INTRODUCTION TO THE
LOVE BOAT ERA
Written by rick
Rick Archer's Note:
story of the SSQQ Love Boat Era is an
seven chapter excerpt taken from the book I have
the Magic Carpet Ride is essentially
an autobiography, the main purpose of the book is to
illustrate the role that 'Fate' has played in my
life. Studies have shown that roughly half of
America believes in Fate despite deep skepticism
from the scientific community. I am fairly
certain that percentage would rise if my book ever
makes it to the public domain.
On a day
to day basis, very few people give Fate more than a
passing thought. Weird things happen to all of
us from time
to time, but rarely is a
coincidence dramatic enough to make us sit back and
wonder. In my case, strange things kept
happening with shocking regularity. My
Supernatural Observations that took place within a
specific 30 year period of my life. Several of
these events defied the laws of probability so
radically that I was hard pressed to think of a 'Reality-based'
explanation that made more sense than the Mystical
Born with a
questioning nature, I refused to shrug my shoulders
and write these events off as just one of those
things. Faced with too many events to ignore,
I chose instead to examine each event as a way to
prove to myself there is more to this world than
meets the eye.
In the process
I became convinced that Fate exists. I think
anyone who reads my account of these events with an
open mind will reach an identical conclusion.
The first event may not do the trick or the
second event or the third event.
But after a while, maybe the
20th event, maybe the 50th event (who knows which
one it will be?), you will see my point. The
Magic Carpet Ride will leave you
shaking your head in so much wonder, you will no longer
be confident the
prevailing scientific view of Reality is totally
writing the Magic Carpet Ride in 2013.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One
deals with my childhood and the major setback of my
life when I was thrown out of graduate school.
Part Two deals with the strange coincidences that
led to the formation of SSQQ which eventually grew
to become the large dance studio in America.
Part Three covers the Love Boat Era.
story of the Love Boat Era is very interesting for a
variety of reasons. We start with a love story
which details how I met my wife Marla. Then I
throw in a curve ball which demonstrates in a very
convincing way that our relationship was a Fated
event. From there I explain how my dance
studio developed its cruise trip tradition. I
will conclude with the story of our very remarkable
addition to leading a weird life, I have led a very
interesting life. It will not matter if you
could care less about my mystical mumbo jumbo.
The story of the Love Boat Era is quite a tale. If you love to travel, then you
like it even more.
have one favor to ask. I have written my book
with virtually no feedback. Any
impression you wish to share... criticism,
suggestions, encouragement, a request for further
explanation... by all means share it with me. Any
comment you make will remain confidential. I
have no way to improve my story unless I know what
people think. So please help.
THREE - THE LOVE
CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED
Written by Rick
On Christmas Eve
2000 my wife asked for a divorce.
Back in those
days, SSQQ dance studio doubled as the Quaker Meeting
House on Sunday mornings. I was a Quaker by birth.
Several times in my life, the kindness of people I had met
through the Quaker Meeting in Houston and in Baltimore had
rescued me from tight spots. In the late Nineties, I
was given a chance to return the many favors. The
Quakers were trying to build a new Meeting House in the
Heights area of town. However, they were badly
strapped for cash. I suggested they stop paying rent
at their current location and use my dance studio for free.
I was thrilled to let this group use the studio while
their lovely new home was being built. The Quakers
were thrilled as well. From what I gather, the Quakers enjoyed
holding their Sunday Meeting at SSQQ. They
had total privacy and absolute silence. Considering the
Quakers very much enjoy peace and quiet, the dance studio
was perfect for their needs.
someone made a mistake on Christmas Eve 2000.
particular day, Quaker service started at 11 am. This
is when the group held their traditional
Christmas Eve candlelight service. Afterwards they
stayed at the studio for much of the afternoon. This was
a happy time for the group because it included a potluck
dinner and a warm social gathering to follow. They had
a lot to talk about. Not only was
this the day before Christmas, but they were excited because
their new Meeting home in the Heights would soon be ready.
I did not attend
the gathering. In fact, I rarely attended Quaker
Meeting. Quite frankly, I felt so overwhelmed by my
job that I could not force myself to come to the studio
during my one free day even for a religious gathering.
in the afternoon around 5 pm, I got a phone call from the Quakers.
After cleaning up, the last few people were getting ready to leave when they
discovered the only person with a key had left without
remembering their duty to lock the door. The person on
the phone had no way to lock the studio door.
was very irritated. I would have
to stop what I was doing and spend half an hour of my time on
Christmas Eve driving to the studio to lock the door and
return home again.
into an argument with Judy over
this phone call. We were both worn out and neither us
wanted to be the one to get up and drive to the studio to
lock the door. Looking back, obviously I should have
been the one to drive to the studio that day. The
Quakers were my problem, not hers. However,
to my surprise, Judy abruptly stood up and stomped out
Shocked, I stared at my 9-year old daughter Sam who stared
back at me.
Sam asked, "What
is Mom so upset about?"
I shook my head. I was
just as confused as she was. The argument
had not been that heated. I was
irritated, yes, but I wasn't angry at Judy.
It wasn't her fault the door was unlocked. One impression
that did stick was that Judy's
mood seemed much darker than the moment
called for. One
hour later, Judy returned. She
got right to the point.
"I want a divorce."
marriage in 1984 had not lasted very long. Pat was an
interesting woman. I could write a book about Pat or I
could write a paragraph. I think I will settle for the
paragraph. Pat had a lot going for her.
Talented woman. On
paper, the marriage was perfect. The only problem was
that 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, cheat, or gamble. What was there to argue about? Well, jealousy for one.
