MAGIC CARPET RIDE
Written by Rick
Rick Archer's Note:
Magic Carpet Ride is a book about Fate.
no way to prove the existence of Fate 'scientifically'.
That said, I believe the unusual events of
my life offer strong empirical evidence to suggest Fate plays a vital role in our lives. I am not alone in
this hunch. Many report odd events in their lives
which have led
them to wonder if
certain things are meant to be.
point in the Age of Man,
80-90% of Americans believe in God. That
number drops to 50% when asked if they believe in
Fate. After reading my story, I predict it
will be extremely difficult to ignore the
possibility that Fate plays a prominent role in the
affairs of mankind.
Magic Carpet Ride is a trilogy that
covers 70 years. After dividing my story into
separate books, I have chosen to release them in
Gypsy Prophecy covers a twenty year span
from 2000 to 2020. It deals primarily with the
'Love Boat' Cruise Era created by my wife Marla.
Magic Carpet Ride-SSQQ covers a ten year span from 1974 to
1984. It tells how a series of uncanny lucky
breaks created the dance studio which became my life
Simple Act of Kindness covers the immense problems I
faced throughout childhood, high school, college,
and graduate school. In particular, I explain
how the kindness of several key individuals enabled
me to one day overcome the serious emotional
handicaps caused by my tough childhood.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it
must be lived forwards.
-- Søren Kierkegaard
you will meet two versions of myself. I tell
each story from the point of view of my age back in
the days when I was young and stupid. However,
if the story is important, periodically my older
self will break in to explain what I came to
understand as my life progressed.
I am 70
years old as I put the finishing touch on the
Magic Carpet Ride trilogy. I
have led an unusual life.
For example, in 1977 a job
as a dance instructor fell in my lap. I was
competent at first, but the moment Saturday
Night Fever came along, I was so overwhelmed
by the surge of interest that I found myself woefully unequal to the task.
thanks to a suspicious series of lucky breaks, I was
able to extricate myself from one jam after another.
Despite the uneasy feeling that my continued success
was well beyond my talent level, I created a dance studio known as
SSQQ (short for Slow Slow Quick Quick).
SSQQ was a pretty wonderful place if I may say so.
In fact, there is good reason to believe SSQQ was the largest
independent studio in the country at the turn of the
I was reluctant to take too much credit. I had
some good ideas, but who can say where 'Inspiration'
really comes from? In my case, all I had to do
was follow a series of Stepping Stones.
In hindsight, these stones diagrammed a
preordained path called Destiny. Or at least
that's the way it looked to me.
Convinced these stones had been laid out by a Divine
I concluded I was leading a charmed life
of some sort.
However, I did not dare tell
people my secret. It had nothing to do with
false pride, but rather a fear I would be
laughed at. Who wants to be written off as
crazy? But then something terrible happened,
a 2012 event that prevented me from resuming my
Now I was confused. Early in my life, I
believed God wanted me to teach dance, but this
insurmountable obstacle suggested God wanted me to do something else.
My instinct was to go ahead and write
As it turned out, I already
had an outline of sorts. During
my life, I had kept careful track of every incident that
struck me as out of the ordinary. These events
included the Stepping Stones I referred to.
As I write, my Supernatural List has passed 100 events. I have broken these events down into
two categories: Suspicious and Serious. I
suppose a confirmed skeptic could find
reasonable explanations for 80 of the Suspicious events.
However the 20 Serious events are extremely
difficult to explain using the rules Science refers to as
'Reality'. In my mind, the totality of
these unusual events is what convinced me there is
more to this world than meets the eye.
In 1984, the
unusual events ceased to occur.
The List hovered around 90 at the time. Although
my life continued to have interesting
adventures, over the next 18 years the only incident
curious enough to make the Supernatural List was the time my
daughter Sam almost drowned. Nothing else
was weird enough to raise my eyebrow.
changed dramatically in 2001. Out of nowhere I
flurry of suspicious new events.
The Gypsy Prophecy is the story of
Predestination. It explains how my marriage to Marla was foretold well in
advance as well as the Love Boat Era which ensued.
DEATH OF A MARRIAGE
Eve, 2000. Sunday evening.
The story of the
Gypsy Prophecy begins with the end of my
No good deed
goes unpunished, right? On Christmas Eve, 2000, a
favor I had done for a religious group known as the Quakers
backfired in a very odd way. At 5 pm the phone rang. My wife Judy answered the
phone and frowned. Someone from the Quaker
Meeting was calling to say the door to our dance studio had
been left unlocked. Judy hung up and looked at me.
"The door needs to be locked."
I was raised a
day in the mid-Nineties, my mother explained the Quaker
Meeting was having trouble
financing a new meeting house. Ever since my parents
moved to Houston in 1955, the Quaker Meeting was a
collection of nomads who wandered from location to location. Forty
years had passed and the Quakers still had no place to call
their own. Recently the Quaker Meeting had
located an affordable property in the
Heights area of town. However, as usual, they were badly
strapped for cash. The dream of owning their new Meeting House
seemed just beyond their reach.
The kindness of people I met
through the Houston Quaker Meeting had
rescued me from a rough childhood on several occasions.
This was my chance to return the favor.
I told my mother my dance studio remained empty on
Sundays until 4:30 pm. Why not let the Quaker Meeting use my
studio for free and stop paying rent
at their current location?
The Meeting accepted
my offer in a flash.
By the time the Millennium
SSQQ Dance Studio had doubled as the Quaker Meeting
House for several years while their new home was being
built. As it turned out, the Quakers loved the
studio. Quaker service involves quiet meditation.
They believe if one can silence their mind, they open
themselves up for God's inspiration. For that reason,
the privacy and absolute silence of my dance studio was
perfect for their needs.
Although I had a
real soft spot for my Quaker friends, not once did I attend
Sunday Meeting held at the studio. The demands of running the studio were
so great that Sundays were indispensable as my only chance to
get some rest.
last thing I wanted was to be back at the dance studio on my
day off. Knowing these people were trustworthy, I
gave them a key. This
me to stay home on Sundays. Ordinarily the
Quakers were gone by 1 or 2 pm, but I did not mind if they stayed
longer. In 2000
Christmas Eve and Sunday coincided. Since there were
no dance classes scheduled, this fortuitous
pairing allowed the Quaker Meeting to spend practically the
entire day at SSQQ.
There was a
business meeting at 10 am and then the group held their traditional
Christmas Eve candlelight service at 11 am. Next up was a sumptuous Potluck
dinner with an extended social gathering to follow.
of comfort and joy
Christmas Eve, everyone
was excited because their new home would soon be ready.
Naturally they stuck around longer than usual to enjoy
the warmth of the moment and expectations of the future.
To be honest, I don't even know who forgot to lock the door.
What I do know is this mistake initiated a chain of events that would lead to the
Prophecy', one of the three most remarkable supernatural
events of my
life. Some say Coincidence is God's way of staying
anonymous. As my story unfolds, you can be the judge.
So what went
wrong? The person with the key had
absent-mindedly left the premises without locking the door.
Two people who had stuck around for an extended chat made
the discovery a half hour later. Uh oh.
That is what the phone call was
about. When Judy hung up the phone, she turned to me
with a frown. She said I needed to go to the studio
and lock the door.
was very irritated. Suffering from extreme burn-out, this mistake
meant I would have to take a very unwelcome trip
on a day when I did not wish to be anywhere near the
studio. Here I was in the comfort of my home only to
be forced to waste an hour of my day thanks to someone's
absent-minded mistake. I
immediately began griping over the inconvenience.
Yes, I was
grouchy, but not at Judy. This wasn't her fault.
were my responsibility, it was my job to go. However, without warning Judy
abruptly walked out the door. Shocked, I stared at my
9-year old daughter Sam who in turn stared back at me.
We were both taken aback. After several moments of silence,
Sam asked, "What is Mom so upset about?"
I shook my head. I was
just as confused as Sam. Our words
had not been heated. Yes, I was very
irritated, but I wasn't angry at Judy.
