David Harrington
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Hi David,

This story took place at the halfway point in my book.  See what you think and get back to me.

Chapter 58: Eric... A Messenger sent to reassure me I was headed in the right direction.

 

 


DESTINY


CHAPTER FIFTY-EIGHT: 
ERIC

Written by Rick Archer

 


SUBCHAPTER 270 - FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT

 

The pressure never let up throughout the first half of 1978.  My life was one long perpetual crisis.  Lance Stevens was the Boss from Hell, but the rapid snowball effect of the Disco Phenomenon was equally responsible for my ordeal.

Countless people who had never danced in their lives were being persuaded to take dance lessons.  Despite all my stumbles and fears, so far I had done a pretty good job giving my students what they wanted.  I had been Houston's first Disco teacher and I was probably the first to begin teaching 'Disco partner dancing'.  By staying one step ahead of the storm surge, word of mouth on my classes brought student after student to the doorstep of Stevens of Hollywood.

In a sense, I was a victim of my own hard work.  The size of my classes kept increasing and so did my number of hours.  I was teaching two, sometimes three classes per night, then spending another hour at the Pistachio Club looking for new patterns or staying late at the studio to practice upcoming New Moves.  

I was caught in the swirling tides of this gigantic cultural phenomenon.  Disco kept gaining more and more momentum in the first half of 1978.  Disco music was everywhere.  Disco fashions were popular and flashy new Discos were opening.  Donna Summer dominated the radio while TV was awash with Disco acts.  The whole world was rushing to join the Dance Fever bandwagon.  

Disco was a Tidal Wave sweeping the nation and it was sweeping me along with it.  At times, the frenzy was almost too much.  I was growing with my job, but my job was growing faster than I could keep up with it.  Just when I finally got my Beginning Disco class down pat, the demand for Intermediate and Advanced classes created further crisis.  The demand for more partner dance moves was eating me alive.  Feeding the hungry Disco Beast was a neverending battle.

I played Fake it Till You Make it every night and prayed no one would bust me. 

 

The challenges thrown at me never seemed to end.  First I had been told to add partner dancing to my March Beginner class.  Then I had been ordered to create an Intermediate partner dance class for April.  Now Stevens demanded a new 'Advanced class' starting in June.  You know the story by now... more money in his pocket and my reward was to keep my job. 

Stevens kept me in perpetual crisis mode for three solid months.  The whole reason I taught this 'Death Drop' move at the Jet Set in the first place was to get some much-needed practice before teaching the same move at Stevens of Hollywood.  At the Jet Set, I could get away with murder... and almost did.  However at Stevens of Hollywood the slightest mistake could cost me my job. 

In order to create an Advanced class, I had to come up with a whole new series of complicated patterns, most of which would be risky moves like the Pretzel and the Death Drop.  What a fiasco.  If only there was someone I could turn to!!  Certainly not Lance Stevens. 

The Scream in the Night incident was a prime example 'Fake it till you Make it.'  Lost in all the drama, no one but me realized I had been directly responsible for this accident due to my ignorance.  The woman who fell had hurt her head badly, but she was so drunk she never thought to blame anyone but her partner.  By failing to anticipate the danger of a woman being hurt in the acrobatics move, this had been another 'arrows in the back' moment for my brave pioneers.  One more mistake like this and I might be taking someone to the Emergency Room.   When I said I spent most of 1978 impersonating a dance teacher, I meant it.  For the first half of the year I knew little more than the people I taught, but I didn't dare let them know that. 

As Impersonators go, so far I had been pretty good at it.  I had the wits to scramble and I hustled hard to keep up my facade.   However, I was not out of the woods.  When the 'Scream in the Night' took place in April, this put me on high alert.  The 'Scream' incident made it clear there was potential for danger when I began teaching Advanced moves in June.  However, with each day, my optimism improved.  I was improving rapidly as a teacher.  Every day I was able to survive, I gained new insights on how to explain the material more clearly.  I could see the day was not too far off when I would no longer have to fake it. 

 

Once I taught my Advanced class, from this point on I would not have to invent any new levels unless I wanted to.  Therefore, as May approached, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was relieved to note the Ordeal was almost over.

Meanwhile, my Intermediate students were excited to know I was developing another level.  I was starting to develop a loyal following.  About 30 students from the February-March Beginner class had moved on to my difficult April-May Intermediate class.  Now they were glad to know about the upcoming June-July Advanced class. 

I felt so guilty sometimes.  They deserved a legitimate instructor.  I told myself if I could hang on, someday I would become competent.  Just don't get caught!!

So how did I keep getting away with it?  I was a better dancer than my students... which wasn't saying much.  My superiority helped me disguise my ignorance as a teacher.  Thank goodness they always assumed that any problem was their fault, not mine.  This was a dangerous game, but as long as I could continue to stay one step ahead of my students, I might be able to pull this deception off.  

However, the risk was always there and I knew it.  Like Jesse James, the bullet might be fired behind my back and I would never see it coming.  My biggest fear was having a student show up who knew more about dancing than me.  What would happen if my students could compare a gifted dancer to the Great Imposter?  In order to maintain my charade, I prayed that no one with real talent ever appeared. 

So naturally someone did!! 

I was about to face the greatest threat of the entire year to date.

 


SUBCHAPTER 271 -
ERIC

 

Lance Stevens held me in total contempt because I could not dance to his standards.  He tolerated my presence simply because he did not want to teach Disco himself and because Disco teachers were hard to find back in the beginning of the Disco Era.  That meant Stevens needed to keep me around until someone better came along.  Therefore, despite my obvious lack of dance talent, Stevens gave every Disco student to me, then turned his back and held his nose.

 

In late April, a swarthy, dark-haired Hispanic man named Eric showed up as a student in one of my classes.  Where did he come from?  The moment I saw the sneer on his face, I knew this guy was trouble.  Eric was not only gorgeous, he could really dance.  Every woman in the room was mesmerized.  Eric did nothing to challenge me during my class, so the threat of exposure was not a problem.  However, his presence bothered me a lot.   Eric had the ability to pick up everything I taught effortlessly.  In fact, Eric was the best dancer in the room. 

