Comeback
Home Up Stroke of Midnight

THIS MATERIAL WAS COPIED INTO PART TWO OF GYPSY PROPHECY.  IT IS BETTER WRITTEN THERE STARTING WITH 'WEDDING BELLS',

GYPSYPROPHECY014.HTM

 


BOOK
THREE

 

 

CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR:

COMEBACK

Written by Rick Archer 

 

 
 


INTRODUCTION TO BOOK THREE

 


Rick Archer's Note:

As long as I am blessed with the chance to continue writing, the Magic Carpet Ride will continue to fly.  That said, we have passed two natural stopping points where I could have concluded my saga 

One end point would be the completion of the Victorian Era.  As we have seen, there are two Rick Archers in this story.  One is the sad, lonely Creepy Loser Kid who stumbled through life until Victoria took him under her wing and taught him the ropes.  The Rick Archer who emerged from Victoria's trial by fire was a much different man. 

Another stopping point would be the Gordian knot that ruined my Waltz performance with Judy Price.  To this day I still wonder how that small piece of rope could have gotten so tangled up as to prevent two determined adults from pulling apart.  That freak event should go down in Ripley's Believe it or Not.  Curiously, the Gordian Knot marked the end of the weirdness in my life.  From this point on I led a hectic, but normal existence.  The coincidences disappeared and so did the lucky breaks.  Not that I needed any more lucky breaks.  My dance studio was so well established that luck was no longer required for continued success.  

Nevertheless, it does seem very odd that I witnessed 90 suspicious events in 30 years (1954-1984) and then zero events for the next 17 years.  Although my life continued to have lots of interesting adventures, nothing happened that I considered beyond the ordinary.  After the Gordian Knot, there was not one event strange enough to make my Observation List.  That in itself was kind of weird.   

Then out of nowhere the Mysticism returned in 2001.  My book would not be complete without this extraordinary story.
 

 
 


SUBCHAPTER 976 -
FAILURE

 

Christmas Eve, 2000.  Sunday evening.

Back in the year 2000, the SSQQ building doubled as the Quaker Meeting House on Sunday mornings.   I was a Quaker by birth.  Several times in my life, the kindness of people I had met through the Quaker Meeting in Houston and in Baltimore had rescued me from tight spots.  Here in the late Nineties, I was given a chance to return the many favors.  The Quakers were trying to build a new Meeting House in the Heights area of town.  However, they were badly strapped for cash.  I suggested they stop paying rent at their current location and use my dance studio for free.  I was thrilled to let this gentle group use the studio while their lovely new home was being built.  From what I gather, the Quakers enjoyed holding their Sunday Meeting at SSQQ.  They had total privacy and absolute silence.  Considering the Quakers very much enjoy peace and quiet, the dance studio was perfect for their needs.  

However, one day someone made a mistake.  This was the straw that broke the camel's back.

On this particular day, the Quaker service extended all the way till 5 pm.  First the group held their traditional Christmas Eve candlelight service at 11 am.  Afterwards they stayed at the studio for much of the afternoon.  This was a happy time for the group because it included a potluck dinner and a warm social gathering to follow.  They had a lot to talk about.   Not only was this the day before Christmas, but they were excited because their new Meeting home in the Heights would soon be ready.

 

I did not attend the gathering.  In fact, I rarely attended Quaker Meeting.  Quite frankly, I felt so overwhelmed by my job that I could not force myself to come to the studio during my one free day even for a religious gathering. 

Late in the afternoon, I got a phone call from the Quakers.  The last few people were getting ready to leave when they discovered the only person with a key had left without remembering their duty to lock the door.  The person on the phone had no way to lock the studio door. 

I was very irritated.  I would have to stop what I was doing and spend half an hour of my time on Christmas Eve driving to the studio to lock the door and return home again.

I got into an argument with my wife Judy (not Judy Price) over this phone call.  We were both worn out and neither us wanted to be the one to get up and drive to the studio to lock the door.  Looking back, obviously I should have been the one to drive to the studio that day.  However, to my surprise, Judy abruptly walked out the door left the house without explanation.   Shocked, I stared at my 9-year old daughter Sam who stared back at me. 

Sam asked, "What is Mom so upset about?"

I shook my head.  I was just as confused as she was.  The argument had not been that heated.  I was irritated, yes, but I wasn't angry at Judy.  It wasn't her fault the door was unlocked.  My impression was Judy's mood seemed much darker than the moment called for.  One hour later, Judy returned.  She got right to the point. 

"I want a divorce."

 

My first marriage in 1984 had not lasted very long.  Pat was an interesting woman.  I could write a book about Pat or I could write a paragraph.  I think I will settle for the paragraph.   Pat had a lot going for her.  Talented woman.  On paper, the marriage was perfect.  The only problem was that Pat liked to argue.  In my opinion there was nothing to argue about.  We had money, we had health, we had jobs, we had security.  We didn't drink, smoke, cheat, or gamble.  What was there to argue about?  Well, jealousy for one.  Which was a shame because I only had eyes for my attractive wife.  However she didn't trust me.  Oh well. 

I married again in 1991 to Judy.  When Samantha was born, I made a solemn vow that I would do a lot better job raising my daughter than my parents had done with me.  Back when I was Sam's age, my parents fought every night for a year.  Many nights I fell asleep crying out of fear and insecurity.  When Sam was born, I vowed I would never put my own daughter through an experience like that. 

Here on Christmas Eve I was 50 years old.  The studio had enjoyed its most successful year in history.  I had reason to believe we were the largest independent dance studio in the country.  That was the good news.  The bad news was success demanded my full attention.  I put every spare moment into handling the details necessary to keep the energy going.  I knew there were serious problems in my marriage.  However, I was so preoccupied with running my business and raising my daughter that the thought of divorce had never entered my mind. 

However, we did argue, I won't deny that.  And when Judy and I argued, Sam hid somewhere and cried.  So much for my vow to never put my daughter through an experience like that.

 

Granted neither Judy nor I were particularly happy at the moment.  However I was one of those 'stick together for the good of the child' types.  In addition, I had a lot of respect for Judy.  She was a good mother and a good business partner.  She deserved a lot of credit for the studio's successful Year 2000.  The romance was gone, but I still considered her a friend.  She had worked hard during our marriage, so I felt a loyalty.  This is why Judy's request had caught me off guard.  However, now that I gave her request some thought, I decided both of us would benefit from being apart.  One minute later I gave her my answer. 

"I will agree to the divorce if I can have joint custody of our daughter."

Judy nodded her assent.  "That seems fair."

Feeling overwhelmed by a sense of failure, I wanted to be alone.  So I grabbed my keys and drove to the studio.  Oh boy, Christmas Eve alone in the giant dark dance studio.  Just my idea of fun.  With nothing else to do, I had plenty of time for reflection.  I'm not sure that was such a good thing.  Throughout the night my ghosts of Christmas Past dropped by to haunt me.  Now I could add the memory of getting divorced on Christmas 2000 to the growing list.

There is no way to wallpaper over a divorce and disguise the ugliness.  As I sat alone in the dark at the dance studio, I could not recall feeling more miserable.  Not only had I failed in two marriages, I had let my daughter down.  So much for that good old Christmas Spirit. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 977 - SKI TRIP REVELATION

 

January 2001

I suppose word of my separation made its way through the Grapevine.  One day in early January my friend Tom Easley gave me a call.  Tom and I went all the way back to the days of the Winchester Club in 1981.  He met his wife Margaret at the studio in 1987.  They were married the same year. 

Tom got right to the point. 

"Hey, Rick, I need a favor.  I want to go skiing at Lake Tahoe, but I need a roommate.  I heard a rumor you might be available."

"What about Margaret?"

"Margaret doesn't want to go this year.  Why don't you come with me instead?"

Tom's invitation to go skiing was a real blessing.  I needed to get out of town and nurse my wounds.  How funny that Tom should come to my rescue again.  Tom had also been there to save me when my first marriage broke up back in 1986.

