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Sonoma County Gazette
Occidental Oriented by Gino Gaffney

Greetings from Mexico!

Oct 23, 2017


Greetings fellow Occidentalites. I am currently sitting in a beautiful garden inAjijic, Mexicoto write my column. My Mother, Aunt & I came here to see my Uncle & pay our respects to the passing of his wife, their sister. Ajijic is a beautiful city of 30,000 cradled amongst mountains, on the shore ofLake Chapala, Mexico’s largest. The rainy season here just ended, resulting in clean air, wonderful blossoms everywhere, a full lake and a generally idyllic atmosphere. This place seems so alive with people, plants and animals, and interesting old-world architecture jumping out at you. It’s my first time here and though I am saddened by myAunt Barbara’s passing I am thankful she got me here to experience this place she called home. It’s good to be around family, whatever form that may take, and regardless of the occasion being a happy or sad one.

Speaking of home and sad occasions my Mom and I left Sonoma County the day after the horrific fires broke out. My thoughts and prayers are with all who have experienced loss as a result, may you find shelter in the love of those around you. As I saw in an image from the PD online “the love in the air is thicker than the smoke.” I am proud to be a Sonoma County citizen. I feel guilty to be breathing clean air and looking at clear skies, and yet feel that I have been given an opportunity to charge my own batteries to return strong and committed to helping my community in what is sure to be a long healing process.

I send thanks and love to all the people who put their lives on the line for us everyday, and to all who are pitching in to care for the community.

The closeness of this disaster has certainly reminded me to get my own affairs in order and I think it is worth mentioning to the community at large. Hopefully the scale of destruction seen here will not be revisited again, but we do live in areas prone to wildfire and earthquakes. Even the smallest scale disaster can upend a family or small community.

In regards to a possible disaster, the amount of details to contend with is part of what paralyzes us (me) as well as the unknown of when it may come or whether for all our preparation we may still be woefully unprepared. That said, any amount of effort is worth the time and may help you or those around you if/when the hour of need comes. This could be writing a will, creating an evacuation plan with your family, checking to make sure your safety equipment works, etc. This could also be making a donation to your fire department, stocking up on non-perishable food and water, or preparing a box of precious items that can be gotten at a moments notice when every second not wasted could prove invaluable. These are just a few ideas, start somewhere and make some progress, you certainly won’t regret it.

A great organization and resource for Occidental is the Community Council. Their website is There is a page dedicated to Occidental Emergency Preparedness that has lots of info about how to prepare as well as contact info for emergency related entities.

On to less stressful things. 

On Saturday, November 4th Bodega Land Trust is holding its annual fund-raising dinner and silent auction. They are celebrating 25 years as an organization and would love for you to join them. The dinner is $20 and 5:30-8:30 at McCaughey hall in Bodega. More info at

There is a West County Rising fund-raiser on Friday, November 10th for fire victims to be held at Negri’s. Spaghetti dinner, live music, dance party & silent auction. The benefit starts at 5:30pm and will go until we have danced our shoes off! Tickets will be sold at the door, $30-$100 sliding scale. Local relief organizations will be present to learn how to stay connected and of service to the community.

Also on the 10th, at the Phoenix theater in Petaluma is another fund-raiser that I would like ya’ll to know of. My friend Kevin is in a band called Malfunkshun. They & several other bands will be playing to help a new non-profit music school in Santa Rosa called SoCo Music Coalition. for more info. The concert starts at 8pm, is $15 and all ages.


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