Canto XXXIX: Notes on Me Joining the Los Angeles Times Full-Time

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Gentle cabrones:

The rumors are true: I’m joining the Los Angeles Times full-time as a features writer focusing on Southern California everything…

Me and the Times go back. I grew up on its Sports section as a teen, specifically columnists Jim Murray, Allan Malamud (whose “Notes on a Scorecard” style I’m lovingly cribbing for this canto), Mike Downey, Bill Plaschke, and Mike Penner. Maybe that’s why I eventually became a columnist…

Once I realized there was more to a newspaper than sports and comics, I worshiped anything in Column One, the San Diego and military dispatches of Tony Perry, Mark Arax, and the Pulitzer-bait special packages they’d do. I still remember when Sonia Nazario’s epic “Enrique’s Journey” appeared as a mult-day, multi-page stunner…

As a young reporter, I would compete on Anaheim stories against Kimi Yoshino (who’s now a deputy managing editor for the paper) and share notes on the insanity that is SanTana with Jennifer Delson…

And then Daniel Hernandez (now of L.A. Taco) wrote a Column One about my ¡Ask a Mexican! column in 2006. It went viral, and changed my life forever…

I became a contributing editor to the Times’ Opinion pages under Matt Welch, which meant I wrote a (roughly) monthly piece from about 2007 to 2010. Made friends. Got covered by other Times reporters more than a few times for my books and my work at OC Weekly. Eventually became a weekly columnist for them earlier this year…

Now, I get to join full-time — HWUT…

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Me, on the front page of Calendar, in 2012. Man, I miss that guayabera…

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Joining the Times means I’m signing up for only the second full-time job I’ve had post-college (the other one, of course, was OC Weekly) and just the fourth full-time job in my life. Previous jobs: go-kart attendant for the late, not-great Family Fun Center, and data monkey for a Toyota collection agency, which means I know more about Torrance than an OC Mexican should know…

I’ll have a desk in the Times’ new El Segundo office, but I’m mostly going to be somewhere else — archives, courtrooms, streets, restaurants, clubs, bars, Yucaipa. That’s the mandate I have from my new jefes, Shelby Grab and Hector Becerra, two gentle cabrones who can eat aguachile with the best of them…

That said, I love newsroom environments, and cannot wait to set up my collection of liquor bottles and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box that features photos of Celia Cruz and Cesar Chavez…

The new chamba will be a change, for sure. I basically had to report to no one from 2007 until 2017 at OC Weekly, and was the capo di tutti i cappi for the last six. And this past year, I was a raza ronin, offering my services for various masters. I served them well, and could’ve easily done that and keep my weekly Times opinion column and been happier than the Democratic Party of Orange County…

But I love challenges. I love belonging to something. And I love what’s going on with the Times, where a union chased out evil owners and somehow brought in a new owner that’s actually investing, though not at Aaron Kushner levels — and that’s a good thing…

LOOKALIKES: Assistant managing editor/Sports Angel Rodriguez and Leonoard Hofstadter of The Big Bang Theory

**

Don’t worry, Angel: People say I look like Marc Anthony…

 

Being a freelancer was great. But my reputation preceded me this year: most publications that wanted me to write for them only were interested in stories about food, specifically Mexican food…

Or Latino anything…

Fuck that. (I won’t be able to write that phrase in my stories for the Times)…

I got tired of getting typecast. Another former Timesman, Sam Quinones, gave me the most important piece of journalistic advice about 17 years ago: Don’t let them pigeonhole you…

I never have during my career, and I’m not about to start. And Hector and Shelby have already loved my ideas, none of them Mexi so far…

As with any jobs, changes will also happen to what you should expect of me, gentle cabrones, so let’s talk them out…

The cantos will continue. I’m having too much fun writing these, and hope ustedes like them. But I will most likely write fewer articles than the breakneck pace I’ve accustomed ustedes to. My bosses want me to slow down and smell the microfilm fumes…

I still want to do something around Gustavo Arellano’s Weekly as its own regular publication, but I had to put bigger plans on hold for reasons that I might make public one day. That said, expect occasional dispatches from others there…

I’m also giving up my freelance life, save for any work for KCRW (my longtime radio home), and my “Good Ol’ Chico” columna for Gravy, the journal for the Southern Foodways Alliance. The Times wants me all to themselves, and I’m more than happy to oblige…

That said, I worked my ass off (I don’t think I can write that in the Times, either) so much this year that you’re going to see my byline in random publications probably through June of 2019, as already assigned stories get published. Look for my work to come in High Country News, Alta, Reason, Thrillist, Eater, NPR’s The Salt, and (maybe) The New Yorker Radio Hour

I’m going to continue my California columna for the Times through the end of the year, and you won’t see a reported story from me in the paper until I’m done with that. Big separation of the editorial pages from news—no pos wow

I’m going to miss writing my California columna. But I missed being a reporter more. And I’m thrilled to take a crack at Column Ones under the legendary Steve Padilla, one of the most unsung editors in the United States and a HELL of a tenor. But he can also hit the lilting notes of “Streets of Laredo” like few others, while also extolling its storytelling abilities…

My starting date is mid-December. Let the good times DESMADRE…

**

Enough ranting. This was the semana that was:

LISTENING: “Cry Tough”, Alton Ellis. The Godfather of Rocksteady deserves more mainstream love for his smooth voice and straight-up JAMZ…

READING: “The Sunburnt Country: Whiteness as disease in a skin cancer-ridden Australia”: I’m pretty over long personal essays, but this reflects the genre at its finest: personal, yes, but using those stories to tell national, ethnic, geographical and even imperial history. Fabulous, although the author should’ve just stuck to one “barnacle” haha.

Gustavo in the News

“Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff”: LA Observed has the memo.

“How Democrats Won in the White-Hot Heart of the Republican Right”: I appeared on The Nation’s podcast with the ever-generous UC Irvine history professor Jon Wiener to talk OC turning purple.

“Trumpism Hastens Orange County’s Shift From Red to Blue”: Former Orange County Register editorial columnist Steve Greenhut gives me a shoutout in a Reason article that appeared in the Reg!

“The controversial case for letting Malibu burn”: Quartz picks up on my columna from last week praising the prophet Mike Davis.

“¿Y todo esto quién lo paga?”: El País also shouts out my Davis columna.

“On the dimensions of Colombo-phobia”: So does a paper in Sri Lanka!

“Latinos help turn Southwest, West a deeper purple and blue”: Northern Arizona University Stephen Nuño gives me a shoutout about my OC coverage in an NBC News columna.

Gustavo’s Stories

“Remember the activists who helped power the blue wave”: My California columna for the Times’ opinion section celebrates the lives of Leo Estrada and Antonio González, two longtime activists known only by the real Gs but who were hugely influential in getting Latinos justice in the ballot box. KEY QUOTE: “When the Democrats take power in Sacramento and Washingtonin January, party leaders should hold a moment of silence in their honor. And for anyone else who want to show our respect? Easy. Vote. Then register someone to do the same.”

“How did OC Turn Blue?”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the strategies and millions that helped to make all the OC congressional Republicans lose.

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