I’m sure I have told you, probably more than once, how happy I am to live in Gonzales. The people here are just a little nicer than any other town I have ever lived in. I’m sure you agree that you can’t really run out of places that will help you with any problem you might have.
Take my neighbor, Juan. He and his family moved here about 10 to 12 years ago. I can’t remember exactly what I thought he did because he was always outside working on his yard or driving away in his cool pickup. He had some really nice sounding mufflers.
The other thing I noticed about him and his entire family is that you never saw them just sitting around. They were always working on some project. I found out that he and his wife have a catering business, where they will come to your house or venue and cook tacos and beans and put on a spread that can’t be beat.
I took the photos of their daughter when she was celebrated on her 15th birthday at what is called a quinceanera. I didn’t charge them, even when they were trying to force the money upon me, because of something he did. On Christmas, their first year here, as I was opening presents from my loved ones, I heard a sound that didn’t seem appropriate for the time of day or season.
I walked outside to investigate and here he was mowing my lawn. Not just my lawn, but the lawns of all the folks that live in our little cul-de-sac. I can’t just write about how great that was. His family has always made everyone in our little part of the world feel a little bit better.
Lorraine and I were the very first family to move into the cul-de-sac we call home. The neighbors to the left of us were a young married couple who had a really cool business. They worked out of a rented space in Salinas making containers out of chocolate for fancy restaurants to serve desserts. Unfortunately, most of their business customers lived on the East Coast.
Since I was brokering produce at that time and most of my customers were also on the East Coast, I tried to help him get space on a truck carrying my product to save him some money on shipping, but my drivers didn’t like the idea that they might be liable for any of the little chocolate containers. They lived next to us for about two years and then they bought a house in North Carolina right next to the highway. They hated to leave, but they had to make a living.
The neighbors to the right of me moved in shortly. Raul, Lupe and his family were a welcome addition to our little corner of the world. Raul worked for a store that sold farming and harvesting supplies for a very old vegetable company in Salinas. His kids were very close in ages to my boys and so an instant relationship was built up. Unfortunately, Lupe has since passed and is missed everyday. But now his son and their children live next door.
The one thing I really remember about Raul is that he loved to barbecue. He would whip up a bunch of carne asada and we had a permanent invitation to drop in. Raul would be sitting at his table with a plate full of seared vegetables and peppers.
Now I’m not a fan of peppers. In fact, I don’t even know what kind of peppers he was eating. I had tried one time to eat them as Raul seemed to really like them, that didn’t work at all. I’m sure I would not eat another of his peppers. The funny thing about all this is that Raul would be sitting there smiling and talking with everyone and sweat would be rolling down his face and chest. It was funny as heck, and even Raul would laugh.
The next family that moved into my little corner of the world would be right across from me, a handsome retired couple and their children. Their children were older than mine, and so it wasn’t like we all got together on Monday night for the football game or anything. However, I will never forget the warmth and love that was shown on the morning of Sept. 11. All the children of the cul-de-sac came out and we all prayed together that the world wouldn’t end that day or anytime soon.
Then came Juan and his wife Anna along with their two beautiful daughters. The girls were younger than my boys, but now that I’m mentioning them, I might add that after all this time they are now parents themselves.
We are like any neighborhood; we share a lot of things and occasionally there is a bump in the road, but it is nothing that we might remember after a couple of days. I can’t really remember any time that there were any bumps in our roads. We have shared the bounty of our valley with each other. We helped to start a car occasionally, and because I used to be a locksmith, we have helped each other get into a car.
I wanted to write this week about my cul-de-sac as it is my little bit of Heaven here on earth. Not just the neighborhood, but all the people that I have met and become good friends with. I am a puttering man. I am always making things or working on my truck or lawn mower. I’ve never felt awkward when I ask for help because I know that any one of these folks would help me if I needed any.
It has been a real treat to watch the kids around me to grow up and bring their kids back to the neighborhood. In all the years we have lived here, we have lost Lupe to a mysterious illness and my next door neighbor Hugo was lost to Covid. A terrible loss, as he was just retired and had built a home for he and his wife down south. I miss him everyday because he would always say to me when we were out mowing our lawns or washing our cars, “Hey George, don’t worry, be happy.”
I try to remember those words every time I start to get down about anything. I could fill this periodical with stories about all the wonderful folks that I have met and the kids I have watched grow up. Gonzales is my little part of Heaven on earth.