DESTINYSIXEXTRA
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I suppose it helps that Charles Dickens writes very amusing stories.  Yes, his plot twists border on unrealistic, but the Reader eventually gets so distracted they either forgive or forget the absurd coincidences that drives each novel.  For example, Thomas Carlyle, a Dickens contemporary, referred to Dickens' plot in Great Expectations as "complete nonsense," then turned around and greeted each fresh installment with "roars of laughter."  Yes, the coincidences go on and on, but no one seems to care.  In other words, if the story is fun, then people don't mind Coincidence at all. 

Why stop there?  In Great Expectations, young orphan Pip meets two unusual people.  One is an escaped convict named Magwitch who intimidates the boy into supplying him with food and a file to break his chains.  The other is an elderly spinster named Miss Havisham who demands Pip keep her company.  Pip later comes into a great fortune from a secret patron.  Of course we all believe the benefactor is wealthy Miss Havisham, but it turns out to be the convict who inexplicably took a shine to Pip.  By coincidence, surprise surprise, at the end of the book we learn that Miss Havisham and Magwitch are represented by the same lawyer, Mr. Jaggers.  Now isn't that interesting?  This whole time we expected Miss Havisham was the good guy, but it was the convict.  Oh no, Dickens has fooled us again!  Who would ever suspect that an escaped (and recaptured) convict would turn out to be wildly rich?  For that matter, how curious that in a city as large as London Magwitch would have the same lawyer as Miss Havisham. 

 

 

 

Rick Archer's Note:

The problem with writing a book about Fate is the significance of an event is difficult to know in the present tense.  More often than not, when something out of the ordinary takes place, the truth is not revealed until much later.  The Kierkegaard quote addresses this issue.  Life can only be understood backwards.  Therefore it is a blessing to be 70 years old as I write my story.  Thanks to my age, all the weird events of my youth make so much more sense as I understand my life in reverse.  

The key story in Chapter One was the surprising link between the Leap of Faith, my peculiar decision to dedicate myself to dance lessons, and the remarkable Magic Carpet Ride which ensued three years later.  I cannot emphasize enough how often I questioned my original decision to continue dance lessons.  I figured it would take six months.  Wrong.  I remained completely in the dark for three years.  Why did I ever agree to such a stupid idea?  What is the point of this folly?  So much for my dubious belief regarding Intuition. 

But I never quit!  I stubbornly assumed that eventually I would use dancing as a way to meet girls.   And guess what?  Believe it or not, the day would come when my dance skills guaranteed I would never be lonely again.  In fact, dancing would actually help cure the mental illness that plagued me following Colorado State.  But we will save that story for another book.  What is important for now is the girlfriend I hoped for never appeared for three long years.

Instead I was handed a career.  Imagine my surprise when Saturday Night Fever magically rescued Disco from its dying embers.  Swamped with students, I knew immediately something very special had taken place.  It could not be an 'accident' that I had just spent the past three years preparing to meet this unexpected opportunity.  Once I saw the connection between the movie and the Leap of Faith, it became crystal clear my Blind Faith had taken me down a very special path.

We never know the Impact of an event until further down the road.  Without context, one event is meaningless.  However, once the Big Picture is in place, then a minor event such as the Vanessa paperback takes on far greater importance.  Vanessa, of course, was the woman who destroyed me back at Colorado State.  Of all the names in the world, I had just picked up a book on how to meet girls only to discover it had been dedicated to a woman named 'Vanessa' with the inscription "Who's sorry now?"

Everyone has heard the expression 'Writing on the Wall'.  I was convinced this coincidence was no accident.  However, if the paperback had stood alone, it would be nothing more than an easily dismissed coincidence.  So what if Vanessa's name was in the dedication? 

However, given the acne and my problems with Murphy, Fujimoto, and Vanessa, we see how my difficulties at Colorado State created an extreme state of desperation.  With perfect timing... the lowest moment of my life... out of nowhere a strange book appears with an interesting suggestion.  Would that be enough to convince people in the existence of Fate?  No.  However, when we add the remarkable Stepping Stones which followed, this insignificant paperback coincidence suddenly emerges as THE TURNING POINT OF MY LIFE. 

God definitely has a flair for the dramatic.  First God sends me reeling at Colorado State, then keeps me in suspense for all those years with pointless dance lessons.  Now comes the surprise payoff.  As far I was concerned, my accidental dance career was more than enough to reinforce my belief in God forever.  However, maybe there are still a few skeptics out there, so why stop now?  I have an endless supply of strange stories to share. 

In Chapter One, we learned that a three year dance project followed by a series of Stepping Stones led to Saturday Night Fever which in turn catapulted me to the Magic Carpet Ride.  In this chapter, I will cover the strange details surrounding this amazing stroke of fortune. 

 


Karma
 

 
As far as I can tell, little is known of Cosmic Blindness.  Consequently, there are people who go around hating themselves for damage caused following the inexplicable breakdown of their better judgment.  Unfortunately, I do not believe we can outwit Fate.  Due to my experience with Victoria, I believe there are times when I am not in control of my own mind.  Since I resent the idea of being manipulated beyond my awareness, I pay close attention to each unusual detail of my life.  Whether this works or not, I cannot be sure, but I will say I have not had another serious case since Victoria left my life.  Nevertheless, I still feel vulnerable.  The way I look at it, if I do my best to stay alert and something goes wrong despite my best effort, then at least my conscience will be clear. 

Over time I have developed a deepening conviction that my hunch about Fate is right.  That raises an uncomfortable question.  Is everything Predetermined?  Deep down, I still feel like I have Free Will, just not all the time.  There will be key events that are unavoidable, but I believe I have the freedom to choose my next move to each situation.  Along the way, I have gotten in the habit of asking God for guidance whenever I am unsure what to do next.  That seems to work.  Acting in accordance with Divine Will, I have come to feel very blessed.  But here is the problem.  Very few people approach their life with a daily eye to Fate and even fewer imagine their minds can be tampered with. 

 
 

I am convinced in the existence of Reincarnation because it explains things that otherwise make no sense. 

For example, given the Bible says we have only one chance to get it right, why would God make it easy for some to reach Heaven and difficult for others?  It is fairly obvious that some people get all the breaks while others seem cursed.  One would expect a fair and loving God to create a level playing field for all, but if we only have one chance, then why make it easy for some and hard for others?  I prefer to believe in Reincarnation because it gives everyone as many tries as necessary to get it right. 

Only one problem.  No one has ever heard of my theory.  Marla was flabbergasted when I explained it to her.  Skeptical at first, Marla came on board the day she suddenly remembered the Gypsy Prophecy 18 MONTHS LATER.  Marla stared at me in shock, then exclaimed, "How on earth could I forget a thing like that?"  Hmm.  I wonder.  I think a lot of people are like Marla and Victoria.  They screw up, make a mess of their life, then wander around trying to figure out what came over them to behave so irrationally.  I find support for my theory based on the many peculiar phrases in our language.

• "Love is Blind."

"What was I thinking?" 

• "What did I ever see in that man?"

• "I must have been out of my mind."

• "I must have lost my mind."

• "It completely slipped my mind."

• "I had some sort of brain meltdown."

• "I should have known better."

• "Love is the Triumph of Imagination over Intelligence."

• "How could I forget that?"

• "I must have a screw loose in my brain."

• "I am usually pretty good about remembering things like that."

• "Temporary insanity."

• "How could I miss something that was right in front of my nose?"

• "Brain-washed."

• "I don't know what came over me."

• "How could I have been so stupid?"

• "Marry in haste, repent at leisure."

• "The Devil made me do it."

• "I was such a fool."
 

Based on the frequency with which these phrases occur, I think many people notice that once in a while their brains take the day off with unfortunate results to follow.  However, since it does not happen all that often, people like Marla and Victoria tell themselves "Oh well, it's just one of those things," then shrug it off.  However, some mistakes are too serious to be ignored.  One day a person commits the worst error of their life, something like dismiss a dangerous radar warning or ignore repeated warnings of nearby icebergs.  Now they've really screwed up!  They are doomed to spend the rest of their lives hating themselves for their senseless mistake.

Don't you think people would feel a little better if someone told them they never had any choice in the matter?  After Oedipus murdered his father and married his mother, he learned the truth.  Mortified by his actions, Oedipus put his eyes out and spent the remainder of his life wandering the wasteland as a blind beggar.  From the King who saved Thebes from a monster known as the Sphinx to Blind Beggar.  Did Oedipus really need to punish himself to that extent?  After all, Oedipus had no choice in the matter, so why hate himself? 

This is why I refused to hate myself after Doorstep Night.  Yes, I regretted my involvement and my heart went out to all concerned, but I didn't see the point in blaming myself.  I had done the best I could to avoid the situation.  I even went to the extreme of praying for this not to happen.  If someone tries as hard as they can to do the right thing, but comes up short, there's no reason to go off the deep end like Oedipus.

On the other hand, it was impossible not to feel sadness for Victoria and Michael.  For example, let's say a deer runs across my path at night.  Even though I am going the speed limit, I am unable to stop in time.  The deer is in tremendous pain as it dies slowly.  Even though this accident was not my fault, of course my regret at the deer's suffering is intense.  That is part of being human.  In the case of Victoria, I felt a responsibility to atone for my participation in her nightmare.  That is why I sacrificed my own happiness for three years while I did my best to help Victoria return to her senses.  But I did not hate myself.  Instead I invested my sadness into a desire to help repair the damage. 

I am sure other people besides me have noticed there are times when their Better Judgment goes missing in action.  However, since the concept of Cosmic Blindness is not part of our culture, we are raised to automatically turn to Psychology for an explanation when our judgment malfunctions.  A lot of what we believe boils down to how we were taught to think as children.  For example, it might come as a surprise that people raised in Eastern thought are taught to accept Fate and Karma as an immutable part of Life.  But here in the West, we are taught to interpret unusual events using a different Reality.  It might be time to question that Reality. 

My guess is Cosmic Blindness is so rare that most people never even notice it.  Like I said, I can only count 4 times in my life when I made a mistake seemingly caused by Blindness.  If it had not been for the utter incredulity I felt over the loss of my common sense when Victoria came knocking, I probably would have overlooked the other situations.  But how many people have an experience as weird as Doorstep Night?  The ultimate mystery was to understand why Victoria ruined her life by chasing me.  Why would she choose me over Michael after repeatedly stating her preference for him?  During the three years it took to help Victoria recover, my loneliness forced me to look for answers.  My unusual experience explains how I came to view Reality far differently than the average guy.  And what about you?   Now that you have read the Gypsy Prophecy, are you confident the way you view the world is the way it really is?

 

According to the tenets of Reincarnation, each new lifetime continues the thread of one's previous life.  If you make a mistake in one lifetime and escape punishment, chances are you will pay for it in the next.  For example, in the Biblical tale of the man who was blind at birth, Jesus hinted this was his Punishment from a previous lifetime. 

As for Genius, how do we explain Mozart who showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood?  Already competent on keyboard and violin, Mozart composed at the age of five and performed before European royalty at age 6.  Henry Ford had said, "Some seem to think that Genius is a gift or talent, but it is the fruit of long experience in many past lives."   I agree.  To me, Reincarnation is the simplest answer for many of the gifts we have at birth.  How else do we explain what a great dancer I was?  (Just kidding.)   

The Mystics claim we typically Reincarnate with souls we have known before.  I believe this.  No doubt my mother and father will accompany me in the next lifetime for further fun and frivolity.  Maybe this time I will get to be the parent.  I can't wait to give them a taste of their own medicine.  (Just kidding.)

People have asked if Fate and Cosmic Blindness can be used to excuse or justify our worst mistakes.  I say yes and no.  In the privacy of our own thoughts, I think the concept of Fate can help us accept the dark side of the Human Condition.  So I cut my eye out with a knife.  Maybe I cut someone else's eye out in a previous lifetime.  Who can say?  So I engaged in a senseless Affair with Victoria.  Perhaps that too was Karma carried over from a previous lifetime.  Since we are not privy to developments in past lives, we have no idea why these things happen to us.  I prefer the concept of Reincarnation because it offers an explanation for painful tragedies that seem so unfair.  It is small comfort to think Karma is responsible for innocent children who die of cancer, but it is comfort nonetheless.  I contend Reincarnation puts a sense of justice into Life's Hardships that is severely lacking in the One Life to Make it to Heaven scenario.   

I think a belief in Fate can help us better accept our most senseless mistakes.  However, in the public arena which we refer to as Reality, Fate cannot be used as an Excuse for harm done to others through criminal and immoral behavior.  Accept Responsibility, learn your lesson, do not try to escape your punishment, do not make things worse, and do your best to find a way to atone for the damage.  In my case, I vowed never to repeat my Affair, a vow I have kept.  In addition, I made sure to atone for my mistake with Victoria.  I dedicated three years to help Victoria put her life back together.  Failure and mistakes are part of life.  How we deal with those mistakes gives us our chance to show character.

There is not a shred of doubt that Victoria and I possess a strong Karmic tie.  No matter how much I bitch and moan about how she mistreated me, the bottom line is I don't know how I would have ever achieved the success of my studio without her training.  How can I not feel indebted to her?  The gratitude I feel is the same gratitude a father feels towards the mother of his child. 

 

Because of what Victoria did for me, I was glad to return the favor in my own small way.  By sticking by her side while she wandered lost in Wonderland, I helped her come to grips with her senseless mistake.  I might add this service was good for my soul as well.  I viewed my willing companionship as a form of atonement.  Whenever my Realistic Side insisted I had been tricked, trapped and deceived into this Affair, the Mystic Side of my mind reminded me this event happened for a reason.  Therefore I felt a responsibility to stick around and help clean up the mess. 

I am glad I did because my three years of observation were instrumental in helping me form my theories on Fate and Cosmic Blindness.  These observations became yet another benefit of my Limbo Captivity, the best of times and worst of times.  The theme of this chapter is that Hardship comes to all of us at some point.  It is inevitable that we will make mistakes.  The stupid people run from it, lie about it and try to shirk responsibility.  Richard Nixon comes to mind.  The smart ones admit their mistake, apologize, and do everything in their power to make amends.  Do the right thing and clear the slate as best you can.  Or, if you prefer, you can always deal with it in the next lifetime.  I don't know if I will see Victoria again, but Mom and Dad are already penciled in.

So what's your verdict?  If my story was Fiction, would you buy this book?  Tell you what, before you make up your mind, let's follow this Dickens on Steroids theme.  Charles Dickens built his writing career on Coincidence.  We already know Science does not like Coincidence.  As it turns out, Literary Critics don't like Coincidence either.  Critics dismiss Coincidence as the sign of sloppy, unimaginative writing.  Why not invest some real thought and try writing a believable story? 

Coincidences are held in such low regard there are actually college courses on how to put lipstick on an unlikely Coincidence and still get the book published.  One trick is to put the Coincidence early enough in the story that the Reader may eventually forget how absurd it is.  Another trick is to use Coincidence to create a mix-up that turns into a farce.  A little laughter makes people more forgiving of implausible plots.  A third trick is to openly admit the Coincidence is so far-fetched, no one will ever believe this.  A Reverse Sales Pitch.  The fourth trick makes the characters so stupid they don't have the ability to realize how ridiculous these crazy plot twists are.  If the characters are blind to their circumstances, the Reader may not object as much.  Another suggestion is to limit the number of Coincidences.  Most Readers, they say, are willing to accept one Coincidence per novel.  Using that guideline, some would say 100 Coincidences is a bit excessive.  However, the best suggestion was to make the story interesting.  Gee, what an original thought.

The problem for writers is that Coincidence turns out to be a very helpful way to create an interesting plot.  Charles Dickens is considered the supreme practitioner, a dubious compliment.  Dickens must have had a very thick skin.  He was repeatedly condemned by literary critics for his dependence on unlikely events to move the story along.  Fortunately, Dickens did have a knack for interesting stories.  Although many of his twists were unrealistic, his stories were so good that his Readers overlooked the absurdity and enjoyed the ride.

 

History is littered with skeptics quick to deny the validity of new concepts.  And mankind is chock full of people who prefer not to question.  How can a guy enjoy football on Sunday with troubling thoughts like Precognition and Cosmic Blindness rattling around?   Robert Anton Wilson, Oscar Wilde, Aldous Huxley, Jim Morrison, and William Blake all said the same thing: Open your eyes and Wake Up!

It is not wrong to be cautious when faced with new ideas.  That makes sense.  What I find upsetting is the arrogance and demeaning attitude that goes along with knee-jerk intolerance.  When it comes to cutting-edge concepts such as Telepathy, Coincidence, Telekinesis and Precognition, today's scientists could well be making the same mistake as the close-minded doctors who condemned Pasteur and Semmelweis.  I disparage the human tendency to keep Life as simple as possible.  If Fate and Paranormal phenomena are part of our existence, it behooves us to learn as much about the Rules of the Game as we can.  Through careful Observation, we have a chance to discover there is more to this world than meets the eye. 

 


Between Two Lips

 

Following Victoria's departure from my life, for the next 30 years, I knew nothing but success.  At one point, the studio was likely the largest in the country.  Not bad for a man who started at the bottom.  Only one problem.  I let that success go to my head.  As they say, Pride is present at every downfall.  This set the scene for yet another Epic Failure.  And, as before, there was a Silver Lining. 

God threw me a serious curveball late in my life.  It doesn't take a degree in Psychology to guess I took immense pride in running the dance studio to the best of my ability.  I saw SSQQ as my mission in life.  Consequently I was very sad when my dance career came to premature end in 2010.  The final six years of running the studio were marred by the presence of a new landlord who did everything in his power to get rid of me because he wanted my space.   The new landlord confiscated half my parking lot for his own use.  Many students were forced to park a mile away to attend class.  This was particularly galling because the parking needs of his daytime hospital and my nighttime dance studio did not overlap.  Seeing all those unused parking spaces at night made me furious, especially since he hired a security guard to make sure those spaces stayed empty.  The lack of parking cut so deeply into our finances that I didn't dream of continuing once my lease expired in 2010.  So I sold the studio instead. 

Unfortunately my relationship with the man who bought my studio was very contentious.  He had the nerve to sue me twice because he said the small classes I taught at a church and in my home violated my non-compete clause.   At the cost of several thousand dollars, my lawyer made it clear the new owner didn't know what he was talking about, so he back down.  But the damage was done. 

Two years after I retired, the non-compete clause went away.  Still smarting over the way the new SSQQ owner had treated me, I could do whatever I wanted, including opening a new studio if I wished.  By coincidence, on cue a golden opportunity to teach again appeared out of the blue.  I could not believe my good fortune.  To me, this lucky break was exactly the same sort of thing that had often happened to me back at the start of my dance career.  Aha!  Just like the good old days.  On the other hand, I was perfectly content with teaching a couple nights a week.  I still liked to teach, but I had no desire to run a new studio.  However, given the positive omens surrounding this opportunity, I believed God wanted me back in the game.  I accepted the offer specifically because I thought that is what God wanted me to do.  As His dutiful servant, I honored the wish.

I was in for a surprise.  To my astonishment, despite my advantages, my comeback failed miserably.  So why did I fail?

Half-hearted effort?  No.  I worked hard. 
Inexperience?  No.  I had 32 years of experience. 
Lack of publicity?  No.  I was the best known teacher in the city with an email list containing 20,000 names. 
Bad reputation?  No.  I ran my former studio in a highly ethical manner. 
Poor politics?  No.  I had solid backing from several well-known business partners in the dance community. 
Underfinanced?  No.  The studio was already there.  All I had to do was pay a very low rent. 

We could go on, but we don't need to.  Under normal circumstances, there was no earthly reason I could not pick up where I left off.  What bothered me was seeing my comeback fail due to a deeply-suspicious series of bad breaks.  Whatever could go wrong, did wrong.  In particular, the final blow was a definite kill shot.  I will save the details for later, but it was a cruel moment that left me deeply humiliated.  Subjected to wide-spread public scorn, I closed the doors and went into hiding.  Mighty Casey had struck out.

As failures go, other than wasting six months of my life, there was no real loss of money.  As for my self-esteem, it remained pretty much intact.  I knew I had given my best effort, so why feel guilty?  I have always believed if you do the best you can, then why kick yourself for coming up short?  Besides, my previous experience had taught me that a lot of the time success is deeply dependent on luck and timing.  And that brings me to my point. 

Mostly I was very hurt.  I felt abandoned by God.  To begin with, I had only resumed my dance career because I believed this was what God wanted me to do.  Given that this opportunity had a 99% chance of success, I could have sworn God had sent a clear message that this comeback was something I was meant to do.  So why pull the rug out from under me?  Due to my history with Supernatural events, I knew instinctively that several of these bad breaks had the earmark of Divine Interference.  If God had left me alone, I would have done just fine.  But I could not overcome sabotage.  It was shocking to reach the conclusion that God had intended for me to fail. 

Several months passed as I licked my wounds.  Still upset over my lousy outcome, every day I asked myself why God would want me to fail.  One day as I nosed around Google, I ran across a page filled with quotations on Fate.  I noticed one quotation in particular.  It was an Arabic saying attributed to Imam Ali, successor to Prophet Muhammad. 

"Life consists of two days, one for you and one against you.  When Life is for you, do not be proud or reckless.  When Life is against you, be patient.  For both days will be a Test for you."  -- Imam Ali

Right below was another Arabic quote taken from the Qur'an, better known to Westerners as the Koran.

“What is meant for you will reach you even if it lies beneath two mountains, and what is not meant for you will never reach you even if it lies between your two lips.” 

This quote stunned me.  Back when I had at most a 1% chance of success, I had succeeded against all odds thanks to a series of lucky breaks.  But when I had a 99% chance of success, I failed miserably.  This Arabic quote encapsulated my experience to perfection.  I had been so certain my comeback would succeed, I could taste it.  Not once did it ever cross my mind I would fail.  But fail I did.  In fact, I failed so miserably there could be no doubt God was making a point.   So now I asked myself what that point might be. 

The first quote had warned against Pride during the times that Life is for you.  Convinced I had received this rebuke due to my Pride, I began to reflect on the meaning of 'God-given talent'.  For the past 30 years I had used the success of my dance studio as a way to bolster my ego.  In fact, I had laughed at all the missteps of my successor as a way to demonstrate my superiority.

 

And now my laughter had boomeranged on me.  Now that I was forced to confront the facts, it occurred to me I had done little to deserve feeling superior.  Given the kind of breaks I received, I imagine lots of people could have done just as well as me, maybe even better.  With my success handed to me in the same way that some people are born Royal, what gave me the right to feel so damn talented?  Lucky, maybe, but not special.  My recent failure made it clear that it was God's Will that had allowed me to succeed, not my own ability.  This was a very humbling thought indeed. 

Stripped of my conceit, from now on I would be wise to worry less about showing off my ability.  A better use of my talent would be to help make the world a better place.  In other words, use my talent to honor God.