I was totally intimidated.  Why is there a new man in my class in the fourth week?  And why is he so talented?  After class, Eric came up and introduced himself.

"Hey, man, I'm Eric.  Glad to meet you.  Good class tonight.  Hey, look, I just got here from Los Angeles.  I taught some dance in L.A., won a contest here and there.  Now I'm staying with my sister here in Houston and I'm looking for work.   Who's the boss man around here?"

With a gut-wrenching stab of fear, I bravely pointed to white-haired Lance Stevens on the other side of the room.  Eric was gone in a flash.  I watched from afar as Stevens conducted an interview.  Eric grabbed a lady and danced with her.  He was very smooth and danced moves I had never seen before.  Stevens was impressed.  I winced as a giant crush of insecurity hit.  Stevens had never looked at me that way. 

Stevens hired Eric on the spot.  Eric was 28... same age as me... and full of confidence.  Eric knew all kinds of flashy LA street dance moves and was an expert at Latin dancing.  Stevens approved and so did the women.  The ladies could not take their eyes off him.  Eric had a brash, outgoing personality and that Latin swagger women find so irresistible.  I felt like dog meat compared to this guy. 

   

The sad thing is that I understood I was probably responsible for Eric's presence.  I had gotten lucky with the Courses a la Carte 'Neon Sign' spotlight that pointed to Stevens of Hollywood at the start of the year.  Since then, I had busted my ass to take advantage of this golden opportunity.  I had put in four solid months of work (January through April), created three new classes on my own time and generated tremendous energy in the process.  Stevens of Hollywood was the best-known Disco studio in the city thanks to me.  Naturally Eric had been drawn to the location with the best reputation in search of a job. 

Eric's presence blew my mind.  He was my worst nightmare.  To me, Eric's appearance was like a bad ending to a science fiction film.  Here we are sending messages to outer space to let the aliens know where to find the Earth.  Then one day, lo and behold, an alien race far superior to humans show up.  They like the looks of our planet, so out come the lasers.  What's the phrase for that?  'Extinction level event.'  That is how I felt about Eric.  Lance Stevens had just hired a man who had more talent than me.  Knowing full well that Stevens only kept me around because he had no one to replace me with, I was certain my days were numbered.  My guess was that Stevens would gradually let Eric assume control of my classes.  If so, what could I do about it?  Nothing.  I had no idea how to counteract this threat.

Sure enough, one week later I learned that Stevens had handed Eric the next Beginning Disco class at the start of May.  Stevens did not even bother to tell me.  One day I looked at the schedule.  My name was erased and Eric's name had been penciled in.  The writing was on the wall... literally.  Just like that, I had Wednesday at 8 pm free with no class to teach.  I was certain this was the first step to being replaced completely.  My job was great jeopardy.  Ironically, the exact moment I thought I finally had job security, I had no security at all.  By pushing my meager talent to the limit and taking great risks, I had put my heart and soul into creating the top Disco program in the city.  Now my hard work was about to be handed to another man.  I was sick beyond belief at this turn of events.  

Stevens never explained his action to me.  Nor did he worry about my feelings.  I assumed his attitude was that if I didn't like it, I could quit.  Although I was furious, I said nothing.  I knew Stevens didn't like me.  I knew the only reason I kept my job was Stevens did not have another option.  Now with Eric here, I had no leverage.   Unwanted by Stevens and outclassed by Eric, the clock was ticking.

Oddly enough, I liked Eric even though I hated him.  Unlike Stevens who had nothing but disdain for me, Eric was always friendly.  We should have been rivals, but Eric was so damn confident of his own ability, he realized I posed no threat to him.  He even offered to show me moves from time to time.  I felt so utterly defeated.

 

One day I came to the studio early.  I heard Disco music coming from a side room and peeked in.  Eric was dancing with a really pretty girl.  I was mesmerized.  He was dancing moves I never knew existed.  Eric was the best dancer I had ever seen.  This guy was so far out of my league it was pathetic. I quietly closed the door and went somewhere to panic. 

Later I mentioned to Eric I had seen him dancing.  "Eric, what do you call that style of dancing?"

"I call it Disco, but its a form of street dancing and Mambo put together.  Latin dancing and Disco are pretty similar."

I nodded as if I knew what he was talking about, but the truth was that I was clueless.  Mambo?  Never heard of it.  Eric not only had more talent than me, he had more knowledge.  Eric was the archetype of a professional dance instructor.    Eric thrived in May, his first month.  Unlike me, Eric was no imposter.  He was good and knew it.  He had charisma and that Latin macho.  If ever there walked a man who could be termed 'God's gift to women', that would be Eric.  

Eric was the Anti-Me.  Eric was the Pro, I was the Schmo.  Eric not only looked like a dance instructor, he acted and moved like one.  Eric was a natural who made me look stiff in comparison.  He was a good-looking guy who had won a couple dance contests and could command every eye in the room with his flashy dancing.  He was smooth with the girls and cocky in his demeanor. 

Right now Eric was only teaching a Beginner class, but I assumed it was just a matter of time till Stevens put Eric in charge of all Disco classes. 

I was a goner.  I had absolutely no answer for Eric. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 272 -
DAVID AND GOLIATH

 

Eric had been with us for a month when Stevens called a meeting at the end of May.  I was immediately on guard.  Stevens had never called a meeting before.  Since Stevens refused to tell me what this meeting was about, the uncertainty amplified my paranoia.  Since I did not think Stevens was going to call a meeting to fire me, I wondered if he was going to order me to train Eric.  If that was the case, I was ready to quit.  Eric didn't need my material to begin with and my pride was too great to humble myself like that.

Due to my anxiety, I arrived early.  I knocked on the door and Stevens told me to come in.  Stevens was at his desk waiting for me.  I felt sick in my stomach.  Stevens told me to take a seat, but I chose to remain standing by the door.  If I was going to be fired, I wanted to leave before the tears appeared.  My heart was thumping and my sense of dread was way out of control.

