Valley Voices

The ‘go to’ neighbor on the block

Jorge and Doreen are the glue that holds together their neighborhood unity.
Jorge and Doreen are the glue that holds together their neighborhood unity. Contributed by Sevag Tateosian

As the Fourth of July approached, it was obvious that patriotism filled the air. It seemed like red, white and blue was everywhere. In my neighborhood, like the many across Fresno County and the nation, U.S. flags began popping up in front of houses. I replaced my small, hand held flag in the front yard with a much bigger, beautiful one that hangs above my garage door and waves a welcoming “hello.”

This holiday means a lot to me. From wealthy land owners in historic Armenia, my great grandparents had it all taken from them during the Armenian Genocide. Then, my parents fled the turmoil of the Middle East and arrived in the United States. Here, we have set our roots.

Along with the increase in individual patriotism around this time, comes the gorilla marketing tactics by the retail industry. CNBC had an interesting report regarding the retail numbers on this pride-packed period. The report estimated that “Americans will spend more than $7 billion on cookouts and other celebrations,” up from previous years. The report also had the estimated top selling item – you guessed it – U.S. flags.

Needing new furniture, and tired of sinking instead of sitting, we gave in. After numerous brochures and commercials, we decided to replace our over eight-year old couches. The pop culture definition of a “Monet” is something that is beautiful from far away, but as you get closer, not so much. That describes the couches we had.

We visited a few places and finally, at the third location, we found a set that looked good and was priced right. It was marked down for the holiday weekend. Once we made our decision, we were excited and began to rearrange the living room in our heads. We sat to complete the paperwork and the delivery fee caught us by surprise. Because we were ordering two pieces, the cost was $129. That’s unreasonable, so we began to think about borrowing a pick-up truck. The first person to come to our minds was Jorge.

Jorge, and his wife Doreen live down the street. They are the family that every neighborhood should have. Their house, particularly their garage, is the neighborhood hangout. Dubbed “Jorge’s Cantina” because it is the gathering point for holidays and major sporting events, we have spent hours mingling and getting to know neighbors there.

Last Christmas, at their annual party/potluck, instead of the signature cookie-decorating contest, Doreen spiced it up a little with a gingerbread-house contest. Full with prizes and judges, the contest was a hit. At Halloween, neighbors gather in the Cantina’s driveway to pass out candy to children. Like an assembly line, children move from one person to another, collecting candy and showing off their costumes.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Jorge and Doreen is their commitment to the area and soccer. For 16 years the couple has coached soccer in a volunteer capacity. Year after year, around the start of the season, the Cantina is turned into storage facility, with bags of soccer balls, cones and trophies. As you can imagine, with the time and involvement have come challenges. The biggest this coming fall is going to be finding a field with lights so that children can practice in the evenings.

I asked Jorge for the truck. He gave me the keys, and in his jolly self, replied, “Whenever you want, amigo.” I used the truck to pick up the furniture and brought the set home. The new couches look good in our living room. Now, time to replace the dining table. Oh wait, Jorge, I need the truck again!

Sevag Tateosian is host and producer of The Central Valley Ledger airing on 90.7 FM KFSR Fresno and the Community Media Access Collaborative Fresno/Clovis. Email him at