Reed Johnson is the managing editor of Zócalo Public Square. He previously was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Brazil, a Los Angeles Times reporter in Mexico City, and also worked at the L.A. Daily News, The Detroit News and at the (now defunct) Times-Union in his hometown of Rochester, New York. Before moderating the panel at a Zocalo/Getty “Open Art” event titled, “What Does Blue Mean?” he talked in the green room about food, Brazil, and his Marlon Brando impression.
What was the best meal you had in Mexico?
It was one of those three-hour Mexican Saturday lunches with my wife at a place in the historic Centro. It was during the 2006 World Cup. When we went in, Mexico was up a goal on Argentina. By the time we were done, Argentina of course had won 2-1. We drowned our sorrows in tequila and chipotle.
What do you miss most about Brazil?
The warmth of the people—the lack of affectation, the kindness, the willingness to get out in the street and start dancing because people are playing samba music.
What is your greatest guilty pleasure?
Re-watching parts 1 and 2 of The Godfather. And I do a not-too-bad Brando impression. But, hey, doesn’t everybody?
What superpower would you most like to have?
The ability to help everybody understand each other on their own terms.
What dessert do you find impossible to resist?
Good Mexican flan, served late in the evening.
What salad dressing best embodies you?
Oil and good balsamic vinegar and a dash of lime and more garlic than is good for me.
Where and when did you learn how to swim?
I learned from my mother, who is the person in the world who is most comfortable in the ocean. She taught me and my sister on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Right at the moment, Los Angeles 405 traffic.
What teacher or professor changed your life, if any?
There have been so many. A couple of guys from high school, Tom Gillett, our high school newspaper advisor, and an American history teacher, Adam Urbanski. They helped me to figure out that I might actually get paid to write for a living.
What was the last thing that inspired you?
The need to earn a paycheck.