This canto is a bit late.
I originally wanted to send it out on Wednesday, so I could offer something original, something with a far better chance of folks reading it than something sent on Fourth of July weekend.
And here we are.
Last year for Independence Day, I offered something original…a full four days before the Fourth. So I don’t have the analytics to see if ustedes are willing to read me on a holiday.
I’d hope so, you know? BUT I’m also going to pull out a card I always hold in my pocket:
A repeat card.
Back when I used to do a weekly columna, I’d have two times a year when I’d pull out an oldie-but-goodie: for our Best Of issue, and at the end of the year.
Here at Gustavo Arellano’s Weekly? I kinda like that schedule, BUT I’d rather always do originals… unless I mess up and don’t send out something earlier.
So here’s a rerun…for some of you! Because it turns out when I sent the canto below back in June of 2018, I had around a third of the subscribers I have now.
So for those of ustedes who weren’t subscribers back then, behold a new canto. For those of you who read it before, hit me up and tell me how my writing has improved/worsened in the past two years.
And if enough people open this newsletter, I’ll never take a break again.
If not enough people do, I AM A PROPHET.
I hope I’m wrong.
Anyways, behold Canto XV: Don’t Suffer in Silence — a message more people should hold close to their heart.
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This past week, I went to my other alma mater—UCLA—to lecture at the humor class of Chicano Studies professor Otto Santa Ana. He’s another legend who has long supported me during my career. For the past couple of years, Profe Otto has taught my ¡Ask a Mexican! book as a Swiftian approach to the ever-thorny issue of raza in this Republic.
As the popuar paisa meme goes, “No, pos ‘ta cabrón.”
I always love speaking to college classes, because they bring an energy that other audiences don’t. The talk went great—students asked questions, and those who I identified as thinking me problematic warmed up by the end.
But I’ll always remember Profe Otto’s Spring 2018 class, because I finally got asked a question that shut me up (for a moment).
A young man, in the front, asked the following out of nowhere: “Are you ever sad?”
“No,” I immediately responded. I began babbling that I used to be back in the day, when I was reading too much Camus and spinning Pet Sounds after one too many broken hearts. But depression, I started to argue, was a privilege that I didn’t have time to waste on.
But just as I said that, I realized my machismo was going to help no one. And that I was a big, fat liar.
So I told the truth: Of course I suffered from depression—it’s part of the human condition. But I always made sure to express my feelings, to ensure my thoughts didn’t become worse. And yeah, I cry.
“Don’t suffer in silence,” I concluded. The room was quiet, but their eyes were hopeful and happy. It’s what many people—especially the young men—needed to hear, and I didn’t even know it.
This was two days before Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.
It’s somewhat related to regret, and emotion I particularly despise. At least with regrets you can try to MoveOn knowing you can’t change the past. When you’re bitter, you don’t even know that. I’ve seen bitterness atrophy too many people. Ruins ruins lives, relationships, and others. It was wonderful to see my friend Get out of that bitterness, or at least take the first steps.
As you’ll soon see (and hopefully click), I’ve written and said a LOT on Bourdain’s passing in just the past 24 hours. I won’t add more here. But I will take the newsletter space here to double down on the point I emphasized to Profe Otto’s UCLA.
Don’t suffer in silence.
It was something I always emphasized to my colleagues at OC Weekly. If something bothered you about work, speak up. If I wronged you, tell me. If you feel bad, express it. Letting frustrations and sadness and bad thoughts fester helps no one, least of all you, and usually leads to far bigger problems.
Easier said than done, of course, but I always smiled when my colleagues would tell me their issues, and I’d respond with a “What do I always say?” and we’d both respond with the same answer ala O-Ren Ishii and The Bride.
I did it not to express my superiority, but to express relief that they finally spoke up, and that they learned a lesson. It’s a lesson I took to heart, I told the UCLA class, when I suffered through the darkest time of my life—when I left my Weekly job.
I consciously tried to stay away from alcohol in the months following that episode, because alcoholism runs in my family and would’ve been too easy a temptation. But the loss hurt.
And it led to one especially bad day, which I shared with the class: I blacked out and fell in a way where I could’ve easily been paralyzed for life but instead just suffered a bloody nose and a concussion (and an AMAZING list on son huasteco that I deleted in the haze that followed–FUCK).