Since God obviously didn't want me to extend my dance career, I was in need of a new project.  I was reminded of another J.K. Rowling quote.  She said when a person is given far more than he or she needs, we have a moral responsibility to give back.  That struck home.  I had long felt an obligation to share my stories with others.  So far I had hesitated due to the fear I would open myself up to widespread criticism, perhaps even derisive scorn. 

But how could I overlook all my unusual experiences like the Gypsy Prophecy?  I had over 100 incidents that raised suspicion.  Now that God had gone to great lengths to subject me to this array of far-fetched events, I was practically a Poster Boy for the existence of Fate. 

Now that one door had closed, maybe this was a message to begin writing my book about Destiny.  People have the ability to learn and understand without having a direct experience.  Through imagination, they can visualize themselves into another person's shoes.  Why not share what I learned in the process of facing my obstacles?  A good place to start would be to remind people than Failure is not always as bad as we think it is.

I assume God has a purpose for all of us.  Suppose God wanted me to write a book about Fate.  Better yet, what if God wanted me to write a CONVINCING book about Fate?  Given the handicaps facing me, who would have ever thought I would one day create the largest dance studio in America?  By now, it should be obvious there is NO WAY I had the talent to become successful in a profession for which I had no natural ability.  And how exactly was I supposed to succeed given my crippling emotional problems?  Nevertheless, things broke right time after time to allow my improbable rise.  Along the way, every time I passed a new test, my confidence grew.  To my amazement, over time I turned from a prickly introvert into an outgoing, friendly person.  Incredibly, my dance career had healed all those childhood scars.  From a cursed life to a charmed life.  Charles Dickens would have been proud of my storybook ending. 

I cannot prove that Fate exists.  What I can do is share my curious stories and let you decide whether or not you agree Fate plays an inescapable role in our lives.  Given where I started compared to where I ended, even a confirmed skeptic might begin to wonder if there is something to my contention that I had Divine help every step of the way. 

At some point... maybe this chapter, maybe the next chapter, who knows when... I hope the Reader will reach the conclusion that while it is hard to believe in Coincidence, Lucky breaks, Predestination, Blindness and so on, eventually it becomes very difficult to believe in anything else but Fate.

 
 


LIST OF SUSPECTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS

   001

Suspicious

Unlucky Break
Coincidence
1955   Rick cuts his eye out by foolishly pulling knife in wrong direction
  Rick's mother causes him to panic by calling at the worst possible time
   002

Serious

Coincidence 1956   Rick's sudden impulse to play arcade game saves Rick and his father from Death at Stock Car accident
   003

Suspicious

Lucky Breaks 1959   Father's affair leads to Rick's education at St. John's, Rick's special relationship with Mr. Chidsey leads to full
  scholarship
   004

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness 1961   Rick's Mother loses her mind and causes near-death experience at Blue Christmas
   005

Suspicious

Coincidence 1963   Rick wins the Kern Tips football book in drawing
   006

Suspicious

Coincidence 1963   Discovery of chess book helps Rick defeat Taxi Cab driver Neal at chess
   007

Serious

Unlucky Break
Cosmic Blindness
1964   Rick's Mother mysteriously fails to take him to doctor following serious acne attack
   008

Serious

Coincidence 1964   One in a million Basketball strike on Rick's swollen face
   009

Suspicious

Coincidence
Heartfelt Wish
1965   Neal's sucker punch training allows Rick to defeat Harold in shower room fight. 
  Shortly after fight, an inexpensive set of weights appears out of nowhere
   010

Serious

Lucky Break
Coincidence
1966  Rick is in Right Place at the Right Time.  Mr. Ocker runs into Rick at grocery store and offers him a life-altering job.
   011

Serious

Cosmic Blindness
Lucky Break
1967   Senior Year Blind Spot regarding Mr. Salls and my college scholarship to Johns Hopkins
  Ralph O'Connor hands Rick a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University
   012

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness 1967   Rick's Mother forgets about child support, gets blind-sided into a gamble which creates Little Mexico
   013

Serious

Coincidence
Cosmic Blindness
1968   Caught cheating on German test due to amazing coincidence and unbelievable loss of common sense
   014

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness 1968   Despite Rick's obsession, Mrs. Ballantyne and Rick fail to connect at SJS for 9 years
   015

Serious

Coincidence
Lucky Break
1968   Fateful Conversation with Mrs. Ballantyne at Weingarten's parking lot
   016

Suspicious

Lucky Break 1968   Close Call Car Accident
   017

Serious

Coincidence
Heartfelt Wish
1968   The Cinderella appearance of Princess Cheryl as my date for Senior Prom
   018            
   019            
   020            
   021          
   022        
   023

Suspicious

Coincidence
Lucky Break
1973   Portland Woman song coincidence
  Vanessa delivers the lesson and
Jackie explains what went wrong
   024

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness
Lucky Break
1973   Rick's inability to shut up in Dr. Fujimoto's class costs him dearly
  Fujimoto delivers the lesson and Dr. Hilton explains what went wrong
   025            
   026        
   027            
   028        
   029        
   030            
   031            
   032        
   033            
   034            
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   040        
   041        
   042          
   043            
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   060        
   061          
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   071        
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   076            
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   078            
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   080            
   081        
   082            
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   085        
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   087            
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   089            
   090            
   091          
   092            
   093            
   094    Suspicious

   Coincidence
Cosmic Blindness

 1994   Rick's 3 year old daughter Sam falls to the bottom of the swimming pool the moment he turns his head
   095

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness

2001   Marla does not know I exist for six months despite neverending attempts to get her attention.
  Marla is unable to leave a man she does not love even though he mistreats her for six years.
   098

Suspicious

Coincidence

 2001   Marla is in the hallway right outside my cabin the moment I leave following my Dark Night of the Soul
   099

Serious

Synchronicity 2001   Stroke of Midnight Synchronicity: Rick and Marla's Midnight connection at the Disco, Marla's awakening,
  Ashley Rumor misunderstanding, Dark Night of the Soul, Second night coincidence outside Rick's cabin
   100

Serious

Predestination
Cosmic Blindness

2002   The Gypsy Prophecy is foretold by a psychic using Tarot Cards
   098    Suspicious

   Cosmic Blindness
Coincidence

2004
2012

  Aunt Lynn loses her passport prior to joining my Wedding Cruise.  I rescue Lynn.
  I lose my passport prior to my cruise trip to Russia.  Lynn rescues me.
   099            
   100        
 
   052

Serious

Synchronicity
Stepping Stone
 1978   Crossroad Synchronicity: Spotlight Effect, Incompetence Effect, Right Place at Right Time
   051

Suspicious

Synchronicity     Robert Stigwood Synchronicity: John Travolta, Nik Cohn, Bee Gees, Norman Wexler
   050

Serious

Lucky Break
Stepping Stone
 1977   Disco Line Dance class job handed to Rick at Stevens of Hollywood
   049

Suspicious

Lucky Break  1977   Revelation following Graduation Night at Rubaiyat
   048

Suspicious

Lucky Break
Stepping Stone
 1977   Rosalyn's Gift of line dance class at Memorial JCC
   047

Serious

Lucky Break
Heartfelt Wish
Stepping Stone

 1977

  Rosalyn's Gift of summer line dance class at Braeswood JCC
 

   102

Serious

Synchronicity     Angel Bush, Maxwell Mayhem
   101     Suspicious Telepathy    Marla and Rick start singing 'People are Strange' simultaneously for no apparent reason
   100

Suspicious

Coincidence

    Captain Teige Meeting
 

Suspicious

Predestination

    Cruise Ship Prophecy comes to pass (see #42)
   099

Suspicious

 Cosmic Blindness
Coincidence
    Aunt Lynn loses her passport prior to joining my Wedding Cruise.  I rescue Lynn.
  I lose my passport prior to my cruise trip to Russia.  Lynn rescues me.
   098

Serious

Predestination
Cosmic Blindness

    Gypsy Prophecy:  Marla's future is foretold by a psychic using Tarot Cards.  Then her mind was erased.
   097

Serious

Synchronicity     Fairy Tale Synchronicity: Stroke of Midnight coincidence at Disco, Ashley Rumor misunderstanding,
  Dark Night of the Soul, Second night coincidence outside Rick's cabin
   096

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness

    Marla does not know I exist for six months despite my neverending attempts to get her attention
   095   Suspicious Coincidence
Cosmic Blindness
   Rick's 3 year old daughter Sam falls to the bottom of the swimming pool the moment he turns his head
   094

Suspicious

Coincidence

 1984   Hazel runs into Victoria at the airport, then calls me to discuss it
   093

Serious

Strange Accident

    Gordian Knot accident ruins Waltz performance of Judy and Rick
   092

Suspicious

Lucky Break

    Halloween photographs taken by Jim Fogo's create a sensation
   091

Suspicious

Lucky Break     Scott was the muscle-bound guy who unwittingly revolutionized SSQQ by hurting women with his strength
   090

Suspicious

Lucky Break

    SSQQ gets it name
   089

Suspicious

Lucky Break

    Winchester Club creates sensational growth of studio
   088

Suspicious

Synchronicity     Western Synchronicity: TGIS, Dance Arts, QQSS Discovery, Leisure Learning, Winchester
   087

Serious

Lucky Break
Heartfelt Wish
Cosmic Blindness
    Herb Fried cracks the Riddle of the Western Double Turns: QQSS
   086

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness     Lance Stevens receives Karmic Punishment
   085

Serious

Lucky Break     Glen Hunsucker Last Second Rescue to Dance Arts
   084

Serious

Lucky Break     Ted Weisgal hires me to teach for Leisure Learning
   083

Serious

Lucky Break     Rick meets Linda Shuler at TGIS
   082

Suspicious

Lucky Break     Evolution of Western dancing begins
   081

Suspicious

Synchronicity     Country Crossroad: Blindness towards Western, Meyerland Club, Joanne, Fright Night, Class Factory
   080

Serious

Lucky Break     Fright Night
   079

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness     Plato's Cave: Blind resistance to oncoming Western phenomenon
   078

Suspicious

Synchronicity     Clay Felker Synchronicity: Chance visit to Gilley's, Lucky Break to get John Travolta to star in Urban Cowboy
   077

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness     My Affair with Victoria causes me to form my theory of Cosmic Blindness and its relationship to Free Will
   076

Serious

Cosmic Blindness     Twisted Casablanca
   075

Suspicious

Lucky Break     Joanne is in right place at right time to help with Western
   074

Suspicious

Lucky Break     Meyerland Club
   073

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness     Jennifer appears out of nowhere to help with Clear Lake
   072

Suspicious

Strange Accident     Karate Chop Accident at Annabelle's
   071

Suspicious

Strange Accident     Foley's Accident
   070

Serious

Strange Accident     Lighthouse Accident
   069

Suspicious

Coincidence     Rick runs into Earl at Patricia's apartment
   068

Suspicious

Strange Accident     Patricia's Split Lip Accident at Spats
   067

Suspicious

Coincidence     Patricia's accidental Affirmation Discovery
   066

Suspicious

Coincidence     Rick runs into Bob at Patricia's apartment
   065

Suspicious

Synchronicity     Year of Living Dangerously: Joanne steals the show, Rock Star Argument, Patricia's Bombshell, Dangerous Liaison,
  Joanne's Appearance at Pistachio, Victoria's Tirade, Inquisition, Devil's Bargain regarding Patricia, Camelot
   064

Suspicious

Lucky Break     Joanne wins Battle of the Disco Divas at Victoria's Pistachio Christmas Party
   063

Serious

Synchronicity     Battle of the Disco Divas: Interaction of Victoria, Patricia, and Joanne doubles Rick's dance program
   062

Suspicious

Synchronicity     Summer of 78: Marion, Jenny, Marilyn, Karen, Nancy, Victoria
   061

Serious

Cosmic Blindness     Stevens' hasty decision to rent rooms to Rick for group lessons
   060

Serious

Lucky Break     Donna Gordon of Class Factory hands me the break of a lifetime
   059

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness     Ritz Silver Lining: Cold War with Lance Stevens leads to Blindness
   058

Suspicious

Strange Accident     The Ritz Disaster
   057

Suspicious

Synchronicity     The Three Mentors: Patsy Swayze, Gaye Brown-Burke, Rosalyn Lively
   056

Serious

Cosmic Blindness     Eric loses his job after challenging Lance Stevens
   055

Serious

Synchronicity     Partner Dance Crisis: Gary, Stevens, Sue Ann, Janie, and Suzy help create 'New Yorker' partner dance system
   054

Suspicious

Coincidence     Rick helps Dr. Ballantyne save his tropical plant collection
   053

Suspicious

Coincidence     Mrs. Ballantyne appears out of nowhere at Stevens of Hollywood to renew our friendship
   052

Serious

Synchronicity
Stepping Stone
 1978   Crossroad Synchronicity: Spotlight Effect, Incompetence Effect, Right Place at Right Time
   051

Suspicious

Synchronicity     Robert Stigwood Synchronicity: John Travolta, Nik Cohn, Bee Gees, Norman Wexler
   050

Serious

Lucky Break
Stepping Stone
 1977   Disco Line Dance class job handed to Rick at Stevens of Hollywood
   049

Suspicious

Lucky Break  1977   Revelation following Graduation Night at Rubaiyat
   048

Suspicious

Lucky Break
Stepping Stone
 1977   Rosalyn's Gift of line dance class at Memorial JCC
   047

Serious

Lucky Break
Heartfelt Wish
Stepping Stone

 1977

  Rosalyn's Gift of summer line dance class at Braeswood JCC
   046

Suspicious

Coincidence     Weird Bomb Scare at JCC sends Rick's first-ever dance class into parking lot
   045

Suspicious

Lucky Break     Roberta's request for me to take over her class
   044

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness     Becky and I perform the Sidecar acrobatic lift
   043 

Serious

Lucky Break     Gaye's strong intervention lifts Rick out of serious depression
   042

Suspicious

Predestination     Precognitive fantasy in Gaye's office regarding becoming a Cruise Director comes true 30 years later
   041

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness  1975   Inability to invite Katie to join Rick at Melody Lane leads to disaster
   040

Suspicious

Unlucky Break     Celeste at Phoney Baloney Dance Studio
   039

Suspicious

Unlucky Break     Manimal attack at Farmhouse
   038

Suspicious

 Lucky Break
Cosmic Blindness
    Rick uses his volleyball skills to meet Celeste at Rice University
   037

Suspicious

 Lucky Break     River Oaks Seven vanquished
   036

Suspicious

Synchronicity     Alice in Strange Wonderland: Gay Siberia, Casa Mark, Lucy and Jill, Farmhouse, Gloria
   035

Suspicious

Lucky Break     Mark and Donna's Dance Intervention
   034

Serious

Coincidence    Rachel phones Rick with perfect timing
   033

Suspicious

Coincidence     Swimming Pool encounter with Gloria
   032

Suspicious

Coincidence
Heartfelt Wish
    Magic Mirror
   031

Serious

Synchronicity
Stepping Stone
    Dance Class from Hell: Gay Gauntlet, River Oaks Seven, Sasquatch, Disco Dave proposition, Parking Lot Inferno
   030

Serious

Synchronicity     Dance Path Synchronicity: Rejection Phobia, Courtesan Book, Stalled Car Incident at Casa Yolanda,
  Drag Queen Lynn
   029

Suspicious

Unlucky Break     Bedeviling Importance of Rivers Oaks Seven
   028

Suspicious

Messenger     Drag Queen Lynn has a message for me
   027

Serious

Coincidence     Stalled Car Incident at Yolanda's house
   026

Serious

Coincidence     Discovery of Vanessa's name in Courtesan convinces Rick to buy the book
   025

Suspicious

Synchronicity     Epic Losing Streak:  Jason, Learned Helplessness, Point of No Return, Acne Blind Spot, Christine, Debbie,
  Dr. Hilton's Intervention
   024

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness
Lucky Break
    Rick's inability to shut up in Dr. Fujimoto's class costs him dearly
  Fujimoto delivers the lesson and Dr. Hilton explains what went wrong
   023

Suspicious

Coincidence
Lucky Break
    Portland Woman song coincidence
  Vanessa delivers the lesson and
Jackie explains what went wrong
   022

Serious

Predestination
Heartfelt Wish
    Camp Counselor Daydream predicts summer job
   021

Serious

Telepathy     Vickie the psychic and the Ghost of Terry
   020

Suspicious

 Unlucky Break     Astrology eye injury
   019

Suspicious

Lucky Break     Strange Warning at the Hopkins Graduate Reading Room leads to visiting the local Quaker Meeting.
  An unusual suggestion by a stranger leads to Magical Mystery Tour and the end of a serious depression
   018

Serious

 Coincidence     Emily and Eric Taxi Coincidence at the Train Station
   017

Serious

Coincidence
Heartfelt Wish
    The Cinderella appearance of Princess Cheryl as my date for Senior Prom
   016

Suspicious

Eerie Prediction     Murphy's Curse that my rebellious nature would lead to dire consequences
   015

Suspicious

Lucky Break     Close Call Car Accident
   014

Serious

Cosmic Blindness
Coincidence
Lucky Break
    Despite Rick's obsession, Mrs. Ballantyne and Rick fail to connect at SJS for 9 years. Fateful Conversation with Mrs.
  Ballantyne at Weingarten's parking lot
   013

Serious

Cosmic Blindness     Caught cheating on German test due to amazing coincidence and unbelievable loss of common sense
   012

Serious

Cosmic Blindness     Rick's Mother forgets about child support, gets blind-sided into Little Mexico
   011

Serious

Cosmic Blindness
Lucky Break
    Senior Year Blind Spot regarding Mr. Salls and my college scholarship to Johns Hopkins
  Ralph O'Connor hands Rick a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University
   010

Serious

Lucky Break
Coincidence
   Rick is in Right Place at the Right Time.  Mr. Ocker runs into Rick at grocery store and offers him a job.
   009

Suspicious

Coincidence
Heartfelt Wish
    Neal's sucker punch training allows Rick to defeat Harold in shower room fight. 
  Shortly after fight, an inexpensive set of weights appears out of nowhere
   008

Serious

Coincidence     One in a million Basketball strike on Rick's swollen face
   007

Serious

Unlucky Break
Cosmic Blindness
    Rick's Mother mysteriously fails to take him to doctor following serious acne attack
   006

Serious

Coincidence
Heartfelt Wish
    Discovery of chess book helps Rick defeat Taxi Cab driver Neal at chess
   005

Suspicious

Coincidence
Heartfelt Wish
    Rick wins the Kern Tips football book in drawing
   004

Suspicious

Lucky Breaks     Father's affair leads to Rick's education at St. John's, Rick's special relationship with Mr. Chidsey leads to full 
  scholarship
   003

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness     Rick's mother loses her mind and causes near-death experience at Blue Christmas
   002

Serious

Coincidence     Rick's sudden impulse to play arcade game saves Rick and his father from Death at Stock Car accident
   001

Suspicious

Unlucky Break
Coincidence
Cosmic Blindness
    Rick cuts his eye out by foolishly pulling knife in wrong direction. 
  Rick's mother causes him to panic by calling at the worst possible time
 

 

     
 

I was not happy during my withdrawal stage, but as my marriage failed, so did my interest in being sociable and outgoing. 

Throughout my dance career, I had faced a dilemma.  I called it the 'Seesaw Effect'.  Here is how it worked.   Whenever I was miserable, the studio thrived.  Whenever I was happy, the studio barely survived.  Now I realize this is an over-simplification, but there was also a strong kernel of truth to it.

The Seesaw Effect was directly related to the ups and downs of my love life.  Whenever I was alone, I used my free time to hang with the group.  Not only did my presence energize every social event, it also allowed me to scout around for my next girlfriend.  However, whenever I was in a committed relationship, I much preferred to dedicate my free time to the girl I loved. 

Although the Seesaw problem had long haunted me, it became very serious during the Nineties during my marriage to Judy.  Once Sam came along, it was very difficult to tear myself away from my family on weekends to serve the needs of my demanding business.  I suppose this phenomenon is not all that rare.  A lot of people have told me how difficult it is to balance the demands of a career versus the demands of a family. 

 

The Seesaw problem drove me crazy.  Whenever I took time away from the studio to enjoy myself at home, the studio stagnated.  The dilemma set up frequent struggles with my conscience.   Take weddings for example.  Good grief, not a month passed without another wedding.  SSQQ students were getting married right and left!  I prayed the latest couple would not invite me, but they always did.  After all, SSQQ was where they met.  I would force myself to attend the wedding because I knew it was the right thing to do, but unless I knew the couple well, I secretly wanted to keep my precious free time to myself.

However, everything changed when I was alone and miserable.  Night after night I would spend my free time dancing with the students, attending dance competitions, parties and weddings.  That is when the social side of SSQQ clicked.  However, during my marriage to Judy, I cut these activities in half which caused a drop-off.  I felt guilty withdrawing like I did, but the demands of family were a more important use of my time.  Unfortunately, I paid dearly for my neglect.  At the end of 1996, after we paid our remaining bills, we had $500 left in the bank. 

Fortunately, Judy bailed us out.  Thanks to her genius during two successive dance fads, Swing Dancing (1997-2001) and Salsa Dancing (1999-2001), Judy got the joint jumping again.  With the studio filled to the brim and teeming with energy, I was the only person who knew the current social program was no match for the incandescent spirit of the past. 

Business was good, but as my marriage began to fail, my enthusiasm for being around people diminished.  I just wanted to be alone, so as the Millennium approached, I spent less time schmoozing with the students.  After class, rather than stick around to dance a little and make friends, I went home.  It was easier to let my staff of teachers be in charge of drumming up the enthusiasm.  Worse, I became angry and sullen much of the time.  There's a term, 'Death by a thousand paper cuts'.  The studio was teeming with people, all of whom wanted something from me.  A small favor, a small complaint, an idea how to make the studio better, it never seemed to end.  For the most part these were well-meaning people, but I resented every intrusion.  Just leave me alone.  Throughout 2000, I suffered from such acute burnout, I didn't like my marriage or my studio.  The irony was overwhelming. 

Here at the start of 2001, being around my old friends on the January Ski Trip reminded me of how I had helped this network form back in the Eighties.  Now I wanted to do it again.  If I couldn't be happy myself, at least I could try to start enjoying my studio again.  Whenever I had a spare moment, I thought about the distance I had put between myself and the students at the dance studio.  With the divorce, a ten-year chapter of my life was ending.  From the ashes of my failed marriage, the best way to regain my pride would be to come out of my shell and get to know people at the studio.  I decided what the studio needed was an adventure.  After all, that's how this wonderful ski group had formed.  Unfortunately, it was too late to plan a ski trip, so my mind wandered to a cruise trip. 

As an experiment, back in 1998 I had organized a studio cruise trip to Jamaica.  With 30 people along, the trip was mildly successful.  Unfortunately I did not enjoy the trip because it felt too much like work.  So I remained a hermit most of the time, reading books, playing computer chess, hanging out with my daughter Sam.  I could not wait for the trip to end. 

