1987 - Rick's Castle
Story written by Rick Archer
First written: June 1989
Last update: September 2009
of us have an inkling of what it is like to be seduced by
beauty. You want something that is irresistible, but
you also know it is dangerous. It is a scary feeling to want
something so bad that you are out of control and unable to
listen to the warning signals. You know you are in the
presence of danger, but you are helpless to do the right
Typically we assume it is a 'femme fatale' that works
her evil magic, but not this time. Once upon a time, I was so taken by the physical
beauty of a building for sale that I nearly made one of the
worst mistakes of my entire life. There were warning
signs all around me, but I was so determined to possess this
magnificent structure that I ignored the danger. I offer you this story as a cautionary tale to all.
if something seems too good to be true, you have to learn to
trust your feelings and back away.
Property was so vast that a single photograph could
not do it justice. However this artist's
rendering of the property gives a pretty good
idea of the unusual layout. At first glance it
really does look like a modern-day
castle! All it needed was a moat, a
drawbridge, and some spires.
The building is still there today. It is located one mile west of
the Galleria. It has three levels. The first
level is half below the ground and half above (if you look closely at the picture,
you will see ground level windows on the far left
and another set of windows in the structure on the
right). For security reasons, there are no
door openings at ground level. You have to
access these rooms from the second story courtyard.
The sweeping Courtyard was a thing of beauty
(look for the two areas with the square tiles or see
sketch below). It had the romantic atmosphere
of a French sidewalk area. The Courtyard was
so totally screened off from the surrounding area that it
felt like you were in your own little world. This
lovely second story veranda
connected the entire structure together (the picture doesn't make
clear, but you can actually walk directly under the middle structure).
All of the 16 different rooms were accessed from the
courtyard. Those courtyard tiles were
beautifully laid. They created such a smooth
surface that dancing on them would be no problem.
I visualized having wonderful outdoor dances during
the cooler times of the year.
There was a third level with apartments. I
assumed I would live in one of those apartments at
There are only four entrances to the courtyard...
two stairs in front and one set of stairs on each
side. By limiting
access to three of the entrances, I could
guarantee total control of the courtyard when
necessary. For example, for public events on
the Courtyard, we could take tickets
at the single open entrance. No sneaking in to
my parties! Just as important, we could defend
the structure against vicious attacks from
Thanks to the unique architecture, I
had all sorts of ideas. My imagination was
going wild! I was in love. Greenridge
was going to be Rick's Castle.
goes Looking for a
1987 was the year I went looking
to buy a building
to become my dance studio.
no longer happy at Dance
Dance Arts, located at 4803 Bissonnet, was not working out for a variety of reasons.
When I first started there
in October 1979, I sub-leased two small rooms in the
back. For six years, it was just me and one
However, six years is a long
time. At this point my program had outgrown
the space of the two rooms in the back.
The place was a dump. It was always dirty,
conditioner didnít work, and the
completely worn out.
recently, I had been happy here.
I had thought of Dance Arts as my
to take something pretty bad to make me go looking.
miserable because my relationship with my one-time
mentor Glen Hunsucker,
owner of Dance Arts, had taken a
serious turn for the worse.
I had enjoyed an excellent relationship
with Glen. In the
beginning, Glen had been so good to me that I
literally worshipped the ground he walked on. However, in
the previous year - 1986
and I had begun to quarrel. As
1987 began, I
felt taken advantage of and
disrespected. Glen was constantly
hitting me up for new revenue and arbitrarily changing the rules
of our working agreement. If he had
leveled with me and asked for help, that would have
been one thing, but instead he had turned into a
dictator. At times, Glen would become a fire-breathing
dragon. That made no sense. Previously Glen had been
such a gentle
man. I was mystified by this change in his
behavior. What had I done to turn this man so
much against me?
What I was not aware of was that Glen had
serious drug problem. There
is your explanation for his mood change right there,
but I had no idea at the time. The
problem was so bad that
further down the road it would put him in prison
for most of the Nineties. The
drug problem poisoned our relationship in two ways.
One, he needed more money to pay for his drugs.
Two, his drug-fried brain crippled his coping
skills. Glen constantly threatened to evict me, to raise my
rent, and to reduce my room usage. Worst of
all, he would literally scream at me for the
slightest of reasons. I was a nervous wreck!
Get me the heck out of here!
miserable now for over a year. I decided I
had taken enough abuse. I had to assume
things weren't getting any better. It was time to
look for the Exit Door. However, I didn't want
to waste money paying rent for the rest of my
life. I preferred to buy a building.
had enough money to buy a building in the $250,000 range.
Purchasing within this range, the monthly payments
would be close to what I was paying in rent to begin
with. I was confident we could make this work.
got myself a realtor. Together we went
looking. Evelyn found me all sorts of buildings.
She located several buildings that were in my price
range and seemed very promising.
What I didn't anticipate, however, was how hard it
was to make a deal.
At one point or another
during 1987, I put down
bids on seven different buildings.
not one deal went through!
Can you imagine that? Here was someone with
enough cash to buy at that level, no credit
problems, yet not one deal went through.
Even more ridiculous, at
the end of 1987, all but one of
the 7 structures were
still for sale.