Nor did I tell Judy I expected her to drive to the studio.
I had no idea why she decided to go instead. My instinct
mood was much darker than the moment
called for. As it turned out, I was right.
hour later, Judy returned. She
got right to the point.
"I want a divorce."
marriage in 1984 was short-lived, a year and a cup of coffee. Pat was an
interesting woman. I could write a book or I
could write a paragraph. I think I will settle for a
paragraphs. On paper, my first marriage was perfect. Pat had a lot going for her.
Attractive, very talented. However, Pat liked to argue. In my opinion there was nothing to argue about. We
had money, we had health, we had jobs, we had security.
We didn't drink, smoke, gamble or cheat. So what was there to argue about? Well,
Jealousy for one.
Which was unnecessary because I only had eyes for my lovely
wife. However Pat didn't trust me. In her mind,
thanks to the countless women at the studio who
flirted with me, it was just a matter of time. Infuriated by
this needless bickering over Pat's fear that I
would stray, the tension became insurmountable. One
night I came home and Pat was gone.
It was a shame
this marriage failed. Due to an incident in my past, I
was strongly opposed to cheating. My father had an affair with
the office secretary when I was eight. Desperate to
marry his mistress, Dad insisted on a divorce. Mom said
no. The ensuing year of arguments drove me crazy.
I was so upset that my performance in the 4th Grade was
abysmal. My father was really angry at me.
Since he was a genius, how was it possible to have such a
stupid son? They took me to a psychiatrist to have me
tested. The psychiatrist suggested a very unusual
solution... put the kid in a private school where he will be challenged.
My father flipped out. No way he was going to spend
that kind of money! Besides, if I could barely pass
4th Grade in public school, I was sure to flunk out at St.
John's, the toughest school in the city. Forget it.
with my father for a year, my mother made a Devil's Bargain.
If my father would pay the expensive St. John's tuition
for three years, he could have his divorce.
Bad news for me. My new stepmother was an evil woman
who drove a wedge between us. Dad soon forgot I existed. I lost
in return for a good education. I only saw the man four hours a year for the
next nine years. In a way, I lost my mother too. She
became a nervous wreck who couldn't hold a job. At age
9 I was forced to begin raising myself. I didn't do
Here is my
point. My father's affair turned me into an emotional cripple. Still bitter
about the cheating incident that had ruined my childhood, I swore
to Pat I would
never do something like that to her. But Pat refused
to trust me, choosing instead to nag constantly. It is
one thing to stray and be punished for the transgression, but I
deeply resented being punished for something I had not done. I
tried to appease her at first, but grew weary of Pat's
constant vigilance. Finally the day came when I
refused to tolerate these ceaseless tongue-lashings for
something I was innocent of doing. Since neither of us was willing to bend, the only solution was to give up
and move on.
later, I married Judy.
During our ten year relationship, we raised our precocious
daughter Sam and built SSQQ into a behemoth. Judy
played a huge role in the studio's phenomenal growth.
Thanks to her tireless work with our Swing, Salsa and Ballroom
programs, SSQQ was
teeming. 1,400 students
streamed through our doors every week. This amazing
total is why I believe SSQQ had become the largest
independent dance studio in the country.
I was proud
of Judy. She had personally built the SSQQ Swing
program into something special. We had been recognized
two years in a row as the finest Swing program in Houston.
One would think with this kind of success, our marriage would be
solid. Unfortunately, there was a fatal rift that never healed. The problem started in 1998
when I fired
a Swing instructor named Carnell. I
discovered he was teaching at a competing dance studio
behind our back. Even worse, Carnell had the nerve to
openly persuade SSQQ students to come check out his class at
the other studio. Carnell knew full well I had a
rule against teaching for other studios.
I had never encountered a more serious case of disloyalty.
Carnell created a major
scandal by accusing us of racial discrimination. Making his
claims in a very public way, I was incensed. This had
nothing to do with skin color. Carnell knew
quite well the reason I dismissed him was treachery, not race. I would later
fire a white country-western instructor for the same reason.
rumors about our so-called racism flying throughout the Swing Community, something had
to be done to restore our reputation. Since none
of the students at
SSQQ knew the true story, I wanted to write an article
to explain the situation. To my dismay, Judy said no.
Do not say a word! Judy was already
upset by the meanness emanating from the scandal and feared the
added publicity would make things worse. I hate to say
it, but Judy was right. It would definitely get
worse before it got better. However, we had to fight back! To
say nothing would allow this lie to remain unchallenged.
While Judy and I argued
over which direction to take, Sam was hiding in
her room and crying. When I realized how upset Sam
I was mortified. Oh my God, I was subjecting Sam to
the same horror
my parents had
inflicted on me. As a child, there were many nights I fell
asleep crying out of insecurity.
Still haunted by
I had vowed never to put
Sam through this kind of nightmare. So much for good
intentions. Ashamed of myself for losing my temper,
gave in to Judy's wish. What
choice did I have? Judy had created the Swing program,
so I felt she deserved the final say. But that doesn't
mean I agreed with her decision. Judy and I were now a
house divided. Making matters worse, the fall-out from
the scandal spread like poison. Every bone in my body
screamed to fight back, but I honored Judy's wish and kept
silent. Over the next two years, we lost half our
Swing students to HSDS, the competing program.
Although Judy's new Salsa program more than covered the
loss, I was unable to forgive.
What a shame. Judy was a good person, a good mother
and a good business partner. She had worked hard to build the studio
and deserved credit for the studio's success. Despite
our differences, I felt a deep
gratitude. However, try as I might, I could not accept
her decision to allow this traitor to damage our reputation
and our studio.
ensuing Ice Age, we drifted apart.
Neither of us were particularly happy, but
the relationship was cordial enough. Since I was a 'stick together for the good of the child'
type, divorce was not on my mind. However, the moment Judy
asked for the divorce, I instinctively realized she was
right. After two years, the wound caused by Carnell
had not healed. It was time to move on.
Judy, I will agree to
the divorce if I can have
joint custody of our daughter."
Judy nodded her
assent. "That seems fair."
Divorce is one
thing, but abandonment is far worse. Recalling how my
father's abandonment had broken my heart, I promised I would be a better father to Sam than my own father had
been to me. So much for wishful thinking. Now
the guilt was overwhelming. I was very upset that Sam
would suffer the same consequences of a broken home as I had.
Overwhelmed by an
all-encompassing sense of failure,
I needed to be
alone to lick my wounds. So I grabbed my keys and
drove to the studio for sanctuary. As I unlocked the
front door, it crossed my mind that if I
had driven here at 5 pm like I should have, I would
still be married. Talk about irony!
Christmas Eve alone in this empty
building. Not my idea of fun.
With nothing to do, I had plenty of time for
reflection. I'm not sure sitting here in the gloom was a good idea.
Christmas had been a time of many bitter moments during my childhood. Sure enough, throughout the night
the ghosts of Christmas Past dropped
by to haunt me. Gee, now I can add the memory of getting
divorced on Christmas to my growing list of Holiday Horrors.
There is no way
to wallpaper a divorce and disguise the ugliness.
As I sat alone in the dark,
I could not recall
feeling more miserable. Not only had I failed in two marriages, I had let my
daughter down. So much for that good
old Christmas Spirit.
SKI TRIP REVELATION
Despite my intense
depression, life must go on.
As word of my separation made its way through
the grapevine, one day in early January my
friend Tom Easley gave me a call. Tom
and I went all the way back to the days of
the Winchester Club in 1981.
Tom loved the studio so much that over the years he
had made the
place his second home. Tom met his
lovely wife Margaret at the studio in 1987.
They were married the same year.
Tom got right to the point. "Hey, Rick, I need a favor.
I want to go
skiing at Lake Tahoe with the gang, but I need a roommate
on short notice.
heard a rumor you might be available."
"What about Margaret?"
"Margaret doesn't want to go this
year. Why don't you come with me
invitation to go skiing was a real blessing.
