Home Two Curses





Written by Rick Archer 





Rick Archer's Note:

I have written three books about Fate which cover 70 years of my life. 

A 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 overcome the serious emotional handicaps caused by my tough childhood.  This book also explains how I first became interested in Fate. 

Magic Carpet Ride picks up where the first book leaves off.  It covers a ten year span, 1974-1984, which explains how a series of uncanny lucky breaks created SSQQ, the dance studio which became my life work.

Gypsy Prophecy covers an unusual event in 2001 which strongly suggests my marriage to Marla was predestined.

There is 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 people report odd events in their lives which have led them to wonder if certain things are meant to be. 

At this point in the Age of Man, roughly 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. 


Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
-- Søren Kierkegaard

In each of my books you will meet two versions of myself.  I tell each story from the point of view back in the days when I was young and stupid.  However, if the story involves a potential example of Fate, my older self will usually 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 into 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.  Fortunately, 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 grew to become the largest independent studio in the country at the turn of the Millennium. 

However, I was reluctant to take too much credit.  Sure, 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 Architect, I concluded I was leading a charmed life.  However, I did not dare tell people my secret.  It had nothing to do with false pride, but rather a fear of being laughed at.  Who wants to be written off as crazy?  But then something terrible happened, a 2012 failure that prevented me from resuming my dance career.  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 more important.  My instinct was to go ahead and write my story.


As it turned out, I already had an outline of sorts.  During my life, I kept careful track of every incident that struck me as out of the ordinary.  These events included those Stepping Stones I referred to.  At the time when I began to write my books, my Supernatural List had passed 100 events.  I suppose a confirmed skeptic could find reasonable explanations for 80 of these suspicious events.  However there are 20 very serious events on that List are extremely difficult to explain using the rules Science refers to as 'Reality'.  The Gypsy Prophecy is one of them. 

Over the years, the totality of these unusual events has convinced me there is more to this world than meets the eye.  However, the unusual events do not have any rhythm to their appearance.  I never know when something strange is about to happen.  For example, during my Magic Carpet Ride, there were 70 events stretched over ten years.  It was these events that helped me create the dance studio. 

Then, however, the unusual events ceased to occur for the next 18 years.  Although my life continued to have interesting adventures, during this extended dry spell there was only one incident curious enough to make the Supernatural List.  One day my daughter Sam almost drowned.  Sam was only 3 when she mysteriously sank to the bottom of a swimming pool at the exact moment I turned my back.  It was quite a coincidence.  Fortunately a friend spotted her and dived in for the rescue.  Other than that, for 18 years, nothing else was weird enough to raise my eyebrow. 

That changed dramatically in 2001.  Out of nowhere I experienced a new flurry of highly suspicious events.  Gypsy Prophecy is a story that involves Predestination, Coincidence and a phenomenon I refer to as Cosmic Blindness.  This extremely unusual tale explains how my marriage to Marla was foretold well in advance.




Christmas Eve, 2000.  Sunday evening.

Many stories begin with a reference to a serendipitous Door which opens at the perfect time.  In this case, the Door to the Gypsy Prophecy was simply left unlocked.  Our story began on Christmas Eve, 2000.  Around 6 pm that evening 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.

This odd little mistake changed the course of my life.


I was raised a Quaker (also known as 'Friends').  One day my mother explained the Live Oak Friends Meeting was having trouble financing a new meeting house.  I was well aware of the ongoing headache.  I was six years old when my parents moved to Houston in 1955.  The local Quaker Meeting was a collection of nomads who wandered from location to location.  In 1995 the Quaker Meeting had located an affordable property in the Heights area of town.  Even better, famed artist James Turrell, like me born a Quaker, wished to donate a beautiful Light ceiling he had created.  However, the members were badly strapped for cash.  The dream of owning this very special Meeting House seemed just beyond their reach. 

I immediately saw an opportunity to pitch in.  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 rolled around, 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 soft spot for my Quaker friends, not once did I attend a 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.  The 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 allowed me to stay home on Sunday mornings. 

Ordinarily the Quakers were gone by 2 pm.  However, in the year 2000, Christmas Eve and Sunday coincided.  Since there were no dance classes scheduled on Christmas Eve, the Quaker Meeting had the studio to itself all day long.  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.  It was a splendid celebration.  Good tidings, comfort and joy to all!

Everyone was excited because their new home would soon be ready.  Naturally they stuck around longer than usual to enjoy the warmth of the day 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 harmless mistake initiated a chain of events which led to the 'Gypsy Prophecy', one of the three most remarkable Supernatural events of my life. 


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 6 pm 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.

I was very irritated, but not at Judy.  Suffering from extreme burn-out, this mistake meant I would have to take an unwelcome trip on a day when I did not wish to be anywhere near the studio.  I was resting in the comfort of my home only to be forced to waste an hour of my day thanks to someone's dumb mistake.  I immediately began griping over the inconvenience. 

