Gustavo Arellano is a writer, podcast host, and columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
He moderated Zócalo’s inaugural in-person event at the ASU California Center at the Herald Examiner in downtown L.A., titled “How Do We Begin Again?” Before taking the stage, Arellano sat down in the green room to discuss his favorite taco spots, why he’d consider moving to Kentucky, and the show he loves to fall asleep to.
2022 is nearly upon us. Any New Year’s resolutions?
I hate New Year’s resolutions. For me, I just show up and do the work. Lo que pase pase; whatever happens, happens!
What was your favorite moment of 2021?
Starting "The Times” podcast. [I was] honored to be tasked with something that big—and we’re doubling our staff, so we must be doing something right!
What’s your favorite spot for tacos in L.A.?
El Ruso: Sonoran-style handmade flour tortillas, amazing carne asada—smoky and tender. And you wash it down with ToniCol, a vanilla-flavored soda from Sinaloa that comes in a plastic bottle.
I also have to shout out Cielito Lindo on Olvera Street. Just your classic double with avocado sauce—crunchy and delicious. The two places you really see L.A. come alive is at a Dodgers game and the line for Cielito Lindo.
If you had to begin again in a new place, where would you choose, and why?
Get me to Kentucky! Before the pandemic my wife and I would always take a road trip every summer to the Bluegrass State. There’s this humongous—it’s called the “world’s longest”—yard sale; think the Rose Bowl flea except over 700 miles and the quality of products is two times better, the prices three times cheaper. I also love bluegrass and bourbon. So, put me in a small town in Kentucky. My wife loves to run restaurants, so I guess I’d be a restauranteur. Just don’t put me in the kitchen!
Who has your Netflix login?
I don’t have Netflix. I’ll go to sleep usually to KPFK, especially during the weekdays. They have Spanish-language shows that are really good. Friday nights are my favorite nights of sleep because around 11 o’clock at night [it plays] the most boring show in the world, “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!,” so I’ll fall asleep in five minutes and sleep like a baby.
What do you find most beautiful about the world?
Humans. As ugly and disgusting and vile as we are, I always say that the two traits that we have that makes us human are humor and hope. When we do not have humor and hope we cease to exist as a people. That’s what wakes me up every morning. I get up and think to myself: How can I better the world this day, and what’s going to be the stupid GIF I’m going to Tweet out today?
If you had to wear one pair of pants for the rest of your life, what material would they be made of?
Dickies. They’re strong, classic, and you can crease ‘em up. It speaks about the world I grew up in, the people I grew around with, and also the economics. I remember buying Dickies at swap meets or Korean-run t-shirt outlets. It’s not even happy memories, it’s just where I buy my freakin’ Dickies! Working class, nothing fancy. More for me it’s durability. I will wear my clothes until I can’t wear them anymore, and then I’ll just wear them at home.
What’s the worst freeway in Southern California?
The thing is with me I don’t mind traffic because I’ll just put on Howard Stern or listen to Sirius XM. I will say I’m disappointed in the 105. When I was going to UCLA about 20 years ago—I graduated in 2003—if I got on the 105 at 3 o’clock, it was a straight shot home. Now you get on at 1:30 and forget it, it’s already packed! The 105 used to be cool.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
I don’t do karaoke but I do love to sing. My favorite band of all time is The Beatles, I can sing most Beatles songs. When the pandemic started, I did an Instagram live called “Grítale a Guti,” which means “shout out Gustavo,” where I inevitably would start singing something. I have an Instagram follower who will promote my “Grítale a Guti” appearances every Tuesday night at 9:45 and he’ll put my singing along with the actual song and it’s almost seamless. One time I was singing an old song from Memories of El Monte, the compilation by Art Laboe, called “You Cheated, You Lied.” I guess that would be my karaoke song: “You Cheated, You Lied” by The Shields.