 

Tom was part of a large ski group I started back in the early Eighties.  After I handed off the responsibility in 1988, the group continued throughout the Nineties.  Over the years, the ski group had developed a tradition to go skiing together every January.  Virtually everyone in this group of 40 had either met at SSQQ or came with someone from SSQQ.  Not surprisingly, through many shared adventures this group had formed deep and lasting friendships.   Charlie and Beverly Roberts had met at the studio.  Gary and Linda Kryzwicki had met at the studio.  Doug and Sharon Hollingsworth had met at the studio.  Irving and Sharon Carter had met at the studio.  Ted Jones and Margie Saibara had met at the studio.  Tom Easley had met Margaret at the studio.  Six SSQQ marriages on this trip! 

Then there was Ken Schmetter, Michele Collins, Dan Taft, Tom Edens, and Jim Ponder.  This entire week was the SSQQ version of the Big Chill.  Although I knew half the people on the trip from the dance studio, I had not seen most of them in years.  I got goosebumps watching how happy these people were to be with one another.  I noted with quiet satisfaction that my days as 'Leader of the Pack' back in the Eighties had been largely responsible for helping this wonderful group of people connect. 

 

I dealt with a lot of strange emotions that week.  I had once been very close to these people.  Not only was my studio the reason they met, I had organized the ski trips in the 1980s that had led to this tradition getting started.  However, Judy was not interested in skiing, so I lost touch with this group during the Nineties.  Now I was the outsider.

Fortunately it did not take long for the warmth to return.  I had a blast reconnecting with my friends.  Every day I skied with all those couples who had met through SSQQ.  It was just like old times again.  The week I spent with the group was a definite shot in the arm because it reminded me of all the good will the dance studio had created over the years. 

On the other hand, I realized the camaraderie I had created back in the Eighties had not carried over into the Nineties.  I had no one to blame but myself.  I was single most of the time in the Eighties and used my freedom to organize activities.  However, once I got married, I lost my edge.  I would far rather spend time with my wife and daughter than go dancing with the gang on my free nights. 

Well, now that I was free again, I began to wonder if there was something I could do to bring back the Magic of the Eighties.

 


SUBCHAPTER 978 - REKINDLING THE MAGIC

 

February 2001

I suppose every career has its ups and downs.  Of course there is the excitement of making it for the first time.  However, as the years add up, it isn't so easy to bring the heat day in and day out.  As owner of the studio, I was the obvious leader.  To be effective, I needed to participate in as many important events as possible.  However, now that was I teaching five nights a week, private lessons on Saturdays plus two Saturday night parties per month, I was really worn out.  I had Sundays plus two Saturday nights a month to rest. 

People would say, "Rick, come join us at the dance competition this Saturday!  Ted and Margie are competing for the championship.  We would really like to see you!"

I would always decline with some face-saving fib.  They were crazy if they thought I was going to give up my one free night of the week to go watch a bunch of people dance.  Don't get me wrong, I loved Ted and Margie and my admiration for their dancing was off the charts.  However, no matter how much my heart tugged at me to hang with my friends from the Good Old Days, I needed a breather just like anyone else. 

It hurts to talk about this, but I had run into a major problem at this stage of my career.  I called it the 'Seesaw Effect'.  It worked like this... the more miserable I was, the better my studio did.  The happier I was, the worse my studio did. 

I suppose this phenomenon is not as unusual as I thought.  A lot of people speak of the difficulty balancing the demands of career versus the demands of family.  But I resented the fact that I was continually forced to sacrifice personal happiness to serve the needs of my highly successful business.  Any time I participated in a studio-related extracurricular activity, I helped boost the energy of the event.  In other words, the more often I went dancing with the students, attended weddings, went to a swimming pool party, showed up at a dance competition or simply went around saying hi to people at the studio, the more the social side of SSQQ began to click. 

 

However, when I was married to Judy, I cut my activities in half.  Although the dance lesson side of the business still did okay, there was a definite drop off on the social side.  I hated myself for withdrawing like I did, but as the marriage began to fail, so did my enthusiasm for being around people.  I just wanted to be alone, so in the latter half of the Nineties, I ceased being the leader of the pack.  After class, rather than stick around and dance with the students, more often I went home and let my large staff of teachers be in charge of drumming up the enthusiasm. 

So one might say what about V-Ann?  Let her run the social activities!   V-Ann had quit the moment I married Pat back in 1984.  Since she never gave a specific reason, I don't know if V-Ann ever forgave me for breaking up with her best friend Judy Price.  Boy, did I miss V-Ann!  And so did the studio.  In the 17 years since V-Ann had been gone, no one even remotely like her had ever appeared on my door step.  You can pay people to do a job, but you can't pay them to care about it like V-Ann did.  She was irreplaceable, one of a kind.

When I was single during the Eighties, hanging with the In-Crowd of the day wasn't an issue.  I excelled in my Leader of the Pack role because I was lonely and happy to see my friends from the studio on a regular basis.  However, every time I entered a relationship, my interest in playing Leader of the Pack diminished dramatically.  After teaching dance six nights a week, I was a lot more interested in spending my seventh night alone with my girlfriend or wife than I was in going dancing at a Western club with the group.

In short, whenever I was single and miserable, my dance studio thrived.  And when I took time away from the studio to enjoy myself at home, the studio stagnated.   This dilemma set up frequent struggles with my conscience.  Take weddings for example.  Good grief, people were getting married right and left!  Not a month passed without another wedding.  I prayed the latest couple would not invite me, but I knew they would.  I would force myself to attend the weddings because I knew it was the right thing to do, but unless I knew them well, I secretly wanted to be home watching the football game.  I was suffering from an acute case of burnout. 

With this 'hide from the world' attitude, not surprisingly, the social energy at the studio during my marriage in the Nineties was nowhere near as strong as it had been back in the Eighties.  I was well aware of this problem and bitter about it.  Nor did Judy help much.  She was reclusive by nature.  This was one of the major points of tension in our marriage. 

Now it was 2001.  With the divorce, a ten-year chapter of my life was ending.  I was free again and miserable, the perfect situation for the Leader of the Pack to make his comeback.  What would be the next chapter in my studio's destiny?   The January Ski Trip gave me plenty of time to reflect on this issue.  Whenever I had a spare moment, I thought about the distance I had put between myself and the students at the dance studio.  I still taught lessons with enthusiasm, but I no longer got involved in people's lives like I once had.  I was something of a stranger at my own dance studio.  My dance teachers were the current leaders, not me.  Oddly enough, the classes were filled to the brim.  Two successive dance fads, Swing Dancing in 1998-1999 and Salsa Dancing in 1999-2000, had the studio hopping.  I was probably the only person in the world who realized the Spirit of the studio had dimmed somewhat. 

This ski trip reminded me of the good I had done helping Tom's network of friends to form.  Now I wanted to do it again. Since my impending divorce would give me the opportunity to connect to the current generation of people at the studio, I decided the studio needed an adventure.  It was too late to plan a ski trip.  The best time would be this coming summer.  What could I do? 

My mind wandered to a cruise trip.  As an experiment, I had organized a studio cruise trip to Jamaica in 1998.  We had 30 people along, but I did not enjoy the trip much at all.  I remained a hermit most of the time, preferring to read a book, play computer chess or hang out with my daughter Sam.   Barely lifting a finger to get to know anyone on a personal basis, I could not wait for the trip to end.  Still, I had noticed one thing... our guests had a ball dancing every night on the trip.  They also enjoyed the dance lessons I taught on sea days.  A cruise trip seemed to fit well with a group of dancers, an observation that stayed with me. 

 

Well, that was 1998 and this was 2001.  Now that I was single again, I had a free hand to do things my way, so I decided to give a studio cruise trip another try.  What would happen if I opened up a little?   It wouldn't hurt to be more sociable. 

I called Alan Fox, a friend of mine who played basketball with me every Saturday morning.  Alan owned a travel agency.  He was the one who had suggested I offer our first SSQQ cruise back in 1998.  He was more than happy to help me arrange our 2001 Trip as well.

This time I decided to take promoting the trip more seriously.  In February I announced the cruise to every class.  I looked people in the eye and told them how much fun this trip was going to be.  I knew from experience that personal contact worked better than just laying flyers around the studio.  Sure enough, the personal touch worked.  One person after another signed on for the 2001 Cruise. 

As the months went by, the total climbed.  2 joined one day; 3 joined the next.  Our total reached 40 people.  At this point, what started as a pleasant campfire turned into a bonfire.  Now that the idea had caught on, the moment was unbelievable.   We were up to 50.  60.  The number kept climbing. 70, 80, 90.  In the final week, we crossed the Magic 100 threshold.  