Which was a shame because I only had eyes for my attractive
wife. However she didn't trust me. Oh well.
I married again
in 1991 to
Judy. When Samantha was born, I
made a solemn vow that I would do a lot better job raising
my daughter than my parents had done with me.
Back when I
was Sam's age, my parents fought every night for a year.
Many nights I fell asleep crying out of fear and insecurity.
When Sam was born, I vowed I would never put my own daughter
through an experience like that.
Christmas Eve I was 50 years
studio had enjoyed its most successful year in
history. I had reason to believe we were the largest
independent dance studio in the country. That was the
good news. The bad news was success demanded my
full attention. I put every spare moment into handling
the details necessary to keep the energy going. I knew
there were serious problems in my marriage. However, I
was so preoccupied with running my business and raising my
daughter that the thought of divorce had never entered my
However, we did
argue, I won't deny that. And when Judy and I argued,
Sam hid somewhere and cried. So much for my vow to
never put my daughter through an experience like that.
Judy nor I were particularly happy at the moment.
However I was one
of those stick together for the good of the child types.
In addition, I had a lot of respect for Judy. She was a good mother
and a good business partner. She deserved a lot
of credit for the studio's successful Year 2000. My
gratitude for her many contributions explains why
caught me off guard. However, now that I gave her request some
thought, I decided both of us would benefit
from being apart. One minute later I gave her my
"I will agree to
the divorce if I can have
joint custody of our daughter."
Judy nodded her
assent. "That seems fair."
overwhelmed by a sense of failure,
I wanted to be
alone. So I grabbed my keys and drove to the studio. Oh boy,
Christmas Eve alone in the giant dark dance
studio. Just my idea of fun.
With nothing else to do, I had plenty of time for
reflection. I'm not sure that was such a good thing.
Throughout the night my ghosts of Christmas Past dropped
by to haunt me. Now I could add the memory of getting
divorced on Christmas 2000 to the growing list.
There is no way
to wallpaper over a divorce and disguise the ugliness.
As I sat alone in the dark at the dance studio,
I could not recall
feeling more miserable. Not only had I failed in two marriages, I had let my
daughter down. So much for that good
old Christmas Spirit.
SKI TRIP REVELATION
I suppose 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. He met his wife Margaret at the studio in 1987. Six months later I attended
Tom got right to the point.
"Hey, Rick, I need a favor.
I want to go
skiing at Lake Tahoe, but I need a roommate.
heard a rumor you might be available."
"What about Margaret?"
"Margaret doesn't want to go this
year. Why don't you come with me
invitation to go skiing was a real blessing.
I needed to get out of town and nurse my
wounds. How funny that Tom should come
to my rescue again. Tom had also been
there to save me when my first marriage
broke up back in 1986.
Tom was part of a large ski group that I
started back in the early Eighties.
After I handed off the responsibility in
1988, the group continued throughout the
Over the years, the ski group had developed
a tradition to go skiing together every
January. Virtually everyone in this
group of 40 had either met at SSQQ
or came with someone from SSQQ.
Not surprisingly, through many shared
adventures this group had formed deep
and lasting friendships. Charlie and Beverly Roberts had met at
the studio. Gary and Linda Kryzwicki had met
at the studio. Doug and Sharon Hollingsworth
had met at the studio. Irving and Sharon
Carter had met at the studio. Ted Jones and
Margie Saibara had met at the studio. Tom
Easley had met Margaret at the studio. Six
SSQQ marriages on this trip!
Then there was Ken Schmetter, Michele Collins, Dan
Taft, Tom Edens, and Jim Ponder. This entire
week was an SSQQ version of the Big
Chill. Although I knew half the people
on the trip from the dance studio, I had not
seen most of them in years. I got goosebumps watching how happy these people
were to be with one another. I
noted with quiet satisfaction that my days as
'Leader of the Pack' back in the Eighties had been
largely responsible for helping this wonderful group of
I dealt with a
lot of strange emotions that week. I had once been
very close to these people. Not only
was my studio the reason they met, I had organized the ski trips in the
1980s that had led to this tradition getting
However, now I was the outsider. Judy was not interested in skiing, so I
had lost touch with this ski group during the Nineties.
did not take long for the warmth to return.
having a blast
reconnecting with my friends. Every day I skied with
all those couples who had met through SSQQ. It
was like old times again. The week I
spent with the group was a definite shot in the arm
because it reminded me of all the good will the studio had
created over the years.
On the other
hand, I realized the camaraderie I had created back in the
Eighties had not carried over into the Nineties. I had
no one to blame but myself. I was single most of the
time in the Eighties and used my freedom to organize
activities. However, once I got married, I lost my
edge. I would far rather spend time with my wife and
daughter than go dancing with the gang on my free nights.
Well, now that I
was free again,
I began to wonder if there was something I could do to bring the
Magic of the Eighties back.
REKINDLING THE MAGIC
I suppose every
career has its ups and downs. Of course there is the
excitement of making it for the first time. However,
as the years add up, it isn't so easy to bring the heat day
in and day out. As owner of the studio, I was the
obvious leader. To be effective, I needed to
participate in as many important events as possible.
However, now that was I teaching five nights a week, private
lessons on Saturdays plus two Saturday night parties per
month, I was really worn
out. I had Sundays plus two Saturday nights a month to
say, "Rick, come join us at the dance competition this Saturday!
