A helicopter making the rounds above East Hollywood, Los Angeles

Summer has arrived in Los Angeles, and J.T. is going to Publishing School with LARB

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 96)

Our blog is officially kicking the season off with a fundraiser for yet another special program with yours truly this summer 2020. The Los Angeles Review of Books Fellowship (LARB) for entrepreneurial projects is a special opportunity rightfully fitting for Los Cuentos. Starting in July, along with a group of fellow burgeoning writers and storytellers, I’ll be work-shopping for five weeks under the guidance of the editor-in-chief at LARB to grow J.T. The L.A. Storyteller into a premier platform for working class voices in our communities as I know it needs to be.

Because if you think up to 100 blogs in a row for Pandemic in Los Angeles makes for a lot of reading, you haven’t seen anything yet, Los Angeles.

I believe in the power of words because they were once only a few words that endangered my life. Just as they were once only a few words that saved it.

Today, there are septuagenarians–or readers in their seventies–who follow Jimbo Times, and who I’m proud to count among the ranks. But there are also 13 and 14 year olds who follow the blog, who I’m inspired to think gain some perspective from its words. Most of all, there’s an array of readers in between these ranges who’ve come to count on Jimbo Times for thoughts and analysis of the always interesting times we find ourselves in.

One such friend and supporter told me to “tell those stories” from my eyes at the LARB workshops. I thought then of all the young people whose eyes have seen the depths of hardship in Los Angeles in ways that no one would wish for others. I am fortunate to be here, and fortunate to be able to make this call to the community in honor of our collective ‘eyes’, once again towards a brighter future for all in this sacred pueblo we call Los Angeles.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 39

The week ahead will once again move quickly. Just this Monday morning I’ve got two more masks to deliver to another buyer, bringing my total to 30 masks sold for the first week with the accessories.

I’ll head out to the San Gabriel Valley for the delivery, where maybe I can pick up some dumplings afterwards, if not some milk-tea with boba, it feeling like ages since I enjoyed either. Afterwards, I’ll make my way back across to downtown Los Angeles, where I’ll pick up more plain masks from Zenon, the Oaxacan fellow whose work has supplied this whole journey with the goods.

The day from there should transpire, as it usually does, like salt in the palm of my hands. After downtown, I’ll have to decide whether or not to traverse out to Compton, to see Aaron, the brilliant screen-printer whose expertise has given our masks their rightful names; we have also discussed stickers, which it’d be wonderful to get started on.

It’s just that apart from more for Los Cuentos, I’ve also got the 16th episode of J.T. The L.A. Storyteller Podcast to edit for. The good news is that the episode has already been recorded via phone, but the other news is that for some odd reason my voice sounds completely muffled throughout, meaning I’ve got to re-record my parts so I don’t sound like I’m in a bubble.

If all goes according to schedule
, I should have the 16th episode by mid-week, keeping consistent with my two-week intervals between publication.

I’m working on making all of it more stabilized, Los Angeles, but I’ve learned that consistency is the work of miracles coming together. I’ve also learned that if I’m really going to improve on such things as schedules, it helps tremendously to learn from and collaborate with others.

To that end, it’s my pleasure to announce that I’ve been accepted to a publishing workshop this summer with none other than the Los Angeles Review of Books.

It’s been ages since I attended a summer workshop, nearly five years, to be precise, but I’ve realized that if all of my work is not just going to continue, but blossom all over the city like the Spring sunflowers, tulips and daisies prevailing over it now, then I’m going to need to learn from other professionals in the field. I’d say connecting with a group of professional publishers at LARB is an ample step in that direction then, wouldn’t you?

But now we’ve got to hit the road once again Los Angeles; the cuento continues.

J.T.

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Our Community is Getting Stronger, Este Hollywood

From the words of Dr. Mary Gallagher, President of Los Angeles City College:

“On Saturday, August 24th from 4 to 8 PM, staff from the non-credit department of LACC participated in a great local community event called Back 2 School 2, marking the second year of this event. I was able to attend and hear all of the things going on at the ‘grass roots’ level of our community. LACC was included because of the GED preparation and testing we do. We also provided information from some of our students currently attending non-credit classes. It was a fabulous event. I look forward to next year.”

Dr. Gallagher’s recognition of BTS 2 is a milestone achievement for the work to uplift more vecindades in East Hollywood and throughout Los Angeles. In the days ahead, the work to keep strengthening our community will remain challenging, but I also believe that as our special event showed this past Saturday–and last year–the promise of the work will remain bright and full of encouragement. There will be more following up on the success of BTS 2, but for now, I’d like to express my deepest thanks to each supporter, close and afar, who took a moment to contribute to this critical day for our neighborhood and families all throughout this great city.

J.T.

