“There’s no place like home.”
~Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz
For over five decades, St. John Vianney Catholic Church has been the anchor to my boyhood neighborhood in east San Jose. During three days in May, the annual SJV Fiesta is the gathering place for those who live in the neighborhood and those who grew up there. As my friend Jason Rodriguez puts it, “Fiesta is an east side reunion.” Yesterday, I made my annual pilgrimage.
I’ve always known that people have notions about the east side, and I’m guessing they’re not so positive. I recently heard from a few people who lived in a “better part of town” clearly miffed that East Side Eddie Report.com was posted on Facebook. I could almost hear the disdain in one writer’s voice as he typed, “Why am I getting your east side report? You might as well be from Oakland.” In one sentence, he managed to look down on two communities he probably knows nothing about.
One quick walk around Fiesta demonstrates that writer’s foolish notion. For many of us, this neighborhood is home. Passing the carnival, food booths, and local entertainment stages, Fiesta visitors see generations of families enjoying each other on a beautiful spring day or evening. Teens and pre-teens at the rides, little kids and their parents dancing to the music, and grandparents sitting at tables under the canopies sampling Portuguese linguisa, Philly cheese steaks, and strawberry shortcake.
I always run into old friends and their families. Three friends I saw this year reminded me of the talent the east side has to offer. Two of them, Larry Gonzales and David Rosas, played basketball for me when I coached at James Lick High School. Those talented boys are now men serving as an officer in the United States Navy and a teacher/basketball coach at our alma mater. The third, Jason Rodriguez, grew up one block over from me. Today, he jets around the globe as an executive representing Hewlett Packard.
Like our parents, we east side kids grow up to be resilient men and women who work hard and raise good families. It’s fun to gather once a year at Fiesta to see old friends, share stories, and introduce new family additions. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to share stories about my own growing family and travelling across the country for work. Nevertheless, Dorothy had it right. My pilgrimage to Fiesta every year reminds me that, “there’s no place like home.”