However, I did notice our guests had a ball dancing every night on the trip.  They also enjoyed the dance lessons I taught on sea days.  Indeed, the cruise trip had been so much fun, several people wanted to do it again.  However, due to my lousy attitude, I said forget it.



OBSERVATION LIST 95 AND 96

95:  Rick's Invisibility due to Cosmic Blindness
96:  Stroke of Midnight Coincidence and Synchronicity
 

 

 

 

That said, I realize there is no way to scientifically prove the existence of Fate and God.  On the other hand, I strongly believe in the power of Observation.  As I will continue to point out, many great scientific discoveries started with a keen observation.

 

 

So what makes one coincidence a waste of time while another seems like a potential act of God?  The way I see it, there are three kinds of Coincidences... Mundane, Suspicious, and Serious.  If a Coincidence is mundane, I ignore it and move on.  For example, during our Stroke of Midnight encounter, if Marla and I had danced one dance and she went back to her room, our coincidental meeting would have been mundane. 

Instead Marla hung around for seven hours and poured her heart out in the process.  This powerful interaction had so much 'Impact' that I came to believe this event was Probably Fate.  In my mind, it was DEFINITELY Fate, but, like I said, out of respect for the Reader I will say 'Probably' instead.

Now I had to decide whether this coincidence was Suspicious or Serious.  "Suspicious" implies wiggle room, a Borderline event.  Maybe it is Supernatural, maybe it isn't.  The coincidence of meeting Marla that way was unusual enough to make me suspicious, but I still had my doubts. 

"Serious" is a major Supernatural Event in which my Doubt Level approaches zero.  So what is it that elevates a Suspicious event into the Serious realm?  I examine four criteria... Impact, Probability, Timing, and Context

Impact Given that Marla and I were both on this trip to dance, the Probability of meeting her in the Disco was at best Mundane.  Given the Timing... Midnight... that was pretty strange, but not enough to push the Coincidence into the 'Serious' range.  On the other hand, the 'Context' was off the charts weird.  Here was the woman I had pined for without success.  Here was the woman who did not know I cared for her despite repeated attempts to get her attention.  Context plus Impact elevated this Coincidence into the Realm of Serious.

 

 

As I write, I have passed the age of 70.  I find it very useful to write my story at such an advanced age.  When it comes to Fate, it is only with Hindsight that I am able to see themes emerge that I missed earlier in life.  The impact of many events went right over my head as they were taking place.  However, as I retrace these events, I can see how the puzzle pieces all fit together.  Danish philosopher Sřren Kierkegaard reached the same conclusion. 

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards" -- Sřren Kierkegaard

A book on Fate cannot be written without Hindsight.  Many times in my life I felt something out of the ordinary was taking place, but I could not put my finger on it.  It was only when I viewed the later developments that I understood what had been going on.  I can use my coincidental meeting with Marla to demonstrate this point rather easily.  

In Chapter One of the Gypsy Prophecy, I shared my frustration over Marla's lack of interest.  Over a six-month period, Marla never gave me the time of day.  Did I suspect a supernatural explanation?  No!  You will be pleased to know I don't always suspect a leprechaun hiding behind every tree.  At the time, I was living my life forward as Kierkegaard says we must.  So in this case, despite my frustration at Marla's inability to respond to my overtures, I did not think something out of the ordinary was taking place.

In Chapter Two, I explained my astonishment at Marla's unexpected Cinderella-like appearance at the Disco.  This time I did feel something out of the ordinary was taking place.  However, lacking Context, I did not have enough evidence to conclude this was a Supernatural event.  However, when Marla developed an interest in me, I had my second clue.  When Marla chose to follow me to an isolated part of the ship, I had my third clue.  When Marla explained her relationship with Chris down to the last detail, I had my fourth clue.  When Marla joined me on my lounge chair, I had my fifth clue.  When she kissed me, I was convinced this was a Fated event. 

What was particular interesting during our long conversation that night is when Marla gave me insight into two burning mysteries.  First, she confirmed my gut instinct about her relationship with Chris had been right along.  Despite the fact I was ready to slit my throat after learning of her last-minute Miami adventure, what a relief to know my intuition that there were problems had been accurate all along. 

Second, Marla confirmed my gut instinct that she "should" have been interested in me.  Before you dismiss me for my vanity, let me explain.  This book is not a testament to my irresistibility.  In fact, this book will document many years of utter mediocrity around women.  Fortunately, thanks to my unusual role as owner of a dance studio, I had the opportunity to meet a countless number of women.  Along the way, I finally started to catch on.  By the time I met Marla, I daresay I knew more about women than the average guy.  One thing I learned is whenever I was strongly attracted to a certain woman, she reciprocated to some degree.  Once I caught on to the sort of woman who might be attracted to me, I could at least get to Second Base.  Except for Marla.  Marla stopped me cold at First Base.  Considering how strongly I felt about her, I could not understand why I failed to raise a glimmer of interest. 

For six months I was little better than a mild acquaintance.  Then after meeting me in the Disco, there was a strong chance that Marla might be falling in love with me.  The Before and After contrast was so striking, in Hindsight I began to be suspicious about my previous six months of Invisibility.  Prior to this strange meeting, I had reluctantly accepted Marla was not interested in me.  That is a woman's right.  What I had hard time accepting was that she didn't even know I was interested in her.  Trust me, Marla was no stranger to being approached by men.  A perceptive woman like her always knows when a man is interested.  Except that I never made it onto her radar.  In Hindsight, I concluded her utter obliviousness crossed the line into the possibility of deliberate blindness. 

This is why the Kierkegaard quote is so important.  Marla's indifference to me from March through August was meaningless UNTIL her change of heart during our Stroke of Midnight encounter.  With Hindsight, I had every right to ask if Marla's indifference was part of the Plan.  Given this new context, I concluded my six-month Invisibility was quite possibly a state of Cosmic Blindness on Marla's part. 

 

 


FREE WILL

 

Let us assume for a moment that Fate does exist.  If so, the implications are enormous.  Fate implies there is an unspeakable force far beyond what we know about 'Reality'.  The existence of Fate suggests there are rules to the Game of Life of which we are only dimly aware.  From the moment we learn to walk, we understand the power Gravity holds over our life.  I feel the same way about Fate, except the effects are far more subtle.  Few people have any idea what role Fate plays in our lives.  To begin with, the existence of Fate suggests we may not have as much 'Free Will' as we think we do.  No one wants to think of ourselves as a puppet on a string, but I have reached the conclusion there may be times when our thoughts and actions are not under our own control.  

 

As it turns out, I am not the only one who thinks about these issues.  Aldous Huxley is a celebrated English writer who was nominated for the Nobel Literature Prize seven times.  Huxley wrote extensively about Mysticism.  On his death bed, Huxley dictated an essay concerning the mystical views of William Shakespeare.  Huxley suggested Shakespeare was a Mystic whose plays such as the Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream referenced the Hidden World. 

"All the World's a Stage, and all the men and women are merely players.  They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts."  -- W. Shakespeare

It was Huxley's contention that Shakespeare believed in 'Maya', the Eastern concept that states Reality is but an Illusion.  'Maya' connotes a magic show, an illusion where the things we see appear to be real and present, but are not what they seem.  'Maya' is the mist which prevents us from seeing the Hidden World that parallels Reality.

"In the Tempest, Prospero enunciates the doctrine of Maya.  The world is an illusion, but it is an illusion we must take seriously, because it is real as far as it goes, and in those aspects of the reality which we are capable of apprehending.  Our business is to wake up.  We have to find ways in which to detect the whole of reality in the one illusory part which our self-centered consciousness permits us to see. 

We must not live thoughtlessly, mistaking our illusion for the complete reality, but at the same time we must not live too thoughtfully in the sense of trying to escape from the dream state.  We must continually be on watch for ways in which we may enlarge our consciousness.  We must not attempt to live outside the world, which is given us, but we must somehow learn how to transform it and transfigure it.  One must find a way of being in this world while not being of it."   -- Aldous Huxley, Shakespeare and Religion

 
 

Shakespeare's All the World's a Stage quote can be interpreted in two ways... Realistic and Mystic.  The Realistic interpretation is that we have different personalities to act out different roles.  I am Dad, I am Dance Teacher, I am writing a book, etc.  However, if we ask Aldous Huxley, he would say Shakespeare was referencing the Mystic belief that we act out predetermined roles of our Destiny.  Taken to its extreme, this idea suggests there are times in our life when we are puppets on a string acting out our Fated role (perhaps even all the time).  This is a very radical assertion.  I have thought about it for 50 years and I am still not sure what to believe. 

To most people, Reality is just that, 'Reality'.  To be honest, I sort of feel the same way.  If I scream in pain after a car accident, the last thing on my mind is that Reality is an Illusion.  When it comes to pain, I have difficulty feeling philosophical.  That said, I believe what Huxley says.  Not only am I convinced there is a Spiritual World in addition to our Material World, I am convinced I have a Soul that already knows how things will turn out at each stage of my life.  Meanwhile my conscious self lives my life forward constantly surprised at every new twist of the story. 

So what does this say about Free Will?  

Christian theology claims we have Free Will.  The biblical argument for Free Will lies in the fall into sin by Adam and Eve due to their 'willfully chosen' disobedience to God.  However, if Fate exists, do we have Free Will or don't we?  And if we do have Free Will, what about God's Will?  Although I am hardly a Bible scholar, I at least know the Lord's Prayer.  "Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be Done."

In my attempts to reconcile the contradiction, I believe certain things will happen to us and there is not a darn thing we can do to avoid it, mostly because we don't even know it is coming.  In regards to these events, if there is any Free Will at all, we get to decide how we feel about the event and we get to decide what we want to do about it. 

One thing I do not recommend is a Fatalistic attitude.  This joke explains my point rather well. 

It rained for days and days and now there was a terrible flood of near-Biblical proportions.   The water rose so high that Elizabeth, a devout lady who lived in a remote country house, was forced to scramble to the top of her roof for safety.  Elizabeth was comfortable enough.  She dressed warmly and wore a poncho.   After securing a large umbrella to the chimney for added protection, she was completely dry in the pouring rain.   To pass the time, Elizabeth read her Bible and prayed to be saved. 

As the waters rose higher, a giant log bumped into the side of the house and stopped.  For a moment, Elizabeth was tempted to slide down the roof and grab onto that log.  But then she decided it was too risky, so she stayed put.  Moments later, the log was gone. 

An hour later, a man in a rowboat came up to the house and told Elizabeth to get in.

Elizabeth replied, "No, thank you, kind sir, the Lord will save me!"

After considerable arguing, the man gave up and rowed away.   The waters rose to the edge of the roof, but Elizabeth was unconcerned.  She was convinced God would take care of her.   Two hours later, the waters had risen so high that Elizabeth was forced to put on wading boots lest her feet get wet.  The situation was really bad, but fortunately a helicopter just happened to come by.  The pilot urged Elizabeth to get in now or risk drowning.

"No, thank you, kind sir, the Lord will save me!"

The pilot had no time to argue, so he flew away.   Minutes later, the waters surged dramatically.  Elizabeth climbed to the top of the chimney, but she slipped and fell into the rushing waters.  After drowning, Elizabeth went to heaven where she met God.

"Lord, I don't understand," Elizabeth said, "I prayed and prayed for you to save me.  Why didn't you save me?"

The Lord shook his head in frustration.

"Good grief, Elizabeth, what did you expect?  I sent a log, a boat and a helicopter.  Would it hurt for you to work with me a little bit?"


By my way thinking, Elizabeth is a victim.  Save me, save me.  However, I am hardly blameless.  I had all kinds of terrible things happen to me during my childhood and developmental years.  As we shall see, I was one heck of a screwed up kid.  So when did I stop being a victim?  Oddly enough, my awakening came due to one of the worst defeats of my life.   A couple years after I retired from teaching dance, an unusually lucrative business opportunity fell in my lap.  This offer was too good to be true, so I assumed God must be sending me a message to get back in the game.  In retrospect, that is probably exactly the message I was being sent.  So I dutifully went about setting up a new dance program.  To make a long story short, I failed miserably. 

I also reached another conclusion.  I did fail, but I should not have failed.  So why feel guilty?  I did the best I could!  What more can anyone ask?  Why sit around feeling sorry for myself?  By accepting that Fate is stronger than my own Will, there was no reason to remain a victim.  More often than not, God rewards those who help themselves.  Not always, I thought with a grimace, but most of the time.  So I failed, but I failed because God wanted me to learn important lessons.  First, stop taking credit for all the success.  Second, as long as I do my best, don't feel so bad when I fail.  Three, rather than wallow in pity, get up and try again. 

Okay, got it.  Time to move on.  If teaching dance is no longer my Destiny, now what?  Take a guess what crossed my mind.

As I began to write Magic Carpet Ride, a strange thought occurred to me.  As I reviewed my list of events I thought were out of the ordinary, I was staggered by the total.  Gosh, there sure have been a lot of weird things that have happened to me.  Is it possible my life is stranger than the average person?  If so, could there be a reason?  Here is what I believe.  I believe I have lived a very strange life because it is my Fate to write a very convincing book about the existence of Fate.  With that in mind, let the convincing begin.

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FIRESIDE CHAT -
VOLTAIRE

 
 

Rick Archer's Note: 

What does it take for someone to believe in God?   Most people agree a Big Miracle would do it.  Others say the return of Jesus would be wonderful.  As we know, ever since Jesus departed, Miracles on a grand scale have been in short supply.  If there is one thing people complain about, God stays pretty much out of sight.  Ever since Biblical times, modern audiences have grown skeptical of His existence due to a serious Miracle drought.  If God were to part the Mediterranean Sea or ask Jesus to walk across the Mississippi River once in a while, I think attendance at church would double overnight.  But that is wishful thinking.  I think we can all agree God has kept a low profile since the remarkable days when Jesus walked the Earth.

Maybe we are looking in the wrong place.  Did it ever dawn on anybody that the sinking of the Titanic might be a Miracle?  Or maybe we should call it a 'Reverse Miracle'.  The thing is, no one can figure out why God would seemingly go out of his way to sink this ship.  You can hear the whispers.  "Sinking the Titanic was an evil thing to do."

The sinking of the Titanic was hardly the first time people have scratched their heads wondering what God's purpose is.  For example, in 1755, a terrible earthquake took place in Lisbon, Portugal.  It was the holiest of days, a celebration known as the Feast of All Saints.  The earthquake could not have hit at a worse time.  Faithful believers were attending church.  The tremblers were so powerful that the church roofs caved in, killing the screaming worshippers inside.  A huge tsunami hit and killed even more helpless souls.  The death toll was huge, somewhere around 40,000.  It really upset people to see the atheists survive because they skipped church.  The remaining believers were stunned.  For good reason, their faith in God was badly shaken.  God's loyal followers deserved to be saved! 

 

There was a lot of soul-searching as people tried to understand why God would let this happen to good Christians.  That made sense.  The Lisbon Earthquake was the sort of event that has a way of shaking the faith. 

One man who took the Lisbon tragedy to heart was Voltaire, the French Philosopher.  In Voltaire’s mind, he believed God created man, instilled a sense of good and evil, then stepped back to observe.  Voltaire hated religious fanaticism.  He was disgusted to watch Protestants and Catholics kill each other in defense of obscure religious doctrine they scarcely understood themselves.  Voltaire despised religious leaders who exploited the credulity of believers to maintain their own power base.

Given his heresy and the hostility it generated, it is a wonder Voltaire kept his head during those intolerant times.  Be that as it may, Voltaire spent his life trying to answer this question: "If God is good, why does he permit the presence of evil in the world?

In my case, during college I spent two solid years asking the same question.  My ultimate conclusion is that Fate is part of life and that it is pointless to disagree with God about it.  The bad news about Fate is that going to church is no guarantee the roof won't fall in.  The good news is that if Fate exists, then I assume God exists as well.  However, that brings up another question.  How do I prove to myself that Fate exists?

My answer, of course, was to pay close attention to Coincidence.  To me, there are certain Coincidences that have FATE written all over them.  Of course I would love to see a Big Miracle, but I am willing to settle for lots of small miracles like Coincidences.  Over time, if I pay very careful attention, once in a while something will happen that is so weird it seems like God is deliberately tipping his hand.  To me, a weird event is God's way of reminding me He is still around. 

 
 
Humans like to think we are the dominant species due to our intelligence, but sometimes we can be really stupid.  For centuries, the scientists assured everyone the Earth was flat.  Indeed, many sailors who went with Columbus on his fateful voyage were terrified they might actually fall off the Earth. 

Copernicus proved the existence of human stupidity beyond dispute when he theorized the Earth revolves around the sun in 1543.  No one believed him!  Incredibly, the Catholic Church actually put people to death for the crime of agreeing with Copernicus.  If we fail to challenge our understanding of the Universe every time we find a situation that defies explanation, we cut off any chance to further the progress of human knowledge. 

My reason for pointing out Columbus and Copernicus is to remind the Reader that just because an idea is new and strange does not disqualify it from being true.  Although Cosmic Blindness is a weird theory, I have come to place stock in it.  A review of my Observation List contains 18 examples of Cosmic Blindness during my first 34 years.  At age 34, the mystical events disappeared from sight and my life stayed normal for 17 years.  Then came Marla.  In the space of 24 hours, I came across four instances indicative of Cosmic Blindness.

The first incident of Blindness was Rick's Invisibility followed by Marla's Awakening.  To me, the moment Marla began to see me with new eyes, it occurred to me that she and I were scheduled to connect on this trip.  However, for that timing to work, Marla could not know I existed.  Through Cosmic Blindness, I was hidden in plain sight for the past six months.

The second incident of Blindness was Marla's six-year relationship with Chris.  As she related one story after another how Chris mistreated her, my overriding thought was "Why didn't you just leave him?"  The funny thing is she asked herself the same question. 

The third incident of Blindness began when Marla jumped to the wrong conclusion that I was a sneak and a womanizer.  With her perceptions colored by the Ashley Rumor, Marla saw four examples that day that I was chasing other women in addition to her.  The reality is that I was not chasing anyone but Marla.

The fourth incident of Blindness came when I totally flipped out over Marla's apparent interest in Darren.  The reality is that Marla was hurt because she believed I was playing the field at her expense.  When Marla decided to give me a taste of my own medicine, I bought her performance hook, line and sinker.  Devastated, I was needlessly forced to undergo my Dark Night of the Soul.  

Based on my Observations, I conclude that Fate is enacted through Lucky Breaks such as winning the lottery, Bad Breaks such as accidents, Coincidences such as meeting Marla, and Cosmic Blindness as displayed in the Day of Confusion.  The curious thing about our Day of Confusion is that it was created by the Ashley Rumor.  What an odd coincidence.  First of all, Ashley had no business telling Jane in the first place.  Second, Ashley neglected to tell me she had broken her side of the promise.  Third, Jane, who no doubt had been sworn to secrecy by Ashley, could not wait to spread the news.  Fourth, Jane just happened to tell Marla.  Gee, what a small world.  Fifth, Ashley and Lawrence just happened to be on this cruise.  Sixth, Ashley just happened to be in the morning dance class.  By greeting Ashley warmly, I inadvertently validated Marla's mindset that I was chasing other women.

Our Day of Confusion resembled a plot ripped from Othello or Romeo and Juliet, tragedies caused by serious misunderstandings.  However, there is one major difference.  Othello and Romeo and Juliet are works of fiction.  The Day of Confusion is a true story.  I understand that lies and rumors and gossip are part of everyday life.  However, at an instinctual level, it felt to me at the time that something very strange was taking place in my life.  Once I learned the truth about the Ashley Rumor, in hindsight I believed we consistently jumped to the wrong conclusion because our minds were manipulated by Cosmic Blindness.

Why should I expect the Reader will accept my theory?   After all, Cosmic Blindness is an idea that is unfamiliar to most people.  Furthermore, there are other perfectly good explanations for why Marla and I got off on the wrong foot.  That said, keep in mind that 22 separate incidents in this book cite 'Cosmic Blindness' as a potential explanation for someone's crazy behavior.  The Reader does not have to accept my theory to appreciate the stories.  However, it would help if the Reader at least understands how I arrived at my theory.  For this reason, the time has come to make my case for the existence of Cosmic Blindness. 
 

 
 

The most glaring example of Cosmic Blindness I have ever come across belongs to Captain Smith's decisions on the night of the Titanic disaster.  Poor Captain Smith.  In hindsight, there can be no doubt that Smith's judgment was impaired on the night of the tragedy. But why? Why was he so blind to danger?

After 50 years of maritime experience, Smith was considered the best captain in the fleet.  Yet on the night of the tragedy, Captain Smith appeared to lose his mind.  Smith was so reckless it is not hard to imagine his mind had been rendered blank in a Cosmic way.  Consider the facts. 

Smith had been warned several times by other ships that a thick ice field lay in his ship's path.  Making matters worse, there was little visibility due to the darkness of a new moon.  So why did Smith order his ship to charge full speed into a known ice field at NIGHT?  This ice field was so thick the experts now agree there was no way an accident could have been avoided under these conditions.  Sure enough, research indicates the Titanic may have hit the very first iceberg it came to. 

There have been many explanations over the years.  Here is my take.  Can anyone give me a better explanation than Cosmic Blindness why a seasoned officer like Captain Smith would behave so irrationally?  I contend Smith's common sense may very well have been removed to allow the Titanic to meet its Fate.  The thought that we are doomed to make terrible mistakes is not a cheerful one, not popular at all.  But we may not have a choice in the matter. 

 
 

Rick Archer's Note:

During my long talk about Fate with Marla, she asked one question that I dodged because it was far too controversial.  

"Rick, if I follow your theory to its logical conclusion, we don't choose our partners, our partners are chosen for us."

Unfortunately, I am not spiritually advanced.  Lacking insight, the only answer I could have given was something I once read.  Please keep in mind this is Eastern doctrine; I personally have no idea if it is true or not.  So here goes: The Mystic point of view involves Reincarnation.  The Mystics say our Soul chooses a life script in advance of rebirth.  Therefore, in a sense, our soul chooses our partners well ahead of time, and then our conscious mind thinks it is doing the choosing during the incarnation.  Once we are born, our memory of the Soul Choices is erased and our life unfolds accordingly as our Destiny.  Since our conscious mind has only a glimmer of what lies ahead, most of what happens to us comes as a surprise.  And yet once in a while we have a vague feeling we know what's coming next.

Once we are born, what we call our 'Life' consists of our conscious mind watching a movie starring ourselves written by our Soul.  As our ego wonders what will happen to the main character next, in fact the outcome was determined long ago.  So, yes, we do have Free Will, but only at the "Soul Level". 

This doctrine is understandably very difficult to accept.  For one thing, it implies that every lousy thing that happens to us is something our Higher Being chose for us before birth.  If this concept is true, my guess is we have a lot less Free Will than we think we do.  Not the most cheerful idea. 