I needed to get out of town and nurse my
wounds. How funny that Tom should come
to my rescue again. Tom had been
there to save me when my marriage to
broke up in 1986.
Although I was the only newcomer on the
trip, I was hardly a stranger. In
fact, I was the Founding Father. Half
the people in this group of 40 had
participated in the annual ski trips I
organized back in the Eighties.
After I handed off the responsibility in
1988, the ski group continued their
January ski tradition all the way to
As I looked around, I was amazed at all the
familiar faces. Virtually everyone had either met at
or had been invited to join the trip by someone from SSQQ.
Tom and Margaret had met at the
studio. The same could be said for
Charlie and Beverly Roberts, Gary and Linda Kryzwicki,
Doug and Sharon Hollingsworth, Irving and
Sharon Carter. Five SSQQ marriages on this trip! And one divorce, me. But let's not
think about that.
The roll call didn't stop with
married couples. Ted Jones, Margie
Saibara, Dan Taft, Ken Schmetter, Michele Collins, Tom Edens,
and Jim Ponder had originally met at the
Thanks to good times and
shared adventures, over the years this tight-knit group had formed deep and
lasting friendships. In addition to
the annual ski trip, they saw each other
year-round at dance parties, birthday
parties, and holidays.
It gave me goosebumps to
observe how happy they were to reunite here
in Lake Tahoe. I was reminded how
much they cared about one another.
Grateful to be
invited back into the fold, their warmth
helped soothe my wounds considerably. I could not
help but notice how this trip had turned into the SSQQ version of the Big
Chill. I noted with
quiet satisfaction that my days as
'Leader of the Pack' had been
responsible for helping this group connect
in the first place.
Sad to say, during the Nineties, I had lost
touch with most of these people.
My daughter Sam had been too young to
ski, so I turned my attention to my family and ignored my
Now here at the
ski resort I was dealing with
a sense of loss. It started when I realized how
much I missed these people. Thank goodness
my friends had kept this tradition going without me. Every day I skied with
friends who met through SSQQ. It
was like old times. The week I
spent with the group was a shot in the arm
because it restored some of my pride. Every day I
focused on the immense good will
created by the dance studio over the years.
got in touch with a keen regret.
The close ties I helped create back in the
Eighties were less evident at SSQQ in the Nineties. I had
no one to blame but myself. Back when I was single during the Eighties, I had used my freedom to organize
activities. However, once I became a father, I lost my
edge and withdrew. I preferred to spend my free time with Judy and Sam than go dancing with the gang.
I wondered if there was a way
to instill this special spirit to the current generation at
the studio. Now that I
was free again,
maybe there was something I could do to bring
Magic of the Eighties into the new Millennium.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
I will resume
the story of the 2001 Ski Trip Revelation in Chapter Three.
However, for my story to make better sense, let me take a
Time Machine trip to recap the events covered in my first
I never intended
to write three books. That changed the day my wife
Marla said, "Rick, you can't start your book with
your problems in
graduate school. You have to tell them
about your childhood. Otherwise no one will
ever understand just how screwed up you were when
you started your dance career."
That's Marla for you. I was flustered by her
candor, but I also recognized her wisdom. The
story of my childhood makes it much easier to
understand the desperation which led to my accidental dance
career. The long version of these stories can
in my books SSQQ and Act of Kindness, but this shorter version will
get the job done.
EPIC LOSING STREAK, 1964-1984
A sudden acne
when I was 13 completely changed the direction of my life.
enough this devastating development is what eventually led to the dance
An overnight onset of acne
turned my life into something out of a horror movie. The attack was caused by an infection
that entered my lymph gland system. I was a
good-looking kid when I went to bed, but when I awoke my
face was burning and swollen. The moment I looked in
the mirror, I screamed in horror. I was staring at a
Without any kind of warning, I had been transformed into a hideous
For reasons I
will never understand, my mother did not take me to the
doctor. Ignoring the obvious signs of infection, she
believed the problem would magically go away. Wrong.
Three days passed without treatment until my mother finally
realized how serious my condition was. By that time,
it was too late. The raging wildfire was far beyond
the point of control.
I plunged into a terrible depression.
I longed for the day this disgusting problem would clear up and I could lead a
normal life again. Unfortunately, when the finally acne
receded a year later, it left behind deep, permanent facial scars.
Looking like I did, I decided to wait till college to begin
dating. This was
the start of my 20 year Epic Losing Streak around women.
I do not exaggerate. Twenty years.
RICK ARCHER'S LIST OF
SUSPECTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS
Rick's mother mysteriously fails to take him to
doctor following his serious acne
MURPHY'S CURSE, 1968
took place in my Senior year at St. John's, the private
school I attended for nine years. Home to the children
of Houston's Elite, I
had no business being here. Although I valued my
wonderful education, nine years on the losing end of Rich Man-Poor Man
had led to a deep sense of inferiority.
As we recall, my
mother made a Devil's Bargain. Dad wanted to marry his
mistress in the worst way, but my mother wouldn't give him a divorce.
During the year I spent listening to them argue bitterly, I went to
pieces. As an only child, I had no one to turn to, so
I cried myself to sleep night after night.
therapist highly recommended St. John's as a solution for my
problems because the school
had worked wonders with his two boys. Dad thought the
idea was ridiculous, but Mom thought otherwise. If my father would pay
my way to St. John's for three years, he could have his divorce.
expensive private school tuition was way beyond my father's pay
grade. Not a day passed when his new
wife didn't nag him about the serious drag it put on their
finances. The woman's relentless hostility forced my
father to appease her by turning his back on me. When the three years were up, my father
refused to continue paying. I rarely
saw him again.
Meanwhile, Mom was ill-prepared for the life as a single mother.
Highly unstable, she drifted from job to job, man to man,
home to home. When my father
stopped paying for St. John's, Mom's inability to keep a job made
further attendance out of the
question. Fortunately, Mr. Chidsey, the SJS Headmaster,
understood the situation and offered
a scholarship to keep me there for the remaining six
years. This was an incredible stroke of good fortune
for me because I received the finest education imaginable.
wonderful benefit came at a stiff price. Academically I held my own, but socially I
was at the bottom of the totem pole for nine long years. I was already a
lost sheep when I entered high school, but I had hopes that
my athletic ability might win me some friends.
Unfortunately, those dreams were all for naught. Once the acne
turned me into a leper, I was a goner. What was I
supposed to do? I was poor, ugly and socially
awkward here in the
land of beautiful, privileged children. Due to
extreme bitterness following the acne disfigurement, I
turned into a problem kid. Moody, sullen, hostile, no one could tell me what to do, no one could
During my Senior year,
I made a serious mistake when I failed to apply to a state
college. By the time I realized there was no way in
hell I could afford to pay my way to a private college based
on my meager earnings as a part-time sacker in a grocery
store, it was too late. Here was my
problem. Dad's career as an electrical engineer had
taken off. He was the guy building those cranes which
launched rockets at Cape Canaveral. Dad was making
plenty of money now which was good news for him, but bad
news for me. How was I supposed to explain to a
college why I deserved a scholarship when my father's
earnings served to disqualify me? Given that my father
refused to fill out any forms or give me any money, it
looked like I would have to skip college for an entire year.
It was at this
point that I lost control. I went berserk thinking
about how unfair this was. My wealthy classmates went
to sleep every night content that Daddy's Money guaranteed
them a spot in the college of their choice while I would
spend next year sacking groceries all because I was too
stupid to apply to the University of Houston or a similar
state school. This infuriated me beyond comprehension.
caused me to engage in
weekly arguments with Mr. Murphy, Dean of the Upper School.
We fought over rules I didn't care for such as the
length of my hair, running in the hall, late to class, out
etc. Rebellion came easily to me. Most of all we
argued about my surly attitude and my blatant disrespect for his
authority. Murphy was disgusted.
