Gustavo Arellano’s Weekly, Canto CXLVII: When You’re Down, Then What?

Luis Firpo knocking world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey out of the ring after Dempsey knocked him down seven times in the first round. Demspey went on to win, but still! By George Bellows - Art-CD image, Public Domain

Gentle cabrones:

Did you see the HBO documentary on Tiger Woods?

Man, what a psychological takedown.

Child is the father of man…unless your problematic dad turns you into his philandering mirror image.

I never cared for Tiger, because I never golfed besides a class I took as my PE requirement at Orange Coast College and occasional games at Camelot in Anacrime.  Besides, he went to Western High School, eternal rival of my Anacrime High (Go Colonists!)

But the documentary was good — and it ended up rewarding me with a profound realization about myself and, really, people when they fall.

As we all do.

One of the regulars at my wife’s store talks to me every time he swings by, which is almost daily. Great conversations about politics, football, podcasts, and more.

When I asked him about the Woods document from the perspective of a golfer, the regular proceeded to cuss out Tiger, then said something interesting.

Woods was a supreme talent, of course. But he was never the same after his 2009 downfall, the regular said, when Woods’ infidelity was exposed for the world to see. He’s only won one major since.

You see the true character of something after life knocks them down, my wife’s regular said.

A lot of folks are there right now. Now, it’s your time to rise. Because you can — nay, MUST.


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The talk about Woods took me back to three years ago this week, when I was at my professional nadir, something I’ve never publicly discussed until now.

When I can turn my own shit into a lesson for ustedes.

I was a couple of months removed from losing my dream job as editor-in-chief of my hometown paper. I was a couple of weeks removed from being fired after just two days from a part-time job.

All I had for a job was one class at OCC, a freelance columna for the Los Angeles Times, and a weekly commentary for KCRW.

All of that was in danger. Personal problems were piling up. And my car needed a new engine.

For the first time in perhaps ever, I was scared for my future. Doubted my worth.

As down as I ever was.

I could’ve understandably wallowed, or gone down dark avenues.

But no.

I remembered something I read about Willie Nelson. When the IRS came to take away everything he owned, Nelson told his daughter to make sure to save his beloved guitar, Trigger. As long as Willie had it, everything would turn out okay.

It did.

So I took stock of what had just happened, what was ahead, where I wanted to be, and what I needed to do to get there.

And what was within me: strength. Determination. WERK.

So I got to work.

I tell the rest of 2018 now in the first lecture for my journalism classes at OCC and most any time I talk to young reporters. I turned myself into such a mega-freelancer I had to actually stop writing lest I jumped up a tax bracket (lowest to second-lowest, mind you, but still!).

I went from getting most of my freelance pitches rejected to having big-name publications come to me.

And I went from a near-pariah at the beginning of the year into a Los Angeles Times staffer at the end.

It was not luck that lifted me from the depths. It was friends, Good Samaritans, even enemies sometimes.

But at the end, I had to believe I could get up from my knockdown. Then proceed.

And here I am.

For those of you scared about your 2021: I believe in you. Because I was there.

And the people who smacked me down? Well, that’s another story altogether!


This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…

From one Guti to another, why does education in America suck for Chicanos, and, yeah, Chicanas too?

Because there aren’t enough Mrs. Goodwin-Noriegas out there. And because the few that do exist don’t get the support they need — think about it!

Got a question for Guti? Email me here.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: My dad after receiving his Moderna vaccine, which I write about below.That mask, tho…

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “You talk in Fullerton and you hear about the citrus orchard grower himself, but they [longtime Fullerton residents] don’t talk very much about the Mexican labor. It’s as if somehow or other the orchards got fumigated; and they suddenly had fruit ripening; and they were irrigated somehow or other; and the fruit was picked; but the Mexican labor–it just isn’t discussed.”

–From the Center for Oral and Public Histories archives at Cal State Fullerton

LISTENING:Mi Casa Nueva,” Los Invasores de Nuevo León. A severely underrated group, with one of the best band names of them all, this bittersweet song offers a distinct memory for me: I heard a musician jam the rola out on the subway to Jackson Heights some years back. How I miss my Windy Apple…

READING: Grand union – how canals have captivated British artists for centuries”: It’s not the liveliest of articles, but well-paced, elegant, fascinating AF, with a poignant ending. Apollo Magazine is really good, if upper-crust.

SHOUTOUT TO: Danton, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! He declined to offer a plug, which is kind, but people: use your chance to promote that which you love!

Gustavo Appearances

Feb. 11:
Food in the Borderlands (Including Colorado!)”: Hear me rave about Den-Mex, Pueblo-Mex and more wonders of Mexican food in Colorado via a Zoom lecture for the El Pueblo History Museum. The cost is technically FREE, but please do pay the non-member $10 fee because this cool museum, like all cool museums, needs the money right now!

Gustavo in the News

Coronavirus Today: A different kind of double jeopardy”: The LA Times’ coronavirus newsletter plugs me.

A shot in the arm courtesy of the Pasadena Public Health Dept.”: Larry Wilson of the Pasadena Star-News shouts out his “fellow toiler in the column vineyards.” But, Lencho: It ain’t toiling when it’s FUN!

FERN’s Friday Feed: The alt-meat gold rush”: The Food & Environment Reporting Network quotes me in an article in which I appear below.

Historic images from the “Borderlands of Southern Colorado” explore daily lives of people who have called the region home”: The Denver Post shouts out the Pueblo-Mex lecture that I mentioned above.

An Incomplete History of Spice in Los Angeles”: Eater LA mentions me multiple times in its great history of the hot stuff.

President Biden is a fan of Pope Francis, but is Francis a fan of Biden?”: Religion Unplugged, well, plugs my LA Times columna below.

‘Stop the Meal’ Exposes GOP COVIDiots; Please Don’t Super-Spread During the Super Bowl–Coachella Valley Independent Daily Digest: Feb. 3, 2021”: One of the last great alt-weeklies alive mentions my LA Times columna below.

“California Playbook”: Politico’s Golden State newsletter plugs me twice, one time even referring to me as a Colonel #respect.

LA Times Columnist Gustavo Arellano On Why Southern California is Covid’s American Epicenter”: I appear on KQED Forum to talk about my war against PANDEJOS.

How To Convince a COVID Skeptic to Get Vaccinated”: Another KQED appearance, this time about my dad.

Does ‘Authentic Mexican Food Exist?”: I think it’s my first appearance on the BBC — COOL..

Gustavo Stories

‘Little Arabia’ in Anaheim? Why city officials have been long elusive about it”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about why my hometown doesn’t want to designate a marker for the largest collection of Middle Eastern businesses west of the Mississippi.

Grítale a Guti in Exile Test” and “Grítale a Guti in Exile, Vol. 1!”: My weekly Tuesday-night free-for-all, currently on YouTube because Instagram has restricted my account for reasons I will reveal soon.

He made sure the bodies of the Muslim dead faced Mecca. COVID-19 claimed his life”: My latest Los Angeles Times front-pager profiles one of the most pious people I’ve ever had the honor of covering. KEY QUOTE: “He never charged for his services, relying only on donations. In many cases, he’d pool those funds to pay for the funerals of strangers, Muslims and not.”

Column: My dad was a COVID-19 skeptic. But he got vaccinated, and so can your ‘pandejos’”: My latest LA Times columna talks about how my dad got his corona vaccine. KEY QUOTE: “Toxic masculinity is a hell of a preexisting condition to have during a pandemic. Too many of us, Latinos and not, have had to deal with it, to the point of broken friendships and strained familial ties.”

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