On the other hand, I am not willing to base my daily decisions on concepts I openly admit I do not understand.   Since I am pretty much in the dark about these ideas, I go ahead and assume I have Free Will anyway.  I prefer to wake up each morning and assume I have the freedom to plan my day.  Maybe I have Free Will and maybe I don't, but until someone comes along to explain the fine details, I act as if I have the freedom to make my own decisions.  It's the only way I know to enjoy life. 

“A man’s fate is a man’s fate and life is but an illusion.”
James Clavell, Shogun, Part 1

As it turns out, I am not the only one who thinks about these issues.  Aldous Huxley is a celebrated English writer who was nominated for the Nobel Literature Prize seven times.  Huxley wrote extensively about Mysticism.  On his death bed, Huxley dictated an essay concerning the mystical views of William Shakespeare.  Huxley suggested Shakespeare was a Mystic whose plays such as the Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream referenced the Hidden World. 

"All the World's a Stage, and all the men and women are merely players.  They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts."  -- W. Shakespeare

It was Huxley's contention that Shakespeare believed in 'Maya', the Eastern concept that states Reality is but an Illusion.  'Maya' connotes a magic show, an illusion where the things we see appear to be real and present, but are not what they seem.  'Maya' is the mist which prevents us from seeing the Hidden World that parallels Reality.

"In the Tempest, Prospero enunciates the doctrine of Maya.  The world is an illusion, but it is an illusion we must take seriously, because it is real as far as it goes, and in those aspects of the reality which we are capable of apprehending.  Our business is to wake up.  We have to find ways in which to detect the whole of reality in the one illusory part which our self-centered consciousness permits us to see. 

We must not live thoughtlessly, mistaking our illusion for the complete reality, but at the same time we must not live too thoughtfully in the sense of trying to escape from the dream state.  We must continually be on watch for ways in which we may enlarge our consciousness.  We must not attempt to live outside the world, which is given us, but we must somehow learn how to transform it and transfigure it.  One must find a way of being in this world while not being of it."   -- Aldous Huxley, Shakespeare and Religion

 

Huxley's take on Shakespeare suggests there are others besides me who question the nature of Reality.  However, don't come to me for a description of how the Hidden World operates.  As I have stated, I am not a Mystic.  I possess no secret knowledge and I have never seen the Hidden World.  Like I said, I am limited to reading what people such as Aldous Huxley say and digest it as best I can.  The ideas I express are simply my best guess on how things work based on reading, observation and reflection.

Shakespeare's All the World's a Stage quote can be interpreted in two ways... Realistic and Mystic.  The Realistic interpretation is that we have different personalities to act out different roles.  However, if you ask Aldous Huxley, he would say that Shakespeare referenced the Mystic belief that we act out the predetermined roles of our Destiny.  Taken to its extreme, this idea suggests there are times in our life when we are puppets on a string acting out our Fated role (perhaps even all the time).  This is a very radical assertion.  I have thought about it for 50 years and I am still not sure what to believe. 

To most people, Reality is just that, 'Reality'.  To be honest, I sort of feel the same way.  If I have a car accident and scream in pain, the last thing on my mind is that Reality is an Illusion.  And yet that is what Aldous Huxley suggests.  Unfortunately, when it comes to pain, I am unlikely to be in a philosophical mood.  That said, deep down I believe what Huxley says.  Although I regret my inability to transcend the limits of my flesh and blood existence, I am firmly convinced there is a Spiritual World in addition to a Material World.

Huxley contends it is important to 'Wake Up' rather than go through Life unaware that things may not be what they seem.  Huxley is well aware that very few people would ever guess they are acting out 'Scripted Events'.  Huxley laments that our lack of awareness prevents us from recognizing Fated situations.  We fail to recognize the subtle whispers of Fate because we sleepwalk through our lives.  This is unfortunate.  We may be so distracted by an unexpected turn of events that we fail to see the best solution to the problem. 

"We must not attempt to live outside the world, which is given us, but we must somehow learn how to transform it and transfigure it.  One must find a way of being in this world while not being of it."  -- A. Huxley

Huxley suggests that we live our lives with one foot in Reality and one foot in Mysticism.  Easier said than done.  If I am pinned down on Normandy beach by a German machine gun, I cannot imagine telling myself that I am witnessing an Illusion.  Nevertheless, that is what Huxley is driving at.  Even when we suffer, we must never forget there is more to this world than meets the eye.  The choice here is profound.  Many people go through Life without the slightest idea the events around them may be Fated.  So they drift through the event.  Huxley wants us to stop passing through Life on autopilot.  We should grab the steering wheel and make conscious decisions on how best to react.  In other words, act out your part in the movie, but detach yourself to be in the audience at the same time. 

When I was young, I played the victim whenever things went wrong.  Consequently I suffered from bouts of severe depression.  Those depressions lasted a lot longer than they should have because I feared taking the kind of risks that would have freed me from the rut I was in.  However, once I became aware of the concept of Fate, I changed my attitude.  Yes, things still went wrong for me, but my new appreciation of Fate taught me that Bad Luck can sometimes turn into Good Luck if I play my cards right.  Ever since, when something unpleasant befalls me, rather than overreact with anguish and descend into self-pity, I view it as a challenge which needs a solution.

Maybe Huxley is right.  Maybe we really are acting out a giant Cosmic Play with a predestined Script.  In this case, how does someone believe in Free Will when a giant contradiction like Fate stares us in the face?  Just how much of our Lives is scripted in advance and what should we do about it?

The great physicist Stephen Hawking had an interesting take on the matter. 

"I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, always look before they cross the road."

 

Dr. Hawking's suggestion to look both ways parallels my own thinking.  My number one rule is to assume I have Free Will (even if I don't) and that my Life will work best if I follow the well-known rules of Material World Reality.  Jumping off cliffs and asking God for a rescue is not recommended.  There was a time in college when I decided since everything was predetermined, what difference did it make what I did?  So I stopped studying for a week or so.  However, when I got some very poor test results, that was the end of that.  With my pride hurt, I resumed my studies.  I do not know to what extent I have Free Will, but this incident convinced me I must live my life AS IF I have Free Will.  I never fail to put on my seat belt and make sure to get yearly checkups.  If I get sick, I won't be very happy about that.  I may even blame my sickness on Fate.  But I also know my attitude will be much better if I made sure to get my checkup like I was supposed to.  In other words, I cannot avoid my Fate, but let's not make it worse by being stupid. 

Rick's Will or God's Will?  During my courtship of Marla, I knew there was a great risk I might not get what I hoped for.   Even though I believed in Fate, I still had no idea what the outcome would be.  Marla could very easily decide to go back to Chris or take a shine to this surprise threat named Darren.  If I took the risk of pursuing her and it did not go as planned, then welcome to the club.  Nevertheless my attitude was to give it my best shot.  If it turned out that God's Will disagreed with Rick's Will, I could accept things a lot easier knowing I had done my best.  That was essentially the conclusion I reached during my Dark Night of the Soul.  Now that I had thought things through to the best of my ability, it was time to go find Marla and take my chances.  God Willing, things would work out.

And guess who was standing right outside the door?  "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

For argument's sake, if Huxley is right, would you rather go through life blissfully unaware that you are a puppet on a string?  Or would you rather go through Life fully aware that even if you are being manipulated by unseen forces, there might be something smart you can do about it?  

I admit I find it depressing to think I might be a puppet on a string.  Let me offer an example.  I think I am writing this book.  But maybe I am not.  Maybe the words are being dictated to me.  I am little better than a stenographer.  However, what good does it do to complain about it?  Since I enjoy writing my book, I simply assume I am in charge and leave it at that. 

 

I get happy when things go my way and frustrated when they don't.  Even if I am not pleased with the hand dealt me, I accept my Fate willingly because I am in awe of the Supreme Intelligence capable of creating this immense Stage we call 'Reality'.  If, God Willing, I win, that's great.  If not, I console myself for doing the best I could with the hand I was dealt.  

That is why I agree with Aldous Huxley when he states "One must find a way of being in this world while not being of it."  I believe Huxley means we must play the game by the Rules of Reality, but stay alert if there is more to a situation than meets the eye.  In other words, go through each experience as best one can, but don't forget to wink.  Even if it is true I am a puppet on a string, it is still fun to play the game.  Rather than curse my "Fate", I take one step back and ask myself what is the best way to play my hand.  My satisfaction comes playing each hand to the best of my ability. 

Let me add that if I am Fated to suffer through a truly horrible event, it helps considerably to believe there is more to my existence than what the materialists claim.  Let's say I am blinded in an accident.  Hopefully I will accept my suffering as best I can and learn something from the experience.  The way I see it, the acceptance of Fate empowers me.  There are those who go through life thinking when something bad happens, they are the victim.  They believe Life is being mean to them and feel helpless to do much about it.  Lord knows I've been there enough times.  However, the acceptance of Fate gives me a healthier perspective.  Rather than look at each setback as a hopeless disaster and give up, I try to see it as a potential learning experience.  I have seen many 'Bad Luck' situations turn into 'Good Luck' simply by refusing to quit.

"The harder I work, the luckier I get."  I live by that idea.  

 
 

A quick scan of the Internet uncovers surveys which suggest a high percentage of American citizens believe in God.  Depending on how the question is worded, 75-80% believe in the existence of God.  Although no one can prove what the truth is, the belief in a Supreme Being is very high despite what the skeptical scientists say.  'Fate' does not do as well.  Belief levels hover around 50%.  Worldwide belief in Reincarnation lies at 50%.  This makes sense.  After all, the concept of Reincarnation is linked with Karma, a concept similar to Fate.  As it turns out, belief in Reincarnation varies dramatically by country.  For example, belief in Reincarnation drops to 25% in the USA.  However, if you ask that question to someone in India, the percentage rises to 75%.  Obviously the difference can be attributed to Hindu religion in India and Christianity in America. 

I find it interesting that 80% of American citizens believe in Miracles.  Synonyms for 'Miracle' include godsend, divine blessing, lucky break, manna from heaven, and windfall.  The concept of Miracle is often linked to Divine Intervention.  This well-known religious principle claims God has the power to cause something good to happen or be able to prevent something bad from happening if it His will.

Has anyone ever given any thought to the possibility that God can also cause us to have problems?  This is hardly a pleasant thought, but we all know the belief that God interferes for Bad as well as Good goes all the way back to Adam and Eve.  Following their disobedience, God curses man to a lifetime of hard labor and woman to the pain of childbirth and subordination to her husband.

The purpose of this discussion is to suggest that Divine Intervention is not necessarily something we will thank Him for.  If we can credit God for Good Luck, why stop there?  Maybe God deserves credit for what we call 'Bad Luck' as well, stuff like getting thrown out of graduate school.  As John Lennon once put it, "Life is what happens while you are making other plans."  When I got myself thrown out of graduate school, I was certain I must be the unluckiest guy on earth.  I kicked myself every day for four years for opening my big mouth.  But what if my better judgment was deliberately removed by a higher power?   I refer to the possibility of Cosmic Blindness. 

Several years after my graduate school defeat, a series of baffling coincidences propelled me to more career success than I ever imagined possible.  I did not get just one lucky break, I got 20 within a three year period.  In fact, my Good Luck was so unusually powerful that I began to wonder what on earth was going on.  No one deserves to be this lucky!  As each new door opened, I grew more and more suspicious that someone up there liked me after all.  Which was an odd feeling considering I felt more cursed than blessed prior to this streak of lucky breaks.

One of those lucky breaks involved keeping my mouth shut at a key moment when my boss was going ballistic.  The guy was completely off base, but I chose to stay silent.  Without the painful lesson I had learned in Graduate School, I would never have avoided speaking my mind.  In other words, my graduate school failure saved me from making a similar mistake during my supernatural climb.  'Now isn't that curious?', I thought.  Thanks to that insight, I had passed a very difficult test.  My first reaction was maybe Failure isn't as terrible as I thought.  But wouldn't it be nice if God had explained my trials and tribulations in Graduate School had a purpose to them?

We all agree we would be happy if God would come back and part the Red Sea again.  Or let Jesus return and walk on water, maybe raise a few people from the dead.  No doubt 'Belief in God' would approach 100%.  But God is a lot more subtle these days.   We all know God doesn't explain when something better might be around the corner.  In my case, I still wished some angel had dropped by to offer a reassuring chat following my humiliating defeat in Graduate School.

 

"Gosh, Rick, we know how hard you worked and it was a really tough break that you got on the wrong side of that professor.  But here's the deal.  We have something even better in store for you!   Someday those lessons you learned in Graduate School are going to come in very handy.  Calm down, cheer up, your failure in Grad School was all part of the Plan.

One of my favorite sayings is "The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get."  Maybe so, but let me that hard work is no guarantee.  For example, I worked my ass off in Graduate School.  Except for my one nemesis, my teachers liked me.  They agreed I had all the talent necessary to do well as a therapist.  Not only did I make some very good grades, I had my heart set on becoming a therapist.  There is no way I should have failed!  But fail I did, quite possibly for a higher purpose.

Based on this experience, I believe I have no choice but to accept the Bad and hope for the Good.  I never know what is coming around the corner.  Sometimes Bad Luck becomes Good Luck.  Sometimes Good Luck turns Bad. 

 

In the case of Graduate School, it was as if success was ripped from between my lips.  Nor was that the only time something like this happened.  I once lost an important scholarship I felt certain to win.

For that matter, curiously enough, six times in my life a woman I loved deeply had been ripped from my lips.  Each time she left under mysterious circumstances.  Now I was facing the same possibility with Marla, my new-found love.  Would she pick me or would she pick Chris? 

And what would I do if Chris was the winner?  If my love for Marla was about to be ripped from my lips, who am I to question God's Will?

Despite my failure in Graduate School, I still live by the motto that hard work is the best policy.  I do this because I have noticed my hard work gets rewarded most of the time.  By chance, I have a perfect example of my faith in hard work.  I have spent the last eight years of my life writing the Magic Carpet Ride.  I am currently working on the seventh rewrite of my book.  Good grief, the book has grown longer than all seven Harry Potter books put together. 

The longer my book gets, the less chance it will ever see the light of day.  But that doesn't stop me from working on it every chance I get.  God has moved mountains for me before, so hopefully He will grant my wish and help.  However, there is no guarantee.  Isn't that what Reality is all about?  If everyone already knew how things would turn out, Life would get kind of boring.  In the meantime, I have done the best I can.  That's good enough for me to be at peace. 

God knows I would like to see my story recognized, so I place my story in His hands.  Thy Will Be Done.

 
Dr. Hilton spoke up.  "Due to your isolation, I would imagine you were unable to experience several important stages in the development of social skills.  What do you think?"

"I agree with you.  Now that I had judged myself inferior, how was I supposed to combat that?  I was a loner by nature and now I was a loner by circumstance.  To avoid further embarrassment, I kept to myself outside of class.  This self-imposed alienation prevented me from acquiring the various secrets of popularity.  I never discovered a way to become interesting.  I had no idea that offering sympathy, encouragement, and compliments was a way to establish rapport.  I never told a story, I never cracked a joke.  I never learned to dance and I never learned how to tease.  I never acquired the knack of showing interest in other people, how to be a good listener and how to start a conversation.  I avoided the telephone like the plague.  As the years passed, my social skills remained in arrested development.  Let me add that I was self-centered to a fault.  It never dawned on me my classmates might be pretty nice if I gave them a chance.  Truly, if I was lonely, a lot of it was my own fault.  I simply lacked the confidence or the skills to make friends.

The only place where I felt any pride was academics, but even here I felt handicapped.  I was competing with the smartest children in the city.  These students were not only brilliant, they had every advantage anyone could ask for.  It became crystal clear to me that I was a huge underdog in every possible way.  This was the beginning of that huge chip on my shoulder.  It was 'me against the world'.  But I did have one advantage.  As my bitterness grew, I became determined to out-work every single one of my classmates.  I was determined to prove to myself that I was their equal.  Someday I wanted my classmates to accept me.  Unfortunately, to do that, first I had to find a way to overcome all these problems.  I am sorry to say that I never succeeded.  Instead my inadequate social skills created the curse that Mr. Murphy predicted would come back to haunt me someday.  Thanks to that ticking time bomb, I failed Fujimoto's Interviewing class and now I am sitting here in your office feeling sorry for myself."

"It saddens me to say I agree with your conclusions about your St. John's experience.  That marvelous education was indeed a blessing, but without a support system at home, I see where your feelings of inferiority developed.  I also agree that your withdrawal led directly to the problems that have crippled you here in this program."

I nodded.  "To be honest, I am feeling pretty down right now.  It isn't easy reliving this period of my life.  But I do appreciate your help.  I just want you to know how grateful I am for your encouragement."

Dr. Hilton smiled.  "You are more than welcome.  I am proud of you for fighting back.  You have a big heart and you have much to offer this world.  However, your talent and education will never pay off for you until we find a way to get your thin skin and lack of confidence straightened out.  To your credit, you are working hard on catching up.  However I fear you still have a long road ahead.  Fortunately you have your whole life ahead of you.  If we can get your problems ironed out now, the sky is the limit."

 

 
There are those who say that a belief in Fate is an excuse to wait for things to happen instead of making them happen.  The story of Elizabeth echoes that sentiment nicely.  Personally, I prefer the adage that God helps those who help themselves.  Samuel Goldwyn, owner of the famous MGM film studio, once said, "I have noticed the harder I work, the luckier I get."  I could not agree more. 

How does Fate affect our Free Will?  Over the course of my life, I have tried to reconcile the contradictory concepts of Free Will versus God's Will.  After much thought, I have decided my life works best when I cooperate with the rules of Reality.  Rather than cross the road without looking and expect God to protect me from oncoming traffic, I stop and look both directions. 

I always I operate my life as if I am in control of my own ship.  However, experience has taught me to expect the unexpected.  Fate is the wild card that makes Life interesting.  As John Lennon once put it, "Life is what happens while you are making other plans."  There is Good Luck and there is Bad Luck.  When I got myself thrown out of graduate school, I was certain I must be the unluckiest guy on earth.  And yet the day came when a series of baffling coincidences propelled me to more career success than I ever imagined possible.  I did not get just one lucky break, I got ten in a row.  In fact, my Good Luck was so unusually powerful that I began to wonder what on earth was going on. 

Not only that, a painful lesson I had learned in Graduate School saved me from making a similar mistake during my climb.  'Now isn't that Suspicious?', I thought.  Without that insight, I would have never passed a very difficult test.  Maybe Failure isn't as terrible as I thought.  Wouldn't it be nice if some angel had dropped in for a reassuring chat after my humiliating defeat at Colorado State?

"Gosh, Rick, we know how hard you worked and it was a really tough break that you got on the wrong side of that professor.  But here's the deal.  We have something even better for you and those lessons you learned in Graduate School are going to come in very handy.  Calm down, your failure in Graduate School was all part of the Plan.

But we all know that is not how Reality works.  We never know what is coming around the corner.  So we have to accept the Bad and hope for the Good. 

Although I firmly believe in Fate, one thing I have never figured is just how Fate would be administered.  The Adjustment Bureau is a 2011 science fiction film that tells the story of David, a man who discovers that what appear to be chance events in his life are actually being controlled by a powerful and quite mysterious group of men who manipulate events.  For example, two people are not supposed to meet, so David's 'Controller' deliberately makes David spill coffee on his shirt.  The result is David misses his bus.  When David discovers he is being manipulated, one of these mysterious agents explains it his job to ensure people's lives proceed following "The Plan".  David is then warned that if he reveals the existence of the Bureau to anyone else, he will have his memory erased.  

This movie of course was science fiction, so it proves nothing.  What I found interesting was that whoever wrote the story has clearly wondered about the same things that I do.  The plot line closely paralleled my own imagination of unseen beings pulling levers and pulleys behind an invisible curtain.  If there is such as a thing as Fate, then there has to be a mechanism by which Fate is enacted.

Here is an example.  In the previous chapter, I told the story of asking Angel Bush... curious name, huh?... to substitute for me while I took a cruise to Russia in August 2012.  Angel developed a massive headache at exactly the worst possible time where I was concerned.  Not only did Angel fail to teach my class, she was in so much pain she failed to call a friend to pinch-hit because she forgot all about it.  The damage to my dance program was so profound that it never recovered.  This is what we refer to as a 'Coincidence'.  

Most coincidences are mundane and easily dismissed.  A coincidence can be something odd like running into a childhood friend in an unexpected place years later.  Or it can be getting a phone call from a distant relative moments after thinking about the same person for no reason.  Ordinarily we dismiss these moments and swiftly turn our attention elsewhere.  However, we also know that some coincidences can be very unsettling.  Often we have no idea what to make of them.   Once in while, we run across a coincidence that is so unusual that we are forced to stop and consider the possibility of a supernatural explanation.  The headache suffered by Angel Bush would fall into this category.  This was high-impact coincidence that led directly to my downfall.

Have you ever wondered if invisible Guardian Angels are charged with the responsibility of administering Fate?  Did a mysterious Angel give Angel her headache in service of my Fate?  How should I know?  I am a normal flesh and blood guy just like everyone else.  Lacking any sort of psychic powers, the best I can do is observe suspicious events and speculate just like everyone else.  However, I do not stop there.  I keep careful track of every curious event on my 'Observation List'.  My List contains three narrow escapes from death.  A fourth time a woman appeared out of nowhere to talk me down from suicidal thoughts.  A fifth time I made a miraculous move to save a woman from breaking her neck. 

One incident by itself is meaningless, but after a while they start to add up.  At a certain point, there are so many weird events that it gets very difficult NOT to believe in Supernatural Intervention.  When people suggest there is more to this world than meets the eye, I often wonder if this saying refers to the existence of Beings who are invisible to the naked eye. 

So I have a question for the Reader.  Are you confident that the way you view the world is the way it really is?  

Can you think of an important coincidence or strange event in your own life that you found difficult to explain?  Do you ever ask yourself if it is possible that important events in our lives are being manipulated beyond our awareness? 

To illustrate my point, I offer the story of the Church Choir.  This crazy chain of coincidences is a perfect example of why people sometimes shake their head and wonder, "is there REALLY more to this world than meets the eye?" 

