Tuesday, December 30, 2008

california blogging*: the day i met the mexican

Gustavo Arellano, the Mexican behind ¡Ask a Mexican!, had a reading and book signing in Orange County on the 18th of December. I flew home on the 17th. As soon as I found out about this reading (which was shortly before the trip), I just had to go. And I was taking Jesse with me.

On the day of the signing, I threw out an invitation to my sister in case she was interested. No, she hadn't heard of the ¡Ask a Mexican! column before (and she's not cool enough to read the OC Weekly), but Arellano also does investigative reporting for the OC Weekly on stuff going on in my home town like the attempted cover up of a sex abuse scandal at my high school, the attempted cover ups of sex abuse scandals in the local Catholic diocese, and the saga of OC's very own shady sheriff Mike Carona (actually, I think R. Scott Moxley's the lead on this story). In addition to all of this, he's also the OC Weekly's food critic.  I thought my sister would appreciate his work and find something she's interested in among the many items Arellano writes about.

She was free Thursday night so she agreed to go. Shortly before the event, somehow, my mom got roped into going as well. I didn't invite her, but since Jesse, my sister, and I were going, she might as well go too. Oh great. How embarassing!  That is so MEXICAN of us to travel in packs!

I had a feeling my mom wouldn't like the Mexican for two reasons: one--his criticism of the Catholic Church and, two--his criticism of my Catholic high school. She's so devoutly religious that there was a time when she believed that all of those people who were claiming they were sexually abused by priests were lying. All (hundreds and thousands) of them. Poor mom.

The signing was at Calacas, a cool independent store that carries lots of Mexican-inspired and themed art and clothing. The gathering was small but intimate, which was nice.

Arellano brought up a number of things during his pre-signing warm up chat. While he did touch upon his new book, Orange County: a Personal History, he spoke a lot about his column, ¡Ask a Mexican!, the ensuing book, his successful appearance on the Colbert Report, and food. His historical knowledge of Orange County and its origins was pretty impressive and I can't wait to delve into the book (my mom was kind enough to 'gift' it shortly after the reading so I could get it signed by Arellano for Xmas).

images 'borrowed' from ocweekly.com
While waiting to get my books signed (I had a paperback copy of ¡Ask a Mexican! for a friend and my hardcovers of both ¡Ask a Mexican! and Orange County), I saw that Jesse had purchased his own copy of Orange County and was in line behind me to get it signed (*swoon*). My mom was right beside me while Arellano signed the books and she asked him for his opinion on a particular restaurant. I was so glad she didn't chide him for his criticism of the Catholic Church which he did mention during his little chat (I cringed when he mentioned it--only because I knew my mom wouldn't be happy--and I turned to Jesse and whispered, "Well, he lost mom on that one."). But Catholicism aside, I think my mom saw Arellano as a local boy who had done good and was using his writing for positive and constructive change.

All in all, it was awesome to finally meet the Mexican. Having been a fan for a while, it was so cool to meet the guy behind the only column I look forward to every single week.

And it was especially nice to see that Jesse became a fan too.

*Yes, I know I'm back, but this happened while I was home! One more 'california blogging' post tomorrow.

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