Where have YOU been? A 20-year personal retrospective

Of course, no one will remember my first run as a columnist with the Pocket News back in the previous millennium. There may still be some folks in the neighborhood who were old enough to read back then, but anyone that old couldn’t possibly remember my humble musings. Suffice it to say that it is true—I did write a column that appeared in every issue of the Pocket News for a few years back in the 90’s, I had a lot of fun with it, and it won lots of awards.

Okay, that last part isn’t true, but one loyal reader did clip out a column I wrote about a River Village couple whose home had been defaced with graffiti while they were out of town, and she mailed it to Reader’s Digest. They paid me $1,000 for the right to run it in their “Heroes for Today” section, and that’s the story of how I became an “internationally-published” writer.

Lots of water has rushed under the bridge since then, and, in consideration of the fact that I’m asking you to take an interest in the things I have to say in this column in the foreseeable future, I think it’s only fitting that I fill you in on what I’ve been up to since the last time we met here in these pages.

One of the biggest things that happened in my life was that I got the idea to throw a parade here in the Pocket area. Tired of trekking down to my hometown in the Delta every year to enjoy Independence Day the way it was meant to be enjoyed, I decided to organize an annual 4th of July parade here back in 1995. Pulling that off involved more of a struggle than locals might believe. Among the many initial logistical battles I fought was the idea that the parade would take place on one side of the street while the other side was left open to allow the uninterrupted flow of traffic and avoid angering constituents. Luckily, logic prevailed, and Windbridge Drive was completely blocked off, more than 60 floats safely paraded all the way to Garcia Bend Park, and the event was well received by a community so well suited for it.

That inaugural event was, in fact, so well received that I got really chesty the following year and proposed an accompanying full-on aerial fireworks display to be held at the park the night before the parade. This idea was met with immediate and understandable resistance. After all, with so many shake roofs bordering the launch zone, the risk of fire was not unrealistic. Still, I had established a bit of a track record with community events, so I used the momentum generated by the parade to convince the powers that be to grant the permits required, and, voila, another success.

Unfortunately, the event ultimately became too successful for its own good. What started out as a wonderful evening attended strictly by Pocket/Greenhaven residents soon began to burst at the seams with spectators from all over the Sacramento region. Within five or six years of existence, we began to outgrow Garcia Bend Park, really the only facility in our community suitable for such a crowd. My solution was to skip a year. I figured we could cancel the show one year, have all those people who drive in from outlying communities show up to find nothing going on, and reap a thinned out audience the following year once word got out that the event was canceled.

Our representative at City Hall was not inclined to risk disappointing the voters in the community and insisted that the show go on without me, despite my vigorous protest. Two years later, with no steps taken to curtail the encroaching crowd, local residents—along with residents from North, South, East, and West Sacramento and beyond—witnessed the last fireworks show ever held in the Pocket. Fortunately, unlike the aerial fireworks show, the parade lives on to this day, and, every time it comes around, I think of the incredible neighbors I worked with when these events were in their heyday. I know that, by singling out a few of these folks, I run the risk of offending the many folks who gave so freely of their time and effort to make the parade and fireworks show such great successes, but I would certainly be remiss if I were not to mention the names of Vonne Matney, Joanie Johnston, and Diane Chin, all of whom did much of the actual work in bringing my ideas to fruition. You may not know them, but, if you’ve ever enjoyed a parade or a fireworks show in the Pocket, you’re in their debt.

Frequently in my old columns, I used to mention my grandparents, who lived with me at the time. They raised me from the time I was born, and when they reached a certain age, it was time for me to, more or less, return the favor. My grandfather passed away in 2005 after suffering a massive coronary in the middle of the night in our home. It was the kind of exit that didn’t allow me to say a proper goodbye, and that’s a thing that haunts me to this very moment. I think about him every day, honest to God, and I shed a tear for his absence from my life.

My grandma, bless her heart, is still alive. She turned 100 years old in May. A couple of years after my grandfather died, she began to develop dementia, and it’s pretty severe right now, so much so that I was compelled to admit her to a nearby convalescent home so that she can receive 24-hour care. This was probably the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make, and our home will forever seem empty without her. Dementia is a cruel disease. She is healthy and communicative, but she really has no idea who we are. It would have been such a blessing to be able to enjoy her ample wit and wisdom at this point in her life, but, with about a 10-second-term memory, she is unable to muster much of either.

My little son, Ruben, about whom I also wrote extensively back in the day, is now a senior in college, a living, breathing, monument to the idea that time does, indeed, fly. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper at the University of the Pacific—a better writer than his old man—and I spend a great deal of time worrying about him moving around the city of Stockton, which, well-deserved or not, seems to be featured prominently on the news every night.

In 2002, Ruben received a little sister for his 10th birthday, one Gabriella Faith Dominguez, the little miracle baby that my wife, Lisa, and I spent so many years longing for but thought we’d never have. Despite being cut from the same cloth and looking very much as though she could be Ruben’s twin, one decade removed, Gabby could not be more different than Ruben in many ways. She possesses a razor-sharp sense of humor, is pointedly opinionated, and ultra competitive. Athletically, she exhibits the killer instinct that Ruben was always too kind to wield in competition. She manages to impose her will on the field while simultaneously being the sweetest, most thoughtful, and, to me, most beautiful, girl I could ever imagine.

The last major difference in my current life that I’ll tell you about is that I began working as a Realtor right about the time that I stopped writing columns for the Pocket News. All I can say about that is that, ever since the big collapse and the ensuing foreclosure crisis in 2006, the banks have completely transformed the way we do business in the industry. It’s an unwritten rule that a Realtor should never speak ill of the market, but, after nearly 20 years in the business, I feel I’ve earned the right to say that I feel as though I’ve gone through the worst period ever in real estate in America and lived to tell about it. 
Now that we’re all caught up, I look forward to returning to telling you stories about our neighbors here in the Pocket/Greenhaven area and sharing observations about life here in our little corner of the world. What happens in, say, Vegas may stay in Vegas, but I think everyone should know about our wonderful community and the people who make it that way.

The Pocket Watch appears in every issue of The Pocket News. Jeff Dominguez can be reached at

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