Canto CCCLII: Woke Jokes Broke the Blokes


Or: Get Busy Saving

May 18, 2024

Gentle cabrones:

He was a legend in his field, someone whom I originally covered, then got to know as a friend. Someone who was always great, but who kept getting better with age.

We met at Alta Baja Market — hadn’t seen each other in years. I would send over a bunch of people to him, because he helped me out a long time ago in a fundamental way.

He loved the food. He loved my work. We caught up. Then the conversation turned to politics.


We just can’t say what we feel anymore, he claimed. Young people are too woke. California is broken. Things just ain’t how they used to be. He must’ve rattled off “woke” a dozen times in less than five minutes. Ridiculed Latinx as well, because of course.

This was someone who at one point was more liberal than me, and who probably considers himself one still, in the Dark Web sense. Yet all I heard was rage. Annoyance. Fear. Bitterness.

And then it happened again with another legend.

This guy didn’t know who I was, but I definitely knew who he was. We spoke together in front of students. I told him what an honor it was to even be in the same room as him, and I meant it. I impressed him with my knowledge of his work. Not arrogant at all, despite his pedigree — but definitely old-school.

TOO old-school.

He went on a giant rant against — yep! — woke culture. We just can’t write what we feel anymore, he insisted. He was so fixated on the Left supposedly censoring all thought that the students — who were probably liberal but definitely not wokosos because of the class subject, which doesn’t exactly draw that type of people — became uncomfortable at this old man yelling at a cloud. Not even the gentle prods of myself and the professor who invited us could move the legend away from his path down his pathetic rabbit hole.

And then I just read it this morning with yet another legend.

Old legends never die; they just whine away.

SpongeBob says: Hang in there!

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It’s sad to see people you’ve known forever — people you know and respect and love — devolve into the very thing they long decried.

It happens.

We all change, one way or another. But I never understood why people like to melt into a swamp of whining about how things aren’t how they used to be and that these days are doomed.

What’s the takeaway from The Shawshank Redemption? Get busy living, or get busy dying.

I’d add another point: Get busy saving the dying.

I still talk to the former legend; I’ll probably never talk to the latter legend, just because he’s on another level and we just happened to be at the same panel. But I have not canceled them from my lives just because I don’t like where they’re at today.

People who cleave off other people from their lives just because they don’t like what the other has turned into says more about the former than the latter. Throwing away the past just because of the present is immature, self-defeating, not how societies thrive.

Hubristic, too. There but for the grace of God goes you, after all.

So what does one do? I don’t accept the rants of the former legend. I listen, smile, let them vent, and then move on to better things. If the person goes too off the proverbial rails, I come armed with facts to refute them.

If they don’t want to listen? Not going to change how I feel about them — but maybe we don’t hang out as much anymore. But we continue to hang out, because the good times will always outweigh the bad — and the good times can return.

Maybe it’s masochistic of me to look at relationships this way, but I always remember the good times. I always remember the fundamental good in the person, which is still there under the layers of bad that have built up. Layers can be spiked through; layers can be removed.

But it takes time and commitment and love, which I’m always willing to do. Too many don’t alas.

Sorry for the extra emo rambling this week, and the brevity. It’s been a crazy May — both good and bad. And May’s not over yet. But had to fire off this one, because it’s weighed on me ever since my encounters, and I had to say something quick.

Time to talachear. Time to pray. Time to listen and love.

Get busy loving, or get busy dying.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

No soup when I went because the produce guy was late, which means they make the soup fresh daily #respect

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Italian sandwich, Greek salad, and zucchini bread at Café Rose Express in Costa Mexico. Someone associated with the restaurant invited me long ago, which meant I finally showed up unannounced last week. GREAT food made incredible by the fact they’re based in an office park. I hope the person still subscribes to my cantos — y si no? Their loss!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I started at the top and worked my way down” — Orson Welles (I try not to tie my weekly quotes to the subject of that week’s canto, but if ever there was a tie-in…)

LISTENING: Corazón de Tejas,” Banda El Recodo. A great song, but not El Recodo’s greatest song — but I include it because it was only a couple of years ago that I realized it was an instrumental version of “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” which is a whatever song! Leave it to sinaloenses to elevate the Lone Star State haha.

READING: LA's seminarians fend off Team Priests in annual matchup”: Speaking of anti-woke warriors, I’m no fan of Archbishop José H. Gomez, but the L.A. Archdiocese’s Angelus News publication does a great job of covering Angeleno Catholic life. Right now, they’re doing short profiles of new priests, which led me to this wonderful 2023 story.

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 Events  

May 18, 7 p.m. AKA TONIGHT: The Mark Taper Forum will hold a reading of The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, a legendary play based on the transcript of a federal trial against Catholic activists that saw them jailed for their activism against the Vietnam War (you’re going to have to go to see what they did). I’ve been asked to give a talk after the reading about the play and its times — WHOA… it’s sold out, so see you tonight, insha’Allah!

May 31, 11:30 a.m.: I’ll be part of a panel about the OC media landscape as part of OC Forum. At the Irvine Hyatt. Cheapest ticket is $125 — WTF?

June 6, 7:30 p.m.: I will be the emcee for the Exposé Awards, the annual gala on behalf of the fine news nonprofit Capital & Main held at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA. Tickets ain’t cheap, but don’t be a cheapskate — it’s a damn fundraiser, and you get to see me do my best Billy Crystal impersonation. Buy TODAY.

Gustavo in the News

Octavio Cuadras is making musica Mexicana more upbeat with ‘Corridos Felices’”: An L.A. Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a columna of mine.

I’m sure I appeared in more stories this past week, but Google is doing one of their stupid de-emphasizing campaigns of their News option as I write this so I can’t find out if that’s so — BARF

Gustavo Stories 

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

OC leaders strategize after report shows homelessness spike”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” commentary deals with the reality OC has not wanted to face since forever.

"Center Theatre Group”: I prepare for my speech that’s going to happen TONIGHT with a short reel.

L.A.’s only Spanish-language children’s bookstore will soon get más grande”: My latest L.A. Times columna talks about the incredible LA Librería, which is about to reopen in their new location next month. KEY QUOTE: “Soon followed community festivals, contracts with schools to provide bilingual books and increasing fame as one of the few Spanish-language children’s bookstores in the country — and one of the only Spanish-language bookstores in Los Angeles, period.”

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