Thursday, April 21, 2005

FAQ: The story behind the title

Someone finally asked me today what the story is behind the title of this blog. That someone is named Tyler. He grew up in El Cajon, Calif., and found my site by entering "El Cajon sucks" into a web search.

"The only notable things about El Cajon are that Frank Zappa lived there as a kid, and Lester Bangs grew up there, which contributed to his mental torture
and eventual early death," Tyler told me. "Did you grow up there as well? Why El Cajon...??? I'm very curious now."

I used to live in San Diego, just near the storied 'burb of El Cajon, and the story of my blog's title comes from a sunny October afternoon in 2001, when my wife and I were at the La Mesa Oktoberfest. We were in the beer garden, listening to a polka band when a girl wearing a sash that identified her as "Miss El Cajon" asked me if I wanted to dance with her.

Don't get the wrong idea. Despite having at one time dated the woman who would become Miss Wisconsin, I am not the sort of bloke that beauty queens randomly start making moves on. Miss El Cajon, Miss La Mesa, Miss Santee and Miss Lakeside were roaming around the festival together and performing their duties as representatives of their respective dusty Southern California cities. They were trying to get a few of us lazy beer drinkers to liven up a little.

"No thanks," I said.

"Oh come on," Miss El Cajon said. "You'll have fun."

"No. Thank you, though."

I didn't want to look stupid.

"OK," she said, and went off in search of someone else.

Almost immediately I wished that I had said yes. Pretty girl, sunny day, goofy dancing -- what's not to like there? What the hell was wrong with me that I wouldn't want to dance the polka with Miss El Cajon?

For some reason that moment really stuck with me, and after a while, it became the quintessential example of what frustrates me most about myself. My life is filled with moments when I've wanted to do something, but then shot it down for some stupid reason. I didn't even try. I'm not really sure what it is: a fear of regret; a fear of failure; a fear of feeling stupid.

I didn't go to school at University of Texas, or University of West Florida, or SUNY New Paltz, or University of Utah. I didn't stay in England. I didn't take that job at KRNV. I didn't do this, I didn't do that. Admittedly, some of those things turned out for the best, but I felt that too much of my life was becoming a catalog of things I hadn't done.

I started this blog about a year ago when I was set to be a guest on a radio show. The week before, they had chatted with Nicholas Sparks; look how well things turned out for him. It was embarrassing that I was on this fancy radio program and had nothing to show for myself, and I think that served as the final catalyst to getting me started on the book I had spent the previous seven or so years telling everyone that I was going to write.

The blog and the book aren't really at all connected; it's just that I chose the name at that particular time in my life when the cautionary tale of my missed dance with Miss El Cajon was again on my mind. Originally the blog's title was "I Danced the Polka with Miss El Cajon," because that it is what I would title my autobiography if I were old and famous. But I am not yet either, I am still in the process -- still on the road.

Ironically, this blog, with a title that reminds me to make the most of the time that I am given, is just a big fat waste of time. Tedious, faux-thoughtful posts like this one are thankfully rare. Most of the time I choose to link to dancing hamsters.


Dave Morris said...

Chris, tedious & faux-thoughtful it was not. If you want an example of those types of posts, check my blog. I really enjoyed the story, and had wondered about the El Cajon name for a while.

Not to wax too philosophical, but I would like to find a watchmaker who could make me one without hour and minute hands, only the sweeping second hand. A reminder that it doesn't matter what time it is, just that time is passing and you'd better be making the most of it.

Good news is, maybe you can attend the La Mesa Oktoberfest again sometime - and this time, dammit... DANCE WITH HER.

Greg said...

I was always confused by the fact that people in El Cahon danced the polka. I just didn't picture it being an area with Eastern European influences.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I wouldn't dance the Polka if invited by Nefertiti or the Queen of Sheba, both of whom I know personally. The polka is the worst dance ever invented. Plus which it requires ACCORDION music. Gack. Double gack!

Name your "piece" (you're nice about that) "Dancing the Ballroom With Fred Astaire."