Joe Mathews is California & innovation editor of Zócalo Public Square, for which he writes the “Connecting California” column. Before offering his take on today’s California dream, he talked about his Oklahoma roots, sang an Eagles song, and like any true Angeleno, discussed the freeways of Southern California, in the Zócalo green room.
What’s your favorite T-shirt?
I don’t wear it often. But I have a yellow T-shirt that shows the three water towers above Okemah, Oklahoma, from which my ancestors came and where I still have family. One says “Hot,” one says “Cold,” and the third water tower says “Woody Guthrie.”
What word or phrase do you use most often?
That’s a good question. Do you have any idea? [In your writing, probably California.] I’d like to say “schadenfreude,” but I don’t think that’s true. Actually, you know what? The word or phrase I use most often now is clearly, “Stop hitting your brother.”
What food are you most likely to binge eat?
Who’s the strangest person you’ve ever interviewed?
It’s a tie between a podiatrist in Compton—Dr. Martin Marks—and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s a profoundly strange person.
What’s your greatest vice?
Driving too fast.
What weapon would you choose if a zombie apocalypse came to California?
I would take my Prius and drive into the ocean. It’s always bothered me that in apocalypse stories California people go inland.
Where do you go to be alone?
Ever since I was a kid, I have gone up Angeles Crest Highway to some of those turnouts that are about halfway up. Should I say what I’m about to say? Those are also great places to make out.
What movie are you most likely to quote?
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
What’s the greatest baseball game you’ve attended?
I can’t choose between the two. I was lucky enough to be at Game 1 of the 1988 World Series—[Kirk] Gibson’s home run—and Game 6 of the 2002 World Series. The Angels came back from down 5-0 in the seventh inning to win and avoid elimination.
What would your theme song be?
That’s a hard one. I should have been more prepared for this. It’s the Eagles song. [Starts singing.] “Take It to the Limit.”
What’s your biggest pet peeve?