A Mexican Asks A Mexican at Changing Hands Bookstore

By Marcos Najera

Last night was a trip. Nuts-and-bolts details in a moment, but first here’s the back-story. Cindy Dach popped into her office to check in with Gustavo Arellano and me. She goes “Okay, so I know I am a Jew so you are going to have to help me with this. Na-here-ay? Nah-hair-oh?” And I’m all “NAH-head-uh” She goes “nah-HADE-uh.”

And then Gustavo goes (with perfectly rolled R’s) “NAH-heda.” I straight-up squealed “Oh, nice! Good job Mexican! But don’t do that again, you are giving me a hard-on.” [Queue: Record needle scratching to a stand-still] The dude totally froze, eyes all buggin’. Cindy shrieked. That’s right people. This Mexican managed to say the one thing on the planet to the one dude that anyone on the planet can say anything/ask anything of/to the one dude that you’d think has heard it all. Apparently he never heard that. God bless me. Only I wield that power. You think I would have asked Gustavo Arellano to suck it in front of the pope. It was kinda funny, kinda not. But that’s how last night started.

Here’s the set-up. The scene was Tempe’s Changing Hands Bookstore. Friday night. The event: A Mexican Asks a Mexican. Cool ass Cindy Dach, the store’s marketing director, asked me to come and interview OC Weekly Columnist Gustavo Arrellano in front of a live audience. Gustavo writes the wildly popular nationally-syndicated column ¡Ask A Mexican! (And don’t play, I had to stare at my keyboard for an extra second right to try and remember how to type an upside down exclamation point.) It was a lot of fun. And the turnout was grand. Gustavo is smart, delightful and a big ol’ nerd like me.

Biggest lesson learned: the hierba is always mas verde alli. More on that later.

But first….

You can tell Gustavo talks about his column, and new-ish book, quite a lot. Dude is smoove. We bandied about all kinds of topics for about an hour non-stop. At one point, I asked him “Gustavo, has anyone every stumped you with a qaestion?” He goes “Please! You can’t stump the Mexican. No. No one has.!” OMG, I totally wanted to bust out with our behind the scenes tete-a-tete where I didn’t stump him, yet he looked mortified that I might offer to shtoop him. (Even though that was the furthest thing on my mind.)

While I work to square that odd circle, I have to share with you that my favorite Q&A came afterwards when I chilled with Gustavo in the Changing Hands café for a post-mortem chisme session. I slurped some lobster bisque with a soy iced tea and he inhaled a piece of carrot cake and lemonade.

I may have shocked him with my earlier hard-on, but he shocked me with his candid confessional. Despite the enormous success of his column and his book and all his fantastical public appearances, dude wants to do what I do. Straightforward radio reporting. What a trip! That’s perfect because I want to have enormous future success with my column and my as-yet-unwritten-non-existent-book and all of my as-yet-to-be-invited fantastical public appearances. Who knew?

I now have one more stumper to ask our favorite Mexican (whom I am still tickled to have met): How can us two brown dudes switch out?

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jonathan McNamara