That must be the all-time record
GIANT WASTE OF TIME
As I look back,
1987 was one giant waste of
time. Besides the seven buildings I
put down bids on, I must have looked at another 20 buildings
as well that didn't have a chance of working out. I
have heard that some people enjoy real estate, but not me.
I bristled at each dead end. It
seemed like all I did was look at buildings and waste more
time. This was
getting old very fast. I had absolutely zero patience.
The whole darn time, I just wanted to get it over with.
I realize, of course, that this kind of attitude is the
worst possible attitude you can have, but it is what it is.
Sometimes you have to accept your failings. I was not
cut out for the Real Estate Game. It is obvious
I had little flair (or patience) for
real estate. This was not a
game I enjoyed playing.
Adding to my impatience was the fact that we just kept
spinning our wheels with futility. It was ridiculous
to keep making bids where nothing happened! To this
day, I still can't explain "why" none of these deals went
through. Our futility made no sense at all. It
was a mystery then and all these years later it still
remains a mystery.
I suppose one possible answer to the mystery would be that I
had a mediocre real estate agent. In retrospect, it
seems pretty odd that seven deals in a row fell through.
Unfortunately, since I have never had another realtor to
compare her to, the question of her competence remains in
question to this day. I honestly do not know the
answer (although obviously I have my suspicions).
Evelyn (not her real name) was a personal friend of my
mother. One day I was complaining to my mother about
the problems I was having with Glen at the studio and how
badly I wanted to buy a building. Mom worked for
Evelyn's husband and knew that Evelyn did commercial real
estate. My mother suggested I talk to Evelyn. So
I did. I liked her and we got started. One thing
that Evelyn was very good at was finding lots of properties
for me to go look at.
When we started, I figured this process would not be
difficult. Thanks to problems with the oil industry,
Houston's economy had taken a huge hit in the mid-Eighties.
Sad to say, during this time, a lot of people left the
studio because they had to relocate in order to find a job.
I lost a lot of friends during this time, including two of
my favorite teachers
Jim Smith and
Jim's oil company transferred him to Dallas and Diane's
fiancť was transferred to Dallas by his oil company as well.
The silver lining in this downturn was there were now many
properties on the market at a reasonable price. At the
start, Evelyn told me finding a building should not be a
problem. Ah, famous last words.
once a month for the next seven months, Evelyn came up with
a new property that fit my needs - more space, lots of
parking, reasonably located near the Loop, and in my price
range. Each time I put down a bid.
suggestion was to bid 10% below asking price and see what
happened. So that's what I did.
one, each deal fell through. One building that
I bid on turned out to have another bid in before
mine. It was a very attractive building just
west of Chimney Rock near the Dance Place.
Okay, no problem. One building was on Westpark,
another building was just off Westpark. I have
no idea what went wrong with either of those bids.
Another building was between Alabama and Greenway
Plaza. I had really good hopes for that one,
but nothing ever happened there either.
One place I thought had a lot of potential was on
Rice Boulevard next to a gymnastics school.
The building wasn't much to look at, but the vast
land behind it promised wonderful parking and maybe
a tree-lined sand volleyball court to boot. I
offered them exactly what they asked, but I still
didn't even get to First Base. Memory tells me
ownership of the building was being contested in
court, so it was available and not available at the
same time. Today it is a truck rental place.
Out of these first five bids, I can't remember even
one counter-offer. I couldn't figure it out.
Were these buildings for sale or not? In the
meantime, we had just wasted another month of time.
Each time, Evelyn and I would give up and start
looking at other possibilities. One week
later, she would be back with another possibility
and we would start the whole stupid game over again.
Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut, so no one at the
studio had any idea what I was up to. No point
in burning my bridges ahead of time. On the
other hand, Glen was going further and further off
the deep end and I was getting more and more
desperate to make my escape. My desperation
explains why I had offered full price on my latest
bid... I wanted to escape in the worst way!
price" turned out to be a more effective strategy. On
my sixth try, I finally got past First Base. I not only made it to First Base, I got all the way to Third
Base! In fact, I was literally rounding Third
when got I tagged out at Home. The Pool Hall story
turned out to be one of the most frustrating experiences of
Hall building is
located on Gessner about half a mile north of I-10.
When I last checked in 2009, this building was
heavily fenced in with barbed wire. It looked
like it might be an office for a police narcotics
unit. If so, they picked a good spot. It is a
free standing structure located in a hidden area
behind a strip mall. You would never find it
unless you knew it was there.
Considering my preference for privacy, I was
thrilled with this spot.
In 1987 the building had served as a
pool hall. Now it was empty. The building had an odd alignment. The restrooms were in the very center of the building.
I anticipated building a dance floor in the shape of a
racetrack oval around the restrooms! Not exactly
your traditional ballroom dance floor, but perfect for
western dancing which ruled supreme in that day.
Both the Pool
Hall and the Strip Mall were
both owned by a
bank. I have little doubt that someone defaulted on a
loan and now the bank owned the two buildings. The
bank had tried to sell both buildings as a
package, but were getting nowhere. So they
decided to split the property up and sell it in two parcels. I was buying the smaller structure plus the
rights to use the entire parking lot after 7 pm.