I shook my head in amazement.  Wow!  100 guests.  As I reviewed our long list of people, I sat back and smiled with satisfaction.  It had been a long time since I had played Leader of the Pack.  Even though I was now 50 years old, it was nice to know I still had the touch.  What a joy it was to be miserable again!  ha ha ha.  At least I was doing something that made me feel good about myself.  I liked creating energy at my studio.  It was good for business and good for the soul. 
"Welcome back," I said to myself.  

 

Now that I was single, it had been relatively effortless to organize this major event.   When I was married, my trip got 30.  When I was single, my trip got 100.  Here we go again.  As always, I was far more effective at raising the energy level at the studio when I was single.  However, whenever I sought happiness in my private life, the studio energy dropped.  Did I always have to be lonely for the studio to thrive?  There had to be a middle ground somewhere.  But where?

 


SUBCHAPTER 979 -
THUNDERBOLT

 

The first time I ever heard the term 'Thunderbolt' was a scene in the first Godfather movie  Michael Corleone is walking in a Sicilian valley with his bodyguards when he sees a stunning woman cross his path.  Michael is stupefied.  He can't talk.  He can't move.  His bodyguard grins and says, "Michael just got hit by the thunderbolt."

One night at the dance studio, the same thing happened to me.  It was November 2000, one month prior to Judy's divorce request.  A very attractive brunette walked into the room where I was teaching.  The moment I saw her, I stopped breathing.  I had just been hit by the Thunderbolt.  When the lady stopped to ask me where Room 4 was, I stuttered so badly all I could do was point to the room.   After she left, I asked someone what her name was.

Later that night the same lady passed by me on her way out after her class was over.  I took advantage of the occasion to utter some really clever words. 

"Goodbye, Marla!

Marla hesitated, gave me a smile, then kept going.  I trembled as she left.

 

Marla was a brown-eyed beauty with tossed salad brown hair and light brown skin.  Due to her dark complexion, wavy hair and amazing figure, Marla reminded me of actress Gina Lollabridgida.  At the time, her dark skin made me think she was Spanish or Italian.  Turned out Marla was Russian by heritage.  So much for my acute guessing ability.  For some reason, I felt like I already knew Marla, so one night I asked a question. 

"Marla, weren't you in one of my classes a year ago?" 

"Yes, you were the one who insulted me a year ago when I took your Whip class.  You said I moved my hips too much."

"That was you?  You seem different."

"Very observant.  Yes, I am different.  I am in a better mood."

Marla was also 30 pounds lighter.  That explained why I had not recognized her the first time.  It also explains why I noticed her now.  As the French would say, Viva la difference!  

"I apologize if I upset you, but why didn't you come back to class?"

 

"I was not in a very good place at the time, so I took your criticism the wrong way.  But I'm back, so I guess I forgave you."

For the rest of November, I noticed Marla whenever she walked past.  She always took my breath away.  I would watch carefully because she was so good-looking.  Although my strict rule against affairs was in effect, I couldn't seem to get her out of my mind.  In fact, the strength of my desire upset me.  If my head could be turned this easily, there must be something missing in my marriage.  When Marla failed to return for classes in December, I was very disappointed.  However, it was probably just as well.  Temptation is a lot easier to deal with when it is out of sight.  Slowly but surely Marla passed from my mind.

 


SUBCHAPTER 980 - MR. INVISIBLE

 
March 2001

After taking my ski trip in January, I announced my upcoming cruise trip scheduled for August.  Here in March, I was starting to get used to my new life.  Judy and I had managed to remain friends.  The uncontested divorce was on track to be finalized in May.  Judy said she would continue to work at the studio and we had reached an amicable decision on the division of property.  Thank goodness Judy had kept her word on joint custody for Samantha. 

Sam was 9, an only child.  I too had been an only child.  I too had seen my parents divorce when I was 9, so I knew what she was going through.  My heart ached for her.  Our custody arrangement was peculiar to say the least.  We cut Sam in half.  I kept Sam on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  I drove her to school on Wednesday morning and her mother picked her up that afternoon.  Sam stayed with Judy Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  We alternated Saturdays.  I was not at all sure I had done the right thing by turning Sam into a suitcase kid with this strange on and off living arrangement, but it was the best I could think of.  My father had abandoned me after the divorce and I refused to do the same thing to my daughter.

It was strange not having Judy around, but Sam and I got used to it.  She was trying to be brave, but I could tell it was tough.  The saving grace was Duchesne.  I had chosen Duchesne for its strong academics only to find out it had a strong nurturing side as well.  Seeing Sam in pain, several teachers took her under their wing.  There was considerable irony at work here.  After my own parents' divorce, St. John's here in Houston was the only thing that kept me going.  Although I was grateful to Duchesne for the help, it angered me no end that my bitter history had repeated itself.  I had made a sacred oath to do a better job with Sam than my parents had done with me, but had failed miserably.  The guilt was overwhelming. 

 

I had no real desire to begin seeing anyone.  I was still far too grouchy.  However, by the time March rolled around I was forced to admit I was starting to get lonely.  Unfortunately there was no one I was interested in.  That changed the moment Marla reappeared.  During the three months she had been gone, I assumed I would never see her again.  But here she is!  I felt an instant thrill.  Realizing she had signed up for my Advanced Swing class, my heart immediately began to go pitter-patter. 

When I got the chance, I asked my dream girl where she had been.  Marla was a sales representative for the kind of items one buys at a gift shop.  Marla explained that every January she had to face an ordeal known as 'Market' where she drove to Dallas for two weeks.  However, now that the dust had settled at her job, she decided to resume dance classes after a three month absence.

I secretly hoped Marla had taken my dance class because she was interested in me.  After all, Marla was the only woman to actually make me sit up and take notice.  Historically, any time I was extremely interested in a particular woman, the interest was reciprocal.  Not this time.  To my dismay, Marla did not pay a bit of extra attention to me during class.  Darn it.  This was not going to be as easy as I had hoped it would.  My self-confidence had been too badly damaged by the divorce to risk letting her know how I felt.  Thrown for a loss by Marla's obvious lack of interest, I retreated to my dance teacher role and spent the rest of March getting to know her during class.

One thing I noticed is Marla always came to the studio alone.  Nor did any man meet her at the studio who might have a claim to her affection.  That was a pretty strong clue that she was unattached.  I also discovered that Marla had a smart mouth.  She and I would engage in friendly banter throughout dance class.  I would tease her and she would tease me right back.  In fact, Marla typically sent whatever jest flying back across the net with more zing than my initial effort.  That didn't bother me a bit.  I liked the fact that Marla never backed down.  Every time I saw Marla, I liked her even more.  I began to wonder if our rapport in dance class would be just as effective on a personal level.  Screwing up my courage, I decided to ask her out.

One day at the end of March, Marla showed up early for dance class.  On the spot, I decided this was my chance.  I immediately felt very nervous.  I had not asked a woman out on a date in ten years so this was a big step for me.  Let me add one other thing.  This was also the first time in ages I had considered asking a woman for a date without being pretty sure of a positive response in advance.  Back during my 'Johnny Angel' days, I had women swirling around and batting their eyelashes.  That was then, this was now.  Marla wasn't batting anything at me, much less her eyelashes.  Marla had never given me a single reason to approach her socially. 

Seeing Marla sit down on a couch, I went over to say hello.  Marla smiled and returned the greeting.  There was an open spot on the couch, so I sat down and began the standard 'Get to Know You' interview.  "What do you do for a living?"  "How did you get into that line of work?"  "Oh, you moved here from California?"  "What do you think about Texas?"

Then I asked what had brought Marla to SSQQ.  In response, Marla dropped a bombshell.  Marla told me her boyfriend Chris had first brought her to the studio a year or so earlier for a Saturday night crash course.  My ears perked up.  There was something about the way she said 'boyfriend' that sounded present tense.  What boyfriend?  Marla had always come to the studio alone.  My next question revealed that Chris was very much in the picture.  When Marla revealed they had been going together for six years, I flipped out.

