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 SSQQ Travel is run by Rick Archer and Marla ArcherSSQQ Travel began in 1998 as an offshoot of SSQQ 
 Dance Studio in Houston, Texas.  Dancing has always played a major role in every trip.  Marla Archer works 
 as a full-time Travel Agent. Over the past 15 years, Rick and Marla have taken 38 group cruise adventures
 and booked over 2,500 passengers.  We haven't lost one yet, but you could always be the first!   
 In addition to booking all SSQQ Cruise Trips, Marla is available to help with individual trips as well.
 Rick Archer's Dance Classes meet every night of week with classes on Saturday and 
 Sunday as well.  Concentrating on Western dancing as well as East and West Coast
 Swing, these classes include social dance
evenings at the Chandelier Ballroom as 
 well as prepare students for dancing on Marla's dance cruises.

  Rick Archer writes the SSQQ Travel Newsletter.
  Rick uses this Newsletter to post
  everyone on Travel updates. To receive this Newsletter, email or
  scroll down to see the most recent Newsletter. 

   Rick and Marla are available for private dance lessons and wedding lessons
   For questions about private dance lessons, wedding dance lessons or travel, please
  contact or

SSQQ Travel Newsletter  
March 2018, Issue 1
Written by Rick Archer

 Click Here for Previous Newsletter Issue

 Story about Candace Gray


       Liberty of the Seas Dance Cruise
September 16-23 out of Galveston
Contact Marla Archer; 713 862 4428


       New Zealand - Australia 2019
March 08-21 out of Sydney, Australia
Contact Marla Archer; 713 862 4428





A Note from Marla Archer:

New Zealand - Australia March 2019

If you ever wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand, your time has come! 

I have scheduled a group trip on Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas for a 13 Night Cruise departing Sydney, Australia on March 8 cruising to see all the incredible sights in New Zealand and returning to Sydney on March 21st.

Australia and New Zealand are two of the most requested destinations.  This is understandably so.  As one can see from the pictures I posted, the cruise part of our trip is mostly New Zealand with its spectacular natural beauty.  Staggering mountains, lush waterfalls, and pristine marine preserves are among our New Zealand destinations. If you are a nature lover, this is the trip of a lifetime for you!   This cruise is definitely on my bucket list and I know others within our Travel Family agree.

We've selected another winning destination!  By scheduling this trip well in advance, my group rates are $480 less per person than Royal Caribbean's prevailing rates.  Yes, that is a savings of almost $1000 for a couple!

The combination of two incredible destinations, sailing on one of Royal Caribbean's finest ships, the phenomenal group value offered, and great friends guarantees this trip will be equal to our terrific 2016 Greek Isles Cruise... and maybe even better! 

This trip is so impressive that I have had 24 people sign up before we even completed our website write-up. 

Be warned, I have a limited amount of group space at the lower group rates, so if you know that this is something that you want to do, be smart and sign up now! 

Don't take the risk of being shut out like so many did on our Greek Isles cruise.

Please come join us and share in our adventure!

New Zealand - Australia 2019

September Dance Cruise September 2018

14 more folks have joined the group sailing on our "Never Say Never Sea You in September" dance cruise.  We are up to 34, with many more to come!

Welcome Aboard Tim and Lisa, Gus and Debra, Imre and Eileen, Brenda and Bill and Linda and Peggy! 

You can expect a nonstop Party starting from the moment you get on the ship.  Our Cruise begins with Sunday's Welcome Aboard Party at 4 pm in our favorite venue, the Star Lounge.

Then in the days that follow we will have group dance classes on our At Sea days, our "Thank You" complimentary Cocktail Party, and our Farewell Masquerade Champagne Party.  Other group activities will include a group catamaran sailing, group photo, group dining and of course a pre-cruise party.

If you wish to reserve a balcony stateroom, I will gift you with a complimentary specialty dinner.

In addition to all of our great group perks, you will receive up to a $70 per person savings from Royal Caribbean's prevailing rates.  As an example, if you reserve a category 2D Balcony with my group, not only will you receive all of the above perks, you will save $140 on the cabin.

Group Rates:

4V Inside:  $552 per person double occupancy
1T Promenade Inside: $601 per person double occupancy
2D Balcony:  $851 per person
6B Larger Balcony:  $909 per person

You can check it all out here at this link:  Liberty of the Seas Dance Cruise

Remember, the sooner you reserve, the better your stateroom location.

