A Note on Living With Myself in Los Angeles

Mom's in Los Angeles; Winter 2018
Mom’s in Los Angeles; Winter 2018

Tonight I lie back in the living room after a homemade steak, which was followed by some sweet plantains and a warm bowl of arroz con leche. It’s almost like I treated myself out to dinner, but at home.

Maybe a whole person’s life is about learning to live with themselves. In my twenties, I’m learning to see the world as a place to grow my skills for challenges that are also growing with my age.

The world is aging, too, after all. And while idling by to observe it is its own pleasure, I’m now diving head into the world once again to see just how much more I can uncover.

This isn’t always graceful. In fact, the path to one’s better self is filled with forgotten truisms and hasty correction after one’s mistakes. Sometimes at the end of the day, the only grace to be claimed is the finality of it all no matter what the outcome.

In a city like L.A., few things make this as clear as the sight of a car on the road whose driver is obviously in a panic, dashing from one lane to the next in a desperate effort to get ahead, until finally they cut through a slit that’s just barely tolerable as an opening, though not without nearly losing the life they want to get to and placing another’s in danger.

But the world is rushing by, isn’t it, and we need to get to it, don’t we? Isn’t that what we mean by ceasing the day? Plus, in the current environment of things, just what is patience? As in, how much is legally required?

But of course we can only rush so much before we crash into one another.

To be sure, when a great trial through the world is all said and done, the only parts which we’ll remember are the ones we choose to etch into memory.


Tonight I choose to remember my first homemade steak after another whirlwind of a week. It wasn’t bad at all, and yet I’m only just getting started with my dinner game.

I also choose to remember any other driver out there whose life was ever endangered in the making of these Times. We are in this together, and I’ve got much to learn from you all.

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.

Los Angeles: Roots

Almost a year ago to the tee, following a recommendation from a friend, I got my hands on a little book called City of Quartz by Mike Davis.

It felt like a brilliant discovery, since as early as the book’s first pages, one thing was clear: whether in discussing the international interests of downtown L.A.’s skyscrapers, or in recounting “township rebellion” through the streets of South Central, author Mike Davis was someone who cared about Los Angeles.

In turn, I went through a few of Quartz’s chapters on the site, and had a blast analyzing the roots of The City in response to the author’s perspectives on it.

But then, something happened.

It was a great but unpredictable time for me. On the one hand, I was having a lot of fun earning a little bit of money from freelance writing and photography, not to mention time with The Plus Me Project and The Beautiful Gate, but on the other hand, it wasn’t enough.

It’d been just a year since I graduated from college, and though JIMBO TIMES had taken me to Miami, when I got back from the trip I could see that if I wanted to keep going places, I’d have to make some sacrifices.

I then did what so many of my peers did before me, as our families did before us: I found myself a job, earned a little bit of pay, and called it a day.

It was good: I could finally help mom out at home on a more sustainable level, and I could also just help myself with anything from gas money to a new memory card for my camera.

But it was also tough: while I could see my time in the service industry with Starbucks as something honorable and even brilliant, I also felt that it was a real digression from my interests in work for youth, education, and of course, writing!

Work with the company was also exhausting; standing on my feet for so many hours of the day made it so that when I got home I found myself too worn out to keep my eyes up through a book as dense as Mike Davis’s Quartz.

I had to let it go. And let it go I did.

I told myself I’d get back to the book and the rest of J.T. soon enough, but then the days passed, and then some other projects came up, and then:

Boom!

From one week to the next, I got wrapped up in the cha-ching noise, numbers, and the framework of it all; even if I wasn’t earning much, there was this rhythm to it– and, who am I kidding–it was a matter of getting some milk and bread.

But even if it was all well and fine to work and work hard at that, it also took critical time from The L.A. Storyteller, and that I wouldn’t just let go.

In response, in January of this year I made some changes to my schedule to regain some time I’d lost with J.T. Moreover, I was chosen for a special project with the Inside Out Writers, and just like that: my framework expanded.

