Friday, May 20, 2011

John Geluardi: Reppin' the 510

Fanatical readers of this blog will recall that I edited Cannabiz, John Geluardi's book on the medical marijuana business. That snappy little read was an eye-opener for me, largely because I was so accustomed to the policy and law enforcement angles on the weed meme. John convinced me that the big story belonged in Forbes and Fortune. Not unlike Indian gaming 15 years ago, medical marijuana is on the glide path to big bucks and mainstream acceptance.

John's back with the cover story in the current issue of the East Bay Express, the alternative weekly based in Oakland. It features my adopted city of Richmond--by coincidence, perhaps, the opening setting in Cannabiz. I moved here a year ago, and my little house stands a couple miles from the El Cerrito neighborhood of my misspent youth.

John's article, "The Man Behind Richmond's Renaissance," is a nice turn of events for this often overlooked city. As the article notes, what little media attention Richmond has attracted is usually related to its violent crime. And now that I think about it, the only bit of popular-culture status Richmond has secured for itself is the (largely negative) portrait in "Coach Carter," the Hollywood film starring Samuel L. Jackson as Richmond High basketball coach Ken Carter. (I played with Kenny on the 1977 Contra Costa County All-Stars; another teammate was Stan Van Gundy, now head coach of the Orlando Magic.)

John's piece indicates that Richmond's fortunes are beginning to improve, and much of the credit is going to city manager Bill Lindsay. Check it out, I say.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

David Gans at SF State

A couple weeks ago, David Gans graciously agreed to visit our California Culture class at San Francisco State and talk about the Grateful Dead. David hosts at least three radio programs on the Dead (Sirius XM, KPFA, and his syndicated show) and has been writing about the band for decades.

The course materials and discussions prepared us well for his remarks. We had already covered Kerouac, Kesey, and the San Francisco counterculture generally. But our Q & A followed by David's performance of his original song, "Who Killed Uncle John?" was especially successful this time. You just can't beat live conversation and music, and the student reception was gratifying. Here are some excerpts from their informal responses:

"I felt like David Gans was the best guest speaker ever. He had such a genuine passion for what he was talking about, and he was a true authority."

"David Gans' presentation last week was a lot of fun ... It was satisfying to me to see his success in pursuing a career in an area that he truly felt passionate about."

"I really enjoyed David Gans' visit to our class ... You should definitely continue to invite him to your classes. His song at the end, 'Who Killed Uncle John?' was the perfect way to end the class!"

"That was awesome hearing what David had to say about the band. I really enjoyed it."

"Plus he brought his guitar! Awesome!"

"I thought he was a wonderful guest speaker. It seemed to me he was really connected with music in such a deep way ... He explained how people used to get together and just listen. It made [music] a shared experience instead of an individual one."

"Man, what a really great experience. Having absolutely zero knowledge or interest in the Grateful Dead, Gans' eloquent and insightful expanse of knowledge of the Grateful Dead and the culture and circumstances surrounding them truly opened my eyes to a margin of music history that I never thought I'd be able to relate to or care about."

"I enjoyed hearing about the Grateful Dead, but my favorite thing that happened while he was there was his song. It was so amazing! Thanks for bringing him. :)"

"His discussion was incredibly interesting ... Even David's own music was extremely motivating, and I cannot wait to listen to his radio show on KPFA. Thanks again for having him come speak."

"Meeting David last week was as engaging as it was enthralling. He is literally a link to a very unique and integral part of California history."

"'I served the man who served his art' was a very powerful line in David Gans' song. I enjoyed the sentiment of the line as it symbolized his loyalty to the artist. This loyalty was contradicted by the notion of all the other individuals in Garcia's life who seemed to slowly drain the life out of him."

"David's song, 'Who Killed Uncle John?' was such a great experience. Before last class, I had no idea who David Gans was, but as I told my friends about him, many knew just who he was. He was even on iTunes!"