A couple of weeks ago, my sisters came over to hang out with my wife — yep, you read that right.
I didn’t hang out.
My sisters know that I’ll always retire from any family gatherings to watch the news, or read, or do anything other than talk to invited guests, because I’m Gus like that (and, yes, they can call me Gus — but you probably can’t).
We love each other, truly, so that’s why the older of the two decided to clown me. She wrote the canto below in like 10 minutes, because she’s talented like that. It’s her imitation of me, which isn’t bad but isn’t me — but nice try!
But since I want my sister to write more — and because it’s Labor Day weekend, and I have to catch up on a LOT of stuff — I’m publishing her parody of me in its entirety, but with my notes to point out where she’s wrong. Enjoy!
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Gentle carbones (Gustavo note: My sister missed this bizarre auto-correct that Word inflicts on me):
I’m out in my backyard gathered with my family to celebrate my sister’s birthday and all my family is doing is nagging, nagging, nagging (They’ve nagged me my entire life. Everyone in my life thinks I can do better — déjenme en paz).
“Cut your hair!” “Stop thinking about work!” “Get new huaraches!” Everyone always thinks they know what’s best for me and feel the need to make it known (déjenme en paz).
But that last nag did get me thinking about my huaraches. Shoes in general. (I actually was thinking about doing a canto about my huaraches, but never got around to it. So my sister knows me better than I think she does — fascinating…)
One of the saddest stories I remember my mami sharing with us was how when they briefly lived in Tijuana during her childhood, some church group stopped by their neighborhood to distribute Christmas gifts to the kids. Her siblings got a toy truck, a rag doll, and a puzzle. She? She got a pair of old, over-sized zapatos. (I know this story, but it’s hardly the saddest story I’d associate with my mami’s life, alas)
Even into middle age she always remembered that story with a hint of sadness, but I always thought about the greater significance of shoes and the stories they tell of the times in our life. (Not really).
In junior high I always wore Chuck Taylors (wrong). I first saw those shoes on an episode of The Wonder Years (wrong). Both nerds and cool kids alike wore them on the show, but for me it was more about convenience: they were available at the Swap Meet where my mom could afford to buy us shoes at the time, they were unassuming and went with anything I was wearing, Pendleton or Bart Simpson shirt alike.
(My sister has the shoes and chronology wrong. I did wear Chuck Taylors from my 20s through my late 30s, but the Converse she ‘s talking about here were some skater-style ones that were on sale in a warehouse swap meet in Fullerton when I was in my late teens. Two pairs for $5, a whole playpen’s worth. They were great shoes, and I bought two pairs.
When I wore out both pairs, and needed some more, they were no longer on sale. Went to the sneaker store, and they were on sale for 60-some dollars. Fuck that. That’s how I began to buy Chuck Taylors, because they cost about 36 bucks at the OCC swap meet in the early 2000s).
Truly, they were horrible for my flat feet, but they were conventional and that’s all I needed at the time. (I do have flat feet AND am pigeon-toed AND have one leg like half an inch shorter than the other. Adonis, I’m not)
By the time I got to high school, Doc Martens all day, every day (I actually started to wear Docs in 8th grade). I think I had the same pair for all four years and beyond (Only right statement so far). These were more of a statement. This was the era when Rage Against the Machine and protests against Prop. 187 were prevailing in our adolescent psyche. (I attributed no political meaning to my Docs whatsoever. Back then, only taggers wore them in our world, and I was a wannabe tagger for like a month).
It was the first time I saw a pair of shoes as something beyond a mindless daily vehicle, but rather paid attention to the odometer of experiences that I walked and how they were shaping the man I was becoming (I wouldn’t use a car metaphor here, but it’s a good one)
The first pair of huaraches I received came from one of my dad’s yearly visits to Jerez, Zacatecas. They were free, they were a connection to the homeland, and I never understood the zen of podiatric circulation until that moment (I just thought they were comfortable — and it was better than wearing a Stetson).
My mami hated them because growing up they were considered peasant shoes and she remembered the merciless discrimination that some of her family members endured for wearing them (I don’t remember this, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Classism runs deep in the rancho, even if your skin was ivory white like that of my mami).
She didn’t understand how I could want to wear them when my parents had worked so hard to give me other options (don’t remember this). Plus the Continental tire threaded soles of the huaraches always left black skid marks on her freshly mopped white tile floor and always frowned in disapproval of the trail I left as I walked across the kitchen (I do remember this haha. My wife also gets mad at me when I do the same in her restaurant’s kitchen).
