BONUS: How to Outline Your Summer 2019

JRG; Spring 2019

So you want to enter the new Los Cuentos Hoodie Challenge by Jimbo Times, but you’re not quite sure how to get started. You’re in luck, because in this bonus post I’m going to show you exactly how you can create the outline for your shot at the prize.

The term “outline” is not a very fun word. It sounds like a school-word. Plus, anything with the word “work” in it likely describes long, difficult tasks, and I know you’re not trying to do more long, difficult tasks than you need to. But guess what:

For kids in big cities like Los Angeles, summer is actually filled with long, difficult tasks. The most important of these tasks is survival.

You’ve got to survive.

This is what the outline is actually about. Because if you don’t have at least some plan over what you’ll be doing this summer 2019, it’s just going to drag on. An outline is just that: it’s a plan. Now here’s some top secret information for you to see how it works:

The J.T. Post Outline; Summer 2019.

Do you see the way that I’ve planned, or outlined, the summer for myself? For every other day between now and at least the end of next week, I’ve got a specific goal for Jimbo Times. It’s very simple, too. But the hardest part of the entire outline was just getting started on it.

But now, whenever I get anxious or feel like I just don’t know what to do, I look at the outline and it brings me back into the game, telling me where I’m at, where I need to go next, and on. Your outline for your Los Cuentos Hoodie will do the same.

Let’s say you’re a Young out there who wants to make their own list for Summer 2019 to get that Black & White Los Cuentos Hoodie. First off, just copy and paste my lists from Parts I, II and III, then change them into your own. Next, you’ll need to make your podcast. Let’s see what the outline for that will look like:

The J.T. Post Outline; Summer 2019.

See how simple that is? And yes, if you’re wondering, I did just copy and paste the outline for Summer 2019 and switched the colors around to make it different. Why? Because it’s simpler that way!

Now, drop everything else you’re doing, pick an item for a project from the list, and get started on your outline. It’s your Summer 2019.

J.T.

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City of Quartz: On Landscape

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Sunset Boulevard; West Hollywood

“Although awash with garbled pseudo-scientisms and racial allusions, [Anton Wagner’s] Los Angeles (1935) offered an extraordinarily detailed panorama of the city’s districts and environs in the early depression…particularly Hollywood’s elaborate, but doomed, attempt to generate a Europeanized ‘real urban milieu’:

‘Here, one wants to create the Paris of the Far West. Evening traffic on Hollywood boulevard attempts to mimic Parisian boulevard life. However, life on the boulevard is extinct before midnight, and the seats in front of the cafes, where in Paris one can watch street life in a leisurely manner, are missing…'”

Here I’m reminded of something I heard in my writing workshop with VONA at Miami, when a fellow writer mentioned how on first getting to L.A., the place felt “like a country town.” I remember being so struck by her words, as before then it had never occurred to me just how much the city feels like a village nestled out in the wilderness! Somehow, I’d gotten so caught up in the concrete and density of L.A. that I viewed it purely as a metropolis, when its origins clearly still mark it as a nexus of hills, canyons, and other dry land that just had concrete plastered all over it one day.

In fact, when I think about it the place isn’t even radically different from the pueblo in Southern Mexico where my mom originally hails from: a tiny little town in the mountains with its own miniature twists and turns through the landscape like the streets of Los Angeles.

What’s more, Wagner’s take on the ‘[missing] seats in front of the cafe’ furthers the point of L.A. as a teeming and even chaotic sprawl of mass, since unlike the streets of say, Manhattan, for example, which are flat and therefore prime locations for seats and tables on the street, Hollywood is landlocked amid the swirl of Sunset boulevard and cross-streets that curve strangely into one hill or the next. This makes it difficult to set up seats and tables in a way that is uniform and therefore synchronous with an overall aesthetic, or as Wagner points out, in a way that successfully mimics Parisian boulevard life. Of course, as for the midnight or two am curfew, I can’t quite explain how it came about in L.A., but somehow I have a feeling that Davis will cover it in his elaborate excavation.

Once again, then, I think I’m geeking out! I feel like my knowledge of L.A. only expands with each analysis, and like the information can only play a key role in determining the next twist and turn for The L.A. Storyteller, especially as a new year approaches.