Suddenly Eric walked in without warning.  No knock.  Eric just swung the door open and boldly walked in. 

Before Stevens could say a word, Eric made a grandstand move.  I watched in shock as Eric sat down right in front of Lance Stevens, then plopped his feet up on the opposite side of Steven's desk.  Eric grinned at me, then shot some sort of knowing look straight at Stevens to get his attention.  Following this arrogant gesture, Eric launched into a sales pitch.

"Lance, let me get to the point.  I want to be your business partner.  I am good, very good.  You know that.  You've watched me teach and you've watched me dance.  You are nearing retirement age, so I assume you are looking for someone to hand the reins to.  I am your man.  What do you think?"

I was aghast.  I could not believe Eric's boldness.  Where did he get the nerve to call Stevens by his first name?  And what was with the feet on the desk routine?  Eric was so confident of himself that he had even made his pitch with me in the room.  Why would Eric do that? I was certain this guy had misread Lance Stevens.  If Eric had waited to make his pitch in private, Stevens might have been more open-minded.  Even if Stevens rejected it, he might be willing to give Eric a chance to apologize for his brash behavior.  However, having me in the room changed the dynamics.  Eric had just challenged the boss in front of another employee.  This felt more like a confrontation than a polite request.  I held my breath to see how this would play out. 

Stevens was stunned.  For a moment, he just stared hypnotically at Eric's feet on the desk.  Then I saw a deep frown come over his face.  Stevens had a huge ego.  Didn't Eric know this?  Sure enough, Eric's amazing display of hubris rubbed Stevens the wrong way.    

"Young man, perhaps you didn't read the sign on the door.  The sign says Stevens of Hollywood.  I am Lance Stevens from Hollywood, California.  I won contest after contest on the West Coast when you were still in diapers.  I opened this studio ten years ago without any backing.  I did it on my own and I didn't need your help to do it.  I have run this studio for ten years without a partner and I certainly don't need one now, especially not one with an attitude like yours."

Then Stevens turned to me.  He pointed to the door.  "Archer, you don't need to be in here."

Before I left, I saw a flash of panic cross Eric's face.  Eric had just realized his arrogance had gotten the better of him.  Lance Stevens took enormous pride in letting the world know that he was the Master and this was his studio.  For some cocky street kid to walk into his office and suggest being partners after a one-month apprenticeship was a pretty serious insult.  Eric's aggressive approach had violated all norms of common sense.  Did Eric not understand that a polite approach might have worked?  Apparently not.  His Latin swagger had backfired badly. 

Three minutes later I watched Eric unceremoniously leave Stevens' office and head for the front door.  He was so upset he never even looked at me.  I frowned and smiled at the same time.  This moment was pure Twilight Zone.  Watching Eric lose it with Lance Stevens was like reliving my own demise with Dr. Fujimoto.  Eric's bold approach with Stevens was not only the same sin I had once committed, his fate was identical as well.  I had been dismissed from Colorado State due to my lack of political sense and Eric had been dismissed for the same reason.  Déjà vu.  It was like watching myself in the mirror.

I never saw Eric again.  If they had been alone, perhaps Stevens could have settled for chewing out the young man in private.  Why Eric did not grasp this was beyond understanding.  My superstitious side concluded I had been allowed to witness this drama for some Cosmic reason.  The parallel to my own life story was so strong that I assumed this was a mystical event of some sort.  I was certain a message from 'Beyond' was being sent.  But what was the lesson?  I needed to give this some serious thought. 

 

First I had to deal with the total improbability of Eric's Demise.  I never could have overcome an obstacle like Eric on my own.  I did not have a chance with him around.  Eric was exactly the instructor Stevens had hoped I would turn out to be.  Eric was Stevens' kind of guy. 

Like Lance Stevens, Eric won dance contests.  Not only did Eric have more dance experience than me, he had genuine talent and charisma.

What hope did I have?  There were no teachers I could turn to to improve my skill level.  And where was I going to acquire 'charisma' at this late date?  Nor could I suddenly acquire talent.  You either have it or you don't. 

Let's be honest here, I didn't have a chance.

This was David versus Goliath.  And yet the rock from David's slingshot went straight into Goliath's forehead from a great distance.  And what about the poison arrow shot by Paris into the ankle of Achilles from 100 yards away?  

Two very lucky shots, yes?  Maybe too lucky.

In both situations, the underdog won most likely due to the intervention of a higher power who guided the missiles with perfect accuracy.

 

Now before my eyes, Eric, a modern day Goliath/Achilles if there ever was one, had self-destructed.  I could barely comprehend the strange twist of Fate that saved my dance career.  Eric was an unbeatable threat.  My situation was so hopeless, only a 'miracle' could save me.  And so it did! 

Except this was not another far-fetched Bible tale or ridiculous Greek myth.  This was 'Reality'.  Indeed, this result was so improbable it forced me to reassess just what 'Reality' might be.  I had no business being the victor here.  Sure, I had talent as well, but not like Eric.  My self-discipline and persistence were no match for Eric's fluid motion and extensive knowledge of Latin dancing.  Nothing could save me.  Nothing, that is, except Supernatural intervention. 

Eric's mysterious demise would go on the List as Supernatural Event #34, Five Star Rating. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 273 -
A SERIOUS REALIZATION

 

Stevens never said another word about Eric.  He simply told me to add Eric's current May-June Beginner class to my growing list of responsibilities.  Eric's class had four more weeks to run.  I will never forget the disappointment of his groupies when I walked into Eric's class and said I would be taking over.  This was a difficult class to teach.  For one thing, the women would not shut up. 

"Who are you?
"Where is Eric?
"Why isn't Eric here?
"Is Eric sick tonight?

Although the men were less vocal, they too had a loyalty to Eric.  I could see Eric had been well-liked by his students.  I asked them to show me what Eric had taught so far.  To my dismay, they showed me footwork to a type of partner dancing that did not register.  It would not be till six months later that I realized Eric had been teaching them the legendary 'Latin Hustle'.  That fact alone demonstrated just how far ahead of the curve Eric had been.  Why I held the keys to the Kingdom and not Eric was a mystery to me.

