Category Archives: Podcast

An Ohio Farmer: Trump, Dope, Jobs & PC

A DREAMLAND PODCAST – John Russell is 26 and an organic farmer, raising melons in rural Ohio, not far from Columbus. This year he ran for the Ohio state legislature as a Democrat – and lost badly.headshot-1

I had the chance to talk with Russell today.

We had a wide-ranging  conversation, about his decision to go into farming, about his campaign, about Donald Trump, as well as job loss and opiate addiction in America’s Heartland, PC culture, the challenges Democrats face in rural areas.

He’s one of the few, it seems, to go away to college then return to a rural community. So many towns have lost young people to the cities where the jobs are.

We talked about that as well, and about what happened to guys on his high school football team.

This is the first interview I did like this, via Skype, so I’m still working out the kinks, and there are a few buzzes and etc. So please bear with me.

Meanwhile, contact him at, and follow him on Twitter: @JCruss



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Filed under Dreamland, Podcast, The Heroin Heartland

An interview with RWR, “…the hell you know about the 740?”

Last week, as I was busy working on my book about opiates in America, I was amazed to see the reaction to a rough-hewn video from some guys from Portsmouth, Ohio known as RWR (Raw Word Revival).

The song they put out, “What the Hell You Know About the 740?”, describes the several crises their town has lived in for decades — and describes a lot of heartland America as well.images-1

Among them, Portsmouth was ground zero in the opiate epidemic that is now sweeping the country. I’ve been there four times for the book: twice to hear about the degradation that took place with economic decline and the rise of prescription pill use; twice to hear the stories of how Portsmouth is emerging from that hell and a recovery community is forming.

I hope to return a fifth time.

What I found electric about the RWR video was that it was not a celebration of thuggery. Instead it was journalism — a description of what these guys had grown up in, using Portsmouth as the video backdrop — and a call to rebirth for their images-11hometown.

I suspect Bruce Springsteen and Merle Haggard would find a lot to value in the RWR and their song.

Plus it was DIY all the way, and, as a fan of early punk rock that pioneered DIY attitudes, I thought it looked great.

Anyway, five of the nine members of RWR  took some time to talk to me about the group, the song, the reaction and more. Portsmouth born and raised, they are: Clint “Random” Askew, Nick “Big Mung” Mungle, Donricko “D’Gree” Greene, Barry “B.E.Z.” Munyon, Justin “JLew” Lewis. (Others in the group include Lexxy “Riide R Diie” Jackson, David Packard, Arrick “Lil Mont” Montgomery and Angelo “Anjo” Jackson) rwr8

You can listen to them at the link above or download it.

Check out their story. Tell me yours. Leave it in Comments.

Meanwhile, you can read the fantastic comments so many left on earlier posts I did last week.

And follow me: On Twitter.  On Facebook.

Here’s my website:


More posts from True Tales: A Reporter’s Blog:

From the 740: An addict talks about poetry and dope

What the Hell You Know About the 740?

Here’s what I know about the 7-4-0

Where have you seen the 740?

I who am your Mother … The Virgin of Guadalupe


Filed under Culture, Drugs, Podcast, The Heroin Heartland

PODCAST: Oystein Baadsvik and Tuba Civil Rights

Oystein Baadsvik is the only tuba player in the world to make his living entirely from solo performances, his own CDs and master classes.

For the last 20 years, he has been expanding the possibilities of the world’s largest brass instrument, and reshaping the way it’s viewed by the public, as well as by the musicians who play it.

(Listen to an interview with Oystein Baadsvik, tuba virtuoso and creative spirit.)

A Norwegian by birth, Baadsvik, 46, now spends 200 days a year traveling, preaching tuba creativity and the limitlessness of an instrument born more than a century ago into accompanist captivity.

I met Baadsvik before a master class he was to give one night at the University of Southern California — itself a center of tuba effervescence. (It’s where the late Tommy Johnson taught and turned out dozens of professional tuba players; and it’s where Jim Self now teaches and continues to educate the tubists of tomorrow.)

Close to a hundred students filled the class later that evening — most of them tuba players.

During our interview, we spoke about Baadsvik’s life as a tuba soloist, the limitations other non-players have imposed on the tuba, how tuba players have subconsciously accepted these limitations, and whether a tuba civil rights movement has formed to lead the instrument out from the back of the band.

“Playing a tuba is always crossing borders, doing stuff that hasn’t been done before,” he said.

Anyway, hope you enjoy an interview with a creative spirit.

The pieces on the podcast are:

First, “Dancing with a Blue Ribbon” from his new CD, Ferry Tales.

“Winter” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” from his first CD, Tuba Carnival.

Finally, “Fnugg,” also from Tuba Carnival.


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Filed under Culture, Podcast

PODCAST: Juan Gutierrez, Oaxacan baker in Santa Monica

Juan Gutierrez, Oaxacan baker in Santa Monica

Welcome to a new feature of my blog — podcast interviews — which I hope to do more of.

The first one is a conversation with Juan Gutierrez, a Zapotec Indian from Oaxaca. His Panaderia Antequera in Santa Monica is believed to be the first Oaxacan-owned business in the L.A. area, opening in the late 1980s.

The conversation is about his arrival here, working at Shakey’s, and opening his bakery — a piece of oral history of a people’s move north.

These last few years a mini-boom in Oaxacan owned businesses has been underway in L.A., spurred by several factors: the idea many have now that they’re not going to be returning home; the size of the Oaxacan immigrant consumer market in L.A.; and a general dispelling of the fear and intimidation with which many Oaxacans, formerly campesinos, viewed business.

The interview is in Spanish and runs about 24 minutes.

I’m hoping to talk to more folks like Mr. Gutierrez, pioneers, people with interesting stories — as well as authors of books that are relevant to the themes of this blog.

Feel free to suggest some.

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Filed under Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants, Podcast, Southern California