The large strip mall was 90% unoccupied. It had just
been renovated. At the time, there was a dry cleaning
business in the main building and that was it. I
talked to them and they seemed friendly enough. The
owner said maybe they would stay open until my business
started in case some of my students wanted to drop off some
clothes. Works for me. I was more than happy to
help them out. I wasn't worried about my potential new
neighbors. My building was completely offset.
Their activities and my activities were unlikely to
conflict. Best of all, since most businesses operate
during the day, I would have most of the parking lot all to
myself. This place would work out just fine.
The bank officer I was working with was enthusiastic about my bid.
In fact, based on our preliminary talks, I assumed we had a done
deal. As far as he was concerned, I had enough money for the down payment.
In addition, I
had been in business long enough to satisfy him that I knew
what I was doing.
I had a very good rapport with my bank officer. Our
relationship was friendly. The
negotiations had gone so smoothly that I had practically no
fears about doing this deal.
Now it was time to wrap it up. I was totally ready! I was chafing at
the bit to get the deal done so I could get out on my own.
One summer morning, Evelyn and I went downtown to the bank's main
office to seal the deal. I entered the room in a
triumphant mood. I
had my checkbook with me and I was ready to sign the papers.
My first inkling that something was wrong came from the bank
agent. Typically, the bank officer was pleased to see me.
He always greeted me warmly. Today, however, he seemed
reserved. Was it my imagination or did he know
something was wrong?
After some preliminary talk, the bank's lawyer
entered the conference room. This was a surprise to
The lawyer began by saying before he could sign off
on this deal, he had to address the concerns of the
larger property (his exact words). I think my
lifelong disgust with lawyers began at that exact moment.
I raised an eyebrow. What was this all about?
I thought we had a 'done deal'.
The large strip mall in front of the former pool hall was 90%
So far, only a dry
cleaning business had moved in. The lawyer pointed out
that other businesses would soon be looking to move
in as well. The lawyer was convinced that the bank
needed to protect the larger property against any
conceivable encroachment by my smaller enterprise.
12 provisions that restricted what I could do or I could not do
with my property.
My bank agent had not warned me of this. I had no
idea this was coming. I was completely
It took me a
while to decipher his jargon, but this turn of events boiled
down to an argument over parking rights.
Since most businesses operate during the day, my night time
business would make perfect use of the parking lot in the
evening. This is the kind of door that swings two
ways... I made it clear that the daytime businesses would be
permitted to use my area in the back for any overflow
parking. Or perhaps they could insist their employees
park back there and save the nearby spots for their
customers. This time shifting made perfect use of the
parking lot. In fact, that's the way it had worked
here in the past - the pool hall had been the designated
'night time business'.
My bank agent understood the concept, but not the
lawyer. In the unlikely case that the future owner or
renters of the property needed the parking lot at night, he
wanted me to accept 'realistic limits' over my own parking
Let's say that a
Chinese Restaurant wanted to move in and stay open till 9
pm. Under his guidelines, if my student's cars proved
to be a nuisance, the Chinese Restaurant would have the
right to restrict my parking. In other words, the
Chinese Restaurant would have the ultimate say so in any
conflict regarding parking.
For that matter, any business that moved in would have the
same right! I would have to accept any demand they
placed on me.
I could not believe what I was hearing. In fact, I was
literally in shock. I looked at him like he was crazy.
I had no way of knowing who might move in. Based on
his suggestion, I would be at the mercy of any unreasonable
demand with no recourse!
My shock turned into angry. This lawyer was violating
an agreement I already had negotiated. As the bank
officer and I had discussed PREVIOUSLY, the whole idea was
to have daytime businesses rent the large structure and then
my business would use the lion's share of the parking at
night. Did this lawyer really think I was going to
sign off on a deal that would restrict my student's parking
rights? I kept looking at the bank officer to
speak up, but he deliberately avoided my stare.
The lawyer had some other wacko ideas. For example, if a restaurant were to move in and wish to operate on
Sundays - a family day according to the lawyer - we would be obligated to avoid having any loud
parties. If the restaurant felt our studio was a
distraction, it would have the right to demand we start
classes on Sundays after the restaurant were to be closed.
Mind you, there wasn't any restaurant currently there, but
just in case, the restaurant's rights had to be protected!
If a business needed extra parking on special holidays, we
would have to cede our parking to them. They would
have the right to demand we could not even be open for business
on a Holiday if they thought our activities would interfere
with their fun. His list of restrictions went on and on.
The lawyer had
quite an imagination. Some of his worries were so
crazy that I began to wonder what sort of people he thought
we were. Just the way he talked about the 'dance
studio' made me wonder if he thought we were some sort of
dangerous dance cult.
Now that my shock had worn off, I was ready to stand up for
I objected strenuously. I pointed out that once I owned my own
property, what right did a future business have to tell me
what I could or could not do? I was the first
person to commit. I deserved the privilege that comes
with being first. Let them adjust to me.
That's the way it is always done - the new businesses decide
whether they can co-exist with the other businesses that are
already there. I promised to work with any business
that wanted to move in, but I could not understand why I supposed
to worry about the concerns of neighboring businesses that
were not even currently in the picture.