Since I had no idea how the Latin Hustle worked, I trotted out my sad little 'New Yorker'.  I almost died when I saw their faces.   

"Will Eric be back next week?
"Did Eric quit and go to another studio?
"If so, which studio?"
"Do you have Eric's telephone number?"

The following week was even more difficult.  Half the women did not return, so now the men had no one to partner dance with.  The boy-girl ratio was so bad, I was forced to go back to Freestyle and Line Dances.  As we limped through the remaining classes, I was forced to deal with the ever-present gloom caused by their disappointment.  Some day I hoped to be as good a teacher as Eric, but for now they were stuck with the Great Imposter.  It was humiliating to replace someone who actually knew what he was doing.

Meanwhile, I felt very unsettled.  Why would Eric needlessly sabotage his own brilliant future?  Under 'Ordinary Circumstances', Eric would have replaced me and instantly inherited the considerable momentum I had generated over the past five months.  After considerable success, no doubt Eric would one day inherit Stevens of Hollywood from Lance Stevens.  Eric was the man with the plan.  With his kind of talent, Eric was destined to become a fixture on the Houston Dance Scene for decades to come.  

But these were not 'Ordinary Circumstances', were they?  These were Extra-ordinary circumstances.  The most talented dance teacher I had ever met had simply vanished from sight.  Just like that... poof!!... a man far superior to me had evaporated into thin air.  This shocking development that left me overwhelmingly consumed with superstition. 

I concluded Eric had been sent to reveal something to me.  I also thought I knew what it was.  Eric was someone I could compare myself to.  He had come into my life to help me understand that I had no business being as successful as I was given my limitations. 

Eric had the talent and charisma to achieve the same success as me, but he did not require 'Supernatural Help' to do so.  Like Patrick Swayze, Eric had all the necessary gifts to achieve success in the Dance World on his own.  On the other hand, I was not a success simply due to my talent.  I was a success mainly because Fate had put me in this position.  This was a very humbling realization, but a valuable one nonetheless.  Up to this point, a series of weird events had led me to believe something very unusual was going on in my life. 

  The appearance of the mysterious Courtesan book
 
The weird presence of the River Oaks Seven
  The Magic Mirror idea
 
Casa Mark and Farmhouse
  The training and encouragement of Patsy Swayze
  The lessons in socialization from Gaye Brown-Burke
  My unusual relationship with Elena
 
The offer of my Dream Job by Rosalyn
  The friendship of Dorothy Piazzos
 
The right place/right time job offer from Lance Stevens
 
The amazing Spotlight effect of Courses a la Carte that guided a hundred students to the studio in January
 
The fluke Dance Project that made me Houston's one in a million Disco Teacher
 

Eric had provided the final clue in the puzzle.  Now that I could see what a truly talented dance teacher looked like, I was convinced that Fate was the only logical explanation for my success.  The entrance of Eric into my life and subsequent departure convinced me once and for all that I was truly following a Mystical Path under the supervision of an Invisible Presence.  That was the message Eric had brought to me.  There was no longer any remaining doubt. 

I did not know what my role was to be, but I had definitely been chosen for something.

 


SUBCHAPTER 274 -
COSMIC STUPIDITY

 

Eric's unexpected braggadocio forced me to re-examine my views about Destiny and Free Will.  Eric's grandstand play was the most unusual self-destructive event I had ever witnessed.  That was a really stupid thing to do.

In fact, it was so stupid, I wondered if it was deliberate.  In other words, maybe there was something fishy going on. 

There was something about the incident that really bothered me.  Eric's unusual boastfulness seemed uncharacteristic.  I had known Eric for a month.  Eric was cocky and arrogant to some extent, but he was also polite and under control.  His daily personality exuded confidence, not brashness.  For example, Eric was not a bully.  Eric never once rubbed his superiority in my face.  He was certainly tactful with me, so where did that tact disappear to during his meeting with Lance Stevens?

In our lives, we all make mistakes that in hindsight leave us perplexed.  We all have moments where we ask ourselves, "What was I thinking?  Was I out of my mind?"

The Eric I saw in Stevens' office was an Eric I had never seen before.  Eric behaved as if he was in some sort of trance.   Psychology calls it 'irrational behavior' and Sigmund Freud would of course blame it on the Unconscious.  However, I wondered if there was another explanation for Eric's crazy behavior.  The Brothers Grimm once wrote of curses and spells.  Interesting thought.  If I didn't know better, I would say an evil spell had overcome this young man.  And, of course, 'drugs' and 'booze' have been known to alter behavior.  However, Eric didn't seem high.  Instead, he completely misread Lance Stevens.  Eric seemed overwhelmingly convinced that Lance Stevens required no persuasion or soft touch.  Eric had a Kingdom at his fingertips, but had badly overreached.  In a way, I felt sorry for the guy.  As he left, Eric looked like a man who knew he had just blown an incredible opportunity.

The two men who shaped my philosophy about Fate were Edgar Cayce and Yogananda. 

Edgar Cayce once met three young men who were about to leave for Europe during World War II.  A vision of their imminent death flashed before his eyes.  So much for Free Will, right?  No matter what decision these young men made, they were doomed to die very soon. 

In his book Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda described several incidents that were 'Pre-Ordained'.  For example, in one incident, his own guru handed him a special amulet and instructed him to wear it for a month.  Yogananda asked why.  His guru explained that Yogananda's Karma dictated an impending illness.  This amulet would help lessen the effects of the illness. 

Cayce's morbid vision and Yogananda's upcoming date with illness implied some things are going to happen regardless of Free Will. 

Usually when we think of Fate, we think in terms of lucky breaks and bad breaks.  However, Eric's unusual behavior troubled me so much that I began to stretch my imagination.  For the very first time in my life I began to wonder if sometimes we are manipulated into making mistakes as part of our Fate.  I understand we are supposed to have Free Will.  I also understand we are taught to take Responsibility for our actions.  However, maybe we don't have Free Will all of the time.  A disturbing thought to be sure, but one to consider. 