 

 


RICK'S OBSERVATION LIST
 

   100          
   099          
   098          
   097          
   096          
   095          
   094          
   093      
   092          
   091      
   090          
   089          
   088          
   087          
   086      
   085          
   084      
   083          
   082          
   081          
   080        
   079      
   078          
   077      
   076          
   075      
   074          
   073      
   072      
   071          
   070          
   069      
   068          
   067          
   066      
   065          
   064          
   063          
   062          
   061      
   060      
   059        
   058          
   057          
   056          
   055          
   054          
   053          
   052      
   051          
   050      
   049          
   048      
   047          
   046          
   045      
   044      
   043          
       
   042      
   041      
   040        
   039          
   038          
   037          
   036          
   035          
   034          
   033          
   032          
   031          
   030      
   029          
   028          
   027          
   026          
   025          
   024          
   023          
   022          
   021          
   020      
   019          
   018      
   017          
   016      
   015          
   014          
   013      
   012          
   011          
   010        
   009          
   008          
   007          
   006      
   005          
   004          
   003          
   002          
   001      

 

   100       Curious Telepathy   Marla and Rick start singing 'People are Strange' simultaneously for no apparent reason

   099

Serious

Synchronicity   Angel Bush, Maxwell Mayhem
   098

Curious

Coincidence

  Captain Teige Meeting
 

Curious

Predestination

  Cruise Ship Prophecy comes to pass (see #42)
   097

Serious

Predestination

  Gypsy Prophecy foretold by a psychic using Tarot
   096

Serious

Synchronicity   Fairy Tale Synchronicity: First Night coincidence at Disco, Ashley Rumor misunderstanding, Dark Night of the Soul,
  Second night coincidence outside Rick's cabin
   095

Curious

Cosmic Blindness

  Marla does not know I exist for six months despite my neverending attempts to get her attention
   094

Curious

Coincidence

  Hazel runs into Victoria at the airport, then calls me to discuss it
   093

Serious

Strange Accident

  Gordian Knot accident ruins Waltz performance of Judy and Rick
   092

Curious

Lucky Break

  Halloween photographs taken by Jim Fogo's create a sensation
   091

Curious

Lucky Break

  SSQQ gets it name
   090

Curious

Lucky Break

  Winchester Club creates sensational growth of studio
   089

Curious

Synchronicity   Western Synchronicity: TGIS, Dance Arts, QQSS Discovery, Leisure Learning, Winchester
   088

Serious

Lucky Break   Herb Fried cracks the Riddle of the Western Double Turns: QQSS
   087

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Lance Stevens receives Karmic Punishment
   086

Serious

Lucky Break   Glen Hunsucker Last Second Rescue to Dance Arts
   085

Serious

Lucky Break   Ted Weisgal hires me to teach for Leisure Learning
   084

Serious

Lucky Break   Rick meets Linda Shuler at TGIS
   083

Curious

Lucky Break   Evolution of Western dancing begins
   082

Curious

Synchronicity   Country Crossroad: Blindness towards Western, Meyerland Club, Joanne, Fright Night, Class Factory
   081

Serious

Lucky Break   Fright Night
   080

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Plato's Cave: Blind resistance to oncoming Western phenomenon
   079

Curious

Synchronicity   Clay Felker Synchronicity: Chance visit to Gilley's, Lucky Break to get John Travolta to star in Urban Cowboy
   078

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Meditation on Free Will and Cosmic Blindness
   077

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Twisted Casablanca
   076

Curious

Lucky Break   Joanne is in right place at right time to help with Western
   075

Curious

Lucky Break   Meyerland Club
   074

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Jennifer appears out of nowhere to help with Clear Lake
   073

Curious

Strange Accident   Karate Chop Accident at Annabelle's
   072

Curious

Strange Accident   Foley's Accident
   071

Serious

Strange Accident   Lighthouse Accident
   070

Curious

Coincidence   Rick runs into Earl at Patricia's apartment
   069

Curious

Strange Accident   Patricia's Split Lip Accident at Spats
   068

Curious

Coincidence   Patricia's accidental Affirmation Discovery
   067

Curious

Coincidence   Rick runs into Bob at Patricia's apartment
   066

Curious

Synchronicity   Year of Living Dangerously: Joanne steals the show, Rock Star Argument, Patricia's Bombshell, Dangerous Liaison,
  Joanne's Appearance at Pistachio, Victoria's Tirade, Inquisition, Devil's Bargain regarding Patricia, Camelot
   065

Curious

Lucky Break   Joanne wins Battle of the Disco Divas at Victoria's Pistachio Christmas Party
   064

Serious

Synchronicity   Battle of the Disco Divas: Interaction of Victoria, Patricia, and Joanne doubles Rick's dance program
   063

Curious

Synchronicity   Summer of 78: Marion, Jenny, Marilyn, Karen, Nancy, Victoria
   062

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Stevens' hasty decision to rent rooms to Rick for group lessons
   061

Serious

Lucky Break   Donna Gordon of Class Factory hands me the break of a lifetime
   060

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Ritz Silver Lining: Cold War with Lance Stevens leads to Blindness
   059

Curious

Strange Accident   The Ritz Disaster
   058

Curious

Synchronicity   The Three Mentors: Patsy Swayze, Gaye Brown-Burke, Rosalyn Lively
   057

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Eric loses his job after challenging Lance Stevens
   056

Serious

Synchronicity   Partner Dance Crisis: Gary, Stevens, Sue Ann, Janie, and Suzy help create 'New Yorker' partner dance system
   055

Curious

Coincidence   Rick helps Dr. Ballantyne save his tropical plant collection
   054

Curious

Coincidence   Mrs. Ballantyne appears out of nowhere at Stevens of Hollywood to renew our friendship
   053

Serious

Synchronicity   Crossroad Synchronicity: Spotlight Effect, Incompetence Effect, Right Place at Right Time
   052

Curious

Synchronicity   Robert Stigwood Synchronicity: John Travolta, Nik Cohn, Bee Gees, Norman Wexler
   051

Serious

Lucky Break   Disco Line Dance class job handed to Rick at Stevens of Hollywood
   050

Curious

Lucky Break   Revelation following Graduation Night at Rubaiyat
   049

Curious

Lucky Break   Rosalyn's Gift of line dance class at Memorial JCC
   048

Serious

Lucky Break   Rosalyn's Gift of summer line dance class at Braeswood JCC
   047

Curious

Coincidence   Weird Bomb Scare at JCC sends Rick's first-ever dance class into parking lot
   046

Curious

Lucky Break   Roberta's request for me to take over her class
   045

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Becky and I perform the Sidecar acrobatic lift
   044 

Serious

Lucky Break   Gaye's strong intervention lifts Rick out of serious depression
   043

Curious

Predestination   Precognitive fantasy in Gaye's office regarding Cruise trips (see #100)
   042

Curious

Unlucky Break   Katie Disaster at Melody Lane
   041

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Inability to invite Katie to join Rick at Melody Lane
   040

Curious

Unlucky Break   Celeste at Phoney Baloney Dance Studio
   039

Curious

Unlucky Break   Manimal attack at Farmhouse
   038

Curious

 Lucky Break   Rick runs into Celeste at Rice University
   037

Curious

 Lucky Break   River Oaks Seven vanquished
   036

Curious

Synchronicity   Alice in Strange Wonderland: Gay Siberia, Casa Mark, Lucy and Jill, Farmhouse, Gloria
   035

Curious

Lucky Break   Mark and Donna's Dance Intervention
   034

Serious

Coincidence  Rachel phones Rick with perfect timing
   033

Curious

Coincidence   Swimming Pool encounter with Gloria
   032

Curious

Coincidence   Magic Mirror
   031

Serious

Synchronicity   Karmic Test of Fire: Gay Gauntlet, River Oaks Seven, Sasquatch, Disco Dave proposition, Parking Lot Inferno
   030

Serious

Synchronicity   Dance Path Synchronicity: Rejection Phobia, Courtesan Book, Stalled Car Incident at Casa Yolanda, Drag Queen Lynn
   029

Curious

Unlucky Break   Importance of Rivers Oaks Seven
   028

Curious

 Unlucky Break   Drag Queen Lynn
   027

Serious

Coincidence   Stalled Car Incident at Yolanda's house
   026

Serious

Coincidence   Discovery of Vanessa's name in Courtesan convinces Rick to buy the book
   025

Curious

Synchronicity   Epic Losing Streak:  Jason, Learned Helplessness, Point of No Return, Christine, Debbie, Dr. Hilton's Intervention
   024

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Rick's inability to realize the danger of talking too much results in 'D' in Dr. Fujimoto's class
   023

Curious

Synchronicity   Vanessa:  Portland Woman song, Kenny, Teresa the Lesbian, Break-In, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
   022

Serious

Predestination   Camp Counselor Daydream predicts summer job
   021

Serious

Telepathy   Vickie the psychic and the Ghost of Terry
   020

Curious

 Unlucky Break   Astrology eye injury
   019

Curious

Lucky Break   Strange Warning at the Graduate Reading Room leads to Magical Mystery Tour
   018

Serious

 Coincidence   Emily and Eric Taxi Coincidence at the Train Station
   017

Serious

Coincidence   Senior Prom Cheryl appears out of nowhere
   016

Curious

Lucky Break   Close Call Car Accident
   015

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Senior Year Blind Spot
   014

Serious

Lucky Break   Fateful Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne at Weingarten's parking lot
   013

Curious

Unlucky Break   Despite Rick's obsession, Mrs. Ballantyne and Rick fail to connect at SJS for 9 years
   012

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Caught cheating on German test due to amazing coincidence
   011

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Rick's Mother forgets about child support
   010

Serious

Lucky Break  Mr. Ocker runs into Rick at grocery store and offers him a job
   009

Curious

 Lucky Break   Neal's sucker punch training allows Rick to defeat Harold in shower room fight
   008

Serious

Coincidence   One in a million Basketball strike on Rick's swollen face
   007

Serious

Coincidence   Rick's Mother mysteriously fails to take him to doctor following serious acne attack
   006

Curious

Coincidence   Discovery of chess book helps Rick defeat Taxi Cab driver Neal at chess
   005

Curious

Coincidence   Rick wins the Kern Tips football book in drawing
   004

Curious

Lucky Break   Rick's Father's affair creates divorce which leads to Rick's education at St. John's
   003

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Rick's Mother loses her mind and lets Terry run free in a hurricane, near-death insanity at Blue Christmas
   002

Serious

Coincidence   Rick's sudden impulse to play arcade game saves Rick and his father from Death at Stock Car accident
   001

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Rick cuts his eye out by pulling knife in wrong direction
 

 

   

 


OBSERVATION LIST OF 100 POTENTIAL FATED EVENTS

   100          
   099          
   098          
   097          
   096          
   095          
   094          
   093      
   092          
   091      
   090          
   089          
   088          
   087          
   086      
   085          
   084      
   083          
   082          
   081          
   080        
   079      
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   014          
   013      
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   010        
   009          
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   002          
   001      

 

   100

Curious

Predestination

  Cruise Ship Prophecy
   099

Curious

Coincidence

  Captain Teige Meeting on Rick and Marla's Wedding Cruise
   098

Serious

Predestination

  Gypsy Prophecy foretold by a psychic using Tarot
   097

Curious

Predestination

  Review of the Titanic Tragedy and Captain Smith's Cosmic Blindness
   096

Curious

Coincidence

  Accidental meeting with Marla at a Midnight Mixer starts starts Rick and Marla's Fairy Tale Romance
   095

Curious

Cosmic Blindness

  Marla does not know I exist for six months despite my attempts to get her attention
   094

Curious

Cosmic Blindness

  Marla remains in a six year relationship with a man who mistreats her
   093

Curious

Coincidence

  Hazel runs into Victoria at the airport, then calls me to discuss it
   092

Serious

Strange Accident

  Gordian Knot accident ruins Waltz performance of Judy and Rick
   091

Curious

Lucky Break

  Halloween photographs taken by Jim Fogo's create a sensation
   090

Curious

Lucky Break

  SSQQ gets it name
   089

Curious

Lucky Break

  Winchester Club creates sensational growth of studio
   088

Curious

Synchronicity   Western Synchronicity: TGIS, Dance Arts, QQSS Discovery, Leisure Learning, Winchester
   087

Serious

Lucky Break   Herb Fried cracks the Riddle of the Western Double Turns: QQSS
   086

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Lance Stevens receives Karmic Punishment
   085

Serious

Lucky Break   Glen Hunsucker Last Second Rescue to Dance Arts
   084

Serious

Lucky Break   Ted Weisgal hires me to teach for Leisure Learning
   083

Serious

Lucky Break   Rick meets Linda Shuler at TGIS
   082

Curious

Lucky Break   Evolution of Western dancing begins
   081

Curious

Synchronicity   Country Crossroad: Blindness towards Western, Meyerland Club, Joanne, Fright Night, Class Factory
   080

Serious

Lucky Break   Fright Night
   079

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Plato's Cave: Blind resistance to oncoming Western phenomenon
   078

Curious

Synchronicity   Clay Felker Synchronicity: Chance visit to Gilley's, Lucky Break to get John Travolta to star in Urban Cowboy
   077

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Meditation on Free Will leads to Rick's theory of Cosmic Blindness
   076

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Twisted Casablanca
   075

Curious

Lucky Break   Joanne is in right place at right time to help with Western
   074

Curious

Lucky Break   Meyerland Club
   073

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Jennifer appears out of nowhere to help with Clear Lake
   072

Curious

Strange Accident   Karate Chop Accident at Annabelle's
   071

Curious

Strange Accident   Foley's Accident
   070

Serious

Strange Accident   Lighthouse Accident
   069

Curious

Coincidence   Rick runs into Earl at Patricia's apartment
   068

Curious

Strange Accident   Patricia's Split Lip Accident at Spats
   067

Curious

Coincidence   Patricia's accidental Affirmation Discovery
   066

Curious

Coincidence   Rick runs into Bob at Patricia's apartment
   065

Curious

Synchronicity   Year of Living Dangerously: Joanne steals the show, Rock Star Argument, Patricia's Bombshell, Dangerous Liaison,
  Joanne's Appearance at Pistachio, Victoria's Tirade, Inquisition, Devil's Bargain regarding Patricia, Camelot
   064

Curious

Lucky Break   Joanne wins Battle of the Disco Divas at Victoria's Pistachio Christmas Party
   063

Serious

Synchronicity   Battle of the Disco Divas: Interaction of Victoria, Patricia, and Joanne doubles Rick's dance program
   062

Curious

Synchronicity   Summer of 78: Marion, Jenny, Marilyn, Karen, Nancy, Victoria
   061

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Stevens' hasty decision to rent rooms to Rick for group lessons
   060

Serious

Lucky Break   Donna Gordon of Class Factory hands me the break of a lifetime
   059

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Ritz Silver Lining: Cold War with Lance Stevens leads to Blindness
   058

Curious

Strange Accident   The Ritz Disaster
   057

Curious

Synchronicity   The Three Mentors: Patsy Swayze, Gaye Brown-Burke, Rosalyn Lively
   056

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Eric loses his job after challenging Lance Stevens
   055

Serious

Synchronicity   Partner Dance Crisis: Gary, Stevens, Sue Ann, Janie, and Suzy help create 'New Yorker' partner dance system
   054

Curious

Coincidence   Rick helps Dr. Ballantyne save his tropical plant collection
   053

Curious

Coincidence   Mrs. Ballantyne appears out of nowhere at Stevens of Hollywood to renew our friendship
   052

Serious

Synchronicity   Crossroad Synchronicity: Spotlight Effect, Incompetence Effect, Right Place at Right Time
   051

Curious

Synchronicity   Robert Stigwood Synchronicity: John Travolta, Nik Cohn, Bee Gees, Norman Wexler
   050

Serious

Lucky Break   Disco Line Dance class job handed to Rick at Stevens of Hollywood
   049

Curious

Lucky Break   Revelation following Graduation Night at Rubaiyat
   048

Curious

Lucky Break   Rosalyn's Gift of line dance class at Memorial JCC
   047

Serious

Lucky Break   Rosalyn's Gift of summer line dance class at Braeswood JCC
   046

Curious

Coincidence   Weird Bomb Scare at JCC sends Rick's first-ever dance class into parking lot
   045

Curious

Lucky Break   Roberta's request for me to take over her class
   044

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Becky and I perform the Sidecar acrobatic lift
   043

Serious

Lucky Break   Gaye's strong intervention lifts Rick out of serious depression
 

Curious

Predestination   Precognitive fantasy in Gaye's office regarding Cruise trips (see #100)
   042

Curious

Unlucky Break   Katie Disaster at Melody Lane
   041

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Inability to invite Katie to join Rick at Melody Lane
   040

Curious

Unlucky Break   Celeste at Phoney Baloney Dance Studio
   039

Curious

Unlucky Break   Manimal attack at Farmhouse
   038

Curious

 Lucky Break   Rick runs into Celeste at Rice University
   037

Curious

 Lucky Break   River Oaks Seven vanquished
   036

Curious

Synchronicity   Alice in Strange Wonderland: Gay Siberia, Casa Mark, Lucy and Jill, Farmhouse, Gloria
   035

Curious

Lucky Break   Mark and Donna's Dance Intervention
   034

Serious

Coincidence  Rachel phones Rick with perfect timing
   033

Curious

Coincidence   Swimming Pool encounter with Gloria
   032

Curious

Coincidence   Magic Mirror
   031

Serious

Synchronicity   Karmic Test of Fire: Gay Gauntlet, River Oaks Seven, Sasquatch, Disco Dave proposition, Parking Lot Inferno
   030

Serious

Synchronicity   Dance Path Synchronicity: Rejection Phobia, Courtesan Book, Stalled Car Incident at Casa Yolanda, Drag Queen Lynn
   029

Curious

Unlucky Break   Importance of Rivers Oaks Seven
   028

Curious

 Unlucky Break   Drag Queen Lynn
   027

Serious

Coincidence   Stalled Car Incident at Yolanda's house
   026

Serious

Coincidence   Discovery of Vanessa's name in Courtesan convinces Rick to buy the book
   025

Curious

Synchronicity   Epic Losing Streak:  Jason, Learned Helplessness, Point of No Return, Christine, Debbie, Dr. Hilton's Intervention
   024

Curious

Synchronicity   Vanessa:  Portland Woman, Kenny, Teresa the Lesbian, Break-In, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
   023

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Rick's inability to realize the danger of talking too much results in 'D' in Dr. Fujimoto's class
   022

Serious

Predestination   Camp Counselor Daydream predicts summer job
   021

Serious

Lucky Break   Vickie the psychic and the Ghost of Terry
   020

Curious

 Unlucky Break   Astrology eye injury
   019

Serious

Synchronicity   Magical Mystery Tour:  Strange Warning at Graduate Reading Room, Quaker Meeting, Bob Hieronimus,
  Yogi Question Mark, Autobiography of a Yogi, Edgar Cayce, Creation of Observation List
   018

Serious

 Coincidence   Emily and Eric Taxi Coincidence at the Train Station
   017

Serious

Coincidence   Senior Prom Cheryl appears out of nowhere
   016

Curious

Lucky Break   Close Call Car Accident
   015

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Senior Year Blind Spot
   014

Serious

Coincidence
Lucky Break
  Fateful Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne at Weingarten's parking lot
   013

Curious

Unlucky Break   Despite Rick's obsession, Mrs. Ballantyne and Rick fail to connect at SJS for 9 years
   012

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Caught cheating on German test due to amazing coincidence
   011

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Rick's Mother forgets about child support
   010

Serious

Lucky Break  Mr. Ocker runs into Rick at grocery store and offers him a job
   009

Curious

 Lucky Break   Neal's sucker punch training allows Rick to defeat Harold in shower room fight
   008

Serious

Coincidence   One in a million Basketball strike on Rick's swollen face
   007

Serious

Cosmic Blindness   Rick's Mother mysteriously fails to take him to doctor following serious acne attack
   006

Curious

Coincidence   Discovery of chess book helps Rick defeat Taxi Cab driver Neal at chess
   005

Curious

Coincidence   Rick wins the Kern Tips football book in drawing
   004

Curious

Lucky Break   Father's affair leads to divorce and Rick's life-altering education at St. John's
   003

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Rick's Mother loses her mind at Blue Christmas and barely escapes death on an icy highway
   002

Serious

Coincidence   Rick's sudden impulse to play arcade game saves Rick and his father from Death at Stock Car accident
   001

Curious

Cosmic Blindness   Rick cuts his eye out by pulling knife in wrong direction
 

 

   

 
 

All the World's a Stage!

 

After God revises the Script to add the Gypsy Prophecy, He presents His newest play, The Rick and Marla Fairy Tale

ACT I

  Marla appears on Stage living in a fog.  She allows herself to remain trapped in a dead-end, unfulfilling relationship for six years.  Marla cannot seem to quit her boyfriend Chris. 

  Marla has had good reason to leave the relationship several times.  However, due to an unfathomable quirk, Marla always seems to talk herself out of it.  One time Marla picks her dubious boyfriend over a handsome attorney who is very interested in her.  Another time Marla's therapist of all people recommends she remain in the relationship.

  When Marla appears at the dance studio, Rick is hit by a Thunderbolt.  He develops an unusually strong interest in Marla that continues to flicker despite no encouragement on her part.  Although Rick has a choice of other interesting women to select, his eyes stay focused on Marla.  

  Marla does not know Rick exists despite his frequent attempts to get her attention.  Every time Rick comes near, Marla holds up her 'Six Year Relationship' sign to repel him. 

  Rick understands that women have the right to choose who they are interested in.  However, based on his rapport with Marla in dance class, Rick is certain they could be special together.  However, that possibility is lost on Marla.  Where Rick is concerned, she has blinders on. 

  One night Marla goes dancing with her friends.  That night, Marla meets a Gypsy who accurately foretells the future.  Only one problem.  On the way home, Marla's memory is erased.  By the time Marla signs up for the cruise, she has completely forgotten the Gypsy ever existed.  

 

ACT II

  Rick is losing hope fast, but one day Marla signs up for his dance cruise.  Thanks to this single ray of hope, Rick decides to hang in there for one last good try.  Gaining inspiration from Cary Grant's Affair to Remember, he targets the cruise trip as his best chance to finally get Marla to notice him.

  Over the next several months, Marla loses interest in the trip, especially when a man she likes from the studio fails to join her on the cruise.  Now the only person she knows is her roommate Sherry.  At the last minute Marla is so reluctant to take the cruise her daughter Marissa has to practically throw her out of the house.  Even then, Marla has a second chance to change her mind.  After spending the night with her boyfriend Chris on the eve of the trip, Marla is so reluctant she waits until the last minute to board the ship.  Things do not improve.  No one asks Marla to dance at the cocktail party.  As the evening progresses, Marla increasingly regrets being on this trip.  Marla just wants to go to bed and sulk, but her roommate Sherry insists Marla accompany her to the Midnight Disco Party.  Marla is not looking to meet anyone, so she has no reason go.  Now it is Sherry's turn to push Marla out the door.  Still in a bad mood, the moment Marla gets to the Disco, she is ready to leave.

  Rick boards the trip convinced there is no hope for Marla.  In his mind, Marla has just returned from an exciting weekend in Miami full of sun, fun, and Salsa dancing with her boyfriend Chris.  Now that Rick is convinced his intuition about a failing relationship is no better than wishful thinking, he turns his mind to three other women on the trip who have shown recent interest.  To his frustration, Rick discovers all three have moved on to someone else.  Ah, the fickle finger of Fate.  Angry and depressed over his constant loneliness, Rick decides his best chance to find companionship is to attend a midnight singles dance in the Disco.  Rick is not terribly optimistic.

 At the Stroke of Midnight, Rick finds Marla standing in the Disco doorway ON CUE.  Rick is stunned.  Could it be?  Do dreams actually come true?  Thanks to the Cary Grant movie, Rick had hoped to speak to Marla at some point.  However, he never imagined an opportunity of this magnitude would present itself.  This is such an amazing coincidence, Rick immediately goes on Supernatural Alert. 