I asked him why he was so concerned about
protecting the rights of non-existent tenants.
The lawyer smiled sagely. He said, "We cannot let the
tail wag the dog."
What in the heck did that mean? I asked him to
clarify. In other words, my
smaller building needed to be kept subservient to
the needs of the main building. He was worried that without these
protections, the 'problem of my dance studio' (his exact
discourage potential investors in the larger building. The
would end up not being able to sell their larger structure
because most business owners would prefer not to have A Dance Studio
as their neighbor. I honestly began to wonder what
vision he had of my business - a front for the Klu Klux Klan? Paramilitary
Frankly, I felt insulted.
The lawyer would go on to repeat that phrase six or seven more times
over the next hour. Every time he said it, I became
I told this man
I had rights too. My business was a sure thing.
If anything, I was more important to the bank because I was
ready to take an entire property off their hands.
Furthermore, contrary to his concerns about my business,
I had co-existed with my neighbors at 4803 Bissonnet for
seven years without major conflict. I was about to commit to a $300,000
building that was stretching my budget to the limit (yes, I
was exceeding my budget because this building seemed so
promising). He had no business expecting me to spend
$300,000 and be willing to tie my hands in the process for a
business or businesses that didn't even exist.
Why was he making this deal so hard for me
shrugged. He said he was sorry if I was
uncomfortable, but it was a standard business
principle to protect the larger interests from
interference by a smaller entity (I think those were
his exact words).
My mouth dropped open in astonishment at what I had
just heard. I was crestfallen. I had come into the
room prepared to make the biggest commitment of my life only
to discover I was less important than a business that didn't
even exist. I had always heard a bird in
the hand was worth two in bush, but not this time. Apparently his
"don't let the
tail wag the dog" argument trumped
my "bird in the
The entire time, the bank agent who had put the deal together
just started down at the floor as his deal unraveled before his very
eyes. All that time and effort down the drain.
But he never said a word in my defense. I
thought he was my friend, but the coward was clearly intimidated by the lawyer.
I bet he lost this same battle the day before. Today
he was already whipped because he
let the lawyer deep six all his hard work without
any protest. That's when I
remembered how formal he was at the door. That
knew this was coming, but hadn't bothered to warn
me. Thanks a lot, buddy.
Furthermore, my realtor didn't stick up for me
either. She said very little.
I thought I
had friends in the room, but I guess not. I was fighting this
battle single-handed. With friends like these,
who needs enemies?
I argued till I was blue in the face.
I pointed out time and again there was so much parking in
that shopping center, this argument wasn't even necessary.
The situation was so far superior to the parking realities
at our long-time Bissonnet location, it was hard for me to
believe there ever would be a problem.
The lawyer didn't listen to a word I said. He said his
first loyalty had to be to the larger facility. After
it was rented out, then he would turn his attention to the
property in the back. The only way he would work with
me now ahead of schedule would be if I was willing to accept his
conditions. The tail will not wag the dog.
That was it. I saw that the lawyer would never budge in a
million years. It was hopeless. I got up, picked
up my folder and told my realtor I was leaving. Since
I was driving, she
got up and walked out behind me. Stupid lawyer. His
arrogance and air of condescension were difficult to accept. That was easily one of the angriest moments of my entire
life. It took every ounce of self-control not to punch that
jerk in the nose.
A couple days later the bank agent called to see if there
was any way to pick up the pieces. Not if I had to
sign that waiver. Judging by his sigh on the other end of
the line, I could sense he was just as disgusted as I was.
How could anybody ever work a deal with a guy like that
The Pool Hall fiasco took a huge toll on my
spirits. I had completely committed to buying that building only
to have the carpet pulled out from under me. Now I was
really discouraged. I wasn't getting anywhere. I had made
legitimate bids on six buildings I could afford. I had always
bid a price that was reasonable, but most of the time I never even got
past first base.
Just about the time I was ready to give up, a new building appeared that
took my breath away. I wanted to buy the Greenridge Building from
the moment I saw it. Just like a beautiful woman can cast a
spell over a man, I was helpless from the moment I saw this place. It
captured my heart! The
unique architecture made
the property look like a medieval castle. This
place was so cool!
It had 16,000 square
feet. Compare that to our location on Bissonnet with
7,000 square feet.
Plus the place was so
gorgeous. This could be my Castle!
I could be King Richard!
I loved that place. For that matter, I still do.
I stop every now and then and take
a whimsical look at it. Any time you want to see it, go
to the corner of Greenridge and Beverly
Hills. Someone has bought it and fixed it up.
It still looks good.
To this day, I have never seen another building that would even
remotely compare to this one. Although its 'practical' value
might challenged, for sheer beauty, this building
wins the prize.
It was love at first sight. My realtor Evelyn set up a meeting with
Sam and Dave, the
two owners (not their real names).
The Greenridge property was unoccupied. Since
Sam and Dave were from Nevada, they found it expedient
to set up their business office
right there on the premises. This meeting gave me
second look at the Castle. I trembled with excitement as I walked through the
place once more. Oh, how I wanted to make this place
my permanent dance studio!!
two owners had done some preliminary talking with Evelyn.