For example, I recalled the time I decided to cheat on a German test in high school for absolutely no good reason.  I did not need to cheat.  I did it because I felt like it.  It was almost like I was under a spell.  Then the impossible happened.  Despite taking every precaution under the sun to avoid getting caught, I got caught when a boy suddenly burst into the room.

It was the dumbest thing I ever did in my life.   Almost as dumb as what Eric did.

After Eric's Demise, I began to look at that cheating incident in a different light.  If I could do something that stupid and Eric could do something that stupid, maybe I had just uncovered a very unusual explanation for our uncharacteristic stupidity. 

Is it possible that sometimes we are deceived into making a senseless mistake as part of our Fate?

In religion, there is a concept known as Divine InspirationDivine Inspiration implies that a supernatural force such as God can transmit a creative thought to a person.  Divine Inspiration has been a commonly reported aspect of different religions for thousands of years.  In its simplest form, a human prays for guidance and God delivers a revelation. 

Thanks to Eric, I decided to reverse this concept.  If there is such a thing as 'Divine Inspiration', then why can't there also be such a thing as 'Divine Deception'?  If God can offer guidance, one can imagine God also has the power to mislead people.  It seems like we all make terrible decisions at certain points in our lives.  We do something incredibly stupid like marry the wrong person, then look back and ask, "What on earth was I thinking?  Why did I marry that man??  I should have known better!!  The warning signs were all there.

Eric's strange behavior was the trigger that caused me to create a theory I termed 'Cosmic Stupidity', the opposite of Divine Inspiration. I now believed that sometimes we are led to make bad decisions as part of our Fate.  If indeed Karma exists, then there must be some sort of mechanism by which a person's 'thinking' can be accessed by Unseen Forces.  If certain things are meant to happen, then there must be a mechanism that allows an Unseen Arbiter of Fate to manipulate people into making mistakes. 

My own experience with cheating on the German test supported my belief.  Cheating on that test was the single worst idea I ever had.  For one thing, I had nothing to gain.  I just did it for the heck of it.  Where did that impulse come from?  Now I believed I had my answer... I was under the spell of 'Cosmic Stupidity'.  To me, I felt like something had influenced my behavior.

This realization changed the way I approached life.  Although I still believed I had Free Will, I no longer believed I had Free Will all the time.  I now firmly believed misleading ideas were sometimes sent to me.  From this point on, I tried to make the best decision I could using my own judgment, but if something went badly wrong, I chalked it up to 'God's Will' and accepted the consequences.

There is an interesting passage in the Bible.  In Romans 11:8, it is written “God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.

I am hardly a Biblical scholar, but to me that passage implies that God not only has the power to render us blind to what is going on, He exercises that power whenever He deems it necessary.  No one in their right mind would ever behave like Eric did.  Therefore I believe Eric very well might have been a victim of 'Cosmic Stupidity'. 

Let me say this in very direct terms... my experience with Eric changed me in several very important ways.  They say things happen for a reason.  If so, what might be the purpose to place Eric under a spell?  I had a sneaking suspicion that Eric had to leave so that my own Path would remain undisturbed.  To me, it felt like my career had been created by Divine Intervention to begin with and now my career had been spared by Divine Intervention as well. 

If so, I assumed I had been spared for a reason.  No one deserved to be this lucky unless there was a purpose.  I decided I had been spared because there was something I was meant to do.  This was the moment I became positive this dance career was my Destiny.  

 


SUBCHAPTER 275 -
THE MASTER

 

Once Eric self-destructed, I felt a dramatic surge of confidence.  Previously I had clung to this job like a forlorn lover.  I felt like I would die if I lost this job.  No more of that.  My new-found certainty that God wanted me to pursue this role gave me a semblance of security.  Able to relax for the first time in ages, I turned my attention to Lance Stevens. 

In the days that followed, Stevens seemed unusually depressed.  I think I knew why.  Poor Lance Stevens. In his heart, Stevens knew there would never be another Eric.  Even worse, with Eric gone, Stevens was stuck with me.  Well, tough, it served him right.

 

With a grim sense of irony, I wondered if I was Mr. Stevens' 'Karmic Punishment'.  Just as Eric had been sent to teach me a lesson, I very well could have been sent to teach Lance Stevens a lesson.  For now, our Fate was definitely intertwined. 

Despite my dislike for Stevens, I understood his regret.  In a very strange way, Eric was 'Katie' to Lance Stevens.  Eric and Katie were the ones who got away.  Katie was the girl I should have married, Eric was the guy Stevens should have handed his studio to.  I had the funniest feeling that not one day passed when Stevens did not wish he could have Eric back.

I had no sympathy for Stevens.  Stevens had let his pride overrule his common sense.  He had no one to blame but himself for losing his temper and sending the guy packing. 

 

Meanwhile Eric's request to be a business partner had awakened my curiosity.  I wondered where my relationship with Mr. Stevens might be headed.  Now that Eric was out of the picture, would Stevens ever consider grooming me as his protégé?  It seemed unlikely. 

I often wondered why Stevens refused to mentor me.  After all, I would have assumed my growing classes would have engendered at least some respect, but apparently not.  If forced to guess, Stevens was old-school.  To be a dance teacher, you had to be able to dance well and look the part.  Stevens was so closed-minded, he could not accept that a clod like me wanted to be a dance teacher.  Fujimoto had reached the same conclusion about my desire to be a therapist.  The parallel was depressing to say the least. 

Fujimoto had replacements for me, but Stevens had no one.  Thanks to Eric's unusual demise, I was the last man standing.  Since I was convinced Fate had played a role, maybe it was also my Fate to someday inherit this studio.  However, since Stevens never broached the subject, I remained in the dark.  I have to be honest, his disdain made no sense to me.  I knew he didn't like me, but considering the fact that I showed absolute respect for him at all times, I had no idea why not.  There was something about me he could not tolerate. 

