Why Orinda California?

How being flabbergasted inspires.

Mernie Buchanan
2 min readNov 20, 2023

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‘Diablo With Poppies’ acrylic on canvas Mernie Buchanan

Two pricey suburbs are lined up behind the Oakland/Berkeley hills in San Francisco’s East Bay. I once heard a standup comedian riff, Orinda is the Spanish word for ‘no black people’… and Lafayette is the French word.

In the 1970s my parents bought a house in the larger, third suburb in line; which was working class until the 80s boon inflated Walnut Creek to a higher status — in property value as opposed to character. Walnut Creek was named for its venerable nut orchards. They were chopped down to build sprawl, and the creek was imprisoned in an underground culvert.

Back in the mid 90s I was in early in sobriety and continually stewing in a caldron of blistering emotions. It certainly didn’t help that I was visiting my parents. I had wisely fortified myself by calling the hotline and found a noon AA meeting at a fancy church in nearby Lafayette. I was in desperate need of a lot of help back then. When my father started in, my choices were either a quart of tequila or any relief a meeting might offer. I debated both options, grabbed my truck keys and blasted over to Lafayette. This is what I got…

Memories of that time are muddled (see emotional issues above), but I crystal clearly recall a particular share of one mature, perfectly groomed and expensively outfitted gentleman. Yes, he was white. Everyone was. He introduced himself. Everyone chorused, “Hi Baron” (or whatever the fuck his name was). The guy appeared upset as he wrestled with emotions of his own. ‘Baron’ went on, “I live in Orinda. My daughter is getting married and we are going to have an elaborate reception at the Orinda Country Club.” (He may have wrung his hands at this point.) “I don’t know which credit card to put it on.”

I’m currently writing and illustrating a solarpunk sci fi where perhaps Earth can be saved if the uber wealthy are redeemable. I plopped my two obnoxious rich couples smack in Orinda for their first appearance before they leave Earth. Of course I did.

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Mernie Buchanan

Originally from CA & Las Vegas, I now paint and write in Woodstock NY. All images are my original art & photos. Links to more at mernie.com