THE POCKET WATCH: What I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving, Greenhaven/Pocket edition

Shown here are students from the John F. Kennedy marching band taken during the homecoming parade, which was held on Friday, Oct. 17. The sounds of the band practicing in the evenings often provide neighbors with free concert music. Photo by Monica Stark

Shown here are students from the John F. Kennedy marching band taken during the homecoming parade, which was held on Friday, Oct. 17. The sounds of the band practicing in the evenings often provide neighbors with free concert music. Photo by Monica Stark

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve poured my heart out plenty of times in this column. Maybe too many times. I didn’t want my Thanksgiving edition to be too personal and sappy—I mean, obviously, I’m thankful for my wife and kids, but I always write about that—so I thought I would confine my discussion of the things for which I’m most thankful to items with which most of us are familiar, items that are strictly related to life here in the Pocket/Greenhaven community.

For example, I’m thankful for the John F. Kennedy High School Marching Band. My wife used to joke that the marching band at Kennedy practices more than the football team. But her joke might just be true. We live close enough to the school that, most every clear-weather evening, if we open the windows, we can hear faint echoes of the wonderful music they make. There is some sort of electronic metronome that the band uses to help keep time. It makes a steady “ping-ping-pinging” sound that’s very distinctive and uniquely audible, I suppose, so that it can be heard above the instruments. When we hear that pinging sound, we slide open the patio doors. We know we’re in for a concert.

I’m also thankful for the new Z Pizza. Actually, I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s a very nice place. My son, who has somehow become a beer connoisseur since his college graduation (as opposed to the chugger his old man was during his college days) says they have great pizza and lots of tasty beers, along with a unique system for serving it. He and his friends love to meet there to watch sporting events and just be together. I’m thankful for Ruben’s circle of friends, but I’m also thankful that they a nice, upscale, place to meet that doesn’t require a trip downtown.

I’m thankful for the Taco Bell in the shopping center at Florin and Riverside, particularly for their “Happy Hour.” After picking up Gabby from school, I can usually be found making a “run for the border” to pick up a freeze for the bargain price of $1 and, sometimes, a snack to accompany it. Before gabby started school, I used to do the same with Ruben. We’d sit at the bar in Rainbow’s End and have a milkshake and a piece of cake or pie and just chat. It’s just a little thing we do, but I’ve learned that the little, ordinary, things make for the best memories. Incidentally, if you ever stop at Taco Bell for a happy hour freeze, I recommend the “Baja Blast.”

The strangest thing happens to me most nights at around 11 p.m. I somehow get a craving for a particular snack, or I somehow remember this or that thing I forgot to pick up for use the next day. When this happens, I usually talk Ruben into joining me for a late-night dash over to the Walgreens on the corner, across from the Shell station. They seem to have everything I tend to need, from flash drives to fingernail clippers, posterboard to pistachios, Band-aids to batteries. I’m thankful to have this kind of store nearby and for the cashiers who somehow manage to remain cheery at an hour when I know they’d rather be home fast asleep.

Here’s a quick(er) list of additional Greenhaven/Pocket-related items that have earned my gratitude at Thanksgiving: 

Sunsets over the river. I was raised on this river. In fact, I could throw a rock from my bedroom window directly into the Sacramento River. I’m thankful for the enduring beauty of the sunsets here, and for the many warm memories of my youth that they always conjure.

I’m thankful for the Machaca Dinner at Rosalinda’s. When I find myself missing my grandma’s cooking, I can always wander in and order this meal. Of course, it’s not exactly like Grandma used to make, but it’s darn close.

I’m also thankful for all the beautiful parkways and bike and walking paths that weave around the exact spot where I live. Unfortunately, I don’t use them nearly enough, and I’ve got to resolve to do something about that. New Year’s Day is coming… maybe then!

I’m thankful for Gary at Ace Hardware. For years, Don Weathers was my go-to guy there, but since Don retired, I’ve come to enjoy chatting with Gary. He probably doesn’t even know my name, but he’s the most helpful, cheerful, hardware clerk you could ask for. And he also knows a thing or two about college sports.

Once we decided that the logistical challenge involved with getting to the only church where we felt truly comfortable (in Rancho Cordova) was preventing us from attending consistently, Lisa and I began a long and exhaustive search to find a church here that we could call home. I am absolutely positive that there are many, many, wonderful churches nearby, but finding the right fit is such a highly subjective thing. Like Goldilocks, we found just the right spot for our family at Faith Presbyterian. I grew up in a fire and brimstone, holy rolling, family. My present preferences are a bit more dialed back. Thoughtful, intelligent, understated, and funny, Pastor Jeff Chapman simply strikes the right chord with me. It’s so important for a family to have a spiritual base, and I’m thankful that we were able to find one so close and so apropos.

I’m thankful for everyone who has worked so diligently to keep the tradition of the Pocket 4th of July Parade running. In 1995, I got the idea to hold a parade here so that I wouldn’t have to drag my son down to the Delta every year, where they do the 4th up right. Together with some dear friends and neighbors, we kept it going until a variety of factors compelled me to step away. Linda Pohl and another great group of volunteers have managed to carry the torch since then, and no one knows as well as I how much work is involved in keeping this labor of love going.

Realizing that I have failed miserably at making my list quicker, there are a few other things I just have to mention, so I’ll do so with a level of brevity that most people would think impossible for me.

I’m thankful for: the fertile Earth literally in our backyard; Pocket Next Door, a website that allows me to be Gladys Kravitz without so much as having to peek through the living room window curtain; the safety of our neighborhood; the firefighter from Station 11 who hugged me when my grandfather died—thanks, I needed that; my dear buddy Wayne Novoa, a local treasure whom I met through youth sports here in the Pocket. Anyone who knows Wayne knows that there is no one in the world like him. He has been a source of endless fun and positivity for me, personally, and his sense of community is unparalleled; the Freeport Water Tower. I just like it. It’s such a unique landmark, and when I see it, I know that I’m home; the Delta breeze in the summertime. E.E. Cummings once wrote a poem about rain “bouncing off of the burned Earth” and “wandering deeply through the God-thanking ground.” That’s how my face feels on a hot summer day when the Delta breeze finally hits it in the evening.

There’s no feeling quite like that, and no sentiment quite as satisfying as gratitude. My fondest hope for all my friends and neighbors is that they, too, have an exhaustive list for which to be thankful this holiday season.

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

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