Fully aware of my St. John's scholarship, Murphy had a hard time
accepting the worst kid in the school was attending for
free. Looking back, I can definitely see his point. On the eve of
graduation, Murphy pulled me aside. Staring darts, Murphy
proceeded to deliver the sternest lecture of my life.
your continued insolence is disgraceful. You
should be ashamed. You think
disobeying me is amusing, but I have something to tell
you. You have
brought dishonor to this school. Your continued disregard
for the rules is
unforgivable. Let me add your ongoing impertinence towards me has
total lack of respect for my authority.
not belong at this school. If I had my way, you
would have had your scholarship revoked long ago.
You don't deserve it. Your lack of discipline
makes it clear that you do not respect the gift that has
been given. I am disgusted by your glaring absence of gratitude. In
my opinion, you should have been sent packing years ago.
Fortunately, you will be gone soon.
words, I predict
you will one day regret
you failed to learn
your lesson. You will leave here thinking you are too
superior to follow the rules, but I have news for you.
Someday you will learn the hard way that you are not as
clever as you think. You will argue with the wrong
person and it will cost you more dearly than you can ever
imagine. At that time, you will remember what I
struck home. I was so shaken by his venom,
for the first time all year I did not talk back.
Instead I watched in subdued fear as he stomped off.
Throughout college, I would think often about this man's dire prediction. I referred to it as 'Murphy's Curse'.
SUSPECTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS
Murphy's Curse predicted my rebellious
nature would lead to dire consequences
Magical Mystery Tour,
To my undying
relief, Mr. Salls, the new St. John's Headmaster, understood
my problem and secretly arranged a college scholarship for
me. However, I did not find out until one month before
graduation. Imagine my relief! I would be going
to college after all. However, due to the problems I
faced in my Senior year, I feared I was damaged goods.
Fortunately, to my surprise,
Murphy's Curse did not affect my college performance.
I sailed through four years without a single confrontation.
At the time, I assumed this absence of conflict was a sign
of my growing maturity. Nonsense. The real reason for my clean record never occurred to me.
Here at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, there were
virtually no rules. Since no one ever bothered to
order me around, I had no one to rebel against.
On the other
hand, my lack of experience around women cost me dearly. As I said, I did not date in high school. How
could I? It took over a year for the acne to go away and then came the
facial scars. It broke my heart to realize
I was stuck with these scars for life. Besides, I was a
nobody at this school, the Invisible Man. Feeling
socially inferior at this Rich Kid's school, what was the point of
asking my beautiful classmates for a date? Unless it
was Be Kind to Vermin Week, all I would do was embarrass
myself. Consequently High School Hell served as the
first four years of my Epic Losing Streak.
I figured I
would make up for lost time with a fresh start in college,
but things did not go well. In hindsight, what did I expect? I was four years
behind these college girls in social development and I
lacked confidence in my uneven appearance. The
bitter end came when I got my heart broken in an unusually
cruel way by a young lady I had a deep crush on. Too afraid to go anywhere near a
girl for fear of getting hurt again, I turned into a hermit
for the remainder of my Freshman year. As the Epic
Losing Streak continued deep into my Sophomore year, my loneliness
mounted and caused me to slip deep into depression.
In desperation I visited the
Meeting. The members of the Houston Quaker Meeting had
always been kind to me, so hopefully I would meet someone
similar in Baltimore Meeting. I was in great need of
human warmth and thankfully these people came through like I
had wished. These people were so kind to me, I found the
spark to carry on. In addition, a door opened. At the
suggestion of a Quaker man named Richard who befriended me, I began my
Magical Mystery Tour, a
spiritual search that would last two years.
A great deal of reading
and some extremely weird experiences helped me
develop a firm belief in God and in the existence of Fate as
Little did I know, my newfound belief in God would lead to
the events that started my dance career.
RICK ARCHER'S LIST OF
SUSPECTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS
A suggestion from an older
Quaker gentleman leads to Rick's
Magical Mystery Tour and a spiritual awakening
Mystery Tour turned my life around for the better. Although the
Epic Losing Streak was still intact, at least my bad attitude
had improved. I wasn't quite the angry young man
anymore. In fact, my adventure into Mysticism led to a wish to
make the world a better place. Infused with a desire to help other
people like my Quaker friend Richard had helped me, I decided to
become a therapist. I studied hard at Hopkins, graduated with
honors and was accepted into graduate school at Colorado
And what about
Curse? To my great relief, I aced college at
Johns Hopkins without the slightest disciplinary problem. Although Mr. Murphy had predicted my downfall, I
had proven him wrong.
Ha ha ha. It felt good to have the last laugh. In hindsight,
I should not have laughed so soon. I entered
graduate school feeling pretty darn sure of myself. I was the star of the incoming group
of graduate students. I had the highest
grades and I had attended the most
prestigious university. Cocky and arrogant, I
intended to show my professors how smart I was. Bad
move. The Head of the Psychology Department
took an instant dislike to me.
Dr. Fujimoto put a bull's eye on my back and tore me to shreds with his withering
criticism. So what was my
fatal flaw? I could not seem to keep my big mouth shut.
Fujimoto did not appreciate my tendency to argue over
theories with him. The harder I tried to defend my ideas, the more he put me
down. This was a battle I could not win, but I was too
stupid to figure that out until it was too late. Fujimoto made sure to throw me out at the first opportunity.
had struck and the Epic Losing Streak had reached Year Ten.
SUSPECTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS
to shut up in Dr. Fujimoto's class gets him thrown out of graduate
the first STEPPING STONE
In addition to
my June 1974 dismissal from graduate school, my Epic Losing Streak had
taken a serious turn for the worse when a woman named
Vanessa two-timed me. The pain was terrible.
With a broken heart and a broken career, my arrogance was a thing of the past.
I was reeling with despair, I
returned to Houston stripped of all self-esteem.
After finding a
thankless job investigating child abuse, I vowed to do
something about my acute loneliness.
The time to solve my enduring problems with women was now.
Ten years was a long time. To be honest, I had begun to fear there was some sort of
voodoo curse hanging over my head. However, I couldn't just
give up. I had to fight my overwhelming fear of
rejection now before I went completely crazy.
Unsure where to
start, I ran across a used
paperback on how to meet girls. Written by a
self-proclaimed ladies man
who trumpeted his conquests, I was about to
put the book back when I noticed something odd. The
author had dedicated his book
to a woman named Vanessa. Not just that, he added "Who's
sorry now?" for good measure. A firm believer in
omens, for one dollar I purchased the book that would change
first suggestion was to walk up to a woman and talk to her. That
was out of the question. I was so afraid of women at
this point, I was afraid to even approach, much less
speak up. His second
suggestion was learn to cook. Invite a girl over for
a meal and good things were sure to happen. This too
was out of the question. If it didn't involve peanut
butter and jelly, I was out of luck.
suggestion was take a dance class. Macho Man said it
was the fastest way he knew to get a girl in his arms.
I got goosebumps when I read this. For the first
time since returning to Houston, I felt a ray of hope.
This was a light at the
end of the tunnel! Here at my wit's end, I seized on
the idea immediately. Given my
sad state of affairs, I needed a break in the worst way.
A modicum of dance skill might be just what I needed to
overcome my Epic Losing Streak. However, there was a problem.
I had reason to believe I was not much of a dancer. I
was too intimidated to try dancing in high school. In college, a group of three women
laughed derisively when I gave it a try at a mixer dance.
Humiliated, I refused to venture near a dance floor again.
I could not shake the memory of those girls laughing at me. For this reason I
nursed a strong suspicion that learning to dance would not
come easy. However, I was firmly convinced this
dance suggestion had a Divine origin, so I decided to try anyway. I tracked down a studio which offered a
Disco dance class.
Of course I had
no idea at the time, but I had just crossed my first
Stepping Stone on the path to an Accidental Dance Career.
SUSPECTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS
Stepping Stone 1: Finding Vanessa's name in a
paperback is the omen which convinced Rick to buy a book which
taking dance lessons as the easiest way to meet women.
THE SECOND STEPPING STONE
Welcome to the
Dance Class from Hell. My first dance class resembled something out of Carrie,
the story of the lonely misfit who was bullied into pathos.
