Since I can't find my Sycamore Junior High yearbooks right now, and there are no usable free images of it online AND because Del Crandall is too obscure of a baseball player to warrant a free image, here's a photo of the statue of Warren Spahn, the legendary Braves lefthander whom Crandall caught. By pvsbond - CC BY-SA 1.0

Gentle cabrones:

Following the success of my canto on my elementary school teachers, here’s the ones I had at Sycamore Junior High.

My hell years.

A teacher once told me that junior high is the most painful years for students — you literally see kids squirm, uncomfortable in their bodies, as they begin to turn into adults.

Ain’t that the TRUTH.

I have very few nice memories of Sycamore — you know your years were hell when one of your fondest anecdotes was that one time that you finally got pantsed.

Oh, and the time I got in a fight with a student just because we were bored during an earthquake drill.

And the time I won an essay contest by imagining a school shooting — but THAT is a canto for another time.

In the meanwhile, ROLL CALL! I’ll only list the teachers I remember, and be brief unless there’s something interesting to be said.

And there always is.


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Coach Nolan, P.E.: Older man. Nice. Was known to get weakling boy athletes because the other PE coach, Coach Watson, picked the studs to maintain his intra-school athletic dominance.

Mr. Casucci, Woodshop: Italian-American. Good teacher, but screamed at us, especially when we found out his name was Carmine. Also had him for 8th grade.

Mr. Montgomery, Spanish: Funny, but always scolded us because we were a bunch of troublemakers. Always told the same anecdote about how Ted Kluszewski broke someone’s arm by just grabbing it. Also had him for 8th grade.

Mr. L’Ameroux (sp?), Science: Total screamer. Older man. Told us that the A students in his class would’ve gotten Cs back in the ’70s. I was a B student. What a dick.

Ms. Hasegawa, Home Ec: Screamer, but we should’ve been kinder to her — she was a World War II internee, so went the playground word.

Unnamed Math Teacher: Can’t remember her name except she had a strong Texan accent, she wasn’t nice — but she wasn’t mean, either. I know I exasperated her because I wasn’t a good math student — but she tried to help me as much as she could.

Mr. Mosely (can’t remember subject), and Mr. Gingrass, History: Nice men whom we mocked mercilessly for reasons I won’t elaborate here except there’s no cruelty like junior-high cruelty.

8th Grade

Mr. Gabler, Math: Screamer. Mocker. Gave me an F, which I deserved — but not his smugness. One of the few teachers I had that I truly hated, and still do all these years later. The students he preferred were known as Gabler Kids.

Mrs. Stikeleather, English: Saint.

Coach Watson, P.E.: I was SO excited that Watson picked me for his class — I was now a stud! Turned out it was a mistake, and I got shuttled off to…

Mr. Ammirato (sp?): Nice guy. But Coach Watson ended up liking me, because he realized I was a nerd, even in sports. He’d quiz me on trivia – if I got questions right, I’d get free candy bars.  What teacher offers an 8th-grader a question where Del Crandall was the answer? Watson.

But that was an important lesson: The best teachers expect the best out of their talented students, and don’t accept excuses.

Mrs. Watson, Arts: Coach Watson’s wife. She was cool.

Other classes I remember but can’t recall the teachers was computer class, 7th-grade English (where I once led everyone in a singalong of the theme to Gilligan’s Island, and one in 8th grade.

How is it I can remember most of kinder but barely anything from Suckamore?


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

Judaism doesn’t claim Moses wrote the Torah, but that God dictated the entire Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Moreover, God also dictated the texts of Rabbinic Judaism, which must have blown Moses’s mind. This goes for Orthodox, Chasidic, and Haredi Judaism. More liberal forms of Judaism believe that the Torah was written by at least four people over a period of centuries and then edited centuries later into one synoptic whole. The texts of Rabbinic Judaism, e.g., the Talmud, were written in the first century CE and onward.

If Moses had written the Torah, he would have to have foreseen his mistakes and the manner of his own death..

See, my Orange Coast College Bible as Literature teacher told us tradition said Moses wrote the Bible, but that it was impossible because of the humblebrag at the end about Moses being the humblest man ever, which meant that humans wrote it.

Hey, Muslim readers: Anything in the Koran or hadiths as a tiebreaker?

Got a question for Guti? Email me here.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Virgin of Guadalupe in an Oxnard garage.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “On the other hand, the story that Elvis shot at the TV set is true. But he was in his own home and shot out his own TV set and when he’d done it, he could afford to buy a new one.

I’ll bet there’s not one person reading this story who hasn’t sometimes felt so frustrated looking at some TV show that he wouldn’t have liked to have thrown his shoe at the set or shot at it or something.”

–Vernon Presley

LISTENING:Échenme la Tierra Encima,” Matilde Sanchez. All the ranchera greats (and more than a few of the norteña ones) tried to master this tear-jerker JAM, but none nailed it quite like the long-forgotten Torcacita. Now, what’s harder to translate into English — what the title of the song means, or her nickname?

READING: Charlie’s War.” From the London Review of Books, perhaps the best summation I’ve read of France’s war over its official secularism and what it perceives to be the backwardness of Islam in the battle over free speech in the case of Charlie Hebdo, and the actual facts on the ground.

SHOUTOUT TO: Samantha, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! Instead of her giving a shoutout to something she likes, I’m going to give Samantha a shoutout — she and her comadre Sandy are REAL G fans going back a good 15 years, who have consistently showed up to my book signings, lectures, and online wackiness. Everyone: Be like Samantha and Sandy!

Original to Gustavo Arellano’s Weekly

These Restaurants Transformed Kamayan, the Beloved Filipino Feast, into a Home Meal for the Pandemic”: Charisma Madarang pens a wonderful ode to kamayan, and highlights restaurants in Torrance, NYC, and Toronto who have created a mini version of it.

Gustavo in the News

“California Playbook”: I appeartwice this week on Politico’s Golden State newsletter. It remains the only publication to refer to me by my Colonel rank #respect

¿Cuál es la “auténtica” cocina mexicana?”: A BBC article that quoted me in English some weeks ago is translated into Spanish.

Gustavo Stories

Some OC cities push to buy their own energy and get off the SoCal Edison grid” My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about something called Community Choice Energy.

Grítale a Guti in Exile, Ep. 3” “Grítale a Guti is BACK from Exile” and “Grítale a Guti, Ep. 36?!”: The weird saga of my Tuesday-night free-for-all gets played out in 3-D!

Column: ‘Distanced in body but close in spirit’: this California church embraced remote worship”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna focuses on Tapestry, a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Lake Forest that has only met via Zoom since the pandemic began. KEY QUOTE: “With a click of a Zoom link, Doss began to chatter with his faraway flock as if all was well with the world.  And for the next hour or so, it was.” Translation in Spanish here.

What Oxnard can teach L.A. and the rest of California about COVID-19”: My next LA Times columna travels to this Ventura County city to focus on the good, bad, and pandejo there. KEY QUOTE: “One of the things that struck me the day I visited Oxnard was how blunt everyone was about the situation. They realize that the fight before them is both structural and personal — and everyone has to go into battle together, or die apart.” Translation in Spanish here.

A community garden hopes its cash crop is a hot sauce called Los Angeles”: My final LA Times columna for the week is in El Monte to talk with future habanero growers. KEY QUOTE: “Nuñez and others are now planning for a fruitful future that never quite existed before.”

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