We are headed to French Polynesia very soon for two weeks, so if either of these trips is something you are interested in, please reach out to me now!

I have one week left in the office. I won't return until March 21st.

Warm regards,
Marla Archer

"SSQQ Travel"/West University Travel
713 862-4428 (direct line)




Rick Archer's Note:   There will be 'Rick Archer dance classes' in March, but the schedule is erratic due to my March cruise trip to Tahiti.

My March dance classes have been disrupted by two words:  Harvey and Tahiti.

Due to my trip to Tahiti, I will miss the first two weeks of March.

So what does Hurricane Harvey  have to do with this?  Marla and I have always operated under the rule that our cruise trips cannot start at the beginning of the month.  We broke this rule for the Tahiti trip because at this time last year I was largely retired from teaching group classes.  Therefore, what difference did it make when I started my cruise trip?

Then came Hurricane Harvey.  For me, the major consequence of the studio's demise due to the flooding was my decision to come out of retirement and begin teaching group classes again. 

As it stands, I have Nightclub Slow Dance classes on Monday, Western Twostep and East Coast Swing classes on Tuesday, and West Coast Swing and Jitterbug classes on Wednesday. 

All three classes will continue in March.  I will have substitute teachers for the first two weeks in March.  Then, upon my return, I will teach the third and fourth week in March.   My substitute teacher for Night Club on Monday will be Rey Velasquez.   My substitute teacher for Tuesday will be MG Anseman for Western and Tim Crist for East Coast Swing.  My substitute teacher for Wednesday will be Charley Denton for Advanced East Coast Swing.

Since each instructor has volunteered their time, there will be no charge for these classes.   When I return, I will charge $10 per night through the end of March.   

In April, everything will return to normal.

Wedding Lessons and Private Dance Lessons 
($50 an hour or $200 for 5 hours)

Rick Archer's Note:   The Wedding Lesson season is upon us.

I currently have four different couples preparing for April weddings.  Two couples are doing Western and two couples are doing Slow Dance/Night Club.  In addition, I have several parents visiting to prepare to dance with their sons and daughters at the wedding reception.   Here is more information that you can possibly imagine about my Wedding Lesson experiences: 

Rick Archer's Wedding Dance Lessons

Private dance lessons have many advantages.  For one thing, people enjoy the privacy.  But what they like most of all is the chance to learn at their own speed.  Private lessons allow students to learn the subtleties of social dance that are impossible to teach in group settings.  Private lessons are also particularly inviting for people who prefer to have flexible schedules. 

Book the lesson at your convenience and cancel if something comes up.  Believe it or not, if someone needs to cancel at the last minute (yes, they do it all the time), I don't mind.  Since I have a dance room built onto the side of my house, I am not at all inconvenienced if something comes up. 

As for when I am available, I can teach private lessons pretty much any time of the day every day of the week.  9 am?  Fine.  3 pm?  Fine.  Saturdays?  Fine.  I prefer to skip Sundays, but I will teach Sundays in a pinch.  The biggest problem is that I have very limited free time after 7 pm due to my group lessons.

My fee structure is inexpensive compared to other Houston dance teachers.  Choose between two options: $50 for one hour or $200 for 5 one-hour lessons. 

Although I can teach pretty much anything, my specialty is getting people ready to dance at weddings.  With all those Spring weddings coming up, now is a good time to get started.   If you have any questions, the easiest way to reach me is by email:



Rick Archer's Note:  Madame Butterfly has let me down.   Yes, it is true.

Madame Butterfly has been on vacation and thus unable to send me any information about events in March. 

In addition, Madame Butterfly was very disappointed to hear that a certain aspiring dancer she has taken notice of has announced his decision to skip dance classes in March.  Mme Butterfly was so upset she stayed off Facebook for an entire day. 

The good news is that she promises to have more information to post in my next Newsletter. 



1. Friday, February 23, Fab Five at SPJST Lodge, aka Chandelier Ballroom, 8 pm.

SPJST is the best dance floor in town for Swing Dancing and the Fab Five play the Beatles better than the Beatles themselves.  Plus they branch out and play other tunes later in the night such as Van Morrison and the Rolling Stones.

If you ask nicely and promise to stay late, they might even play Inna Gadda Da Vida for you.  This is a Cosmic band.  Two thumbs up from Madame Butterfly.

