I’m not a looker — never have, never will.
About seven women and maybe two guys in my entire life have ever deemed me handsome. I’m nearsighted and astigmatic. One leg is half an inch shorter than the other, and I’m duck-footed. Though I’ve always been skinny, my panza is such an eternal companion that even my mami used to call me Lagartijo — Lizard.
When people say you look like Marc Anthony and remind them of Billy Crystal…yeah, you ain’t a looker.
But there was one physical attribute I was always proud of throughout my life: my hair.
It was inexplicably wavy, and I could sculpt it so that I could look sharp when I wanted to, and manic the rest of the time. Yeah, my hair came with a high forehead—as early as seventh grade, boys would make fun of it, calling me calling me “Baldy” and all other bullshit.
But I ended up getting the last laugh, I thought, because most of my bullies ended up going prematurely bald, or had really fucked-up lives while my hair stayed in place.
But, as usual, life has the last laugh. Over the past two years, my hair began to truly thin out.
During this coronavirus year, my hair began to fall out in clumps.
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I‘ve never been afraid of aging – as I usually tell people, I was born old. Caring about your looks too much signifies ego, and that’s something I’ve always try to eradicate within myself throughout my life (I would’ve been a great Buddhist if I wasn’t so damn Catholic).
But to see my hair thin out sucks.
It was inevitable, I guess. My Pepe (my dad’s dad) was bald, as is my dad, my Tío Santos, and my Tío Jesus (mi Tío Gabriel has a fabulous helmet of hair, while his son, my cousin Ramón, shaved it long ago). On my mom’s side, mi Papa Je never went bald while all mi tíos did (los de mi Tía Maria all have fabulous hair).
Genes are fascinating…but I digress.
I’m already trying to envision myself with nothing on top. Do I Bic it? Take a #1 and cut the sides short? Do the Adlai Stevenson thing and grow what I have as if everything was normal? I’d go the tonsure route if my wife wasn’t so against it (told you I’m a total Catholic).
One thing I won’t do? Try to grow my lost hair back.
I’m not happy about losing what I had. But I AM grateful for it. It’s a daily humbling, a reminder that no matter how cool you think you are — you really ain’t.
And so that loss actually makes me want to WERK harder.
If loss is inevitable, then fight for what you can keep, while you have the time. Never take anything for granted. Always act like it can all be gone soon.
But this isn’t a carpe diem selfish mentality. Because baldness in and of itself doesn’t mean your life is over. Even more daunting: everything else about you is as fine as it can be.
So what are you going to do about it?
Sure as hell not wear more baseball hats, Jack.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
I caught one of your articles about racism in California. Your style of writing is fascinating to me. But I want to tell you that I never suffered racism like I do in San Antonio from the Mexicans.
Now, it’s not that I’m saying that there are hate crimes against whites here. Nothing like that. Crime is high, but it is almost 100% domestic violence. The kind of racism that I see is hostility against me because I’m white.
I get dirty looks on the street. They cry the victim card at every turn, instead of using logic and reasoning as a means to restore peace. And because it’s 63% Mexican, the bullies are everywhere. There is no respect for others down here. 51 years I lived in New York City, and never experienced racism like I do here, although I come from the ghetto neighborhood of Jamaica. I had to crawl out of it on my hands and knees to get to Manhattan where I lived for 51 years.
I retired down here in S.A., and my friends who come here feel the bullying and depravity right away. Good Mexicans will always suffer for classless people. İn fact, many of my Mexican friends tell me that Mexicans are the biggest racists of them all… And they’ll be the first ones to tell you. They are embarrassed by it all.
Now I’ve been to 40 countries, and I’m learning my fifth language — Turkish presently. I am an ESL specialist, and cultural awareness is my specialty. Other cultures do not hold the hostility that Mexicans hold against me.
İn my opinion, anywhere there is a majority, it doesn’t matter what race, creed or color you are, the minority will experience what I do. There is no tolerance class that someone could go to to fix the problem. İt’s alive and kicking in San Antonio.
Get over yourself, Yankee.
The only proof you’ve offered as racism against you is “dirty looks.” From this, you paint a sob story of “depravity,” of laughably wrong crime rates (while the Alamo City sadly has a domestic violence rate higher than other big Texas cities, it’s nowhere near 100 percent of all crimes — 30 of the 128 murders in 2020 were domestic violence cases, for instance) and accuse Mexicans of not using “logic” while refusing to look at your fallacy mirror.