Since the Quakers were my responsibility, it was my job to go.  As I vented my frustration, without warning Judy abruptly grabbed her keys and 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 irritated, but I wasn't angry at Judy.  Nor did I expect Judy would handle the problem.  I had no idea why she decided to go instead of me.  My instinct said Judy's mood was much darker than the moment called for.  As it turned out, I was right.

One hour later, Judy returned.  She got right to the point. 

"I want a divorce."


My first marriage to Pat was short-lived, a year and a cup of coffee.  I met Pat in 1984.  She was an interesting woman.  I could write a book or I could write a few paragraphs.  Let's settle for paragraphs and save the book for another time.  On paper, our marriage was perfect.  Pat had a lot going for her.  Attractive, very talented.  However, Pat had one fatal flaw.  She liked to argue.  In my opinion there was nothing to argue about.  We had money, health, good jobs, and 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 persistent fear that I would stray, the tension became insurmountable. 

It was a shame this marriage failed.  Due to an incident in my past, I was strongly opposed to infidelity.  My father had an affair with the office secretary when I was 8.  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.

After arguing 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.  Dad quickly forgot I existed.  My new stepmother was an evil woman who drove a wedge between us.  I saw the man four hours a year for the next nine years.  Basically I exchanged my father for a good education.  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 very well. 


Here is my point.  The consequences of my father's affair turned me into an emotional cripple.  Thanks to my dance career, I eventually overcame my childhood handicaps.  But I was still bitter about the cheating incident that ruined my childhood.  This explains why 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 further tolerate tongue-lashings.  I told Pat to knock it off, but she defied my request.  This is when the sparks flew.  Since neither of us was willing to bend, the only solution was give up.  One night I came home and Pat was gone.  For the record, I never strayed.  That is not who I am. 


In 1991 I married Judy.  During our ten year marriage, we raised our precocious daughter Sam and built SSQQ into a behemoth.  Judy played an impressive role in the studio's phenomenal growth.  Thanks to her tireless work with the Swing, Salsa and Ballroom programs, SSQQ was teeming.  At its peak, 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.  I had never encountered a more serious case of disloyalty.  Carnell knew full well I had a rule against teaching for other studios, but did it anyway.

Six months later, Carnell created a major scandal by accusing us of racial discrimination.  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.  With vicious 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 wide-spread hostility 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 have gotten 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 was, 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 while they fought.  Haunted by those memories, I vowed never to put Sam through a similar nightmare.  So much for good intentions.  Ashamed of myself for losing my temper, I 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 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 booming 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 worked hard to build the studio and deserved much of the 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.  During the ensuing Ice Age, we drifted apart.  Neither of us were particularly happy, but the relationship was cordial enough.  I was a 'stick together for the good of the child' type, so divorce was not on my mind.  However, the moment Judy asked for the divorce, I instinctively realized she was right.  The wound caused by Carnell had festered for two years and I could not imagine how we would ever heal the rift. 


"Okay, 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, when Sam was born, I promised to be a better father to Sam than my father had been to me.  So much for wishful thinking.  At this point, I wasn't doing much better than my own father.  My guilt over the impending divorce was overwhelming.  I was upset that Sam would suffer the same consequences of a broken home as I had.  Overwhelmed by an 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 two hours ago like I should have, I would still be married.  Talk about irony! 

I spent 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 torment me.  Gee, now I can add the memory of getting divorced on Christmas Eve 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. 




January 2001

Despite my intense depression, life must go on.  As word of my separation made its way through the grapevine, one day early in 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 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.  I 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 instead?"

Tom's 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 also been there to save me when my marriage to Pat broke up in 1986.


Although I was the only newcomer on the Tahoe ski trip, I was not 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 had continued their January ski tradition all the way to present. 

As I looked around, I was amazed at all the familiar faces.  Virtually everyone had met at the studio or invited a friend to join the trip.   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 the married couples.  Ted Jones, Margie Saibara, Dan Taft, Ken Schmetter, Michele Collins, Tom Edens, and Jim Ponder had originally met at the studio.  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 these people 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.  But that pride also carried great regret. 


Sad to say, during the Nineties, I 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 friends.

Here on the ski slope I was dealing with a strong sense of loss because I missed these people.  Thank goodness my former friends had kept this tradition going without me.  Every day I skied with people who met through SSQQ.  I focused on the immense good will created by the dance studio over the years.  It was like old times.  The week I spent with the group was a shot in the arm because it reminded me of what I could accomplish again if I could just get my head screwed on right. 

I was dealing with keen regret.  The close ties I helped create back in the Eighties were less evident at SSQQ in the Nineties and I had no one to blame but myself.  Back when I was single in the Eighties, I used my freedom to organize activities.  However, once I became a father, I lost my edge and withdrew.  In the Nineties I would rather spend my 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 invoke the Magic of the Eighties into the Millennium.










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