One of the biggest lessons I try to inculcate in my students is to avoid clichés. They’re unimaginative. Lazy. Trademark of a hack.
I should really follow my own lessons. On social media I’m a geyser of cliches.
BOOM. HA! HWUT. Maybe…In-n-Out is overrated.
It’s so bad that my followers will throw them back at me as a sign of #respect — there’s another one. God bless my REAL fans!
That’s another one, too.
But one of my favorite Gustavoisms (as Ed the Animal calls them) is one I rarely use: “See? I DON’T LIE.”
I only use it when someone brings up a random factoid that confirms something I’ve maintained for years that some have doubted. I’m able to confirm one of them this week — my journalism origin story.
Thanks to a gift.
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We just cleaned out my mom’s attic last weekend – scratch that. My siblings did. I was too much of a coward to go through things.
All I really did was take my stuff, much of which I hadn’t touched in at least 20 years. Books. Toys. Newspaper clippings (including whole, unyellowed LA Times and OC Register front pages of important early 1990s SoCal events like the Northridge earthquake and the LA riots).
And a bunch of Sports Illustrated issues from the summer of 1992 through the early summer of 1993.
8th grade at Sycamore Junior High in Anacrime.
I told this story in my 2008 flop, Orange County: A Personal History, but I’ll say it again.
Mrs. Stikeleather would bring the latest Sports Illustrated to class after her husband was done reading them. I must’ve been the only student to take an interest in them, because she allowed me to keep issues for good
Without me knowing it, this was my undergrad journalism school.
Each issue featured a roster of legends – Rick Reilly and Frank Deford. Dan Jenkins and my favorite, Leigh Montville, who wrote these quietly magisterial articles again and again.
I enjoyed reading these scribes so much that I emulated their writing style for essays. And I read them front and back, again and again, and kept them for years because I couldn’t afford to buy a subscription.
My teachers always commended me for being such a voracious reader. But I don’t remember getting any accolades for my writing until Mrs. Stikeleather’s class.
Soon, I subscribed to the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register and learn from their masters – Randy Youngman and Steve Fryer for the Reg, and Timesmen Jim Murray, Mike Downey, and the late Mike Penner and Alan Malamud, whose writings I enjoyed so much that I kept his obituary in my clippings that I recently unearthed.
I didn’t get the journalism bug — cliche alert! — until my senior year of college, as I’ve said many times over the years. But to see those old Sports Illustrateds made me marvel at the transformative power of gifts.
I never spoke to Ms. Stikeleather after junior high, so I‘ve never had the chance to tell her how impactful her husband‘s hand-me-downs were to my life. Without them, I would’ve never become a reporter, period.
So, gracias, Mrs. Stikeleather. Your selflessness put me on a trajectory to success—and the only reason you gave me those issues was because you saw a teenage nerd who was genuinely happy.
And this adult nerd lived happily ever after — cliche alert!
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
Ever since meeting my wife in 2006, I’ve over time begun telling folks that Anaheim is my favorite eating city in all of SoCal! So many different ethnicities throwing down some amazing offerings in a blend unlike anywhere else. What are some of your favorite comida spots from your hometown?
Ah, Anaheim, home to Little Arabia and Sansei spots and some of the only Romanian, Samoan, Costa Rican, and Czech restaurants in Southern California. I don’t review restaurants anymore, so can’t tell you TOO much about newcomers — but I can tell you where I go again and again:
*Kareem’s Restaurant, home to the best falafels you’ll ever taste (and you can buy frozen ones to fry yourself).
*Le Mirage Pastry, for the most fabulous ice cream you’ll ever taste.
*E-San Rod Sap, for Isaan-style Thai cooking and right next to a Thai store.
But if I’m eating at a restaurant in Anaheim, it’s at Mos 2 across the street from Anaheim High School. Mexican-style teriyaki bowls? Been eating them since high school, and had one a couple of weeks ago drowned in Tapatío and teriyaki sauce and washed down with horchata — BOOM (cliche alert!)
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: A copy of the writings of the martyred Los Angeles Times columnist Ruben Salazar. We’ll be releasing a special package on the 50th anniversary of his death at the Chicano Moratorium this Sunday — know your Chicano history!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The truth. When I’m interested in a truth, it’s really a TRUTH truth, one hundred percent. And that’s a terrible kind of truth to be interested in.”
LISTENING:“Salta Pa’ Tras,” Maldita Vecindad. Chanting the Spanish Empire’s notorious castas rankings of mixed races while creating some modern ones, and backing it with a chilango ska-punk beat? Makes Rage Against the Machine seem as political as Perry Como. AND the lead singers shouts “No hay pureza” again and again!
READING: “American Heartworm” Who would dare tear down the mighty Mississippi? The famously bitter The Baffler, which published this hilarious take back in the 1990s. You’ll never think about rivers the same again…HA! (cliché alert!)
SHOUTOUT TO: Conrado, who kindly donated 100 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! His request is to take a test with me, and it’ll happen soon…
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!
Gustavo in the News
“Gustavo Arellano is named new California columnist for the L.A. Times”: So, um, I’ve got a new position — HWUT (cliché alert!)
“Orange County Writers of Color Rise to the Moment”: I guess I’m a writer of color in OC now!
“Food for Thought: Tacos, Texas and Tradition”: I appeared alongside a chingo of taco luminaries for the University of Texas San Antonio’s Zoom series.
“Orange County shooting victims call on DA Todd Spitzer to resign” My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the eternal headache that is the current OC District Attorney cleaning up the mess of the previous one by creating his own messes.
“Grítale a Guti, Ep. 9” My latest Tuesday-night free-for-all where I take questions on ANYTHING, and offer a bunch of asides and random reprimands haha.
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