They told her
there were other people interested in the
building as well, but these other people had run into the same problem as
the bank with the pool hall and the strip mall - no one
seemed to have enough money to buy the entire property
Evelyn had gotten them to
consider dividing the property. Under this plan, I would buy one wing of the building for a price
I could afford. I would
then share the maintenance of the
overall building with these other buyers.
During the meeting, I raised several points about what
would guarantee me protection from
abuses by these other unseen buyers. Thanks to my recent tail wag the dog humiliation, I had at
least learned to be concerned about protecting my own interests ahead of
Sam and Dave acted impressed by my sage
business acumen. They said I was a terrific business man.
Now that they saw things from my point of view,
looked to them like the smartest thing for me to do was to buy the whole place myself,
then turn around and
rent out the parts I didn't need. Flush with
excitement, I fell for their BS hook, line, and sinker. I was intoxicated.
My very own Kingdom
was at my finger tips!
meeting was supposed to be a cordial get-together,
sort of like meeting for drinks on a first date.
the two sellers
saw how eager I was to own this place,
they shifted into high gear. They could see they had a fish on the hook.
They immediately went to work hammering out a great
deal for me. Like any good salesman, they knew
better than to let me walk away and think it over.
I was weak and they were coming on strong.
Over the next two couple hours,
the two men worked up a proposal.
They understood I would need to do "a little remodeling", so
their offer included low
payments for a couple years with a huge balloon payment
further down the road once I got settled in.
I was 37 years old at the
time. You would think I would see what was going
on, but I admit I had very little business
experience. This real estate stuff was over my
head. I was a babe in
the woods and these guys were about to have their
way with me. But I wasn't worried; I had my
realtor to protect me. I knew she wouldn't let
me sign a bad deal.
thing I knew, I
had agreed to buy the place for $557,000!!!!
was about $300,000
MORE than I had money for. But the
I had to have it! Greenridge was
just too beautiful a
property to take
the chance of losing it to another man.
Besides, the price
didn't seem that out of line. Just one month earlier I
had come close to buying a 6,000 foot building - the former
Pool Hall - for $300,000. Greenridge, on the other
hand, had three times more space with a better location to
boot for just $257,000 more. I had 10,000 square feet
to sublease. If I could find some other tenants, I
would be in fairly good shape. Besides, the physical
beauty alone made the building vastly more valuable.
Best of all, people would love having dance parties at this
place! Like I said earlier, this structure made the
outside world disappear. The sense of privacy was
unbelievable. We could dance every night away to our
heart's content in this luxurious setting and no one would
ever bother us. The Greenridge Castle would be our own
I was crazy about this place. It had the elegant courtyard. All the rooms
were elevated. There were overhead walkways, split level rooms,
plus all sorts of twisty angles and corners that I found pleasing to the eye. All it needed was
the moat and I could have started the next Camelot.
Let me add these guys were clever. They used the oldest trick in
the book - they told me another investor was right on the verge of
buying the building.
me that this other buyer might snatch the entire property away from
me if I didn't act now! I could lose my Castle!
Panic-stricken, right there on the spot I wrote out a check for $7,000
as earnest money.
The moment I signed, I got sick in my stomach.
As smitten as I was, I
realized I had no business moving this fast. I sensed I
had acted rashly based on what these men said. Now I was having
Was I worried sick? You better believe
it. I knew I was taking a big
MYSTERIOUS SECURITY SYSTEMS INVESTOR
I don't think my rash decision to buy this place at that price can possibly make any
sense unless I explain the pivotal role the "mysterious investor" played
in our negotiations.
So who exactly was this key investor?
During the Big Meeting on Day One, the two sellers spent a good deal of time discussing
"The Investor". The investor was said to be the owner of a
security systems firm. His business was growing
fast. He wanted a new place large enough to allow
for further expansion. Like me, he had fallen in love with the
place right from the start, but unfortunately, he didnít have the capital
to buy it all.
In their words, this guy
was more or less in the same position as I was.
According to my sellers, this guy already knew about
me. When they realized I
might buy the whole place,
last night the sellers had
contacted him to give him one more chance to commit.
He responded that he couldn't commit,
but that he would spend all day today looking for one more investor.
Maybe he could come up with enough cash to buy the whole thing outright.
I frowned. It was obvious they were playing us
both against each other. Unfortunately
it worked like a charm. It seemed to me like the security guy and
I were in a neck and neck race to buy this place. But were these
guys on the level? Was I willing to gamble? Here's where a
little practice at reading a bluff would have come in handy. Alas,
I didn't have the guts to call their bluff. I took the bait and believed every word
they said. The two dealers had cleverly used the
threat of this unseen second investor to panic me into moving too fast.
However their fast-talk didn't stop
there. They had one
more master stroke up their
sleeves. First they
apologized to me for
contacting him last night.
They gave me some line that
he had asked them to contact
him if they thought they
were on the verge of a deal. They explained he had been
there first and they felt
some loyalty to him. Then they
quickly added I shouldn't
look at their actions the
wrong way. After all,
thanks to their talk last
night, they had discovered
this man was very interested
in helping me swing the
deal. In other words,
if he couldn't get the place
himself, he was very willing
to work with me!