2.  Friday, February 23, Whiskey River
It's Ladies Night! No Cover for Ladies from 8-11pm. $3 ANY DRINK from 8-11pm!

3.  Saturday, February 24   Big John's Ice House
7:30 pm- 12:00,  12640 Briar Forest Dr.  live band dancing.

Rick Archer's Note:  Madame Butterfly does the best she can, but it wouldn't hurt for you to do a little on-line investigation yourself before visiting any of these events.  A simple Google search will suffice.


Announcing Marla's March 2019 New Zealand-Australia Cruise

Rick Archer's Note:  There is something very unusual about Marla Archer's New Zealand-Australia cruise trip scheduled to take place a year from now.

As we all know, Australia and New Zealand are on the other side of the earth.  Sydney is 8,600 miles away last time I checked.  This fact alone would make one assume it might be difficult to find takers for this trip.  Not so.

Marla already has 24 people signed up for this trip.  That is an incredible total for an adventure of this magnitude.

One feature in favor of this trip is the recent addition of a non-stop Houston to Sydney flight aboard United's Dreamliner.  Just hop aboard at Bush International and 17 hours later you will be in Australia.  What do you think about that?  Just take a nice long nap and you will be there in no time.

Oh, one small problem.  I read somewhere we will lose a day of our lives due to something called crossing the International Date Line.  No problem, especially for you single people.  Those are the problems of Dating.  I have some dates that have taken years off my life, so what's the loss of one day? You won't miss it.

Besides, on the way home, you will arrive in Houston 75 minutes EARLIER than the time you left Sydney.  How weird is that??  Lose a day, gain a day, it all comes out in the wash. 

I think one of the reasons for the obvious popularity of this trip is that it is two vacations in one.   Oddly enough, although we are flying into Sydney, the cruise part is all about New Zealand.   A cruise trip to New Zealand has been compared to a cruise to Alaska.  They call it 'Down Under' for a reason.  New Zealand is so far off the beaten path that it was one of the last areas on earth to be populated.  Even today there are more sheep living in New Zealand than people. 

Consequently, like Alaska, the rugged landscape of New Zealand is in pristine condition.  Indeed, two of the stops on this cruise... Milford Sound and Bay of Islands... have nothing to do with urban centers whatsoever. 

Like Alaska, much of the trip is about seeing natural beauty... forests, mountains, beaches, extinct volcanoes, and marine centers.   If you love to look for animals, there are lots of sheep.

A highlight of many of our stops will be botanical gardens.  New Zealand is described as a Garden of Eden due to its extremely hospitable climate.  Although New Zealand can be on the chilly side, keep in mind that we will be visiting during their 'Summertime'.   Expect temperatures in the 70s.  Although it took humans a while to find the place, the isolation was good for the flora and fauna.  Plants and animals have flourished.  This has resulted in a dynamic evolutionary ecology with examples of very distinctive plants and animals. 

In addition to New Zealand, Australia's Sydney is considered one of the most interesting cities in the word.  It is a Top Ten City for quality of living and a top Fifteen City for most visited in the world.   There are so many things to see and do I can't list them all, but you have beaches, mountains, parks, and gardens for starters plus the interesting streets of Sydney where everyone talks funny.

Marla and I will go in several days early and explore or perhaps we will save our exploration for the tail end of the trip.  Either way, we intend to get a sense of Australia in addition to our trip to N.Z.  as everyone likes to call it.

There is also fun at sea.  It is a two day sea trip from Sydney to NZ and two days from NZ back to Sydney.  For sure on the days at sea,  I will conduct dance lessons (assuming of course Marla gets cooperation from her ship coordinator). 

By the way, the people in this group are all great dancers... or they better be by the time this trip starts if they want to survive this wild group.   As for dance lessons on the way back, let's see if anyone is still standing before I commit to that.  My guess is during the day our intrepid explorers will find the Solarium and pass out, wakening just long enough to order their next smoothie.

This trip to Australia-New Zealand is the 44th trip organized by Marla.  If you are a travel buff and you have been on one of her trips, then you already know that Marla is extremely good at what she does.   There are few travel agents in Houston more knowledgeable and experienced than her.   Unlike many travel agents, Marla makes sure to go on the trips with her clients just to make sure everything runs smoothly.  

By the way, I go on the trips too, but no one cares.  I am widely ignored due to my wife's considerable reputation.   Basically I get no respect.  For example, last week, I went to Gary Richardson's Pavillion dance (good dance, by the way!).