Moments after the class began, I was confronted with the humiliating
confirmation that I was a terrible dancer. I was beyond mediocre, the worst of the worst.
As if this wasn't bad enough, I was being confronted by
demons from my past.
There were nine
people in the room. Besides me, there was
Disco Dave, the adorable gay dance instructor. Then
there was the River Oaks Seven. This was a group of
seven wealthy society women in their 40s ripped straight
from the Houston Chronicle Best Dressed pages.
They reminded me oh too well of the haughty SJS mothers who
passed judgment on me during my nine year
stay at St. John's.
The River Oaks
Seven oozed superiority.
They also oozed contempt. These seven women spent the hour
glowering at my dancing in disgust. Their merciless
made my maddening struggle much more difficult because they
reminded me of the snotty girls back in college who had made
fun of my dancing.
To understand my
dilemma, the River Oaks Seven symbolized tormentors
from my horrible acne period. Back at St. John's, 40 or so mothers would
congregate daily in the SJS Commons Room for tea and
These socialites would
take one look at my face and sneer. What was this leper
boy doing in their
midst? Since every student who attended this school was
blessed with perfect skin, I was made painfully aware I stuck out
like a sore thumb.
My acute condition raised the
question how a St. John's parent could possibly allow this
to happen in the first place. Sad to say, these women had a point.
My mother had foolishly delayed taking me to the doctor
when he could have helped. The disgusted expressions
on the faces of the SJS mothers sent a clear message that I did not
belong. So when the River Oaks Seven began to stare at me the same
way, they took me back to High School Hell all over again. Sick to
my stomach with shame, I felt grotesque in a manner
painfully similar to Carrie
as they spilled pig's blood on her head.
Trust me, I
wanted to run from that dance class as fast as my feet
would carry me. However, just as I was about to quit,
my ancient St. John's bitterness reawakened. In order
to survive the pervasive disdain during High School Hell, I had
developed a huge chip on my shoulder.
While it was true I felt socially inadequate,
academically I had few peers at St. John's. So, yes, I did belong at
St. John's. And yes, I also belonged in today's dance class no matter what
these nasty snobs thought of me and my woeful dancing. Nine years of
standing up to people who resented my presence is what gave me the courage to stand
up to the hostility of the River Oaks Seven.
the scorn of these women arrived at the lowest point of my life.
Considering my defiance was in short supply thanks to my
Colorado State, it was very difficult to hang in there. Vanessa, my two-timing
Medusa, had surgically removed all self-esteem where women
were concerned. Dr. Fujimoto had removed any
remaining self-esteem Vanessa had missed. I thought a
lot about Fujimoto during this horrible dance class.
He was the reason I was in this fix to begin with. On my final
day at CSU, Fujimoto ordered me to meet with him.
proceeded to explain
why I had been expelled from graduate school. During
meeting, he made it clear my tendency to argue, my
narcissistic need for attention and my
inability to handle criticism was at fault. The
implication was that I was too emotionally disturbed to be of any help to
other people. No doubt Mr. Murphy would have gleefully
agreed with him. I left
Colorado State feeling like a complete failure as a human being.
And now these women were laughing at me.
It wasn't just
my mediocre dancing that upset me during my first dance class, it was
my appearance. I was no longer a leper, but the resulting facial scars served as a
constant reminder that I wasn't particularly attractive.
Long ago I
had stopped staring in the mirror because it made me sick to
look at myself. Now I had unwittingly entered a room
with giant mirrors on three walls. Forced to stare at
my scarred face in this House of Mirrors, my shame returned in
cascades. As Friedrich Nietzsche would say, beware of
staring into the abyss, the abyss may start to stare back.
Like grinning, smirking gargoyles, every scar taunted me
with my dreaded fear of being ugly. And now the River
Oaks Seven were rubbing salt into my anguish. Having seven beautiful women stare at my
face with merciless contempt was more than I could take.
A particularly evil Black Magic had transferred my shame
from High School Hell to this Dance Class Hell.
As an aside to
the Reader, I wasn't ugly. In fact, I was a reasonably
attractive young man. BUT I DID NOT KNOW THAT!
What I saw in the mirror was not what other people saw.
Yes, the scars were there, but no one (but me) ever noticed
them. However, anyone familiar with human psychology
will agree Perception is Reality. High School
Hell had conditioned me to believe I was so ugly no woman could
fall in love with a guy whose face was scarred like
mine. This conviction was the root cause of the Epic
Losing Streak. So, yes, in a very real sense, I was
the victim of a Voodoo Jinx. I was cursed with the inability
to break free of the chains of my diseased mind. And
right now I was dying inside to see myself in the mirror.
Following the Dance Class from Hell, I
retreated to my car and fell to pieces in the
parking lot. I was
barely hanging on. Too shaken to drive, I sat
there paralyzed with despair. I thought Colorado State
was the absolute lowest point of my life, but I was wrong.
This was even worse. Murphy's Curse, Fujimoto's Condemnation,
and the Epic Losing Streak had removed most of my confidence
to begin with. Now the return of my
feelings of ugliness had taken the rest.
Topping it off, I was baffled by my inability to master even
the simplest dance step in class. How was I supposed
to find a girlfriend if I couldn't dance? Overwhelmed with
despair, I lost my temper. Staring up at the sky, I
screamed out loud at God.
you know I need help and you know how much I counted on this
class! Is it really asking too much to give me a
regretted my outburst. I had never shouted at God
before, so I was understandably chagrined. I stared at
the sky for about a minute wondering if I was going to get
some sort of response, but nothing happened. I was quite
serious when I shouted at God. I was angry because I
felt like God had played a dirty trick on me. I had
long suspected I wasn't much of a dancer, but I nursed a
fervent wish that proper instruction could solve my problem. Was it asking too much
to discover I wasn't such a bad dancer after all?
In particular, I had gotten my hopes up thanks to the
appearance of Vanessa's name in the book dedication.
They say Coincidences are God's way of staying anonymous.
Firmly believing that adage, this
odd coincidence convinced me this was an omen. I
strongly believed the omen was God's way of telling
me to buy that book. And then came the dance class
suggestion. Now I was convinced that finding this book
was no accident.
In other words, I felt like
this dance class was God's idea!
anger gave way to a sense of confusion. I understood
that Life would bring trials and tribulations, but some part
of me figured enough was enough after getting thrown out of
graduate school. So why would God add to my misery,
especially over something as stupid as a dance class.
This attitude explains why I was
angry over being
tricked. After what I had been through at
Colorado State, why would God set me up for more
failure? My disappointment was akin to offering a bone
to a hungry dog only to kick the wretched animal when it
Here is what is
odd about this story. Like I said, I already knew I wasn't much of
a dancer. However, since I felt guided by God to
take this class in the first place, I expected to be
pleasantly surprised to find I was better than I thought. In
my fantasy, first I would take a couple dance classes.
Encouraged by my progress, I would go
to a dance club and meet the love of my life. Now I knew
better. There were no women waiting for me at a dance
club. My evaluation of my dance ability was
incorrect only in the sense that I was far worse than I
previously thought. So that raised a question. Why was I so bad!?! I could
not understand what was so wrong with me that I could not keep up
with those miserable River Oaks women. And then they had nerve to
laugh at me!
As I sat forlorn
in my car, I could not move. It wasn't just my
humiliating failure. The worst part was feeling betrayed by God.
God knew what bad shape I was in, so why would He give me this
useless idea in the
first place? I know some
people will think I was crazy. There are those who
would say I mistook an idle thought about dance lessons for the answer to a
prayer. However, in the Quaker religion, I had been
brought up to believe in Inspiration. My Instinct
had insisted this class would be the solution to my problem. They say
Instinct is the Voice of God and I firmly believed there was truth to that.
