September 2008
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The SSQQ Newsletter
Written and Edited by Rick Archer
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Article written by Rick Archer
Published Wednesday, September 24

Rick Archer's Note:  Further below is the story of the Saturday property cleanup at Anahuac and the Monday Funeral story for Gary Schweinle.  However, I would appreciate it if you would read this article first.

Early in 2008, SSQQ moved to a different kind of Newsletter system.  Thanks to changes forced upon us by our good friends at Comcast, my friend Lester Buck suggested we outsource our email list to a professional email service known as Aweber.

Unlike the way we had done things for the previous ten years, Aweber insisted our SSQQ Newsletter readers sign up themselves.  No longer could an SSQQ registrar or the Online registration system do it for them.  Aweber requires this policy to avoid spam-related problems.  After all, it is impossible to 'spam' someone who asks to be on the list.

For many people, signing up was a pain in the butt.  Why bother?  During the transition, overnight the SSQQ Newsletter List dropped from 15,000 names to 1,500 names.   Wow!

Fortunately the drop in the subscriber total didn't seem to affect business.  Business has been pretty good all year long despite the nation's economic headaches we all know about.  Besides, I would rather write for 1500 people who want to read what I have to say than for 15,000 who hit the delete button.  Even better, the new system allows people to unsubscribe if they don't like what I write.  So if people stick around, that's a good thing.  For the most part, the Newsletter continues to be a big hit.  In the nine months we have used the service, I estimate I have received about 2 "unsubscribes" a month, mostly from people who have moved out of town.

Since the start back in January, the new SSQQ Aweber Email List has grown slowly.  New subscribers do come along, but the process has been slow.  After all, if you don't know what you are missing, then it's hard to miss it, right?  Nevertheless, we recently climbed over the two thousand subscriber mark.

THE SEPTEMBER 2008 TEST - 8 Newsletters in one month

The major advantage of our Aweber System is the ability to send out information in a flash.  Previously it literally took DAYS to send out the email Newsletter.  Now the entire process can be done in a matter of minutes.  That is quite an improvement!

The first major test of our Aweber Newsletter System came when Hurricane Ike approached two weeks ago.  It seems longer than that, doesn't it?  Thanks to Ike and surrounding circumstances, I sent out eight Newsletters in the space of one month (including a October Newsletter that will go out on Thursday, September 25).

September Newsletter One went out on August 21 just before we left on our studio cruise (that seems like years ago!)

September Newsletter Two went out on Wednesday, September 10.  Remembering how Hurricane Rita curved at the last moment in 2005, I saw absolutely no reason to cancel classes until Ike made up its mind.  Consequently I sent out a Ladida-style Newsletter telling people not to worry.  Oops!  To my surprise and dismay, Ike decided to continue its beeline for Houston.  I quickly changed my tune!

The following day I sent out September Newsletter Three saying the studio would be closed on Friday and Saturday with a 'let's see' attitude for Sunday.

Although the studio was not damaged - thank goodness - we definitely had no power when I drove by Sunday morning.  Nor did I have power at my house.  No point in classes for Sunday.  Apparently power did come back on for Monday.  Someone suggested there might be an advantage to being located next to a hospital.  That hospital has been a big headache for our parking, but I will take any break I can get!

Unfortunately my house had no power.  Then when the power did come on, not only was the power 'weird' (lights constantly dimming, very weak power), but my Internet was down.  In addition, my computer would not even turn on.  Even worse, when I tried to work the phones, smoke came out of the surge protector!   Told you the power was weird!

So even though we could have held classes on Monday and Tuesday, I had no way of telling anyone.  Finally I made a trip to my friend Gary Richardson on Tuesday afternoon to get my Internet and Computer problems solved.  That was too late to get the message out for classes on Tuesday, but at least we could start back up on Wednesday last week.  September Newsletter Four went out from Gary's place on Tuesday, September 16, announcing our reopening. 

As most of you know, Hurricane Ike brought us two additional terrible pieces of news - we lost Mike Friedberg and Gary Schweinle on Friday, September 12. 

September Newsletter Five went out on Thursday, September 18.  I was able to announce a story about both of these fine men. 

In addition, I was able to let people know at the last moment about Michael's funeral on Friday, September 19.  This time the Aweber System worked wonders - I was able to let people know in an instant about the funeral arrangements.  This took a burden off my shoulders.  Back when my SSQQ friend Tim Green had his funeral back in January 2008, the system was too new for me to put out the message of his funeral arrangements. 

But for Michael's funeral, thanks to the last-minute Newsletter Five, we had a marvelous turnout. 

September Newsletter Six came out on Friday, September 19.  In this issue, I was able to write a same-day Friday story about Michael's funeral that was much appreciated.   Best of all, in this same issue I was also able to write a story about Jeanne Tobin's efforts to organize a cleanup on Saturday over at Gary Schweinle's property.  Thanks to our Aweber instant communication system, we had nearly 80 people show up for the event despite advertising at practically the last-minute! 

The following day, I sent out September Newsletter Seven. This issue gave me the chance to send out two more pieces of vital last-minute information - another reminder of the Saturday cleanup plus last-minute funeral arrangements for Gary Schweinle.  Thanks to the communication system, we had 60 to 80 people show up to clean Gary's property.  Then we had 100 people show up for Gary's funeral on Monday.

What you are reading now is basically September Newsletter Eight.  Tomorrow I will start working on the October Newsletter.

My point is simple - the SSQQ Newsletter is fast and powerful.  It links 2,000 people together in a flash.  This is the finest communication system the studio has ever known.  And people have gotten the idea - 36 people have signed up for the Newsletter since last Friday. 

Although it is true that most of the news has been about danger and sadness recently, I would like all of you to look beneath the troubles and see the potential.  We could organize a trip to the Renaissance in an instant.  We can organize a margarita tour on the San Antonio Riverwalk in a flash.  What if someone hears about a unique dance event at the last minute?  We can organize that too in a blink. 

I do not mind printing messages about events that do not conflict with studio activities.  If the event is important enough and you give me warning, then sometimes I can reschedule studio events to avoid the conflict.  Or maybe I can live with a conflict. 

This is the message - as you will read in this Newsletter, it is becoming increasingly obvious that SSQQ has become something of a "Family".  Families need communication.  The Newsletter is the fastest way to reach everyone.  Send me your ideas and I will do my best to pass them on. 

Unsubscribing from the SSQQ Newsletter -

I will conclude by saying that not everyone has signed onto this 'Family'-idea.  Here is an example:

 -----Original Message-----
From: Donna
Sent: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 1:25 PM
To: SSQQ Newsletter
Subject: AWeber ssqqnewsletter: This Lead Unsubscribed:

This lead has unsubscribed by following the link at the bottom of one
of your AWeber messages, and decided to provide comments.

Why did I receive this email?

Signup Date: 12/31/07 08:59 AM Eastern

i am not so interested in all the personal goings and comings of people and the community. i was mostly interested in the dance lessons, but perhaps i am perceiving the dance studio improperly.

is it a social club instead of a business?

You know what?  I didn't appreciate that email very much.  I decided to send a reply.

-----Original Message-----
From: SSQQ Newsletter
Sent: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 1:41 PM
Subject: RE: AWeber ssqqnewsletter: This Lead Unsubscribed:

Please forgive us for using our newsletter to keep our community informed of the recent deaths of our friends and the difficulties imposed on us by the Hurricane.

Fortunately now that you have unsubscribed, you will be no longer be bothered by any needless emails.

Interestingly, Donna replied as well.

 -----Original Message-----
From: Donna
Sent: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 2:07 PM
To: SSQQ Newsletter
Subject: RE: AWeber ssqqnewsletter: This Lead Unsubscribed:

hi, I've never even heard of these people.

is there a version of the newsletter that is more about the 'business' SSQQ and not so much the 'community'?

I'm not so keen on all the personal details of people's lives and mostly just wanted to keep up with the classes that are offered etc.



I didn't see any point in continuing our correspondence.  One of my absolute favorite books of all time is Autobiography of a Yogi.  In the book there was this passage - "If a pickpocket were to see a Saint, he would see nothing but his pockets.

The nice thing about SSQQ is that the studio can be enjoyed on the superficial level as well as the deeper level.  You can take a Twostep class and remain blissfully unaware that something special is going on an invisible plane.  On the other hand, there is a Magic at the studio that anyone can sense if you pay even the slightest bit of attention. 

The story of Gary's Saturday property cleanup and Gary's Monday Funeral should drive this point home permanently.  Fortunately Donna won't be bothered.  She has unsubscribed.  But I bet the rest of you will get the message loud and clear - SSQQ has a heart and a pulse thanks to people like you.

Next up is the story about Anahuac on Saturday.  The story of Gary's Funeral comes afterwards.

Thank you for reading the Newsletter.  RA

The Story of the Saturday Cleanup at
Gary's House
Story Written by Rick Archer

On Saturday, September 20, 2008, somewhere between 60 and 80 people swung by Gary's country property in Anahuac to help clean up the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike.  Even if Gary hadn't suffered his cruel and surprising accident, I imagine he could have really used our help... the place was one huge mess!

There were three problems - the roof had blown off Gary's house and needed to be repaired.  The second problem were gaps in fences that had been knocked down by falling trees (the horses were in danger of getting out).  Third, there was general debris everywhere.  Gary's property was huge.  It looked large enough to build a good-sized golf course on.  The bad news was that there were fallen trees everywhere!

I can't be sure just how many people came for the cleanup.  The people divided into two groups - those who worked on the house repairs and those who worked on the debris.  I was out in the field and couldn't keep track of the house worker numbers. 

In addition, there were people leaving as I arrived.  For example, Bill and Judy Collins got there at 10 am.  I saw them were heading out as I got there at 1:30 pm.  Obviously I had no idea how many people had already come and gone.  Oh well.

Since I was a field hand, I am unable to detail the glories of the house crew.  I do know that Gary Davis and MG Anseman were hard at work trying to get the roof repaired as I arrived.  I had brought my carpenter friend Solomon along with me just in case they needed another man with experience.  I presented Solomon to MG and Gary.  Both men regarded him with curiosity.  They had no idea that Solomon was very talented.

However, once Gary Davis saw Solomon in action, he was impressed!  Gary told me that both he and MG had been the ones in charge, but they soon gave Solomon the lead instead.  Gary praised Solomon by saying his work saved them at least three hours.  Solomon was able to spot shortcuts that made a difficult project go much quicker.  

Actually I did have a spy in the house. My friend Maureen Huddleston had joined Conor O'Muirgheasa, Solomon, Sol Eisenbaum and me for the long ride to Anahuac.  Maureen was in the house all day long.  She helped pack dishes, clean up the mess left by the collapse of the roof and lots of other projects.  On our trip home, Maureen told me that MG and Gary worked their tails off all day long and deserved a lot of credit.

One of my few regrets from the day is that I forgot to take pictures of the house crew.  I hope they will forgive me.

There were many heroes out in the field as well.  We weren't quite sure of what we were expected to do.  Since most of us were city folk, we immediately made a city-related error.  We thought we were supposed to take the debris to the road for pickup.  I think it was Leslie Goldsmith, raised in the country no less, who pointed out how silly it was to load up these trucks with debris and drive them to the road.  Didn't we realize that country people BURN their own debris on their property?

We all kind of looked at each other for confirmation.  Burn the debris out in the open?  Our utter ignorance on the matter will surely bring a smile to the country-raised people reading this story.  Well, hmm, Leslie's suggestion did sort of make sense.  After all, there wasn't much chance of a fire getting out of control.  The area of the tree damage was wide-open pasture. 

So we switched gears.  Instead of loading the trucks with the fallen tree limbs, we began to build enormous debris piles instead.  Thank goodness we had a country girl with us!

As the day unfolded, there were new mysteries for us city folk to witness.  For example, several ladies could not stop talking about the 5-legged horse.  Apparently this fifth leg was a reproductive organ.  The women roared with laughter as the 5-legged horse tried to chase the female horses around the corral (without much luck I might add- get that thing outta here!)

I had been told that no one needs sex education courses in the country.  Apparently the 5-legged horse was Exhibit A in this matter.   No need for National Geographic out here.  Country Graphic works just fine.

Then the cry went up, "Close the Gate!"  I looked up to see seven horses stampeding at a full gallop across the immense property trying to get to an open gate.  It made no sense.  What was so interesting on the other side of the gate?  Someone whispered that horses always try to escape.  It is in their nature.  They always want to get away with something they aren't supposed to do.  Horses are natural mischief makers.

Fortunately Leslie Goldsmith heard the cry and was able to beat the horses to the gate.  I didn't know Alph could move that fast!  Very impressive speed. 

There were many heroes on the day.  For example, there was a man named Greg who made a huge contribution.  Greg is the boyfriend of former SSQQ Hall Monitor Aisha Currie.  Due to an injury, Greg couldn't work himself, but he had a good idea.  Greg hired three day workers to help with the cleanup. 

Greg sure knew how to pick them!  These three young men were not only skilled with their own chain saws, they fixed other people's saws that broke, and they carried heavy logs to the debris piles when they weren't busy sawing.  These three men were simply terrific.  We were grateful for their help.

Another hero of mine was Jim Colby.  Jim worked his chain saw magic practically non-stop the entire afternoon.  He had to be exhausted out of his wits, but since the rest of us depended on him so much, Jim kept going to the very limits of his strength.  That's a good thing, because we needed him!

People like me had no skills.  The only thing I was good for was lifting heavy branches and carrying them over to the debris piles.  But trees have a way of staying relatively intact even after they fall.  Thus I was totally dependent on Jim to cut the limbs into manageable sections.  Using his chain saw, Jim single-handedly kept an entire army of ssqq limb carriers busy.

Another hero of the day was a man named Sparky.  I believe that Sparky used to work for Gary Schweinle.  I also think they were pretty good friends.  Sparky brought a giant machine known as a "Backhoe".  Sparky was clearly an expert.  He used this powerful tractor-like device to lift the heaviest logs and drop them onto the pile.  Other times Sparky would simply push the massive tree trunks over to the pile. 

The jaws on the backhoe were something to behold.  When they opened up ready to snatch another log, I couldn't help but imagine the T-Rex from Jurassic Park bending over to snatch some helpless dinosaur and devour it whole. 

Other times Sparky would do his 360 routine.  He would position the backhoe halfway between the targeted tree and the debris pile.  He would pick up a huge log, spin the jaws 180 degrees, drop the log on the pile without even stopping and finish the circle by spinning right back to the tree for another log pickup.  As a city boy, I had little experience with heavy-duty machinery. I enjoyed watching Sparky make that backhoe hum!

Although I always felt like I was contributing, quite frankly Sparky and his monster machine did the heavy lifting that the rest of us could never have accomplished.  For example, there was a huge tree that fell on the fence.  Without Sparky lifting that tree off the fence, we could never had repaired the gap.  As a result, the horses could easily have wandered off.   Sparky definitely gets my personal MVP award for the day.

Did we get dirty?  You better believe we did.  Sweaty, dirty, smelly, the works.  But the hard work was wonderful therapy for all the grief and frustration we felt at the loss of our friend.  I literally threw myself into my work as a way to get the ya-yas out.  I was mad at the world for taking my friend and this was a marvelous way to channel my energy. 

Unfortunately I got a little carried away at times.  I got plenty of scratches and bruises.  I also took out some innocent victims like Sylvia Watuski by swinging some limbs without looking.  Fortunately I don't think Sylvia was hurt too badly, but it was still careless on my part. 

To my surprise, a bunch of girls started cheering for me.  I was a little bit lost in my own world, so I didn't quite understand why they were making a big fuss over me.  I wasn't working any harder than anyone else.  It wasn't till later in the day that I realized I had somehow ripped out the back of my shorts and now my boxer shorts underneath were poking through. Cheap thrills. Obviously those ladies were starved for amusement now that the 5-legged horse had disappeared.  I can promise you no picture of those ripped shorts will appear on this web page.

Of all the many people who contributed, I have to say the guy who amazed me the most was Leroy Ginzel.  I think Leroy was motivated in the same way I was - he seemed angry at the world.  Leroy was a Texas Chainsaw Maniac all afternoon long.  Now I could be wrong, but I got the impression that Leroy bought a new chainsaw strictly for this event. I am guessing, but I don't think Leroy had ever used a chainsaw before. For example, Leroy badly burned his hand earlier in the afternoon.  I suspect the injury was related to his inexperience. 

But that nasty burn on his hand didn't stop him. Once Leroy figured out how to use his new toy, he attacked those tree trunks with a fury straight out of a gladiator battle.  He was the ancient warrior.  Leroy went mano a mano with one tree trunk after another and ripped them to shreds. 

There was only one problem - Leroy had heart surgery not too long ago.  Every single one of us was worried sick that Leroy would overdo it.  I promise you that I asked every woman to use their charms to pry Leroy loose from his chainsaw. 

Sometimes the women succeeded, but the next thing I knew, Leroy managed to regain his saw and get right back out there! Leroy was unstoppable!   Leroy was a man among men.