Six years!?!  Oh shit!  That's a long time.  Actually, that's a really long time.  My heart plummeted with anguish.  Reeling from the bad news, my plans to ask Marla out  faded quickly.  Doing my best to disguise my disappointment, I withdrew from the conversation at the next opportunity.  I was really upset.  Since my recently separation, Marla was the only woman I had met who might stir me out of my doldrums.  But she clearly wasn't available.  Darn it! 

There were other attractive women who crossed my path in this time, but Marla was the only woman I ever considered asking out.  This was my first attempt to try dating again, but it had not gone very well.  After Marla failed to show interest during my recent Interview, I was too insecure to pursue her further or to look around.   I was far too hung up on Marla to open myself up to other women at the studio.  In no mood to face rejection, I went back into my shell and went through the motions.  Every day was just another day.

I was single, but I wasn't alone.  I had a nine year old daughter who I enjoyed spending my free time with.  As I thought about Sam, I realized whomever I brought into my life would need to click with her as well.  For the time being, it was less complicated to avoid getting serious about anyone.  However, let's face it, the real reason I did not look at other women was due to my crush on Marla.  Every time she showed up at the studio, she showed up alone.  That was so suspicious that I wondered if there were problems in her relationship.  Finally I couldn't take it anymore.  The next time Marla showed up for class early, I conducted Interview Two.  Same results.  Marla showed no indication of interest plus she spoke of Chris again several times.  I shook my head in despair.  Marla's discouraging news about the boyfriend didn't give me much hope. 

But then she would show up alone the next week.  Not only that, she acted like she was unattached, so my hopes would rekindle.  However, due to the mystery of her availability, I was completely lost on what to do next.

 


SUBCHAPTER 981 - A CURIOUS DEVELOPMENT

 

April 2001

Here in April, I was pleased that Marla had re-enrolled up for my next Swing class.  However she still failed to show any interest in me.  Frustrated, I sat around brooding.  One day in mid-April there was a development.  To my surprise, my travel agent called to report someone named Marla had just signed up for the August dance cruise.  My eyes widened.  No kidding?

"Did Marla sign up alone or did she have a partner?"

"She signed up alone.  I've already assigned Sherry as her roommate."

Well, I'll be darned.  This nugget confirmed my instincts that Marla really did have one foot out the door.  I immediately decided to try Interview Three.  The next time I saw Marla, I welcomed her to the upcoming cruise and used this opportunity to chat with her a little longer than usual.  To my surprise, Marla acted like it was no big deal.  If there had been a breakup, there was no sign on her face that I could tell.  Confused, I probed for more information. 

"You know, Marla, we have more women than men on this trip.  Is there any chance your boyfriend will be signing up?"

Marla shook her head.  "I doubt it.  Chris prefers land trips.  For example, last year we went to Costa Rica.  Since Chris doesn't care much for cruise trips, I thought it might be fun to go on this trip by myself and hang out with my new friends."

 


I was flabbergasted.  If ever there was a time for Marla to reveal a rift in the relationship, this was it.  No such luck.  I had not detected even a hint of rancor in her words.  My hopes badly dashed, I walked away rather than let my disappointment show.  This was useless. 
Marla's response made it clear I was reading too much into the situation, so I tried to keep her out of my mind.  However, each week I found myself staring at the door waiting for Marla to come to class.  If she skipped a class, I would miss her terribly.  Where is Marla today?  Is she with Chris?  It really bugged me that I was attached to a woman who barely knew I existed.  I hated being so invisible. 

If I had any sense, I would have quit and moved on.  The only reason I continued to hang in there was the mystery of the missing boyfriend.  As the weeks passed, it seemed more and more odd that her boyfriend never came to the studio.  Didn't Chris ever worry Marla might meet someone?   After all, I certainly wasn't the only man who noticed how pretty she was.  I wasn't getting anywhere, but at the same time, my instincts insisted there was a problem here.  On my good days, it seemed to me that Marla did not act like she was attached.  On my bad days, I dismissed my conjecture as wishful thinking. 

Now that Marla was on the cruise, I had an easy opening for our talks.  For the next couple months, Marla and I would briefly chat about the cruise whenever she came to class.  I would sit on the arm of couch to seem less intrusive.  Unfortunately, Chris entered every conversation.  Whenever I probed, invariably Marla would bring him up in response to some indirect question I asked.  Was it my imagination or did I detect a waning of interest?  During our conversations, I noticed there was never any enthusiasm in her voice.  Every time we spoke, not once did I sense a strong commitment to her boyfriend.  I was positive something was wrong.

Unfortunately, to my consternation, Marla kept her personal life to herself.  Not once did she come close to hinting they were having problems.  I was baffled, confused, unsure, perplexed plus any other adjective that means the same thing.  I began to obsess over the missing boyfriend.  My instincts told me her relationship was on the rocks.  But until Marla gave me an opening, I was too scared to take a chance based on a flimsy hunch.  I had always believed if a woman was interested in me, she would find a way to send up a smoke signal.  No such luck with Marla.  She was always friendly towards me, always cordial, but it was a 'formal warmth'.  Not once did she ever signal the slightest romantic interest in me.  Nor was she interested in a friendship.  By her demeanor, I could tell I was not on her radar.  It was painful to accept, but I was her dance teacher and that was as far as it went.  Marla barely knew I existed.

 


SUBCHAPTER 982 - CAT AND MOUSE

 

May 2001

My divorce was final in May.  In addition, Marla returned for the next Swing class.  Now that she was developing friends in this class, Marla was part of the gang.  As long as she continued coming to class, I clung to the hope Marla might someday warm up to me.  However I refused to hurry things along.  They say faint heart ne'er wins fair maiden, but the divorce stripped me of the confidence to make my intentions known.  In my conflicted state of mind, I wasn't about to drop to one knee and declare undying love to a woman who had yet to give me the time of day.  That left me with no choice but to play a cat and mouse game to protect my pride.

Refusing to make a bold move without encouragement, I continued to limit myself to gentle chats whenever Marla came to class.  Unfortunately, our superficial banter revealed little of note.  I remained completely in the dark as to her status.  I hated the fact that my crush was completely one-sided.  I should have given up, but I didn't.  As long as her boyfriend continued to stay out of sight, that left the door open for my hopes to simmer softly.  

I kept looking for a break. Since Marla didn't push me away during our little chats, I felt safe approaching her at every opportunity.  I kept thinking one day Marla would let something slip that would allow me to pry a little deeper.  There was one question I was dying to ask

"Marla, why isn't Chris going on this trip?  Doesn't Chris realize the risk he is taking?  No man in his right mind lets a woman with your kind of looks go on a singles cruise alone!"

However, Marla never gave me the slightest opening to dig deeper.  There was a reason this Cat and Mouse game was going nowhere.  I was the only one who was playing. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 983 - ONE LAST TRY

 

June 2001 

Here at the start of summer, I was starting to get some of my old confidence back despite my confusion over Marla.  As news of my divorce got around, some of the ladies at the studio decided to kick the tires and see if I had anything left to offer.  Unlike Marla, they had no trouble signaling interest.  They asked me to dance with them and seemed to enjoy our trip around the floor.  All I had to do was say the word and my life as the Solitary Man would come to an end.  Unfortunately, we always want what we can't have.  Mind you, Marla didn't flirt with me, but then she didn't appear to be flirting with any of the other guys either.  Marla was a total mystery.

It finally dawned on me that if Marla truly wasn't interested, it was time to move on.  A couple of the ladies at the studio were starting to turn my head.  But first I had to give it one last chance.  As if on cue, Marla showed up an hour early for class one night in June.  Her work day had ended early and it was easier to come sit at the studio than drive all the way home and back again.  The moment I saw her walk in, I was instantly on edge.  This was the night.  Enough cat and mouse.  It was time to ask a direct question. 

The moment Marla sat down on her favorite couch, I went over.  Usually I sat on the arm of the couch, but tonight we had enough time to warrant a more comfortable pose, so I sat down next to her.  Marla said hi and I returned the greeting.  I began Serious Interview Four by telling her what number we were up to on the cruise.  Marla smiled at my obvious pride in the growing total.  After some pleasantries, I gulped and plunged forward. 

"Marla, I know we spoke about this once before, but is there any chance your boyfriend will sign up?  Lately it seems like the boy-girl ratio just keeps getting worse.  Is there any chance you could talk him into coming?  We could definitely use a few more guys." 