But now I wasn't so sure. This was definitely the wrong path and I was angry at God
for giving me lousy advice. I
was out of my mind if I thought Dancing was going to help
me overcome my fear of rejection. The contempt on the faces of the River Oaks Seven made this perfectly clear. Hanging my head in
despair, I was more convinced than ever that I really
did have some sort of Curse over me. Ten years
counting and no
end in sight.
That is when the
dam broke. Overwhelmed with frustration, I sobbed
pitifully. Tears fell from my eyes in torrents. I must have
cried for ten minutes, maybe longer. I cried so hard
my clothes were soaking wet by the time I finally stopped.
Too weak to move, I sat numbly staring out the window.
To my relief, the crying helped a lot. As my composure returned, I
asked myself a very uncomfortable question. Why
would God do this to me? I mean, yes, I had made
mistakes in Graduate School, but that didn't mean I was a
bad person. In fact, my heart was in the right place. I really did want to help people,
but first I needed to regain my confidence. What could
possibly explain why God had turned his back today? During the Magical Mystery
Tour, I had given much thought to the concept of Fate.
Did this horrible experience have something to do with
Karma? Right now it seemed like everything that could possibly go
wrong was going wrong. It felt like someone had
deliberately stacked the deck. My experience was gruesome to say the least.
maybe it was too gruesome! Hmm.
Today's events felt exaggerated so far beyond reason that I
began to wonder if God was sending me a message. I am
not the most perceptive guy in the world, but things were so
weird that I had a right to be suspicious. This is
difficult to explain, but today's experience was so brutal
it felt... dare I say it?... Biblical. Today's dance
class was so far beyond the realm of imagination that it
felt like I had been subjected to some sort
of spiritual test. I had no idea what was going on, but this
must be very important for God to put me through this kind
of pain. For a moment there I
wondered if God
wanted me to continue taking this dance class, but then I
was filled with doubt. Why would God want me continue
after this debacle? If anything, my performance had
convinced me it was useless. Cloaked in feelings of
futility, I had no
business returning to that class. The
undeniable cruelty of those women plus my mysterious
inability to handle something as simple as 'Step-Together-Step'
augured poorly for any positive outcome. And that
wasn't all. I left something out. Something
At the end of class, I had stuck around to ask
the teacher to explain what I was doing wrong. To my
relief, Disco Dave greeted me with a warm smile. He was more than happy to help, so
finding a friend amidst the darkness had briefly elevated my
spirits. However, when Disco Dave invited me back to his
apartment for a 'private lesson', I was incredulous.
Did I look gay? Did I act gay? What an insult! This guy had sized me up perfectly.
I was reeling, lonely, confused, totally out of control.
Get me alone in his home, offer me a soft drink, pop in a
Quaalude, and if I had one gay bone in my body I could
be David's afternoon road kill. Disgusted, I had declined
with a frown, then staggered to my car. It was Doors
are Strange when you're a Stranger. Faces look
ugly when you're alone..."
The lyrics to this well-known Doors song
my first clue that the Abyss was calling for me. How could things possibly have
gone worse today? I mean, think about it, does this
story sound even remotely believable to you? And yet
this is exactly what happened. Every insecurity in my
psyche had been triggered including my fear of rejection, my
fear of ugliness, my fear of inferiority, my fear of being
gay. Did I leave anything out? Seriously, short
of breaking a leg in the process, this
scenario was horrible beyond imagination. There is no way a
Beginning Disco class should turn into an Existential
Crisis, especially given that I was already teetering on the
edge of a nervous breakdown. Furthermore, what in the world were those seven socialites doing
there in the first place? If someone wanted to torture
me, they could not have found a more perfect weapon than
making me face
those snotty women. Indeed, their presence was so absurd
it violated my sense of Reality.
That is when the
oddest thought crossed my mind. Ordinarily God prefers
to remain invisible. But this was so over the top, I
was certain God
had tipped his hand this time. It seemed like God had gone out of
His way to make this
experience as excruciating as possible.
If God wanted to get my attention, this Dance Class from
Hell had succeeded royally. To my surprise, I started
to laugh. Still feeling a little
guilty over losing my temper at God, I smiled wanly
and looked back up at the sky again.
"All right, God, I know you're
What's going on here?"
As they say,
better to laugh than cry.
I know it sounds like I was losing it, but that violent
crying spell had actually shaken me out of my doldrums in a
manner akin to electro-shock therapy. My mood had
changed dramatically and I was
quite certain I had witnessed a supernatural event in that
Maybe God wanted to see if He could run me off.
That thought really hit home, so I sat up and concentrated.
More and more I began to think this Horror Show was God's
way of getting my attention. Hmm. Did
God have a purpose for me? As crazy as it seemed, my
Instinct said God wanted me to try again and refuse to
quit. Of course this didn't make a bit of sense, but
then God did have a reputation for moving in mysterious ways.
The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became
that continuing this class was God's Will. At
that moment I was overcome by a sense of awe.
back up at the sky, I said, "Okay,
it's that important, then I will try again."
I shook my head
at just how crazy this was. Despite clear evidence
this would be a difficult uphill struggle, I had just
committed myself to a task for which I was poorly suited.
Was I out of my mind? And yet at the same time, I
really wanted to learn to dance! I had no idea why
this was so important to me, but the strength of my Instinct
was undeniable. Despite the absurdity of the
situation, I was determined to carry out my promise to God. I would continue to take dance lessons
for as long as necessary to become a good dancer.
the first time that day I began to smile. I was
proud of myself. After all the failure I had
experienced over the past year, I had just committed to a
project that captivated my mind. I knew this decision did not
make a bit of sense, but if it was that important, why not?
I was young, I had nothing else going on in my life, and I
really wanted to learn to dance. After all the failure
I had faced over the past year, Disco Dave's dance class is
where I would make my stand. Besides, wouldn't it be fun to see the looks on those women's faces
when I returned next week? No, I did not
possess the telekinetic powers of Carrie to punish my
oppressors, but my mere presence would surely irritate those seven
women no end. Good. After what those women put
me through today, they deserved to suffer.
I did not know
it at the time, but this wild Leap of Faith
was my important Second Stepping Stone on the Comeback
There is an
interesting footnote to this story. The stupefying
Texas Heat that day was over 100°.
After sitting in my car for nearly half an hour,
soaked to the bone with blood, sweat and tears.
It was time to go. As I headed home, I had a loss of
confidence. The thought of those women laughing at me
again next week was more than I could bear. If only
there was some way to improve between now and then. At
that exact moment, I heard a voice in my head. It said
'Buy a mirror and practice.'
there was a hardware store immediately on my right. A
simple turn of the wheel was all it took to bring me right
to the front door. I will never forget the
bewilderment of the young cashier girl as she stared
wide-eyed at my wet clothes. My hair was so damp it
dripped a puddle on her counter as I pulled out a wet $20
bill from my billfold. The girl never said a word, but
I know she wanted to.
I have long
wondered if this sort of coincidence is God's way of staying
anonymous. I practiced in my Magic Mirror every night
that week. The improvement was noticeable in the
following class. The River Oaks women still stared at
me in disdain, but they never laughed again. If forced
to guess, I think they saw the determination in my face.
I was going to stay with this project as long as it took.
SUSPECTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS
A mysterious voice in my
head suggests buying the Magic Mirror just as I am driving past a
Stepping Stone 2:
Dance Class from Hell leads to Leap of Faith, Rick's decision to
continue dance lessons no
- THE THIRD
my strange, utterly bizarre decision to continue this
Dance Project defied all common sense.
I made this decision based strictly on the strong
Faith I had developed during my Magical Mystery Tour.
Right now my Faith told me to trust my intuition. I knew full
well I was playing a silly hunch with no guarantees, but
now that I had committed to doing this, I intended to keep my
promise. It wasn't easy to return the following week, but I held my ground and refused to let those seven
nasty women chase me off.
I don't know
about other people, but I think it's better not to know what's coming
around the corner. I knew this project was going to take a
while, but if someone had told me I would spend THREE YEARS, I am fairly certain I would have changed my
mind. I specifically undertook this project because I
thought it help me get a girlfriend. You know what I
mean. Learn to dance, ask a pretty girl to dance, show
off, ask her out for a date, live happily ever after.