Personally, I was exhausted.   We worked out in open with the sun beating down.  It was hot out there!  But as hard as I worked and as tired as I was, I could see that Leroy was working even harder.  Except that Leroy is twenty years older than me!  Plus he has another heart surgery scheduled soon to correct a mistake from his previous operation.  A little thing like heart problems... did that stop Leroy?  Hell no. 

Leroy was a man on a mission.  We couldn't get Leroy to stop, so finally we all just stood back and admired him.  Leroy was incredible.  Personally, I think he was just as sick at losing his friend Gary as the rest of us.  And I think he was grateful for the chance to take his anger out on the trees.  It must have worked.  Leroy had a big smile on his face when we finished.  He even invited me over to his nearby house to get a shower, but I had to tell him to keep his voice down lest someone misunderstand.  It must have been the boxer shorts.

There were many heroes this day.  Yes, it is true that most of us didn't possess many carpentry skills.  And yes, it is true that most of us didn't have any chain saw skills either.  But we were a great team.  Thanks to Sparky, Jim Colby, Kurt Wind and Wild Man Leroy plus the 3 hard-working handymen that Greg brought, there was an endless supply of tree limbs available for our army of log luggers to drag over to the various piles. 

And let me tell you something else - the women worked just as hard if not harder than the men.  For example, Sylvia Watuski was a master with her rake and Jean Wind lifted logs so heavy I thought she was Wonder Woman.  Our women were just as determined as the men to get this job done right.  Nor did I see even one woman remotely appear to care about glamour.  They got just as bad to the bone filthy and sweaty as any man out there.  Those ladies worked hard!

As a result, we accomplished so much in a short time.  As the day progressed, I estimate we created a dozen different monster debris piles.  We pretty much cleared the field of every fallen tree.  As we headed back to the farm house, I smiled with satisfaction when I noticed someone had begun to burn one of the piles.  Aha!  Leslie was right!  Thanks to us, this place was back in order.  It was a great team effort. 

Meanwhile the carpenters had finished putting a temporary patch across the roof.  Both missions accomplished.  We got so much done that they canceled a second day of work that had been scheduled.

We were all proud of ourselves.  This was had been our chance to show our respect to Gary Schweinle, a guy we all loved and admired.  I cannot begin to explain how good it felt to help out our fallen hero.  Somehow I bet you understand. 

Pat Mahaffey and Jenny DeLaFuente

Sherry Thornton, Jeanie Tobin and Jenny DeLaFuente
Jeanie was the person who organized the entire event

Pat Mahaffey and Marlane Kayfes starting a debris pile

Leslie saves the day by closing the gate as the horses charge

Jim Colby, the Chainsaw Wizard, in action cutting up trees

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre named Leroy!

Sylvia Watuski and Vivian Gustafson hard at work

Jeanie, Sol Eisenbaum, Cheryl Davis, Sherry, Kurt and Jean Wind, Jennie and Leslie, Joe Lachner, Pat, & Ed Anderson

The Dirty Dozen: Conor, Sol, Kurt, Jean, Patty Harrison, Doug Gephardt, Joe, Leslie, Vivian, Steve Gabino, Rick, plus Leroy and his toy.


Gary Schweinle's Funeral

On Monday, September 22, 2008, the time had come to finally put our Cowboy to rest.  The Great Trail Boss in the Sky had come calling for Mr. Hat (you had to be at his wedding two months ago to understand).

Marla and I drove out to a community just east of Baytown known as Dayton.  Mind you, our computer failed that day so we had to find the place without a hard copy map (Dayton was just off my Houston Key Map) or even a peek at an Internet map.  Fortunately Dayton was not hard to find - drive east on I-10 till you see a sign.  Some quick directions at a local gas station and we found the Sterling Funeral Home.

The room where the service was held was filled to the brim.  I looked around.  There were probably 100 people there including at least 25 who stood.  Marla and I were among the standing... you know what... I didn't mind a bit.

As I browsed the brochure detailing the service, I noticed at the very bottom of the page that I had been listed as one of the pallbearers.  I turned white.  That's when I realized where the term 'appalled' might have come from.  Is there any skill required for this duty?  Oddly, just as I read that item, my wife Marla and Marcia Thomas both read it as well and looked up at me.  Seeing the look on my face, they quickly asked if I had known.  I shook my head and joked I must not have gotten the email.  I decided it couldn't be that difficult if they had chosen me.  Didn't they see how many logs I had dropped the other day?  

Joshua McManigal, the young man who presided over the service, apologized for starting late.  He added that from what he had heard about Gary, that was probably fitting.  We got a chuckle out of that.  His jest put us all a little more at ease.  Just as well. There were a lot of somber faces, let me tell you.  Between Hurricane Ike, no power, Galveston flattened, Michael Friedberg's untimely death, and now Gary's terrible accident, we were all one big giant mess.

The director told us about Gary's life.  He talked about Gary's love of dancing and how he was part of the 'ssqq cult' from Houston.  That line drew a gasp to be sure.  Considering how utterly harmless our group is, we weren't quite sure if the man was joking or serious.  Fortunately he started to smile, so we took the comment in stride.  Gary's daughter Heather had coined the phrase, but completely in fun.  Nevertheless I have a hunch that quip will become a part of the legend of Gary Schweinle from this point on. 

At this point there was a Garth Brooks song played, "If Tomorrow Never Comes".

Sometimes late at night
I lie awake and watch her sleeping
Shes lost in peaceful dreams
So I turn out the lights and lay there in the dark
And the thought crosses my mind
If I never wake up in the morning
Would she ever doubt the way I feel
About her in my heart


If tomorrow never comes
Will she know how much I loved her
Did I try in every way to show her every day
That shes my only one
And if my time on earth were through
And she must face the world without me
Is the love I gave her in the past
Gonna be enough to last?

Quite frankly, I had never listened to the lyrics before.  But as the song unfolded, I realized for the first time why Garth Brooks is considered something of a genius in the C&W Music world.  Those were very powerful lyrics.

Of course, the cruel fate that had befallen our friend Tracy (Kirkland) Schweinle, Gary's bride of two short months, was one of the unspoken demons in the room.  This song hit right on that nerve.  I am certain that every person in that room was shaken at the thought that there are people in our lives who do not know how much we love them.   As the song ended, we all took a very deep breath indeed.  The loss that Tracy suffered was so profound that quite frankly I don't even dare discuss it further.

At this point, the service director invited people to speak.  This surprised me.  I am no veteran of funeral services.  At the February 2008 funeral of my dear friend Tim Green, three people had spoken, but it seemed that they had been asked to do so.  At last week's funeral for Michael Friedberg, a Rabbi did all the speaking.  So this request for impromptu thoughts took me off guard.

Nevertheless I watched and listened with interest as a lady named Robin Comeaux got up to speak.  Robin explained that Gary had "semi-adopted" her after her own father's death.  In her mind, Gary's daughters were her sisters and Gary was her father.  Robin missed him just as much as any person in this room. In a brief talk filled with many tears, this young lady spoke glowingly how Gary reached out to her and helped her through some very tough years.  He was always there for her (a phrase I heard repeated time and time again this day).  There were very few dry eyes in the house after Robin's heart-felt testimony.

My mind works like a camera - one brilliant Flash and it is gone.  I was just too wrapped up in the service to fully concentrate on my reporter duties.  Plus I was preoccupied with anticipating all the unknown requirements of my upcoming pallbearer duties (as I found out after the service, it was a ceremonial listing, a tribute for which I was deeply honored).  Consequently the whole morning remains a blur.  I know I am going to get the speakers out of order.  I might even forget one or two.  And I definitely will forget some of the important things they said.  So I ask you to forgive me in advance for any inaccuracies and I promise to correct any mistakes if someone will remind me.

After Gary's adopted daughter Robin finished, the next person up was Jeanne Tobin, the lady who had organized the spectacularly successful cleanup effort two days earlier.  Jeanne is a long-time card holder in the ssqq cult.  Her days at the studio go all the way back to the previous century.  It was very difficult for Jeanne to speak.  Gary was her best friend in the entire world.   As she explained, Gary was her 'go-to guy', 'her best bud', her constant escort for Christmas Parties, weddings, Wild West, you name it.  Gary was a brother and a friend to her.  Gary was 'always there for her'.  Gee, where have we heard that before?

The mood of the room lightened when Jeanne began to talk about the origins of Gary and Tracy's special bond.  From what I gather, Tracy and Gary at least knew each other's name from hanging around the same circles.  But one night, they 'noticed' each other in a new way.  Gary was Jeannie's escort for some party or maybe they were just out dancing.  Whatever.  Tracy was at the same event. 

I am reminded of Julius Caesar.  They danced.  They talked.  They clicked.

The next morning, Jeannie fielded an early phone call from Tracy.  Trace was curious to know the extent of Jeannie's relationship with Gary.  Jeannie assured Tracy there was nothing to worry about.  Jeannie's only request was that Gary would still be allowed to be her best bud, a condition Tracy laughed about and agreed to on the spot. 

Moments later Jeannie received another phone call.  This time it was Gary.  Could he have Tracy's phone number?  Heck no!  Girls don't give out the phone numbers of girlfriends!  (Mind you, every guy in the room groaned at this maneuver.  Hadn't Tracy just been on the phone raving about the guy?)  Then Jeannie cheered Gary up by telling him she knew where Tracy would be the following weekend in case he wanted to casually drop in and 'accidentally' run into her.   (I for one have always believed that women are devious.  Therefore I thoroughly appreciated this candid evidence which confirmed my suspicions yet again).

So now the tears in the room had turned to smiles as we savored the origins of the special relationship between Tracy and Gary.  It was a great story, one that I had not heard before.

Next up to the podium was Gary's second oldest daughter Valarie.  Valarie appeared to be about 28.  She was tall (5' 8") and very athletic in appearance.  Valarie even described herself as the son Gary never had.  Valarie's stories made us happy and made us sad.  She talked about how happy Gary would be to get his morning coffee and go sit out on the porch to enjoy the day.  Then Valarie told us how her Dad could do anything; he was the super-hero to the daughters.  Valarie added her Dad was awesome at getting things started, but not always quite as good at finishing them.  That got a laugh.  Then Valarie said she wished her Dad could be here right now so he could help get the property straightened up!  The girls really needed him!  I half-laughed and half-cried at that one.  Valarie said she missed her Dad dearly.  We all nodded in agreement.  No kidding.  We all missed him.

Cheryl Davis came up to speak.  Cheryl and her husband Gary Davis, MG and Gay Anseman plus Gary and Tracy Schweinle are very close friends.

My mind immediately raced to the Hawaii Cruise of 2007.  Beep Beep!  One day Marla and I were shocked to see all six people packed into a bright yellow Mustang convertible waving as they passed us by in Honolulu.  What I would not give for a picture of that moment!

At that time, they were the happiest six people on this planet.  Cruising down the Boulevard in a Mustang more yellow than Tracy's hair!  Oh, they had so much fun together in Hawaii.  One of the highlights of that trip for me was watching the three couples interact with such pleasure.

2007 Hawaii Cruise: Band of Brothers and Sisters
Gary and Cheryl Davis below
left, Tracy and Gary top center,
Gay Anseman below in blue, MG above, and Sherry Thornton

Cheryl spoke mainly of Gary's love of service.  As I have written previously, Gary Schweinle would get in his truck and drive 50 miles over to the dance studio once, twice, sometimes three times a week.  He did this for years!   After Gary reached the stage where he was a proficient dancer, he turned around and asked his friend MG if he could become a volunteer instructor.  As a result, for three, four years (maybe more) Gary and his lovely daughter Kim would make the trip every Sunday down I-10 to help MG teach his western class.  After Cheryl and Gary Davis got married, they joined in too.  Then later Tracy joined the team as well. 

Gee whiz, no wonder MG kept getting all those 'I learn so much in your class; you're my favorite teacher' compliments - look at all the help he had!

Cheryl talked about Gary's famous sense of humor.  He loved to tease and he loved to play.  Gary insisted that Tracy and Cheryl learned to lead Twostep.  Both Garys would dance the 'follow' role and let the girls try to move them.  Mind you, both men are big guys!  But that wasn't what bothered Tracy and Cheryl... what got them good was when the boys decided to act like girls.  Make that 'silly girls' with the high voices and the dainty gestures.  'Don't you want to dance with me?  Aren't I pretty?'  Cheryl smiled as she admitted that Gary's 'girlie ways' bugged her no end.  What would girls do without boys to tease them all the time?

Then Cheryl had every woman in the room smiling as she explained that when Gary Schweinle led something on the dance floor, you followed whether you liked it or not.  Gary was well-known for his strong leads.  Even I danced with him once and I was shocked at his strength.  We should have seen it coming, but Cheryl pulled the rug out from our feet when she added that Gary's strong arm leads disappeared once he met Tracy.  Tracy told Gary she wouldn't put up with him being so strong.  Practically overnight Gary changed.  His leads were almost gentle now!   What a transformation.  Yet again more testimony to the power of a good woman to make a good man even better. 

Mitch Istre was kind enough to speak.  He told about another Anahuac man named George who had lost much when Hurricane Rita hit back in 2005.  Although Houston was largely spared, Anahuac took a brutal blow.  Apparently this man struggled for six months trying to get his property back in order without a lot of luck.  Finally George told his story to a person at Second Baptist here in Houston.  The next thing you know, the group at Second Baptist organized a cleanup similar to the one we did for Gary.  A few days later, it dawned on Mitch that both Gary and this other man both lived in the same area.  Gary was crushed to learn that no one had told him about the problem.  If he had only known, Gary swore he would have been there with every tool he owned to help with the cleanup.  Mitch's point was that Gary was ready to help any man, stranger or not, get back on his feet again if the opportunity presented itself.

I got up to speak as well.  Actually, I was the last to speak, but I felt my words were unimportant compared to the others.  In fact, I am still  embarrassed at my own so-so contribution.  I had nothing prepared and certainly nothing new to share that I hadn't already said in an article I had written three days earlier.  While I was up there, I kept hoping to get inspired, but mostly I just ached.  I was so numb, a robot could have done better.  I felt like I was mumbling.  Blah blah blah.  I wished I had notes.  I was just one big puddle of emotion. 

For that matter, afterwards I couldn't remember what I had said!  Fortunately Marla helped remind me a little.

I spoke of how proud I was that the SSQQ Community had stepped forward in such a powerful way to help Gary's family.  I told how grateful I was to Jeanne Tobin for organizing the event and to all the rest who stepped up to the plate.  I said I was amazed and touched by the outpouring of love for Gary and Tracy evident at the Saturday cleanup.

I pointed out how grateful I was to have the chance to visit Gary's home.  As I drove the many miles from Houston then back home again, I could not help but notice this was the same long route that Gary himself drove once, twice, three times a week to be with us.  Unfortunately the drive only deepened a mystery I had been struggling with - what was it about this dance studio that possessed Gary to drive such long distances and be so willing to share his valuable free time ?  I mean, truth be told, I never paid Gary a red cent in my life to help at my studio.  Nor did I even ask him to be a volunteer.  But without any encouragement from me, Gary was the constant energy source that kept on giving and giving and giving.  Why?  What did Gary get in return?  This mystery tore at me all weekend long.  Every time I picked up a log and threw it on a pile, I asked myself what motivated this man to give so much of himself. 

I also told the group in the room that I had been looking hard for the reason for Gary's death.  Why did the good die young?  Once Gary and Tracy had found this happiness together, why did they have to be ripped apart so suddenly? 

Quite frankly, I am not the first to question the meaning of death.  Nor will I be the last.  There may be a divine hand in this, but the cosmic plan is obviously far too vast for a simple person like me to discern.  What I do believe is that it up to us the living to create a purpose for Gary's death.  It is our responsibility to create something in his memory and assign our own purpose.  It is my hope that one of us will find a way to channel our sadness into some sort of permanent good in his memory.  Unfortunately, I have to confess that this inspiration has eluded me so far.  But I intend to keep thinking about it.  So should you!

The final thing I said was that I was proud to have given Gary his nickname "Mr. Hat".  I actually think he enjoyed the nickname.  I know I certainly did!  So I put on a cowboy hat as a simple gesture and tribute to my friend, then stepped down. 

My hat trick may have been stretching things.  I had assumed I would be complimented for taking a fashion risk.  Wrong.  One person later asked if I had rented or bought the hat for the occasion.   No, for the record, it was my own hat.  Let me add that when Marla saw me first put the hat on, she shook her head and indicated it was not a good look for me.  Please take it off.  Between the hat negativity and the laughter over my underwear, it wasn't a good weekend for my fashion confidence.  It may be a while before you see me in that hat again.  Oh well.  No loss to society.  Besides, I suppose there can only be one Mr. Hat. 

My good friend MG Anseman spoke shortly before me, but unfortunately I don't remember much that MG said other than the two men liked to talk about their family and how grateful he was to have made such a close friend in Gary.  I was in a fog at this point. MG will understand when I admit I was lost in my own thoughts. 