One would assume if Stevens had an ounce of common sense, he would overcome his prejudice and look my way.  On the surface, our 30-year gap in ages seemed perfect for a mentoring relationship to develop.  Yes, I wasn't a natural dancer, but I was reliable, honest and intelligent.  I had that St. John's prep school polish.  I was a good teacher with the ability to express myself well.  I had demonstrated a strong work ethic.  By going the extra mile many times, I had made a ton of money for the guy.  Business was thriving thanks to me.  Furthermore, I had a college degree.  How many dance teachers could say that? 

But I wasn't Eric, was I?  

 

If Stevens had been willing to teach me the ropes, I was certainly ready to learn.  The potential was there for me to take on an expanded role at his studio.  I imagine Stevens could have used my help in several ways.  For example, I never once saw Stevens take a vacation.  I could have run the studio when he needed a break or got sick.

For that matter, self-employment leads to precarious retirements.  What better person to groom than an ambitious kid like me?  Stevens could teach me the business over a period of time, establish me as the heir apparent and then let me take over at the right time.  

The thought probably did cross his mind.  Shortly after Eric was dismissed, there was an incident in June that suggested Stevens wanted me to take a stronger role.  Stevens ordered me to attend his upcoming Saturday night Ballroom dance party. 

If Stevens had asked nicely, that would have helped my attitude considerably.  However being nice wasn't his style.  Since this request felt like yet another demand, I deeply resented it.  Nevertheless, since he insisted, I dutifully showed up for his June Ballroom party.  I watched Stevens perform a scintillating dance exhibition with his sexy wife Cliann.  Then I watched him dance with all the old ladies and flirt with them. 

I understood the point of this dance party.  There were not many places for ordinary people to go Ballroom dancing in Houston.  So dance studios were smart to offer an occasional dance party as a reward for their students.  Stevens knew the score.  He always made a big deal out of his once-a-month studio party.   However, these were his students and his type of dancing.  I saw no reason why I should be forced to attend.

Since I was completely out of my element, I made no attempt to participate.  I sat alone speaking to no one.  I was bored and out of place.  I hated the music and I was embarrassed by my lack of Ballroom knowledge.  Knowing Stevens' low opinion of my dancing, I was too sensitive to try any Ballroom dances other than Swing.  I assumed Stevens would see me and snort in disgust.  It was easier to stay glued to my seat. 

 

I did not know any of these people.  This was a real sore spot for me since I did not have a clue how to make conversation with strangers.  Nor did anyone initiate a conversation with me.  Had my friends Suzy or Dorothy attended, I would have a reason to stick around.  However, they were not present.  Instead, I felt isolated because everyone was twice my age.  What a waste of time.

I put in a solid hour, then left.  I was so resentful I did not ask permission.  When Stevens wasn't looking, I slipped out the door. 

Stevens never again asked me to attend one of his parties.  So what?  I was so bitter towards Stevens, I didn't really care.  I was tired of having him impose his will on me.  He had forced me to give up the most precious thing in the world... my free time.  It was Saturday night.  I wanted to look for a girlfriend, not hang around people twice my age.  I pouted and made it clear I resented giving up a precious Saturday evening to attend an event I had no interest in.  Who needs Ballroom dancing?  I guess my Disco tunnel vision was to blame.  I thought Disco would last forever.  I wasn't really thinking ahead or seeing the Big Picture. 

In retrospect, this evening was a perfect demonstrations of my limitations.  I had a lot to learn.  The evening had revealed my near-total lack of social skills around strangers.  When it came to socializing with people I did not know, I was too insecure to make an effort. 

In addition, this evening revealed I was still going through life with blinders on.  It never once occurred to me that Stevens' invitation might have deeper implications.  It wasn't till years later that I realized I had failed a major try-out that night.  Stevens was giving me a chance to show what I could contribute, but that possibility never crossed my mind.  Instead I just sulked.

Remember I was the guy who was thrown out of Graduate School due to my lack of political instincts.  Eric's departure may have removed the direct threat to my future, but this evening revealed that I was still very much a work in progress.

 

When it came to Ballroom dancing, Lance Stevens was the self-proclaimed Master.  Stevens was totally confident in his ability as a dance instructor.  To anyone who would listen, Stevens would tell about the major dance contests he had won back in his day.  Stevens claimed he knew more about Ballroom dancing than any other person in Houston. With his vast knowledge of 'technique' and 'styling', Stevens was an excellent choice for anyone who needed to learn advanced Ballroom patterns. 

Stevens was no stranger to hard work.  I could see his excellence was no accident.  I watched as he trained endlessly with his wife Cliann, a championship dancer in her own right.  They had their moves down to perfection. 

Stevens loved to perform.  He was born for the spotlight.  Stevens called himself 'The King of the Whip'.  When Stevens danced with his talented wife Cliann, they were a very impressive pair.  People were mesmerized by their flashy moves.

I have repeatedly pointed out Stevens' negativity, but give the man his due.  Lance Stevens possessed considerable talent.  He deserved his many awards and achievements.  Creating his dance studio was a great accomplishment. 

I suppose if I had ever shown interest in Ballroom dancing, things might have turned out differently.  However, due to my lack of interest in Ballroom dancing and my lack of dance ability, I imagine Stevens decided I was too hopeless to bother with.  

 

I think I know the real problem.  Stevens looked at his studio like it was his beautiful daughter.  His studio was so important to him that he could not imagine handing his baby off to a worthless bum.  In his eyes, I would never be worthy of marrying his child.  I did not deserve to be given such a precious possession.  Maybe so, but I think Stevens made a serious mistake.  I think Stevens' pride got in the way of his common sense.  So what if I couldn't dance?  Stevens failed to see that I had real potential as a business manager.  Time was running out.  At age 58, the day was drawing near when Lance Stevens would need a successor or see his life's work go up in smoke. 

Stevens probably kicked himself every day for not handling Eric's impudence better.  Sure, Eric took the wrong approach, but Stevens rued the fact that Eric could very easily have become his successor.  Maybe that is why he took his anger out on me.