But let’s say you do get dirty looks. Ever think maybe it’s because, well, you’re not a Texan and you’re a newcomer to a city that used to be the most Mexican big city in the United States as recently as the 1960s? Germans have made up a big part of San Antonio for over 150 years, and they get along just fine with Mexicans. But they sure won’t tolerate someone who thinks worldliness is traveling and learning a foreign language. Now, make like Salt Bae and yürü de ense tıraşını görelim!
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: My wife reading from her new book on food preservation to our dog Hook at Puppy Strong Farms. Buy your copy TODAY.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Wait until both my hands are paralyzed before you rejoice.”
—Charles Philipon, editorial cartoonist
LISTENING:“Piel Canela,” Eydie Gorme Y Trio Los Panchos. The most perfect song from the only perfect album ever recorded, Amor. Peppy, playful, multicultural with gorgeous vocals and arpeggios — a three-minute dose of, well, amor.
READING: “A Story About Tim Duncan”: Shea Serrano is probably the most successful Chicano author you’ve never heard of, a New York Times best-selling author (multiple times!) who’s probably more popular among gabachos than raza because raza still expects Raza authors to be all-political, all the time. But Serrano is more radical than the most wokoso wokoso — but his politics are subtle and hilarious, as you’ll see in this hell of a MacGuffin (PS, he’s a fan of mine!).
SHOUTOUT TO: Luke, who kindly donated 51 tacos to sponsor a month of MailChango! Luke wanted no plugs — so I’ll take the opportunity to plug my wife’s book one more time. Buy your copy TODAY!
Gustavo in the News
“Essential Politics: For Biden and Harris, virtual diplomacy yields to foreign travel”: An L.A. Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs my podcast.
“California Playbook”: Politico’s Golden State newsletter plugs my podcast, calls me “indefatigable,” which is one of my favorite words EVER.
“Loving, Learning, Leaving LA: a chat with the LA Times”: Someone didn’t care for my debut podcast episode of “The Times.”
“What You Need to Read, Listen, and Watch to Understand Immigration Politics and Activism”: A nice plug for my first podcast “This is California: The Battle of 187.”
This was the second 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!
“The origins of California’s recall fever”: From Hiram Johnson to Randy Economy!
“What California’s high school athletes can teach us about coping with COVID-19”: Loyola High Cubs represent!
“A look at El Salvador’s meme-loving, press-hating autocratic president Nayib Bukele”: This is what happens when bros get into power.
“Meet our Masters of Disasters”: Our monthly roundtable featuring our panel of peril Ron Lin (earthquakes), Rosanna Xia (the coast), and Alex Wigglesworth (wildfires).
“Baseball, the Iranian hostage crisis and Barry Rosen”: I turn the mic over to my awesome colleague Del Quentin Wilber.
“Garden Grove knocked down trees to build homes. Now the city has a replanting plan”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” addresses the anticipated greening of Garbage Grove.
“The Fifth Column”: I appear on this libertarian podcast hosted by my sometimes-Reason editor Matt Welch and and a Irish-Italian guy.
“Muertes de latinos a manos de policías en EEUU: ¿por qué no tienen la misma visibilidad que las de otras comunidades?”: Hearing me talk my pocho paisa Spanish to Spanish-language reporters is always guaranteed hilarity!
“Cal State Los Angeles University Times”: Spoke to the school’s newspaper, and the profe was kind enough to put up some of my quotes.
“Taco Burger Fantasia”: My latest “Good Ol’ Chico” columna talks imagines a world where Vicksburg, Mississippi became a haven for Mexican food in the early 1920s. KEY QUOTE: “The taco burger lives in an alternate universe, one where whites still dominate the Mexican restaurant scene and make antiquated meals for an aging, shrinking clientele. The scene is on the wane even in the South, as migration has altered expectations of what Mexican cuisine can be.”
“History pegs Cruz Reynoso as a defeated judge. Let’s remember him as a fighter”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna talks about the late California Supreme Court justice. KEY QUOTE: “Reynoso quietly became one of the most influential-yet-unknown Latinos this state has produced. That’s why the outpouring of universal respect in the wake of his death is unlike any I think we’ll ever see with another state Latino leader.”
“California has a history of racist lynchings too. Ignoring that fact is mass delusion”: My next latest LA Times columna talks about how there are more monuments in my home state celebrating sites of lynchings than those commemorating victims. KEY QUOTE: “Even Knott’s Berry Farm features a wooden plank affixed to a tree that brags, “desperados stay clear of this here town!” — as if extrajudicial murder was as innocuous as a square dance in a barn.”
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