Okay, Let’s Review this Summer 2019

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Mid-City’s very own Willy West sporting the SkyBlue Los Cuentos; Summer 2019

For summer break this year, we created a list of goals for how to beat Summer 2019. We did this because it’s long been known by educators and other professionals that when summer hits cities like Los Angeles, it can be a challenging time for young people and their families in particular; summer’s heat-laden days and nights without any school in between breaks many of our rhythms, and can lead to issues at home if we lack the best guidance over how to fill the sudden free time. So, The L.A. Storyteller got active with a series of blogs for youth that anyone could do at home with a simple WiFi connection and a dab of motivation:

We called our list of tips How to Beat Summer 2019, Parts I, II, and III, and even threw in a FREE Black & White Los Cuentos Hoodie for students who wanted to go the extra mile with our tips, which ranged from reading & writing activities to exercise, and more! We then followed this list with 10 WAYS NOT TO BEAT Summer 2019, ’cause we know how much kids love to be told what not to do. And also how often it works. Right?!

Following this, we introduced students to our very own outline process for our blog’s schedule with How To Outline Your Summer 2019, in order for youth to try their own hands at planning the days and weeks’ activities. For the more adventurous, outdoorsy young people, we published Secret Agent: How to Discover Your Neighborhood in Los Angeles, which details how to use L.A.’s more popular destinations to think about planning the future of our own sides of the town.

This felt like enough tips for a while then, but suddenly from out of nowhere came the barrage of fireworks leading to the 4th of July. To let students know in case they weren’t having the best 4th of ’em all–that it would still be okay–we published 5 Tips for When 4th of July Sucks.

Then, because I knew that some students still hadn’t put down their Fornite to read about everything else they could do, I published three more blogs to close out the writing series. These blogs featured tips that I felt youth especially needed to read about regardless of what they were doing this summer, including tips on how to get along with the family, how to “stay” friends with the squad, and even how to best deal with relationships.

This made for a total of ten blogs all for young readers this Summer 2019, after which the season would never again slow down for yours truly. This was due to another adventure, which was also one of the challenges on our list I suggested that students try out for themselves: the creation of a podcast. In our first ever podcast together, known as J.T. The L.A. Storyteller Podcast, my friend Ed and I published two episodes to start off a series centered on yet another special project for us, which the whole world and their mom now knows is BTS 2.

Things to do would pick up thunderously with this special day, and in a flicker of time, it’s now been over two months since we first set our sights on making Summer 2019 something special; the event is now just a single week away!

I’m hopeful that by sharing about all these different projects and things to do, a handful of students and families out there learned about different creative strategies for the season that they may have missed otherwise. But I also know that no matter how much I might write, the summer for some students can still be filled with so much going on that even if they really meant to read our blogs, it was still one of those things they just couldn’t get to.

Indeed, it’s like this for many Youngs during the school-year as well, but as I like to tell these and other students during the busy and fast-paced school-year: it’s alright, because of course there’s still the next season to tackle, during which we can try everything we missed before and even more.

In fact, that’s what our 2nd Annual Back to School Party is all about: a culmination of all of our creative efforts this summer as much as it is an invitation to young people and their families to celebrate the possibilities with us. Because no matter how far a person might go or how much time they put in to create something new, there’s still always more to do.

So come on Los Angeles! Go and get your raffle tickets for Back 2 School 2! You and your fams may just be the biggest winners of them all.

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.

5 NOs to Remember with Your Fam this Summer

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J.T.’s Great Tio on Grandpa’s side; San Jose Guayabal, El Salvador, 2018

1. No, They’re Not (Always) Trying to Make Life More Miserable. Think about it this way: with everything going on at school before summer break, it’s likely that you didn’t quite have a plan about how to get through summer break. The same is true for many parents and/or siblings. So all of a sudden, you’re all ‘cooped up’ at home again, and there will be challenges. Sooner or later, someone’s emotions are gonna get high, and then, let’s be honest: someone’s gonna make a mistake. Trips will get canceled. Stuff will get lost, and other things will go wrong, too. But it won’t be just because your family’s (always) out to make life more difficult for you. It’ll be ’cause all the ‘free’ time during summer in Los Angeles can be a burden for a lot of us to get through without fail. Accept it!

2. No, They’re Not the Worst Family in the World. Let’s face it: even if you know it’s not all their fault, there will still be times during summer when it’ll feel like your family just doesn’t get you. And since you’ll still have to live with them even though you’re from two different planets, it’s gonna feel like you’re just stuck with them. But here’s a secret: the differences you have with your family, if you can see them for more than just what makes you opposed to them, can be the things where you learn the most from. Even more than what you learn at school! But it sure doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to settle the differences with your counterparts.

3. No, They Can’t Just Leave You Alone Every time You Want. Here’s a fact: your privacy is a key part of what makes you the unique person that you are. But now here’s another fact: when you live with others, there are going to be times when your privacy will simply not be possible. You’re going to have to learn how to share. I remember when mom would cook lunch for my brother and I, and how I’d be so selfish. I wanted the table all to myself. Or, if I had to share, I wanted the best seat. Little did I know then that getting just my way every time I wanted it would simply make life less interesting. Eventually, I’d not only get better at sharing the table with my brother thanks to learning with him, but I’d also get better at sharing with others in general. And now I love sitting down to eat with my bro whenever we get the chance. (Love you W!)