I suffered in silence.
But what saved me were ustedes. Longtime fans who had never written to me before but expressed how much they appreciated my work. Acquaintances who took me out to lunch, just because. Friends who would line up job opportunities for me. And a group of angels who got my texts and calls at my lowest point, and pulled me from the pits of darkness.
Yet for many, such a support system is still not enough. It wasn’t for Bourdain. That’s why it’s important to check on your kith and kin at all times. The throwaway nice line you give someone just might be the sunshine they needed.
I’m happier than I have been in months. But I still have my bad days—we all do. And whenever that happens, I remember:
Don’t suffer in silence.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
I’m a big fan of both tomatoes and cooking shows, especially Pati’s Mexican Table. Regardless of whether she’s using “mooshy” (mushy) tomatoes for sauces or raw fruit in pico de gallo, Pati and other Mexican cooks (as well as Italians) never remove the yellow connecting tissue where the fruit was connected to the stem. Why is this?
Because we invented tomatoes — and if we don’t take out the connecting tissue, you shouldn’t either, you know?
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: A side portrait of a trombone player for Banda Las Angelinas, which are AWESOME. Shot by my wifey.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery”
LISTENING:“Sister Golden Hair,” America. I like ’70s soft rock more than a Mexican should, so America is a group whose songs I’ll always hear if on SiriusXM. I actually haven’t heard this one in a while, but it came to my mind while thinking of driving on I-40 through the Llano Estacado, with about 5 hours more to go before we sleep….
READING: “Life in the Stacks: A Love Letter to Browsing”: The Walrus is a Canadian publication that’s like grounded-in-reality hipsterism. This was a beautiful elegy for something I still do: wander and look around, as opposed to letting algorithms figure out who I am (the ads I get are HILARIOUSLY wrong).
SHOUTOUT TO: Iliana, who kindly donated 100 tacos to sponsor TWO full month of MailChango! She writes “I know all your readers already subscribe to the Los Angeles Times, so my shout out is to Duende District, a mobile bookstore featuring work by people of color. Visit their website for unique book recs and to order books. Or go out and support your closest indie bookstore. I need your help keeping them open to support my book addiction…”
Gustavo in the News
“Statement from CUSD Board Member Stacy Keszei to Coronado Community”: My columna about a tortilla-throwing incident in San Diego County gets cited.
“The return of weekly restaurant reviews”: One LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a columna of mine.
“3 things to know about the Delta variant”: Another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a columna of mine.
“How Taco Bell ‘stole’ the taco”: The BBC interviews me about the legendary Mitla Cafe in San Bernardino.
“Why I Decided to Read 52 Books in the Next 52 Weeks”: My Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America book makes it onto this author’s list.
Latest roster of episodes 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!
“Kink at Pride is a mainstay — but for how long?”: An issue I never knew about turns into an issue that’s important to know about.
“Recall, George Gascón, and the troubles of progressive D.A.s”: A LOT of people don’t like the Los Angeles County district attorney — but not enough to keep him from winning last year.
“A ride-along with the Afghan Air Force”: My LA Times colleagues Nabih Bulos and Marcus Yam share their dangerous story.
“The Chinese Communist Party and me, Part 1”: On the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, we get into China’s moves against Hong Kong and Taiwan — and the young activists fighting a lonely fight against it…
“The Chinese Communist Party and me, Part 2”: …and then we get into the young activists fighting the Chinese Communist Party from within.
“Grítale a Guti, Ep. 54?”: My latest IG Live free-for-all-finds me wielding a machete due to a pregunta!
“Anaheim is ready to sell Angel Stadium. But it might’ve violated laws in the process, says a state agency”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the eternal fleece that is the present-day Halos.
“‘Oh, you’re out?’ Gay politician can’t get Pride flag raised in his small California town”: My latest LA Times columna profiles Wasco Mayor Alex Garcia, who’s among a group of young, elected officials scandalizing the powers-that-be in the Central Valley by daring to be out. KEY QUOTE: “Garcia lost his battle, but he and his fellow pro-LGBTQ advocates just might win the proverbial war to transform the Central Valley from a redoubt of red into something bluer.”
“Arrojar tortillas no es un acto racista, hasta que lo es”: Last week’s tortilla columna, now in Spanish!
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