The following is a dramatized version of a conversation I had with a young writer last week. Channeling my inner Howard Hawks in 3, 2, 1…
GUSTAVO: “So did you send that pitch to [Southern Californian publication]?”
YOUNG WRITER: “Not yet.”
“You told me about the idea like, what, a month ago?”
“Don’t know. DO. What do I always tell you?”
“No excuses. I’ll say it again: what’s the worst that can happen?”
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GUSTAVO: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There are only three possibilities when you pitch a publication — just three.”
YOUNG REPORTER: “I know.”
“Really? Because I don’t see you believing me!”
“The most likely result is that the editor that you send your pitch to will ignore you. That’s a jerk — fuck them. It’s such arrogance to not even acknowledge someone for reaching out, you know?”
“But it happens. People are jerks. That’s life. Just move on.”
“Second most-likely scenario: The editor will reject your pitch. That’s okay — no one bats 1.000.”
“But it hurts if someone says no.”
“That’s life. We all get rejected. And that’s fine. That means the editor is dumb. If they’re not going to take your talent, then go find someone who will.”
“So then you’re left with the most terrifying result: An editor says YES. Now you actually have to write it!”
“That’s what I want!”
“Then why haven’t you pitched?”
“I get it. You’re scared. It’s okay to feel scared. It’s not okay to let that fear beat you. Because, again, there’s only three outcomes — only three! The editor ignores you, says no, or — most terrifyingly — says yes.
“You’re not going to die if you try. You’re not going to be in debt. We as humans build up too many psychological roadblocks, especially when we’re trying to pursue something we want.
“But you always have to ask yourself: what’s the worst that can happen? And the answer is always, like Flanders once said, nothing at all.”
“You’re right. Okay, I promise I’ll pitch.”
“You know, I’m going to make you not pitching the subject of my next canto…”
“Please don’t haha!”
Epilogue: I did. The young writer went on to submit the pitch; it was accepted. She didn’t get beat.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
Long time follower, first time gritona. Bought my first home this past year and I look forward to being able to grow some of my own food. We got a big back yard and a little house. With the anticipation of installing irrigation, I would love to have my own Mexican starter garden with nopales, avocado, lemons — all the stuff my dad grew at our house growing up in Pico Rivera.
Where did you get the best advice for learning how to grow all the food in your garden? My dad, the ex-farm worker, is no longer around for me to ask. Would you consider writing about gardening ever? I’d totally read that! I know you write about it now but I need details!
I actually write TOO much about gardening in my cantos, to the point where I’ve done TWO on weeds (to pull and also to whittle). I do it because gardening is obviously such an easy metaphor for life, but also because gardening is one of the few hobbies I have, along with collecting bourbon decanters and doing DESMADRE.
But you want gardening advice. I’m sure there’s a gardening club near where you live (especially now that activists are realizing the importance of breaking the agro-business cabal that causes food shortages), so join that. I’m too much of a loner to do so, but I do like to haunt Laguna Hills Nursery in SanTana, so find a local nursery near you and do the same.
And general advice: Water every three days when it’s under 80, every other day over 90, and erryday over 100. Water deep. And fertilizer isn’t necessary if you’ve got good soil — and worm castings are GOLD.
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Speaking of gardening, here’s a bunch of herbs from my comadre’s garden in Ventura. She has a verde thumb like few others!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I have distrust for big institutions. I recognize that our individuality is important, but that there are things we must do in communities.”
–My mentor, with whom I barely speak to nowadays
LISTENING:“El Bracero Fracasado,” Las Jilguerillas. You’ll never hear a peppier song about an exploited, deported undocumented Mexican, a song so irresistible that Lila Downs covered it — but this too-overlooked sister duet recorded the song first. Complete with a shoutout to SanTana!
READING: “‘Passing the Paddle’ – Southeast Ohio’s Bean-Dinner Tradition Marches On” Food, media, regional, military AND personal history, all from the Daily Yonder, a great indie website dedicated to telling the stories of rural America. Man, I wish I wrote this one…
SHOUTOUT TO: Julie, who saw me at my wife’s Alta Baja Market and not only ate an early dinner in the patio, but proceeded to slap a 50-taco bill in my hand to sponsor a full month of MailChango! For her plug, Julie wants to highlight The Fork Report, KFI-AM 640‘s food show hosted by my compadre, Neil Saavedra — BOOM.
Gustavo Community Office Hours!
I’m rebooting my stint as scholar-in-residence at Occidental College’s Institute for the Study of Los Angeles! Every Tuesday, from noon-3 p.m. people can book half an hour with me and we can Zoom (over a secure line, of course) one-on-one about WHATEVER. Interested? Email me to book your time NOW!
“Alta Asks Live: Gustavo Arellano”: I’ll be in conversation for the magazine’s Q & A online author series August 12 at 12:30 PST. You gotta sign up to get the magic link, so do it here!
Exclusive to Gustavo Arellano’s Weekly
“Searching for Pancho Villa”: Roberto José Andrade Franco writes a wonderful essay about his problematic admiration for the Centaur of the North. It’s the latest original article I’ve commissioned for my website, with one more for next week — details to come…
Gustavo in the News
““I’m Going To Be Honest With You,” The Grandfather Told Police. “I Killed A Lot.””: Buzzfeed News mentions me in an aside about Proposition 187.
“Can a taco change the world? One L.A. restaurant says yes”: My LA Times colleague Patricia Escárcega plugs one of my stories in our Food newsletter.
“Don’t mess with Tex-Mex: 9 recipes for queso, fajitas, chili and more”: The Washington Post calls my Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America “seminal” — HWUT.
“A salty fight in Huntington Beach over making ocean water drinkable” My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the proposed Poseidon desalination plant.
You made it this far down? Gracias! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while you’re down here. Don’t forget to forward this newsletter to your compadres y comadres! And, if you feel generous: Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc