He sidled up to me at the bar as I sat alone, waiting for a friend. I pretended not to notice him, but he knew I was bluffing. He pretended not to notice me, but I knew he was bullshitting.
This was his chance for revenge.
We had a mutual person in our lives — his present, my past. I knew he was there, in his mind, to defend their honor by showing me what’s up. In what way? I was about to find out.
I drank, and he drank, and I made small talk with the bartender while he texted. But the moment the bartender had to go elsewhere, the interloper made his move. We began to talk the way strangers do, but his strategy was more obvious than the politics of someone with a Punisher sticker on their raised F250.
He tried to establish his superiority by talking about his profession, but I undercut that move by talking about recent developments in the field. We kept at this charade for about 10 minutes, a charade we had to maintain as there were people around us.
Then he went for it.
He introduced himself, but I tripped him up again by saying I knew who he was, and what’s up? I further enraged him by asking about our mutual person, then dug in the proverbial knife even further by cracking a joke about said person. And I ended my initial defense by ordering the guy a drink.
The bartender asked me something, and we chatted for a little bit. I turned back to my putative assailant — but he was gone.
I drank his gin and tonic.
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Too many people get chances to do what they’ve always wanted to do…and then blow it. Badly.
There is a tragic arrogance to the phenomenon. The person has a scenario played out in their mind — plans, goals, dreams. They wait for the chance to bubble up. Then when they get the opportunity to fulfill all of that, they don’t rush to it — because they assume it’ll always be there.
But it won’t be. Opportunities laugh at those they leave behind on the way those who embrace them.
And by the time those left behind realize it, it’s too late. No amount of pleading and clawing and running toward that train that chugged away from the station will get them to a spot where they can even see the caboose.
It’s a sad thing to see. It’s the pain of the person who cries forevermore about the one who got away. Who sighs about how they coulda been a contender. The person who tells anyone who’ll listen how they scored four touchdowns in one game for Polk High…wait, that’s about past glories, a canto for another time.
You want to feel bad for the people who didn’t take their shot…but at the end, their misery is their fault. They know it as well – because they never get over it, no matter how much they try, even if they say otherwise. All you can counsel is that they don’t let the next opportunity pass them by…but they usually do.
That guy who wanted to do God-knows-what is still around — friends of friends, and in circles where they have to encounter my work. I hear he never brought up our standoff with the person whose honor he tried to defend, because of the humiliation. But he still seethes about it to pals, and vows to show me what’s up one day. But he’ll never do it.
He left his drink at the bar — and I don’t go there anymore.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
You referenced Jonathan Gold’s Five Rules for Dining in LA with #4 “”The best choice is always the restaurant fifteen minutes further than you are willing to go.” Sounds more like a lament, regretting where one IS and never BEING at that further/better restaurant. It is a “grass is always greener” statement, always believing the best choice would have been just a little further down the road.
There is a logical/philosophical difference between, “…further than you ARE willing to go,” and “…further than you WERE willing to go.” The latter of which implies actually having gone the extra distance — an already expanded horizon, which I think Jonathan actually meant.
What do you think? Is Jonathan never satisfied with his current restaurant choice, vowing to go further, next time, to find a better one? Or is he more existential, always happy where he IS, and should have said, “…further than you WERE willing to go”?
Sometimes, dan dan noodles are just dan dan noodles. Take his advice literally. He always went the extra 15 minutes — that’s why he became Mr. Gold, you know?
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: INCREDIBLE wagyu carne asada burrito from Taco Maria, who’s taking it off the menu TODAY, so GO GO GO and make like Snorlax!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “INTERVIEWER:
What, then, would you say is the source of most of your work?
PARKER: Need of money, dear.”
–Dorothy Parker, to Paris Review
LISTENING:“Soldier Of Love,” Arthur Alexander. Criminally underrated R&B giant, with a pleading voice and some great hi-hat drumming behind him. Beatles loved him, and did this classic for their Live at the BBC sessions. Who else covered this oldie-but-goodie? Pearl Jam — PEARL JAM!!!
READING: “Inside the ‘Tartarian Empire,’ the QAnon of Architecture”: When Bloomberg brings it, they BRING IT. Like this one, written by an obvious architecture reporter who knows their politics, conspiracies, humor, and never lays it on readers TOO much. I miss buying BusinessWeek at airports…
SHOUTOUT TO: Julie, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor TWO full month of MailChango! She writes, “My shout-out is for the Miches at Alta Baja. Delicious, but you knew that.”
Gustavo in the News
“a restaurant called xochitl — 5/5/21”:Delancey’s Place, a website devoted to running excerpts from books, finds one that references my Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.
“Essential California: Revealing data about COVID cases in California”: One LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a columna of mine.
“Today’s Headlines: Democrats face trouble in 2022”: Another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs my stuff.
“Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Vaxxed and rich?”: Still another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs my stuff.
“Online advice columnist’s amazing journey as gay and Latino in rural Oklahoma”: You should all buy John Paul Brammer’s book based on his Hola, Papi! columna from his newsletter.
“At the time of its founding, Anchorage was a city in the grips of a major tamale food craze”: A history of tamales in Alaska mentions my book.
“Sun Sampler”: The ever-excellent California Sun shouts out a columna of mine.
“From the Desk of Salsa Pistolero Brand”: This hot sauce guy shouts me out more often than not!
This week’s slate for “The Times: Daily news from the L.A. Times,” the podcast that I host — listen to them, and SUBSCRIBE. Don’t let me become the Poochie of podcasts!
“California’s unsinkable Katie Porter”: I talk to OC’s own progressive congresschingona.
“How the Los Angeles Public Library made libraries cool”: Any time I can talk up librarians, I do! Plus, a cameo by the legendary Patt Morrison.
“A Black LGBTQ publishing and political pioneer speaks”: Behold Charles Stewart, the most important Southern California LGBTQ pioneer you’ve never heard of.
“Next U.S. ambassador to India might be L.A.’s mayor … Huh?”: I interview my awesome LA Times colleagues Stacy Perman and Josh Rottenberg about their investigation into the cotton cand of awards shows.
“The fight to change COVID-19 vaccine-hesitant hearts and minds”: I turn the mic over to my awesome colleague Erika D. Smith.
“Huntington Beach’s Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz steps down amid backlash”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the the latest hilarity from Surf City.
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