Big Pine Avenue ‘a gold mine’ of a neighborhood in South Tahoe |

Big Pine Avenue ‘a gold mine’ of a neighborhood in South Tahoe

Susan Wood

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Tree-beard welcomes visitors to Big Pine Avenue.

Neighbors have discovered that hearts are as large as the pine cones on Big Pine Avenue in South Lake Tahoe.

A much different picture from the busy traffic on nearby Tahoe Island Drive, life is slow and sweet on the short street – where “dontcha know” has become a regular part of the Tahoe Valley vernacular.

The saying can be heard often in the occasional neighborhood gatherings on the lawn of Richard and Marlene Bolentini – residents who split their time between the Bay Area and Tahoe.

When they’re here, the Bolentinis have committed themselves to enjoying the South Shore way of life. Both enjoy how life seems simpler here than in the Bay Area and that neighbors take the time to get to know each other.

“We know more people from our six years in Tahoe than we have in 45 (years) in San Francisco,” Richard Bolentini said while a dozen neighbors gathered in his yard.

The few children on the street occupied themselves with toys in the driveway. The adults file in, hugging each other like long-lost family members. There’s a strong sense of belonging here.

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The Bolentinis have no trouble occupying the lawn chairs during an open cocktail hour or finding new ways to help out their neighbors on the street. If the Bolentinis don’t reflect fun, their bear statue does. Someone stuffed a hat on top of the Tahoe wildlife symbol.

“Everybody looks out after each other,” neighbor Jeannie Hogan said. “I feel so welcome on this street.”

Hogan considered moving to the Carson Valley with the hordes of other Tahoe transplants, but she couldn’t get herself to do it. Plus, she was encouraged to stay when neighbor Bruce Brown dropped off flowers on her doorstep.

Hogan was so moved by the generosity she wrote a poem about life on the street called “Meeting of the Minds.”

“Meeting of the Minds – That’s the new happening here on Big Pine. And it works so much better with brandy, beer and wine. The meeting begins somewhere around four, when we notice that Rich has opened the garage door.”

“The reason I didn’t move is because I’d miss the people,” the neighborhood matriarch said.

Residents reflect on old times as if talking about their family in this microcosm of the Tahoe Island neighborhood.

Hogan needed a place to store her belongings, the Bolentinis donated their 4-by-7-foot utility shed. Four men in the neighborhood carried it a half block to Hogan’s property. In turn, she has raked yards and given petunias and pansies to neighbors.

After the snow dumps in winter, Brown and neighbor Steve Taylor push their snowblowers to driveways without one.

Resident Brenda Scott said the neighbors tackle big snowfalls in shoveling packs.

And of course yard sales on Big Pine run a block long on the blip of a street that connects Tahoe Island and Tahoe Vista drives. A mix of aspen and pine trees mark the diverse scenery in the quiet haven.

“We lived in a high-rise (before) and never even met our neighbors,” Scott said.

Neighbors with ailing loved ones, as Scott’s husband, Patrick, had found out, get special care.

The cooks on the street will sometimes assemble a plate for someone going through a rough time. And social get-togethers and block parties feature an assortment of dishes, including Brown’s homemade lasagna.

“I’ll go in Raley’s and people will tell me they live on the wrong block when they hear what we’re doing,” Brown said.

Then, there’s the pizza and dessert nights that hooked Richard and Carol Matera as soon as they moved in last April.

“We thought we hit a gold mine,” he said.