The truth of the matter was that I was still thinking about what Kathleen Rose had said moments earlier.  As Kathleen approached the front, I realized I had not seen her in over two years (I later discovered the reason was that three years ago Kathleen had quietly married Alan Arnett.  Together they moved out to Tomball). 

I was curious to hear what Kathleen had to say since she has always been something of an enigma to me.  I sense that Kathleen is incredibly smart, but that said, she is not someone I understand very well.  This time however I heard Kathleen loud and clear.  It turned out that Kathleen's story completely blew me away.

Kathleen spoke of meeting Gary for the first time at SSQQ.  Apparently they started classes at the same time (2002).  Gary was in Kathleen's Twostep class which I believe was being taught by MG.  As you know, it is an ssqq tradition to do a pattern and change partners as we rotate around in a circle.  Kathleen and Gary struck up a conversation.  After reading his name tag, Kathleen asked, "So were are you from, Gary?"  Kathleen was stunned to discover that Gary had come all the way from Anahuac.  Isn't that kind of a long drive?  Oops... time to switch partners. 

The next time Gary came around, Kathleen asked why Gary had driven so far for something as trivial as a dance class.  "Because my wife was killed in a head-on collision, my daughters cry all the time, so do I, but I have to pick up pieces somehow!"  Kathleen's eyes bulged at that disclosure.  Oops, time to switch partners again.  Five minutes later, Gary rotated back.  Kathleen was still in shock from Gary's previous remark. She asked why Gary had told her such personal information.  "Heck, I gotta tell someone.  I can't stand it!  I'm miserable!"

For two entire hours, Gary told Kathleen his recent life story in one and two minute segments as they rotated through partners.  Have you ever heard a more absurd anecdote?  I swear my mouth dropped at this strange tale and tears welled up in my eyes.  This poor man must have been in so much pain!  Meanwhile the quiet help from a total stranger like Kathleen allowed him to share his grief.  I don't know if Freud ever recommended dance class therapy while rotating through a circle, but Kathleen made a huge difference by asking simple questions and caring about the answers.  Some of the best therapists are just good listeners.

I will share that Gary told me on several different occasions that the studio helped him recover his sanity.  Gary claimed that the time he spent here allowed him to get on with his life.  Those are very strong words.  I would always smile and accept that Gary was sincere, but to myself I thought he must be exaggerating the importance. 

How can a dance studio make that kind of difference?  I barely knew who Gary was back when he started.  I certainly could not recall anything I had said or done to help him through the awful misery of his first wife's death.  Furthermore, by the time I came to know him, Gary had already bounced back into the saddle.  And yet here he was trying to give me credit.  Credit for what?  I was plainly mystified.  For all those years, I can't honestly say I ever believed or understood what Gary meant until this very moment when Kathleen shared her story of the Circle of Kindness.

Now finally it all dawned on me.  It had taken Kathleen's poignant story to help me see what Gary had been trying to explain to me all these years.  Like the proverbial iceberg, I imagine there are twenty other stories floating somewhere around the studio where the kindness of other strangers just like Kathleen helped Gary on his road to recovery.  Everybody did their small part to cast a blanket of warmth around this troubled, lonely man.  It was hardly a coordinated effort.  I doubt seriously that one person knew what the next person was doing.  But over time each person in their own way helped Gary overcome his pain and regain his happiness.

One year later Gary was back on his feet again.  No more wounded bear.  Time to move on to something else, right?  No.  Instead Gary decided it was his turn to help.  Of all the friends he had made, MG was one of the closest.  Why not help MG teach the Texas Twostep?  Gary chose to drive two hours every Sunday (one hour one way, one hour back).  While he was at the studio he would spend two hours, maybe even stay for the second Sunday class as well.  Often Gary would spend four hours each Sunday at SSQQ doing whatever he could to help other people.  Four hours of teaching and two hours of driving of his free time every Sunday just to help other people he didn't even know!  The man probably never had a college course in social work in his life, but so what?  Gary was a born social worker.  Heck, you don't need training.  You just get out there and help!  Gary gave up his Sunday afternoon every week for three, four, five years simply because he wanted to contribute. 

Most of the time, Gary's contribution was no greater than showing someone their footwork in dance class or offering some encouragement not to give up too fast.  Simple acts of kindness do not always have to be dramatic.  But sometimes a simple act of kindness can be more profound than any of us realize at the time. If you read my previous story about Gary, you will remember how Gary told me of a serious moment when his own kind words helped a woman change her mind about committing suicide.

Gary was willing to help in any way he was asked to.  In this way, Gary has become an inspiration to all of us.  Besides the fact that the man was funny and friendly, his depth of character touched every single person he came into contact with here at the studio.  It can't be difficult to see why we all love this guy so much.

I can assure you that as Kathleen sat down, I was crying now.  Big deal.  I guess if our women can toss logs around like lumberjacks and be seen sweating in public, then I don't mind admitting that losing Gary hurts me so much that I have to cry.  And I haven't been the same since.  Everyone at Gary's funeral knows exactly the same numb feeling of loss I am talking about.

To the naked eye, SSQQ is a dance studio.  But under the surface, this place is so much more.  We certainly aren't a cult and we definitely aren't a church.  We aren't a singles group and we are not a bar or nightclub either.  But we have become a family.  That much is obvious.  We are a club... not an exclusive club, mind you, not a bunch of snobs or cliques and certainly with no fee to join.  We are a community that is open to anyone who enjoys being around decent and kind people.  We are a Family of Friends, a band of Brothers and Sisters.  We all joined originally through a common interest - dancing - yet our involvement with the program over time has evolved into something far more important thanks to the contributions of people like Gary and many others.  We have become a Family united by friendship.

SSQQ isn't just "Rick's Studio".  SSQQ belongs to people like Gary, to Tracy, to Jeannie Tobin, to Gary and Cheryl Davis, to MG and Gay Anseman, to the 100 people at Gary's funeral, to the 80 people at Gary's house, to the Thousand Plus people who take dance classes each month and to the two thousand people who read the Newsletter.  SSQQ belongs to all of us, to all of you.  SSQQ is your clubhouse if you like being here.  And to join, all you have to do is show up and begin to participate.   Slow Slow Quick Quick... one day you will be shuffling your feet and suddenly it will occur to you this place is kind of weird in its own 'Cheers' or 'Northern Exposure' sort of way, but you don't mind.  You are having fun being here.

Just don't give me all the credit.  I hate that!  Yes, I help.  I am the leader.  I keep the rhythm while you keep the ship rolling.  But you can't tell me that I am wholly responsible for the kindness of the countless people who contribute freely of their time and their wisdom without being asked. 

These people offer kindness from their heart without any prompting from me.  Nor do they desire any credit.  People contribute because they want to, not because they expect someone to pat them on the back.

If anything, the social networks and the bonds that have formed here at this place are so profound that I am humbled by their magnitude. 

And if any one person can ever be a symbol for that kindness, there can be no doubt that single person would be Gary Schweinle, our very own Mr. Hat. 

There can never be a purpose for Gary's death that will satisfy me.  But I can say that his passing has at least allowed me to point out in a very public way the remarkable story of his service here. In Gary's passing, I have been given the chance to explain his kindness to all of you.

Back in 2002, Gary was not only healed by that kindness, he turned around and gave it back
just as many times as he humanly could until his heart stopped beating. 

I intend to make sure his constant good will continues to be an inspiration to every one of us as long as I run this place.

What greater testimony can any person have?   Let's hear it for Mr. Hat, our friend and our inspiration.  Now go help someone learn to dance and carry on his work.  I am certain that is what Gary would want us to do. 


-----Original Message-----
From: Polly
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 10:28 AM
Subject: Gary and Michael

Dear Rick - -

For once I am almost at a loss for words. Everything which happened in the day before the storm and in the 9 days afterward when we had no power is almost a blur for me. We had no phones, newspaper, television, computer or anything. A radio in the car was about it. Quite an experience for two people like Jose and me who are really "wired" in every respect.

At any rate, when I finally got on the computer and read all that you wrote about the deaths of Gary and Michael I was stunned. Although I did not know either of these men well, I was certainly in dance classes with both over the last three years. In addition, Jose and I are particularly fond of Kim and loved getting to know her. Interestingly enough it was some time before we even knew Gary was her father. I think I was remarking one night about them dancing together and Kim revealed their relationship with a twinkle in her eye.

My most vivid memories of Gary are watching him a "man of size with a big hat to boot" glide across the dance floor. Being a girl of country roots he reminded me so much of many fine cowboys I have been privileged to know as I grew up. In fact, he bore a real physical resemblance to my brother-in-law who was a foreman at a feed yard/cattle ranch in West Texas for many years. At any rate, I remember the first time I danced with Gary ( and yes he was a strong lead but that worked for me then as I had little idea about what I was doing). At any rate, I remember saying "are you sure you want to dance with someone as short as me with that hat on? I am afraid I might knock it off!" - to which he replied with his signature smile - "you let me worry about the hat - I haven't lost it yet" And indeed I was amazed at all the moves we did and I don't think I ever even touched that hat!

Now that I have learned so much about him and his family( thanks to you), I value that wonderful smile and sense of humor he had even more ( and that goes for the smile of that "sassy miss Kim" as well). Why? Because I too have experienced personal almost unbearable loss and I KNOW how hard it is to recapture a smile or the feeling of happiness when life so unfairly slaps you in the face. It takes a long time, alot of work and quite frankly a deliberate CHOICE to overcome and NOT allow the pain to defeat you.

Clearly, somewhere along the road, and obviously with the help of the healing environment of dance offered at SSQQ , Gary and Kim made that CHOICE . Each showed remarkable courage in rejecting bitterness and anger and choosing instead joy and life! I pray that Kim can dig down deep and once again make that choice for herself. I don't need to tell her that this is what her Dad would most want for her - - she already knows that by the course he charted for the two of them so many years ago. Finally, I pray that Tracy one day down the road will remember that Gary refused to be defeated by his own pain; and that she will honor his courage by claiming it for her own. It is because of Gary's courage that "she" happened for him!

As for Michael, I did not know him very well, but he had a truly distinctive face. I have a vision of him regularly standing at the threshold of the door between #1 and #2 at practice - - - just watching. As I recall he asked me to dance two different times. Now that I have read about his private nature and group anxieties, as well as the fact that he was not a fan of dancing with the geriatric set, I actually feel honored by those invitations! It means I was neither threatening nor too over the hill to dance with this serious and brainy 69 year old. Hallelujah! I enjoyed our dances - - not too much conversation but a gentleman in every respect and as I recall at least the hint of a smile at the beginning and end of each. Wow - - topological algebra - - if only I had known! It would have been interesting to see whether he could even explain what that is in terms a math drop-out like me could understand. I am glad this fine man had a special woman as his companion and that she and his sister could be with him at the end of his journey on this earth.

All in all the loss of these two fine gentlemen reminds me once again that most of us arrive at wherever we choose to gather with our own unique experiences, complete with sets of emotional baggage and heartaches. Yet, somehow in an environment where we feel comfortable and at home, we can choose to be "overcomers", people who rise above the difficulties in our lives and just have fun.  For many of us (Jose and I are included in that group) dance lessons and particularly SSQQ have provided just such an environment.

I know if Gary and Michael could they would offer you, your staff and all the dance community at SSQQ their heartfelt thanks for helping to create a place of comfort and fun for them over the years. Since they cannot do so, may I offer such thanks in their behalf and for all of us who in one form or another are part of the SSQQ family.


p.s. Sorry this got so long but so be it. Also, I would like to add what I think about "Donna"; however, it might not be printable. I could recommend a couple of other studios where she could go; pay lots more money and be assured that she would not run into either friendly staff, teachers or fellow dancers. From the sound of things that would be a better fit for her personality.

Funeral Arrangements for Gary Schweinle

-----Original Message-----
From: tracy schweinle
Sent: Saturday, September 20, 2008 1:05 AM
To: SSQQ Newsletter
Subject: Gary's funeral arrangements

Dear Rick and Marla,  Thank you soooo much for the wonderful words you expressed about Gary.  He would be so proud to know that you felt this way about him and his family. He adored both of you and his family @ SSQQ.

I am such a total loss without him.

Gary always said that God would never give you more than you can handle.  I think that this is the most I can take and I am not sure I won"t go completely insane.

 I want to thank all of the people who will be helping us put back the pieces on Saturday in advance.  He would be overwhelmed with the generosity already expressed to us.  SSQQ was a "family" to Gary, as well as me, and he would be so happy to see everyone who helped us with this recovery.

Please keep Kim and his other daughters, Heather, Valarie, and Amanda in your prayers.  And pray for me as well, as I don't know how I can ever go on without him. He was "the best" thing that ever happened to me, and I only hope that everyone at SSQQ  finds that kind of happiness in their lifetime.

We have finally made funeral is hard because Anahuac is 98% gone.

Sterling Funeral Home In Dayton, Tx. (they have power)  We will have visitation his Sunday from 5-8 pm and the Funeral will be there on Monday @ 11 AM. You can look up the website and I will send it ASAP, but since this is short notice, I wanted to at least get the word out. Dayton is about 30 miles East of Houston down I-10, then you take 90 into Dayton, turn L at the Prosperity bank and it is about one half mile down the road.  It looks like you are going into a residential area, but that is where the funeral home is.  Sunday from 5-8 viewing and Monday @ 11 will be the funeral both are going to be at Sterling funeral homes on 602 N. Main Dayton Tx 77535

The number there if you need it is 936-258-2678. they do have power and AC.

Will see all those that can come to Anahuac on Saturday.  Thanks again to all our friends, Trace

September 2008 SSQQ Newsletter Issue Four
Written by Rick Archer

The Studio is now open. We had classes on Wednesday, September 17, that came off without a hitch. Curfew in Bellaire and Houston is now set at midnight, so don't hesitate to come by.

Contributed by Chris Holmes

Link to Hurricane Ike Photographs

(Rick Archer's Note: There are 28 photographs. They are very large, so be patient while they download)


Subject: Boat damage pix - Hurricane Ike
Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2008 06:27:55 -0500
Oh my god! I knew the area was hit hard, but these pix are unbelievable.
Watergate marina especially got slammed. All I can say is that fixed piers
and hurricanes don't mix. - Pix taken from the water - Pix taken from land


Saturday, September 20, 9 pm - 11:30 pm, cover charge $7


Saturday, September 27

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Eustace
Sent: Thursday, August 07, 2008 6:29 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Red Hot Ballroom 2008

Red Hot Ballroom 2008 will be held this year on September 27.
The sponsors of the Red Hot Ballroom 2008 (with USA Dance) have scheduled this as a National Ballroom Dance Week Gala. It will be held at the Edwin Hornberger Conference Center, previously the Shamrock Hotel Ballroom at 2151 West Holcombe Blvd., from 8:00 PM till midnight.
Same as last year, the Maria Williams Band will provide the music (they're excellent!!) and the hostess will again be Linda Lorelle.
Black tie and evening attire are requested.
As last year, I will be registering people for the SSQQ tables.

There are two levels this year:
Silver Level table @ $70.00 per seat (includes champagne, decorations and better view of the floor area) Max 10 seats.
Standard table @ $30.00 per seat - Max 10 seats per table.
Individual tickets (non-USA Dance Member) are at $35.00
Full time student tickets with valid ID (open seating) are at $20.00

Our dancers may send me an email (  ) to register for this event and bring me their check or cash during the month of September. Currently, I have a number of names listed for both tables and will keep you updated to the participants. Please include "RHB" in the subject line.
Please email me with any questions and I will attempt to answer them ASAP ... send them to and put "RHB" in the subject line.
Regards, Paul Eustace

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: This is a wonderful dance. Not only are there many great exhibitions, you get the chance to dance the night away to a terrific band. Plus it's fun to see all your friends look nice for the occasion.

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Eustace
Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2008 12:13 PM
Subject: Red Hot Ballroom on Sept 27

Friends, With all the focus we've had this week on Hurricane Ike you may still want to take a little time for the diversion at the Red Hot Ballroom on Saturday, September 27. We can't undo the damage that some of us have suffered, but an evening of dressing up and dancing may be what "the doctor has ordered".

If you are interested please contact Janeil Bernard at 713-464-2700 to reserve your seats.

Also, if you have the ability to assist another by defraying the cost for someone who is suffering a loss from the Hurricane, please let me know and we'll try to make the proper arrangements.

Regards, and I hope to see you on the dance floor ...



The SSQQ Community was stunned by the news that we lost two of our dear friends during the Hurricane Ike ordeal. A lot of people are too shaken by these untimely deaths to even know what to say.

As our group ages, the specter of seeing our friends pass on becomes a dark issue that lingers in the backs of our minds. However nothing will ever prepare us for the sudden events that took from us these two wonderful men who had so much life left in them.

When we lost our good friend Tim Green to cancer earlier this year, I thought to myself it is never easy to see a life cut short when the person is so darn wonderful. I am so sorry to say this is just as much true with Michael and Gary.


Michael Friedberg died of a massive heart attack at his home on Friday, September 12.