 Like a Fairy Tale, over the course of the next eight hours, Marla's Cosmic Blinders are magically removed.  Marla is surprised to discover Rick is a lot more interesting than she previously believed.  When her girlfriend Sherry comes over to ask Rick to dance, Marla is shocked to discover she doesn't want to share him.  Surprised to see how attached she has become in such a short period of time, Marla asks herself how she could have ever missed Rick in the first place.  Over the course of the night, Marla reveals the truth about her shaky relationship with Chris.  Rick and Marla fall in love during the early hours of the morning.
 

ACT III

  The following day, everything that can possibly go wrong goes wrong due to a convoluted series of misunderstandings.  The craziest moment comes when Rick's brief, long-forgotten fling with Ashley somehow manages to throw a monkey wrench into the machinery.  The result is that Rick, a man who hates to lie, gets caught lying to Marla.  Marla is fed up with men who lie, so now she is outraged after catching Rick in his lie.  Since Marla cannot understand why Rick would lie to conceal such a trivial matter, she concludes Rick must be hiding something far worse.  Considering Rick's brief time with Ashley was neither scandalous, naughty or noteworthy, Rick is shocked to see his innocent promise to protect Ashley's secret has backfired in such a damaging way.

  Now that Marla is convinced she is dealing with a lying womanizer, she conveniently finds Darren, a handsome young man, sitting next to her at dinner.  Concealing her deep disappointment in Rick, Marla performs an Oscar-worthy flirtation before his very eyes, a payback of sorts.  Marla is so convincing in her deception, Rick is certain that Marla has chosen Darren over him.

  Reeling from lost love, Rick faces his Dark Night of the Soul.  Due to the pain from Marla's seeming rejection, Rick suffers through an hour of gut-wrenching misery in his cabin.  Despite great confusion and much fear of further rejection, Rick slowly recovers enough courage to seek out Marla in search of the truth.

  The moment Rick opens his cabin door, ON CUE Marla is standing in the hallway right in front of him.  There is hope after all.  In the wee hours of the morning, Marla and Rick are able to sort out their series of misunderstandings. 

 

ACT IV

  Now that Rick and Marla are back on solid footing, the following day Rick wonders if Marla is just as conscious of the Fairy Tale nature of their romance as he is.  Once Rick points out the supernatural overtones of their meeting, Marla suddenly recalls a long lost incident involving a Gypsy.  Marla tells Rick how a Gypsy she met six months ago had foretold she would meet the man on this trip with whom she would spend the rest of her life.

  Not only that, Marla tells Rick the Gypsy said MARLA ALREADY KNEW THE MAN.  Curious, Rick asks if his name ever crossed her mind.  No.  Furthermore, Marla is alarmed at how quickly she forgot all about it.  It was almost as if someone erased her memory... until now.

  Incredulous, Rick asks Marla how she could forget such a bold prediction.  "After I told my friends at the table what the Gypsy had said, it just sort of slipped my mind. By the time I signed up for the cruise, I had completely forgotten the Gypsy ever existed.  Isn't that weird?"  

  Rick and Marla stare at each other in awe.  Does this mean what they think it means?  Their romance is just three days old and here is a Gypsy Prophecy which suggests everything that has taken place has 'Predestination' written all over it.  Why not trust the Prophecy?  From this point on, Rick and Marla are inseparable.  They live happily ever after.

 

ACT V

It is now 2020.  Twenty years have passed since Rick and Marla met.  Rick still teaches dance while Marla has developed her career as a Travel Advisor.  In addition, Rick is busy writing his book.  Rick has just come to the chapter where he writes about meeting Marla.  Should Rick keep it simple and write the event in Realistic terms?  Or does Rick complicate things by throwing in his Mystic angle?  Rick decides to offer his strange convictions.  Now that Rick has had twenty years to think it over, he is more convinced than ever that his cruise ship romance was a Fated Event.  Rick bases his conclusion on several key observations.

  Cosmic Blindness I

How could an intelligent, attractive, self-sufficient woman like Marla stay with a man like Chris for six years?  Any woman in her right mind would have run screaming long ago. 

  Cosmic Blindness II

If there is such a thing as Fate, there must be a mechanism that allows for perfect timing.  Rick and Marla are not Fated to meet until the cruise trip.  However, it is March and they already know each other.  How to keep them apart when they frequently dance together in Rick's dance class once a week?  Why not make Marla blind to Rick's interest as a way to prevent the romance from starting prematurely?

 

  Stroke of Midnight Coincidence

How does one create a Coincidence?  Cosmic Telepathy would do the trick. 

On the first night of the trip, it is 11:30 pm as Rick sits in the cabin feeling sorry for himself.  Out of nowhere, a suggestion pops into Rick's head to pick up the list of ship activities laying on the floor.  To his surprise, Rick notices there is still time to make a Midnight singles dance in the Disco.  Despite Rick's bad mood, he decides he better go or risk continued loneliness. 

Meanwhile Marla's roommate Sherry insists that Marla go with her to the same singles dance.  Marla is stubborn and states her preference not to go, but Sherry will not take no for an answer.  Marla finally gives in, but is clearly unhappy about it. 

Neither Rick nor Marla want to go, but they go anyway.  Marla and Rick meet exactly at Midnight and their lives will never be the same.  Was this meeting just a random coincidence?  Or has someone planted a thought in Rick's mind and a thought in Sherry's mind to arrange this event?  Have Rick and Marla been manipulated outside of their awareness?

  Cosmic Awakening

When the time is right for Rick and Marla to meet, Rick suddenly appears to Marla in a far different light.  Marla wonders why she never noticed this pleasant side of Rick before.  As Rick's Invisibility fades away, one might ask if Marla's blinders have just been removed. 

  Cosmic Blindness III

On the following day when everything goes wrong, Marla and Rick jump to the wrong conclusion time after time.  Convinced Rick is playing her for a Fool, Marla retaliates with an unusual display of warmth for Darren.  Marla assumes Rick will figure out that she is acting, but Rick's mind filters this scene in the worst possible way and falls into despair.  One might ask if these false conclusions were deliberately planted in Rick and Marla's mind to sow doubt. 

  A Plot Twist unworthy of Charles Dickens

Six months prior to the cruise trip, Rick's brief affair with Ashley ends on good terms.  Ashley says no one has to know and asks Rick to keep things a secret.  Except that Ashley changes her mind and tells Jane, but fails to inform Rick of her action.  Of all the people whom Jane decides to confide in, she chooses Marla.  Six months later, Ashley appears in the shipboard dance class.  Her presence prompts an already suspicious Marla to fear that Rick is pursuing several women on this trip.  One thing leads to another until Marla decides to retaliate.  The Darren incident leaves Rick reeling in confusion. 

The damage is not done yet.   Later that night, Rick, a man who does not lie to people he is close to, nevertheless gets caught lying to Marla about his fling with Ashley.  And why does he lie?  Rick is a man of his word, so he has lied to keep his long-ago promise to Ashley.  Catching Rick in a lie sows more suspicion in Marla's mind.  Were Charles Dickens to write this absurd plot twist, his audience would roll its eyes.  Ah, the Master is slipping.  Nothing as convoluted as this would happen in Real Life.

And yet sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  The damage caused by the trivial Ashley Rumor has been magnified way beyond its importance.  Do we dare ask if Marla was meant to hear the Ashley Rumor because she will one day be the unwitting player in God's scripted event? 

  Cosmic Blindness IV.

Although Rick is a firm believer in Fate, he has a tendency to get lost in Reality just like everyone else.  Unfortunately, when Rick sees Marla appear to display a strong interest in Darren, he is too blind to see the woman he loves is pretending.  After buying Marla's act hook, line, and sinker, he overreacts and flees to his cabin convinced Marla's flirtation is real.

  Coincidence

It has been an hour since Rick left the dining room reeling from Marla's deception.  He is so upset it takes him forever to find the courage to seek Marla and ask her to explain her sudden preference for another man.  Three times Rick goes to the door intent on finding Marla.  Three times Rick loses his courage and retreats back to his chair to procrastinate longer.  After all these delays, on the exact moment Rick finally makes his move, Marla passes right by his cabin door.  This perfect timing is very suspicious.  Was it just an accident or was this yet another event being manipulated behind Rick and Marla's awareness?

 

  Cosmic Blindness V and Awakening

Marla has just told she will soon meet the man with whom she will spend the rest of her life.  But she forgets immediately.  One might ask how an intelligent woman in her right mind would forget such a dramatic prediction?   Considering the Gypsy points out this will occur on a trip Marla has already been considering, her prediction should have received Marla's full attention.  Not only that, the Gypsy appears to be the Real Deal.  How did the Gypsy know Marla was thinking about a trip?  In addition, the Gypsy tells Marla she already knows the man she is supposed to meet.  One would expect Marla to rack her mind.  Not so!  Instead Marla dismisses the whole thing as Unrealistic and forgets all about it. 

Marla's cavalier approach is highly out of character.   Marla is not a skeptic.  She believes in this sort of thing.  Why else visit the Gypsy in the first place?  And yet for some unfathomable reason Marla does not give the prediction a second thought.  By the time Marla heads home that night, the idea has vaporized.  Marla has no memory of the Gypsy when she signs up for the trip.  Marla has no memory of the Gypsy when she boards the ship.  When Marla meets Rick in the Disco at Midnight, she has no memory the Gypsy foretold she would meet her future husband on this trip. 

However, AFTER Marla's secret admirer is finally revealed, NOW she remembers the Gypsy.  Rick stares at Marla in open-mouthed shock.  Did someone just flip a switch in her brain?  Rick asks how any woman in her right mind could casually dismiss such an amazing prediction.  Seeing the bewildered look on Marla's face, Rick concludes Marla may have had her memory temporarily erased.  It is moments like this that cause Rick to wonder anew if his Cosmic Blindness theory is a reality.

 
Several times tonight during our conversation my mind had drifted back to Victoria.  This was the woman who had helped me build the dance studio twenty years earlier.  In the process, Victoria had thrown away a wonderful husband to pursue me, divorcing him in the process.  This of course was the great scandal of my life.  As far as I was concerned, leaving Michael for me was the worst mistake Victoria had ever made.  I did not love her and told her so.  But Victoria would not listen.  Instead she chased me relentlessly, then immediately lost interest once I finally gave in.  Now that she had ruined her marriage while subsequently realizing she didn't want me after all, Victoria's spent the next two years trying to figure out why she had lost her mind in the first place.  During this time, Victoria insisted I stick around till she decided what to do next.   

Michael had once been the great love her life, the man who walked on the moon.  Even after the divorce, by her own admission she knew Michael was a great guy and a great father.  Even more incredible, she admitted Michael had done nothing wrong to deserve the way she had treated him.  At the time, I asked myself over and over why Victoria would do something so senseless as this. 

Fortunately, Victoria eventually came to her senses and returned to Michael.  During our four year relationship, Victoria's erratic behavior made so little sense that I considered the existence of 'Cosmic Stupidity' for the first time.  Unable to fathom a single rational explanation for Victoria's behavior, I wondered if a 'supernatural' explanation might be the answer.  My theory revolved around the existence of Fate.  If Fate truly does exist, this implies we will face certain situations that are meant to be, i.e. Fated to happen. 

Using Victoria as a case study, she had once led the perfect life with Michael.  They were the Golden Couple.  Then for no apparent reason, Victoria lost her mind and embarked on a four year detour through living hell.  Then one day she suddenly regained her interest in now-divorced husband and began a slow, cautious return to her senses.  She got Michael to forgive her, they remarried, had more children, and lived happily ever after. 

For this absurd story to work, something had to go haywire in Victoria's mind.  If there is such a thing as Divine Intervention, then would it be so hard to believe in a Divine Intervention of a different nature, one where our minds are deliberately tampered with?  If it was meant to be that Victoria was doomed to make the worst mistake of her life, why not plant the false idea that I was somehow superior to Victoria's husband?  In a manner similar to classic Fairy Tales, I speculated someone had placed an Evil Spell over Victoria's mind.  Considering my theory of Cosmic Stupidity fit the facts of Victoria's downfall and resurrection to perfection, I came to believe there will be times in every person's life when our better judgment is supernaturally removed.

Everyone agreed Victoria's husband Michael was a prince among men.  Even after she discarded him, Victoria thought so too.  Knowing Victoria still harbored intense love, I asked myself how Victoria could turn her back on a kind and decent man who had done nothing to hurt her.  I concluded that we are given Free Will most of the time, but in Fated situations, our Free Will goes out the window and we end up making the wrong choice.  Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but Victoria's mistake stretched the limits of common sense to the point of absurdity.  The more I studied Victoria, the day came when I finally accepted my radical theory.  I reached the point where I actually believed Victoria had been rendered senseless in service of her Fate. 

 

 
Do you want to hear about it?"

"Fire away."

"My scandal took place twenty years ago.  Victoria was a woman who threw away a wonderful marriage to pursue me.  The moment we made love for the first time, Victoria instantly regretted it.  She clenched her teeth the whole time and wailed in grief the moment we finished.  She screamed, 'What have I done, what have I done?'  I was shocked at her display.  Where were these misgivings before she insisted we do this?"

"Are you saying this was her idea?"

"Yes.  This was definitely her idea.  But once we finished, it was like some veil had been pulled back to allow to her to see she had just made the worst mistake of her life.  How could she do this to her husband?  Why had she betrayed him?  Or more to the point, why didn't she realize ahead of time that she was about to throw away a good marriage for a situation that would never work."

"You used the word 'insist'.  You make it sound like Victoria forced you to participate against your will."

"Oh, Marla, you have no idea.  This story has layers upon layers of complexity.  To answer your question, yes, Victoria forced me to participate against my will.  However I am hardly blameless.  Six months earlier we had come very close to crossing the line during a serious flirtation.  However, since then I had come to realize how wrong this was.  Knowing full well that her marriage was worth saving, I had been dead set against this affair for several months.  However Victoria would not listen.  She was relentless."

"A woman cannot make you have an affair, Rick."

"Actually, yes, she can.  Have you ever heard of women who are forced to submit in order to keep their job?  That is more or less the position I was in.  Victoria had me under her thumb.  She threatened to destroy the dance studio if I did not cooperate.  Unfortunately, she had both the power and the ruthlessness to make good on her threat.  In addition, there was a mysterious element of deceit.  At first I thought Victoria had tricked me, but after careful thought, I began to formulate my theory of Cosmic Stupidity, or Blindness as you call it.  I believe I was Blinded into participation.  I had once vowed never to have sex with Victoria, but I did it anyway and despised myself afterwards.  Although I was very bitter over the mistake I had made, I concluded the only way I could have made a mistake this serious was if my judgment had been removed.  To me, it looked like we both temporarily lost our minds to let this happen."

"You say she threw away her marriage.  Did her husband know what took place?"

"Yes.  I made a horrible mistake by issuing an ultimatum.  I had a new girlfriend who threatened to leave me if I did not get rid of Victoria's constant pursuit.  So I told Victoria to make up her mind about Michael today.  Otherwise I was going to commit to this other woman.  Here's the catch.  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect Victoria to pick me over Michael.  I was the Donkey at this point, remember?  However, Victoria flipped out.  Victoria told her husband she could never rest not knowing how things would have been between us.  She packed a suitcase and showed up on my doorstep unannounced.  Victoria claimed she had left her husband for good.  Now that she had destroyed her marriage, she insisted it was time for me to honor a promise I had made to her six months earlier."

"What was the promise?"

"Victoria controlled my dance studio, but she was very insecure at the thought I would find a girlfriend to counteract her influence.  Her fear of being replaced to gave her the idea of having an affair to consolidate her hold on me.  Victoria was a very attractive woman, but I was determined to resist.  I told Victoria I was unwilling to do something behind her husband's back.  She countered by saying Michael didn't want her anymore.  Looking for a face-saving reason to say no, I told Victoria if she separated from her husband and moved in with me, then I would be willing to have a relationship.  This gamble worked for six months because her situation with Michael was far superior to anything I had to offer.  But then came the night when I pressed my luck too far.  Victoria refused to let the other woman have me.  When Victoria showed up on my doorstep, she held me to that six month old promise.  This time I was unable to think of a way to talk her out of this and still prevent her from sabotaging my dance studio.  After it was too late I thought of several ways this could have been prevented.  That's why I say I operated under the spell of Cosmic Stupidity.  Where were all these bright ideas when I needed them last night?"

"Give me an example of what you should have done."

"All I had to do was keep my pants on!  Or I could have simply phoned her husband.  Two simple ideas and not one of them crossed my mind.  What was I thinking?  I had absolutely no desire to make love to Victoria at the time, but my brain deserted me."

"This is a very strange story.  So now you're stuck with her.  How long did you live together?"

"Six days.  Then she moved back home and kicked her husband out of the house."

"Six days?  That's unbelievable.  Was it over or did you continue to see her?"

"Our relationship lasted four years.  Victoria spent the first year chasing me.  Once she had her conquest, Victoria went into a two year holding pattern while she tried to figure out what had caused her to lose her mind.  Then one day she finally came to her senses and realized she had loved her husband the entire time.  Marla, I swear, the transformation was remarkable.  It was like watching Sleeping Beauty awaken from her curse.  Fortunately, Victoria realized there was still time to correct her mistake.  It wasn't easy, but Victoria persuaded her husband to forgive her and begin to trust her again.  Michael was understandably skeptical, but once he began to see flashes of the wonderful woman he had originally married, he decided to meet her halfway.  After a year of uncertainty, Michael moved back home.  They remarried a few years later.  To me, it was a miracle they could re-connect after the miserable events of the past."

"Why do you think Victoria went back to her husband?"

"Because he was a great guy!  Because her daughter loved her father and missed him terribly.  When I first met them, Michael and Victoria were the Golden Couple.  Attractive, educated, smart, respected, much loved by their friends.  But one day Victoria went haywire.  She found herself so drawn to the World of Disco that she jeopardized her marriage by spending night after night at the dance studio in pursuit of her dreams of popularity.  How many women would choose fleeting popularity in the World of Disco over a solid marriage to a good man and a good father?  It made no sense."

"What about you?  She wasn't drawn to you?"

"Heavens no.  We were friends, but she was not all that attracted to me.  In fact, I think she felt pity on me.  I was so inept at running my dance studio that she basically took over.  That's how she got control of the studio."

"So why did she pursue an affair with you?  Something must have changed." 

"The answer borders on insanity.  In the beginning, Victoria saw me as the man I was, a 'Donkey' in comparison to her husband.  I was a good teacher but relatively clueless at promoting my business.  After Victoria made my business take off, her efforts backfired when two very pretty women got interested in me.  Fearful that one of them could use me to destroy her dreams of being the Disco Queen, Victoria decided the studio was more important than her husband.  That decision alone should demonstrate why I say she went haywire.

Thanks to the threat posed by these two women, overnight my image was upgraded from Donkey to Prince.  Victoria chased off the other two women and began to pursue me.  Once the women were gone, Victoria decided a fling with me would permanently end the threat of other women coming along in the future.  She claimed her husband didn't want her anymore and had given her permission.  I was very skeptical, so I said no, I won't do something behind Michael's back.  That is when I bought time by saying I was open to a relationship if she separated from her husband.  Now I turned back into the Donkey again.  There was no way I was remotely in the same league as her husband.  She even told me this to my face.  But then her husband got so fed up, he told her he was getting a divorce.  Stuck between a rock and a hard spot, Victoria came knocking on my door.  But the moment we had sex, I was back to being the Donkey.  However, too late now.  Her marriage was shattered.  Victoria spent the next two years figuring out how she had ever made such a mess of things.

Here is my point.  The Donkey parallel is unmistakable.  Michael was clearly the better man for Victoria, yet she became so infatuated with me that she threw her marriage away.  Here is a woman who throws away a great marriage for someone she doesn't even want!   How do you explain that?  I'm sure Freud would have plenty of explanations, but to me the idea that Victoria was spellbound made just as much sense.  The only way I could be superior to Victoria's husband was temporary blindness.  'What did I ever see in that man?'"

"Pardon me if I offend, but very little of your story makes sense.  You swear this affair was not your idea."

"Marla, it is all true.  I could write a book about Victoria.  In fact, someday I probably will.  To answer your question, this was totally Victoria's decision.  Lost in her spell, Victoria said she loved me and could not live not knowing how things would be between us.  Everyone told Victoria she was an idiot to pick me over Michael, but she refused to listen.  In fact, I told her the same thing.  So we have sex and immediately the spell is gone.  In a flash I went from the man she had to have back to being the donkey.  The change was so dramatic I had to ask what she had seen in me in the first place.  This was when I began to formulate my Blindness theory."

"Okay, so you made a bad mistake.  But why stay with a woman like this after she moved back home?"

"She blackmailed me.  She claimed I got her into this mess so I better stick around or she would ruin the dance studio.  Ironically, over the next two years, Victoria repeatedly explained how her husband Michael was superior to me in every way."

"She did this to your face?"

"Yes!  And you know what?  I agreed with her!  I deeply resented her put-downs, but truth be told, I would have picked Michael over me had I been in Victoria's shoes.  I thought Michael was a solid guy, a man who deserved my complete respect.  This is why I spent hours upon hours analyzing Victoria's decision.  This situation made so little sense that I eventually tired of looking for psychological explanations to explain her behavior.  In the end, it was actually easier to believe an invisible pixie had cast a spell over Victoria than to accept realistic answers that did not add up." 

"So why do you think God would deliberately make Victoria crazy and ruin her marriage?"

"For the same reason that God made Pat crazy with jealousy.  We have an expression in our language, 'She must have been out of her mind to do that,' or 'I must have been out of my mind to marry that woman.'  There are those who claim there is more soul growth in one year of suffering than ten years of pleasant existence.  As I am fond of saying, good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.  I got thrown out of graduate school due to my big mouth.  That's bad judgment.  I carefully watch what I say ever since.  Good judgment.  I had an affair with Victoria.  Bad judgment.  I've never had an affair since.  Good judgment.  God wants us to make mistakes so we will learn lessons."

Marla stared at me for moment, then replied, "Yes, I suppose there's an odd logic to that.  I too have learned from past mistakes." 

I nodded.  "So now that you know my strange views on Reality, do you agree we were Fated to meet?"

The moment I said that, the strangest look came over Marla's face.  Marla grew quiet as she mulled something over.  "Rick, there's something I need to tell you.  It is very important."

 

 

Do You Believe in Fairy Tales?

Has anyone noticed how closely the classic movie An Affair to Remember parallels the Marla-Rick Romance? 

Bad Boy Cary Grant meets Skeptical Deborah Kerr on a cruise ship.  Deborah ignores Bad Boy at first, then suddenly sees Cary is a lot better person than his reputation suggests.  That allows Cary to pry Deborah away from her long-term relationship.  Except that something goes wrong and Cary has no idea what it is.  Unaware of Deborah's accident, Cary is heart-broken over her mysterious rejection of him.  Then, by Fate, Cary runs into Deborah one more time and discovers the truth that kept them apart.  They live happily ever after. 