 


SUBCHAPTER 276 -
THE UPSTART

 


Alice:  "Dear Cat, would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

Cheshire Cat:  "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."

Alice:  "I don’t want to run into any mad people."

Cheshire Cat:  "Oh, you can’t help that. We are all mad here.  I’m mad.  You’re mad."

Alice:  "How do you know I’m mad?"

"You must be mad," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here to begin with."

Alice:  "I really don't much care where I go."

Cheshire Cat:  "Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.  If you don't know where you are going, then any road can take you there."

Alice: "Just so long as I get somewhere..."

Cheshire Cat: "Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough."

-- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland pointed out how easy it is to get somewhere when you don't know where you are going.  From the day I was tossed from Graduate School, I had been wandering around letting life's events carry me along like a lazy river.  Directionless, I wandered around for three years going nowhere.  The only constant in my life were these dance classes thanks to the suggestion I found in the mysterious Courtesan book.  Like Alice in Wonderland, for three years, I aimlessly wandered from adventure to adventure

Then one day Saturday Night Fever hit and suddenly I stumbled into my accidental dance career.  Ignorance is bliss.  Given my lack of dance ability, I did not fully realize I had no business attempting to be a professional dance instructor.  Lance Stevens tried to point this out all the time, but it never really sank in just how profoundly inadequate I was until I met Eric.  Once I was able to compare myself to Eric, I realized just how ridiculous it was for me to dream of a career at which I was so totally handicapped.

However, despite the absurdity, I stayed with this dance career for one simple reason... someone was moving mountains in order for me to continue.

Eric's Demise had a profound effect on me.  By all rights, I should have been out of a job.  And yet I had been rescued in a fairly miraculous way.  I reached the conclusion that whoever had laid this Path out for me was not going to let Eric interrupt it.  I was more sure than ever before that this dance career was not my imagination, but rather something I was meant to do.   From this point on, I no longer wandered around like a lost Alice.  Instead, I took this as a sign this dance career was the direction I was meant to pursue.

My dance career was the most important thing in the world, but the odds were against me.  Deprived of natural ability, lacking experience, and with no teacher to help me, how would I ever succeed?  I knew the answer to that... Fake it till You Make it. 

I had to compensate by constantly taking any chance necessary to hang onto this job.  Taking risks was my only hope.  However, risks do not always succeed... unless of course the Guy in the Sky is paving the way. 

So far I had survived five close calls... the initial Great Partner Dance Crisis, the argument with Stevens over Disco Swing, the Intermediate Class Crisis, the Scream in the Night, and now Eric's challenge.  Good grief, I had the nine lives of a cat!  No matter how desperate the situation, I always seemed to land on my feet.  That was why I felt that someone was looking out for me. 

If Lance Stevens was the Master, then I was the Upstart.  Stevens viewed me with contempt.  I was a complete contradiction to Lance Steven's image of what a professional dance teacher should be.  In his mind, I was little better than a bumbling, stumbling clodhopper.  

All Stevens could see were my weaknesses... my lack of knowledge, my lack of natural ability, my slowness when it came to acquiring new moves, my inability to dance with passion like Eric, and my lack of interest in Ballroom dancing.  Stevens called me the 'Dance Teacher who Couldn't Dance.' 

Stevens even commented to my face that I would never win a dance contest. I am not sure why he felt the need to insult me, but I can't argue with his judgment.  Sorry to say, Stevens was proven correct.  Despite several attempts, I never came close to winning a dance contest.  

 

Stevens made a serious mistake by underestimating me.  In a very strange way, Stevens was the perfect example of one's greatest nemesis turning into one's greatest teacher.  Stevens did me an enormous favor straight out of Nietzsche. 

'That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger.'   Stevens nearly killed me by forcing me to develop three entire levels of dance classes completely on my own.  By making me to do things I never believed possible, Stevens unwittingly helped me realize what I was capable of.  Yes, Stevens nearly killed me with his demands, but once I discovered talents I never knew I had, my self-confidence grew by leaps and bounds. 

I began to dream big.  I didn't want 'Stevens of Hollywood', certainly not after the way Stevens had treated me.  I wanted a studio of my own.  Stevens had unwittingly turned me into a potential rival.  Why would Stevens make a mistake like that?  Call it 'Cosmic Stupidity'...

I contend that Stevens was the victim of his closed mind.  Stevens could not seem to accept that not all dance teachers had to resemble him.  He thought all dance teachers should be champions like himself.  He thought all dance teachers should have the talent to win dance contests.  Once their reputation was established, students would flock to them and they could train their students to be champions as well.  If forced to guess, Stevens did not like me because I attacked his definition of how to succeed in the dance business. 

Eric's presence became the turning point in my life.  To me, Eric's appearance was a miracle.  Eric reminded me so much of Rachel it hurt.  Like Rachel, Eric showed me a vision of what I wished to become.  Then, like Rachel, Eric moved on.  I saw them both as Messengers.  They did not stay very long, but both left an indelible impression on me. 

Eric created a transformation.  After he left, I was so shaken, I decided this could mean only one thing... I was doing what I was meant to do.  In my heart, I had been 'Selected' to perform a task.   My newfound certainty that I was doing God's Will ignited a fire that could not be extinguished.  I was no longer driven by fear, I was driven by ambition. 

 

I decided to put aside my resentment towards Stevens as best I could.  From now on, I would do what was right regardless of the man.  I quit feeling sorry for myself.  So what if I lacked talent and experience?   As long as I stuck to my level of competence, I would be okay. 

So now I took charge of my own program.  I didn't need Stevens to tell me what to do, I just did it.  I kept progress charts on my different classes.  I took control of scheduling.  I decided which class to promote and which to terminate in order to create openings for new classes.  I created a Super-Advanced class on my own initiative.  I didn't ask permission, I just did it. 

Stevens could have cared less.  He didn't want to have a thing to do with me. As long as the money kept rolling in, he let me do whatever I wanted.  Lance Stevens got richer and richer and I kept making $15 an hour.  So what?  I didn't care about the money.  Let Scrooge count his cash. 