Only one problem. You never saw me dance. When I
signed up for this project, I had no idea it would turn out
to be such a giant waste of time. But I made a
spiritual promise, so
I stuck with it.
was glacial at best. I never quite figured out why I
could have precise footwork at basketball, but it took me
forever to learn the most fundamental dance step. When
I made my bargain with God, He
to explain it would take a miracle to teach me how to
dance. One year passed with no girlfriend and I still couldn't
dance. Two years passed, no girlfriend and only minor
improvement. At the end of three years, my dancing was finally tolerable,
but still no girlfriend. Three years is a long time to
do something strictly on an unconfirmed hunch. No visions, no angels, no
voices in my head, no burning bushes. I shook my head in frustration. With
the Epic Losing Streak up to 13 years and no girlfriend in
sight, what exactly was the
point of taking these stupid dance classes?!?
was one curious development. After three years of dance classes, I thought it would be
fun to teach a dance class someday. But I quickly
dismissed the idea. Dance teachers are supposed to be
hot shot dancers. Everyone knows that. With a sigh,
I put my wish aside and continued to work on my dancing. I had wanted to
quit many times, but I had made a promise to stay with it
until I was a good dancer. I intended to keep
that promise. I am glad I did because here in my third year I finally
started to improve thanks to two teachers. The first was Patsy Swayze, a Jazz teacher
whose handsome son Patrick was currently appearing on
Broadway as the star of Grease.
We will get to Patsy in due time.
Then there was Rosalyn Lively, my line dance teacher at the Jewish Community
Center. I liked Rosalyn's class, so I kept repeating
it. Over the course of six months, we had become friends. One day after class Rosalyn told
me she wanted to take the summer off from teaching.
Would I mind taking her place? I knew why she asked
me. Having repeated her class three times, I was the
only one who could fill in on short notice. I had my
doubts, but when Rosalyn begged me to do it, I shrugged and said
okay. To my
surprise, totally by accident, I had just become a dance
teacher. Hmm. This seems kind of odd. Just
recently I had made a wish to teach a dance class. In
addition, I could not help but recall my solemn vow from three years ago.
Considering this unexpected job offer had the appearance of
a heartfelt wish being granted, I had the strangest feeling something was going on here.
I have a
question for the Reader. How many people do you know
who require three years of dance lessons to become an average dancer? How is it possible to take three years of
dance classes in hopes of meeting a girl and still come up empty?
Wouldn't an ordinary guy say this is bullshit and try
something else? Most of all, who is retarded enough to
actually believe God wants him to
On the other
hand, look what
teaching position became my Third Stepping Stone. Out of nowhere, I had been
handed a humble part-time job teaching the Hustle to a group
of beginners. Was it
possible there had been a point to all those aimless dance
classes after all? Since there was no way to know for
sure, I filed the thought away for future reference and got
to work. As a dancer I wasn't much better than my
students, but at least I
knew Rosalyn's patterns well enough to explain a simple line dance.
This was the summer I learned the guiding principle of my
dance career... Fake it till you Make it. I didn't have to
be a great dancer, I just had to know a little bit more than the
people I was teaching. That much I could do.
SUSPECTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS
Stepping Stone 3:
Rosalyn's Gift of summer line dance class at Braeswood JCC
- THE FOURTH
Third Stepping Stone, the Fourth Stepping Stone came
out of nowhere. I was sad when Rosalyn
returned in September to reclaim her class, but I
stuck to my vow and refused to quit taking dance
lessons. There was still a lot of room for
improvement. On a whim, in October I took a Whip class at
a dance studio called Stevens of Hollywood.
I wanted to learn how to partner dance to Disco
music, so I was disappointed to discover the Whip
was not what I was looking for. I was
about to leave, but a nice older lady named Dorothy
Piazzos talked me into staying. Dorothy was a
volunteer. Since I started this class three
weeks late, Lance Stevens, the instructor,
did not want a latecomer slowing his class down.
So he assigned Dorothy, a long-time student, to
Stevens, 60, was a husky guy with a thick mane of
white hair and an unmistakable air of superiority.
Frequently critical of my dancing, he reminded me of
Fujimoto. Each time Stevens came by, he found
something to dislike. I bounced too much, my
steps were too big, my posture was poor. Those
were good tips, but he said them in such a mean way
that I bristled. I whispered to Dorothy,
"Whatever I do, I can't seem to please this guy.
Plus the Whip isn't what I thought it was. I
think I am going to leave, but I don't want you to
think it has anything to do with you. You've
immediately gripped my arm. "Rick, please
don't go. Don't listen to Lance, he's in one
of his moods. You are a lot better than you
realize. Considering you started three weeks
late, you are catching on a lot faster than I
expected. Most men have trouble learning the
Whip, but you've picked it up without trouble.
How did you do that?"
honest, I am just as surprised as you are.
Ordinarily I have a lot of trouble learning to
dance, but I recently taught a Disco class
the footwork to the Whip is similar to things I
Dorothy's reassurance, when she asked me to stay, I said
Apparently Dorothy said something to Stevens behind
At the end of class Stevens came over at the end of class
to say he heard I was a Disco
teacher. When I confirmed that, Stevens said his Disco teacher had
just quit. Do I want the job? Sure!
Out of the blue,
I had been handed a new teaching assignment. However, as I
drove home, I had second thoughts. Why did Stevens
give me that job? He clearly didn't like me.
He had been hostile when I called him earlier in the day, he
criticized me sharply during class, and he frowned as he offered me the job.
Stevens had hired a total
stranger without any sort of interview or audition. Stevens had no idea whether I was any good or
not. Nor did he seem to care. Considering how
much he reminded me of Dr. Fujimoto, I wasn't so sure about
this. On the other hand, I really wanted to keep
teaching. And so, despite trepidations, I showed up
for my new class.
Stones go, you could have fooled me. My new students
greeted me as if I were a homeless man. I wish I could report I
lit a fire under my class, but such was not the case.
I started with ten students and each week one less showed up. Given their
listless attitude, it was obvious why Stevens could have cared
less. When all of five
people show up for my final line dance class in December, I
was very depressed. For some time now I had sensed interest in Disco was fading. Rosalyn agreed.
Her classes had been dwindling for some time.
However, it really didn't bother her that much.
Rosalyn had been teaching line dance classes for a couple
years, so she was getting bored. Rosalyn decided December was a good
time to quit. Who
could blame her? After all, she wasn't doing
it for the money.
I wasn't doing it for the money
either. Teaching dance was new to me and I enjoyed it.
Nevertheless, I figured this was the end of the road.
Based on the poor results of my class, Stevens was
unimpressed with my teaching. Not just
that, he despised anything to do with Disco. Pleased
to see my December class wither to nothing, Stevens said,
"Don't get your hopes up, kid. I doubt you will have a
class in January. I'm probably just going to cancel
the class. I am tired of fussing with it."
Based on these bad omens, I figured the Disco Era was over.
the music industry were saying the same thing. Sales
of Disco music were way down, so they predicted a new sound
would take over in the following year. However, Disco
was about to have a Second Act. The day after my final class at
Hollywood, an unheralded movie known as Saturday Night Fever
came to town.
SUSPECTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS
Stepping Stone 4:
Lance Stevens hands a surprise
Disco Line Dance class job to Rick who is in the right place at the
right time .
- THE FIFTH STEPPING STONE
As usual, my
next stroke of good luck snuck up on me. Saturday Night Fever debuted to little fanfare here in Houston. I had
never heard of the movie until I noticed a writeup in the
morning newspaper. Curious, I was
one of three people in the audience for the very first
movie was great, but what difference did it make? Now that Disco had run its course, I
gave the movie up for dead, a victim of very bad timing.
As the month progressed, I had no
way to know the movie was catching on in a big way. No one I knew cared about dancing. Given Stevens' negativity, I
figured my teaching job was kaput. So imagine my surprise when Stevens called
shortly after New Year to say I had a class in January after
When I hung up the phone, I was thrilled.