Note my clever use of misdirection.  Ah, the art of the innocent... and totally bullshit... question.  Let's see if it works.  Marla frowned for a second, then replied, "Well, Rick, here's the problem.  Chris has no interest in dance.  I don't think he would have much fun.  I would rather go by myself and hang out with the new friends I have made here at the studio."  

That was an interesting answer, but it didn't reveal anything.

"Won't he miss you?"

"Yes, but we give each other space.  For example, Chris just got back from his own trip to France with his rugby team.  Now it's my turn for a solo journey.  Chris doesn't care if I go alone.  I guess he knows me too well.  He doesn't worry about me at all."

My heart sank.  This was not the answer I wanted to hear.  I wanted Marla to say this cruise trip was a fiery demonstration of her new-found independence.  But the way she said it, it sounded like Chris was so secure in their relationship he could care less what she did.  I frowned.  What a lucky guy.  Any man who didn't worry about losing Marla to an army of potential Romeos was a confident man indeed.  And with that, I lost all remaining patience.  Right in the middle of our talk, I got up and abruptly walked away without a word.

I had been very rude and Marla had noticed.  During class that night, I saw Marla staring at me in confusion.  Marla had no idea what was going on.  Did she say something to offend me?   All she knew was that I had talked to her for three minutes and then without warning rose to go talk to someone else.  Oh well, there was no point in explaining it to her.  This situation was hopeless.  Marla was simply not available.  End of story.  Time to move on.

 


SUBCHAPTER 984 -
BIDING MY TIME

 

July 2001

I did my best to forget about Marla.  Over the July 4th holiday, I took my daughter on a trip to Northern Virginia to see my beloved Aunt Lynn, a sightseeing trip into Washington DC, plus a visit to Johns Hopkins, my alma mater, in Baltimore, and a kayak trip on the Delaware River. 

When I returned to the studio in July, I continued to see Marla once a week in class.  However my casual pre-class visits came to a halt.  I told myself I had given up on my crush, but who's fooling who?  I still watched her like a hawk whenever she was around.  I wanted to see if she was pursuing any of the men at the studio.  From what I could tell, Marla didn't give anyone much of an opening.  That was good enough for me.  If I couldn't have her, I didn't want any other guy at the studio to have her either.

It helped that I was getting distracted.  Judging by the increased attention I was getting from the ladies, apparently the obligatory waiting period on me was over.  Ever since my separation back in December, the women at the studio had kept a pretty wide berth.  I suppose I was considered radioactive.  No doubt the first woman stupid enough to get close to me would get badly burned.  The cynics suggested it would be better to let some foolhardy woman be the first to incur my wrath and let me get it out of my system, then move in.

 

I didn't blame the women for keeping their distance.  Let's face it, I was damaged goods.  I had failed in two marriages.  I had a well-known temper, a sarcastic tongue, and a tendency to be very moody.  I had a thin skin and little patience for criticism.  One wrong word at the studio and I might be grouchy for the rest of the night.  When I was in a good mood, I was an interesting guy, but 'complicated' as one woman explained it to me.  Plus no one had any idea how long my good mood would last.  I was like an old house.  With some fixing up, I might be worth something.  However, it was going to take a lot of hard work and plenty of fresh paint.

They say there are stages of grief.  Maybe that applies to divorces as well.  For a while, I was crippled, feeling sorry for myself, intensely self-critical.  Despite doing the best I could in both marriages, my best was obviously not good enough.   Now I was in the next stage.  I was angry all the time.  I was angry at myself, I was angry at women, and I was angry at the world.  I was in a 'Never Fall in Love Again' scorched earth kind of mood.  I visualized myself buying a remote cabin in Colorado and becoming a recluse when Sam left for college.  I was cynical about life in general and certainly not ready for another committed relationship.  I admitted I had anger and deep trust issues towards women, but then what divorced guy my age didn't?  The anger helped me maintain a 'comme ci, comme ça' indifference towards women.  Women come, women go.  There would be other women on the cruise trip, so quit worrying about Marla's mysterious love life.  

Yes, I was a failure in love, but I had a few things going for me.  Some women thought I was funny.  I could dance, I had hair and a job.  On the rare night I was not pissed off at the world, I could even be outgoing.  As one woman put it, I was worth a second look on the resale shelf.   Meanwhile, some of my old charisma had returned.  As July progressed, every time I entered the studio, the number of ladies who smiled seemed to increase.  For the first time, I began to smile back.  However I kept it superficial.  I had absolutely no desire to get back into a relationship.  Besides, there wasn't one lady I liked more than the other.  The attention I was getting was plenty enough for now.  And so that is how it stayed for July.

 


SUBCHAPTER 985 - NEVER MAKE YOUR MOVE TOO SOON

 
August 2001

We were getting down to crunch time.  The August 18th cruise was only weeks away and we finally crossed the 100 total.  I was quite pleased with myself.  After patting myself on the back, my mind turned to my chance at romance.  I counted 55 men and 45 women.  With ten extra women on the trip, some fair lady was bound to take a chance on me.  After all, I was a resale shelf superstar.  Hmm.  Who did I have my eye on?  Scanning the list, I circled the names of three women I was attracted to.  There were two women along who were excellent dancers.  One was attached, one was a free agent.  I had my eye on the free agent.  Then there was a woman who was beautiful.  She had shown considerable interest in me, even going to the effort of inviting me to lunch.  At the time I had turned her down due to my interest in Marla, but things had changed since then.  Maybe the Beauty Queen would give me a second chance.  The third woman exuded warmth.  She was really easy to talk to and I always felt safe around her.  Considering how I kept my guard up with most women, the thought of spending time alone with her made me smile.

And then there was Marla, Woman of Mystery.  I did not circle her name, but did add a question mark.  I was amazed to discover that hope really does spring eternal.  Despite six months of disappointment, I still carried a torch for this woman.  Now that I had put nearly two months between me and my June temper tantrum, I realized I had to make a play for Marla on this trip or I would never forgive myself.  Knowing this upcoming cruise presented a golden opportunity, I made a firm vow to seek her out at some point on this trip.  If only for my own peace of mind, I was determined to get to the bottom of this boyfriend issue. 

 

Recently I had seen the romance classic titled An Affair to Remember.  It told the story of two attractive people traveling solo on a cruise.  However, they just happened to be engaged to someone else back home.  They say a woman's heart is in peril at sea.  Ocean waters do strange things to a woman's mood.  How could I forget the sight of pretty Deborah Kerr systematically weaken day by day?  Watching her swoon all over Cary Grant, maybe those legends about romance at sea were true.  By the end of the cruise, Deborah had ditched the man she was engaged to.  Was this an omen? 

If there was one thing I had learned from my many years at the dance studio, there is no such thing as an 'unattached woman'.  Or at least not a woman who looked like Marla.  No matter what woman I was interested in, I would have to win a battle for her heart.  Even if Marla was truly on the level about this six year relationship, now that much of my confidence around women had returned, there was no reason why I couldn't make a play.  Of course I was no Cary Grant, but few men are.  If Cary Grant could steal a babe like Deborah Kerr from her millionaire fiancé, there was always the chance I could pull off a similar coup, especially since this guy barely paid attention to his girlfriend. 

Due to Marla's seeming loyalty, I assumed her virile rugby boyfriend must bristle with self-confidence to take her for granted like that.  Tackling the Guns of Navarone might be easier than winning her heart against a guy like this.  But I was suspicious.  To begin with, Chris did not have an ounce of common sense.  Exposing Marla to temptation at sea was taking a big chance.  In addition to me, there were 30 unattached men in our group.  Knowing that every one of them would ask Marla to dance at some point, no man in his right mind would allow a woman who looked like Marla to go on a singles cruise alone Not only that, who waits around for six years?  That meant one of these two people had cold feet.  If Chris could not wrap up Marla after six years of trying, he should be ashamed.  Now it was my turn. 

Just because Marla had a boyfriend did not mean it was hopeless.  Okay, so I had some serious competition, but I was ready now.  Back in March, I did not have the fight in me to pursue her without encouragement.  Here in August I was much stronger.  Now that I had regained most of my confidence, I was ready to step up and take a swing.