Not surprisingly, this got my attention. I asked
them to go into more detail.
reason they had brought him
up in this conversation was
that they were looking out
for me. They wanted
this deal to be a success as
much as I did. They figured
that if I teamed up with the
security guy, financing this
place would be a lot easier.
The security man had gone to
great lengths to say that if I did buy the place
hoped I would at least let him rent the areas I had
absolutely no interest in.
The security man loved this place for a
number of reasons.
Obviously he liked the looks
of the place and the
location. In addition,
since this place was
something of a natural
fortress, he believed his
business would be secure
here. Just to be
doubly sure, he intended to
install his own hi-tech
equipment to make certain
his office was ultra safe.
The owners pointed out this
would enhance the security of the entire complex dramatically.
I nodded appreciatively.
The thought of that added
security was very appealing.
Best of all, the promise of
sure-fire rent money was
like a lifeline for me.
was like finding an oasis in
Or was it a mirage? I
couldn't be sure. I
had to trust them. But
why would they deceive me?
As you can guess,
the information about the other
investor was crucial. I was
being asked to commit to a deal that
was out of my league. After I spent
my entire life's savings covering
the down payment, there wasn't much
left in the piggy bank for
renovations. Furthermore the
monthly payments were going to
stretch me to the limit. What
business failed to take off at this
new location? It would have to
be an immediate success or I would be in a lot of
Therefore, the potential of this man's rent
important to me. The extra
cash would give me a fighting chance to make a go of this deal.
This man sounded like a great guy to bring
on board. With him in the picture, I felt much more
confident. I felt my
reservations about this deal begin
to melt away. Based on this
new and promising information,
that's when I decided to sign.
Quite frankly, if this investor had
not been in the picture, I would
have stepped back. Instead I
stuck my neck out and pinned my
hopes on an unseen man I had never
met in my life.
the meeting ended, I asked for the
Without hesitation, one of
the men flipped open his rolodex, found the number
wrote it out
with his name on
a piece of paper for me.
Good. I breathed a lot easier
knowing this guy would likely be
willing to help.
The meeting ended late in the afternoon.
my way out
of the door, the oddest thing happened.
As I walked by,
a drain spout fell off the wall for no
reason. That was so peculiar. As it crashed to the
ground just two feet away from my
I remember thinking what a strange omen
that was. I
shuddered inside. Was my guardian angel trying
to tell me something?
I was reminded of one of my favorite movies,
The Man Who Would Be King.
Sean Connery is forbidden
to marry a woman, but he decides to do it anyway.
Almost immediately the whole world goes to pieces.
dead from the
sky, a plague
of locusts strikes, crops
die, and his
bride-to-be has a terrible
seizure during the wedding ritual.
Talk about bad
omens! As I drove home,
I could not
get the thought of that falling
drain spout out of my mind.
It was now Day
Two. In addition to
Supernatural Omens, today I would learn of problems in the
Material World that would give me even more to worry
the morning on the phone to my stock broker. I would
have to cash in my entire life savings to raise the
down payment of $70,000.
My stock broker asked me to explain the deal to him. I
said the earnest money and the down payment added up to
$77,000, leaving a balance of nearly half a million. With
renovations and increased rent, I would have to count on
finding some tenants.
After I finished, the guy had the nerve to suggest I was out
of my mind. He said if one major thing went wrong, I
would be in big trouble. There was no margin for
error! That didn't help much; I had begun to
wonder the same thing.
I called the investor guy; no answer. Hmm.
That afternoon, I asked my carpenter to drive over to
the building to look things over.
When we got there, he was
at what he saw!
As pretty as it was, upon closer look, it needed a great
deal of repair. He couldn't believe I had signed a
contract without checking with him first!
The only air conditioner in the
entire complex that worked was in the seller's office.
The other ten units were dead. Could
they be fixed or would I have to buy new ones? He
found an upstairs room that was mysteriously full of trash, cigarette butts,
and beer bottles plus some filthy clothes as well. My
carpenter said it looked like
some bum had once lived up there.
There was evidence of
termite damage in the some of the walls.
a thin sheet of water all over the
cement floor in the basement plus signs of water damage. My carpenter
was very negative about my building, but then he wasn't in
love. I was able to see that once the
placed was fixed up, it would be beautiful beyond my wildest
dreams. Still, his criticism weighed heavily on my
ever-darkening spirits. I swallowed hard.
When I got home,
I tried calling the mysterious investor for the second time that day. Like
the first time, there was no answer. I frowned. This had
been a terrible day. My stock broker's negativity in the morning
shook me up. My carpenter's negativity in the afternoon shook me
up even more. However, what bothered
me the most of all was my
inability to reach this key investor by phone.
Answer the phone, damn it!
I spent most of Day Three
at home. I must have called the security guy four or
five times. Never a single answer! Not
even an answering machine! I was growing sick with worry.
I couldn't eat. Late that afternoon I called
Information in Austin and gave them
his name. They had no listing for him.
The woman asked if I knew where he worked; maybe she
could find the number for his business. It dawned on me I had no idea what his
company's name was. I thanked the woman and
hung up the phone. This was getting serious.
