|Years ago, I went to the funeral of a guy.|
A good guy. Gone too soon. About my age. I went more out of respect to him and our profession than anything — we were friendly, but not friends.
So I thought.
At one point during the wake, a man came up to me. He told me how happy the family was to see me. That I meant the world to the guy, that I helped him out so much — that I was there for him whenever he needed me to.
I was speechless.
The guy died in a really tragic way, to the point the family wasn’t accepting any condolences at the wake. So I told the man to send my condolences to the guy’s family, and left.
The profundity of the revelation was too much for me to bear in that small chapel.
I remembered the guy well. We mostly emailed, sometimes talked on the phone (this is the era before smartphones), would run into each other on the beat, and lunched every couple of years. But it never went beyond that.
I wish he had expressed how valuable our time together was.
I wish he had told me I was his keeper.
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When I headed the Infernal Rag, I noticed that everyone was friendly with each other and there were cliques — but everyone had a keeper.
It was the person one would lean on more than others. The person who not only went to lunch, but hung out outside of work and inevitably attended each other’s weddings.
I applauded this. We all need confidantes, consiglieres.
But what if we acted as if we were everyone’s keeper, all the time?
What if we lived in a way where people felt so comfortable around you, and respected you, that they easily bared their souls to you because of your kindness?
And what if you had no idea that you meant that to someone?
Those were the questions I thought about after the guy’s passing.
I’ve tried to really listen to people ever since, and pick up on what they get from me so I can give more. And even if it’s not reciprocated, to understand that being someones’s keeper is not about you.
That people sometimes need someone to support them with just a talk.
That we’re usually too proud to ask for help.
That we all need help, in the good times and bad.
That what’s more important than receiving help is that we must always help.
Even when we don’t realize it.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
Longtime fan, first saw your columns in the local alt-newspaper New Times here in the Phoenix area or, as the Raza calls it, La Phoenicera. Anyway on our Facebook there’s a local group called Az Barrio Stories and people share their stories growing up in the local barrios. There always stories about our comida we had in the home growing up. I wrote a couple of stories recently regarding chorizo. Once of my favorites, always in the house growing up.
I had over 400 comments and it started quite the conversation regarding chorizo, everyone had an opinion and of course what local tiendita makes the best. I did a follow-up with a pic of a chorizo and eggs plate I had while on vacation recently at the Beach Break Café in Oceanside, Cali. So after reading you latest article it got me thinking how popular is chorizo your area. Beef, or beef and pork or just pork? Some people mentioned how they thought California had the worst chorizo last after Az, TX, NM, then Cali. Wondering if you have any good chorizo stories I could share with our group?
Well, Arizona is going to have amazing chorizo because of chiltepín; New Mexico and El Paso, the same because of Hatch chile. But Cali as the worst chorizo? Not even close — we got us zacatecanos coming in with the pork and chile de árbol.
Texas chorizo? Too much of the German influence for me, but still great. By the way, you should buy me some tacos for not engaging in any albures whatsoever haha!
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: An after-and-before of Hook, our rescue Chihuahua. We’re so proud of him!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Basically, we are spiritually healthy people. But there is a sort of unrest, even a sense of emptiness. Most people need a sense that they’re part of some common purpose, and it has to be a purpose that they believe in and think worthwhile. We’ve lost a lot of that really because people feel cut off by bigness and the rapid growth of today’s society. Everything seems beyond their control.”
—Robert F. Kennedy
LISTENING:“Aguas de Março,” Elis Regina & Tom Jobim. One day, I’m going to make a list of my 10 favorite songs EVER, and this one is definitely on the list. Two way-underrated voices, together, in perhaps the best duet not coming from Marvin & Tammie or Ella & Louie — and Elis was smart enough to imitate Louie toward the end. Romantic, yet sad — epitome of saudade.
READING: “The Age of Invisible Stones”: An essay about Japan’s prophetic tsunami stones with a premise that could’ve gotten cheesy very fast, but instead is chilling. Don’t ignore our ancients!
SHOUTOUT TO: Diane, who kindly donated 100 total tacos to sponsor TWO full month of MailChango! She originally donated just 50 tacos, but I mistakenly wrote 100, and she didn’t want to make people think she’s a ranker, so added 50 more haha. Her plug again: sign this petition to ask the OCTA to grant a Business Interruption Fund to merchants on 4th Street in SanTana — like my wife — affected by the construction of its stupid OC Streetcar project. Sign it here.
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 in the News
“Ducking Racism Scandal, Orange County DA Turns to Dog Whistles”: A progressive publication gets at Todd Spitzer.
“LA Times columnist shocked Texas school shooter Salvador Ramos was Latino”: The New York Post uses a laughable headline for a story about my columna that was pretty straightforward and I found fair, but Breitbart…
“L.A. Times Columnist Surprised Texas Shooter Was Latino, Not White Supremacist”: …wasn’t as fair haha.
“Los Angeles Times Columnist Can’t Believe Texas Shooter Was Latino”: …or the Washington Free Beacon!
“Alta Journal Is a Finalist for 39 SoCal Journalism Awards”: Love my occasional musings for this fine magazine for which I serve as contributing editor!
“Today’s Headlines: Texas school shooting leaves town ‘shaken to its core’”: Another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the columna.
“Anaheimgate: Inside an expanding corruption case”: Still another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the columna.
“The Anaheim Corruption Scandal Confirms All Your Suspicions About How Stadium Deals Really Get Done”: A shoutout for my columna on the troubles in Anacrime.
“How to Cook With International Blends, Pastes, and Rubs”: My taco work is cited.
“FlowerSong Press reading at Barnes & Noble Encinitas”: I’m mentioned in a lineup of poets I’ve praised.
“Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: American carnage”: Daily Kos is still around?
“Viewpoint”: The Week excerpts a columna of mine.
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!
“Desperately seeking restaurant workers”: The Great Resignation redux.
“Tijuana’s toughest time”: And here they come again…
“L.A. mayoral candidates debate homelessness”: An abbreviated version of the KCRW-L.A. Times debate I co-moderated last Friday.
“California’s gun control wars sway the U.S.”: A rerun with a new intro by me.
“A visit to Vancouver’s safe injection site”: My fellow columnista Anita Chabria goes to Canada.
“Grítale a Guti”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all brings on the DESMADRE.
“Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu resigns under FBI investigation; Angel Stadium sale on hold”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about my beloved hometown of Anacrime.
“La Red Santanera”: I appear on Radio Santa Ana’s interview show along with my co-authors to talk our co-book.
“The Battle of 187”: Latino USA rebroadcasts the podcast I did with them a couple of years ago about the infamous California proposition.
“Eclipsed”: I appear on this podcast to talk burritos!
“Column: A Latino-on-Latino mass shooting. What now?”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna talks about our latest mass shooting. KEY QUOTE: “When I found out that the person who killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday was named Salvador Rolando Ramos, my stomach dropped.”
“This Memorial Day, East L.A.’s Mexican American war monument turns 75”: My next latest LA Times newsletter offers a brief history of the All Wars Memorial in Cinco Puntos. KEY QUOTE: “For 75 years here on Memorial Day or near that holiday, the living have remembered those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
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