 

As they say, never make your move too soon.  Here on land, my chances of prying Marla away from the mystery boyfriend were remote at best.  The ocean was a different story.  Since the cruise ship would be powerful turf for me, the percentage play was to wait for this upcoming opportunity. 

Even if Chris was for real, I had three powerful advantages on water.  One, I would have four days and five nights to make my case.  Two, I was the respected leader of 100 guests.  Three, at some point, I would invite Marla into my arms for a dance.  If that didn't grant me an audience afterwards, then nothing would.  Furthermore, assuming it was true what they say about sea breezes and moonlit nights, if I could get Marla to be alone with me, maybe she would let down her guard and hear me out.

There was a part of me that refused to believe Marla was nearly as attached to this Chris guy as her party line indicated.  My instincts insisted this whole Chris thing was bullshit.  Driven by a need to know the truth, I made a vow to find some way to isolate Marla.  If I could not have Marla for myself, at the bare minimum I wanted to know the secret of Chris' magic hold as a consolation prize.  Otherwise I would never get over this frustrating crush. 

With the cruise just one week away, I was very optimistic.  But then, out of the blue, something went terribly wrong.  In a flash I suddenly realized my daydreams were a total waste of time.  It was hopeless. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 986 - CRUSHED

 

August 2001

With the cruise trip two weeks away, on a Monday morning Marla phoned me.  Immediately my pulse began to race.  We had never talked on the phone before.  What was this all about?

"Rick, I need your help.  Chris and I are going to Miami this coming weekend.  Chris sells insurance and won the trip in a contest.  Chris promised to take me to a Salsa club in Miami.  I know it is short notice, but I want a private lesson for me and Chris so we can learn to dance to Salsa music.  Would you be willing to teach the lesson?"

I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.  I could not breathe.  I could not believe my bad luck.  Marla's Miami weekend was a mere seven days before the cruise.  March.  April.  May.  June.  July.  August.  Six months of obsession over this woman had just gone flying out the window.  Just when I had reached the conclusion that Chris was hanging on by a thread, Marla's request made it crystal clear this guy was a lot more in the picture than I previously believed.  Not only that, now Chris was even willing to learn to dance!  I was absolutely devastated. 

Lost in my disappointment, I didn't know what to say.  But there was one thing I was sure of.  There was no way in Hell I was going to do this private lesson!  

Why beat my head against the wall?  I wasn't about to sit there for an hour teaching Marla's boyfriend while I was going nuts with jealousy!  Seeing him touch her, there was no possible way I could hide my feelings under those circumstances.  Despite my unrequited crush on Marla, so far I had not made a fool of myself.  The crush was still my little secret, but it wouldn't stay a secret for long if the three of us were in the same room together.  The vision of Marla in this guy's arms was too much to take.  I needed to preserve my dignity at all costs.

"I'm sorry, Marla, but I am not much of a Salsa instructor.  Let me recommend Martin.  He's on the cruise trip with us and maybe you've met him.  He is a very popular Salsa instructor."

 

Marla said she would give Martin a call, so that was the end of the conversation.  After hanging up, I leaned forward and buried my head in my hands.  For the past six months I had operated under the assumption that Marla was using this cruise trip as an excuse to hit the Exit Door.  All this time I had been hoping that Marla was ready to move on.  Unfortunately, this Miami phone call changed everything.  The news that Marla's relationship was alive and doing well left me stunned.  Marla was flying to Miami for a romantic weekend just days before our cruise departure!  Well, that did it.  All fantasies were gone, every remaining hope was dashed. 

The following week was blue.  Now that Marla's Miami trip with her boyfriend had put a damper on my dreams, I moped around the house.  I was so depressed.  Damn it, this really hurt.  I was crushed.  Maybe some girl would take pity on me, maybe not, but it wasn't going to be Marla, that's for sure.  And with that, I threw in the towel.  Marla was history.

 

MAGIC CARPET RIDE, PART THREE

Chapter TWO HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE: 
THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT

 

015 030 045 060 075 090 105 120 135 150

INTRO

COINCIDENCE PSYCHO HUBRIS MOONDANCE CATASTROPHE TREACHERY DR. HILTON CHILDHOOD DIVORCE

001

002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009 010
TERRY ABANDONMENT ST. JOHN'S TWO MOTHERS BLUE CHRISTMAS COSMIC STUPID BALLANTYNES MR. CHIDSEY CHECKMATE MR. SALLS
011 012 013 014 015 016 017 018 019 020
LEPROSY PAINT IT BLACK NEW IDENTITY LOSING MY MIND LITTLE MEXICO COLLEGE PLEDGE MR. MACKEITH CHEATING CRIME SPREE THE ABYSS
021 022 023 024 025 026 027 028 029 030
THE VISITOR MARIA B. TWILITE ZONE REVELATION SCHOLARSHIP BENEFACTOR FINISH LINE GRADUATION PROM QUEEN HEARTBREAK
031 032 033 034 035 036 037 038 039 040
JOHNS HOPKINS COMPUTERS KILL SHOT QUAKER MEETING MAGIC MYSTERY EDGAR CAYCE ASTROLOGY RIDERS STORM GOOD BAD LUCK DATING PROJECT
041 042 043 044 045 046 047 048 049 050
LOSING STREAK TIE ME 2 A TREE HIT THE ROAD BEGINNING WILD SIDE GREAT DEBATE LIFE SCRIPT LOVE POTION RIVER OAKS 7 ROCK BOTTOM
051 052 053 054 055 056 057 058 059 060
INFERNO REMATCH HELEN DILEMMA GLORIA MARK RACHEL INTERVENTION ALICE STRANGER
061 062 063 064 065 066 067 068 069 070
FARMHOUSE LOVE TRIANGLE MORLOCK MANIMAL CELESTE INVISIBLE MAN KATIE BLACK JACK WANDERER LOST YEARS
071 072 073 074 075 076 077 078 079 080
GODZILLA PATSY ROSALYN SARAH ELENA YEAR OF CAT RUBAIYAT OPPORTUNITY S.N.FEVER CROSSROAD MAGIC CARPET JET SET CLUB
081 082 083 084 085 086 087 088 089 090
GUESS WHO? GODFATHER KINDNESS TALE 2 CITIES BROTHER SISTER GEORGE PISTACHIO CLUB ONE STEP AHEAD SCREAM ERIC
091 092 093 094 095 096 097 098 099 100
INTERVENTION THE MASTER THE RITZ MARIAN FAREWELL JENNY COLD WAR CLASS FACTORY TEMPTATION KAREN
101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110
NANCY BEAUTY CONTEST VICTORIAN AGE THE SECRET THE PRINCESS HALLOWEEN TITANS CLASH VENUS DYNAMO THANKSGIVING
111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120
BELLE OF BALL DIVA WARFARE COUNTDOWN DANGER LIAISON TIRADE PANDORA'S BOX GUILT LIES DECEPTION CAMELOT
121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130
COWBOY VICIOUS SPRING AFFAIR BAD MOON CORONATION CATFIGHT SCORCHED EARTH DEVIL DANCE CACTUS CLUB ADIOS
131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140
SPATS MAIN EVENT COLD FEET LIGHTHOUSE DANCE CURSE MOONLIGHT MAD CURSED AGAIN JENNIFER DESPERATION CLAY FELKER
141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150
THE OUTCAST MIRACLE WORKER MEYERLAND CLUB LEAP OF FAITH MEDUSA BOMBSHELL MADAME X CASABLANCA U-TURN FREE WILL
151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160
BRONCO BILL LIMBO UNHAPPY B-DAY FOOL ON HILL THE POSSE SMOKE MIRRORS IDES OF WALTZ THANKSGIVING PLATO'S CAVE LYNCH MOB
161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170
NOOSE TIGHT FRIGHT NIGHT GREAT ESCAPE NINE LIVES POT OF GOLD DECEMBER BLEAKNESS DUMB LUCK ROLLERCOASTER ROCK BOTTOM
171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180
EVOLUTION LIMBO TWO MOUNTAINS TGIS SURPRISE! LINDA SHULER BONFIRE URBAN COWBOY COMMUNITY TOOTHACHE
181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190
STILL CHAINED WAR ZONE MAD SCIENTIST ACAPULCO LEISURELEARNING EXODUS GHOST TOWN CHARLOTTE FAILURE INSIGHT
191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200
WESTERN SWING CLOSED MINDS SYNCHRONICITY WINCHESTER WILLPOWER CRAZY JANE HOTLINE NITE 2 REMEMBER WALTZ KINGS IMMORTALITY
201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210
SLEEPING BEAUTY RECONCILIATION HALLOWEEN TERROR AFTERMATH KARMIC DEBT PARTING SILVER LINING FAREWELL LEADERSHIP
211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220
MATCHMAKER DANCE CURSE HELEN OF TROY COMEBACK MIDNIGHT          
221 222 223 224 225          
                   