Life is funny like that: what once caused shame in my family now propels me forward (kinda — I just really like the feel of huaraches, think men wearing flip-flops outside of a water setting is juvenile, and find Birkenstock too gaba). My current pair of huraches has seen me (list name of places you have visited or activities you have done) (sorry, sis: You should know this), and even touring Downtown LA on a bike while wearing them.
The moral of the story (CLICHÉ ALERT) is this: sometimes the shoes may change, but the point is to keep moving forward and do the best with what you’ve got. There’s no excuses to stay stagnant… werk, werk, WERK no matter if you find yourselves in Cole Haan, over-priced Jordans, or huaraches.
Werk, because that’s the only way to get anywhere in life. Even if the very werking causes your family to nag you because you are supposed to be enjoying Friday family fun night. Werk is my fun, and it’s all because of the work ethic I get from my family. That’s the ultimate Friday family fun night. (WERK)
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
Did I miss your flame on that piece of dried dog cagada City of Angels: Penny Dreadful? If you haven’t commented on it, why not?
You did miss out, because you obviously don’t follow me on Twitter, where I reserve my rants. Folks: If you gonna follow me, FOLLOW me. I got all the links ’round here, so DO IT DO IT DO IT. Each stream is relatively autonomous of the other, so get all Guti, all the time, porfas!
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Most of the Alta Baja Market team at Taco Maria in Costa Mexico, celebrating each other’s incredible work during a trying two years, and to good news on the horizon. Go already!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Like singers, to be a storyteller is something life gives you. It cannot be learned. Technique, yes, that can be learned, but to be able to tell a story is something with which you are born. It is easy to tell a good storyteller from a bad one: ask someone to tell you about the last movie they’ve seen.”
–Gabriel Garcia Márquez
LISTENING:“El Gorgoreyo,” El Piporro. September 1 is an important date in ranchera music — it’s the birthday of Javier Solís and the anniversary of the death of Eulalio González, who went by El Piporro and was HILARIOUS. Take this track, which literally translates as “The Gurgling” but means “The Drunk-fest.” Voices, shoutouts to #mexicannicknames, other rancheras, beers, and some of the earliest norteña jams released in Mexico? Masterpiece.
READING: “The Silent Season of a Hero”: My narrative nonfiction class at Orange Coast College started this past week, and as a first assignment, I make them read six classics of the genre, of which this Joe DiMaggio profile by Gay Talese is a part. You’re going to need a subscription to read it…or be a part of my class haha. But it’s an elegy like few others, and one of my top five articles EVER. If I can ever get a single to Talese’s grand slam, I can call it a career.
SHOUTOUT TO: Kirk, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! Kirk’s plug: “Alta Baja in the SanTana food court. What a cute store, be sure to come hungry!”
Gustavo in the News
“Progressives have ruined California”: Chapman University professor Joel Kotkin — who never misses a chance to shit on California, nevermind that he moved here from TEXAS — cites a columna of mine.
“Dems sweat Latino turnout in California recall”: Political plugs a columna of mine.
“The LA Times as Pravda: All In For a One Party-State”: CityWatch LA accuses me of doing a “hit piece” on Larry Elder just because I called him a false prophet haha.
“Latinx Files: Why aren’t Mexicans and Mexican Americans eating at this popular Mexican restaurant?”: An LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs one of the smartest things I EVER said.
“How to Confront Vaccine Refusal in Black and Brown Communities”: Yes! Magazine shouts out my campaigns against PANDEJOS.
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!
“Tequila? Tequila!”: In which I tackle celebrity tequila, and get drunk off of it with my fellow L.A. Times columnista Carolina Miranda and Sara Valdes of the legendary’s Sara Market in City Terrace.
“The rise and fall of Korean dry cleaners”: The people who clean your clothes in Southern California are hurting because of COVID-19.
“Another Colombia is possible — they hope”: Young activists battle the Duque regime.
“How Native Americans became a vaccine success story”: Come for the inspiration, stay for the story of the Hero Twins.
“Losing Rosario”: I turn the mic over to my awesome colleague Molly Hennessy-Fiske.
“Grítale a Guti, Ep. 66”: Latest of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-alls takes on Los Bukis, Jesus, halo-halo, the Atlas soccer club, and more!
“Use-of-force policies and trainings are unclear and dangerous at OC Sheriff’s Department, report finds”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about my local Chief Wiggums.
“Column: Larry Elder is the most Latino candidate in California’s recall. It won’t help him”: My latest LA Times columna considers the leading candidate to replace California Gov. Gavin Newsom in the case he’s recalled. KEY QUOTE: “There’s a knee-jerk familiarity with Elder any time I hear him babble. His swagger and respectability politics are what my blue-collar cousins say six Tecates into a carne asada Sunday.”
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