My fondness for teaching Disco classes would live to see
another day. Thank goodness! I had already
decided I wanted to teach again in the worst way.
Maybe there was a chance after all.
I never expected
the mob scene that greeted me in January. Given
the dreary ending to my class in December, imagine my shock
when I was greeted by 70 students. I was amazed to
Saturday Night Fever
had created so much interest in Disco dancing in just one month.
This, of course,
was Stepping Stone Five, the start of my Magic Carpet Ride. A bizarre combination
of far-fetched circumstances had magically placed me in the
right place at the right time to take full advantage of this cultural phenomenon.
For some strange reason, here in January I seemed to be the most
popular teacher in the city. This made little sense
because I had zero reputation. However, they say don't
look a gift horse in the mouth unless it's the Trojan Horse.
an extraordinary lucky break, I was convinced I was
Supernatural event. I had been suspicious
when the earlier Stepping Stones came along,
but I wasn't sure. This time I was certain.
is what I was meant to do all along, I was in awe to see how
my Leap of Faith had prepared me for this moment.
I finally understood there was a purpose to these
lessons all along. With
interest snowballing like an out of control avalanche, my Magic
Carpet Ride soared into the sky.
Rick Archer's Note:
It seems to me
we all face trials and tribulations in our lives.
In my case, the deep-seated problems I acquired
during High School
Hell led directly to my dismissal from Graduate
School and my ill-fated love affair with Vanessa.
Given how hard I tried to overcome my handicaps,
getting thrown out of graduate school seemed so
unfair. I asked myself why God
would deliberately knock me down. Given that
we all face hardships, what was the purpose?
Mind you, I am
not looking for sympathy. Ever since the Magic
Carpet Ride kicked in, I have been given one
blessing after another. In fact, I have been
handed so many lucky breaks, the difference between
the difficult early life and the exciting second part has
been remarkable. But along the way, the
startling discrepancy has also made
me suspicious that something sneaky is going on
comparing God to Charles Dickens, the master of
using far-fetched Coincidences to advance a plot.
Only Charles Dickens could come up with an early
plot line as miserable as mine. Looking back
on the first part of my life, it felt like whatever
could go wrong did go wrong all the way up to my
bone-crushing failure in graduate school. But
then for no reason my luck turned starting with that
strange book that suggested I take dance lessons.
From that point on, I could do no wrong. As
the absurd total of beneficial Coincidences mounted,
the only explanation for my lucky streak that made
sense was Fate. My unexpected success was
I grew up as a woebegone kid handicapped by a series of
tough breaks. Forced to more or less raise
myself following my parents' divorce, I didn't do a very
good job. Due to my perpetual underdog status, I grew
up twisted, angry and bitter. Things got so tough in
high school that the class bully referred to me as the 'Creepy
Loser Kid'. The sad thing is that I agreed.
shame came the day I was kicked out of graduate
school. I had aspired to become a therapist, but that
dream was gone. The head of the
Psychology Department had decided I did not have the right
become a therapist.
Dr. Fujimoto didn't come right out and say
it, but I assume he felt with all my problems I had no
business trying to help others. My dismissal from
Graduate School was rock bottom, the absolute low point of
my life. Overwhelmed with
self-doubt and a sense of abject failure, I returned to
Houston with no idea what to do next.
From there I
wandered through life like a modern-day Alice in Wonderland.
It took forever to bounce back. Working a dead end
job, I lost all ambition. Plagued by loneliness, the only thing I cared
about was finding some way to overcome my overwhelming fear
of approaching women I did not know.
Along the way I
developed a fascination with dance lessons. I hoped
these lessons would help me cure my fear of rejection. Only one
problem... I could not dance a lick. I was
abysmal. The only thing I had going for me was an
irrational belief that these dance lessons were important
despite my glacial progress.
course, was my Leap of Faith. Now, please keep
in mind my gamble was not exactly death-defying.
It wasn't like God ordered me to jump off a cliff to
prove my loyalty. Nevertheless, considering
how inadequate I was at picking up dance steps, my
dance project made little sense. But that
didn't matter. I was so convinced there was a
purpose to this that I continued lessons for three
years despite no reassurance I was on the right
track. I had no idea what was waiting for me down
the road. All I knew was that I had some weird
hunch God had recommended dance lessons as a way to
solve my debilitating fear of approaching attractive
women I did not know. Given that I was
fighting a borderline case of mental illness at the
time, I was willing to try ANYTHING to help regain
So here is my
point. Let's assume God has a purpose for all
of us. God assigns to each life a script of
sorts, an outline of our Destiny. By making my
early years as miserable as possible, I wonder if
God intended to make the success part of my story AS
DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE AS POSSIBLE. And what would
be the point of that? Could there be a reason behind
the crippling start followed by the series of
wonderful events that led to my healing?
Suppose God wanted
me to write a book about Fate. Better yet,
what if God wanted me to write a CONVINCING
BOOK ABOUT FATE? Now you see what I am driving
at. Given the handicaps facing me, who would
have ever thought I would one day create the largest
dance studio in America? As my saga continues, it will become
increasingly obvious there is NO WAY I had the
talent to become successful in a profession for
which I had no natural ability, no personality and
crippling emotional problems. Nevertheless,
things broke right time after time to allow me to
continue my improbable rise.
Given where I
started compared to where I ended, even a
confirmed skeptic might begin to wonder if there is
something to my contention that I had Divine help
every step of the way. At some point,
maybe it will be this chapter, maybe the next chapter, who
knows, eventually the Reader will reach the
conclusion that while it is hard to believe in lucky
breaks, coincidence, predestination and so on, it
will become almost impossible to believe in anything
else but Fate as an explanation.
Let me conclude
with a painful, yet very valuable experience.
During the 32
years I ran SSQQ, my dance studio, I made a lot of
good moves. In fact, along the way, I am
embarrassed to say I reached a point when I gave
myself most of the credit. To my surprise, God
decided to teach me a lesson. Two years after
I sold my dance studio, I decided to make a
comeback. I failed miserably. And the
reason I failed was a deeply-suspicious series of
This made no
sense. I was the guy who once built the most
successful dance studio in America, but now I could
not get my comeback off the ground despite my best
effort. What do I make of this? When I
had nothing going for me, I was a success
nonetheless. When I had everything going for
me, I was failure despite vast experience and a good
reputation. I concluded my failure was God's
This was a very
humbling moment. But it was also an
illuminating moment. For the first time in my
life, I understood the meaning of 'God-given
talent'. I could be the finest Olympic
athlete, but it is God's Will that allows me to
succeed, not my own ability. Rather than seek
my own glory, the right thing to do is use my talent
to honor God and share my blessing with others.
That was the moment I decided to tell my story and
let my Readers decide if they agree that Fate plays
a inescapable role in our lives.
A PARTIAL LIST OF
SUSPECTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS
The Gypsy Prophecy
Stepping Stone 5
Rick is in the right place at
the right time when the unexpected success of Saturday Night Fever
launches his Magic Carpet Ride
Stepping Stone 4
Rick is in the right place at the
right time for
Lance Stevens to hand him a surprise
Stepping Stone 3
Rosalyn's surprise gift of the summer dance class gives Rick his
first chance to teach dance.
Stepping Stone 2
Dance Class from Hell leads
to Leap of Faith, Rick's decision to continue dance lessons for three
years despite no results
Stepping Stone 1
Finding Vanessa's name in a
dedication is an omen which convinces Rick to buy the book which
in turn suggests
taking dance lessons.
to shut up in Dr. Fujimoto's class gets him thrown out of graduate
A suggestion from an older
Quaker man leads to Rick's
Magical Mystery Tour and spiritual awakening
Murphy's Curse that my rebellious
nature would lead to dire consequences came true six years later
Rick's mother mysteriously fails to take him to
the doctor following the serious acne
attack. The resulting 20 year
'Epic Losing Streak' with women is what led to the dance career.