My Magic Carpet Ride was all that mattered. 

 


PART SEVEN:  1978 - MAGIC CARPET RIDE

CHAPTER FIFTY-NINE:  THE RITZ 

 

 


THE MAGIC CARPET RIDE TIMELINE

 
1973-1974 1974-1977 1977 1978
Graduate School Failure The Lost Years Opportunity Knocks Magic Carpet Ride
 
   1978: May   The Advanced Disco class begins, my worst nightmare Eric appears,  Eric's Demise through Cosmic Stupidity (34)
   1978: April   Intermediate Partner Dance Ordeal, I begin work to create the Advanced Disco class, Scream in the Night
   1978: March   The Great Partner Dance Crisis: George-Suzy-Sue Ann-Janie help me create the New Yorker dance system out of thin air (33)
   1978: February   Surprise appearance at Stevens of Hollywood by Mrs. Ballantyne (31), Mrs. Ballantyne-Mr. Salls-Rick Archer Triangle (32), Jet Set Club
   1978: January   Rick's Magic Carpet Ride begins, Rick's relationship with Courses a la Carte begins
   1977: December   Saturday Night Fever makes it debut, Courses a la Carte directs countless students to Stevens, Right Place at the Right time (30)
   1977: October   Opportunity Three: Disco Line Dance class at Stevens of Hollywood (29)
   1977: September   Opportunity Two: Disco Line Dance class at Memorial JCC
   1977: August   Graduation Night at Rubaiyat
   1977: June   Opportunity One: My ten week dance class at the JCC
   1977: April   Bomb Scare class: substitute dance class in JCC parking lot, I write a line dance syllabus,  Rosalyn's Gift of summer class (28)
   1977: March   I ask Rosalyn for permission to substitute teach her class
   1977: February   Dancing with Elena at the Rubaiyat
   1976: October   Rosalyn's line dance class at JCC, Sarah and the concept of Fair Game
   1976: September   Patsy Swayze explains I do not have enough talent to join her dance company
   1976: April   Patsy Swayze's jazz class
   1976: January   Lance Steven's Whip demonstration at Stevens of Hollywood, Roberta's request asking me to take over her class (27)
   1975: September   Gaye Brown-Burke at Vocational Guidance Service, Ted Weisgal first meeting, Disco Line Dance with Becky
   1975: August   Katie Disaster at Melody Lane
   1975: July   Sundry School Ballroom class, Katie
   1975: April   Phoney Baloney Dance Studio
   1975: March   Visit to Rice (25), Celeste, Manimal (26), Love Triangle Rupture, Second Office Club
   1975: February   Love Triangle develops problems, I decide to make a visit to Rice University
   1975: January   Farmhouse, Mark's Love Triangle begins, River Oaks Seven vanquished
   1974: December   Stranger in a Strange Land, Lucy and Jill, Mark meets Sean
   1974: November   Rachel (23), Mariah, Donna and the Dance Intervention at Casa Mark (24)
   1974: October   Gloria, Mark
   1974: September   Dilemma, The Prize
   1974: August   Magic Mirror (22), Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
   1974: July   Child Welfare job, Courtesan Book (19), Yolanda, Stalled Car Incident (20), Drag Queen Lynn, Rejection Phobia develops,
   Decision to Learn to Dance, River Oaks Seven, Dance Class from Hell (21), Parking Lot Inferno, The Dance Project begins
   1974: June   Couch Catatonia
   1974: May   Dismissed from graduate school
   1974: April   Debbie and the Cow Eyes (18), I teach a Psychology class
  1974: January    Therapy with Dr. Hilton, Jason suggests I study Learned Helplessness, Phantom of the Opera
  1973: December    Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
  1973: November    Love Affair with Vanessa begins, Vanessa two-times me, Dr. Fujimoto criticizes me
  1973: October    I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (17)

 


TIMELINE FOR CHILDHOOD, HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE, AND GRADUATE SCHOOL

   1959-1968   St. John's
   1968-1972   Johns Hopkins
   1972-1973   Interlude
   1973-1974   Colorado State
  1955   Cut my eye out (01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
  1959-1968   Nine year career at St. John's
  1959-1960: 4th Grade   Divorce, Mom falls apart, Dad abandons me, Feelings of inferiority begin to develop, fascination with Mrs. Ballantyne begins
  1960-1961: 5th Grade   Terry runs away for over 2 days
  1961-1962: 6th Grade   Hurricane Carla, Dad refuses to send to SJS beyond 6th grade, Granted half-scholarship to SJS
  1962-1963: 7th Grade   Fred Incident - Illness at boy scout camp leads to Invisibility, Katina Ballantyne joins my class
  1963-1964: 8th Grade   Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, Caught stealing candy at Weingarten's , Discovery of chess book (03),  
  Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer basketball project
  1964-1965: 9th Grade   Acne Attack (04), Basketball strike on swollen face (05)
  1965-1966: 10th Grade   Father denies third skin operation, Locker Room fight, set of weights appears (06), Mr. Ocker hires me out of nowhere (07)
  1966-1967: 11th Grade   Weingarten's Resurrection, I buy a car
  1967-1968: 12th Grade   Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Little Mexico, Father's $400 insult, Cheating in Chemistry,
  Caught stealing gym clothes, Caught cheating in German (08), Jones Scholarship lost to Katina,
  Parking Lot Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne (09), Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins,
  Close Call Car Accident (10), Senior Prom Cheryl (11), Mr. Salls Blind Spot (12)
  1968-1969: Freshman at Hopkins   Emily at the Train Station (13), Sanctuary at Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
  1969-1970: Sophomore at Hopkins   Connie and Company Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
  Antares-Astrology eye injury (14),  Séance Night with Vicky and Terry (15)
  1970-1971: Junior at Hopkins   Camp Counselor Daydream (16), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  1971-1972: Senior at Hopkins   Savitria, Koinonia, The Manor
  1972-1973: Interlude   Mental Hospital, Arlene

  

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