Welcome To Palacito!

So, last week I was blogging about naming the neighboring towns in my imaginary world of San Tomas.  In the real world, the real Capitola is more or less next door to the real Santa Cruz, CA.  I needed a name for my fictional Capitola in Novel #5.

Which led me to do some research on how the real Capitola got its name.  And by research, I mean sixty seconds of Google and Wikipedia.  Hey, did you know the bird attack in Hitchcock's "The Birds" was inspired by birds going crazy in and around Capitola in 1961?  Most of those birds were Sooty Shearwaters.  (hold that thought)  A toxin in red algae drove them nutty.

But back to the name of the town - it's thought that it was named after the protagonist in THE HIDDEN HAND, a very popular (at the time) 19th century novel by E. D. E. N. Southworth.  I'm slogging through THE HIDDEN HAND right now - if the virulent racism doesn't get me, the Overly! Amazing! Coincidences! may.  Basically, it's a telenovela where everyone is VERY closely connected to each other - so far, just about everybody's related.

For a fleeting moment, I found myself thinking that no 21st century audience (outside of soap opera fans) would put up with all these Amazing Coincidences.  Then I saw the movie THE ACCOUNTANT.  (which I now deeply regret)  And then I started binge-watching the TV show A MILLION REASONS WHY.

Yep, Amazing Coincidences are still deeply beloved in pop culture entertainment.  Silly but fun, I guess.  A little of that goes a long way with me, though.

Back (again!) to my naming dilemma - what to call my fictional Capitola?  I could, of course, just make up some name that has nothing whatsoever to do with the real place's name, but I often like to have some kind of link between the actual name and the fictional one.  I'd already discarded Pacitola.  (and Tapioca)  Pacifico was in the running, not to be confused with the real Pacifica which is further up the coast.  But I always double check to make sure I'm not using the name of a real place elsewhere in California.  (I'd like to think I know the name of every town in California, but it's a big place.)  There is no "Pacifico" in California, but it's the name of some weird online game community, so that was a big NOPE.

Moving on.  I considered using the name of the author of THE HIDDEN HAND, as in Eden Beach or Southworth.  But the former was too precious and the latter was the name of the husband who abandoned Mrs. Southworth, so neither of those worked.

I do love a good anagram.  I fooled around with the letters in CAPITOLA and finally settled on... PALACITO!  Perfect.  There's no Palacito or even Palacio in California.  It sounds like it could be a real town name, though.  Palacito it is!

The reason I needed a name for Fake Capitola is that my protagonist goes to a bar there.  The real bar is long gone, but was called The Edgewater.  My friends and I called it The Sludgewater.  So what could I call the fake bar...  Sooty McShearwater's?!  How about just The Shearwater.

Done and done!

All this thinking about Capitola has made me remember the answering machine message for the Capitola Theater back in the day.  It was a strangely strangled-sounding old lady saying in a needlessly melodramatic manner:  "THIS...is the CapiTOLA TheATER..."  How I loved that quirky answering machine message.

Watch out for incoming algae-crazed sooty shearwaters, everybody!


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