A dozen different people came up to me and every single one of them asked the same question:  "Where's Marla?  I have a cruise question for her."

Most of them didn't even bother to say hello.  After a while, I was so disgusted I changed my name tag.   My new name is 'Where's Marla'.


The Great New Zealand Trivia Quiz

Rick Archer's Note:  One of the joys of traveling is the chance to learn some more about areas of the world we did not know much about.  I would guess that of all locations on earth, we know the least about Africa. 

After Africa I suppose it is a toss-up between Asia and Oceania.  I bet most of you do not know a darn thing about New Zealand.   I have prepared a little quiz for you.   Let's see if you are any good. 



1. What famous movie was filmed in New Zealand?

Lord of the Rings
Game of Thrones
South Pacific
King Kong
Battle of Iwo Jima


2. Which European first discovered New Zealand?

Abel Tasman
James Cook
Amerigo Vespucci
Ferdinand Magellan
Posh Spice


3. Which is closest to the Arctic Circle?

South Africa
New Zealand

4. The first people of New Zealand were known as:



5. How far is New Zealand from Australia?

200 miles
800 miles
1,200 miles
2,000 miles
3,000 miles

6. New Zealand is comprised of:

600 islands
One main island
Two main islands
Three main islands
Seven main islands

7. New Zealand is closest to:



8. Which is not an island just off the coast of New Zealand?

Chatham Island
Pitcairn Island
Stewart Island
Auckland Island
Great Barrier Island

9. The tallest mountain in New Zealand is

Mt Victoria
Mt Elizabeth
Ayers Rock
Mt Cook
Mt Krakatoa


10. The capital of New Zealand is:


11. What do Norway and New Zealand have in common?

Deep oil reserves
Proximity to the Poles (no, not Poland, dummy)
Great skiing
High Quality of Living Index


12. Which island is not a neighbor of New Zealand?

New Caledonia

13. Which celebrity is not from New Zealand?

Keith Urban
Russell Crowe
Peter Jackson
Hugh Jackman
Lucy Lawless

14. New Zealand is famous for what sport?

Australian rules football

15. What is the most unusual feature of Auckland?

below sea level
located on isthmus
located on peninsula
main part developed inside extinct volcano
located on archipelago

16. What is the favorite dance of New Zealand?

The Scottish Reel
Waltzing Matilda

17.  If you sail due east from New Zealand, the next landmass you will reach is:


Well, that's the end of the quiz.  How did you did you do?   Oh, I suppose you want to see the answers, don't you?   Click here


Tip of My Hat to my Daughter Samantha

Rick Archer's Note:  You know, raising kids ain't easy.   Raising children is like raisin' corn.   It's hard work, plenty of sunburn and bugs, it takes lots of time, and there's no real money in it.   But once in a while, out of the blue, you find out that maybe raising kids isn't so bad after all.

I had one of those experiences today. 

My daughter Samantha is now a graduate student up at UT.   I cannot tell you how many times Sam has told me how many times how much she valued her time at Houston's Duchesne Academy.  Sam says her 14 years of education has played a major role in her success. 

Many years ago, an SSQQ student named Jeanie Nash highly recommended I send Sam to Duchesne, a Catholic girl's school located in the Memorial area.  Jeanie touted the fine education Sam would receive there and I am so grateful to her.

Sam definitely got a great education there.  Duchesne was so good I kept sending her back year after year even though I could barely afford the place. 

Recently the Duchesne Alumnus Newsletter highlighted Sam's progress at UT. 

When I read the article, the one thing that struck me was Sam's determination to use her knowledge to make the world a better place.  When I asked her about that, Sam reminded me that every Wednesday morning back at Duchesne was devoted to community service.  I had forgotten about that feature at Duchesne.

Sam credits the school for helping her develop a social conscience.  I cannot tell you how proud that makes me. 

Duchesne Write-up about Sam


Remembering Candace Gray

Rick Archer's Note:  Before class the other, my friends Sluefoot Sue, TJ Butler, and Debra Vickers came early.  We immediately got to talking because all three of them are signed up for Marla's September dance cruise. 

We got to talking about all the crazy things in the news about cruise ships lately.   TJ immediately brought up the story about the 23 passengers removed from cruise ship in Australia after brawls.  I told TJ I wasn't allowed to put that information in the Newsletter, but Marla never reads to the bottom, so I'm just gonna slip it in.  No fair telling her!!