Ted and Margie are competing for the championship. We would really like to
I would always
decline with some face-saving fib. They were crazy if they thought
I was going to give up my one free night of the week to go
watch a bunch of people dance. Don't get me wrong, I
loved Ted and Margie and my admiration for their dancing was
off the charts. However, no matter how much my heart
tugged at me to hang with my friends from the Good Old Days, I needed a breather just like anyone
It hurts to talk
about this, but
I had run into a major problem at this stage of
my career. I called it the 'Seesaw Effect'.
It worked like this... the more miserable I was, the better
my studio did. The happier I was, the worse my studio
I suppose this
phenomenon is not as unusual as I thought. A lot of
people speak of the difficulty balancing the demands of
career versus the demands of family. But I resented
the fact that I was continually forced to sacrifice personal
happiness to serve the needs of my highly successful
Any time I
participated in a studio-related extracurricular activity, I
helped boost the energy of the event. In other words,
the more often I went dancing with the students, attended
weddings, went to a swimming pool party, showed up at a dance
competition or simply went around saying hi to people at the
studio, the more the social side of SSQQ began to click.
However, when I
was married to Judy, I cut my activities in half.
Although the dance lesson side of the business still did okay,
there was a definite drop off on the social side. I
hated myself for withdrawing like I did, but as the marriage
began to fail, so did my enthusiasm for being around people.
In the latter half of the Nineties, I ceased being the
leader of the pack. After class, rather than stick
around and dance with the students, more often I went home and let my
large staff of teachers be in charge of drumming up the
So one might say
what about V-Ann? Let her run the social activities!
V-Ann had quit the moment I married Pat back in 1984.
Since she never gave a specific reason, I don't know if V-Ann ever forgave me
for breaking up with her best friend Judy Price. Boy, did I miss
And so did the studio. In the 17 years since
V-Ann had been gone, no one even remotely like her had ever
appeared on my door step. You can pay people to do a
job, but you can't
pay them to care about it like V-Ann did. She was
irreplaceable, one of a kind.
When I was
single during the Eighties, hanging with the In-Crowd of the
day wasn't an issue. I excelled in my Leader
of the Pack role because I was lonely and
happy to see my friends from the studio on a regular
basis. However, every time I entered
a relationship, my interest in playing Leader
of the Pack diminished dramatically.
After teaching dance six nights a week, I was a lot
more interested in spending my seventh night alone
with my girlfriend or wife than I was in going dancing at
a Western club with the group.
was single and miserable, my dance studio thrived. And
when I took time away from the studio to enjoy myself at
home, the studio stagnated. This dilemma set up
frequent struggles with my conscience. Take weddings for example.
Good grief, people were getting married right and left!
Not a month passed without another wedding. I prayed
the latest couple would not invite me, but I knew they would. I would force myself to
because I knew it was the right thing to do, but
unless I knew them well, I secretly wanted to be home
watching the football game. I was suffering from an
acute case of burnout.
With this 'hide from the
not surprisingly, the social energy at the studio
during my marriage in the Nineties was
nowhere near as strong as it had been back
in the Eighties. I was well aware of
this problem and bitter about it.
Nor did Judy help much. She was
reclusive by nature. This was one of the major points of tension in our
Now it was 2001.
With the divorce, a ten-year chapter of my life
was ending. I was free again and
miserable, the perfect situation for the Leader
of the Pack to make his comeback. What
would be the next chapter in my studio's
destiny? The January
Ski Trip gave me plenty of time to reflect on this
issue. Whenever I had a spare moment, I
thought about the
distance I had put between myself and the students
at the dance studio.
I still taught lessons with enthusiasm,
but I no longer got involved in people's lives like I
once had. I was something of a stranger at my
own dance studio. My dance teachers were
the current leaders, not me. Oddly enough,
the classes were filled to the brim. Two
successive dance fads, Swing Dancing in
1998-1999 and Salsa Dancing in 1999-2000, had the
studio hopping. I was probably the only
person in the world who realized the Spirit of
the studio had dimmed.
Now that I was reminded of
how much good I had done helping Tom's network
of friends to form, my impending divorce
would give me the perfect
connect to the current generation of people at the
studio. I decided the studio needed an
adventure. It was too late to plan a
ski trip. The best time would be this coming
summer. What could I do? What about organizing
a cruise trip?
As an experiment, I had organized a
cruise trip to
Jamaica in 1998. We had 30 people. I did
not enjoy that trip much at all. I
played hermit most of the time, preferring to read a book, play computer chess
or hang out with my daughter
Sam. I barely
lifted a finger to get to know anyone on a personal
basis. I could not wait for the trip to end.
Still, I had noticed one thing... our guests had a ball
dancing every night on the trip. They also enjoyed the
dance lessons I taught on sea days. That observation
had stayed with me.
Well, that was 1998 and this was 2001.
Now that I was single again, I had a
free hand to do things my way, so I decided
to give a studio cruise trip another try.
What would happen if I opened up a little?
It wouldn't hurt to be more sociable.
I called Alan
Fox, a friend of mine who played basketball
with me every Saturday morning. Alan
owned a travel agency. He was the one
who had suggested I offer our first
SSQQ cruise back in 1998. He
was more than happy to help me arrange our
2001 Trip as well.
This time I
decided to take promoting the trip more
seriously. In February
I announced the cruise to every class. I
looked people in the eye and told them how
much fun this trip was going to be. I
knew from experience that personal contact
worked better than just laying flyers around
the studio. Sure enough, the personal
One person after another signed on for the
As the months went by, the total climbed.
The buzz was circulating. 2 joined one
day; 3 joined the next. Our total
reached 40 people. At this point, what
started as a pleasant campfire turned into a
bonfire. Soon we were up to 50.
