The downtown Skyline appears behind a fence separating the 101 freeway from Echo Park

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 48

Our city lives inside of us. Keep breathing, Los Angeles.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 05

Is it still safe for my mother to go out to open her newsstand? Should I continue to walk alongside her when I’m able to make it to her right as she closes shop? If I do, what are the odds of our walking home safely at this point? Is our community more at risk because of Coronavirus, or because of gun violence on our streets? These are questions I ask myself in the wake of another shooting in the neighborhood which has unnecessarily taken yet another life from our community.

Does poverty meet the definition of a disease? It’s certainly been passed down by many generations and is spreading throughout our country. In Los Angeles, this has become ever clearer with the rising number of tents erected by young, old, Black, White, Asian and more people locked out of housing in an increasingly wealth-driven city. But unlike encampments, shootings in our neighborhood take place more covertly. While they cost families and neighborhoods far more than makeshift tent cities, their scene is registered quickly before vanishing into our memory banks. But we do not forget these terrors once we’ve seen them up close. Death sprawled on the street casts a shadow nearly as long as the night.

A quick search through the L.A. Times HOMICIDE REPORT will show that the overwhelming majority of fatalities in Los Angeles are of Black and Latino males.

It will also show that in the last twelve months, 510 people in L.A. lost their lives due to armed violence, which is a preventable crime. The majority of these deaths don’t make the daily paper anymore, but Fernie’s shooting was the third fatality in less than six months within a 1.5 mile radius for my neighborhood, and the the sixth fatality in twelve months for the East Hollywood area overall.

Are we able to call an intervention with our L.A. city councilmember and other leaders on this situation over Zoom, or does that remain impractical? On the list of priorities for the city in lieu of COVID-19, just where does gun violence inflicted on our young men rank for our city? I know I’m not the only one asking these questions, but if COVID-19 has shown anything, it’s that a community’s net health is determined by every single person who comprises that community. Here is to lifting up once again our call for a better way.

J.T.

Temp

Madison Block Loses a Little Brother for the Ages, Fernie “Belok” Puga

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 04)

It was hardly before 7 pm when my mom heard the shot on her way home from work. She described it as something like a loud thunderclap. She is now sixty years old. The harrowing clap terrified her and forced her to turn her cart back racing the opposite way. The path along the street is one I’ve walked with her over a thousand times throughout the 18+ years that her stand’s doors have opened for the world on Santa Monica boulevard. The newsstand is a fixture, like the sign that marks the name of the boulevard itself, or the lights that guide the road. But mom’s stand is also subject to a window of time. One day, time will close its doors on the stand’s wooden frames too. It will also leave its place as any fixture is destined to do.

When I think back to when I first met Fernando (or Fernie), I remember the hopefulness of his greeting. There was a way that he lifted his whole chin to salute you, accentuating his cheeks and arching his eyes back as he focused them on yours while letting out an unhesitating smirk. This let you know that he was completely in the space with you as a kindred spirit. Fernie’s ability to hear you out was just as affirming. There was a way that you could express yourself with him without fearing that he’d use it against you. In a crowd of many friends–mostly teenage boys–it was difficult to find that. But Fernie was consistent. He was never out to get anyone unnecessarily. He was a loyal little brother to a pack of young men without many fathers to count among the ranks. He was there for you in any case, and was also bold on his own, which he often had to be, without flinching.

Whether you knew it or not, if you frequented Cahuenga Public Library, you were literally his neighbor. Whether you knew it or not, Fernie wore all the goodness of his neighborhood proudly on his chin. His violent loss now marks the end of an era for the community. His pack of brothers are grieving for him, praying to escape from the nightmare of a thousand memories now flowing out in his name. I salute these brothers–and also every sister and mother and father who Fernie leaves behind–and uplift Fernando “Belok” Puga’s name. Whether it’s clear or not, Fernie now walks with each of us as a giant among the stars as we continue past the boulevard on our way to a home which is still our home. A home we have to continue to claim for a community to still survive.

J.T.

J.T. Endorses LAUSD’s Request for Collaboration with Verizon to Support Students in Case of School Closures

“March 9, 2020

Hans Vestberg
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Verizon Communications
1095 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10036

Dear Mr. Vestberg:

Los Angeles Unified serves the needs of almost 700,000 students who live in communities spread across 700 square miles. About 80% of students are from families living in poverty. 73% of students are Latino and 8% are African American. We serve students and families with high needs.

