-puppet curious wide eyes, brimming bright eyelashes, a roundish nose with just a small lumping tip at the end, and a set of large, wise lips. It was the face of my mom.

Even if the figure wasn’t quite what I expected then, I would still have something to show for show and tell. And my mom’s face before my anxieties–just as her hands motioning through the darkness of the night to still save the day–would remain with my memory through a lifetime; every dream come true for me now is only an extension of everything possible through the tiny sock-puppet with her eyes.

J.T.

Los Angeles, so you know

Jimbotimes_APC_-3It is quite possible, maybe even nearly guaranteed, that I will not be there on your final day. That is, in the final moment that defines that day. I wish I could tell you otherwise, but if I did it would just be untrue.

I also wish it didn’t have to be so simple. I wish I didn’t have to be so wrapped up in myself just like everyone else, and I wish that I could summon the superpowers I always dreamt of one day having, so that I could be in two places at once after all; so that I could be as much the magic to you, as you’ve been to me over the course of so many days.

I am only human, however. A being bound by two hands and two feet, with just one heart and one mind connecting each of these extensions to the body. Even if in my mind I can fly, the rest of the time I’m pulled to the earth by gravity like every other one of the planet’s organisms.

What’s more, even if I could actually fly through time and space, the truth is that I would still have to leave one part of myself to get to you on the other side. This I could not do.

Last night, at the peak of dawn there was a tremor through the earth. I could not fly and get away. Nor could you. Instead we both had no choice but to bear the weight and worry of the tumble that marked the earth’s transformation, a transformation all but guaranteed to continue indefinitely, or at least, long past either one of us.

We had to be somewhat brave, Los Angeles. For a moment each of us faced the specter of being taken from one another and the impending doom thereof. Yet there we were. We made it through the strenuous trek. Now, we continue with our own transformation through the times. We are living, breathing organisms too, after all, each of us with whole worlds to fill out through these things.

That said, there will also be a time when one of us cannot make it. On that day, even with all the bravery in the universe coursing through our veins, we will still be broken through. Separated both from one another and within ourselves, the sky will be blotted out by an endless sense of abandon. We’ll then be left to course through the dark of the night as new, less certain selves. Broken selves.

That brokenness is also likely to extend through the course of more than just one night. It may even take a lifetime to adapt to a world without one another, but we will once again transform through this. It is our destiny to expand into the universe through each of the events that happen to us, and through those we happen to. Indeed, without this indefinite transformation, I could not write this note to you today, nor any of the notes we’ve shared. And even if the notes one day vanish, I’ve got a feeling they could only disappear to take time and space in another form, too.

Of course, there will only be one Los Angeles through the course of time and space, just as there will be only one JIMBO TIMES to express so uncompromisingly such a fervent dedication to Los Angeles.

But in the meantime, with what time and space is still left, I want to express my gratitude for everything we’ve been able to form together.

You have made me, Los Angeles, and I can only hope in some way I’ve made you too.

When the time comes to remake ourselves even beyond one another, then, even if I can’t be there to say goodbye, I trust each of us will still remake ourselves well, just as we have for so long.

Bravely, uncompromisingly, and indefinitely, you have my best in this journey.

And remember that we have to keep going, Los Angeles.

Indeed, the rest of the pueblos out there depend on us doing just so.

J.T.

Finding My Way Back Without the Lights

Since as long as I can remember I was driven by a tremendous love for the world, which was also a great hurting for the world, in that it hurt to love something so much.

‘Being driven’ implies some form of control over this love, though, except that I wasn’t always in control. In fact, it might be that I was in control of the world around me less than half the time. During the other half, it felt like I was only reacting to an unexpected wind, as if one day the world suddenly opened its arms to me and I had to react. I had to express myself. I had to write.

Except that even if I wrote, it still didn’t mean I knew how to appreciate everything I loved about the world all at once, or even just at the “right time.” I mustered what I could with the scraps of time I was given, dropping the world again and again on its head, making mistakes, and moving on. Now, with more distance between myself and all I’ve loved over the years, even if I wanted to claim to have no regrets, that would preclude that I know the whole of myself; the fact of the matter is that I’m actually still getting to know the different moments which add up to myself. As for what the final version of myself regrets, I’m still finding out.

How does a person imagine their whole life to make up their mind about how they feel about it, anyway? As in, where do they find the time for such a thing? In any case, I realize that this time around in reflecting on things, I can see I’m now somewhere along a middle space.

I can also see that I’m supposed to cross this passage onto the next span of my travail through the Cosmos, but that instead of lights guiding my path, it’s actually a rather dark terminal I’m standing in.

A part of me wanted to come back from all of my travels this year stronger, but another part of me was highly aware of how I could actually only come back from them in a more vulnerable state than before, estranged from my surroundings as I tried to make sense of just what mattered the most in both the places I left and the ones I returned to.

I’m now rummaging through that vulnerable state, because everything to be found in it is a collector’s item. And I’ve come to believe that I’m supposed to get to know my vulnerabilities better in order to prize my strengths better too.

Maybe that’s why I’ve decided to step away from so much of the driving force as of late; while the last time I checked I wanted to immerse myself full throttle with the world to uncover its farthest dimensions, it’s now the polar opposite; I am like the night, swollen into a dark and spacious state, unloving and even cold. It creates a balance in me somehow.

I know this when I open my eyes through the darkness to find the other part of myself; rather than being afraid of its difference, I am immovably at peace with it, accepting it for as long as it needs to be with me.