Here is an email from our friend George Sargent about Michael:

"Hi All, I talked with Dee Medina yesterday late afternoon. I could tell she was down but otherwise doing well. Dee and Mike dated since the summer of '05. Mike had been going to the studio for many years and was versed at many dances. He and Dee were regular patrons of Wild West. Mike was a math professor at the University of Houston - Dr. Mike Friedberg. Dee said he loved hanging out with young people, such as his students. This probably explains why he loved the studio so much and why he looked more young than he actually was - 69 years young.

Mike's sister was in town. Dee and his sister were with Mike when he apparently had a massive heart attack. Neither they nor the paramedics could revive him. Ironically, Mike and Dee heard about Gary Schweinle earlier that day and were lamenting that sad story.

Mike was loved by a lot of people."

Here is a second email. John Bear, a colleague of Michael's at the University of Houston, sent out this letter.

Subject: Funeral Services Set Friday for Michael Friedberg
Date: Thu, September 18, 2008 9:47 am

Dear Natural Sciences and Mathematics Faculty and Staff,

"I regret to inform our college community of the death of Professor Michael Friedberg, a well-respected Department of Mathematics faculty member for 41 years. Mike, age 69, died unexpectedly at home Friday.
Funeral services are scheduled at noon Friday at Beth Israel Cemetery, which is within Woodland Cemetery at I-10 and Antoine (1105 Antoine at I-10).  


Because the funeral home is without air conditioning due to the hurricane, men do not need to wear suits to the service.

Mike is survived by a daughter, Lorraine Coats, and a sister, Roberta Russell. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in his memory to the Michael Friedberg Scholarship Fund at the University of Houston. Donations may be sent to NSM Development Office, 214 Science & Research Bldg. 1, Houston, TX 77204-5008.

Mike joined UH in 1967, specializing in topological algebra with an emphasis in topological semigroups. He previously was an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee.

He earned a B.S. in mathematics in 1961 from the University of Miami and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in 1965. He also received an M.B.A. in 1984 from UH."

Note From Rick Archer:

Michael's time at SSQQ goes all the way back to the Nineties. I ran across an article from the September 2000 Newsletter that said a lot. To put things into context, Ben and Diane Liles were in a crisis due the premature birth of their son Cole (who is now Eight and doing Great!). Susie Merrill organized a fundraiser that Mike participated in.

Here is a brief excerpt:
"It turns out that the Intellects did not "click well" as a team. Mike Friedberg knew many of the answers, but he was so soft-spoken that most of the time his suggestions were ignored. Too bad.

For one thing, Mike knew that "Nantucket" was a better answer as the major fishing island of Massachusetts, but somehow "Martha's Vineyard" was submitted. Tsk.

Another time Mike was pretty sure that "Mickey and Minnie" was Janet Jackson's tattoo in an unmentionable area of her body, but was overruled for "Chip and Dale". David was almost incontrollable in his delight - anyone who watches the Disney Channel would have gotten that answer easily. I might add the "Playboy Channel" might have been an equally useful venue in answering this one. (But I am just taking other people's words for it.)"   (for the complete story, visit
Casino Night )

This excerpt from the 2000 fundraiser reminds me again just how smart Michael was (VERY SMART) as well as how gentle and unassuming he was.

I cannot honestly say I knew Michael well on a personal level. What I did know was that he was very bright and also quiet and private. He definitely didn't talk about himself very much. In fact, I was stunned several years ago when he told me he had recently had heart surgery! It's a good thing I was sitting down or I would have fallen over at the news!

The conversation came about when I saw him at the studio and realized I hadn't seen him for a while. So with my usual charm and tact, I went over to chew him out for being a stranger. Then I asked him what sort of stupid excuse he had for staying away so long... "oh, I had heart surgery..."

Well, that shut me up.

From that point on, Michael was a regular again at the studio. He particularly enjoyed coming on Wednesday nights because he loved taking Western Cha Cha and Western Waltz from Sharon Shaw. He also enjoyed seeing his friends as well. For example, Michael participated in several of the Hill Country Honky-Tonk Tours organized by Jim Colby and Marlane Kayfes.

As George Sargent mentioned earlier, Michael was dating a lovely woman named Dee Medina for the past three years. I can honestly say this lady was a wonderful influence in Michael's life because I have never seen him smile so much as long as I have known him.

You see, Michael was sort of a 'grumpy gus' when I first met him. He was a fixture in my Martian Whip class for several years. He wasn't a negative person, but I would hardly describe him as a rah rah type either. He was always extremely pleasant and polite, but when I first met him I thought there was an underlying sadness about him. That all changed when Dee came into his life. From that point on, I actually saw him laugh and smile. I completely approved. That's what a good woman will do for you!

In preparation for this story, I dug around for pictures. Neither of the usual places - Cruise Trips and Halloween Parties - yielded a single picture. That reminded me how I was constantly bugging the poor man to participate at the studio social events more. Every year I would ask Michael if he was going on this year's dance cruise. I would remind him of all those single women who would love to see a good looking guy like him on the trip.

You would think with bait like that I would get a bite. Not Michael. Every year he came up with some stupid excuse like having to teach his math class at the University of Houston. He actually thought his students liked him! Imagine that (I wouldn't understand). Or maybe it was the other way around - he liked his students. I couldn't stand all that sentimental nonsense about 'liking students'. Humbug. So I told him to tape a lecture just like everyone else, but he was old-fashioned and responsible. He thought his students actually appreciated how dependable he was and how he always came to class like clockwork. Plus he said they actually listened to him! I suppose they did like him a little, but I wanted him on the cruise! I wanted to see him have fun!  How could teaching a math class be more important than dancing on the Caribbean and playing dodge ball with hurricanes?

Plus every year I would pick on the poor guy about the Halloween Party. "Well, are you coming this year, Michael?" You see, I don't think Michael ever came to a single Halloween Party. Maybe I am wrong, but a review of seven straight years of parties didn't reveal a single picture.

I always gave Michael a hard time. I thought he was a handsome guy, but he had a very rugged face. I always told Michael he could do Freddy Krueger without the mask!  Michael must have had the same twisted sense of humor as I do because that got a rare smile out of him. Or maybe he was just imagining what he could do to me if he had a set of those claws available.

If forced to guess, I don't think Michael liked crowds. He was a private man. That's just the way he was. All the needling in the world from me didn't budge him one inch. And lord knows I tried. Much of our rapport revolved around me nagging him to do something and him resisting. For example, a couple of those cruises took place in the summer. No classes at U of H. What's your excuse this time, smart guy? That didn't work either. But I don't think he minded me teasing him because I am positive he knew I liked him.

And that's the truth - I liked Michael very much. I always enjoyed seeing him. I only bugged him because I really liked having him around. Michael made the studio a better place. Michael was a neat guy.

I will finish my story here. I have little doubt another anecdote will pop into my mind immediately after I publish the story, but I think you get the point - Michael Friedberg was a classy, thoughtful, very sensitive human being who was an important member of our community.

Michael will certainly be missed.

September 19, 2008 - The Funeral for Michael
Written by Rick Archer

The service for Michael was held
at the Beth Israel Cemetery, which is within Woodland Cemetery over in Spring Branch.  We were directed to a lovely open-air meditation area complete with extensive seating.  We had a roof, but there were only three walls.  As a result we were able to look out onto the beautiful grounds of Woodland Cemetery during the ceremony.  It was very peaceful indeed.  Whoever designed this facility had a touch of genius about them.

In all, I estimate there were 150 people present.  For someone as quiet as Michael, he certainly managed to garner quite a bit of love and respect!  I noticed many young people who surely were his math students over at the University of Houston.  That made me smile.

There must have been forty people from the studio who came to wish Michael farewell.  Indeed, there were so many people to say their farewells to this man that they ran out of parking spaces.  Many of us had to park on the lawn.  

The service was short and very wonderful.  Michael's Rabbi got up in front of us all to read a story about Michael's life.  I assume that the lady had interviewed the people who were close to Michael to create such a thorough account.  In fact, the praises of Michael were so deep and so heart-felt that I doubt this quiet, humble man would have felt comfortable hearing such tribute.  Isn't it a shame that some people like Michael are so modest that we have to wait till they are dead to say in public all the nice things we think about them privately?  Michael just refused to let people make a fuss over him.  He preferred to stay in the background and watch things unfold.

Indeed, I cannot begin to tell you how amazed I was to hear the various stories.  I felt ridiculous that I had to come to this wonderful man's funeral to learn more about him in 20 minutes than I had been able to ascertain in ten years at the studio!  Why didn't I know this stuff when he was alive? 

For example, I found out that Michael was an expert on the Civil War.  He had the ability to rattle off details like the dates of all the major battles (so can I, but I have to read from a book to do it).  Since it turns out my own father was also a Civil War buff, I would have loved to ask Michael to share some of his insights and theories on this controversial war ("and would the North still have won if Buford had not been allowed to seize the high ground at Gettysburg?").  It filled me with regret to think to myself it's too late now.

I also was surprised to discover Michael loved sports.  Again, here was something he and I had in common that I never knew about.  I felt crushed to learn so much about the man and not be able to talk to him about it!

The lady who read the story spoke of Michael's early days in New York City and how he moved to Miami when he was young.  He was a wizard at math from the very start.  He was directed into accounting, "a practical career", but managed to forge his own path and study math instead.  Apparently he got his doctorate at LSU and his first major teaching position at the University of Tennessee.  He began his professorship at the University of Houston in 1967. 

I didn't learn much about his marriage other than he was able to maintain a friendship after the divorce.  I did learn he had one daughter named Lorraine who grew up here in Houston and became an attorney.  I regret that I did not meet Lorraine, but I gathered that they were close throughout.

The Rabbi gave us marvelous insights into Michael's teaching career.  Now I had long sensed that teaching was a passion for Michael.  As you may remember from my story above, I always liked to tease Michael about his obvious dedication.  What I did not realize is that he was considered by his students and peers to be an amazing professor!   Obviously a colleague had shared the inside details with the Rabbi because Michael would never have revealed these things to me himself.  I learned that Michael was considered a "tough but very fair" instructor.  Michael produced so many outstanding students that they dominated the math awards every year at UH.  So UH had to invent new awards just so Michael's students couldn't win everything!  That got a smile from everyone around me. 

I also learned that Michael received an "Outstanding Professor" award in 2002.  The only problem was that no one in his family even knew about it till after the presentation.  Michael was extremely modest.  He kept this important information to himself for the longest time.  His own family didn't even know!  Good grief.  This tidbit opened up the tears for me.  I just couldn't stop shaking my head as I heard one story after another about what an amazing guy he was.

The Rabbi talked about Michael's love of dancing.  She got dozens of covert grins when she revealed that Michael abhorred dancing with "The Geriatric Set".  The man was 69 after all!  But he preferred to hang out with a younger crowd.  If this hadn't been a funeral, there would have been out and out laughter at that line.  

The toughest moment not just for me, but all my friends as well, came when the Rabbi talked about his relationship with Dee Medina.  This classy, lovely woman had been wiping tears away throughout the service and we all felt terrible for her.   The Rabbi talked about their wonderful times together... for example trips to Manhattan and LA and hiking trips.  The Rabbi was very impressed that Michael had talked Dee into going camping with him at Big Bend except there was one small condition... they had to stay at a hotel.  That sounds exactly like something my own wife would say!  Again, we had to use a lot of discipline not to crack up at that line too.

It was pretty obvious to all of us that Michael and Dee had a very special bond together.  That was very touching indeed.

Clearly the most important revelation of all was that Michael died with no regrets.  The Rabbi said that Michael died a happy man. 

That brought out the tears again, but good tears.  Rest in Peace, Michael Friedberg.  Hearing about your life was an inspiration to all of us.  It made us all proud to have been your friend.  Thank you very much for sharing your time with us.  You are a special soul indeed.



-----Original Message-----
From: P
Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2008 6:09 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Michael

Hi Rick,

thank you for the beautiful write ups on our dear friends. i am in tears all over again. as you said, we are too shocked for words. it is just all too awful, i hate even trying to think of words.

about Michael.... i always felt Michael seemed sad too. i was never sure if it was just his natural expression/face, or if he was really sad, but a few things he said to me over the years made me think yes, he really was sad inside. i'm glad Dee changed that.

Michael and i were in your thursday martian class for YEARS before you busted us all up (you know i'll never forgive you for that). what comes to my mind is how he always wanted to know the mathematical explanation behind whatever move you were teaching.... used to drive you nuts/amuse the hell out of you.

i was so heartbroken hearing about Gary's death friday too. i didn't realize a heart could get "more broken", but mine did when i heard about Michael's death the next day. i'd bet all of our hearts did.

just wanted to share, and most of my memories of Michael are tied to martian. thanks for listening.


 -----Original Message-----
From: Pat
Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2008 6:10 PM
To: SSQQ Newsletter
Subject: Re: 2008 SSQQ Newsletter Issue Four: Regarding the loss of our friends

Rick,  Thanks for the tribute and update on Mike and Gary. Unbelievable!

You were looking for timeframe - I recall that Mike was in my C&W classes when I first started in 1997- 1998. I recall that he was very analytical and methodical about his dancing.  He had to have it explained in degrees. 

(Rick Archer's Note: Fortunately Mike came to the right guy to explain it to him.  When I learned, I was just as analytical.  Imagine my surprise when I found a student carved in my own image.  Mike was just as bad as me; he practically brought a slide rule to class!)

-----Original Message-----
From: SB
Sent: Friday, September 19, 2008 3:46 PM
Subject: Mike and Gary

Wow, what a shocker this newsletter was; I remember Mike in the Whip classes you and I taught together, and I, too, always thought he was so sad; I tried often to make him laugh and I continued to always speak to him and dance with him when I was there; I didn't know Gary, but what another tragic loss.

Thank you for letting all their friends know of their sad.

-----Original Message-----
From: PJ
Sent: Friday, September 19, 2008 4:02 PM
Subject: Mike

I'm sorry to hear about Mike. I do remember him well from whip class. I used to give him a hard time too for not staying long...if any at practice or not coming to any of the parties. After a couple of years of knowing him he finally told me one night (probably after I pestered him about staying for practice) that he had some anxiety issues around groups. He said being in class was different than staying for practice. I didn't bug him anymore. What a sweet man, I was always happy to see him and felt he returned those sentiments about me.

I didn't know Gary but recognize both him and his wife from the pictures you posted. How sad, so

I imagine that you touched many with your thoughtful heartfelt writeup...certainly did touch me.




Gary Schweinle died suddenly in a tragic accident on Friday, September 12.

That's right - in an incredible dark coincidence, we lost both men on the exact same day.

I suppose from now on 9/11 and September 12 will be linked together in my mind - one of the most tragic days in American History and definitely the saddest day in SSQQ History are back to back.

From what I gather, Gary died from electrical shock. Gary decided his home at his rural property needed more protection. So he got up on the roof with some boards.

As he drilled through the board, his drill bit hit a live wire inside the roof of his home. That is when Gary died from a horrible, inconceivable accident.

Putting things into perspective, just a couple days ago I removed protective siding from eight windows here at my house using a power drill. As I took down each board, I thought of Gary the entire time. I can't tell you how many times I have drilled something into a house wall without even giving it a second thought. Sure there is an element of danger anytime you use power tools, but Gary certainly knew what he was doing. He was a professional welder. If anyone knew his way around power tools, I would have nominated Gary Schweinle first! That is what makes this tragedy so senseless - Gary knew a heck of a lot more about what he was doing than the rest of us. He must have run across a hidden wire that no one would have ever anticipated.

It makes no sense. We are all numb and heart-broken.

Here is an email from Steve Gabino concerning the tragedy:

"Dear Friends, I spoke with Tracy (Gary's wife) today and wanted to update everyone.

She and Gary were in Anahuac Friday morning and planning to ride out the storm at their home there. Once they saw the size of the storm surge on tv, however, they decided to return to Sugar Land.

But before they left, Gary began to secure the home. He went up to the roof to add reinforcements to some loose areas. While up there he accidentally hit a live wire. Tracy was outside and heard his body fall on the roof. She went up to attend to him and give him CPR.

The paramedics soon arrived but he didn't respond to treatment. Tracy returned to Sugar Land once they stopped treatment and that's when many of us first began to receive the news. Tracy has since been back to their home a few times to salvage belongings. Their house is destroyed as is much of the belongings inside. Her car is also totaled from a falling tree. No funeral arrangements have been made yet. The funeral home where Gary was taken lost it's roof and communications in the storm. In fact, much of Anahuac has been destroyed so the wake is almost certain to be here in Sugar Land.

Tracy sounded remarkably strong for someone who has just lost so much in a single day. She is still pretty emotional and hasn't gotten much sleep since Friday. She says, however, that the worst part was that first day. Her ex-in-laws have helped her with food and support. I told her how much everyone is thinking of her and she is very thankful."

