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Gustavo Arellano


1. What character in a movie or book do you most identify with?
Actually, a television show: Larry David’s character in his show. Like him, I get it from all sides: at work from the idiots I expose, from friends for my work, with my family because of how I dress, and with my girlfriend because of how I dress and act!
2. What do you do to relax?
Play Grand Theft Auto IV on XBox360. Or, read a book.
3. Favorite vacation spot?
Since I’m such a workaholic, I haven’t taken a proper vacation since going to Mexico in 2001. But the beauty of touring for my book or doing the lecture circuit is that I’m getting to visit a lot of the United States. My favorite places by far are Denver and New York City—the friendliness in the former, the hustle and bustle of the latter. Besides, you gotta love a city where jaywalking is not only allowed but encouraged.
4. Where haven't you been that you're dying to go?
Cambodia—I hear amazing things about the country. Plus, some of the best music ever created was 1960s-era Cambodian garage rock—I want to do a story on the music some day. See? I can’t even go on vacation without thinking of working!
5. What's your next major goal in life?
To start teaching journalism at local colleges. Time to brainwash young minds with the ideals I’ve learned at the Weekly.
6. Who had the biggest influence on your life?
My parents. My dad came to this country in the trunk of a Chevy with a fourth grade education, while my mother dropped out of school in ninth grade to pick strawberries, then work at the old Hunt-Wesson cannery in Fullerton. They still live their lives in Spanish despite living in this country for more than 40 years. Yet they instilled in me a sense of justice, hard work, and the mandate to help out others. Also, Will Swaim, the founder of the Weekly—if anyone talks to him, tell him I say hola.
7. Favorite drink?
The sugarcane drink at Nuoc Mia Vien Tay, 14370 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, (714) 531-9801. Made from fresh sugarcane on the spot, it’ll refresh you better than any chemical-heavy power booster drink could ever hope to—plus, a big cup costs you less than two bucks.
8. Favorite restaurants in Orange County?
Whichever one I’m about to review for my This Hole-in-the-Wall Life column for the OC Weekly. I do want to give a plug for Avanti Café, 259 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 548-2224. In addition to making this carnivore appreciate the virtues of vegetarianism, they offer a three-course international-themed dinner every Tuesday for a bit over $11.
9. Last major purchase?
27 boxes of Orange County history books, ranging from cookbooks written by churches to two beat-up-but-original copies of the classic Shadows of Old Saddleback. Got it from an old Santa Ana book seller who wanted to get out of the business. One of the best bargains I’ve come across.
10. Dumbest investment?
The time I bought a 40GB iPod, and the 80GB came out a week later. I’m still angry at Apple for that...
11. A famous person you love to meet?
I actually got to meet him a couple of weeks ago—Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher that the Angels stupidly let go after 1979. He was everything I thought he would be—soft-spoken, a gentleman, but very much a Texan throwback.
12. Biggest accomplishment?
Having two books released by a major publishing house (Scribner) before I was 30.
13. What's your biggest fear?
That I will not be able to be there for those that I love.
14. Who is your favorite artist?
I’m very lowbrow when it comes to visual arts—to me, R. Crumb is my Picasso. I’m a much-bigger fan of photography—I think Henri Cartier-Bresson took the most gorgeous images ever, while WeeGee embodied for me all that is exciting about journalism.
15. If you had to begin a different career, what would you do?
I still want to do it—be a professor at a community college or university. Journalism, history, Chicano Studies—whatever! Chapman University and Orange Coast College (my alma maters)--are you listening?!
16. Secret most people don't know about you?
I'm painfully shy.
17. Who is your favorite fictional character?
Pretty Boy Floyd--but only in the hagiography painted by Woody Guthrie, not the reality of the bank robber.
18. Your biggest extravagance?
Buying a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado convertible from my managing editor. Near-mint condition, it gets about 5 miles to the gallon but draws eyes wherever it goes. And when you put the top down and blast the oldies but goodies, life is perfect.
19. What's your favorite CD?
Not a fair question--too many to list! So I'll choose one: Antonio Aguilar con Tambora. Aguilar was the Bing Crosby of Mexico--someone who could effortlessly glide across musical genres. In this case, he sings backed by a tamborazo, a mestizo version of Bavarian oomph-pah music.
20. What was the best day in your life?
Walking down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in 2006, just after a taping of the Today Show for my ¡Ask a Mexican! column, going to meet the man who’s now my book agent. That day, seeing snow on the ground for the first time, I knew my life was never going to be the same—and for the better.

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