This wiki is a step-by-step example explaining how the controller, model and the view's CGridView work together. It explains simple things - as well as more complex things that you will anyway quickly have to know. So, even if you don't use dynamic gridviews, take a morning off and thoroughly work through this tutorial. It should save you lots of struggling.
Most applications will have one or two sidebars and often you want to control the content that should appear in the sidebar based on the action. For example you will want to show something different on the homepage as opposed to some view page. While achieving this you generally also want to avoid putting the layout into each view, as that would mean if you wanted to change the layout (e.g. put the sidebar on the left instead of the right or do some funky layout which requires an additional div tag to be added) you'd have to go through every view, which does not achieve good code re-use. It is also bad practice to have lots of if statements in column2 layout just so that you can generate the sidebar correctly.