I hadn’t seen my friend in years, so I was super-happy to meet up with him for dinner some time ago. I was an assignment and far away from our old stomping grounds; he had just moved away for good.
We started with some bourbon at his home, then continued the drinking at a restaurant. I was on a schedule; I had to go meet a source in two hours. But it was important I see him.
He had weathered a rough couple of years, and we hadn’t really talked about them. He admitted he had gone through some dark places in that time, and still had lingering anger about the issue. I had even been part of his enemies list for a bit, although we had made up before we met.
He looked good, but I saw that he was still in pain. So I told him what he needed to hear: the truth
I told him it wasn’t healthy to hold on to anger from the past. That he had done what he could then, and it didn’t work out – and it was OK. That he shouldn’t obsess over the situation, or any individuals that beat him down back then.
Forget the past, and move forward to the bright future you have.
I saw his eyes soften. I had told him the words he needed to hear.
I took off to my assignment. The next day, he thanked me profusely for what I had told him. He’s in a good place now – he’s no longer bitter.
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Bitterness is one of the most toxic emotions we humans can feel. There is no upside to it, or flipside. It’s a black hole of negativity.
There’s beauty to be had from anger from sadness, even from laziness, hate, and misery. There is nothing good about being bitter. It means something bad happened to you in your past and you just can’t let it go. It weighs you down like a millstone around your neck.
Bitterness means you obsess over that one slight at the expense of everything else. It clouds your mind from the good in your life.
It’s somewhat related to regret, an emotion I particularly despise. But at least with regrets, you can try to move on knowing you can’t go back into the past to change it, and you must make your peace with that. When you’re bitter, you don’t even know that.
I’ve seen bitterness atrophy too many people. Ruins lives, relationships, and others. It was wonderful to see my friend get out of that bitterness, or at least take the first steps.
But a lot of bitter people don’t get to that point. All you can do if you’re on the other side of that equation is to keep talking to them and hope for a breakthrough. You don’t give up just because the situation seems hopeless, or because the person becomes a drag.
If you love someone or at least respect them, you keep chipping away at the negativity until the tiniest bit of sunlight peeks through. Why wouldn’t you? Relationships, whether romantic, familial, professionally, or friendly, aren’t supposed to be easy, Jack.
I remember another person who never advanced past their bitterness. Was always miserable, never acknowledged me when I tried to pep them up. Never meant I stopped.
Years later, the same person reached out to me via social media. Said I was the only person who ever cared to boost them in those years. Was in a better place now, and they’d never be able to thank me enough for being there for them.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
While I sort of understand why pico de gallo is also called salsa fresca (“fresh sauce” — even though I’d consider it a condiment), what is the origin of the name pico de gallo “beak of the rooster”?
No good etymologies are out there, but the most common one is something to the effect that it got its name due to the minced nature of all the ingredients — a picoteada. And that roosters supposedly cut up their food that way. Ever see a rooster mince their food, then eat it? Me, neither.
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Dumplings, black tea and naan at Dolan’s Uyghur Food in Alhambra. Learn more about them in the podcast episode I did this week, linked below.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I was never gonna let anybody beat me at anything. I was so competitive. When I was facing Ted Williams, I was facing Ted Williams. Yeah he probably should’ve hit me, but he didn’t.”
—Joan Joyce, best softball pitcher of all time
LISTENING:“Color Him Father,” The Winstons. You know how there’s some songs that you think are corny from the moment you hear it, and think it’s corny forevermore until you actually LISTEN to it? This is a great example. I never cared for this song when I used to hear it on the late, great KRLA until I recently, actually listened to it on SiriusXM’s Soul Town, and what a big-hearted song! Vietnam War, fatherhood, and of STEP-fatherhood, all under three minutes.
READING: “The Return of the Harmonica” Craftsmanship Quarterly is a spectacular online magazine that takes deep dives into the people and processes of various things we take for granted, like the humble harmonica. This article spans over a century of the instrument, with tradition upended along the way in beautiful prose.