With More Soon,

City of Quartz: Opening Remarks [Extended]

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My brother and I might have been raised by a single mother, but we were raised to be educated, active, and resilient young men, so 
I’d never really thought of me and my family as vulnerable people. When I take a moment to think about the economics we’re steeped in today, however, I see us at a thin line between poverty and flat out financial insolvency. With Davis’s analysis in mind, that thin line is magnified. Continuing with some more of the preface from City of Quartz, another passage strikes me as being particularly relevant. Once again, in his updated preface of 2006, Davis writes:

As manufacturing employment shrinks, an already precarious low-wage workforce is further compressed into a limited spectrum of service-sector jobs in restaurants, hotels, offices, theme parks, and private homes. This service-heavy economy, based upon a myriad of poorly-capitalized small businesses, is especially vulnerable to fluctuations in economic weather…

When the financial meltdown of 2008 stormed the market, Davis’s insight proved to be prescient. Like the Titanic, the first to lose everything in the crash were the laborers at the bottom of the ship, or people like the garment workers who’d no longer have work following the crash even when they were just managing to pay their rent in the first place.

The second group of people to lose everything would be those just a level above the laborers, or people like me and my brother, as the inheritors of an economy that had no real safety net for their immigrant parents, and barely any safety net for us as their children.

For yours truly, however, in 2008 there wasn’t much of a crash for my eyes to assess. I was barely an eighteen-year old high school graduate then, and the only thing I knew is that I was going to college at the same time that the country was getting ready to claim its first Black president; I was excited about the future, and hopeful that I was a part of a new era of American culture. Plus, my mother had left the garment industry to start and run her own small business a few years prior, so I believed that my family’s destiny was always going to be a little different from those around us.

Our destiny would be different, in its own natural way, but not different enough to distinguish my mother’s struggle to pay the rent from that of our next-door neighbors who cleaned houses for a living. As Davis’s text points out, our ability to level the crash was fragile, and though my mother’s little newsstand business managed to survive the next couple of years of the sour market, a “profit” has never been more difficult for her to garner than it is today.

The truth is that business for mom is not growing, but reeling further into a story of yesterday’s memories with each passing day. In turn, seven years after Hope for an era of American Change, the only thing that’s different for me and my family is that the task now lies on my brother and I to step up and weather the storm.

I can live with this destiny, of course, as my mother managed to live with the fact that she’d have to raise two young men in Los Angeles on her own, but I know that all of us expected more from our country. Yet with the clock ticking, each minute that passes wanes my mother’s tiny bones further into exhaustion, making my post-graduate phase less about crafting my own destiny than about inhereting my mother’s. She needs major health procedures on her teeth and feet soon, and as Davis points out in his preface:

“The working poor in Los Angeles have only marginally better access to healthcare than they might possess in Mexico City or Rio de Janeiro.”

It’s true. As a recipient of Medi-Cal, like my mother before me, I know firsthand just how many benefits of the government’s health-care my family and I are actually able to access. Benefits include check-ups and diagnoses for our health needs, but the rest has to come out of pockets that are already drained.

Still, as Davis later points out in his preface, “wages in California have increased only for workers with a college degree…”

And as I think about my education throughout the last couple of years, I believe firmly in my ability to gain a greater footing for me and my family to make it through the next seven years. Unlike my blind optimism in 2008, however, I’m not holding onto any hope for a presidential bailout anytime soon. As I reflect on the market for what it’s been to me and my family throughout the last decade, I finally see that any upward mobility, like its downward counterpart, comes one step at a time.

With more soon,

City of Quartz: Opening Remarks

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City  of Quartz,

We meet at last. It’s taken me twenty-four years to reach Mike Davis’s legendary “excavation” of Los Angeles, and yet I know I’m right on time. Published just two years before rioting rumbled through the streets of South Central, the book is renowned for its unfaltering confrontation of the money and politics underpinning life, crime, and movement in Los Angeles. For this, the book is particularly special to yours truly, as it paints a unique portrait of worlds in The City that I walk through each day of my life. As such, my next few posts will be reviewing the book’s chapters in hopes of “carpooling” with J.T.’s readers on a journey with the author.