Contrary to a silent skepticism, then, J.T. was still growing after all; new seeds were being planted, and earlier seeds were blooming, at last.

But there was still more: more I needed to give to JIMBO TIMES, and more which I needed to get back to for the pages…like City of Quartz, L.A. Stories, and other extensions of the site not just for me personally, but for the kids.

On seeing this, I realized that I had to make some sacrifices again, but this time in the other direction;

I had to get back to myself.

And so I do.

Tonight it’s a bittersweet pleasure to announce that I’m finished with Starbucks at the end of July, and that my project with the Inside Out Writers has grown into a precious part-time position with the organization.

It’s also a pleasure to announce that I’ll be picking up where I left off with City of Quartz over the next few weeks. The thing is, these pages are dedicated to The People of The City, and critical literature by those before us plays an integral part in just how the pages continue to form. I can’t just let this go, even when I do let it go.

As such, it’s about to get literary again, and so I hope The People are ready.

There’s too much going on in the world for us to neglect our voice in it. Plus, studies show that many of the kids from the neighborhood start to slump or fall behind on their education during summertime. But nah’, we choose to make the opposite true: this summer is now officially dedicated to reading, writing, and more work to uplift The People of L.A.

With more soon,

J.T.

The Reason Los Angeles is Mine

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It’s a miracle to walk through the magic of a city that’s endlessly going, but it can also fill me with a cold feeling. The lights go on with or without my body, serving a destiny that always appears to be out of my hands. I think of all the buildings standing in The City tonight, which for so long have played the role of a home or a workplace for so many people coming and going. One cycle after the next, the buildings favor no person or people in particular, but serve each of us the same; that is, until enough time passes and the occupants of the day fade from the picture.

Then the night consumes the buildings, shrouding them into an immovable emptiness. The next day the same.

Every car, every bus-line, and every freeway that we come to take for granted function this way as well. At nearly any given moment, there are people just like us who take our place among these things an instant after we leave them.

And so I can’t help but wonder if sometimes we are not the ones being used by the materials we’ve made, or by the materials which others have made and left behind. This is particularly challenging for me when I think about the way I get home after a long day, when I so quickly scurry to my computer screen in desperate search of some –or any– source of life other than my own.

Sometimes I resent relying on so many lights so constantly, as if I’m enslaved to the immediate distractions they provide, or as if they can generate a kind of road map for my thoughts that’s more concrete than what I can come up with on my own. Why do I need such a road map, anyway, when I came and grew into the world just fine without one? And was it not at some point that I was just living, rather than planning to live, as I do nowadays?

At some point before I knew what was going on, living just for the sake of it came to an end, and a search to live for meaning began. Not long afterward, the search became a desperate need for people, and a constant longing to be a part of their mass and their noise and their chaos at the same time that I wanted so hurriedly to get away from them.

But when I think about how fortunate I am to reflect on any light in the first place, and how light is there to be extended in any form that I choose, I realize that I’m actually in an endless backdrop of light to live through; the same one that extends through The City so boundlessly, uncontrollably, and miraculously.

At the end of the day, The City I describe lives more than anywhere in imagination, or in a sequence of illusions based on a certain geography; as much as I might want to be a part of The City’s picture all at once, I can only be a part of it to a limited extent, and for a limited time.

This spawns a Los Angeles that isn’t completely real all the time, but which contains some kind of reality to be appreciated by someone else.

JIMBO TIMES is my show of appreciation, boundlessly, uncontrollably, and miraculously, except that I forget it sometimes when I walk through the coldness.

But when I remember how the lights live through me as much as I live through them, and how the lights have guided me for so long–and still do–I am home again, and every building is mine. All of the road is there for my taking.

By extension, Los Angeles is there to be shared with others out there, too, who like yours truly are also just trying to get through it as best as they can. And so we do.

This great and wondrous city in our imaginations, we continue to share in it.

J.T.