SHOUTOUT TO: Cobra, who kindly donated 100 tacos to sponsor TWO full month of MailChango! Cobra wanted no plugs — said his compas would rise up and give money based just on this plug. Fascinating…
Gustavo in the News
“The forgotten anti-slavery history of Cinco de Mayo ”: My compa Russell Contreras of Axios shouts out our conversation about Drinko de Mayo in my new podcast.
“Coronavirus Today: Pomp and a bad circumstance”: One LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a columna of mine.
“Indie Focus: Learning alongside ‘The Disciple’”: Another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.
“Essential California: Warehouse boom, pollution bust”: Still another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.
“Essential California: L.A.’s gun violence surges”: Still yet another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.
“Spanish-speaking audiences are a huge streaming market. Do media companies understand it?”: Still yet even another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.
“Today’s Headlines: A family reunited at the border”: And still yet even another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.
“Latinx Files: Cinco de Mayo means one thing, and it’s not margaritas”: Why still yet even another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast .
“Black News Channel”: I go on to talk about Cinco de Mayo.
“America and the taco: an immigrant story”: The Economist’s literary magazine talks to me about tacos — let me know how I come out at the end, because I don’t have a subscription, and their paywall is nigh-impossible to crack!
This was the debut week for “The Times: Daily news from the L.A. Times,” the podcast that I host. So I’ll be posting the episodes here — listen to them, and SUBSCRIBE. Don’t let me become the Poochie of podcasts!
“Federal judge to Los Angeles: House your homeless, or else”: Inaugural episode address the controversial Skid Row order by U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter
“The Uyghur genocide hits California”: From creepy technology to a delicious restaurant through a persecuted Muslim ethnic group.
“The forgotten, radical roots of Cinco de Mayo”: Me and my compa Russell Contreras talk about how to tie in police brutality to this damned holiday.
“One final reckoning for the Golden Globes”: I interview my awesome LA Times colleagues Stacy Perman and Josh Rottenberg about their investigation into the cotton cand of awards shows.
“How one mom learned to stop worrying and love video games during the pandemic”: I turn the mic over to my awesome colleague Deborah Netburn.
“Westminster’s new Vietnam War memorial gets approval by City Council but not some veterans”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the latest tomfoolery to afflict Wes.
“Where are all the jobs?”: My latest KCRW “Left, Right & Center” appearance talks about the dignity of work, Liz Cheney, and my Donald Trump piñata head.
“Fernandomania @ 40 Ep. 3: Why the Dodgers are haunted by Chavez Ravine ghosts”: The latest installment of the LA Times’ awesome documentary on the legendary southpaw that I narrate and occasionally appear in.
“The Chills at Will Podcast”: I appear on this podcast to take a deep dive into my writing career.
“Cruz Reynoso, California’s first Latino state Supreme Court justice, dies at 90”: Had the tiniest of cameos in this excellent obituary by my colleague Maria La Ganga about a legal giant.
“LA Times Today: ‘The Times’ daily podcast debuts”: I appear on Spectrum One’s LA Times show to talk up the podcast.
“A city known for its corruption scandal is now in a fight over mobile home parks”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna talks about what’s going on in Bell, California. KEY QUOTE: “2010 continues,” the 46-year-old Guatemalan immigrant told me, as she turned on the megaphone and took a breath. “¡El pueblo primero!” Albizures yelled, as the crowd cheered. “¡El pueblo manda, señores!”
“A COVID vaccine with your tacos? Just a day’s work for this Muslim activist”: My next latest LA Times columna profiles Rida Hamida and her legendary #TacoTrucksatEveryCorner. KEY QUOTE: “It’s an ongoing series with a simple, brilliant premise. Taco trucks. Mosque. Cultural touchstones for two maligned groups shared so that their respective communities can meet and learn about each other and work toward political change.”
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