Painful as the details are to read, we are all fortunate that Steve was able to shed some light on the tragedy. I cannot, however, even begin to discuss what Tracy must be feeling. All I know is that my own wife was scared out of her wits the entire weekend as we cleaned up tree debris together - every time a twig scratched me and I yelped, Marla came out of her skin. She could barely even allow me to use a power saw to cut fallen limbs into manageable sections. The fear on Marla's face made me keenly aware that Tracy's misery is every wife's worst nightmare come true.

Not everybody knows Gary Schweinle on a personal basis like I do, so let me bring everyone up to speed - Gary had to be one of the most loved people at my studio. I am not even remotely exaggerating this - Gary, or Mr. Hat as I called him - was respected and loved by many many people.

I would have to say Gary was easily the most popular man at my entire studio. He had a heart as big as Texas.

Did you know upon his death Gary had only been married to his sweetheart Tracy for two short months? Count the days yourself: July 12-September 12.

Two months ago at Gary's wedding to Tracy Kirkland, there were over 100 guests from SSQQ that were able to attend. That is how much the people here at SSQQ love Gary and Tracy.  ( Wedding Story )

Gee whiz. That's just not right, is it? If this was a movie script, we would all say, 'nah, that stuff doesn't happen in real life. No one gets killed just days after their wedding.' Except that sometimes it does happen. And when it does, we realize the hard way that life is cruel. Inconceivably cruel.

For the most part, the people at SSQQ live sheltered, safe lives. Yes, we have fender benders on occasion, but for the most part we feel at ease when we walk out the door. It rarely occurs to us that tragedy could be lurking around the corner.

By coincidence, a day or so earlier I had been walking home from breakfast at a nearby cafe. As I crossed a minor street, a car made a fast turn from a major street. A woman talking on a cell phone assumed she had both sides of the street to make a wide turn, so she hadn't bothered to properly slow down. I saw her and she saw me at the some moment. She hit the brakes and I jumped backwards. Problem solved by a few feet. I spent the remainder of my trip home thinking about accidents. You never know. I was spared. I thought of writing the story in last week's Newsletter, but decided it was unnecessarily morbid. The next day my friend Gary was killed.

The car missed me, but my friend Gary wasn't so lucky. One moment he was the happiest guy on earth, the next moment he was gone.

Gary leaves behind several daughters from his previous marriage. His former wife died in a horrible traffic accident seven years ago. What I am about to write is way too personal, but if you knew Gary, you would know he would give me permission to tell the story.

After his wife died, Gary came to SSQQ in November 2001 in an attempt to pick up the shattered pieces of his life. I thought he told me he would drive all the way from Baytown, but in reality I think it was from his house in Anahuac, which is even further. The drive had to be well over an hour!

His youngest daughter Kim was 16. Kim took her mother's untimely death hard. She was in so much pain. Kim had no idea why her father was dragging her halfway across Texas to some stupid dance class, but she went along for the ride.

To the surprise of both of them, they had fun. Some dance class on the other side of the world improbably had given them their first smile together in a long time. I understand that if we saw this on Lifetime we might turn it off as too schmaltzy, but that is the exact story that Gary has told me time and time again.

Gary added that his angry, mixed up and miserable Kimberly magically started to come out of her shell at the studio. Gary said that his buddy MG Anseman, their Twostep teacher, had a gift for making his daughter laugh and feel good about herself.

Gary and Kim continued to make that three hour round trip once, twice, sometimes three times a week. As the years progressed, Kim realized that she actually had a gift for dancing. She began to take private dance lessons. Voila! The next thing you know Kim began to win dance contests.

2003 Halloween Party

Along the way, Kim entered college and did very well indeed. Today Kim is ready for graduate school in Nursing.

I watched with growing satisfaction as the young girl who was sloppy and loud and aggressive when I first met her began her metamorphosis into a graceful young lady. Kim dressed better, improved her posture, quieted down, lost some baby fat, and began to smile again as she gained confidence. To myself, I took note that Kim was becoming beautiful!

And if you see her on the dance floor, you can't help but be mesmerized!

One day early in their courtship, Tracy pointed out a girl dancing out on the floor at Wild West to Gary. Tracy couldn't take her eyes off the girl. Gary said he knew that girl a little bit. Sure enough, later on Gary brought Kim over to meet Tracy. When Gary said Kim was his daughter, Tracy turned red with embarrassment. Gary always did have a unique sense of humor.

As I have written, Gary has credited my studio for helping both him and his daughter right the ship. I do not print this to 'brag' about my studio. That would be inappropriate. But I do know this - when I was a young man, I came from a broken home. There were several adults who saw how unhappy I was. These people took me under their wing and helped me through some very tough times. So I understand full well what Gary is talking about. The kindness of strangers at the right time can make such a big difference in people's lives.

There are many people here at this studio who look out for one another without having to be asked. I for one can testify that the studio nursed me back to health in 1986 when I hit my own dangerous low point. That is why I can listen to Gary's story and know exactly what he means.   201 Nights

There are many stories I could tell about Gary, but there is one particular story that is important.

Just six weeks ago this summer, Marla and I had the privilege of sharing in Gary and Tracy's honeymoon. Yes, Gary and Tracy were part of our Greece-Italy 2008 Cruise.

Every night on that cruise, Gary and Tracy were accompanied by their close friends at the dinner table. That had to be the loudest table in the dining room!

At my table, we could barely hear ourselves think when the laughter hit the roof. And did we mind?  Heaven's no. We loved it!  We loved hearing the wonderful roars of happiness that came from Gary and Tracy and their friends.  Marla and I would look at each other and just grin. That is what it's all about.

Gary, Tracy and the Noisy Bunch on the Greece 2008 Cruise

One day our friend Iqbal Nagji took a group of us on a tour of Athens. Although there were many wonderful things to see, I confess that the summer sun took its toll on me. I wilted like a flower out of water. Thank goodness Iqbal found a great place for our group to have lunch! It was an outdoor café, but we had huge umbrellas to shield the sun combined with fans that spread cool misted air throughout. Ah, sanctuary!

Once Tracy figured out the perfect beer for the meal, the four of us hoisted our bottles in the air and toasted our good fortune to be together. And that's how it was on this trip - Happiness followed this couple everywhere they went. This just happened to be the moment that Marla and I got to bask in their sunshine... it felt very good indeed.

So Gary was in a talkative mood.  When isn't Gary talkative?  Actually, I imagine he can be moody like me, but for the most part Gary is extremely outgoing. Gary talked for a while about how he and Tracy met, how their relationship grew, and so on. And then he returned to the theme of how the studio had helped him so much and how grateful he was that the studio had helped Kim overcome the grief of losing her mother. I had heard this before, but saw no reason to interrupt. Gary seemed to have something he wanted to say.

This picture was taken by Marsha Baxmann.  It captures the first moment
on the Greece Cruise 2008 when I saw Tracy and Gary. 
As I remember how happy I was to see them, it just breaks my heart.

Gary said that after a couple years into the studio, something switched inside of him. Gary realized that he had finally healed from the loss of his wife. Gary wanted very much to return to the studio the same warmth that had helped him get back on his feet. So that is when Gary decided to become a volunteer dance teacher at the studio. In particular, he teamed up with his buddy MG Anseman. Soon his friends Gary and Cheryl Davis, another SSQQ couple (2004), began to volunteer in the same class. And when Tracy came into his life, she joined in as a volunteer too. With people like Gary and Tracy and Gary and Cheryl helping him, no wonder MG's students learned faster than mine!

I find this hard to believe, but for three, four, maybe five years now, Gary Schweinle made that trip from Anahuac every Sunday afternoon - his own free time - to help teach a dance class. No one asked him to do it. It came from within. He said it gave him tremendous pleasure not only to help people learn to dance, but to watch some of the people who were down in the dumps start to regain their confidence. Gary beamed as he told me of all the friends he made this way.

I had never heard this story before from quite so personal an angle. I knew Gary enjoyed coming to the studio, but I had no idea the intensity of his feelings. That's when I realized that Gary Schweinle was a born social worker. He might not have called it that, but there is no denying that Gary derived great satisfaction from helping people.

As we sat around the table at the Greek Café, Marla, Tracy, and myself didn't really say much. Gary was getting deeper into his story. Gary was a great raconteur and we enjoyed listening to him. But now Gary got very quiet. He wanted to say something, but seemed unsure whether it was appropriate or not. We waited. Gary decided to continue.

Now I apologize in advance that I may not get the details perfect, but I promise you that wherever Gary's soul is, he will guide me as best he can to capture the right spirit of the story.

Gary said that one night at the studio at the end of Practice, the place was pretty much deserted. As Gary walked through the studio, he saw a woman getting ready to leave. Gary had never seen her before in his life. However Gary was instantly worried for her. This woman had the most terrible, awful sad look on her face! Gary stopped the woman and struck up a conversation.

I am unsure how long the conversation lasted, but Gary said the conversation became very personal. It became obvious the woman was in a lot of pain and really needed a friend. Gary did everything in his power to cheer her up.

A week later, this same woman came up to Gary at the studio. She smiled and clasped both of his hands. She then told Gary thank you. The woman said she was pretty sure that she was going to commit suicide that night when she got home, but the talk with Gary had helped her change her mind. She said that Gary had saved her life.

As Gary told us this story, he was embarrassed. He squirmed in his seat. This is not the kind of story you pass around. And it is definitely not a story I would have included in the cruise writeup. But I have included it now because it shows what a huge heart this man had. As I listened to Gary's story, I got goose bumps. I want to tell you that I was in total awe of this man. He got his greatest satisfaction from contributing to people's lives, be they friends or strangers.

Gary Schweinle was a great Husband. Gary Schweinle was a great Dad. Gary Schweinle was a great Friend. But most of all, Gary Schweinle was a great Human Being.

Gary Schweinle was an incredible guy.


As many of you know - Gary Schweinle passed away last Friday while in the midst of preparing for the Hurricane.
His wife Tracy is safe but stunned and numb. She is asking for your prayers and some personal space.
No arrangements have been made yet and I will keep you informed as things develop.


Prayers of course, but Tracy has asked for help this weekend in Anahuac. The home that she and Gary shared was virtually destroyed. The barn is in the house, the shed is down, and the roof is off most of the house. She is asking for assistance to clear limbs and with clean up.
Anahuac is under a curfew - so don't arrive before 10 am and will have to leave before 6 pm
Where: Schweinle Residence, I-10 east to Anahuac exit, head South, go exactly 5 miles.
Look for drive with archway with 'Schweinle' at the top.
Arrive: after 10am.
Bring: chain saws, saws, rakes, ropes and able bodies
Also, bring your own refreshments - beverages of choice and food - snacks.

When: Saturday, Sept. 20 and Sunday Sept. 21
I have a 7 passenger Ford Explorer - anyone interested in carpooling please email me or call me on my cell, 832.283.6951. I live in Cypress, but we could find a meeting point somewhere to head over.
If you know people that would be willing to help, but do not have email access, please get in touch with them by phone. Any questions - contact me.
Thank you - and hope this finds you safe.
I have no power at my home, but I do at work. If anyone needs to recharge phones or computers, you are welcome to come to Messiah Lutheran, 11522 Telge Rd., Cypress, TX.
We do not have landline phones, but have free coffee and electricity.

Jeanne C. Tobin

(Rick Archer's Note: I suggest anyone who wishes to volunteer would try to contact Jeanne on Friday to make sure this trip to Anahuac is still on. Things have a way of changing these days from hour to hour. But if the clean-up request is still valid, I think this would be a fine way to pay our respects to Gary and Tracy and Kim.
Just remember to email or phone Jeanne first to get the latest information.)



-----Original Message-----
From: M
Sent: Friday, September 19, 2008 12:47 PM
Subject: Photos of Gary and Tracy

Rick, I do not remember if I sent you these photos but I am going to resend them. That was a wonderful tribute to Gary. It made me cry. He will be missed. M



SSQQ Hurricane Status: We will reopen for Business on Wednesday, Sept 17

Message sent by Rick Archer.

The good news: studio has power and is undamaged other than our sign was destroyed. Big deal.

Headache 1: My computer was fried so I cannot answer email. I had to go to TFW Computers - Gary Richardson - just to send out this message.

Headache 2: 9 pm curfew... maybe we need to close early each night. I guess we will skip break and go straight through. Until we understand the problem with the curfew better, we will play it by ear.

Hurricane Policy regarding missed classes - remember we have parallel classes for practically every class. Everyone is welcome is come as many times as possible for the rest of the month.

There will be no credits, no refunds, and no bellyaching. Just be glad you are safe and that you survived a deadly hurricane that has left thousands without homes and millions without power.

Keeping things in perspective, most people lost about $10 worth of classes for a terrible event that created unspeakable hardships for so many people. So please do not fuss. Let's pick up the pieces, get rid of the debris, and get things going. The smiles will return as soon as we start dancing again.

If anyone feels that they did not get their money's worth, they are welcome to repeat their specific class the next time it is offered absolutely free
on one condition:  Email us before September 30, 2008, that you wish to retake the class for free the next time it is offered.  We will note your request in your student account.


SSQQ Hurricane Status September 12 2008

September 2008 SSQQ Newsletter Issue Two
Written by Rick Archer



As Ike tries to decide where to strike, my buddy Leroy Ginzel sent me a Hurricane Quiz today. I am ashamed to admit I only got 10 right out of 30. I went back and guessed the first answer to every question and got a better score. It is pretty humiliating to realize you are dumber than random chance! Marla did much better with 19 right. If you want to see how you compare to the "ssqq hurricane experts", give the quiz a try yourself.

It is very difficult to predict where a hurricane will hit. For example, here are two interesting questions from Leroy's Quiz.

1. What's the National Hurricane Center's forecast "margin of error" for three days before the projected landfall?

50 miles
100 miles
250 miles
500 miles
1000 miles

2. What's the National Hurricane Center's forecast "margin of error" for one day before the projected landfall?

50 miles
100 miles
250 miles
500 miles
1000 miles

I was surprised by the answers. Are you curious? Go take Leroy's quiz.   Or scroll to the bottom.

We have good reason to keep an eye on Hurricane Ike. After all, the hurricane that caused the greatest loss of life in US history hit Galveston Island back in 1900 after hitting Cuba first. That alone gets my attention. Hmm. Wouldn't that make a great movie to see? Let's hope we don't get a first-hand look of our own this weekend.

On the other hand, our local media made complete fools of themselves by overreacting to a "hurricane" known as Hello Dolly a month or so ago. It is due our mistrust of the media that we never are quite sure whether to be safe or cynical.

The greatest panic attack of all came when Rita had Houston dead in its sights a few years back two and a half days before it hit. Desperate to escape the same devastation that hit our neighbors in New Orleans, Houston evacuated from what seemed to be a killer threat. In the process we created the biggest traffic jam in US history. What an ordeal! Quite frankly, if the hurricane had indeed struck Houston, it seemed like half the city was still stuck on I-45.

Fortunately the hurricane diverted at the last moment to the east. After all that fear and panic, Houston got a little wind and a little rain. I think I had a lawn chair blow over. We all felt very foolish.

So will SSQQ be open or closed for Hurricane Ike? Truthfully, the answer is "who knows?"

The nice thing about having an answering machine, a web site, and a newsletter is that I have three excellent tools to spread the word. If you don't get a special newsletter posting, we are probably open. But you can always check the website or call 713 861 1906 for the latest word.

Please be forewarned that one of the irritating things that SSQQ does is put the answering machine on well ahead of time. The answering machine delivers the information just as well as a human being. For example, at some point back in late July, Hurricane Hello Dolly was supposed to wipe Houston off the map. The media was in a tizzy. They even brought Neil Frank out of retirement to calm the panicked masses. I'm sure the new guy loved that move.

Theoretically the latest and greatest storm of the century was scheduled to hit Texas on Tuesday night. On Monday, the skies were completely sunny with not a cloud in sight or any discernible breeze. Nevertheless all day long on Monday I got phone calls to see if SSQQ would be open on Monday night. Monday night? Are you people nuts? Not one drop of rain and people are already worried! I answered the first ten inquiries politely, then I decided it was time for the answering machine.

Dolly eventually came through and blew over a beer can in my back yard. So much for the devastation.

My point is simple - the answering machine will do just fine.

Furthermore, if you disagree with whatever decision I come up with, just remember when it comes to hurricanes, thanks to Leroy we now have evidence I am probably the worst person to ask what to do. Use your own judgment. It's bound to better than mine.



At the end of August, SSQQ completed its 14th cruise.

Although I think overall this cruise was enjoyed by most of our guests, this cruise was notable for more serious headaches for Marla and I than all the other cruises put together. I will speak of each of these problems in due time.

One of the major headaches was a decision by a woman to make herself part of the group even though we told her to leave. Our wishes were completely ignored. The woman came and went as she pleased throughout the week.

That is, she came and went until the SSQQ Get Lost Committee took matters in their own hands.

I invite all of you to read a very unusual saga.



Saturday, September 13, 9 pm - 11 pm, cover charge $7

Saturday, September 20, 9 pm - 11:30 pm, cover charge $7


Saturday, September 27

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Eustace
Sent: Thursday, August 07, 2008 6:29 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Red Hot Ballroom 2008

Red Hot Ballroom 2008 will be held this year on September 27.