I don’t always need light to observe my existence; even through darkness, I can sort through its contents to still find enough of what I need from myself; I understand that just as I thrive with light, I’m meant to thrive without it as well. The result is something I’m rather happy to lay bare.

With more soon,

J.T.

L.A. Remembers this Pueblo

How could I ever forget, the magnificent breeze brought by the wind when roaring heat passes, or the way my whole body galvanizes at the start of another golden morning.

Even if I’m just like a bird passing through a chasm of time and space amid dry earth, I treasure the opening for another flight through. I love its span of daydreams and jamming; together we’re reflections of each other, bound for glowing warm hues, each filled with a light of our own to make even more colors as one.

And how could I ever forget, a place where I can lose myself only to recover more of myself later. Each part I leave at every intersection is not just the same when I recover it, it’s more; it’s born again, wrapped up in the old days as much as it’s open towards new days. I can be a million bodies in this way, like any one of the strangers who color the crosswalks.

I am the helicopter pilot churning through the sky, searching frantically to ground myself. And I am the motorcyclist, racing out of wrecked road to make my own way.

I am the writer who is celebrating at the sight of another vision brought to life on the screen. And I am the student, whose backpack is a time capsule destined to save the world, or at least to give it more time.

I am the ice cream man, playing my song to the avenues no matter how heavy their silence weighs on me. And I am the store owner along the boulevard, opening my doors for yet another miracle to waltz in.

All of it is only the traffic of myself, soaring or slugging forward to finish what’s started. It is the pueblo of the people of Los Angeles, from every part and parcel of the world. We dream and daydream and live in these dreams, together.

J.T.

Back in Los Angeles, Renewed


After a week of meandering through the Midwest, I’m finally back on the west coast. In the midst of its cool and breezy daylight, with bacon grilling on the skillet and a plane engine whirring far out in the clear blue sky, the town has never felt so
fresh; Chicago made for some awesome Times, but I love Los Angeles and wouldn’t trade it for any other city in the world.

Now it’s time to rebuild myself. As if with new eyes, or at least a renewed vision, I’m at a point at which I can look at things back home from the ground up again.

A new school-year has just begun, and with it, a world of transitions start anew again. In the same light, this August 19th JIMBO TIMES will enter into its third year of production:

And it suddenly dawns on me that in the blink of an eye I might never again see my city the way I get to now. The time is special: particular to sounds, sights, scents, and other essences all of their own; and like everything else, it’s only temporary. For an instance, I want to pause every bit of it to stand indefinitely in the moment. I realize that even if it’s not perfect, it’s more than plenty, and that even if it’s a struggle, it’s one I’m fiercely determined to go the distance with. After all, every last inch of L.A.’s concrete has strengthened my feet, every one of its lights has guided my journey, and each of the strangers I’ve encountered along the way have all accompanied me throughout its long road. Together, we are still here: still hungry, but also still humble; day in and night out, each with our own kind of love for this miracle and madness of a home. For me, sometimes it’s not much, but other times, it is everything. Tonight, it is everything.”

Today is my brother’s first day living in San Jose, California. He’s been back home in L.A. since finishing his first semester at Chico State, but now he’s in a transition again. School starts for him next week, but before then, it’s just him and a strange new city.

I remember meeting up with him in the city of Chico like it was just the other day.

In reality it was some two months ago in the early days of June, at the outset of summertime. Looking back at our time at home in the middle of our twenties, we’ll be able to say we managed to be loyal about it for more than one occasion: hugging mom together, riding out to the park together, enjoying fish tacos and a beer or two together.

Tomorrow mom is also off to an adventure, leaving for a week to visit my abuelita in Oaxaca. I’m happy for her, but also naturally just slightly worried. Flying can be exhausting, and the little Señorita will definitely need some rest after her flight. Still, I trust she’ll be in good hands. She’s the heart of lions. Of course she’ll be just fine.

As for yours truly, there’s a world to bring to fruition. All the projects I’ve had the pleasure of citing throughout the pages as of late, and even more.

It goes on, and it will continue to drain me, but I’m so grateful for each part of it. I can feel it all flowing right through like water and the wind on my skin. Los Angeles’s water and wind, that is, tremendous in every ounce they get to me.

J.T.

We Meet Again Los Angeles

Stripped of all your traffic, and wrapped up in the slender calm and silence of the night, your true colors reveal you to be the same old patch of pueblos like the dry lands that used to be frequented only by humble pobladores all those years ago.

In moments like these, it’s clear that despite every effort to get lofty, you’re still not so different from the myriad of country-towns all across the nation, surrounded by an emptiness so vast between arid earth and infinite sky.

Even so, tomorrow when you’re a bright, fancy metropolis again, which has little to no time for the pobladores —or any ole roots for that matter– I’ll still see you.

Together we’ll make two transient beings strutting through the corridors of a time and space we like to think we can bend if we use enough of our imagination.

The people will rise to meet us with another smile under the sunshine then, and of course we’ll return the gleam right back. We’ll be back to business as usual, and will be oh so good at business as usual again.

Everyone will buy it all, or buy enough of it anyway, and it’ll be another laid back day in the city of L.A.,

But when the sun sets on the boulevard, and when all of the smiles of the people dim back into the inevitable stillness of their faces,

When the people retreat back into their shells, to trudge back into their innards,

That’s when all that will be left is the void between us again.

I don’t know exactly how it’ll be, but I do know it’ll probably show us

Once again, how

Even after all we might know about each other,

We’ve still got so much more to learn about each other.

I will see you there, old friend,

And will greet you, as always,

With flailing, helpless arms

J.T.