This story took place at
the halfway point in my book. See what you think and get back
Chapter 58: Eric...
A Messenger sent to reassure me I was headed in the right direction.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
mistake like this and I might be taking someone to the
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
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
they were glad to know about the upcoming June-July Advanced
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!!
was about to face the greatest threat of the entire year to
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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
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.
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
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
Nothing. I had no idea how to counteract this threat.
one week later I learned that Stevens had
handed Eric the next Beginning Disco class at the start
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
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.
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."
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
was stunned. For a moment, he just stared hypnotically at Eric's feet on the desk.
Then I saw a deep frown come over
Stevens had a huge ego. Didn't Eric know this? Sure
amazing display of hubris rubbed Stevens the wrong
"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."
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.
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
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.
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
I never could have overcome an obstacle like Eric on my own.
I did not have a chance with him around.
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
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
Now before my eyes, Eric, a modern day Goliath/Achilles
if there ever was one, had self-destructed.
barely comprehend the strange twist of Fate that saved my
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.
mysterious demise would go on the List as Supernatural
Event #34, Five Star Rating.
SUBCHAPTER 273 -
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
"Will Eric be back next week?"
quit and go to another studio?"
"If so, which studio?"
"Do you have Eric's telephone number?"
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
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
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
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
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
The offer of my Dream Job by Rosalyn
The friendship of Dorothy
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
The fluke Dance Project that made me Houston's one in
a million Disco Teacher
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
SUBCHAPTER 274 -
unexpected braggadocio forced me to re-examine my views about Destiny and Free
Will. Eric's grandstand play was the most
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.
something about the incident that really bothered me.
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
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
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.
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.
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
possible that sometimes we are deceived into making a senseless mistake
as part of our Fate?
there is a concept known as Divine Inspiration.
Divine Inspiration implies
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."
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.
own experience with cheating on the German test supported my
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.
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.”
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
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
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
If so, I assumed I had been spared for a reason.
No one deserved to be this lucky unless there was a purpose.
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 -
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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,
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
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
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
Knowing Stevens' low opinion of my dancing, I was too
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
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.
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.
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
repeatedly pointed out Stevens' negativity, but give the man
his due. Lance Stevens possessed
considerable talent. He deserved his many awards and achievements.
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
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.
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 -
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.
all mad here. I’m 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."
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
Cheshire Cat: "Oh, you're
sure to do that, if only you walk long enough."
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
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
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.
despite the absurdity, I stayed with this dance career for one simple
reason... someone was moving mountains in order for me to
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.
had to compensate by constantly taking any chance necessary to hang onto this job.
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
Master, then I was the Upstart. Stevens viewed me with
contempt. I was a complete contradiction to Lance Steven's image of
professional dance teacher should be. In his mind, I was little better
than a bumbling, stumbling clodhopper.
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
Stevens called me the 'Dance Teacher who Couldn't Dance.'
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.
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
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.
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
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
was so shaken, I decided this could mean only one thing...
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.
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.
got richer and richer and I kept
making $15 an hour. So what? I
didn't care about the money. Let Scrooge count his
My Magic Carpet Ride was
all that mattered.
PART SEVEN: 1978 - MAGIC CARPET RIDE
THE MAGIC CARPET RIDE TIMELINE
Graduate School Failure
The Lost Years
Magic Carpet Ride
|| The Advanced Disco class begins, my worst nightmare Eric
appears, Eric's Demise through Cosmic Stupidity (34)
|| Intermediate Partner Dance Ordeal, I begin work to create the Advanced Disco class,
Scream in the Night
Great Partner Dance Crisis: George-Suzy-Sue Ann-Janie help me create the New Yorker dance system
out of thin air (33)
|| Surprise appearance at Stevens of Hollywood by Mrs. Ballantyne (31),
Salls-Rick Archer Triangle (32), Jet Set Club
|| Rick's Magic Carpet Ride begins, Rick's relationship with Courses a la
|| Saturday Night Fever makes it debut,
Courses a la Carte directs countless students to Stevens, Right Place at the Right time (30)
|| Opportunity Three: Disco Line Dance class at Stevens of Hollywood
|| Opportunity Two: Disco Line Dance class at Memorial JCC
Graduation Night at Rubaiyat
Opportunity One: My ten week dance class at the JCC
Bomb Scare class: substitute dance class in JCC parking lot, I write a
line dance syllabus, Rosalyn's Gift of summer class
I ask Rosalyn for permission to substitute teach her class
Dancing with Elena at the Rubaiyat
Rosalyn's line dance class at JCC, Sarah and the concept of Fair Game
Patsy Swayze explains I do not have enough talent to join her dance
Patsy Swayze's jazz class
at Stevens of Hollywood, Roberta's request asking me to
take over her class (27)
Gaye Brown-Burke at
Vocational Guidance Service, Ted Weisgal first meeting, Disco Line Dance
Sundry School Ballroom class,
Phoney Baloney Dance
Visit to Rice (25),
Manimal (26), Love Triangle Rupture, Second Office Club
Love Triangle develops problems, I decide to make a visit to Rice
Love Triangle begins, River
Oaks Seven vanquished
Stranger in a Strange Land, Lucy and Jill, Mark meets Sean
Rachel (23), Mariah, Donna and the Dance Intervention at Casa Mark (24)
Dilemma, The Prize
Magic Mirror (22),
Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
|| 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
Dismissed from graduate school
Debbie and the Cow Eyes (18), I teach a
Therapy with Dr. Hilton, Jason suggests I study Learned Helplessness,
Phantom of the Opera
Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for
Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals
the truth about Vanessa
Love Affair with Vanessa begins,
Vanessa two-times me, Dr. Fujimoto criticizes me
I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (17)
TIMELINE FOR CHILDHOOD, HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE, AND GRADUATE SCHOOL
Cut my eye out
(01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
Nine year career at St. John's
Divorce, Mom falls apart, Dad abandons me,
inferiority begin to develop, fascination
with Mrs. Ballantyne begins
runs away for over 2 days
Hurricane Carla, Dad refuses to send to SJS beyond
6th grade, Granted half-scholarship to SJS
Fred Incident - Illness at boy
scout camp leads to Invisibility, Katina Ballantyne joins my class
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
Attack (04), Basketball strike on swollen face (05)
Father denies third skin operation, Locker Room fight, set
of weights appears (06), Mr. Ocker hires me out of nowhere (07)
Resurrection, I buy a car
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)
Freshman at Hopkins
Emily at the Train Station (13),
Sanctuary at Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer
Sophomore at Hopkins
Connie and Company Kill Shot, Dr.
Lieberman, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
eye injury (14), Séance Night with Vicky and Terry (15)
Junior at Hopkins
Camp Counselor Daydream (16),
Colvig Silver Camp
Senior at Hopkins
Savitria, Koinonia, The Manor
Mental Hospital, Arlene