The sponsors of the Red Hot Ballroom 2008 (with USA Dance) have scheduled this as a National Ballroom Dance Week Gala. It will be held at the Edwin Hornberger Conference Center, previously the Shamrock Hotel Ballroom at 2151 West Holcombe Blvd., from 8:00 PM till midnight.

Same as last year, the Maria Williams Band will provide the music (they're excellent!!) and the hostess will again be Linda Lorelle.

Black tie and evening attire are requested.

As last year, I will be registering people for the SSQQ tables.

There are two levels this year:
Silver Level table @ $70.00 per seat (includes champagne, decorations and better view of the floor area) Max 10 seats.
Standard table @ $30.00 per seat - Max 10 seats per table.
Individual tickets (non-USA Dance Member) are at $35.00
Full time student tickets with valid ID (open seating) are at $20.00

Our dancers may send me an email ( ) to register for this event and bring me their check or cash during the month of September. Currently, I have a number of names listed for both tables and will keep you updated to the participants. Please include "RHB" in the subject line.

Please email me with any questions and I will attempt to answer them ASAP ... send them to and put "RHB" in the subject line.

Regards, Paul Eustace

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: This is a wonderful dance. Not only are there many great exhibitions, you get the chance to dance the night away to a terrific band. Plus it's fun to see all your friends look nice for the occasion.

Hurricane Quiz: By the way, here are the answers even if you decided to skip Leroy's quiz: If you guessed 250 for the first question and 100 for the second question, then go to the head of the class.

September 2008 SSQQ Newsletter Issue One

Written by Rick Archer


As always, if you miss classes the first week, you can start in the
second week as well.

Our Special class of the month is


On Sunday morning, August 24, 144 people from SSQQ will depart for our Annual Dance Cruise that circles the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.   This total of 144 ties our all-time record set back in July 2003.   The 2003 Jubilee Cruise definitely set the record for Romance. As I scan the names of the people who went, I see approximately 20 different SSQQ marriages! I say "approximately" because there are some couples on the list who haven't quite sealed the deal yet, but they are definitely on the edge of the ledge.  

20 couples! Amazing. That's an awful lot of slow dance and romance.   That total includes Marla and me, by the way. We met on Cruise #2 back in 2001. We have never been apart since. I stole her from Marla's steady boyfriend she had for six years. No kidding. The guy was absolutely insane letting her go by herself on that trip. You snooze you lose. When we got off the ship, we literally had to sneak up his driveway and get her car back. People always ask how someone like myself with such a limited personality could land a babe like Miss M. Everyone always assumes it is because I'm a dancer. How absurd. Wrong. One word - Tequila. Helping to lower women's standards for years.  

So what about this year's trip? This will be our Fourteenth Trip. Imagine that! 14 Trips!   And each one seems to build on the energy of the year before. Thanks to our MVP Troublemaker, Phyllis P, and her Band of Merrye Mischief Makers, I expect the Hot Tub Stuffing records to fall. Ohmygosh! Phyllis says she plans to get 50 people in there! Hmm. Now that I think about it, there is also a good chance that Hot Tub itself might just collapse and fall through to the deck below.  

There is something else I am worried about. Did you know that Mr. Handsome complained about the excessive heat of the hot tub water last year? With all those people in there, the darn thing looks like a crawfish boil. Those people are going to be cooked to death!   With that many bodies in the over-heated hot tubs, I just won't be able to taste the soup on the trip with any kind of enthusiasm. What if I find a loose toe? What if my friends are in there?  

This year, I have decided to try a new hot tub activity, maybe wean the crowd off of toe-sucking and stewing. I am introducing the Sing-Along competition! I have laminated the lyrics to 30 famous songs. Most of them are Beach Boys and Beatles music from the 60s, but we have some Country songs, some Romantic songs, and some Done Me Wrong songs as well for variety.   The idea is to divide the Hot Tub into two groups.  I am bringing a boom box along to help people remember the melody of each song. So one team studies the lyrics, then sings away. Then the other team sings the same song. The judge decides which team won the round.   My judge will be none other than the amazing Holly Jolly, a former nightclub chanteuse on Broadway! I kid you not! Holly has such an incredible voice that she can even tune me out (to great applause, I might add). So Holly can't be on a team. It would be like putting Michael Jordan on your pickup B-Ball team. Instead Holly has agreed to referee.   Holly is the best friend of Troublemaker's sister, so don't mess with the Umpire's decisions unless you want your entire vacation ruined. Phyllis will make you miserable. You will be Stew when she is Through and we will sip you at dinner. However, I do believe Holly can be bribed.  

Now I realize my Sing-Along competition is a brand new risky venture, but I am betting it has to be more fun than toe-sucking.   Do you have any idea how bad the toe-sucking pictures look to the people back at the studio? It gives us such a terrible reputation! But what if people were to see pictures of us singing? They would think so much better of us!  

There's a book called "Left Behind" where God calls all the good people to Heaven and leaves the heathens on Earth to fend for themselves. Well, here at the studio, things are reversed. Here at SSQQ the left-behind people are the saints. They all tell me how peaceful things are when the heathens are gone.  

We have another new feature on this year's trip: Salsa Rueda. Rueda is a dance where salsa dancers form a huge circle and perform identical patterns. Then they rotate to another partner. It is the perfect activity for a large group like ours. If we turn out to be any good at it, we can perform at the Talent Show on the final day of the trip. With our friends cheering for us, we should get a gold medal!  Plus maybe we make the cruise ship's DVD and we can be famous.  

I think we are in for a wild trip, folks. Better put your seat belts on.

Saturday, August 23, 9 pm - Midnight (and possibly even later),
cover charge $7

CRASH COURSES FROM 7-9 pm (to register, just show up and sign in at
the door)
$15 Person, $25 Couple
RICK ARCHER QUICK NOTE:  If you are a good Western Swing Dancer,
you want to take Rick's Ghost Town CC.  The two patterns are
extremely challenging and original. In fact, they are competition
dance patterns.  Very pretty. Even Cher was impressed.
However, if you are a beginning Western Swing dancer, please don't
take this class. It is too difficult.  There is a lot of material
to cover and I will tell you if I think this class is over your
Ben's cancelled class)
DIRTY DANCING - Ben (couples only) CANCELLED (Ben's Father-in-law
is very sick)
Dress: Wear Hawaiian Shirts, Sun Dresses, Shorts, or Bathing Suit
Pullovers. In fact, anything tropical & colorful is fine.  All we
care about is that you wear something so loud you can barely hear
the music.  Or wear something so skimpy (grass skirts/
bikinis/nothing at all) we won't even care if music is playing!! 
If you are new to the studio, let me start by telling you this
party is one of our three biggest parties of the year (Halloween
and Sock Hop are the other two).
For starters, this is a "two parties in one" Dance Party!  This
will be a combination Western and Whip Party - we will have the
dancing going in two rooms all night long.  We will have Western
music in Room 1 including Waltz, Swing and Cha Cha music.   In
addition there will be West Coast Swing and Hustle music in Room 4.
The Beach Ball is traditionally a very wild party. 
One reason this party is so big is that it takes place the night
before the big Caribbean dance cruise pushes off.  We have 150
people or so going on this year's trip.  Most of those crazies
think this party is the start of their trip!   Some people even
bring their luggage with them to the party.  They are already set
on "Cruise Control".
Or should I say "out of control"?
After all, the Cruisers are already on Vacation and they don't feel
any need to behave!   Whatever they do wrong, hopefully no one will
remember when they come back a week later.
Plus they don't even have to get up in the morning.  We just send
the cruise bus over to pick up the bodies.  The few remaining sober
people carry the bodies onto the bus and the cruise begins!
As a result, we expect 150 people to be at this party, but it could
easily surpass 200.
And even if you aren't going on this cruise, so what, you will
enjoy feeding off of the insanity. The party itself will be
marvelous fun. And then you can join us next year! 
One more reason to attend:  Many of the women will be scantily
clad.  Need I say more??
One favor to ask:  Bring food.  Bring lots of food.  This is going
to be a big party. The more fuel we have, the wilder it gets! 
I am pleased to report I have finished three pages of stories about
our recent Greece - Italy Cruise that took place at the end of July
Even though it is only three pages, there quite a few Chapters.
You can read the following stories:
1.         Pre-Cruise Headaches
2.         The Vatican Museum
3.         Stranger in a Strange Land
4.         The Borghese Gallery
5.         The Spanish Steps
6.         The Great Gelato Shakedown
7.         Trevi Fountain
8.         Victor Emmanuel and the Pantheon
9.         The Roman Forum and Julius Caesar
10.        Augustus Caesar and Birth of the Roman Empire
11.        The Roman Colosseum
12.        The Gladiators
13.        Christian Martyrs
14.        Nero the Zero
15.        The Great Fire of Rome
16.        The Year of the Four Emperors
17.        The Fall of the Roman Empire
I would like to share a couple stories about the trip.  One day our
group was traipsing through Athens.  Let me tell you something -
Athens is a vast city!  Once you climb up to the top of the
Acropolis in the center of Athens, you can see the entire city
stretch for miles in every direction. 
Now let me add that Athens was not the easiest place to figure out.
 Have you heard the saying, "It's all Greek to me"?
Apparently this saying goes back to Shakespeare. The line was first
spoken by Casca, one of the conspirators against Caesar in the
first act of 'Julius Caesar.' He was speaking of the comments made
by Cicero after Caesar three times refused the crown of emperor.
Cicero actually did speak in Greek, using that language as a device
to make sure that casual passers-by did not understand his remarks.
Today the expression 'It's all Greek to me' simply means that what
has been said is beyond the speaker's understanding."
Let me add that during my visit to Athens I did not need an
explanation of this phrase.  Every sign was in Greek.  Every map
was in Greek.  And the Greek taxi drivers were determined to
overcharge at every turn.  The city was vast and difficult to
fathom.  Plus unlike Rome, very few people spoke English.  I felt
One of the members of our group, Iqbal, offered to guide a large of
us through Athens.  Almost immediately things started to go wrong.
The taxi drivers worked as a unit.  They all demanded 25 Euros ($50
US) for a 10-minute drive to the Acropolis even though the sign in
the cruise ship parking lot specifically stated 8 Euros. 
Iqbal realized how expensive this would be for us.  He led our
entire group of 22 over to a bus stop, personally paid for every
ticket, and got us a quick bus ride to the Metro subway station.
None of us would have had a clue where the bus station was or which
bus to take.
Furthermore we would have never found that Metro station in a
million years.  It was at least a mile from the ship and virtually
unrecognizable if you didn't already know where you were going.
But Iqbal knew exactly where it was.
The next thing that went wrong was that half the Metro workers were
on strike that day till 9 am.   As a result, we could not reach the
closest exit to the Acropolis.
I know how ridiculous this sounds.  Don't ask me to explain because
I am not too clear myself.  All I know is that Iqbal said that one
of the two Metro lines would not be in service till 9 am.  Since it
was only 8:15 AM, Iqbal got us back on the Metro and took us to
another exit that was close enough to the Acropolis for us to walk.
Now Iqbal led us through an incredible twisty maze of narrow
streets and alleys.  I kept expecting the Minotaur to leap out and
eat one of us for breakfast.  Suddenly out of nowhere the Acropolis
appeared!  Iqbal had successfully guided us to our destination!
For the rest of the day, Iqbal patiently led us throughout Athens.
He took us to the Temple of Zeus, he took us to see the changing of
the guard, he found a great spot for us to get lunch, he took us to
the National Museum, he found a great spot for us to shop, and at
the end of the day he got us home with just a few minutes to spare.
When you stop and think about it, Iqbal had given up an entire day
of his own vacation to help us negotiate the deeply confusing
streets of Athens.  He certainly deserves our gratitude!
Another story involves a lady who took me aside and thanked me for
organizing the trip.  As I always do, I quickly explained that
Marla had done all the work.  The lady smiled and nodded that she
understood my point.  Then she said she had something she wanted to
tell me.
She said that she signed up for this trip by herself.  She said she
didn't a soul in the group.  She said that she had wanted to visit
this area of the world for a long time, but didn't have anyone in
her life who could find the time to go with her.  She said this
trip was literally the answer to her prayer.  Now she wanted to say
how grateful she was that a single lady from the other side of the
planet could feel so completely safe in such a confusing
environment thanks to us. 
I smiled. I had heard this before.  I remember feeling the same way
about MG Anseman back in 2004 when he led an entire group of us
through the crazy streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras.  Thanks
to MG, we had the absolute time of our lives and felt totally
secure in the process.
I thanked the lady for her kind words.  Then I added I felt the
same way she did.  This time it was Iqbal who guided us through the
strange land.  I ruefully thought back to how lost I had been in
Rome.  Thank goodness we had Iqbal to guide us through Athens!  
Not only did he save each person a tremendous amount of money, but
Iqbal made us feel secure.  We were able to enjoy Athens so much
more knowing that we had someone who not only knew how to get us
back to the ship, but could keep an eye on the clock as well. 
It is fun for someone like this lady to tell me how much she
appreciated the opportunity this cruise offered her to fulfill a
dream, but the truth is that people like Marla and Iqbal deserve
the credit. 
Here at SSQQ we have a wonderful community.  Not only do we have
wonderful fun together, we all look out for each other.
Never was this truth more apparent than on this trip to distant
foreign lands.
RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: The buzz this announcement created in just one
week has been off the charts.  Marla says she already has 20 people
committed to the trip.  Two ladies - Cher and Becky - are thinking
about bringing their mothers along.  One lady is bringing her whole
The reason is simple - this is a fantastic list of places to visit.
 No question about it.) 
One interesting development during the Italy-Greece Trip was that
the main topic of conversation was where we wanted to go next year
in 2009.  The consensus was strongly in favor of going to Barcelona
and making the Magic Triangle Trip across the Western Mediterranean
Due to an odd arrangement of dates in 2009, the studio is going to
be closed for seven days near the end of September.  We have never
taken a week off in September before in thirty years, so this is a
peculiar circumstance (one reason is that instead of 28 days of
classes in December, we will only have 25 days of classes).
The point is that this is the perfect opportunity for the studio to
take a cruise!   No student has to miss a class and no teacher has
to find a substitute.  Instead we are all going to Spain!
Marla decided to announce the trip way earlier than usual so
everyone can start making their plans.  Here is Marla's letter:
Buenos Dias, Bon Jour, Buena Sera Everybody!
Next year we have a fabulous trip scheduled to some of the most
romantic locations imaginable in Spain, Italy, and France.
There has been so much excitement generated from our most recent
destination cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean that I have been
asked to announce next year's cruise plans earlier than we ever
have previously.
Yes, the rumblings are TRUE!!!  We had such an awesome time in
Rome, Athens and Turkey that we are going to visit the Western side
of the Mediterranean on September 27th, 2009.
Leaving from Barcelona, we will set sail once again on the stunning
Western Mediterranean for 7 nights visiting the birthplace of the
Renaissance on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas.
FYI - The Voyager is a sister ship to the Navigator that we took
for our 2008 Greece trip.  It offers the same beautiful facilities.
Our cruise departs Barcelona on Sunday, September 27th and returns
to Barcelona on Sunday, October 3rd.  The studio will be closed for
a week's vacation during this time period.  This will allow all of
our instructors and students the opportunity to take the cruise
without missing any days at the studio. 
Barcelona - our chance to visit the Picasso Museum and watch
beautiful women dance the Flamenco!
Naples - the ruins of Pompeii at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, the
Amalfi Coast, and the incredible Renaissance art in the Museum di
Rome - need we say anything at all!
Florence - the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Michelangelo's David just
for starters!
Nice - a chance to visit Monaco and Monte Carlo and see the famous
beaches of the most famous resort on the Mediterranean!
Marseilles - Cathedrals, Museums, Beaches, and the French Alps plus
the most beautiful women in all of Europe (according to the travel
6 incredible places to visit!  What more glorious adventure could
you ever imagine? 
Sailing Itinerary:
Day Port  ***  Arrive Depart Activity 
27-Sept  Barcelona, Spain     7:00 PM  
28-Sept  Cruising        
29-Sept  Naples, Capri, Italy   7:00 AM  7:00 PM Docked 
30-Sept  Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy   7:00 AM  7:00 PM Docked 
01-Oct  Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy   7:00 AM  7:00 PM Docked 
02-Oct  Villefranche (Nice), France   7:00 AM  7:00 PM Tendered 
03-Oct  Provence (Marseilles), France   7:00 AM  5:00 PM Docked 
04-Oct  Barcelona, Spain   6:00 AM
We were able to get a great rate for this sailing time.  We decided
to beat the summer crowds and heat and schedule next year's cruise
during a more pleasant time of year.  We will be saying hello to
Fall during this sailing.  Average high temperatures will be in a
very pleasant 70 degree range.
Rates are as follows:
Inside Cabin (Category N) -- $1066 per person double occupancy
Oceanview Cabin (Category I) --$1356 per person double occupancy
Balcony Cabin (Category E1) -- $1516 per person double occupancy
Air and ground transportation is additional.  You will be
responsible for your own transportation unless you book your
transportation through Royal Caribbean.  The current rate is $1596.
 Personally, this seems high.  You should be able to do better on
your own.
Regardless, this is not an inexpensive trip!  However, I will
guarantee you, it will be another trip of a lifetime! What better
way to explore these major cultural centers with such fascinating
histories than sharing the adventure with your friends?  This is
yet another chance to see extraordinary works of art and
architecture in addition to joining the jet-setters in Cannes and
Monte Carlo.
We even have a day at sea to enjoy the fabulous onboard experience
that the Voyager of the Seas offers.  We enjoyed all that the
amenities that the Navigator allowed, since the Voyager is her
sister ship, we can have just as much fun!
And guess what?  There is dancing through out the ship.  The venues
names are changed but the facilities remain the same -- A beautiful
wooden dance floor is featured in a spacious attractive non-smoking
lounge.   The ship is so plush even the Disco has a wooden floor as
A much more extensive write-up will be on the SSQQ website shortly.
 I just wanted to get some advance feedback from the group as to
who thinks that they might be joining us.
First deposits of $250 per person ($500 for single occupancy) must
be into me by October 29th, 2008.
I hope you will be able to join Rick and me for another exciting
And yes, of course we will have the "Same Time, Next Year Western
Caribbean sailing.   Details on that will be out shortly after the
first of the year.
Adios, Au Revoir, Ciao "ya'll" . . .
Marla Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio
713 862-4428
RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: On Wednesday, August 20, Daryl Armstrong, SSQQ Western Instructor Extraordinaire, handed me a copy of the current Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Magazine.  Daryl pointed to an article about the history of dancing in Texas.  Believe it or not, the article quoted me!   That was certainly a surprise.
David Letterman says You Know You Are Getting Old when you don't have to bother reading about history, you just remember it.  I suppose if you hang around long enough, you turn into a historian.  
Actually, I probably do have the best story about Western dancing here in Houston on the Internet.  Known as the 'History of Western Swing', it is a funny story about how a brand new dance was born right here in the Bayou City and how I was here to watch it happen.

