I was in my fourth year at Cal Poly and the path I was walking was the path of loneliness: long hours of studying sprinkled amidst long hours of gaming. I was sadly friendless, with my best friend away at a different school due to poor academic performance, and an inability to relate to anyone in my major. I needed a change.
I started perusing through school clubs online for something that might catch my attention. I found anime, which at that time was more the domain of the eccentric, and started going to their showings. I found a comic illustrators club, in which I went to one meeting and was done. I also found the Vietnamese Students Association, figuring I could relate to those of the same heritage. Reality was different since I was much more Americanized, though the love of Starcraft was definitely a common interest. Finally, I was intrigued by dancing because, well, girls like guys that can dance right?
Out of the depths of my memory sprung an article I’d read a while back about this trendy dance called salsa and the school club that taught it. A quick search brought me to CPSalsa. While the site was kinda crappy (sorry Jeff), I was able to find what I was looking for. Lessons and dancing on Tuesday and another special series for beginners on Fridays.
Tuesdays conflicted with my class schedule (19 units and one was a night class), so it came down to Fridays. I made my way to a Friday lesson and found a small gathering of three couples, taught by this tall gringo who went by the name of Jeff. Not what I was expecting, but what the hell, why not give it a try?
And try I did. As many of you know, learning those first steps can make you feel like you had your cerebellum lobotomized, especially if you hadn’t taken a dance class before. Not pretty, though I found myself exhilarated by the challenge (maybe I’m a masochist?) and found that, while feeling awkward at first, I took to it quickly. And so I went to another class. And then another.
Eventually, I made it to a Tuesday night, which were considerably bigger and more intimidating. I remember seeing Rogelio dancing with two girls at a time and they all had the biggest smiles on their faces. There was Jeff pretzelling his way through a song searching for that elusive story you construct when purposefully stringing together combinations. And then there was Jorge, he of the squinty visage half hidden by one of those LL Cool J hats. He would strut in, glance around, and slide down the stair railing right into a dance. I was afraid to ask girls to dance when confronted with the prospect of my beginnerness (the afraid to ask part doesn’t go away easy though), but I stuck around anyways because I could learn by watching too.
Then one summer night, I was sticking till the end, as usual, when I started helping put chairs away. That’s when Jeff approached me and said, “How do you feel about helping us out some more?”
Feeling a little unsure, I said, “Sure…what does that entail?”
“Well, we have to take all this equipment out of the room and store it with people. Would you mind taking care of our lights? You could take our lessons free if you do.”
Why not? I thought. It’s only a bag of lights and I could get more of these lessons and get better. I didn’t realize it then, but I was hooked.