60. The number kept climbing. 70, 80,
90. In the final week before the trip,
we finally crossed the Magic 100 threshold.
I shook my head in amazement. Wow! 101
guests. As I reviewed our long list of people, I sat back
and smiled with satisfaction. It had
been a long time since I had played
Leader of the Pack. Even though I
was now 50 years old, it was nice to know I
still had the touch. What a joy
it was to be miserable again! ha ha
ha. This was a role that made me feel
good about myself. I liked creating
energy at my studio. It was good for
business and good for the soul.
"Welcome back," I
said to myself.
Now that I was single, it had been
relatively effortless to organize this
major event. But then I
frowned. A sense of déjà vu had
entered my thoughts. I had been in
this same spot before. As always,
I was far more effective at raising the
energy level at the studio when I was
However, whenever I sought happiness in
my private life, the studio energy
I always have to be lonely for the
studio to thrive? There had
to be a middle ground somewhere.
The first time I
ever heard the term 'Thunderbolt' was a scene in the
first Godfather. Michael
Corleone is walking in a Sicilian valley with his
bodyguards when he sees a stunning woman cross his
path. Michael is stupefied. He can't talk. He
can't move. His bodyguard grins and says, "I
think Michael just got hit by the thunderbolt."
It was November 2000, one
month prior to Judy's divorce request when
I first laid eyes on Marla. When I saw her
walk past, I
stopped breathing. I had just been
hit by the Thunderbolt. When Marla stopped to ask
where Room 4 was, I stuttered so badly I had to walk
her to the room. After showing her the way, I
asked what her name was.
When her class finished later on, Marla passed by me
on her way out. I took advantage of the occasion to
utter some really clever words.
Marla hesitated to smile, then kept
I remember trembling as I watched her
leave. Marla was a brown-eyed beauty with
brown hair and brown skin. Due to her dark
complexion, tossed salad hair and
amazing figure, Marla
reminded me of actress Gina Lollabridgida, so I wondered if
she was Spanish or Italian. Turned out Marla was
Russian by heritage.
For some reason,
I felt like I already knew Marla, so one night I asked.
were the one who insulted me a year ago when I took your
Whip class. You said I moved my hips too much."
"That was you?
You seem different."
observant. Yes, I am different. I've lost
thirty pounds since then."
"You never came
back to class."
"I was not
in a very good place at the time. I was upset over
my appearance and I took your criticism the wrong way.
But I'm back, so I guess I forgave you."
For the rest of
November, I noticed Marla whenever she walked
past. She always took my breath away.
I would watch carefully because she
was so good-looking. Although my strict
rule against affairs was in effect, I couldn't seem
to get her out of my mind. In fact, the
strength of my desire upset
me. If my head could be turned this easily,
there must be something missing in my marriage.
failed to return for classes in December, I was very
disappointed. It was probably just as well. Temptation is a lot
easier to deal with when it is out of sight.
Slowly but surely Marla passed from my mind.
After taking my ski
trip in January, I announced my upcoming cruise trip
scheduled for August. Here in March, I was starting to get used to
my new life. Judy and I had managed to remain friends. The
uncontested divorce was on track to be finalized in May. Judy said she would
continue to work at the studio and we had reached an amicable
decision on the division of property. Thank goodness Judy had kept her word
custody of Sam.
Sam was 9, an
only child. I too had been an only child. I too
had seen my parents divorce when I was 9. I knew what
she was going through and my heart ached for
her. Our custody arrangement was peculiar to say the least.
We cut Sam in half. I kept Sam on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I drove her
to school on Wednesday morning and her mother picked her up
that afternoon. Sam stayed with Judy Wednesday,
Thursday, and Friday. We alternated Saturdays. I
was not at all sure I had done the right thing by turning
Sam into a suitcase kid with this strange on and off living
arrangement, but it was the best I could think of. My
father had abandoned me after the divorce. I would not do the same to my
It was strange not having
Judy around, but the two of us got used to it. Sam was
trying to be brave, but I could tell it was tough. The
saving grace was Duchesne, her school. I had chosen
Duchesne for its strong academics only to find out it had
a strong nurturing side as well. Seeing Sam in pain,
several teachers took her under their wing. There was
considerable irony at work here. After my own parents'
divorce, my school St. John's was the only thing that kept
me going. Although I was grateful to Duchesne for the
help, it angered me no end that my bitter history kept repeating
itself. I had made a sacred oath to do a better job
with Sam than my parents had done with me, but had
failed miserably. The guilt was overwhelming.
I had no real desire to
begin seeing anyone.
I was still far too grouchy. However,
by the time March rolled around I was forced to admit
I was starting to get lonely. Unfortunately
there was no one I was interested in. That changed when
Marla reappeared. During the three months she had been gone, I
assumed I would never see her again. So imagine how happy I
was to see her. I walked in a couple
minutes late to start my Advanced Swing class. The moment I
saw Marla, I froze. She was standing there in the middle of the
room waiting along with the other students. Realizing she had
signed up for my class, my heart immediately began to go
When I got the
chance, I asked my dream girl where she had been. Marla was a sales representative for
the kind of items one buys at a gift shop. Marla explained
that every January
she had to face an ordeal known as 'Market'
where she drove to Dallas for two weeks.
However, now that the dust had settled at her job, she decided to resume dance classes after
I secretly hoped Marla
had taken my dance class because she was interested in me.
After all, Marla was the only woman to actually make me sit up and
take notice. Historically, any time I was this interested in a
particular woman, the interest was reciprocal. Not this time.