Then Sluefoot Sue said she just got back from a cruise where four people died, one from a heart attack, one from a scuba diving accident, one guy murdered his wife and then committed suicide.  I told them I wasn't allowed to put that in the Newsletter either.  Listen, stuff happens in every walk of life.  Cruise trips are no different.  I have been on 40 cruise trips and I consider them the safest form of vacation there is. 

That said, the mention of the scuba accident hit a nerve.  I mentioned I once had a dance student who died from a scuba accident.  Her name was Candace Gray and she was of the most unusual women I had ever met. 

TJ was so curious about her, he looked up the story and sent me a link.  TJ need not have bothered.  I already knew the story. 

As many of you know, I am writing a book about Fate.   Candace Gray has an entire chapter dedicated to her.  If you are interested, her story is just below.

And that's a wrap for today. 

16 pages in this issue. 

I am the world's biggest tree hugger, so I dearly hope you will read my Newsletter on your computer or tablet.  This way no trees will have to die.    However it is true countless pixels will be rearranged.


Rick Archer





According to the Autobiography of a Yogi, we are put here in the Material World to learn lessons.  Right now the Universe was trying to teach me lessons about the nature of Beauty and I wasn't catching on very fast. 

It was mid-November.  Due to traffic, I was running late to the dance studio.  Everyone was abuzz when I walked in.  There was so much electricity in the room, I wondered what all the fuss was about.  That is when I saw an incredibly beautiful woman holding court in the center of the dance floor.  I froze on the spot and my heart began to beat wildly.  Who on earth is that?

First the Universe sent me Patricia to cloud my mind.  As if Patricia wasn't enough, now the Universe had sent me 'Ms. Universe' herself.   


Her name was Candace Gray.  Someone whispered that Candace had been the winner of the 1976 Miss Texas contest two years earlier.  One look at her and I didn't doubt it for a moment.  This was a truly beautiful woman.  And what a smile!  Gosh, I almost fell apart on the spot.  I barely kept it together long enough to begin class. 

I wasn't alone in my case of nerves.  No one could concentrate.  Everyone kept staring at Candace, women included.  I quickly found an excuse to begin partner dancing.  Exercising my power as the teacher, I asked Candace to dance.  The moment I held her in my arms, I trembled.  Indeed, I was so overcome by her beauty that my knees actually buckled.  That had never happened before.  Fortunately, since this was 'My Stage', I had enough confidence to speak to her while we danced. 

"Candace, you are a very accomplished dancer!  So what exactly are you doing here?"

Candace laughed.  "Please forgive me, I did not realize I would disrupt your class like this.  My college roommate Betsy is taking your class.  I dropped by for a visit earlier this evening and Betsy said come take this class with her.  I was curious, so I came along.  As you can see, I love to dance.  Back in college, they called me 'Candace Candance'.  They teased me with 'Can Candace Candance Dance the Difficult Can Can?'  Try saying it fast!"

Surprised by her dare, I repeated the jingle.  But I was way too nervous to get it right, so I botched it badly.  Candace laughed with delight at my discomfort.  No doubt she was used to men being flustered in her presence.  Candace smiled sympathetically. 

"Don't feel bad, Rick, no one else gets it either.  You came closer than most."


I could not believe Candace went out of her way to allow me to retain my dignity.  It was that moment when I fell deeply in love.  Suppressing a powerful desire to ask her to marry me, I anxiously tried to think of ways to prolong the conversation.  Anything to be granted 30 more seconds in the presence of this sweet lady.

"Good grief, Candace, that's quite a tongue-twister.  Out of curiosity, can you dance the Can Can?"

"Why, yes, I can can do the can can and thank you for asking.  I am pleased to say I do the can can rather well.  We had a school play called An American in Paris and I was the lead can can dancer." 

Candace laughed at the memory, then gave me a mischievous look.  "By the way, I tried to sneak in to your class tonight, but somehow you caught me.  What sharp eyes you have.  Do I owe you any money?"

"No, out of professional courtesy, I can't take money from a Can Can expert.  But you seem kind of thin, so it's probably due to some stupid diet you're on.  Do me a favor and use the money you saved on a good meal."

Candace laughed, then added ruefully, "How did you know I have been dieting?  It's killing me.  Dieting is the curse of my life."