For some time, I’ve done my best to steer clear of politics with my writing on JIMBO TIMES, and yet I’ve always known I could only look away for so long. My writing has always been a world exploring contrasts, honoring what’s beautiful throughout the world, while also acknowledging what threatens its beauty. This is what makes it an honor to reach the pages of City of Quartz, as I know the book will play a significant role in shaping The L.A. Storyteller’s perspective.

In fact, it already has. Just a few pages in, the book’s very preface has already helped me to identify a key aspect of my relation to The City. I’m reading the re-edition of Quartz, published in 2006 with an updated preface from the author, and I think a great starting point for reflection can be found in Davis’s assessment of then-Mayor Villaraigosa’s impact on the city.

After a municipal election (2005) sadly devoid of new concepts, genuine passions, or substantive debate, Los Angeles at last has a mayor -Antonia Villaraigosa- with a surname that resounds with the same accent as the majority of the population. The election of Villaraigosa – once a fiery trade-union and civil-liberties activist – should have been Los Angeles’s ‘La Guardia moment,’ an opportunity to sweep city-hall clean of its old scheming cabals with their monomaniac obsession with gentrifying Downtown at the expense of the city’s blue-collar neighborhoods. Instead…the former rebel from east of the river is now the jaded booster of a downtown-renaissance that promotes super-cathedrals, billionaire sports franchises, mega-museums, Yuppie lofts, and drunken Frank Gehry skyscrapers at the  expense of social justice and affordable housing…

Even before Davis’s mention of Villaraigosa, I’m almost immediately reminded of L.A.’s 2013 race for Mayor between then-councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Gruel, which finished with the lowest voter turnout in L.A. history. In fact, according to the L.A. Times, “Garcetti’s complete tally was 222,300, just 12.4% of the city’s registered voters. That was well ahead of his opponent, City Controller Wendy Greuel, but a smaller vote total than any incoming mayor since Frank Shaw in 1933.”

I was in Davis, California when the elections were taking place, but even from afar, I observed a contest that showed hardly any concern over the city’s housing, education, or transportation crises. Like Villaraigosa before them, both candidates seemed nearly oblivious to the worlds facing the people of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, or the neglected black and Latino students of L.A.U.S.D.

Garcetti spoke of “revitalizing” L.A., but for who? In the two years since his election, his time in office has merely been an extension of Villaraigosa’s liasoning to developers and other displacers with a stake in L.A. property. Just last year, despite heated protests from riders, Garcetti voted along with the Metro board to raise the fare on Metro’s ridership, the vast majority of whom – as cited by the L.A. Weekly – barely earn “an income of roughly $20,000 a year and more than 80 percent [of whom] are minorities, according to a Metro survey in 2012.”

Naturally, proponents of the fee hike pointed to rising operating costs for the Metro system, but as several leaders opposing the vote made clear, Metro’s board cited rising costs while failing to acknowledge their inability to attract new, wealthier riders over the last few years. In turn, their vote placed the costs of their under-performance on the backs of their already financially-strapped patrons.

As if to catch my drift, apart from the election at the time, the preface of Quartz also delves right into transportation, providing material for readers to place the relevance of Metro’s recent decision within the larger spectrum of L.A.’s transportation crises:

“Right now [in 2006], locals pay a ‘congestion tax’ – ninety-three hours per commuter per year lost in traffic delays – that is the highest in the United States, and twice as high as it was in 1982. In the worst scenario, it can double again in another decade.”

And here, I think readers can see why I’m so excited about the book: in the opening alone, Davis shows concern for the city like a driver exiting the freeway determined to find the origins of the traffic that stifles it. Taking a stand on the pathway overlooking the congestion, Davis is ready for a change. Walking down the street in my journey with L.A., I recognize the author as he stares down at traffic, and join him in observation. Together, Davis’s preface tells me that both the reader and writer can find key roots of the gridlock, and in turn, key roots of the response.

I look forward to sharing more of what these responses look like with City of Quartz soon, and I hope readers look forward to hearing them.

With Love,