To my dismay, Marla did not
pay a bit of extra attention to me during class. Darn it. This was not
going to be as easy as I had hoped it would. My self-confidence had been
too badly damaged by the divorce to risk letting her know
how I felt. Thrown for a loss by Marla's
obvious lack of interest, I retreated to my dance teacher role and
spent the rest of March getting to know her during class.
One thing I noticed is that Marla always came to the studio
did any man meet her at the studio who might have a claim to her
affection. That was
a pretty strong clue that she was unattached.
I also discovered that Marla had a
smart mouth. She and I would engage in friendly banter
throughout dance class. I
would tease her and she would tease me right back.
In fact, Marla typically sent whatever jest flying back
across the net with a lot more zing than my initial effort. That didn't bother me a bit.
In a sense, I had met my match. I liked the fact that
Marla never backed down. Every time I saw Marla, I liked her even more. I began to
wonder if our rapport in dance class would be
just as effective on a personal level. Screwing
up my courage, I decided
to ask her out.
One day at the
end of March, Marla showed up
early for dance class. On the spot, I decided this
was my chance. I immediately
nervous. I had not asked a woman out on a
date in ten years so this was a big step for me. Let
me add one other thing. This was also the first time in ages I had considered asking a
woman for a date without being pretty sure of a positive response in
advance. Back during my 'Johnny Angel' days, I had women
swirling around batting their eyelashes. That
was then, this was now. Marla wasn't batting
anything at me, much less her eyelashes. Marla had
never given me a single reason to approach her socially.
Seeing Marla sit down on a couch, I went over to say
hello. Marla smiled and returned the greeting.
There was an open spot on the couch, so I sat down and began the standard
'Get to Know You' interview. "What do you do
for a living?" "How did you get into that line of work?"
"Oh, you moved here from California?" "What do you think about
Then I asked what had brought Marla to SSQQ. In response, Marla dropped a bombshell. Marla told me
her boyfriend Chris had first brought her to the studio a year or so
earlier for a Saturday night crash course. My
ears perked up. There was something about the way she said
'boyfriend' that sounded present tense. What boyfriend?
Marla had always come to the studio alone. My next
question revealed that Chris was very much in the picture.
When Marla revealed they had been going together for
six years, I flipped out.
Six years!?! Oh shit! That's a long time.
Actually, that's a really long time. My heart plummeted with
anguish. Reeling from the bad
news, my plans to ask Marla out faded quickly. Doing my best to disguise my
disappointment, I withdrew from the
conversation at the next opportunity. I was really upset. Recently divorced, Marla
was the only woman I had met who might stir me out of my doldrums.
But she clearly wasn't available. Darn it!
There were other
attractive women who crossed my path in this time, but Marla was the
only woman I ever considered asking out. This was my first attempt to try dating again,
but it had not
gone very well.
After Marla failed to show interest during my recent Interview, I was too
weak to pursue her further or anyone else for that matter. I was
far too hung up on Marla to open myself up to other
women at the studio. In no mood to get rejected, I went back
into my shell and went through the motions. Every day was just
I was single, but I wasn't alone. I had a nine year
old daughter who I enjoyed spending my free time with. As I
thought about Sam, I realized that whomever I brought
into my life would need to click with her as well. For the
time being, it was less
complicated to avoid getting serious about anyone.
However, let's face it, the real reason I did not look at other women
was due to my crush on Marla. Every
time she showed up at the studio, she showed up alone. That
was so suspicious that I wondered if there were problems in her
I couldn't take it anymore. The next time Marla showed up
for class early, I conducted Interview Two. Same results.
Marla showed no indication of interest plus she spoke of Chris
again several times. I shook my head in despair. Marla's discouraging news about the boyfriend didn't give me much
But then she would show up alone the next week.
Not only that, she acted like she was unattached, so my hopes would
rekindle. However, due to the mystery, I was completely lost on what to do next.
A CURIOUS DEVELOPMENT
Here in April, I
was pleased that Marla signed up for my next Swing
class, but she still failed to show any interest.
Frustrated, I sat around brooding. One day in
mid-April there was a development.
To my surprise, my travel agent called to report someone named
Marla had just signed up for the August dance cruise.
My eyes widened. No kidding?
"Did Marla sign
up alone or did she have a partner?"
up alone. I've already assigned Sherry as her
Well, I'll be
darned. This nugget confirmed my instincts
that Marla really did have one foot out the door. I
immediately decided to try Interview Three. The next time I saw
Marla, I welcomed her to the upcoming cruise and used
this opportunity to chat with her a little longer than
usual. To my surprise, Marla acted like it was no big
deal. If there had been a breakup, there was no sign
on her face that I could tell. Confused, I
probed for more information.
Marla, we have more women than men on this trip. Is
there any chance your boyfriend will be signing up?"
Marla shook her head. "I doubt it.
Chris prefers land trips. For example,
last year we went to Costa Rica. Since
Chris doesn't care much for cruise trips, I
thought it might be fun to go on this trip by myself and
hang out with my new friends."
flabbergasted. If ever there was a
time for Marla to reveal a rift in the
relationship, this was it. No such
luck. I had not detected even a hint of
rancor in her words. My hopes dashed, I walked away
rather than let my disappointment show.
This was useless.
Marla's response made it clear I was
reading too much into the situation, so I tried to keep
her out of my mind. However, each
week I found myself staring at the door waiting for Marla to come to
class. If she skipped a class, I would miss her terribly.