4. No, They Don’t Just Want to Take All Your Stuff to Leave You with Nothing. Now here’s one that makes enough sense, but which is hard to remember: sometimes you lose things to find other things that you need. Wanna know how I know? Occasionally, when not heeding guidance like the one in this post, I’d get the Xbox taken away for misbehaving, or I’d lose all my TV privileges. At first, I had no idea what I’d do without my electronics. But then, I got creative. And eventually, I got to writing. This would one day turn into JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller. Now, you and I both know we can’t get enough of this blog!

5. No, Things Won’t Always be This Way. Although you might not believe it, the fact is that you will not have your family right next to you all the time. Slowly but surely, you will meet other people, and you will find other things to do besides being with them every day of the season. Then, one sunny morning day, you’ll not only be able to find your own way, but you’ll have to.

This brings up one key question for me to ask all the Youngs out there. If you could find the best possible scenario for you to ‘leave’ your family with before setting out on your own life, what would that scenario look like? What would you want for your ma’ or your pa’? And/or what would you want to ‘give’ to your siblings before you could no longer ‘give’ them anything else? If you’re up for the challenge, answer these questions with no less than 300 words, then send it over to yours truly for review. If you think you can do it, then GO! The future is counting on you!

J.T.

5 Tips for When 4th of July Sucks

So it’s supposed to be the big day. The day that everybody goes outside and watches fireworks blazing across The City. It’s also supposed to be the day of the barbecue. From what you’ve seen and heard, the way it’s supposed to be is that your family is supposed to get together, and you’re all supposed to have lots of food over the grill and charcoal, some water balloons, maybe even a water gun or two, and the loudest, most rambunctious fireworks in the world.

But what if you don’t have any of that? Or what if you’re actually totally ‘over’ the 4th of July before the first grill is even lit?

When I was a Young in Los Angeles, 4th of July was more often than not a day when it seemed like everyone except my family and I could enjoy the time. There was never much money for fireworks, and ever since my brother and I were toddlers, mom had completely banned any water guns for us to play with. This left just water balloons, but then, on the 4th, there were only so many kids who still wanted to chuck water balloons at each other as teens; everyone was more interested in the crackle and spark of fireworks. This left my brother and I to mostly just watch as other kids got to light up their explosions.

But now, maybe because you’re luckier, I’ve got 5 tips for you to get through the 4th of July when it’s dragging that my bro and I would have appreciated knowing about when we were in your shoes!

1. Don’t stay in while the pops crackle. Go outside because it’s fresher. Even if it’s just to go to the store to get some milk and cookies, that still counts as getting ‘outta the house. You’ll notice the slower pace of the city during a holiday like the 4th. In L.A., most of the roads tend to quiet down some, which relaxes the vibe of the whole place. And if you and your folks can hop on a bus or rail line to get out somewhere farther like the Santa Monica Pier or Elysian Park, the city will feel even more fresh for you to sift through. Ah, freshness. You need this!

2. Don’t just buy a cheeseburger or pizza. Make your own cheeseburger or pizza. For the former, I’ve got a secret for you: with just a little over five dollars, you can purchase ONE POUND of ground beef AND a bag of burger buns. With or without some parental support, you can throw some salt and seasoning on the beef, grill it–EASY on the oil–warm the buns, and then add cut up onions, lettuce, and a slice of tomato, avocado or whatever other ingredients your belly calls for. Then, WALAAH. Your burgers won’t taste like the kind you’re used to buying places, but they’ll be better because they’ll be made by YOU, COOK. Your own personal barbecue!

3. Don’t lounge around home being bored. Take a nap. If you’re able to, try to lie on your back and rest your mind with a good book, preferably during daytime since the evening will be locked in explosive sounds at least until midnight. A nap also works well with Item 2 on our list, since both the beach and the park can serve as key locations to catch a few Zzzzs. You also need this!

4. If you can’t sleep, fine. Get started on your own podcast for the Jimbo Times Hoodie Challenge. I mean, can you blame me for trying to spur you into some action? Now’s as good a time as ever! At least to get started on the outline, for crying out loud. You do realize you’re going to need a new hoodie after summer, right?! Yes, yes you will.

5. Don’t be a grump. Tell mom or dad you love them, then run like they’re zombies. Continue running. What I mean is, you need to take a jog! Why doesn’t anyone believe me on this? A light jog is good for your mind and body! It helps expel the pressure points, or the places where your body accumulates stress. It’s too easy, if you don’t over-think it. And your phone will still be there when you get back. Trust!

And that’s it, folks. That’s five tips for you this 4th. Now, is the short set of tips a bulletproof list of stuff to help you get through the day? Nope. It’s just a start.

Most importantly, what you have to know is this: if the day ends up dragging for you no matter what you do, you’re not alone. It happens. And quite frequently too as you come to terms with reality. But in this case, you might as well give at least one of the items here a shot just to see if it helps. At day’s end, it’s still never too late to make the day count in your own way, and of course you can do it. Jimbo Times believes in you.

J.T.