Bad Boy Rick meets Marla who ignores him.  Meanwhile Marla meets Gypsy, Marla forgets Gypsy.  Bad Boy Rick meets Marla on cruise ship and this time Marla notices him and realizes Rick is a lot better person than his reputation suggests.  As Rick and Marla fall in love, Rick seemingly pries Marla from her long-term relationship.  Except that something goes wrong and Rick has no idea what it is.   The Ashley Rumor was such a juicy plot twist that even a master like Shakespeare would have been proud to think of it.  The following day, unbeknownst to Rick, the Ashley Rumor has led to Marla's mysterious rejection.  It takes a while, but Rick finds enough courage to defy his demons and chase Marla.  Coincidence of all Coincidences, Marla is conveniently standing outside his door.  Marla not only forgives Rick, she suddenly remembers that a Gypsy foretold the entire sequence.  Rick and Marla live happily ever after. 

The two stories are so similar, I might be accused of plagiarism.  Except that my story is not a Fairy Tale.  This story is true. 

Before I met Marla, I certainly did not believe in Romantic Love.  Twice divorced, cheated on many times, I didn't believe 'Romantic Love' even existed.  Marla and I had just spent six consecutive months leading parallel lives without a single spark flashing between us.  When I boarded the cruise ship, I was in the darkest, most cynical 'scorched earth' mood imaginable. 

Then without any warning whatsoever, Love magically appeared out of nowhere to give us both a Fairy Tale romance.  Except that it wasn't a fairy tale... this was real.  Not just that, if one accepts the Gypsy incident at face value, then the story of how I met Marla becomes an illustration of Fate in action. 

Not only was Marla kept in the dark till the right time, there was the remarkable coincidence of how we met at Midnight in the dance club.  Equally remarkable was the coincidence of running into Marla in the hallway moments after I finally worked up enough courage to find her and face my fears. 

Not only does our story serve as proof that Romantic Love is real, I believe our story validates the concept of Soul Mates who are meant to find each other.

In my lengthy saga, I have pointed out a dozen or more situations reminiscent of Cosmic Stupidity.  I myself can point to the time I senselessly cheated on a German test in my Senior year of high school.  The consequences of that stupidity were so dire that it took the last second timing of Mrs. Ballantyne's intervention to rescue me from a dangerous downward spiral.  Oddly enough, the dumbest thing I ever did magically led to the great miracle of my life.  My meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne changed my life, but I could never quite get over the fact that it took the dumbest thing I had ever done to set in motion this event in the first place. 

Five years later, my inability to recognize the danger of running my mouth in front of my hostile professor is what got me thrown out of graduate school.  This disaster is what led directly to my dance career.  Although things turned out well in the end, for the life of me I could not understand why I had cut my own throat to begin.  Hey, I knew better!  All I had to do was shut up... but I could not do it.  It was almost as if my mouth had a death wish any time I was around this particular professor. 

In addition to my own tales of blindness, I offer the story of Victoria as further argument for the existence of Cosmic Stupidity. 

"To Err is human, to Forgive is divine."  -- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, 1711

They say 'To Err is Human'.  What they don't say is WHY we make such stupid mistakes in the first place.  The whole point of my book is to illustrate that perhaps we make mistakes because we have no choice in the matter.

First and foremost was Victoria, the woman who made the worst mistake of her life when she threw away her marriage in pursuit of me.  Realizing the enormity of her mistake the very instant she crossed the Forbidden Line, Victoria was so full of grief that she discarded me immediately.  Two years passed as Victoria wandered through a maze trying to understand what on earth had caused her to be such an idiot.  Then one day she woke up... "Gee, you know what, I have always loved Michael!  What was I thinking?  I want him back!"  And the cool thing is that Michael forgave her.  I will always remember his act of kindness with a admiration. 

 

 

DOORS OF PERCEPTION

   
 

Morrison was in a strange mood that day.  He was in such a hurry to leave for Paris, he left town the moment he finished recording.  The other three band members were shocked to see him leave before the song was finished, but were undeterred.  Figuring they had Morrison's vocals on tape, they would do the rest.  They threw in some thunder, added the haunting background soundtrack and this great song was complete.  When I first heard 'Riders on the Storm', I fell to pieces.  This song has everything.  Fate!  Death!  The importance of a Good Woman!  Weird lyrics!  Great tune!

As it turned out, this was the last song Jim Morrison ever recorded.  Shortly after the song was released, Morrison died of a heart attack.  Hmm.  Knowing Morrison, he would have been proud of his final song.  Like a Viking, he died with a sword in his hand. 

Imagine my surprise when I realized Morrison drew the band's name from Doors of Perception written by Aldous Huxley.  Huxley maintained that the human mind filters Reality under normal circumstances.  He also added that psychedelic drugs can help remove that filter.  Morrison seemed to agree.  He was a frequent user of LSD.  I have never been one for drug use.  I claim to be curious, but I am very cautious where drugs are concerned.  One dark secret at a time is good enough for me.  However, I agree with Huxley's premise.

"Each person is capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe.  The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful."

As it turned out, Huxley gave credit to poet William Blake for his view. 

"If the Doors of Perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.  For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern."  -- William Blake
 

So where am I going with this?  I believe we all go through life saddled with various filters that shape our view of the world.  These filters may be temporary or they may last a lifetime.  In my case, the acne scars have been the eternal curse of my life.  It does not matter that many people have told me they don't see the scars, that the scars are easily overlooked.  In my mind, I look in a mirror and I am repulsed by the peaks and valleys.

If I am to believe my friends, the Truth is that I am a reasonably attractive man.  However my Perception is that I look awful.  No amount of persuasion has ever changed my mind.  Here late in my life, I have a beautiful wife and a great daughter, so if they are okay with my appearance, then I guess I can ignore it.  But deep inside, I still cannot look in a mirror without feeling sick in my stomach.

 

So I ask myself what would be the point of saddling me with this Negative Perception?  Given that I have a sneaking suspicion that my Perception is subject to manipulation by a Higher Power, I realize that my sense of ugliness has been directly responsible for the success of the dance career.  If I had the ability to look in the mirror and smile at what I see, I guarantee the Epic Losing Streak would not have lasted twenty years.  There would have been no dance career because my confidence would have allowed me to engage with attractive women in a normal way.

That said, no regrets.  Well, maybe a few.  I would love to see what I look like without the scars.  Be that as it may, I am grateful for a good life.  Now here is my point.  I am about to take a close look at the theory of Cosmic Blindness.  This theory postulates that we are all subject to having our mind filtered at various points in our life.  As it turns out, Cosmic Blindness serves as the cornerstone of the Gypsy Prophecy.  For this reason, I will discuss this highly controversial subject at great length. 

 
If there is such as a thing as Fate, then there has to be a mechanism by which Fate is enacted.  Regarding my 2012 failure, why did my substitute teacher get a massive headache at exactly the worst possible time?   Perhaps invisible Guardian Angels are charged with the responsibility of administering Fate.  Keep in mind this is just a guess on my part.  I am not psychic, so the best I can do is observe and wonder just like everyone else.  We all know that coincidences and lucky breaks can be unsettling.  Often we have no idea what to make of them.  A coincidence can be something odd like running into a childhood friend in an unexpected place years later.  Or it can be getting a phone call from a distant relative moments after thinking about the same person for no reason.  Ordinarily we dismiss these moments and turn our attention elsewhere.  However, once in while, we run across a coincidence that is so unusual that we are forced to stop and consider the possibility of a supernatural explanation.  For example, I have narrowly escaped death three times in my life.  A fourth time a woman appeared out of nowhere to talk me down from suicidal thoughts.  A fifth time I made a miraculous move to save a woman from breaking her neck.  Each time the margin was paper thin.  Incidents like these have led me to believe in Guardian Angels. 

 

 

I want to address the fragility of love.  This story reads like a well-crafted plot from a Shakespeare play.  In Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare demonstrated how easily doubt can arise through circumstance, distrust, lack of knowledge and rumor. In Othello Shakespeare pointed out how easily Love is destroyed by misunderstanding.  Misunderstandings between men and women are as old as Adam and Eve.  It was a shame Marla and I did not have the benefit of reading each other's mind.  Otherwise we would have known there was nothing to worry about.  But here in the 'Real World', misunderstandings are a dark part of everyday life.  Rumors cast doubt, interpretation of words can be twisted, actions do not always make sense on the surface.  

My problems with Marla gave me a first-hand look at the damage misunderstanding can create between new lovers.  Fortunately, after a very painful struggle to overcome my fears, I had the sense to do what needs to be done when a misunderstanding occurs... go find the girl and talk it over.  A major lesson in my stories is that people avoid facing their fears far too often.  It becomes a true gift if someone can learn to handle a problem directly rather than run from it.  Due to the fear of rejection, Communication isn't easy, but we have to try.  Through all the hurt, pain and confusion, a person must find the courage to reach out to the other person and learn what is wrong.  Certainly you will be scared to death to stick your neck out and, yes, your attempt might even fail.  Success is never guaranteed.  But when it does work, you might end up with the finest relationship of your entire life.  Love is worth the risk; Fortune favors the brave.

 


SUBCHAPTER 997 - EXPLANATIONS

 

August 2001

Following the surprising coincidence of running into Marla in the hallway, we watched the evening show together.  We held hands the entire time, a very encouraging sign.  However, the ordeal was not over.  After the show, Marla and I returned to my room and began another talk that would last till dawn for the second night in a row.  Throughout the day, things had gone poorly.  I attributed our mistakes to a mutual fear of getting hurt.  

I spoke first.  "Okay, Marla, before anything else, where do you stand with Chris?"

"At 4 pm this afternoon, I decided to end things with Chris.  But let's talk about him later.  Right now our problems from today take priority.  We need to talk about what went wrong today."

"No argument from me.  You had me going in circles.  Every time I looked for you, you had disappeared again.  By my count, you walked away from me four different times.  What were you so upset about?"

"You angered me the moment we returned to our cabins at 7 am.  When we reached your door, you started looking anxiously around the hallway to make sure no one saw us together."

"Why would that make you mad?  I did that for your sake."

"Really?  You did it because you didn't want one of your other girlfriends to see us together."

"You can believe what you want, but that is not correct.  Based on your decision to return to your room, I assumed you intended to give some long thought to your relationship with Chris.  If that was the case, then I didn't see the point in starting any rumors until you decided what direction to take."

"That's not the impression I got.  I thought you didn't want to tip off any girlfriends."

"On the contrary, you were the one with the six year relationship, not me.  I had nothing to lose, but you did.  If you decided to stay with Chris but got yourself linked with me, people would gossip endlessly about us for the rest of the trip."

"I don't believe you.  You had a suspicious look on your face.  I don't care what anyone on this trip thinks.  After all, I don't know anyone on this trip as it is."

"Maybe you don't care, but I do.  With things up in the air earlier this morning, I preferred not to have anyone laughing behind my back if you choose to return to Chris.  What you saw was a look insecurity.  I was worried because I felt you were pulling away from me because Chris was on your mind."

"I never told you I was going to think about Chris today."

"Why else would you pull away from me?  Why wake up your roommate at 7 am when I had a perfectly good bed for you to sleep in.  We had just spent the last seven hours together.  Why stop now?  I told you I would sleep on the couch.  I figured the only obvious reason to leave me was to be alone later for some serious thinking.  Then I saw you frown at me and that ratcheted up my fear."

"That frown had nothing to do with Chris.  I was angry because you wouldn't let people see me at your side."

"That is nonsense, Marla.  I slow danced with you in front of 100 people tonight.  I am proud to have you next to me.  You jumped to the wrong conclusion."

"I had no way of knowing what the truth was.  Then I grew angrier when you failed to greet me at the morning dance class."  

"I am sorry about that, but you didn't help matters by showing up late.  I intended to ask you how you wanted me to play this, but you tied my hands by arriving late to class.  What did you want me to do, stop the class and announce that we were a major item?  You have no idea the amount of gossip and distraction that would generate.  Whispers would fly and no one would pay a bit of attention to what I was teaching from that point on.  Given that I was in the dark where you stood on Chris, it was easier just to play it safe."

"I had two reasons to believe you were hiding something.  I was already on guard after the hallway incident and it hurt my feelings when you ignored my entrance into the room.  You could have come over and said hello."

"Not until I knew where you stood, Marla.  How was I supposed to know that you did not care one way or the other what people would think?  In addition, I wanted to avoid any chance of awkwardness.  I am a public figure and this is my job we are talking about.  The last thing I wanted was to turn my morning dance class into a soap opera."

"The way I saw it, you were ignoring me."

"Marla, you don't know me very well.  I prefer to keep the early stages of my love life a secret.  That is who I am.  I don't reveal my feelings to the world until I am pretty sure the girl intends to stick around.  In your case, you had a decision to make and your feelings were extremely volatile.  So why risk a public display of affection when there was a good chance you would ditch me before the trip was over?  That said, I was more than willing to take you to lunch with me.  People would have seen us leave together and that would have solved all your worries.  But no, you disappeared before the class ended.  Where did you go?  And why did you leave?  As far as I'm concerned, that's when the day fell to pieces.  Why would you leave without a word?  I had no idea what was going through your mind."

"It felt like you were ignoring me to keep your options open."

"There are no other women, Marla.  I told you that last night."

"Well, I have a friend at the studio who told me you were involved with someone named Ashley.  Jane told me that you used to take Ashley home with you after class.  According to rumors, it was torrid.  Jane smirked and described it as 'hot and heavy'.  I wasn't interested in you, so I didn't pay any attention.  However, the moment I saw the way you greeted Ashley in dance class, I knew Jane's story was true.  Plus it looked to me like the embers were still burning.  I was immediately suspicious that something might be going on.  I was hurt because you were happier to Ashley than you were me.  The least you could have done was show me the same enthusiasm." 

"Marla, you have taken my dance classes enough times to know it's my job to smile at women.  All I did was greet Ashley.  She's my friend.  I don't need to apologize for that."

"When you refused to pay attention to me in class and then greeted Ashley so warmly, I felt insecure.  The way it looked to me, you could very well still be seeing Ashley, especially after the way you looked nervously up and down the hall this morning.  After I saw how you greeted Ashley, I could tell she still likes you.  I was even more certain you were hiding something from me.  Considering how many times Chris has lied to me, your behavior with Ashley exceeded my trust limit.  So I left." 

"I wished you had spoken to me.  Your disappearance caused a lot of heartache.  The story about Ashley is true, but again you jumped to the wrong conclusion.  From the moment I met her, Ashley said she had her eyes firmly set on a guy named Lawrence.  He had shown a lot of initial interest, but had failed to follow through.  They were in some sort of holding pattern.  Until Lawrence came around, she suggested we spent time together.  Four weeks later, Ashley announced she and Lawrence had finally slept together, so she would have to call it off.  That was the end of it.  Since Ashley had been upfront with me from the start, there were no hard feelings on either side.  What you saw in dance class was me greeting Ashley like the good friend she is.  I am sorry for the misunderstanding, but I had no idea I was stepping on your fears.  Meanwhile you triggered my fear. I was really upset when you disappeared.  Why did you run from me?"

"I was very hurt.  In my mind, you tried to hide your interest in me from the others and you ignored me in dance class.  Not only did you show way too much interest in your old girlfriend, I saw a half dozen women who looked like they were dying for the chance to take a crack at you.  What do you expect from me?  I'm not your groupie.  I lost my temper and left."

"All right, Marla, when you put it that way, I see where you are coming from.  But in the process you created a terrible chain reaction." 

"What do you mean?"

"By leaving without an explanation, you caused me to doubt the sincerity of your affection from last night."

"That's not true.  If anything, my feelings for you were so strong that I could not bear to see you flirt with Ashley."

"If you had stuck around, I could have explained everything.  Instead by leaving you reinforced my fears that you intended to return to Chris.  Nothing has made sense to me all day because you have been avoiding me."

"Okay, I get it.  So what would you have said to me about Ashley if I had stuck around?"

"That story was supposed to be a complete secret.  The fact that you know about it means someone has been running their mouth."

"If anything, that reinforces my point that you seem to be hiding something in regards to her."

"Maybe if you knew the whole story, you will understand better.  Your friend Jane got carried away with her description of the relationship.  It was not a torrid romance.  In fact, Ashley couldn't wait to break it off."

"What did you do wrong?"

"I didn't do anything wrong.  I was just a pawn in Ashley's passion play.  The way Ashley saw it, until Lawrence made up his mind, she was free to see whomever she wanted.  She picked me because she figured my recent divorce would make me reluctant to get serious.  As it turned out, she guessed right.  Ashley asked if I could handle this arrangement without getting attached and I said probably.  I saw Ashley three times.  On the fourth week, Lawrence finally made his move.  When Ashley saw me at the studio the next night, she said it was time to break it off between us.  Her attitude was sort of, 'Hey, Rick, my ride's here, I gotta go.'  Does that sound torrid to you? 

Ashley asked me a favor.  Would I mind keeping this a secret?  Ashley was afraid if news got out that she had been seeing me on the sly, Lawrence might not be so keen on moving forward to the next stage.  I kept my end of the secret, so it is very disturbing to see Ashley has been running her mouth.  God only knows what she told Jane, but by your description either Jane or Ashley is making it out to be more than it was."

 

"Why does this upset you so much?  Jane wasn't bad-mouthing you."

"I don't appreciate being blind-sided.  Not only did Ashley violate our secrecy agreement, she failed to let me know the word was out.  Earlier tonight when I was wracking my brains for a reason why you had shown some much interest in Darren, I wondered if someone said something to you I did not know about.

As it turns out, that's exactly what happened.  Jane's big mouth is what triggered your insecurity when you saw me talking to Ashley.  You left class specifically because you misinterpreted our interaction.  Look, Marla, I have nothing to hide from you.  But you don't know that, so I can understand now what was bothering you.  Unfortunately, I am the one who got burned.  I can make a case that your alarming show of affection for Darren was payback related to seeing me show interest in Ashley today."

 

"Assuming you are telling the truth, you may have a point there." 

"Of course I am telling the truth.  Lies are the fastest way to destroy a relationship.  Here I am trying to protect Ashley's big secret and now I find out she blabbed the whole story to Jane, the biggest mouth at the studio.  That's why they say loose lips sink cruise trips."

"Ha ha, very funny."

"You asked me why I am so upset?  This is tricky to explain, but here it is.  Based on my observation, you don't get around much at the studio.  You strike me more as a loner.  So I have no idea why of all the people in the world, Jane decided to tell you about Ashley in the first place.  Like you said, you weren't interested in me, so why did the subject even come up?  It was none of your business.  Not only that, Jane twisted the details to make it sound like our brief relationship was special when in reality Ashley was just passing time.  And just my luck, I am the one the story blows back on.  I did nothing wrong, I kept my end of the bargain, but now I'm the guy crying his head off in my cabin because I think you have rejected me for Darren.  It is a very strange coincidence that you heard this story because it drove a huge wedge between us.  Now you see why I prefer to keep my love life private because crap like this happens."

"What were you crying about?  Couldn't you tell I was putting on a show with Darren?"

"No, Marla, you say you were just acting, but you looked pretty convincing to me.  From where I sat, Darren was the reincarnation of Johnny Angel.  Let me make this clear.  You spent seven hours with me last night, the last two of which you spent in my arms.  By my reckoning, you would be excited to see me in the morning.  Not so.  You were late to class, you immediately started frowning, then you left without an explanation.  I am not the most confident guy in the world, so every doubt known to man began creeping in, especially the fear that Chris was going to win you back.  Then came the evening.  You ran away after the Captain's reception, you ran away from me at dinner, and suddenly Darren is the most interesting man in the world.  What was I supposed to think?  You don't know me that well, but I am not that different from you.  I am an extremely suspicious person, especially till someone earns my trust.  I look for danger signals at all times.  From my point of view, you had brushed me off all day long!"

"I avoided you because I was angry that you kept trying to hide me from all your little girlfriends."

"Maybe so, but I didn't have any little girlfriends, so that kept me from guessing what you were upset about.  First I'm paranoid about you returning to Chris, and now I have a new rival in Darren."

"Darren is not a rival, trust me on that."

"Yes, I understand that now.  But you and I have been reading each other's signals wrong all day.  When you left dance class, I said to myself if you're going to turn your back on me, I wasn't going anywhere near you till you raised the all-clear flag."

"Our cabins are twenty feet away, Rick.  You could have knocked on my door to invite me to lunch.  I thought there another woman in the dance class you were trying to keep in the dark about me.  I definitely felt like you were hiding me from someone in that class, if not Ashley, then someone else."

"That's funny, at dinner I thought you had been hiding Darren from me."

"No way.  Are you serious?"

 

"Absolutely.  I had seen you frown at me in dance class, but I had no idea what you were so upset about.  However, once I saw you get romantic with Darren at dinner tonight, my suspicious mind went overboard with rage and paranoia."

"I was not being romantic with Darren.  I was putting on an act because you had hurt me.  I was smiling and laughing because I wasn't going to let you see how hurt I was."

"I know that now, but I was in the dark at dinner.  I had no idea how much the Ashley story had contributed to your Oscar performance.  After seeing how excited you were over Darren, a guy I had previously assumed was a total stranger to you, I had to wonder what I had missed.  So I guessed that you either ran into Darren at the dance class or maybe saw him at lunch and spent the afternoon with him."

"That's nuts.  I don't even know Darren.  It was just happenstance that we were seated together.  So what happened after you left dinner?"

 

"I went to my room and thought a lot of bad things about you.  Faced with five separate incidents that defied explanation, I had no way of knowing the truth.  I was about to give up on you, but then a small voice told me my thoughts were headed in the wrong direction."

"Sometimes we should just follow our gut instincts.  Unfortunately, my own instincts were leading me in the wrong direction."

"I don't think our problems are as rare as we think.  All the Shakespeare tragedies revolve around misunderstandings very similar to ours.  Now that I know that people have been talking to you behind my back, I finally have the missing piece of the puzzle.  Please put your mind at ease, there are no other women.  Not only was I was alone the entire day, I even watched you up on the deck where we spent last night."

"Really?  I had no idea you were there.  Why didn't you say anything?"

"I figured you were thinking about Chris."

"Good guess.  What brought you up there?"

"After my long nap, I was getting cabin fever, so I went upstairs to work a crossword puzzle.  Next thing I know, Martin came trotting across the deck to offer you a beer.  Based on the hopeful look on his face, it was pretty obvious he had a crush on you just like me.  You know, Marla, the thing that I can't get about the Chris story is why you would allow him to treat you so poorly.  To me, you're the best looking woman on this ship and I bet Martin would say the same thing.  It's one thing to be handcuffed to the guy, but you had the power to walk away at any point in this six year period.  The moment you were free, I bet you would have been asked out by three or four guys who had their eye on you the whole time.  Case in point, I see guys at the studio turn their head to look when you walk by.  Why on earth would you allow yourself to wallow in misery when you could be dating guys who respect you?"

