Gentle cabrones:

There was once…someone. Used to like me until they didn’t — then they hated me.

They would talk shit about me behind my back and in front of me. Got worse once my career started to rise, and theirs didn’t. Got so bad to the point where friends and colleagues wanted to literally kick the person’s ass, but I made them stand down.

Forgive the hater, I would say, for they know not what they do.

One year, I got an invite to do a lecture — travel, payment, all of that. I rejected it, and suggested the person who despised me take my place instead. Although I was great about the subject at hand, the other person was better than me — and I wanted what was best for the audience and hosts.

But the hosts didn’t know the person from Adam and were big fans of mine, so they decided to invite me as well to speak about something else.

Somehow, word got back to the person who hated me that I had given up that gig so they could take it. When we finally met far away from OC, the person was humbled but still strutting all around me. But they still thanked me, and then they gave their lecture.

They bombed.


Variegated golden frog, fam. By Charles J. Sharp – Own work, from Sharp Photography,, CC BY-SA 4.0

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I was genuinely shocked. This is a person who knew their shit, someone who I had seen deliver again and again. But they didn’t read the crowd, they thought they could phone it in — and they bombed.

As the person got off the stage, they were dazed and ashamed, especially since it happened in front of me, the last person who would have any sympathy for them.

I could’ve enjoyed a nice schadenfreude. I could’ve also been pissed, because me inviting him look bad on me. But I felt bad — for them.

I had bombed before, so I knew the feeling.

So I immediately went up to the person and talked them up. I told them that they had done great, but the crowd was a bunch of philistines and could never appreciate what they had just delivered.

I wasn’t completely lying…but I was. They really did do bad. But it didn’t matter — kicking someone while they’re down is dumb.

The person nearly cried. The last person on Earth he’d ever to expect to help him…was helping him. Again.

There’s that parable of the scorpion and the frog, where the frog takes the scorpion over water even though the frog knows the scorpion can sting them despite promising they won’t…and then they do.

I always associated with the frog. The frog was doing the right thing by helping. Why wouldn’t you want to do the right thing, damn the consequences to you?

It’s not about you.

That person mellowed with age. They were never kind to me, but the shit-talking stopped. Earlier this year, they got yet another smack on me. I still helped them when they needed it yet again.



This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…

If I have an idea for a story do I pitch a small local publication and hope they bite, or do I blog and build my repertoire?

Write free for yourself, never write free for others. Before you write free for yourself, pitch it to someone else. What’s the worst that can happen?

Got a question for Guti? Email me here.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Badly lit photo of delicious New York strip of steak…somewhere.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Make me always a man who questions.”

Frantz Fanon

LISTENING:Lino Rodarte,” Montez de Durango. I know sierreño and corridos tumbados are all the rage now, but Southern California never properly got into pasito duranguense, so here’s a shoutout to the genre by one of the better groups, singing a corrido supposedly written by my great-great-grandfather but which is for sure about El Cargadero.

READING: Declared Extinct, the Yaghan Rise in the Land of Fire”: Stirring article that interrogates the very idea of the genre it practices. Hakai Magazine is regularly magnificent.

SHOUTOUT TO: No one, because no one bought me a taco last week. It happens!

BUY MY NEW CO-BOOK! People’s Guide to Orange County tells an alternative history of OC through the scholarship and reporting of myself, Elaine Lewinnek, and Thuy Vo Dang. There’ll be signings all year — in meanwhile, buy your copy TODAY. And, yes: I’ll autograph it!

Gustavo Appearances

This weekend:
I’m going to be at the L.A. Times Festival of Books Saturday at 5 p.m. AND Sunday at 10 p.m. — schedule here!

Gustavo in the News

3rd annual Taco Fest returns to San Antonio with new music line-up: Guess who’s going to do TWO lectures here in a couple of weeks?

How to make the most of the L.A. Times Festival of Books this weekend”: A plug for my Festival of Books appearances.

Celebrity interviews, workshops & more: Don’t miss the 2022 L.A. Times Festival of Books”: Another plug for my Festival of Books appearances.

‘La Calavera Catrina’ creator’s iconic imagery featured at Fullerton Museum Center”: I was supposed to talk to Taco USA author Lalo Alcaraz, but I have to do…something…

Spoken Word Poetry and Politics with Matt Sedillo and David A. Romero”: Two incredible poets, one nice plug of my plug of one of them.

The L.A. TACO Guide to Eating and Drinking in Coachella and Indio”: My former student beat me #dontgetbeat.

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Presents INTERVIEW WITH A MEXICAN, May 6-7”: San Antonio loves me!

The snacks on my shelf”: Some Substack love.

Gustavo Podcast

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!

Coachella 2022, Coachella forever”: The Weeknd is awesome.

Tijuana sí!”: Sandra Dibble is awesome.

The AriZona iced-tea 99-cent miracle”: Sam Dean does the best weird-business stories.

Mexico’s weird presidential self-recall”: Pinche AMLO.

Shanghai’s lockdown tests limits”: A terrifying preview of the future, or the last gasp of Xi?

Gustavo Stories

Grítale a Guti”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all brings on the DESMADRE.

Clean up your act: City officials to Anaheim Lodge, Travel Inn”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the no-tell motels along Beach Boulevard in Anacrime.

Essential California: Alex Perez, the Times cartoonist turned councilmember”: My latest LA Times newsletter talks about a pioneering Latino at the paper — AND a politician. KEY QUOTE: “The earliest Perez cartoon I could find in The Times dates to April 5, 1925. Perez would stay with us for 50 years.”

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