I rarely talk about past loves – because I’m happily married of course, but also because there’s not really much to talk about.
I was a good Catholic boy, and a nerd, which basically made me an incel without the toxic masculinity and loser mentality.
But whenever I see people miss opportunities that they don’t realize until after the fact, then rue forever, I always think about the one who I got away from.
She worked at a bookstore, a Mexican immigrant. Smart, pretty, probably a couple years older than me — I don’t remember her name anymore. She was first the person who rang up my books, then someone who knew my name, then someone who I wanted to get to know more.
I asked her out to dinner a couple times, and she always said no.
Until she did.
We went to a Salvadoran restaurant that no longer exists. I thought it went well, and she opened up a bit. She mentioned that she was a big fan of Greece and Greek myths, so the next time I saw her, I gave her a book of the latter.
It didn’t work. Until it did.
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I asked her out a couple of other times after our sole date, and she always said she was too busy. I finally got the clue, and stopped going to the bookstore. This was around the fall of 2005
Months passed by. The Los Angeles Times did the profile that changed my life. And then one afternoon while I was at work, I got a phone call — it was the Greek-loving girl.
She asked how I was doing, and I said fine. She asked if I wanted to go out at another date with her, and I said no. I knew why she all of a sudden was interested in me, ad it wasn’t going to happen.
We talked for about 10 minutes (my haters are always shocked at how polite I am in real life), and I could sense the desperation in her voice. I felt pity for her, but it wasn’t going to happen.
And finally, the reveal: she said we should go out again to talk about Greek myths.
I said goodbye. I never talked to her again.
After my book deal was announced, I had all sorts of people try to curry favor with me. I knew what they were after, and I rejected them all. I don’t remember who they were.
But I remember the Greek girl. I remember the tone in her voice. It was someone who realized, to quote GOB Bluth, that they had made a terrible mistake.
I remember her almost crying. She had realized too late that she had something good that she had ignored. She was now suffering one of the worst emotions anyone can suffer from: regret.
And there was nothing she could do about it.
I have never taken anything for granted. I have always valued how good I have it when I have something good. It always saddens me to see people who don’t realize when they have something good — because the pain they’re going to feel when they lose it will haunt them.
When I see poor fools like that, I think about the Greek-loving mujer. I’m sure there’s a Greek myth that goes with her story – but I don’t try to think about it.
Because who needs legends when they become fables?
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
Are you a daydreamer? Did you daydream and fantasize as a child? I am curious about the connection between daydreaming and writing.
I used to. But once I became a reporter, that stopped. My mind is focused on facts, how to get more facts, and how to arrange those facts into a story, so my waking hours is a river of them.
But my dreams are something else. Random stuff. Sometimes scary, sometimes absurd. Like the time a song came into my mind that I now sing for Hook and Cosmo — should win an EGOT, I tell you what!
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: The latest books by the MacArthur chingona profe geniuses Natalia Molina and Kelly Lytle Hernández. I blurbed the former and can’t wait to get into the latter — and, yes, I WILL be in conversation with them individually and together, insha’Allah! Details to come…
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “My credo has always been that the only reason readers come back to you again and again over decades is because of what you unearth for them, and that the joy of our profession is discovery, not dissertation.”
LISTENING:“Borderline,” Madonna. My musical upbringing is ALL sorts of messed up — so I was listening to bluegrass legend Bill Monroe by 8th grade, but JUST learned about this Madonna classic like a month ago, when my wife played it at her store. Great synth-y ’80s pop, urgent vocals and chorus — and I’m glad she went with the Salvi at the end instead of that uptight, lecherous photographer!
READING: “Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale”: This Johnny Carson profile from the 1970s is probably the third-longest New Yorker piece I’ve read (after the original Hiroshima and the two-parter on music legend Ahmet Ertegun), but it’s worth it. Fabulous writing, penetrative analysis of an entertainment legend (who turns out to be as hilarious — check out his stock answers — and retributive as he’s remembered) at his height, and with a cameo by my third-favorite director of all time, Billy Wilder, who gave the article its incredible title.
PODCASTING: “Guided by the Past”: I have linked to many a SAPIENS article in the past, and I’m delighted to have realized the anthropology publication have a podcast. In this season premier, Black and Native anthropologists talk about the fraught politics in their field in a way that’s instructive, progressive, emotional, yet hilarious. Great sound design, too!
SHOUTOUT TO: Jordan, who kindly donated 100 tacos to sponsor TWO full month of MailChango! “I’m following you from Sacramento, last stop for Erika Smith before she joined you at the refreshingly new L.A. Times.” Erika’s great!
Buy My New Book!
A People’s Guide to Orange County offers hundreds of blurbs to give you an alternate history of this damned land. Buy your copy from Libromobile, and get ready for our inaugural book signing March 26 at 1 p.m. at Alta Baja Market in SanTana!
Gustavo in the News
“Los Angeles Times earns prestigious APSE grand slam honors for second consecutive year”: I join my L.A. Times colleagues in getting nominated for a prestigious sports journalism award for our Fernandomania series.
“The Atwater Village shop with the blue rock”: Eastsider LA shouts out an article of mine.
“California Playbook”: Politico’s Golden State newsletter shouts out the same columna.
“LMU knows the pain of local NIMBYs that UC Berkeley is facing”: A student editor quotes one of the best lines I’ve EVER thought up of.
“Dive into a hot bowl of homemade chili for National Chili Day”: Always love shoutouts I get from Tulsa!
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!
“Transgender drivers struggle to join Uber”: My colleague Suhauna Hussain talks about the issues with a company I haven’t used in years and probably never will again.
“Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine obsession”: The obligatory podcast episode of the week.
“How violence smashed Mexican avocados”: Not enough Americans know about this.
“Maggie Gyllenhaal on her directorial debut”: Our sibling podcast The Envelope takes over our feed for a worthy actress/director.
“Grítale a Guti”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all brings on the DESMADRE.
“Westminster’s new Vietnam War memorial gets approval by City Council but not some veterans”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about how the L.A. mayoral election is getting all OC-whiny.
“US sounds fresh alarm over Ukraine invasion fears”: I appear on BBC World Service NOT to trash Putin, but to talk about Mexico and limes.
“Will L.A.’s mayoral race channel Orange County?”: My latest LA Times columna sees Angeleno liberals turn into conservatives because of homelessness and crime. KEY QUOTE: “Venice, heal thyself. You’re turning into Huntington Beach.”
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