As we plan for a potential occurrence of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in our schools, we are taking steps to ensure students can continue to learn from home in the event of extended school closures. At the core of this will be online instruction using a digital device connected to the internet. Unfortunately, about 25% of our students — 125,000 children — have neither a device on which to learn nor the ability to connect to the internet outside of school.

We would like to discuss with Verizon a plan to support our students by providing internet access to those who may not otherwise have access to learning.

We hope Verizon will consider working with us on this. I will call your office to follow up.

Austin Beutner”

J.T.

40 Cuentos

Did you hear about the blogger from Los Angeles turned fashionista?

It’s Los Cuentos.

In these last days of winter, I’ve got on hand my first bulk order for Los Cuentos hoodies by Jimbo Times. 40 hoodies, that is.

I’ve now got to sell all 40 hoodies before the first day of March in order to keep the production going! Can you help me do it? Colors come in Black and Maroon, and are available in small, medium and large sizes. You can place your order HERE.

If the hoodie’s not for you, you can get one for your friends or family! It’s a comfy, cozy and resilient piece to get through winter with.

Each sale earns yours truly a humble profit to keep the site and podcast running, but it’s not about the profit. It’s about the challenge; it’s about the unending call to adventure and success in Los Angeles despite any odds to the contrary!

So, what do you say L.A?

Let’s get the world Cuentos!

J.T.

Get Your First Ever Los Hoodies by Jimbo Times

Los Cuentos Hoodies – $40.00

Black & White, & Maroon. Both 50% pre-shrunk cotton, both 50% polyester. Super comfy!

Place your payment for your hoodie via VENMO.

J.T.

EPISODE 8 – MUSIC WITH SAL ROSES

In our eighth episode for J.T. The L.A. Storyteller Podcast, we chat with none other than SAL ROSES, an original rap musician from the East Hollywood area in Los Angeles. We reflect on the year, including our first meeting at the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, our performances at the 2nd Annual Open Mic Night at Cahuenga Library, BTS 2, and new music by Roses through the end of 2019. To listen to Sal’s latest project, find Appetizers on SPOTIFY.

J.T.

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Picking Life Back up in East Hollywood, Rising Once Again

KL for Who Is Your Neighborhood, LACC; October 12, 2019

Arriving to the Los Angeles City College campus this past weekend was no simple task after a range of emotions in the wake of another tragic loss for the Virgil Village community, this one even closer to home.

But as our communities have done for generations atop the barren concrete of Los Angeles, we pulled our spirits up from within to will one foot in front of the other, and to travail through just enough distance to reach the college’s brilliant quad.

What we saw then was nothing less than reaffirming of this mission. Underneath a quilt of loving daylight the quad bustled with life, filled by people from all over Los Angeles and throughout the world who like us, were also seeking to make the most of their time in the environment around them as they made their way to our table, and to the next, and on, it all rushed back into clarity again:

Despite a world that will continue turning with or without our efforts, we’ve got to continue pushing for stronger communities in our neighborhood, for better youth and education programs here, for holistic support of the most vulnerable among us instead of their out-casting, and more. Because the future yearns for it. Because we want that future. And because we know we deserve the opportunity to create it for ourselves as much as anyone else.

J.T.

Virgil Village Loses Anthony ‘Lil Sleepy’ Ruiz

Aristides Antonio Ruiz Jr., a 29 year old disabled youth, was a life-long member of the Virgil Village community in the East Hollywood area of Los Angeles. On the evening of October 8th, 2019, shortly after 6:00 PM, Anthony was shot four times at the intersection of Virgil Avenue and Lockwood Street. He was rushed to the hospital, where hours later he was pronounced dead. For many locals in the area, Anthony was an unmistakable figure who crisscrossed the local side-walks in his wheelchair.

Anthony was characterized most of all by a child-like smile which came over his face when laughing in the company of his homies. Anthony became disabled over 15 years ago during his early teen years, when another shooting permanently severed his spine.

He was still at Thomas Starr King Middle School when he lost the ability to walk, and would go on to attend John Marshall High School before dropping out in the mid-2000s. He is survived by his Godfather, Vic, as well as friends and family throughout the neighborhood now grieving his loss. If you would like to support memorial services for Anthony, you can do so at his GoFundMe page.

J.T.