A local environmental group recently endorsed Eddie Alvarez, though it also called him “rough around the edges.” Alvarez is running for a position on the Santa Rosa City Council, which meets a short distance from 817 Russell Avenue, the location of The Hook, his cannabis dispensary, which serves the Latino community more than any other in the region.
“I’m not an angel,” Eddie tells me, and, while that seems to be true, he also has angelic qualities, including a deep-seated desire to help people who are on the edge and in the margins.
Twelve years ago, he was arrested on bogus charges at 1:30am in Rohnert Park. The black Cadillac he was driving might have caught the eye of cops looking for an easy mark. Also, Eddie might have been a target of racial profiling. All charges have been dropped.
Born and raised on Boyd Street in southwest Santa Rosa, he smoked his first joint, he says, at age 4, and learned about the medicinal benefits of cannabis from a great-grandmother who combined weed with alcohol to make a tincture good for fevers and arthritis.
Eddie’s dad worked as a dishwasher for much of his life, his mom as a waitress in a restaurant. For his first job, Eddie woke at 4am and headed for a vineyard where he carried buckets filled with grapes. For lunch he enjoyed bean tacos and hot chocolate.
He might have gone to one of the big high schools in Santa Rosa, but, as he tells me, “Trouble followed me around.” He went to a “continuation school” where a teacher gave him a copy of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless me, Ultima, a brilliant coming-of-age novel which traces the life of Antonio Márez y Luna, a Chicano kid, and a wise older woman known as “La Grande.”
It would be an exaggeration to say that the novel totally transformed Eddie, though it certainly helped him refocus. At Heald Business College, he earned an AA in Business Software Applications. “I wanted to make a million dollars and needed to learn the value of a dollar,” he tells me. He adds, “As a community we have to move from survival mode to thrive mode.”
At Hook Dispensary, which hooks up strangers and turns them into friends, and where “the driver is the customer and the people set the tone,” Eddie has exceeded his own expectations. A vote for him Nov. 3 is a vote for District One, which includes South Park and Roseland—the heart of the Latino community. It’s also a vote for Santa Rosa and its future.
Jonah Raskin is the author of “Dark Past, Dark Future: A Tioga Vignetta Murder Mystery.”