Gotta be a trumpeter for good, folks! Image by LucasFZ70 from Pixabay

Gentle cabrones:

My former co-workers and friends know that when they need a reference for a job that they’re applying to, I’m the guy.

I’m a Mexican Tex Rickard, a P.T. Barnum without the colonialism or exploitation, a Flavor Flav sans the giant clock around my neck.

The ultimate hype man.

I used to call myself a shameless self-promoter, and I maintain you have to do that as a writer all the time — after all, unless you’re Emily Dickinson, why wouldn’t you need to do what you could to get people to read your rants?

Gotta channel your inner Oscar Wilde, you know?

That led to a reputation among my haters that all I cared about was myself, that I was a selfish fuck — or, as someone once hilariously wrote about me…eh, I’ll save that for a canto about the funniest things people have written about me.

But reports of my Ayn Randianism are false, and the proof is the 16-gig winning streak I have right now.

The last 16 people for whom I have served as a reference and talked on their behalf to a prospective employer have gotten the job.

Even during this pinche pandemic.

Watch out, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, because I’m gunnin’ for ya streak!

But it ain’t about me — it’ll never be.


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I dropped my Hollywood Gus dreams long ago, for reasons maybe I’ll get into someday but mainly because I love journalism. But one of the things I always told my agent, or the people who wanted to work on a project with me, was a directive:

Just get me in the room.

In other words, let me make the case for myself to the people who are going to make the decision. Let me live and die by what I say, and what I offer, so I have no excuses or anyone to blame if I fail.

It’s not a matter of me believing my own hype, or radical autonomy. But it kinda is. When I’m trying to promote something, I believe in it wholeheartedly and do a pretty damn good job of convincing others that I’m right.

It’s a talent not everyone has, a jolt of confidence somewhere in between arrogant pendejos and sufferers of imposter syndrome. I know what I’m good at — and that’s why I’ve always tried to use that talent to help others.

I did it weekly when I was a food critic, and still do so when I have the chance on Instagram. Plugs, and plugs, and more plugs, you know?

But I prefer to do most of that work privately, to people who really need the help.

Jeez, now I’m sounding like that part in the Bible where it says Moses was the humblest man even though tradition maintains that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Humblebrag much?

But I’m mentioning this only to challenge ustedes: if you can help people, do it. But do it with all the conviction, effort, and money you can offer.

When you help, act like you’re in the room, arguing for your cause or person, to the people who’ll make or break it or them.

Do it with a blasé attitude, and you’ll not only fail yourself, but fail others. Do something blasé, and that’s a destructive type of selfishness that’s frankly the American way nowadays, a destructive equivocation with few true believers and a hell of a lot convenencieros.

Do it, as Beto Durán might say, con ganas.

That’s the reason why I’m on a 16-gig winning streak.

Each person who has asked me to help them out, I knew well. I could speak to all their strengths, and knew how to explain their weaknesses.

The prospective employers knew I wasn’t lying, could sense the enthusiasm I had for each person I hyped, and hired them accordingly.

The folks for whom I stepped up for  were grateful, of course. Some even offered money as a form a gratitude. The only payment I asked for was their promise to step up for others.

We’re only going to improve the world if we believe in its future, and the future of others.

So, who in your life needs you to be in the room? Call them up, or Zoom them, or whatever. Do your mitzvah, mensches.


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

I used to be like that family and said no to everything that didn’t come from me. But then I saw a human being who said yes to everything, took phone calls, wrote notes and followed through on helping others. I decided to do the same. I would change my attitude and if couldn’t help, I’d find somebody to help.

This changed me forever. I became a resource for people ,and resources came to me to dispense. One of my first test is when the California Endowment came to me to organize a town hall on Obamacare so undocumented parents could sign up their US-born children. This eventually led to me meeting Obama and asking him to investigate youth deportations. I never looked back. If not me, then who?

Gracias for being selfless and actually reading this columna! Nothing else I can add except I’m running short on questions, folks, so ask away!

Got a question for Guti? Email me here.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Legendary Chicano mural by Joe Bravo at Will Hall Park in Wilmington.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “When one examines how deeply this fantasy heritage has permeated the social and cultural life of the borderlands, the dichotomy begins to assume the proportions of a schizophrenic mania”

–Carey McWilliams, speaking of the lionized Spanish history of the Southwest, but an indictment just as easily condemning Orange County

LISTENING:Y Por Esa Calle Vive,” Los Barón de Apodaca. Grupera was THE genre of Mexican music in the U.S. up until about the 1980s (save for Texas and New Mexico, where it continues on in limited form), an eminently danceable mash-up of a ska-style off-beat and garage-band organ DESMADRE. This is one of the classics of the genre, a song that conjures up longing and loneliness in a foreign land, with Coors as your comfort.

READING: Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas: A Complete Oral History”: I’m teaching this article in my OCC narrative journalism class this week about the different genres within the style. I got over oral histories LONG ago, but this one is a masterpiece. Stick around to the part where Orange County nearly stopped the mob classic from hitting the screens!

SHOUTOUT TO: Chad, who kindly donated 100 tacos to sponsor TWO full months of MailChango! He writes: “This weekend, I’ve been reading not only your newsletter but also Taco USA and other writers you’ve introduced me too, such as Gabriel San Roman. This is my small thank you.”

Small, Chad? This is beyond generous — gracias, and may you also donate some tacos to Gabriel, the last real journalist in OC!

Gustavo in the News

The Power of the Taco”: I’m going to write about my dear friend and awesome crime novelist Ryan Gattis one day — in the meanwhile, he plugged me last week in his occasional newsletter.

What is this newsletter? You don’t have enough things to do?”: Hanna’ Tameez plugs a columna of mine in her excellent newsletter.

In a surprise announcement, Brooke Baldwin says she’s leaving CNN”: Poynter thinks I’m a candidate to become the news executive editor of the Los Angeles Times. Hint: I’m not.

Who’ll Be the Next Editor of the L.A. Times? Let’s Break Down the Odds”: Los Angeles thinks I’m a candidate to become the news executive editor of the Los Angeles Times. Hint: I’m not.

Why a COVID Skeptic Finally Took the Vaccine”: A partial transcript of an interview I did below for Slate.

Gustavo Stories

OC’s vaccine inequity highlighted in new demographic data”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about OC’s atrocious rollout of the COVID vaccine.

When the Vaccine Skeptic Is Your Dad”: I appear on Slate’s What Next podcast to talk about my potentially pandejo papi.

As Vaccine Hesitancy Remains Large, We See How SoCal Residents Are Battling Vaccine Reluctance Within Their Own Families”: I appear on my old stomping grounds of KPCC-FM’s 89.3’s AirTalk with Larry Mantle to talk about my potentially pandejo papi.

Columna: Instagram, el despiste cultural y mi piñata de Trump”: A previous LA Times columna of mine translated into Spanish.

Column: In late Orange County senator, one finds a Republican who would have stood up to Trump”: My latest LA Times columna talks about former California U.S. Senator and Anaheim High School graduate Thomas Kuchel. KEY QUOTE: “The California GOP should hold him up as a paragon of good governance, an example for voters and elected officials to follow. Instead, state Republicans long ago purged Kuchel from their history.”

Column: The California roots of the fight over the term ‘illegal alien’”: My latest LA Times columna talks about Bert Corona and Barbara Coe, the two people who made the term the political firebomb it is today, and that the Biden administration is trying to purge. KEY QUOTE: “But their legacy looms large in the debate over “illegal alien.” It was their shared linguistic cudgel to advance their respective causes.”

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