Ooh, look at these italics — that means I’m gonna say something special!
Not really. It’s just my way of saying I’m using my executive privilege to run a repeat canto, of which I’m allowed two per year per the Gustitution.
I actually wasn’t planning to do so. I wanted to run an original canto on Thursday…and then Joan Didion died, so off to the columna I went!
Christmas Eve would’ve been too late for ustedes to pay attention, let alone Christmas Day. But Dec. 26? We’ll see what the open rate for this canto says. Ustedes have been doing good, BUT growth for this newsletter has been stagnant for months. Give the gift of Guti and forward this canto to someone who might like it, you know?
So below is a blast from the past, BUT do read through the entire canto, because the reading/listening and quote/photo of the week will be new. Enjoy your tamales, and now, let’s go back in time, to June 2018, to “You CAN Go Home Again” and me talking about teaching at my alma mater, Orange Coast College, where I still teach!
Next canto will be either Jan. 2 or Dec. 30 — and new. Hablaremos…
I despise nostalgia. I think it’s the refuge of juveniles, of people who think their best days are behind them and thus rely on ever-dusty memories to get them through life. Pathetic.
But I’m a hypocrite. There is one era of my life I fondly look back, and for which I make no apologies: the two years I spent at Orange Coast College in Costa Mexico back in the late 1990s.
I talk about that time at length in my barely read book, Orange County: A Personal History. But the short version is that I was an underachieving student when I enrolled and emerged the whatever-I-am I remain to this day.
Oh, the memories: making crappy comedies for Bob Lazarus (my student films are still in the attic of my parents’ Anacrime home). TV classes with a whip-smart student who ended up becoming noted artist David Michael Lee (and who’s my friend to this day: his son and I are birthday brothers!) Me and my best friend Art spending down time at the old Tower Records at the end of the 55 Freeway.
Whenever I talk to people about my life, I always credit OCC with my success—because it’s damn true. And when I graduated, I never looked back. I figured it was the end of my time there, and it was time to move on with my life. Vaya con Dios and all that crap.
Then came Doug Bennett.
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Let me clarify something. Although I hate nostalgia, I’m also a cynic—which a OCC film professor once told me was really a hopeless romantic. So in my mind, you can go home again, or at least keep that torch burning for the possibility of it.
I find a certain power on remaining with what formed you as long as possible, or at least helping to foster the furnace that forged you. It’s why I still have the same group of friends since junior high, why I stayed at my previous job until it was impossible to do so.
It’s why I plan to remain in Orange County until God calls me to my reward.
And it’s how I ended up back at OCC thanks to Bennett. He’s the executive director of the Orange Coast College Foundation, and must’ve read the part in my Orange County book where I said I’d bequeath my estate to OCC, so important the school was to me.
When he reached out to me nearly a decade ago to see if I was serious, I replied that I was—but that I had no money, and never would, but wanted to help.
We kept in contact through the years, and he’d get me to speak to faculty every once in a while about my joyful experience as an OCC student. He invited me to sit on the Greenleaf Scholarship Committee, which gives out a good amount of cash each year to deserving students.
Doug was the one who told me in 2014 that I had been nominated to join the OCC Alumni Hall of Fame. I meant it when I told that year’s graduating class that it would be the greatest honor I’d ever achieve.
And then I got a bigger one this year: I got to teach journalism at OCC.
I’ve taught at UCLA (my other alma mater), UC Irvine, Chapman (my other other alma mater), and did a good stretch as an adjunct-at-large at Cal State Fullerton under my eternal profe jefe Alexandro Jose Gradilla. I had great students throughout, some of whom became my friends (like amazing real-estate agent Julio Arana).
Yet all of those classes and experiences combined didn’t match the joy I felt teaching this semester. It was an Intro to Journalism class, so I taught my students not just the foundation of my profession, but the pinche sand that makes the cement bind to the concrete for the beams: What’s a cliché. How to write a lead. Stephen Glass. Don’t get beat.
The students were great—smart, hard-working, nearly all blissfully unaware of who I was (many told me that their other professors said they were fans of mine, which left the students perplexed—to them, I was just their teacher who was the last professor on campus who wrote everything on white boards).
Some were just out of high school; some were just in their 40s. But they all reminded me of myself in my OCC days: ready to take on the world.
I’m teaching two Intro to Journalism classes the fall semester. You CAN go home again.
And if you’re interested in enrolling? Caveat emptor: I don’t give out many As—BOOM.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…no. This is my annual reminder that not enough of you ask me questions to the point I’m thinking about getting rid of this feature. Actually, as 2022 rolls in, I just might drop this for reasons that might happen — details to come…in the meanwhile
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rerun. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Tamales made by my sisters based off of my mami’s recipe and tutelage, ready for steaming.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Jesus is born in order to serve, and we spend a lifetime pursuing success. God does not seek power and might; he asks for tender love and interior littleness.”
LISTENING:“Perfume de Gardenias,” Javier Solís. Mexico’s greatest-ever voice (note I didn’t say singer or star — key differences!), wielding his mighty voice around this classic bolero. I try not to repeat artists here, but I’m doing it this time because I had to listen to a lot of Solís recently for…something.
READING: “Frost at Midnight”: The pain of a father who sees his son failing to follow in his footsteps is hard enough — but when it’s Robert Frost, and the son ends up committing suicide, it turns into something else. e.
SHOUTOUT TO: Cobra, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! Cobra asked to plug Mrs Cobra, and was also kind enough to give me a bottle of bourbon from Newport, Kentucky, which I have actually visited!
Gustavo in the News
“The Audacious Round-Up”: Damn, Roxane Gay linked to my Chente columna!
“12 Unique Burrito Styles You Never Knew Existed”: Mashed shouts me out for the California burrito of San Diego.
“What to Cook This Week”: Sam Sifton of the New York Times’ Food section kindly shouts out my Chente piece.
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!
“When the labels don’t feel right”: One USC journalism student takes over the podcast.
“Hollywood, here comes Madison”: Another USC journalism student takes over the podcast.
“On track to become a doctor — or not”: Still another USC journalism student takes over the podcast.
“Grítale a Guti, Ep. Something”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all brings on the DESMADRE.
“Huntington Beach seeks to sidestep city attorney, hire its own lawyer”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the eternal chisme that’s HB.
“Left, Right & Center looks back on 2021 and forward to 2022”: My latest KCRW “Left, Right & Center” appearance talks about Joe Bide, corona, and tamales.
“Transfer Opportunity Program 30th Anniversary”: I appear on this video about a legendary place at Orange Coast College.
“Why Democrats should worry about more Latinos going for GOP in 2024”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna talks about rancho libertarianism a bit more in depth to explain what’s going with politics. KEY QUOTE: “Whether you live in Appalachia, the highlands of Jalisco, County Cork in Ireland, or Sicily, country folk oftenshare common traits — rugged individualism, distrust of government and elites, conservative moral beliefs, a love of community and a hatred of political correctness — that are like catnip for Republicans.”
“Column: Joan Didion, California and the enduring power of ‘our special history’”: My next latest LA Times columna talks about the grand dame of California letters. KEY QUOTE: “But I assign Didion not just because of her brilliance, but to also show my students how our concept of what a journalist is supposed to be has changed. She had an insight into California and the human condition that transcends race and class, but it’s one different from how we see it today.”
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