At that exact moment it started to rain very
hard. Yet another bad omen. The wrong number and the rain
complete with thunder and lightning combined to put me
in a very bad mood. I was starting to get a terrible feeling about this place.
I was physically nauseous with worry. However, but bad mood
or not, it was time to go to dance class. As I drove to the studio in
the torrential rain, I
obsessed over the bad phone
number. This was a much worse
omen than the falling drain spout. I don't
recall ever feeling gloomier in my life.
As I taught my dance class
that night, I couldn't
get the castle out of my mind. My heart was filled
with dread. I decided I needed another look. After class that night,
I invited 3 guys and 3 ladies from the studio to
have a look at the place.
Mind you, this was in direct conflict with
my policy not to do anything that might let
Glen know I was considering leaving him.
But given how afraid I was of more bad news,
I couldn't bear to go over to Greenridge alone.
I had to have company.
It was a dark and stormy night indeed.
The heaviest rain had stopped, but there was drizzle and
dense mist in the air.
I knew there were no lights that worked, so we got a couple
flashlights out of our glove compartments and climbed the
stone steps. When my friends saw the Courtyard, they were instantly impressed.
Wow! That cheered me up a bit.
Sad to say, that happy feeling didn't last very
we walked around, one of the men poked his head into a
downstairs room. Thanks to the night's heavy rainfall,
he discovered that this subterranean room was
now covered with
4 feet of water.
That quieted the group a bit. Me too.
As we wandered through the gloom and the mist, a girl
pointed out that in the dark, the Courtyard reminded her of
a graveyard. It was true. It was so dark, I
could barely see the walls. The same girl asked what
was upstairs. Let's go have a look. We climbed
the stairs and opened the door. That is when we walked
in on some homeless guy drinking a bottle of beer to
candlelight. When he saw us, he threw his arms up and
cackled maniacally with fear!
The women could not have been more scared if this was a
ghost. They screamed like banshees. They turned
and ran for their
lives screaming all the way down the stairs. I was pretty close on their heels. I don't know who
was more scared - him or us - but
I do remember my friends were badly shaken.
That was the end of the Tour. All six were more than ready to
depart. They politely agreed this was a gorgeous place,
but added it was kind of creepy too. No kidding!
I smiled wanly. I assured them that once we got the
lights working, the building would be much safer and friendlier.
had a hard time believing my own words.
I was really spooked.
dark mist, my eyes saw danger in every nook and
cranny. My imagination went wild.
I saw gargoyles hiding in the
shadows. It took every ounce of courage to
stay there by myself.
It took me a long time to steel my nerves.
Finally I forced myself to snoop around some more.
What other horrors lurked in this place at night?
Using my flashlight, I took
another look at the sunken chamber with the swimming pool.
My gosh, the water was deep enough to swim in! I
wondered if this building was in a flood zone or something.
I glumly noted that filling the moat would obviously not be
My thoughts returned to the Ghost on the Third Floor. Once I got my
wits about me, I realized this guy was the reason for all
the trash my carpenter had discovered - the bum had made that room his home!
It gave me the willies to know the bum was still around here somewhere.
What if he had a weapon? I tried to brush the bum out of my
mind. He was probably more afraid of me than I was of
him. Still, I looked over my shoulder at every
opportunity to see if he was sneaking up behind me. I
shivered with cold and fear.
There was a
reason I had stayed behind. Sam and Dave had given me a
master key to the
building as some sort of prize after I handed them my $7,000 check.
to take advantage of the situation and try a little trick.
master key on
the office door, sure enough,
it worked! Using my flashlight, I
entered their office
and went straight for the rolodex. I
found the number easily enough. Aha! I
noted that I had been given the wrong number. The
number I had been given was one card removed from the correct phone number. Plus the
man had given
me the wrong area code as well. They had said my
security guy lived in Austin, but as I studied the
correct 713 number,
it was apparent he lived right here in Houston.
Every dark suspicion I had about these guys had been proven
true. They had deliberately deceived me.
I made a beeline for home.
As I drove, I could not help but think how lucky these shysters were
to give me a working number that no one ever answered.
What are the odds of that? Or did they know ahead of
time this number would just ring and ring? I wouldn't put
it past them. My paranoia had reached a fever pitch.
I could not wait to test this new number! It was midnight, but I didn't care. My butt was
on the firing line and I wanted to get to the bottom of this
mystery. I felt my heart in my
throat as I dialed the new number. This time
a man answered.
Once I explained to him who I was, he
my worst fears.
According to this man, the whole sales pitch was a
hoax. These two guys had tried the same routine on him, but he had decided to do some
checking. The Castle had flood problems, foundation problems, the owner was being sued,
had once been condemned by the city of Houston
a total nightmare!
He said these guys were complete crooks.
He added he had no intention of buying
the place or renting it. No way he would invest in that
place. His parting words - get out of the deal if I could.
totally scared out of my wits, I called
Evelyn at 1 am.
She told me I could
cancel an earnest money contract any time within 72 hours after signing.
After a sleepless night, the next
morning (June 13, 1987), I sent Sam and Dave a telegram canceling the deal.
