“Random Cool People I Know” is an occasional series about random cool people I know. Are you cool, and I know you? Let’s hang out so I can write about you!
Flash in the pans come and go, and then there was the Glutster.
I met Javier Cabral in about 2009 or so when he was known as Teenage Glutster, a food-writing prodigy who was just a couple of years from officially serving as Jonathan Gold’s food scout. I was so curious to see what this kid was about, I did some thing I rarely do: attend a media dinner.
It was at South Coast Plaza, I think for AnQi. We sat next together, and he was everything I didn’t think he would be: courteous, humble, and funny. I found out that our families were zacatecanos, we were both Mexicans with glasses, and while Javier was from Eastlos and I was from Orange County, we got along just great.
Did we notice we were the only raza in a room of food writers? DUH. Did we care? Nah — we had WERK to do.
Teenage Glutster grew up, and tried to make it a go in college, like you’re supposed to. He became one of my first interns at OC Weekly, then did the bold (smart) move of not getting a journalism degree. He jumped right into the world of freelance writing, a fraught landscape where few ever make it before going into the world of PR.
But damnit, Javier made it.
First time reading this newsletter? Subscribe here for more merriment! Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc Feedback, thoughts, commentary, rants? Send them to email@example.com
After years of promises, Javier finally made it down to my wife’s restaurant yesterday. He’s all grown up now – just bought a home with his wife, and is the editor of L.A. Taco, local street journalism at its finest (could have more shit-talking, but we can’t all be Private Eye, you know?)
Javier asked if he could work for a little bit while we hung out — DUH. I introduced him to a friend of mine, and noted he hadn’t responded to her pitch, and that she had given up too fast on it, and then there was an awkward silence between the two equally guilty, similarly brilliant, respectively shy parties.
“Damn, Gustavo always does this, right?” Javier chuckled.
We all hung out for a bit, and WERKED. Afterwards, Javier and I went to the legendary Mos2 Mexican teriyaki bowl OC mini-chain, one of my top 5 meals of all time. He hadn’t eaten there in years, ever since he’d come down to OC to help his dad with jobs.
We put on our food journalism caps and extolled the sweet, Proustian glory that is is a grain of Mos 2 white rice soaked in teriyaki, Tapatio, and beef drippings washed down with an horchata. Then we just grubbed.
We talked journalism for a bit. L.A. Taco is blazing as usual, with a buzzy new podcast about our fellow zacatecano, disgraced former Los Angeles councilmember Jose Huizar. After about 2 hours of kicking it, I took off — we both had to go back to WERK. But before he took off, he swung back to Alta Baja Market for a bar of Fervi, because that’s how zacatecanos do.
How zacatecanos were we? My friend showed off the label of her family’s cheese business from Laguna Grande — a calf drinking milk from the udder of its mami.
I promised a home-and-home series for Javier and I, so I’ll be hanging out with him at Gusto Bread in Long Beach sooner rather than later. He’s a mighty branch of my coaching tree, even though I have little to do with his growth. I only worked directly with him for a summer, and didn’t really teach him anything he didn’t already know.
But it’s great to see people that you knew had potential rise up to it and surpass it. Javier is now creating his own coaching tree, so support indie journalism and become an L.A. Taco member TODAY.
One final Javier story, which I didn’t tell him in person because I wanted to save for the newsletter because I can’t give it ALL away to the social media gods, you know? A couple of weeks ago, a young Latino went up to me and said he was such a fan, and that my work was awesome, and that I was an inspiration to young writers like him, and how can I write for your website?
That’s when I realized he wasn’t talking about me; he was talking about Javier.
Ese es mi gallo.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
I would like to figure out a way to actually start ‘speaking’ Spanish. What I mean by that is I have a pretty good comprehension, but I freeze and my mind goes blank when I try to speak Spanish out loud. I grew up around the language and took a Spanish class at OCC in the ‘70’s and got an A, so I know I can do it.
I took a class in 2015 in conversational Spanish and managed to go out to Santa Ana 4th St. and walk around talking to retailers with mixed results, but it did little to break down my anxiety and took a lot of effort to do it that once. I thought about a few weeks of immersion in Mexico now that I got my booster shot, but my senior dog is a little too frail to leave. I should probably keep looking for a job anyway.
Any suggestions for locations other than Santa Ana? I don’t live in OC anymore. Or general suggestions?
Start by immersing yourself in the cadence, so listen to music/watch television/download podcasts. Read. When you’re ready to talk , go volunteer at a non-profit that needs helpers and will sympathize with a gaba who doesn’t speak the best Spanish but have a good heart.
After that? SanTana anew.
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Statue of Alex Odeh, a Palestinian American activist assassinated by a bomb at his SanTana office in 1985. His unsolved killing is the subject of a podcast I hosted this week.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: That’s the essence of inhumanity.”
–George Bernard Shaw
LISTENING:“El Herradero,” Lucha Reyes. One of the most stirring songs in the ranchera canon, a tour-de-force for any who dare attempt to top the original by the original malandrina of Mexican music, whose statue you can find at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. SO much more powerful than all the buchona bullshit out there right now, you know?
READING: “Pittsburgh’s Glorious Turkey Devonshire”: A treatise on a regional dish I’ve never heard about turns into a meditation on tradition, immigration, assimilation, and a great ending line. Now, to get to Steelersland…
SHOUTOUT TO: Juana, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor TWO full month of MailChango! “Just asking parents to check in with their kids. Going back to school has been extra hard this year: so much bullying and disrespect from both students AND parents. Many times we think our kids are OK, but they are carrying insane anxiety.”
And there you go.
Gustavo in the News
“Letters to the Editor: No, California, we don’t need to cancel In-N-Out”: In-N-Out fanboys let me have it on my columna about the chain. In-N-Out fanboys are the worst.
“Latinx Files: Para mi abuelito Luís”: One LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a columna of mine.
“Coachella Valley Independent’s Indy Digest: Oct. 25, 2021”: Speaking of indie journalism, hit up the Coachella Valley’s best (only?) alt-weekly, which was kind enough to plug my In-N-Out columna.
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!
“Author Shea Serrano thinks Mexicans are perfect”: A full half-hour with the nicest cholo nerd of them all.
“Stuck for days in L.A.’s biggest traffic jam”: We go down to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and interview marooned sailors.
“Will the fatal ‘Rust’ shooting change Hollywood?”: Answer: probably not.
“The unsolved assassination of Alex Odeh”: My colleague Gabriel San Román, who has followed this cold case for over a decade, gives us an update.
“How Día de los Muertos flourished in the U.S.”: I talk Day of the Dead in LA with my colleague Daniel Hernandez and in the South with my Mexington comadre.
“Grítale a Guti, Ep. 75”: The latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all talks all sorts of DESMADRE.
“Rent control and stronger eviction protection is coming to Santa Ana residents in November”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about slow but steady build toward a more equitable SanTana.
“Gustavo Arellano – Werk, Weekly, Quesadillas and OJ”: I appear on The Break It Down Show to talk about the issues at hand.
“L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva”: L.A.’s top cop takes a break for making apologies for the PANDEJOS in his department to read my columna aloud and call me Ask a Vendido — cute!
“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!”
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