"What a shame a beautiful woman like you has to suffer so.  Do you ever wish you could eat whatever you want and lead a normal life?"

"You have no idea.  I think about it all the time."

Candace gave me a funny little smile, then impulsively squeezed my hand.  She held my hand a bit longer than necessary.  I interpreted her gesture not as an invitation, but rather just to let me know she liked me.  Unfortunately, the gesture sent me into paralysis.  Ensnared in her magic aura, I was lost in a dumbfounded coma.  Candace had to revive me.

"By the way, Rick, am I keeping you from your class?"

Actually, she was.  Candace must have guessed that I was unable to part of my own accord, so she had to push me away for my own good.  I think women like Candace understand the power they have over men.  Although it broke my heart to leave her, I turned around and got back to work. 

I was delighted to find that Candace was every bit as fun and sweet as she was beautiful.  That night Candace danced with every man in class.  Fully aware of the effect her beauty had on everyone near her, Candace remained modest nonetheless.  I watched as she went out of her way to make every single man feel at ease.  What a charmer!  I was touched by how generous Candace was with her compliments. 

Of course I fell in love.  How could I not?  Candace was so classy and nice to people.  That is what I loved about her.  I had never seen anyone radiate as much warmth as her.  Her kind nature enhanced her Beauty dramatically.  In fact, she reminded me a lot of Katie, my lost love from three years earlier. 

Candace's visit deeply unsettled me.  Was Candace another Messenger?  It sure felt that way.  As always when something unusual took place, I wondered if Candace was here for some Cosmic purpose.  For one thing, this lovely woman had no business coming to my class.  She said she did it on a whim.  If so, was that whim suggested by an unseen entity?   Who can say.  

More likely, Candace was just passing through on a lark in which case her visit had nothing to do with my ongoing preoccupation with 'Fate'.  Nevertheless, I chose to draw a powerful lesson from her appearance.  At the time, I was overwhelmingly blinded by Patricia's considerable beauty.  In a very dramatic way, Candace had demonstrated that a beautiful woman can also be a loving woman. 


As I drove to Patricia's apartment after class, I meditated on Beauty and its implications.  I waited for Patricia to fall asleep, then sat up and took a long, hard look at her.  Patricia was a serious beauty in her own right.  She could easily hold a candle to Candace.  In fact, the two women closely resembled each other.  But that is where the similarity ended.  The stark contrast of Candace and her good nature painfully exposed Patricia's flaws to me.  As warm-hearted and down-to-earth as Candace had been, Patricia was haughty and cold-hearted.  The difference could not have been more striking. 

If one reads Greek Mythology with an eye towards allegory, many tales warn of the dangers of human existence.  Homer, writer of the Iliad and the Odyssey, told several tales that revealed the perils beautiful women can hold for men.  There was of course the story of Helen whose Beauty caused a terrible war.  Then there was the story of the irresistible Sirens who used their song to lure sailors to their death upon hidden rocks. 

Homer saved his most compelling story for Circe, the enchantress who used her power in an evil way.  The legendary enchantress was said to use her stunning beauty to lure men close whereupon she used her dark magic to turn them into swine. 

Why exactly do some women become evil?  Homer suggested the women of Ancient Greece were not always treated well.  They were considered the property of men to be traded and used as men saw fit.  Circe as told by Homer rebelled against her Fate.  She became a witch in self-defense because she did not wish to be subjugated by men.  At some point, Circe turned predatory and decided to turn the tables on men.  The time had come when men must be taught what it is like to be enslaved. 


In Homer's Odyssey, Circe was said to live alone on an island in a mansion surrounded by a dense forest.  However, Circe did not lack for company.  Her house was patrolled by strangely docile lions who were former sailors now drugged by her sorcery. 

When the wandering Greeks sailors under Odysseus landed on her island, they naturally wished to explore.  Odysseus, however, had encountered so many traps during his Odyssey ordeal that he decided to remain on ship.  The Greeks discovered Circe as she worked at a huge loom.  She invited the crew to a feast.  Unbeknownst to the men, she laced the wine with one of her magical potions.  As the men drank from an enchanted cup, Circe turned them all into swine with her magic wand.  However, one drunken man was able to escape and warn Odysseus.