I beat the deadline by one hour. This was a
close call. Later that day, after a great deal of arguing, I was
able to get my $7,000 earnest money check back.
The ordeal was over. I had escaped by the skin of my teeth.
On the surface, of course, I was deeply relieved. But
deep down, I was very shaken. How did I ever let myself get
into a fix like this?
is the rough draft of the letter I wrote demanding the
return of my $7,000.
was a very close call.
CAVEAT EMPTOR -
the Buyer Beware!
This incident haunted me for a long time.
As you can imagine, my mistake shook me to the
foundation of my being. I had narrowly missed
making the worst mistake of my life!
During my three day ordeal, my worries caused me
such acute physical pain that I never wanted to hurt
like that again. I never wanted to make
another mistake that would make me feel this
frightened. I lost total confidence in myself.
Not surprisingly, I went into a deep depression
afterwards. I constantly questioned myself.
How could I have been so stupid? No one enjoys
feeling like the biggest sucker that ever walked the
earth. Was there
some flaw in my personality that would allow me to
make another mistake of this magnitude?
I found comfort in the oddest of places.
One night after playing volleyball at the Jewish
Community Center, an older gentleman asked me what
was wrong. I was in so much pain, I needed to
talk to someone. So I explained my
catastrophic blunder to him. He smiled and
said that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. He
said you can be smart and still make mistakes, especially when
you are forced to gamble based on incomplete
That's when he began to tell me about Robert
E. Lee, the man considered one of the most brilliant
generals in military history. From the start
of the Civil War, the Rebels were a huge underdog.
They were out-manned, out-gunned, and had nowhere
near the economic resources of the North.
Lee's chances of winning a protracted war were slim
and none. He could end it all right here in
Gettysburg. This was Lee's one big roll of the dice!
However, the omens were terrible.
Stonewall Jackson, his brilliant leader, had just
died of a freak injury. Jeb Stuart, his marvelous
scout who was the 'eyes' of his army, had
disappeared. Worst of all, the Yankees had taken
the hills nearby thanks to a blunder by a Rebel
captain. This allowed a small Union force to
narrowly hold the high ground until reinforcements came.
Now the terrain was definitely not in Lee's favor.
Yet, despite all these handicaps, the Rebels still
would have won except for a miraculous last-ditch
defensive stand by the Union on Little Round Top,
perhaps the most fabled episode in the entire Civil
And what was the point of the Jewish man's
story? Lee had been given what seemed to be a
once in a lifetime chance to end it all.
Except that he had to act instantly.
He might not ever get a second chance.
Ultimately, Lee made an enormous gamble based on
haste, faulty information, weak position, and
desperation. Lee had been seduced by the
magnitude of the reward. He believed this was his ONE BIG
CHANCE to end it all!
The Heart is a
Lonely Hunter. When you want
something too much, you do everything in your power to
convince yourself the person or opportunity before you is
the right one. I believed I
had one chance to wrap up the building of a lifetime.
If I hesitated, there seemed to be someone right behind
me ready to scoop it up.
Like Lee at Gettysburg, I was seduced by the magnitude of
the reward. This Castle would help my small but
growing dance studio become something very special indeed.
In regards to this amazing building, I
was right about one thing - I have never seen anything like
it since. It would have been the perfect place for my
studio. In my case, this building was so special that
it seduced me in the same manner a
beautiful woman could hold sway over a lonely man.
Desperation fuels rash behavior. Previously, I
had the sense to walk away from a bad deal - the Pool Hall -
but not this time. I was desperate because my
situation with Glen had badly deteriorated and because the
Pool Hall incident had robbed me of any remaining patience.
A Leap of Faith.
Wanting something to be true despite clues to the contrary,
I threw caution to the winds. I didn't trust these guys,
caution was overcome by my hopes and dreams.
With my judgment impaired, I let myself be fooled by some
smooth talking crooks
into making a very risky deal.
When they said this was my only chance,
I believed them. In my defense,
I had no previous experience with
con men. These guys talked a very good game.
Their clever 'investor story' worked wonders on me.
Then I learned to my dismay what a big gullible fool I had
What still bothers me to
this day is not these con men, but rather my own realtor.
I was suspicious about these men from the start.
However, my realtor didn't offer a single word of caution.
She just sat back and let me make a fool of myself. So
the question is: Was she fooled too? Maybe.
I have another explanation. My gut tells me that after
all the time she had invested in this project - twenty
buildings that had no chance and six previous contract
disappointments, she was so anxious to make some money that
she swallowed her whistle. It wasn't her butt on the
line. So what?
After this deal fell through, I never
trusted Evelyn again. It was obvious she had
some integrity issues. She called from time to time with exciting
new places to see, but I always
Two months after the deal fell
through, by magic I suddenly found myself with the
lease the 4803 Bissonnet
property all by myself. Glen had
I would be my own man and I wouldn't even have to
move. That put an immediate end to this chapter.
I was already home.
Greenridge remains to this
the most beautiful building I ever saw. For an
instant, all my dreams and hopes
seemed ready to
Add in the sweet talk and I was
That is when I
took total leave of my senses. Just
remember this - if it seems too good to be true, it