Where is she today? Is she with Chris? It really bugged me that I was attached to
a woman who barely knew I existed. I
hated being so invisible.
If I had any sense, I would have quit and
moved on. The only reason I continued
to hang in there was the mystery of the missing boyfriend. As the weeks passed, it seemed more and
more odd that her boyfriend never came to
the studio. Didn't Chris ever
worry Marla might meet someone? After all, I certainly
wasn't the only man who noticed how pretty she was.
wasn't getting anywhere, but at the same
time, my instincts insisted there was a
problem here. On my good days, it seemed
to me that Marla did not act like she was
attached. On my bad days, I dismissed
my conjecture as wishful thinking.
Now that Marla was
on the cruise, I had an easy opening for our
For the next couple
months, Marla and I would briefly chat about the
cruise whenever she came to class.
I would sit on the
arm of couch to seem less intrusive.
Chris entered every conversation.
Whenever I probed, invariably Marla would bring him up in
response to some indirect question I asked.
Was it my imagination or did I detect a
waning of interest? During our conversations, I noticed there
was never any enthusiasm in her voice. Every time we spoke, not once did I sense a strong
commitment to her boyfriend. I was positive
something was wrong.
Unfortunately, to my
consternation, Marla kept her personal life to
herself. Not once did
she come close to hinting they were
having problems. I was baffled, confused,
unsure, perplexed plus any other adjectives
that means the same thing. I began
to obsess over the missing boyfriend. My instincts told me her
relationship was on the rocks. But until Marla gave me an
opening, I was too scared to take a chance based on a flimsy hunch.
always believed if a woman was interested in
me, she would find a way to send up a smoke signal.
No such luck with
Marla. She was always friendly towards me, always
but it was a 'formal warmth'. Not once did she ever signal
the slightest romantic interest in me.
Nor was she
interested in a friendship. By her demeanor, I
could tell I was not on her radar. It was painful
to accept, but I was her dance teacher and
that was as far as it went. Marla barely knew I existed.
CAT AND MOUSE
returned for the next Swing class in May.
Now that she was developing a friends here in
this class, Marla was part of the gang. As long as she continued
coming to class, I clung to the hope that Marla might someday
warm up to me. Unfortunately I refused to hurry things along.
They say faint heart ne'er
wins fair maiden, but the divorce had stripped
me of the confidence to make my intentions
known. In my conflicted state of mind, I
wasn't about to drop to one knee and declare
undying love to a woman who had yet to give me
the time of day. That left me with no
choice but to play a cat and mouse game to
protect my pride.
make a bold move without encouragement,
I continued to limit myself to gentle chats whenever Marla
came to class. Unfortunately, our
superficial banter revealed little of note.
I remained completely in the dark as to her
status. I hated the fact that my crush was
completely one-sided. I should have given
up, but I didn't. As long as her boyfriend
continued to stay out of sight, my hopes
continued to simmer softly in the darkness.
I kept looking for a break.
Since Marla didn't push me away during our
little chats, I felt safe approaching her at
every opportunity. I kept thinking one day
Marla would let something slip that would allow
me to pry a little deeper. There was one
question I was dying to ask
why isn't Chris going on this
trip? Doesn't Chris realize the risk he is taking? No man in his right
mind lets a woman with your kind of looks go on a
singles cruise alone!"
However, Marla never once
gave me the slightest opening to dig deeper.
There was a reason this Cat and Mouse game was
going nowhere. I was the only one who
ONE LAST TRY
divorce was final in May. Here at the start of
summer, I was starting
to get some of my old confidence back despite my confusion over
Marla. As news of my divorce got around,
some of the
ladies at the studio decided to kick the tires and see if I had
anything left to offer. Unlike Marla,
they had no trouble signaling interest. They asked me to dance with them
and seemed to enjoy our trip around the floor.
All I had to do was say the word and my life as the
Solitary Man would come to an end. Unfortunately, we always want what we can't have. Mind you, Marla wasn't
playing hard to get. Actually, she wasn't playing at all.
Yes, she didn't flirt with me, but then she didn't appear to be
flirting with any of the other guys either. Marla wasn't even
in the game.
It finally dawned on me
that if Marla truly wasn't interested, it was time to move on. A couple of
the ladies at the studio were starting to turn my head. But first I had to give it one last chance. Almost as
if on cue, Marla
showed up an hour early for class one night in June. Her work day had ended
early and it was easier to come sit at the studio than drive all
the way home and back again. The moment I saw her walk in, I was instantly on edge. This was the
night. Enough cat and mouse. It was time to ask a direct
The moment Marla sat down on her
favorite couch, I went over. Usually I sat on the arm of the
couch, but tonight we had enough time to warrant a more comfortable
pose, so I sat
down next to her. Marla said hi
and I returned the greeting. I began Serious Interview Four by telling her what number we were up to on the cruise.
Marla smiled at my obvious pride in the growing total. After some pleasantries, I
gulped and plunged forward.
"Marla, I know we
spoke about this once before, but is there any chance your boyfriend
will sign up? Lately it seems like the boy-girl ratio just
keeps getting worse. Is there any chance you could talk him
into coming? We could definitely use a few
Note my clever use of
misdirection. Ah, the art of the
innocent... and totally bullshit... question. Let's see if it works. Marla frowned for a second,
then replied, "Well, Rick, here's the problem. Chris has no interest in dance. I
don't think he would have much fun. I would rather go by
myself and hang out with the new friends I have made here at the
That was an interesting
answer, but it didn't reveal anything.
"Won't he miss you?"
"Yes, but we give
each other space. For example, Chris just got back from
trip to France with his rugby team. Now it's my turn.