Odysseus set out to rescue his men, but was warned by Hermes and Athena of the woman's penchant for treachery.  Circe would surely lead him to her bed, but Hermes advised caution.  The Goddess was sure to be treacherous.  Circe would take his manhood unless Odysseus made her swear by the Gods she would not harm him.  By following Hermes' advice, Odysseus drew his sword and extracted her solemn promise not to use her magic against him. 

Now Homer offered an interesting twist to this tale.  Once Circe realized Odysseus had the power to kill her in revenge for what she had done, but spared her nonetheless, she had a change of heart.  Circe voluntarily freed his men and invited them to stay.  Not only did she become his lover, Circe became his friend.  During the year the Greeks remained safely on her island, Circe gave Odysseus invaluable advice on how to negotiate the many dangers that awaited him in this part of the ocean.

Homer suggested that if a man could earn a woman's trust, she would no longer stay evil and become his ally instead.  But first the man must prove he was truly the woman's equal. 

As one might gather, I took the story of Circe to heart.  If I could prove to Patricia that I was her equal, would she ever trust me enough to let down her guard and become the companion I dreamed about?  I suppose this was the main reason I invested more hope in this woman than seemed prudent.  At some point, maybe Patricia would allow her warmth to show.


Unfortunately, meeting Candace had dashed those hopes.   Now that I seen that a woman like Candace who was just as beautiful as Patricia could be down to earth and kind to others, I realized how unrealistic my dreams for Patricia were.  The warmth and grace of Candace had forced me to admit Patricia was not a very nice person and probably never would be. 

After meeting Candace, I wanted to leave Patricia in the worst way.  But I stayed.  I was mystified by the hold that Patricia's cold beauty had on me.  Why do men make such fools of themselves even when they know better?  What drug rendered me so helpless?

I had no idea why men become so weak around beautiful women, but I certainly knew the feeling.  I knew that Patricia was not good for me.  Nor was I in love with her.  But for the life of me, I could not force myself to walk away.  Her beauty was so magnetic, I concluded she must have me under some kind of spell. 

I was not happy about my weakness.  Recalling how the Greek sailors had cursed their horrible Fate when Circe turned them to swine, I realized Patricia was doing something very similar to me.  At some point, I would have to free myself of her domination.


As I dealt with my keen disappointment, I thought of Katie, the one who got away.  Patricia was no Katie, that was for sure.  I ached as I remembered Katie and her gentle nature.  What a terrible shame I was not ready for her.  And now there was Candace, one of the finest women I had ever met.  Unfortunately, Candace was more than slightly out of my league. 

And then there was Patricia.  It saddened me to comprehend the axiom 'Beauty is skin deep' with such startling clarity.  Candace had an inner beauty that Patricia would never approach.  For the first time, I realized that Patricia and I were total opposites in one important way.  While I wanted very much to contribute to the world and find a way to spread some happiness, Patricia was not prone to lift a finger for her fellow man.  Her mind was preoccupied with how big her house would be someday.

So why, I asked myself, did I stick around?  I was not happy with my answer, but I knew it was true. 

Beauty.  A woman's Beauty holds far too much power over men.  I knew Patricia had her shortcomings, but I had tried to overlook them so far.  To me, her beauty made Patricia something special, one in a million.  However, Homer's tales had warned of the dangers caused by the pursuit of beauty.  Did I really want to pay the price that would come from pursuing a cold-hearted beauty? 

Helen of Troy, the ancient world's most beautiful woman, once caused thousands of men to die in the clash of the two most powerful civilizations on Earth. 

Nancy, the mystery woman of few words, had kept me mesmerized for an entire month simply because she was so incredibly beautiful. 

And now Patricia was doing the exact same thing.  Where would I ever find the will power to pull away from her? 


As a painful footnote to this story, two years after meeting Candace, I was shocked to hear this lovely woman had died.  A freak scuba diving accident in Cozumel, Mexico, claimed her life. 

Candace was only 25 years old.  What a terrible shame.  As I read the story of Candace's tragedy, I felt a huge regret.  I had never met a more graceful, gracious woman in my life.  Why would God take away a woman who had so much to give?

During our brief encounter, Candace had a spirit that touched me deeply.  There was something unusually kind and good about her.  Candace had demonstrated there is no reason why a beautiful woman cannot also be warm and down-to-earth. 

Her strange Fate reminded me of Achilles, the Greek hero who achieved fame in the Trojan War only to die suddenly at a young age.  When it comes to Fate, we never know.  I have long been haunted by her memory.  Why did Candace have to die so young?



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