Since I am now considered an 'authority', I guess that gives me the right to comment on Ms. Baird's article.  In general, it was an interesting read, but I raised an eyebrow on three occasions. 
First, Ms. Baird described the Texas Twostep as two long steps followed by step-close-step.  Maybe that's how they do it in Dallas, but not down here in Houston. 
Second, Ms. Baird talked about a dance known as redowa, a waltz variation of some sort.  I don't think so. I have never heard of that one in my life.  She had to get that name off of some internet site.
Third, Ms. Baird didn't say a word about Western Swing. 
Conclusion - I am not quite sure Ms. Baird is a dancer.  But her article is interesting nonetheless.  Here it is:
Article written by Stephanie Earthman Baird
This article appeared in the Fall 2008 Issue of
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Magazine
Story contributed to the Newsletter by SSQQ Western Instructor Daryl Armstrong
From dancing in place during RODEO HOUSTON concert to "Dancin' in the Dome" at The Hideout, award-winning country acts at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo provide the perfect opportunity to tap your toes. One of the oldest arts, dance, along with music, expresses the soul and spirit of a culture.  Country and Western dancing is a part of this universal language, and its roots spread deep and wide.  It is not the steps that Country and Western dancing special, as there are only a few basic dance steps in the world, but rather its history and its style.
During the pioneer days of the United States, immigrant settlers had little or no familiarity with each other's customs. From the festive rituals of Germany, the pubs of Ireland, and the ballrooms of France, early settlers brought unique dance combinations to the growing nation. As they adjusted to their new home, these pioneers gathered and dance on common ground through community events.
Barn raisings, quilting bees and other social celebrations laid the foundation for the development of Country and Western dance. At these events, the traditional dances of faraway places mixed, mingled and evolved into American versions of formal squares and rounds. "Squares" refer to structured group dances, while "Rounds"
are dances performed simultaneously by partners following each other around a large circle.
Squares and rounds graced the dance floor at both formal and informal gatherings. Formal invitations to social balls included dance cards, which listed 10 to 12 dances to be performed in sequence. Farmers and country folk usually were not invited to the formal balls of the upper class. Instead, dressed in their Sunday best, they found themselves in neighbor's houses, where everyone was invited. These barn dances, which originated in Scotland in the 1860s, were at the core of Country and Western dancing and remained popular until the early 1900s.
Traditional squares danced in the early days, such as France's quadrille and the contra, form the root of American square dancing. Three round dances - the schottische, polka, and the waltz - were integral to square dancing groups at the time.
At the beginning of the 20tgh century, American dancing changed profoundly. Quadrilles and contras declined in popularity. People modified the waltz and forgot the polka.  The foxtrot, Charleston, and rumba dominated the dance floor instead. It took nostalgic yearnings after World War II to spawn a rediscovery of the old-fashioned square dance.  Groups expanded, new groups formed and new callers - the people who called out the next move- were developed. Meanwhile, round dances were set to new music and rhythms.
With the advent of radio, the offbeat cadence of Country and Western music shaped Texas-style dancing. Radio stations helped coming country music, barn dancing and square dances. Hillbilly, mountain and folk music moved traditional dance pattern closer to modern Country and Western dance.
Jazz even played a role in the C&W dance development in the early 1930s. Texas' Bob Wills jazzed up country string instruments and created a genre of music know as Western Swing.  Today's modern country swing dance was influenced directly by Wills' music and the way folks moved to its beat.
However, it was not until the 1970s and 1980s that traditional Texas dances gained national attention under the name of Country and Western dancing.  Discos gave way to dance halls, honky-tonks and country dance clubs. Movies such as "Urban Cowboy" had everyone dressing and dancing like cowboy and cowgirls. In 1982, Congress named square dancing the nation's official folk dance.
According to Rick Archer, owner of a local dance club and studio, "Urban Cowboy" caused seismic shifts in the Houston dance scene. "I watched Houston nightclubs switch from Disco to Western dancing with staggering speed," said Archer.
But Disco did not die without leaving its footprints on Country and Western dance moves. "Practically overnight we stepped across the floor in a more sophisticated manner with added turns and spins.  Guys started moving forward with their right arm around their partner's back instead of crooked around her neck," explained Archer.
Texas dances mostly are variations of the traditional Twostep. Once a rather simple barn dance consisting of a basic walking step, the Texas Twostep borrows figures form both the international foxtrot and swing.  It consists of two long steps and a step-close-step to two-four time. Texans sometimes add a personal touch with a unique crouch and gait, but generally, excessive pumping of arms up and down is considered embarrassing.
Texans also enjoy other traditional dances such as the polka, the waltz, and the swing. The polka is a high-energy dance that moves counter-clockwise around the floor.  This dance originated from a Bohemian peasant girl and was introduced to society in 1844.  Today's Texans step left-close-left, right-close-right - a Twostep with a hop.
Dancers still get cozy with the once taboo waltz. Gentlemen steer and whirl ladies around the dance floor to this fancy Bohemian Twostep called a redowa. In Texas, the waltz inspired such songs as Ernest Tubbs "Waltz Across Texas".  "With your hand in mine, I could dance on and on; I could waltz across Texas with you," Tubbs sang.
Otherwise known as the jitterbug, the swing, with its fast spins and intricate patterns, is a versatile dance that rangers from freestyle to highly choreographed movements. At its root is a jazzy Twostep danced by African-Americans on the plantations in the South and modernized during Will's era.
Texans also participate in line dancing - where no partner is needed.  Line dances are patterned after the German schottische and what would now be called "clogging".

These dances typically require high energy and lots of noise.  Walking, kicking, swiveling and turning sequences progress in line, much like skaters. Song such as "Achy Breaky Heart" and "Boot Scootin' Boogie" are famous nationwide as line dance music. And the ever-popular "Cotton-Eyed Joe" still draws big audiences to the dance floor. As the country music group Alabama sing, "I remember down in Houston, we were putting' on a show, when a cowboy in the back stood up and yelled, 'Cotton-Eyed Joe!'"

Whether kickin' up their heels or scootin' a boot, Texans always find a reason to dance!



In last week's Newsletter, I wrote about Gareld McEathron's
upcoming 80th Birthday. Gareld will be celebrating this special
event with us on Sunday during our dance cruise.

Gareld is enjoying a week long birthday party. Gareld's family was
so mad at him for having the nerve to go on a cruise on his
birthday, they insisted on throwing his 'land party' a week earlier
so they could participate. As a result, at least 40 or 50 SSQQ
dropped by his house last Saturday, August 16, to pay their
respects to Gareld. And guess what, pretty soon we are all going to
be singing to him again!

However I have been a little embarrassed. I cannot seem to spell
the man's name right to save my soul. Here is a paragraph from
last week's story:

"You would think after all the many things that Gerald has shared
with me that I would learn how to spell his name correctly. Not
so. According to Google, as recently as 2006 I was still spelling
his first name 'Garald'. Nor is he alone. Poor Jamie Mabry, one
of my favorite instructors, has been here at the studio since 1999,
but I still spell her name 'Jaime'. Is that sad or what? Once I
get a name in my head the wrong way, I have fits getting it
rewired. Oh well, they all know that I love them."

The only problem is, his name isn't "GERALD", its "GARELD". I
spelled his name correctly one single time in last week's article,
but I misspelled it twenty times. Like I said, once I get it wrong
in my brain, I just can't seem to get it fixed. This goofy
incident with Gareld's name is the perfect example. Of course it
doesn't help that my computer spell-check can't stand me spelling
it "Gareld". Maybe that's it - the computer respells it when I am
not looking! That's my excuse!

In the meantime, my friend Kathleen Ballanfant who publishes the
Bellaire Newspaper saw my story about Gareld and insisted she
interview him for her paper. So Gareld and his beautiful wife
Virginia were featured in this week's issue of the SOUTHWEST NEWS.

Just in case you don't find a copy at the studio, here is the
article from the newspaper:


Written by Kyla Torres

All Gareld McEathron wanted to do was learn to waltz before he left on a trip to France. His wife Virginia says it's a good thing the SSQQ Dance Studio wasn't offering waltz lessons that month, otherwise they might never have met.

McEathron went to his first dance at age 13. At the time, he worked after school and on Saturdays shining shoes in a hotel barbershop in Philip, S.D.

His employer was dating a woman with a 17-year-old sister. The woman wanted to go to a dance at the local auditorium, but could not without finding a date for her teenage sister.

As Gareld put it, "Therefore, the barber requested that I take the sister, as she would NOT go unescorted, and he would pay for our

That was the night that McEathron first learned to dance.

When his family moved to Corpus Christi, he said he went to "Twixteen Night" every Friday at a ballroom with a balcony overlooking the bay.

"I seldom missed a night and we taught ourselves to do jitterbug and foxtrot dances," he said.

His first wife contracted polio when she was carrying their second child in 1953, virtually ending their nights out dancing. 

From 1985 to 1990, McEathron commuted on business to a small town in France, where friends at the hotel in which he stayed invited him to dance parties. He was still rusty on his waltz, though.

After his wife passed away in 1990, he decided to learn to waltz before going on a trip back to France. His children had given him a Learning Leisure certificate for Christmas so he could take waltz lessons at SSQQ.

"Two months later, I took a rumba class that was short of women so the instructor invited Virginia to help out," he said. "We started dating and were married a year later, in 1994."

They continue to take dancing lessons at the SSQQ.

McEathron says dancing not only helped him meet Virginia, but also has kept him in great health.

"I firmly believe that the continuous dancing since I retired 16 years ago has contributed significantly to my abilities to continue an active life," he said.

The couple will celebrate Gareld's 80th birthday on Aug. 24 along with 142 other SSQQ dancers on a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean.

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: Virginia confided in me at Gareld's party this past weekend that her eyes lit up when she saw Gareld in that Rumba class. She liked Gareld from the very start.

As Virginia put it, "Gareld is not only brilliant, he is the kindest man I have ever met.  And he likes to dance!  How did I ever get so lucky!?"


I collect various stories from time to time and publish them on the SSQQ website. One section I keep adding to is titled "STUPIDITY".
Already present in this Hall of Shame is the story about Larry the Moron, the infamous American Icarus who neared killed himself by tying one hundred balloons to his lawn chair. When he released the chair from his backyard, he shot five miles into the sky! What a great story.

This month I have added three new stories. The first one is about the Grand Canyon that was contributed by none other than our Birthday Boy Gareld McEathron. This true story is about a man who nearly killed himself leaping from one ledge to another in the Grand Canyon. The entire sequence was caught on camera. The story had a very unusual ending, by the way.

The second story involves two different incidents where men were shot in the head by dangerous hunting arrows... and both men lived! That's pretty remarkable.

But let me add that "stupidity" was involved in one of the incidents. Let me upgrade that to "immense stupidity".  

Warning: very disturbing and graphic pictures

The final story is about a million dollar yacht that fell out of a crane sling and crashed nose-first into the water. Not only was the yacht destroyed, but two men were on it during the crash! Interesting story.


Contributed by Charlie Denton

Charlie sent in a pretty interesting quiz. It is on the level. No
tricks, no one will scream at you. Just go see how smart you are.



-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Eustace
Sent: Thursday, August 07, 2008 6:29 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Red Hot Ballroom 2008

Red Hot Ballroom 2008 will be held this year on September 27.

The sponsors of the Red Hot Ballroom 2008 (with USA Dance) have
scheduled this as a National Ballroom Dance Week Gala. It will be
held at the Edwin Hornberger Conference Center, previously the
Shamrock Hotel Ballroom at 2151 West Holcombe Blvd., from 8:00 PM
till midnight.

Same as last year, the Maria Williams Band will provide the music
(they're excellent!!) and the hostess will again be Linda Lorelle.

Black tie and evening attire are requested.

As last year, I will be registering people for the SSQQ tables.

There are two levels this year:
Silver Level table @ $70.00 per seat (includes champagne,
decorations and better view of the floor area) Max 10 seats.
Standard table @ $30.00 per seat - Max 10 seats per table.
Individual tickets (non-USA Dance Member) are at $35.00
Full time student tickets with valid ID (open seating) are at $20.00

Our dancers may send me an email ( ) to
register for this event and bring me their check or cash during the
month of September. Currently, I have a number of names listed for
both tables and will keep you updated to the participants. Please
include "RHB" in the subject line.

Please email me with any questions and I will attempt to answer
them ASAP ... send them to and put "RHB" in
the subject line.

Regards, Paul Eustace

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: This is a wonderful dance. Not only are there
many great exhibitions, you get the chance to dance the night away
to a terrific band. Plus it's fun to see all your friends look
nice for the occasion.


I was 27 years old when I taught my first dance class way back in 1977. I got my first big break from a man named Lance Stevens. At the time, Mr. Stevens ran a studio known as "Stevens of Hollywood". Mr. Stevens hired me to teach Disco Dancing on a part-time basis.  He absolutely hated Disco music. I on the other hand enjoyed the
music and the dancing thoroughly. At the time, neither of us had any idea a movie titled "Saturday Night Fever" was just about to debut.

In the space of six months, I went from teaching one dinky Disco class a week to teaching 30 classes a week! That started my career.

Along the way, I took the opportunity to study my boss in action.  In the two-year period that I watched Mr. Stevens interact with his customers at his studio, my impression was he was about as rude to his customers as any person I had ever met. He was a gruff, sarcastic man who could be very blunt if he wasn't impressed with your dancing.

By chance, I am now the same age today (58) as Mr. Stevens was when I started my career. In other words, I am getting my chance to see things from the identical career time frame as my mentor. And I have noticed there are times when I can be just as short, sarcastic and rude as the person I criticized thirty years ago. I am reminded of the old saying, "Don't criticize till you have walked in the other man's shoes".

By and large, I am very grateful to the people who keep me in business. I take great pride in watching my students improve as dancers and I thoroughly enjoy all the great friends I have made through my studio. I totally admit I have a great job.

So why do I get so grouchy now and then? Because 1% of my customers drive me up a wall.

Now I realize one percent is not a large figure, but when you have 1,300 customers a month, that means there are at least 13 incidents a month that are very unpleasant.

Actually this number is wrong. Not only are there 13 nasty incidents a month that require a profound amount of patience, there are probably another 40 minor incidents that add up as well.

One of my favorite sayings is "Many of you, few of me." People forget that over time little grains of sand have created the gigantic Grand Canyon through erosion.

After 30 years in business, sometimes I feel "eroded" as well. Nothing erodes me faster than arguing about money. About two years ago, I was so fed up with people demanding refunds that I wrote a dozen different articles on this subject alone.

1. Refund
2. Refund Overview
3. Electronic Transactions
4. Deal is Deal
5. Refund Defeat
6. Double Charges
7. Switching Classes
8. Refund Arguments
9. Exceptions
10. Exceptions Overview
11. Credits
12. MBA Refund Struggle

If you are curious, all these articles can be found by visiting this link:

Here is a question: Why would I spend time writing a dozen articles on the same subject? I can give you a simple one-word answer: Guilt.