Chris doesn't care if I go alone. I guess he knows me too
well. He doesn't worry about me at all."
My heart sank. This was not the answer I wanted to hear.
I wanted Marla to say this cruise trip was a fiery demonstration of her new-found
independence. But the way she said it, it sounded like Chris was
so secure in their relationship he could care less what she did. I
frowned. What a lucky guy. Any man who didn't worry
about losing Marla to an army of potential Romeos was a confident man
indeed. And with that, I lost all remaining patience.
Right in the middle of our talk, I got up and
abruptly walked away without a word.
I had been very rude, so
rude that Marla had noticed. During class that night,
I saw Marla
staring at me in confusion. Did she say something to
offend me? Marla had no idea what was going on.
All she knew was that I had talked to her for three
minutes and then without warning rose to go talk to someone else. Oh
well, there was no point in explaining it to her. This
situation was hopeless. Marla was simply not available. End of story.
Time to move on.
BIDING MY TIME
I did my
best to forget about Marla. Over the July 4th
holiday, I took my daughter on a trip to Northern
Virginia to see my beloved Aunt Lynn, a
sightseeing trip into Washington DC, plus a
visit to Johns Hopkins, my alma mater, in Baltimore.
returned to the studio in July, I continued to see
Marla once a week in class. However my casual
pre-class visits came to a halt. I told myself I had given
up on my crush, but who's fooling who? I still
watched her like a hawk whenever she was around.
I wanted to see if she was pursuing any of the men
at the studio. From what I could tell, Marla
didn't give anyone much of an opening. That
was good enough for me. If I couldn't have
her, I didn't want any other guy at the studio to
have her either.
helped that I was getting distracted. Judging
by the increased attention I was getting from the
ladies, apparently the obligatory waiting period on me was
over. Ever since my separation back in
December, the women at the studio had kept a pretty
wide berth. I suppose I was considered
radioactive. No doubt the first woman stupid
enough to get close to me would get badly burned. The
cynics suggested it would be better to let some
foolhardy woman be the first to incur my wrath and
let me get it out of my system, then move in.
indifference towards women. Women
come, women go. There would be other women on the
cruise trip, so it was time to quit worrying about
Marla's mysterious love life.
didn't blame the women for keeping their
distance. Let's face it, I was damaged
goods. I had failed in two marriages.
I had a well-known temper, a sarcastic tongue,
and a tendency to be very moody. I
had a thin skin and little patience for
criticism. One wrong word at the studio and I
might be grouchy for the rest of the night.
When I was in a good mood, I was an interesting
guy, but 'complicated' as one woman
explained it to me. Plus no one had any
idea how long my good mood would last. I
was like an old house. With some fixing up,
I might be worth something. However, it was going to
take a lot of hard work and plenty of fresh
say there are stages of grief. Maybe that
applies to divorces as well. For a while,
I was crippled, feeling sorry for myself,
intensely self-critical. Despite doing the best I could
in both marriages, my best was obviously not
good enough. Now I was in the
next stage. I was angry all the
time. I was angry at myself, I was angry
at women, and I was angry at the world. I
was in a 'Never Fall in Love Again'
scorched earth kind
of mood. I visualized myself buying a cabin in
Colorado and becoming a recluse when Sam left
for college. I was cynical about life in
general and I certainly wasn't ready for another
committed relationship. I admitted I had anger
and deep trust issues towards women, but then what divorced guy my age
didn't? The anger helped me maintain a '
I was a failure in love, but I had a few things going for me. Some women
thought I was funny. I was athletic and I could dance. I had
hair and a job. On the rare night I was
not pissed off at the world, I could even be
outgoing. As one woman put it, I was worth
a second look on the resale shelf.
Meanwhile, apparently some of my old charisma
had returned. As July progressed, every
time I entered the studio, the number of ladies
who smiled seemed to increase. For the
first time, I began to flirt back.
However I kept it superficial.
I had absolutely no desire to get back into a
relationship. Besides, there wasn't one
lady I liked more than the other. The
attention I was getting was plenty enough for
now. And so that is how it stayed for July.
NEVER MAKE YOUR MOVE
We were getting
down to crunch time. The cruise was just weeks away and we had
finally crossed the 100 total. I was quite pleased with myself.
Putting my skill at addition to good use, I
counted 55 men and 45 women. Then I switched
to subtraction. With ten extra
women on the trip, I was certain some fair lady was bound
to take a chance on me. Hmm. Who did I
have my eye on? Scanning the list, I circled
the names of three women I was attracted to.
There were two women along who were excellent
dancers. One was attached, one was a free
agent. I had my eye of the free agent.
There was one who was beautiful.
She had shown considerable interest in me, even
going to the effort of inviting to meet her for
lunch. I had turned her down due to my
interest in Marla, but things had changed since
then. Maybe she would give me a second chance.
The third woman exuded warmth. She was really
easy to talk to and I always felt safe around her.
I could definitely see myself spending time alone
there was Marla, woman of Mystery. I did
not circle her name, but I did put a question
mark beside it. I was amazed to discover
that hope really does spring eternal.
Despite six months of disappointment, I still
carried a torch for this woman. Now that I
had put over a month between me and my June temper tantrum, I realized I had to make a play
for Marla on this trip or I would never forgive
myself. Knowing that this upcoming cruise
presented a golden opportunity, I made a firm
vow that at some point on this trip, I would
seek out Marla and get to the bottom of this
boyfriend issue. If only for my own peace
of mind, I had to know what the truth was.