 

   TIMELINE

   2001: August  Marla calls to say she and her boyfriend are taking a romantic trip to Miami just days before the cruise trip begins, I get my hopes dashed
   2001: July  I take my daughter Sam on a trip to the East Coast, Upon my return, Marla still does not know I exist
   2001: June  Marla continues to show no interest in me whatsoever
   2001: May  My divorce is final
   2001: April  Marla signs up for the August Cruise by herself
   2001: March  Marla returns to the studio after a three-month absence, I dismayed to find Marla has a boyfriend of six years in the picture
   2001: February  I announce a Caribbean Cruise Trip to take place in August
   2001: January  Judy Archer asks for a divorce, Ski Trip to Lake Tahoe with Tom Easley
   2001  
   
   1984: April  Hazel runs into Victoria at the airport, then calls me to discuss it (93)
   1984  
   
   1983: September  Gordian Knot accident where Judy and I became Siamese Twins during our Waltz performance (92)
   1983: July  Doug Humme and Ava King get married, The Stampede of Marriages begins
   1983: Matchmaker  
   
   1982: October  Judy Price and I begin dating at the Halloween Party
   1982: July  I assume complete leadership of the studio
   1982: June  Victoria and I end our four year relationship, Limbo is over
   1982: May  Victoria resigns her position at the studio
   1982: April  An imbalance of men and women in dance class shows me how to make my studio much better
   1982: March  I hire V-Ann Noblitt to be the SSQQ Social Director
   1982: February  Jann decides to move on, I begin running SSQQ all by myself, the Winchester Club closes, Texas and Dallas take its place
   1982: January  Victoria and Michael celebrate the New Year together, Michael moves home but has a rocky first month, Jann and I have another long talk
   1982: Transformation  
   
   1981: December  Michael decides to move home, SSQQ becomes Houston's largest dance studio
   1981: November  Jim Fogo's Halloween photographs create a sensation (91), Jann and I have a long conversation about Victoria and Fate at the studio
   1981: October  Halloween Party from Hell
   1981: September  Jann is curious why I avoid her
   1981: August  Victoria's therapist dies, Victoria realizes how important Michael is to her and tries to Reconcile
   1981: July  Victoria goes ballistic and chases off Susan
   1981: June  Michael's Madame X appears, Jann carries the ball while I mend
   1981: May  The Waltz Kings, My dance studio gets it name - SSQQ (90)
   1981: April  Jann Fonteno creates the Hotline, Night to Remember
   1981: March  Crazy Jane, Cotton Eyed Joe incident with Jeremy and Big Bubba, Jann Fonteno makes her debut
   1981: February  Victoria gets her divorce, Romance Rodeo at the Winchester Club (89), Victoria dates Vincent, Ammonia makes her move
   1981: January  Western Synchronicity (88)
   1981: Western Synchronicity  
   
   1980: December  Emily's tumor treated at Texas A&M, Meditation on Closed Mind, Jennifer visits for the last time
   1980: November  Herb Fried cracks the Riddle of the Double Turns (87), Western Swing gets its name
   1980: October  Victoria's therapist Charlotte takes ill,  Failure to solve Riddle of the Double Turns
   1980: September  Acapulco, Ammonia begins her pursuit, Leisure Learning (84), Eviction by Stevens, Exodus to Dance Arts (85),
 Lance Stevens' Karmic Punishment (86)
   1980: August  Collision of Two Worlds intensifies, Single turns and Double turns are spotted, the Riddle begins, I turn down Taylor's offer
   1980: July  Victoria becomes Sweetheart of the Rodeo, War Zone: Hostility on Houston's crowded dance floors
   1980: June  Urban Cowboy Premiere, Victoria substitute teaches for me during Hospital Week, Jim Barrett
   1980: May  Field Trip to Gilley's
   1980: April  I teach my first TGIS class of 125, A Bonfire erupts as the TGIS Era begins
   1980: March  I spend every Sunday in March promoting my upcoming TGIS class
   1980: February  I meet Linda Shuler at TGIS (83)
   1980: January  Country Crossroad (81), Meditation on Dumb Luck, 100 Class Factory Western Registrations, Chump of the Year Panic,
 
Jennifer decides to leave Houston, Rock Bottom,  Evolution of Western dancing begins (82), Limbo, Lance Stevens Reversal of Fortune
   1980: The Western Era  
 
   1979: December  Risky decision to teach Intermediate Western class in January,  Jennifer turns down ski trip, Kramer vs Kramer at Christmas
   1979: November  Joanne says goodbye, Stevens Twostep class begins, Smoke and Mirrors, Michael moves out, Thanksgiving Showdown with Jennifer,
 Plato's Cave (79), the Ides of Waltz Conspiracy, Fright Night, Great Escape (80), Phone call to Class Factory re teaching Western
   1979: October  Madame X and Ultimatum with Victoria in coffee shop, Victoria's Speech, Twisted Casablanca (77), Victoria's Destiny Letter, U-Turn Week,
 Meditation on Free Will and Cosmic Stupidity (78), Joanne's Gift,  Fool on the Hill
   1979: September  Stay With Michael Speech, Labor Day Weekend with Jennifer (74), Return of the Outcast, Helen Keller Dance Lesson, Victoria asks to move in,
 Lunch with Jennifer's family, Meyerland C&W class (75), Coffee Shop Blackmail Threat, Karmic link to Victoria (76), Jennifer's Bombshell
   1979: August  Moonlight Madness, Darya's Swimming Pool lecture on Adultery leads to Sacred Oath, Karate Chop at Annabelle's (73)
   1979: July  Rick meets Earl (70), Negotiations, Cold Feet, Playboy comment, The List, Siege Mentality, Lighthouse Accident  (71), Foley's Accident (72)
   1979: June  Rick visits dreary Cactus Club with Joanne, Clear Lake Seven, Sugar Creek Country Club, Joanne tells me Adios at Annabelle's.
 European Arrangement Conversation,  Patricia's Split Lip at Spats (69)
   1979: May  Rick meets Bob (67), Scorched Earth, Dance with the Devil at La Madeleine, Accidental Affirmation Discovery (68), Travolta & Urban Cowboy
   1979: April  Meyerland Club Disco class, Backgammon Backstab, Joanne quits and turns to Country, Tuesday morning private lessons with Glen,
 Victoria's Coronation, Clash of the Titans II, Patricia's Riot Act
   1979: March  Spring Affair Dance Party, Joanne gets the Cold Shoulder treatment
   1979: February  Cowboy opens, Vicious Rumors, Joanne visits Gilley's
   1979: January  Countdown to Disaster Synchronicity (66): Patricia's Bombshell, Dangerous Liaison, Joanne's Appearance at Pistachio, Victoria's Tirade,
 Inquisition, Devil's Bargain regarding Patricia, Camelot
         1979: The Year of Living Dangerously  
   
