Magic Carpet Ride
Home Up Two Mountains




Written by Rick Archer 





Rick Archer's Note:

The Magic Carpet Ride is a book about Fate.  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 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. 

The Magic Carpet Ride is a trilogy that covers 70 years.  After dividing my story into separate books, I have chosen to release them in reverse order.

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 work.

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 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

In each of my Magic Carpet Ride books 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.  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 was the largest independent studio in the country at the turn of the Millennium. 

However, 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 Architect, 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 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 else.  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 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. 

That changed dramatically in 2001.  Out of nowhere I experienced a 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. 




Christmas Eve, 2000.  Sunday evening.

The story of the Gypsy Prophecy begins with the end of my second marriage. 

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 Quaker.  One 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 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 real 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 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.  Good tidings of comfort and joy to all!

Here on 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 'Gypsy 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.

I 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.  Since the Quakers 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 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 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 couple 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.

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.  My new stepmother was an evil woman who drove a wedge between us.  Dad soon forgot I existed.  I lost my father 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 very well. 


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.


Five years 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.  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 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 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.  Still haunted by those memories, I had vowed never to put Sam through this kind of 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 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.  During the 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. 


"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, 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! 

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 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. 




January 2001

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.  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 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 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 present. 

As I looked around, I was amazed at all the familiar faces.  Virtually everyone had either met at the studio 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 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 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 friends.

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. 

I also 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 the Magic of the Eighties into the new Millennium.




Rick Archer's Note:  

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 two books.  

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.

Hmm.  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 be found in my books SSQQ and Act of Kindness, but this shorter version will get the job done.



A sudden acne attack when I was 13 completely changed the direction of my life.  Oddly enough this devastating development is what eventually led to the dance career. 

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 monster.  Without any kind of warning, I had been transformed into a hideous leper. 

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.




Unlucky Break
Cosmic Blindness
  1964   Rick's mother mysteriously fails to take him to doctor following his serious acne attack


Murphy's Curse 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. 

My mother's 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. 

However, the 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.

However, this 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 reach me. 

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.

My bitterness 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 of uniform, 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.

"Archer, 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 demonstrated a total lack of respect for my authority. 

You do 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.  Mark my 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 said today."

Murphy's warning 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'.




Eerie Prediction   1968   Murphy's Curse predicted my rebellious nature would lead to dire consequences

Magical Mystery Tour, 1970-71

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 local Quaker 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 well.  Little did I know, my newfound belief in God would lead to the events that started my dance career.   




Lucky Break

  1970   A suggestion from an older Quaker gentleman leads to Rick's Magical Mystery Tour and a spiritual awakening

Fujimoto's Condemnation, 1973-74

The Magical 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 State.

And what about Murphy's 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.

Murphy's Curse had struck and the Epic Losing Streak had reached Year Ten.





Unlucky Break

  1974    Rick's inability to shut up in Dr. Fujimoto's class gets him thrown out of graduate school



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 my life. 


Macho Man's 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. 

The third 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. 





  1974   Stepping Stone 1: Finding Vanessa's name in a paperback is the omen which convinced Rick to buy a book which 
 suggested taking dance lessons as the easiest way to meet women.



August 1974

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 frowns 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 social climbing.  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 disgrace 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.

Unfortunately, the scorn of these women arrived at the lowest point of my life.  Considering my defiance was in short supply thanks to my failure at 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.  He proceeded to explain why I had been expelled from graduate school.  During our 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.

"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 break?"  


I immediately 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 mysterious 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!  

Eventually my 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 approached. 

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. 

But 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 dance class 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 totally preposterous. 

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 Time. 

"People are Strange when you're a Stranger.  Faces look ugly when you're alone..."

The lyrics to this well-known Doors song was always 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 up there.  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 dance class.  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. 

Looking back up at the sky, I said, "Okay, God, if 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. 

For 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 Trail. 

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, I was 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.'

By chance 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. 




Heartfelt Wish
  1974   A mysterious voice in my head suggests buying the Magic Mirror just as I am driving past a hardware store.



  1974   Stepping Stone 2:  Dance Class from Hell leads to Leap of Faith, Rick's decision to continue dance lessons no
                                   matter what



Summertime 1977

Looking back, 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.

My progress 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 failed 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?!?

However, there 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 do this? 

On the other hand, look what just happened! 

This summer 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. 




Lucky Break
Heartfelt Wish


  Stepping Stone 3:  Rosalyn's Gift of summer line dance class at Braeswood JCC



October 1977

Like the 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 babysit. 

Lance 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 been wonderful."

Dorothy 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?"

"To be 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 and the footwork to the Whip is similar to things I already know."

Thanks to Dorothy's reassurance, when she asked me to stay, I said yes.  Apparently Dorothy said something to Stevens behind my back.  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. 

As Stepping 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.  Experts in 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 Stevens of Hollywood, an unheralded movie known as Saturday Night Fever came to town.  




Lucky Break

  1977   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 . 



December 1977

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 Friday morning newspaper.  Curious, I was one of three people in the audience for the very first showing.  The 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 all. 

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. 


January 1978

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 discover 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. 

Blessed with an extraordinary lucky break, I was convinced I was witnessing a Supernatural event.  I had been suspicious when the earlier Stepping Stones came along, but I wasn't sure.  This time I was certain.

Convinced this 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 here. 

I enjoy 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 God's Will.


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.

The ultimate 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 personality to 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. 


This, of 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 my confidence. 

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 bad breaks.

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 Will. 

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.





Lucky Break

  2001   The Gypsy Prophecy


Lucky Break

  1978   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


Lucky Break

  1977   Stepping Stone 4   Rick is in the right place at the right time for  Lance Stevens to hand him a surprise teaching job.


Lucky Break
Heartfelt Wish

  1977   Stepping Stone 3   Rosalyn's surprise gift of the summer dance class gives Rick his first chance to teach dance.



  1974   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



  1974   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.


Unlucky Break

  1974   Rick's inability to shut up in Dr. Fujimoto's class gets him thrown out of graduate school


Lucky Break

  1970   A suggestion from an older Quaker man leads to Rick's Magical Mystery Tour and spiritual awakening


Eerie Prediction   1968   Murphy's Curse that my rebellious nature would lead to dire consequences came true six years later


Unlucky Break   1964   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.







TWO MOUNTAINS                


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