Recently I had seen the
romance classic titled
An Affair to Remember on TV. It told the
story of two very attractive people on a cruise
who just happened to be engaged to someone else
back home. They
say a woman's heart is in peril at sea.
Ocean waters do strange things to a woman's mood.
could I forget the sight of pretty Deborah Kerr
as she swooned all over Cary Grant?
Watching her systematically
day, those legends about romances at sea seemed
true. By the end of the
cruise, Deborah had ditched the man she was
If there was one thing I
had learned from my many years at the dance
studio, there is no such thing as an 'unattached
woman'. Or at least not a woman who looked
like Marla. No matter what woman I was
interested in, I would have to win a battle for
her heart. Even
if Marla was truly on the level about this six year
relationship, now that much of my confidence
around women had returned, there was no reason why I couldn't
make a play for her.
Of course I was no Cary Grant,
but few men are.
Grant could steal a babe like Deborah Kerr from
her millionaire fiancé, there was always the
chance I could pull off a similar coup against a
guy who barely paid attention to his girlfriend.
To listen to
Marla, her virile rugby boyfriend
self-confidence. to take her for granted like
I was suspicious. To begin with, Chris did
not have an ounce of common sense.
Exposing Marla to temptation at sea was taking a big
to me, there were 30 unattached men in our group. Knowing that every one of them
would ask Marla to dance at some point, no man
in his right mind would allow a woman who looked
like Marla to go on a singles cruise
that, who waits around for six years? That
of these two people had cold feet.
If Chris could not wrap up Marla after six years
of trying, he should be ashamed.
Now it was my turn.
because Marla had a boyfriend did not mean it
was hopeless. Okay, so I had some serious
competition, but I was ready now. Back in
March, I did not have the fight in me to pursue
her without encouragement.
Here in August I was much stronger. Now
that I had regained most of my confidence, I was
ready to step up and take a swing.
say, never make your move too soon. Here on
land, my chances of prying Marla away from the
mystery boyfriend were remote at best. The
ocean was a different story. Since the
cruise ship would be powerful turf for me, the
percentage play was to wait for this upcoming
Chris was for real, I had three powerful advantages
on water. One, I would have four full days
and five nights to make my case. Two, I was the
respected leader of 100 guests. Three, I could dance.
At some point, I would invite Marla into my arms. If that didn't grant
me an audience afterwards, then nothing would.
Furthermore, assuming it was
true what they say about sea breezes and moonlit
nights, if I could get Marla to be alone with
me, maybe she would let down her
guard and hear me out.
addition, my instincts continued to suggest
Chris thing was bullshit. There was a part of me
that still refused to believe Marla was nearly
as attached to this Chris guy as her party line
indicated. Trusting my instincts, I made a vow that at some
point on this trip, I would do everything in my
power to isolate Marla and have a serious conversation.
I needed to know the truth. If I could not have Marla for
myself, at a bare minimum I wanted the secret of
Chris' hold on Marla as a consolation prize.
Otherwise I would never get over this
out of the blue, something went terribly wrong.
In a flash
I suddenly realized my daydreams were a waste of
time. It was
With the cruise
trip two weeks
away, on a Monday morning Marla phoned me.
Immediately my pulse began to race. We had never
talked on the phone before. What was this all about?
need your help. Chris and I are going to Miami this coming weekend.
Chris sells insurance and won the trip in a contest.
Chris promised to take me to a Salsa club in Miami. I know it is short notice, but I want a private lesson
for me and Chris so we can learn to dance to Salsa
music. Would you be willing to teach the
I felt like I
had been kicked in the stomach. I could not
breathe. I could not believe my bad luck. Marla's Miami weekend would
before the cruise. March. April. May.
June. July. August. Six months of
obsession over this woman had just gone flying out the
window. Just when I had reached the conclusion that
Chris was hanging on by a thread, Marla's request made it
crystal clear this guy was a lot more in the picture than
I previously believed. Not only that, now Chris was even willing to
learn to dance! I was absolutely devastated.
I was so lost in
my disappointment, I didn't know what to say. But
there was one thing I was sure of. There was no
way in Hell I was going to do this private lesson!
beat my head against the wall? I wasn't about to sit
there for an hour teaching Marla's boyfriend while I was going
nuts with jealousy! Seeing him touch her, there was no possible way I could
hide my feelings under those circumstances. Despite my
unrequited crush on Marla, so far I had not made a fool of myself.
The crush was still my little secret, but it wouldn't stay a
secret for long if the three of us were in the same room
together. The vision of Marla in this guy's arms was
too much to take. I needed to preserve my dignity at
sorry, Marla, but I am not much of a Salsa
instructor. Let me recommend Martin.
He's on the cruise trip with us and maybe you've met
him. He is a very popular Salsa instructor."
said she would give Martin a call, so that was
the end of the conversation. After hanging up, I
and buried my head in my hands. For the past
six months I had operated under the assumption that
Marla was using this cruise trip as an excuse to hit the Exit
Door. All this time I had been hoping that Marla
was ready to move on. Unfortunately, this
Miami phone call changed everything. The news
relationship was alive and doing well left me stunned. Marla was flying to Miami for a
romantic weekend just days before our cruise
Well, that did it. All fantasies were gone,
every remaining hope was dashed.
Marla's Miami trip with her boyfriend had put the
final damper on my dreams, I moped around the house. I was
so depressed. Damn it, this really hurt. I was crushed. Maybe
some girl would take pity on me, maybe not, but it
wasn't going to be Marla, that's for sure. And
with, I threw in the towel. Marla was history.