   1978: December  Dance lessons with Glen Hunsucker, Joanne wins Battle of the Disco Divas at Victoria's Pistachio Christmas Party (65), Rock Star Argument
   1978: November  Patricia evaluates our Potential, Victoria plans her December Pistachio Party, Thanksgiving from Hell, Candace Gray
   1978: October  I break up with Nancy, Victoria's Secret, Princess Patricia, Victoria's Halloween Party, Clash of the Titans
   1978: September  Victoria makes herself my assistant, Joanne becomes my Karmic Responsibility (64)
   1978: August  Gangster Dance class, Belly Dance class, Marilyn at the Jet Set Club, Karen, Victoria, Nancy, Summer of 78 (63)
   1978: July  Marian (58), Farewell to Patsy Swayze, Gaye as a Godsend (59), Jenny, Cold War with Stevens and Cliann, Ritz Silver Lining (60),
 Class Factory (61), Stevens' decision to rent rooms to me for group lessons (62)
   1978: June  Crisis Four: The Ritz Disaster (57)
   1978: May  Crisis Three:  The Advanced Disco class begins, my worst nightmare Eric appears,  Eric's Cosmic Stupidity (56), Rick's Revelation
   1978: April  Crisis Two:  Intermediate One Step Ahead Ordeal, I begin work to create the Advanced Disco class, Scream in the Night
   1978: March  Crisis One:  The Great Partner Dance Crisis (55), Gary-Stevens-Suzy-Sue Ann-Janie help me create the 'New Yorker' partner dance system
   1978: February  Jet Set Club, Mrs. Ballantyne's surprise visit to Stevens of Hollywood (53), Sam Maceo's Simple Act of Kindness, I help Dr. Ballantyne (54)
   1978: January  Spotlight Effect (50), Incompetence Effect (51), Crossroad Synchronicity (52), Nicholas at Courses a la Carte, the Boss from Hell
 

1978: The Disco Era Soars

 
   
   1977: December  Saturday Night Fever debut, Robert Stigwood Synchronicity (49)
   1977: October  Opportunity Three: Disco Line Dance class at Stevens of Hollywood (48)
   1977: September  Opportunity Two: Disco Line Dance class at Memorial JCC
   1977: August  Graduation Night at Rubaiyat (47)
   1977: June  Opportunity One: Disco Line Dance class at the JCC
   1977: April  Bomb Scare class: substitute dance class in JCC parking lot (45), I write a line dance syllabus,  Rosalyn's Gift of summer dance class (46)
   1977: February  Dancing with Elena at the Rubaiyat
   1977: January  Sarah
 

1977: The Magic Carpet Ride begins

 
   
   1976: December  Christmas lunch with Rosalyn
   1976: October  Rosalyn's line dance class at JCC
   1976: September  Patsy Swayze explains I do not have enough talent to join her dance company
   1976: April  Patsy Swayze's jazz class
   1976: January  Lance Steven's Whip demonstration at Stevens of Hollywood, Roberta's request for me to take over her class (44)
 

1976: The Lost Years

 
   
   1975: December  Becky announces she is discontinuing her line dance class
   1975: November  Becky and I perform the Sidecar acrobatic lift
   1975: October  Gaye's Intervention starts my comeback (43), Godzilla plays volleyball
   1975: September  I meet Gaye Brown-Burke at Vocational Guidance Service, Precognitive fantasy regarding Cruise trips (42),
 I meet Ted Weisgal at Sundry School, Becky's Line Dance class
   1975: August  Katie Disaster at Melody Lane (40), Mark says goodbye (41)
   1975: July  I meet Katie at the Sundry School Ballroom class
   1975: April  Disco Dave ends his class, Celeste at Phoney Baloney Dance Studio (39), Morlock Dominates Rice Volleyball
   1975: March  Lucky Break at Rice University (37), Manimal (38), Second Office Club Dance Breakthrough with Celeste
   1975: February  River Oaks Seven vanquished (36)
   1975: January  Farmhouse, Mark's Love Triangle
 

1975: The Lost Years

 
   
  1974: December  Juicy and Lucy, Talk to Elena Project, Mark meets Sean, Stranger in a Strange Land
  1974: November  Rachel (33), Casa Mark Party, Mark and Donna's Dance Intervention (34), Alice in Wonderland Synchronicity (35)
  1974: October  Swimming Pool encounter with Gloria (32), Mark
  1974: September  Dilemma, The Prize
  1974: August  Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
  1974: July  Courtesan Book (26), Stalled Car Incident at Yolanda's house (27), Drag Queen Lynn (28), Dance Path Synchronicity (29), Rejection Phobia,
 River Oaks Seven, Disco Dave, Dance Class from Hell, Parking Lot Inferno, Karmic Test of Fire (30), Magic Mirror (31)
  1974: June  Couch Catatonia at the Clark's house
 

1974: Return to Houston, The Lost Years begin

 
   
  1974: May  Dismissed from graduate school
  1974: April  I teach my experimental Psychology class
  1974: March  Christine, Negative Self-Image, Debbie, Dr. Hilton's Intervention (25)
  1974: February   Learned Helplessness, Point of No Return, Epic Losing Streak Begins
  1974: January   I begin five months of therapy with Dr. Hilton, Jason takes me under his wing, Dating Project begins
  1973: December   Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa (24)
  1973: November   Showdown in Fujimoto's office, Vanessa makes one excuse after another
  1973: October   I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (23), My Love Affair with Vanessa begins
  1973: September  I start classes in the Clinical Psychology program at Colorado State University, Butting heads with Fujimoto
 

1973-1974: Colorado State

 
   
  1972-1973  Arlene, Mental Hospital, Letty the Mental Patient
 

1972-1973: Interlude 'Gap' Year

 
   
  1971-1972:
  Senior at Hopkins
 Disillusionment with Magical Mystery Tour due to problems at Colvig Silver Camp during summer of 1972, Decision to become therapist
  1970-1971:
  Junior at Hopkins
 Camp Counselor Daydream (22), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  1969-1970:
  Sophomore at Hopkins
 Kansas City Carol, Aborted transfer to Rice, Connie Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Strange Warning at the Graduate Reading Room (19),
 Susan and the Witch Revelation at Quaker Meeting, Yogi from India, Bob Hieronimus,  Magical Mystery Tour,
Astrology eye injury (20),
 Séance with Vicky, Ghost of Terry (21)
  1968-1969:
  Freshman at Hopkins
 Dating frenzy fails, Emily Taxi Coincidence at the Train Station (18), Car stolen in December, Sanctuary at Aunt Lynn's house,
 Night School Computer class
 

1968-1972: Johns Hopkins

 
   
   Summer of 1968  Senior Prom Cheryl (17), Final Bill at SJS, Heartbreak with Terry
   1967-1968: 12th Grade  Move to new house, Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Mother's child support blind-eye (11), Christmas Eve blowup with mother,
 Little Mexico,
Father gives me the Edgar Cayce book at Christmas, Foot in the Door Strategy, Father's $400 insult, Cheating in Chemistry,
 Off Limits Chemistry Restroom, Caught cheating in German (12), Caught Stealing Gym Clothes, Jones Scholarship lost to Katina, The
Abyss,
 
Mrs. Ballantyne and I fail to connect at SJS for 9 years (13), Fateful Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne at Weingarten's parking lot (14),
 Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins, Senior Year Blind Spot (15), Mr. Murphy's Prediction, Close Call Car Accident (16)
   1966-1967: 11th Grade  I buy a car with Weingarten's money, Defiant 'Rick', Arguments with Mr. Murphy
  1965-1966: 10th Grade  Locker Room fight with Harold, Neal's sucker punch trick comes in handy (08), A set of weights appears (09), George Broyles is paralyzed,
 Second skin operation, Father denies third skin operation, Mr. Ocker and Weingarten's (10), The new 'Rick' identity forms
  1964-1965: 9th Grade  Profile of SJS Headmaster E.K. Salls, Acne Attack (06), Basketball strike on swollen face (07), First skin operation
  1963-1964: 8th Grade  Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, quit 8th Grade basketball team, Granted full scholarship to SJS,
 Neal the drunk taxi driver, Kern Tips football book (04), Discovery of chess book (05), Summer Basketball Project
  1962-1963: 7th Grade  Uncle Dick pays my tuition at SJS, Illness at Boy Scout camp leads to invisibility, I feel I no longer belong at SJS, Caught stealing candy bars
  1961-1962: 6th Grade  Mom's suicide attempt at the bayou, Terry runs away in Hurricane Carla, I pray to be given a different mother, Blue Christmas (03)
  1960-1961: 5th Grade  Dad remarries, My curiosity with the St. John's Mother's Guild leads me to focus on Mrs. Ballantyne, I learn to play chess
  1959-1960: 4th Grade  Divorce, I attend St. John's, Mom falls apart and hits the bars, My dog Terry keeps me glued together, Dad abandons me for  his mistress
 

1959-1968:  St. John's

 
   
  1955   Cut my eye out (01), Near Death with Stock Car (02)
  1949   Born in Philadelphia
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