There is a part of me that wants every customer to like my studio. I get upset when people tell me my policies are wrong or unfair.  But there is another side of me that says you can't run a business without rules.

So I wrote the articles as a way to justify in my own mind what is fair to the customer and what is fair to the business.

One of the things I learned while writing those articles was that once a student asks for a Refund, they are probably lost to us a customer. If we give them a Refund, we never see them again. If we refuse to give them a Refund, we never see them again. Either way, we never see them again.

Sorry to say, it is my experience that no matter how much I write in an email or talk over the phone, no matter how many Internet or Newsletter articles I write, once someone heads for the Refund Door, they aren't coming back. That is the Point of No Return.

Back when I wrote my Dozen Refund articles, as I reviewed one incident after another, I had to admit that not one time in my entire life did I manage to persuade a dissatisfied customer that my rules were fair and that they should continue to like my studio even though they didn't get their way. NOT ONE TIME.

Given this realization, I became cynical. If all my attempts to appeal to a person's sense of reason are a total waste of time, then why bother arguing at all?

Ever since I came to that conclusion, when it comes to Refund emails, I have lost all interest in arguing. I give short, perfunctory answers that assume I have no chance whatever to make both the customer happy and me happy at the same time. Nor have I ever found any middle ground for compromise.

However, once in a while, I try to challenge my own assumptions.

Is it really true that it is a hopeless waste of time to argue with a student about money?

Recently I decided to give more than my usual 30-second reply to a student. As you will see, the argument centered on the single most-misunderstood rule at SSQQ:


-----Original Message-----
From: MM
Sent: Saturday, August 16, 2008 6:40 PM
Subject: Dissatisfied with Salsa Class

My husband and I attended our first class on Tues there were too many people and my husband is completely dissatisfied and he feels that he would learn more with private lessons.

Could we get a refund back or a credit for the private lessons so we can use it to pay for private lessons with Linda? My husband really wants to learn and so do I but we had no idea there were so many people in the regular lesson and we need extra help. So, if you can help us out we would like to set up private classes with
Linda. Could you please help us out?  

You can call me if you have any questions.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
To: MM
Sent: Sun, 17 Aug 2008 9:52 am
Subject: Dissatisfied with Salsa Class

I understand that classes are crowded in Salsa and while this is exciting for some, it is less enjoyable for others.

We have specific rules that cover this situation. This is the third week of class. We are past the time to ask for refunds and group tuition cannot be transferred to privates. I realize this sounds cold and harsh, but these are the rules.

Please forgive.

-----Original Message-----
From: MM
Sent: Sunday, August 17, 2008 11:16 AM
Subject: OK

Thanks, I understand. You are in the business of making money and you could care less if people learn or not. I am a firm believer that what goes around comes around. It all works out in the end.

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: For four days, I chose not to answer the email above. After all, what good would it do? No amount of discussing the issue has ever provided common ground. But the more I thought about it, I decided to challenge my assumption that giving involved answers to "Refund Customers" was a waste of time.

I decided to write a detailed letter to explain my position. This is what I said:

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2008 2:19 PM
To: MM
Cc: DG
Subject: RE: OK

"You are in the business of making money and you could care less if people learn or not."

Ms M,

In my previous email to you, I said that we have a rule that prohibits exchanging group lesson tuition for private lessons.

I have read your response and given it some thought. Perhaps you fail to realize there might be reasons for our position beyond that of a money-grubbing business.

I feel you may have judged us as greedy too quickly. On the other hand, perhaps I have a blind spot and do not see that I fail to
operate my business in an ethical way.

You strike me as a good writer. I understand the concept of 'what goes around comes around' quite clearly and can appreciate your analogy.

That said, Rules are made for a reason. Perhaps if I give you a closer look at our position, you will either see my point or be able to show me the error of my logic.

The way I see it is this: Students are entitled to receive what they pay for, nothing more. If a student pays for a group class, they are entitled to receive a group class. If they don't like their group class, then we allow people to ask for a refund on their first visit.

However we do not allow students to come to the studio, participate in the group class, then turn around and request a private lesson instead.

To my mind, switching tuition from Group lessons to Private lessons is an unwanted renegotiation that results in a form of Time Theft.

Dance lessons are not a simple commodity like apples and oranges but rather a "Service". A student has paid for a Service with a specific time commitment attached to it. You aren't asking to swap apples for oranges, but rather asking a human being to exchange one form of time commitment for another form of time commitment.

The problem is that converting tuition from groups to privates suddenly obligates the dance instructor to an additional time commitment in return for no extra money.

It means that not only does the instructor have to keep showing up to teach the regularly scheduled Group Lessons, he or she is now obligated to make extra trips to the studio at separate times to give EXTRA Private Lessons in return for no additional money.

If we were to follow your logic and include your friends, $180 in group tuition would obligate us to 3 and 1/2 additional hours of private lessons on top of the regular Group Lessons (private lessons are billed at $50 an hour).

How would you like to fight traffic and give up your free time on 4 different occasions in addition to teaching the regularly scheduled classes for no additional funds?

To my mind, where is the incentive to do this?

Furthermore, if I give one person the right to exchange groups for privates, then everybody has that same right.

If I make an exception for some, then others will feel entitled to the same treatment. We have 1,200 students a month. There is no way I will allow the studio to be exposed to 1,200 potential renegotiations a month. This is why I insist that students understand they are entitled to receive what they pay for and not something else.

Ms. M, please share my response with your husband as well as the other couple that signed up along with you. Given your initial response, I imagine you probably disagree with me. Therefore I await your response with interest. I am curious to know where you think the weakness in my argument lies. Perhaps you yourself operate a business and can explain your point of view in a way that
I can understand where my mistakes are.

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: We will see if Ms. M responds or not. In the meantime, I invite anyone to answer this question: Is the rule prohibiting exchanging group class tuition for private lessons a fair rule or does my logic have a weakness?

Please share your thoughts.


After a two-year engagement, Gary Schweinle and Tracy Kirkland were married on July 12th before a cast of thousands. Well, maybe not that many, but it did seem like there were 70 or so SSQQ friends in attendance including 10 different couples who met their spouse or spouse-to-be at SSQQ.

It was definitely a wonderful family affair! Please read the story and see the pictures!



I have not seen Andrew and Pam since I saw them at Bryan Spivey's wedding last summer. In fact, I did not even realize they were engaged until one day an invitation to their wedding popped up!

I was pretty darn happy at the news. Andrew was going through some tough times a couple years ago. That made it extra special to see that Andrew hung in there till the clouds lifted.

I believe Andrew and Pam met in an SSQQ Whip- West Coast Swing class.



About a month ago, I wrote that some people could not view the text on certain pages on the SSQQ web site.

Since that time, I have learned three things about the problem.

1) The people who cannot see the text on certain pages either have a MAC computer or they use a Firefox or Safari Internet Browser. Anyone who uses Internet Explorer has no problem at all.

2) The problem is related to the Front Page 2003 software I use to manage my web site. Apparently this software is somewhat behind the times.

3) I can make the text appear on Cher Longoria's MAC computer by changing it from a black font to a colored font.

So here is the favor I would like to ask: If you run across a page on the SSQQ Web Site that you cannot read the text on, would you
mind emailing me the information to ?

I will go and change the color of the font and see if that solves
the problem for you. Thanks! RA

Contributed by Denny Morse

I realize the Olympics are almost over, but here is a chance to laugh your butt off if the mood strikes you. This comedy video stars a former gymnast named Paul Hunter who dresses up as a woman and straddles the high beam in ways that will leave you in stitches!


Contributed by Leroy Ginzel and Maureen Huddleston

For hundreds, maybe thousands of years, people have been trying to figure out how primitive people could build huge structures such as Stonehenge and the pyramids out of stone blocks weighing thousands of pounds. Scientists have been stumped.

Then along comes a normal guy - a retired construction worker named Wally Wallington - and he says well, I would do it like this. And he does. This guy uses the simplest tools known to man and shows how simple and easy it would have been to create Stonehenge.

This video with Wally Wallington demonstrates how he can lift a Stonehenge-sized pillar weighing 22,000 lbs and moved a barn over 300 ft. What makes this so special is that he does it using only himself, gravity, and his incredible ingenuity.

This is a really great video clip. Amazing how this guy could figure out something that has confounded scholars for centuries. And not only figures it out, but demonstrates it!

This guy could build a replica of Stonehenge single-handedly, while a committee of 20 or 30 Civil Engineering professors from leading universities would still be debating how it might be done.


Contributed by Rick Archer

This article on Unidentified Flying Threats was printed in the New York Times on July 29, 2008. I am printing partially because my beautiful wife is a big Sci-Fi Fan and will love reading this. I am also printing it because I believe Cher Longoria may be an alien. She has strange powers over men plus she never reads the newsletter so I can say anything about her I want with total impunity.

Published: July 29, 2008

On the afternoon of Nov. 7, 2006, pilots and airport employees at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago saw a disc-like object hovering over the tarmac for several minutes. Because nothing was tracked on radar, the Federal Aviation Administration did not investigate. Yet radar is not a reliable detector of all aircraft. Stealth planes are designed to be invisible to radar, and many radar systems filter out signals not matching the normal characteristics of aircraft. Did it really make sense to entirely ignore the observations of several witnesses?

A healthy skepticism about extraterrestrial space travelers leads people to disregard U.F.O. sightings without a moment's thought. But in the United States, this translates into overdependence on radar data and indifference to all kinds of unidentified aircraft -- a weakness that could be exploited by terrorists or anyone seeking to engage in espionage against the United States.

The American government has not investigated U.F.O. sightings since 1969, when the Air Force ended Project Blue Book, an effort to scientifically analyze all sightings to see if any posed a threat to national security. Britain and France, in contrast, continue to investigate U.F.O. sightings, because of concerns that some sightings might be attributable to foreign military aircraft breaching their airspace, or to foreign space-based systems of interest to the intelligence community.

Most of the incidents investigated in Britain have been easily explained as misidentifications of stars and planets, aircraft lights, satellites and meteors, but some cases have raised national security or air safety issues.

On Dec. 26, 1980, for instance, several witnesses at two American Air Force bases in England reported seeing a U.F.O. land. An examination of the site turned up indentations in the ground and a level of radiation in the area that was significantly higher than ordinary. More witnesses at the same base reported the U.F.O. again on subsequent nights. The deputy base commander reported that the aircraft aimed light beams into the most highly sensitive area of the base -- a clear security breach.

On March 30 and 31, 1993, there was a wave of U.F.O. sightings over Britain. One witness described a triangular-shaped craft that flew slowly over an air force base before accelerating away to the horizon in an instant, many times faster than a jet. The British military reported, "There would seem to be some evidence on this occasion that an unidentified object (or objects) of unknown origin was operating over the U.K."

On April 23, 2007, a commercial airline pilot and some of his passengers reported a huge cigar-shaped U.F.O. -- the pilot estimated it to be a mile wide -- near the Channel Islands. At the time, air traffic controllers reported to the pilot that radar picked up something, but that it was "unknown traffic."

In addition, there have been several incidents of near misses between U.F.O.s and known aircraft -- enough to prompt the Ministry of Defense and the British Civil Aviation Authority to advise pilots, if they encounter anything, "not to maneuver, other than to place the object astern, if possible." 

The United States is no less vulnerable than Britain and France to threats to security and air safety. The United States Air Force or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should reopen investigations of U.F.O. phenomena. It would not imply that the country has suddenly started believing in little green men. It would simply recognize the possibility that radar alone cannot always tell us what's out there.

(Nick Pope, the author of "Open Skies, Closed Minds," was in charge of U.F.O. investigations for the British Ministry of Defense from
1991 to 1994.)

Contributed by Rick Archer

-----Original Message-----
From: Skimma Coded
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 1:51 PM
Subject: Private Lessons

Hello, Good day to you over there, i am Rev.Skimma Codded.

I need a tutor for my child base on your advert, i got your advert while surfing through the internet and i really want my child to be taught by you. John is 18 year old and easily catch up. Although,i understand you are in Usa but i've arranged with my cousin living in over there that my child is coming to stay with him from the Netherlands for his period of tutoring and he had agreed with me.

I want you to get back to me with following details:  
1) your present residence address and tel #
2) total cost of tutoring for 2 months (1 hour per day 3 days
3) your years of teaching experience.

Payment via cashier's check, looking forward to hearing from you soonest. Regards to you and your family

Rev. Skimma Coded

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: Is this the stupidest email ever? I am sure it is a scam, but I can't figure out the angle.

Submitted by Gareld McEathron

A blonde finds herself in serious trouble. Her business has gone bust and she's in dire financial straits. She's so desperate that she decides to ask God for help.

She begins to pray, "God, please help me. I've lost my business and if I don't get some money, I'm going to lose my house as well. Please let me win the lottery."

The Lottery Night comes, and somebody else wins.

She prays again, "God, please let me win the lottery! I've lost my business, my house and I'm going to lose my car as well."

Lottery night comes and she still has no luck.

Once again, she prays, "My God, why have you forsaken me? I've lost my business, my house, and my car. My children are starving. I don't often ask you for help, and I've always been a good servant to you. PLEASE let me win the lottery just this one time so I can get my life back in order."

Suddenly there is a blinding flash of light as the heavens open.

The blonde is overwhelmed by the Voice of God, Himself!

"Sweetheart, I have heard your prayers and would like to help, but could you work with me on this one? .... Buy a ticket."

Submitted by Gary Richardson

It was the final examination for an introductory English course at State U. As the professor passed out the exams, he frowned to himself. 800 students in the class! This was ridiculous. It wasn't teaching, it was day care for overgrown babies. Like many such freshman courses at big places, the hidden purpose of this test was to weed out the stupidest of the bunch and save some taxpayer money. Some of these people would have trouble passing an ebonics test, much less the language of William Shakespeare. The professor truly hated teaching this course.

The examination was two hours long and exam booklets were provided. The professor was very strict. He told the class that any exam that was not on his desk in exactly two hours would not be accepted and the student would fail.

Half an hour into the exam, a student came rushing in and asked the professor for an exam booklet.

"You're not going to have time to finish this and I will not accept it late," the professor said sternly as he handed the student a booklet.

"Maybe not, but it's worth a try," replied the student. He then took a seat and began writing furiously.

When the two hours was up, the professor called for the exams, and the students filed up and handed them in. All, he noted, except the late student, who continued writing. Amused, the professor began grading the tests until his next class came in. Everyone wanted an exception. But not this time... next year this kid would be wasting daddy's money going to a community college. One Big Fat "F" as in "Failure" coming up for this pampered child of privilege.

20 minutes later, the last student came up to the professor who sat at his desk grading away. With a weak apology for being late, he attempted to put his exam on the stack of exam booklets already there.

The professor did not even look up, but said sharply, "Oh no you don't, I'm not going to accept that. I specifically said I would not accept a late exam. Hit the road, young man."

The student looked incredulous. "You mean you won't take my exam?"

"In a word, no"

The student took a step back and eyed the professor. "You don't know who I am, do you?"

"No, as a matter of fact, I don't," replied the professor with an air of sarcasm in his voice.

The student just stood there.

"No, and furthermore I don't care," replied the professor as he continued to grade his papers. "Now get the hell outta here and stop wasting my time."

The student quickly grabbed the stack of completed exams, stuffed his own exam somewhere in the middle, and then ran out of the room. As the young man reached the door he threw the entire stack of 800 exams in the air and kept on going.

Contributed by Kathleen Parker

At Duke University, there were two sophomores taking Organic Chemistry who did so well on all the quizzes, midterms and labs, etc., that going into the final they had a solid 'A'.

These two friends were so confident going into the final that the weekend before finals, even though the Chem final was on Monday, they decided to go up to the University of Virginia and party with some friends up there... They had a great time.

However, with their hangovers and the hard partying, they over-slept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to Duke until early Monday morning. Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed the final.

They told their professor they went to UVA for the weekend and planned to come back in time to study. Unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn't have a spare, and couldn't get help for a long time. As a result, they were late getting back to campus and didn't have any time to study.

The professor thought it over and then agreed they could make up the final the following day. He told his star pupils to go home and study hard. The two guys were elated and relieved. So, they studied that night and went in the next day at the time the professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet and told them to begin.

They looked at the first problem, which was something simple about free radical formation and was worth 5 points. "Piece of Cake" they thought, "No problema."

They did that problem and then turned the page. They were unprepared, however, for what they saw on the next page.

It said: (95 points) "Which tire, who changed it, and what was the brand name?"

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: If you enjoyed our jokes of the month, you can read the entire collection of 64 on the SSQQ Joke Page.


Contributed by Gareld McEathron

You are not going to believe this, but for the second month in a row Gareld-Garald-Gerald-what's his name sent in the best picture again! Where does he find this stuff?

Out of nine months this year, Gareld has four winners. That's impressive!


And that's it for this month!

See y'all!

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