"I have no idea.  Maybe someday I will understand it, but it is almost like Chris held me under some sort of hypnotic spell.  While you were working your crossword puzzle, I was throwing Chris overboard.  Four years ago Chris unilaterally called a time-out.  Now it's my turn.  The time has come for me to end my relationship with Chris."

"Does that mean you are free to kiss me unburdened by guilt?"

"I never felt any guilt in the first place, but right now I need you to help me understand a few things."

"Okay, what do you need to know?"

"I wasn't happy watching you dance up on stage with every woman in our group at the Captain's Reception.  You moved from woman to woman much too easily.  Your behavior bordered on smug.  Once I got my duty dance, you walked away without a second glance to track down the next woman.  I was unsure of your feelings towards me.  I felt like I was just one of many.  You didn't make me feel special when you dashed from woman to woman with the greatest of ease.  How many of those women were you chasing in addition to me? 

"That's my job, Marla.  These women keep me in business.  Asking them to dance is my way of showing gratitude for their support.  Besides, I saved the most important dance for you."

"That's true.  When we slow danced, it felt right between us.  However, then you pissed me off again.  Just when I felt things were about to work out, you raced back up on that stage with Jill.  I felt insulted.  You just had to have one more dance with a member of your flock.  It was more important to show off than be a gentleman and escort me to dinner."

"This is what I do for a living.  By displaying my skill at dance, I am discretely demonstrating competence.  There were a lot of people watching Jill and I perform.  That dance with Jill guarantees that four or five people who were watching were impressed enough to sign up for my next Whip class.  Surely you can understand that." 

"No, not really.  Your behavior at the Captain's Reception did not make any sense.  Why did you dance with every possible woman in the room?  It looked to me like you were playing the field.  All day long I have wondered how many women you are you chasing on this trip.  You go from woman to woman.  One moment's it me, then you can't wait to show off with Jill.  You practically hauled her up on the stage.  Considering we were headed to dinner together, that was extremely disrespectful.  Not only that, Rick, who really got the Last Dance?  Was it me or Jill?  As far I'm concerned, Jill got the last dance.  You did not make me feel important."

"Of course I see your point, but you have not learned to trust me yet.  Once I enter a committed relationship, I never stray."

"Unfortunately a lot of men say the same thing.  I know this for a fact.  I have to say, based on what I saw tonight, dating you would be difficult for any woman.  I did not appreciate your dance with Jill at all.  However, when you caught up with me in line as I waited for dinner, I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. 

As we stood in line, I was still hurt and confused over your insistence on dancing with Jill.  So I was already feeling insecure when those two people, Doug and Jamie, came over to speak to you.  Without even bothering to excuse yourself, you turned your back on me for five minutes.  Here we go again.  Not only did you lack the courtesy to ask me to dinner, you were so oblivious you didn't even know that I had left with Darren and Sherry.  Everyone gets Rick's attention but Marla.  Now you know why I raced into the dining room with Sherry and Darren.  Then I deliberately put on an act with Darren because I was not going to let see how much you had hurt me.  If you want me in your life, then you better learn to show respect."

Hmm.  Marla's flirtation was a bitter lesson.  I felt Marla's punishment had exceeded the crime, but at least her actions finally made some sense.   For my part, now that I knew her sensitive areas, I would be more careful to avoid offending her.  Some say every man is giant training experiment run by women.  Apparently my training program had begun today. 

"Marla, as far as Darren is concerned, you hurt me very badly.  You definitely got your message across, but hopefully you will be less trigger-happy from now on.  In the future, I would prefer you speak to me first before you drop the bomb."

"Normally I would have spoken to you first, but I reached my limit.  I was determined to prove that you had not hurt me."

"To begin with, you tell me you are disappointed that I did not come find you to invite you to lunch.  You are upset that I did not seek you out during the day.  And you have chewed me out for not asking you to share dinner.  It is one thing to have rules, Marla, but it helps to let me know what your rules are ahead of time before you go busting my chops.  As far as dinner is concerned, after what we shared last night, I did not realize I was expected to formally ask you to have dinner together.  Silly me, I assumed running to catch up to you after Jill, then standing next to you in line would be sufficient to convey the message.  You disappeared this morning to go to your cabin, you were late to class, you disappeared from class, you left me while I dance with Jill, you left me to have dinner with Darren, then now you turn around and chew me out for ignoring you.  Well, who's ignoring who?"

"From my point of view, you were chasing every woman on the ship.  I will not be one of many."

"From my point, I figured you were upset about Chris and needed to be alone to make up your mind.  That's why I left you alone."

"Is that the truth or are you just making this up?"

"That's the truth.  I have the advantage of knowing exactly where my heart is.  I think this entire day was one giant misunderstanding on both of our parts.  Let me say this one more time: there are no other women on this trip.  You have my word on that."

Marla nodded.  "I appreciate what you just said.  You know, it wasn't easy making the decision to discard Chris.  It took some thinking to let go Chris.  The fact that you kept avoiding me didn't help one bit."

"What was the determining factor?"

"I wasn't going to allow myself to be treated so poorly anymore."

"What did you decide to do about him?"

Marla offered a grim smile.  "I threw Chris overboard.  Chris is history.  Even though I wasn't sure where you and I stood, I decided I have had enough of Chris.  That relationship is over.  After talking to you about him last night, I know I can never go back to him feeling the way I do.  I deserve someone better.  I want to thank you for helping me come to this realization."

"I think you made the right decision.  I also think we can get past this terrible day we've had.  You definitely made me face my demons tonight.  When I thought you flirted with Darren, you accidentally hit right on top of the most sensitive nerve in my being, my fear of being deceived.  I took everything you did the wrong way.  I am not as brave as you seem to think around women.  There was a point in my life where my fear of a woman's rejection was so intense that I developed a serious Phobia.  It took several years to overcome that Phobia, but I eventually put it behind me.  Or so I thought.  Tonight my Phobia returned in full force when I witnessed your dinnertime flirtation.  After that stunt, I returned to my cabin and fell apart.  I was so afraid to approach you after that I had backed away from my cabin door three times before I finally had the guts to go find you."

"Look, Rick, I'm sorry I put on a show at dinner with Darren.  That whole thing was an act.  I was so hurt by you I could not see straight.  I agree.  Today has been one big misunderstanding after another."

"In the future, it would help if you would tell me what I did wrong first before lowering the boom."

Marla frowned.  "I could say the same about you.  Rather than avoid me, come find me.  I was forced to operate in the dark all day long.  Every one my fears about men popped into my head.  To begin with, I was afraid you had changed your mind about me.  I was half-convinced you had lost interest and brushed me off for a better offer."

I snickered at the irony of it all.  Better to laugh than cry.  "So basically no matter what I did today, it pissed you off."

"You got that right."

"Am I still in your doghouse?"

"I'm considering letting you out, but I am not sure yet.  You won some points by chasing me down tonight and accompanying Sherry and me to the theater."

"What do I need to do to extricate myself permanently?"

"You need to reassure me I am not exchanging one asshole for another one.  Look, Rick, I have my fair share of inner demons just like you do.  Practically every significant man in my life has cheated on me.  I'm sick of it.  I am sick and tired of the pain.  I am sick and tired of the lies.  I despise the anxiety of not knowing what is going on behind my back.  I don't cheat.  That is not who I am.  All I ask is that the man I love treat me with the same regard.  Are you willing to do this?"

My eyes grew wide.  As confrontations go, this was about as serious as it gets.

"Yes, I firmly believe in being faithful.  You and I share the same concern.  I have been cheated on more times than I care to admit.  I have spent my entire life looking for a woman I can trust.  I had an affair with a married woman twenty years ago.  This mistake hurt so many people that I vowed never to let it happen again.  I've had opportunities to participate in affairs since, but I have kept my vow.  I have been married twice and I was faithful to both women.  Knock on wood, I will always keep my vow."

"Is that the truth?"

"Yes. 

Marla smiled.  "I am glad you said that.  I feel the same way.  Okay, you are out of the doghouse.  Do you want a hug or a dog biscuit?"

"Can I have both?"

As it turned out, we had spent the day triggering each other's fears.  I guess the danger of a whirlwind romance is risking too much too soon.  We were vulnerable and not quite ready to trust the other person.  As a result, we were both guilty of overreacting to threats.  This was the heavy price we paid for recklessly baring our hearts the night before.  After listening to Marla's stories, I realized she had just as much right to be on guard as I did.  No one wants to distrust another person, but once a person has been hurt badly, he or she will be wary for the rest of their lives.  Faced with a series of ambiguous situations all day long, Marla's past experiences made her fear she was developing feelings for a man who would betray her like the others had.  Now that I saw things from Marla's perspective, I understood how she had arrived at her conclusions, unfounded as they were.  But then what about my suspicions?  I had seriously considered the possibility that she had spent the day with Darren.  We were both way off base with our fears, but that is what fear does to people.  The only solution is communication, but easier said than done.  Most people are so fearful of rejection, they run away.  Look at me, it had taken every ounce of courage I possessed to finally seek out Marla after the Darren incident.

Now it was my turn to tell Marla some of my war stories.  In my case, I had never spoken to anyone about my recent divorce.  I was terrified about commitment and admitted as much to Marla.  

"Look, Marla, I haven't completely healed yet from my divorce.  A lot of things went wrong and I am scared of repeating my mistakes.  Today's ordeal has reminded me how easy it is for the train to run off the rails.  My trust level towards women is pretty low right now.  I am terrified of commitment, but at the same time that is exactly what I want with you.  Unfortunately my fear of getting hurt again is holding me back.  I don't know how much I can trust you.  All day long I have been so fearful of you returning to Chris.  And then I completely flipped out over Darren.  I am a mess."

"You can trust me, Rick.  I am not perfect, but I am decent.  You can count on me to tell the truth at all times."

Marla's reassurance was a good start, but it wasn't enough.  I was dealing with way too much scar tissue, so we talked about my fear of commitment for a solid hour.  My paranoia following the Darren incident was so intense that I was having trouble trusting Marla even though deep down that is what I wanted.  It took a lot of tears on my part, but thank goodness I was able to reach the point where I felt safe with Marla again.  After drying my eyes, I brought up another sensitive subject.

" My instincts tell me you and I have a chance to go a long way together, but I am still afraid you will return to Chris."

"I think you and I can be very special.  But don't worry about Chris.  However things work out between us, I am completely sure that Chris and I will never get back together.  I refuse to spend the rest of my life with a man I do not trust."

I nodded with relief.  We were exhausted and frazzled.  And vulnerable too, no question about it.  All in all, it had taken us four difficult hours to work our way through all the psychological demons.  We had invested a lot of hope in a person we barely knew.  Love is the ultimate Risky Business.  Our instincts told us we were dealing with a good person, but after all the crap we had been through in prior years, our hearts needed tonight's display of good faith before moving onto the next step.

"Maybe we should get some rest.  Will you stay with me tonight?"

"Yes, of course."

"Uh, before I forget, will you have breakfast with me in the morning?  And lunch too?"

Marla reacted swiftly.  After punching me lightly in the shoulder, she exclaimed, "Of all the nerve!  I always knew you were a jerk!"

We both grinned.  This had been a hard day's night, so we both took a deep breath. 

I had learned a valuable lesson tonight.  I imagine there are a lot of people out there who choose to take the safe way out and avoid their fears.  I am the perfect example.  In particular, I recalled retreating from the cabin door three times until I finally found the courage to go find Marla and discover the truth.  Once we were able to admit our fears to each other, the problem did not seem insurmountable.  From here on out, we would continue to build on the trust we had developed tonight.  Thanks to our dramatic leap of faith, we would never be apart again.  Thank God I finally conquered my fear of women. 

 
If being thrown out of Graduate School was terrible luck, things definitely balanced out during my dance career.  One day without warning I started getting lucky.  Really lucky!  No one had the right to get as many lucky breaks as me.  Every gamble I took paid off.  Strangers appeared at the right moment to hand me golden opportunities.  Every time I made a serious mistake, an amazing rescue appeared out of thin air.  Over time, I became convinced a Hidden Hand was responsible.

Unfortunately, I assumed I would be lucky for the rest of my life.  I began to take my Good Luck for granted.  That explains why I was so flabbergasted when my 2012 comeback failed miserably.  It was probably good for me to fail.  If anything, it reinforced my understanding that "I" am not in charge.  The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.  I had been taught a valuable lesson in humility. 

My belief in Fate has led me to adopt a much calmer attitude towards set-backs and disappointments.  When faced with unexpected situations that carry the hint of Fate, I have learned not to blame myself too much if things go wrong.  I apologize, clean up the mess and try to learn something.  When a lucky break comes my way, I say thank you, then remind myself not to take too much credit. 

 

 
Alexander Pope is also given credit for "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" and "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread".  Obviously Alexander Pope was a very wise man.
 
As another example, let's go back to my Senior year of high school. I was on a verge of a nervous breakdown because I believed my lifelong dream of going to college had just been postponed for an entire year.  My classmate Katina Ballantyne was the daughter of a wealthy physician.  Considering all her privileges, how could she steal a college scholarship from the poor kid in the history of our school?  I had viewed that scholarship as my last chance to go to college at Georgetown and now it was gone.  Where is the justice?  Deeply upset, I was one more bad break from doing something really stupid if you catch my drift.  One week later Katina's mother shows up at my grocery store to snap me out of my desperation.  It was a remarkable moment indeed.  Two weeks after that, Mr. Salls, my Headmaster, tells me to phone Ralph O'Connor, the man who arranged my four year scholarship to Johns Hopkins University.  In other words, Katina won that scholarship because Mr. Salls had already arranged a far better scholarship for me.  But Mr. Salls never told me that!  So here I am ready to jump off a bridge when there was never any problem at all. 

The sad thing is that a giant clue had passed right by me six months earlier.  Back in September Mr. Salls had essentially ORDERED me to apply to Johns Hopkins, a men's school I had never even heard of.  Mr. Salls completely ignored my interest in Georgetown, the school of my dreams.  He neglected to suggest I apply to the University of Texas as a backup option.  On those two counts alone, Mr. Salls could be convicted of gross negligence.  Except for one thing... he and Ralph O'Connor had already arranged my scholarship here in September!  However, I never knew this.  I would not learn about my scholarship till April.

For seven months, I operated completely in the dark.  In fact, it was even worse than that.  It would not be till 2009 that I finally figured out what had been going on behind my back between Mr. Salls and Mr. O'Connor.  If that isn't Blindness, then what is it?  I contend it was my Fate to suffer.  That was my Karma. 

 

 

There is an interesting footnote to this story.  26 years years after that curious day in Gaye's office, some odd circumstances persuaded me to organize a dance cruise for my dance students.  One hundred people signed up for the 2001 trip, an amazing total.  During that trip, I guided all the activities.  I taught dance lessons in the morning and played Leader of the Pack while we danced to the ship's band at night.  By becoming the 'Cruise Ship' Director on that trip, I was well aware I was fulfilling a prophecy of sorts.

On that initial voyage, I made a fascinating discovery... my students loved dancing out at sea!

   This was only the beginning.  My first effort was so successful, from here on out, there were two, three, sometimes four cruise trips a year in my future that involved my dance studio.  On each trip, I organized the social events.  To me, this experience felt like a prophecy come true.  

Was it my Destiny all along to become a Social Director on land and sea?  It certainly felt that way.  I felt blessed to have been given this deeply satisfying role.  It was an honor to play a key part in my students' lives.  I loved doing this. 

 

 

I felt a profound sadness come over me and tears welled up in my eyes.  After pausing to collect myself, I had something more to say.

"Listen carefully.  No woman in her right mind destroys a marriage with a man as good as Michael.  If you could have seen the look on Victoria's face as she sobbed violently in my bed that night, you would realize Victoria had just awakened to a devastating reality.  Victoria was baffled.  How was it possible that she had just made the worst mistake of her life? 

That is how I became certain Victoria was just as much a victim of Cosmic Stupidity as I was.  If Victoria was so full of regret after crossing the line, then why did she come to my house in the first place?  I didn't invite her.  I didn't want her there.  I doubt seriously Michael wanted her to go.  But she showed up anyway.  That is why I think she was on automatic pilot just like me.  Call me crazy, but as I have told you all night long, the explanation that makes the most sense to me is that somebody cast a cloak of Cosmic Stupidity over both of us.  I think our common sense and willpower was placed under the control of a higher authority because our Fate dictated that we make this terrible mistake. 

I cannot prove it, but that is how I see it.  Let me say this one more time: No woman in her right mind destroys a marriage with a man as good as Michael.  Victoria's inexplicable behavior has become the absolute foundation of my belief in Cosmic Stupidity.  Victoria has been blind to her husband for three years.  Now hopefully the spell is broken.  I firmly believe her eyes are open again.

While I am at it, there is one more thing.  Victoria wrote me a letter shortly after she moved in.  One particular statement will never leave my mind.  I can quote you what she said:

'Rick, I know too that our relationship hasn't always been easy, but I have always felt that our being together was Destiny.  It's like no matter what happens, the Universe keeps pushing me in your direction and I can't seem to let go of you.'"

"I thought you said that the two of you did not share these kind of thoughts."

"We don't!  Victoria and I have never discussed that letter.  That means we both independently reached the same conclusion that we shared a Destiny.  Some people use the phrase 'Fate brought us together' in a very casual, almost trite way.  Not me.  A phrase like this must have a reason to have originated in the first place, just like 'I must have been out of my mind'.  It is clear that Victoria agrees with me that the Universe has pushed us together.  Some day if I can catch Victoria in her right mind, I would bet serious money she believes in Fate just as much as I do.  How can Victoria live through this experience and not reach the same conclusion? 

I daresay she would agree this Affair happened because it was Destined to happen.  That does not mean what we did was right.  Nor does it justify the pain Michael has been forced to suffer.  But it happened, so what is the right thing to do given our mistake?  Now that her confusion is starting to clear, I believe Victoria realizes her heart has always belonged to Michael and she wants to make amends.  But she hasn't made it back yet and I would die if she failed now that she is this close.  Hopefully you now know why I feel a Karmic responsibility to see things through to the end.

To me, Victoria's words about Destiny form the only explanation that has ever made any sense about our time together.  I fully believe the Universe loaned Victoria to me to create this dance studio, but the time has come for her to return to the man she truly loves."

 
 
Periodically there are polls undertaken across America.  You can look them up on the Internet.  Percentage of people who believe in Fate, percentage who believe in Reincarnation and so on.  A recent glance said that 75% of Americans believe in God, but only 40% believe in ESP.  So I have a question.  What exactly do people think Prayers are?  When people Pray, do they whisper out loud and hope that God has good ears?  In my case, if I have a Prayer, I don't say it verbally, I say it in my mind.  If God chooses to answer, I expect to receive the answer either an idea in my mind or an omen in my daily life.  I do not think I am the exception here.  Every Sunday my Quaker friends sit there quietly hoping God will contact them with an Inspiration.  I guarantee they don't expect an angel will drop by to hand them a Fortune Cookie.  Nor do they expect God will FedEx the answer.  They hope God will respond using a Telepathic Insight. 

This is why I have a hard time understanding the 35% gap between Belief in God and Belief in Telepathy.  If there is a God, then there is Telepathy.  End of argument.  If there is God, there is Telekinesis.  After all, the Bible says He built the Universe.  What I mean is that there are a lot of things about Reality that we do not understand.  Therefore it is imperative we remain open-minded and observant.

 

 

One would assume I was proud of myself.  By all rights, I should have climbed to the tallest roof top and shouted that I was the only dance teacher in Houston able to see it coming.  Except we know better.  I had no more foresight than anyone else.  My position as Houston's leading western teacher was a complete and utter Cosmic Fluke.  Through a set of circumstances I have previously referred to as 'Dumb Luck', I found myself well ahead of the pack strictly by accident.  In other words, I was no smarter than the rest, just luckier. 

 
 
The initial days of the new TGIS Era marked the period when Victoria and I drifted apart.  From January to June, Victoria and I spoke only occasionally.  Victoria was in therapy and Michael had filed divorce papers.  Victoria was so preoccupied with legal problems, her daughter's immense sadness, and soul searching that she barely gave me the time of day.  As I said, I could have cared less that she ignored me.  I prayed Victoria would forget about me and move on.  I was like an old used toy on a shelf gathering dust.  The studio was not important to Victoria anymore.  Victoria simply went through the motions whenever she was at the dance studio.  Strangely enough, although I was surrounded by countless women full of curiosity, Victoria never showed signs of worry.  Either she didn't care anymore or she trusted me.  Whatever the reason, Victoria left me in peace. 
 

Back in college, I majored in Social Science.  Consequently I spent a lot of time trying to understand the dynamics of this strange Urban Cowboy phenomenon.  I read an article in the Houston Chronicle that tried to explain the theme behind the coming movie.  The premise suggested the invisible class lines separating the Urbans residing in Houston and the Cowboys residing in Pasadena were becoming blurred.  The Urbans were college-educated professionals with soft, manicured hands while the Cowboys were tough blue collar factory workers with high school educations and dirt under their fingernails.  I raised an eyebrow when the article said the movie would explain how these two groups were planning to live together in some sort of modern harmony. 

Recalling how Devin and Mona, my Waltz couple, had been flattened by rednecks at the Winchester Club five months earlier, I was pretty skeptical about the harmony angle.  Fortunately, I did not see any hostility at Cowboy.  This club was far too pretty for a self-respecting 'Real Cowboy' to ever consider visiting.  This was a playground for Fake Cowboys like me and my students.  Let the Real Cowboys stick with Gilley's and Winchester

I still wondered how I ever managed to stay in the dark about the beauty of Cowboy for ten months.  After talking with countless students, I learned my Disco students had been completely in the dark as well.  Most of my Disco students swore up and down they had not gone anywhere near that club.  We were all so mad at having Disco taken away from us, we avoided Cowboy as a form of protest.  Since none of us took the time to check the place, we all had been blind to the truth about Cowboy.  This made me feel better.  At least I wasn't the only person blindsided by the experiment of creating an upscale kicker club. 

Another major mystery during last year's Western Transformation was figuring out who was keeping all these new Western clubs in business.  During my March Promotion at TGIS, I was struck time and time again by the fact that none of the TGIS people had any idea what Country-Western dancing looked like.  Obviously these were not the people keeping the Western clubs in business.  So if the Disco crowd and the TGIS crowd did not visit any Western clubs, then who was keeping these clubs in business?

I knew some of the customers were Texas A&M graduates because Joanne had mentioned the Aggies were by far the best dancers.  But there were at least two dozen Western clubs at this point.  I did not believe there were not enough Aggies in Houston to keep all these clubs in business.  There had to be others.  Who were the Mystery People going to these clubs?

Eventually I got my answer and when I did, I was totally ashamed of myself.  It is embarrassing for me, the Great Social Scientist, to admit, but I was totally unaware that 'working class people' also go to nightclubs.  In retrospect, my life during the 1979 Disco-to-Western Transformation was totally insulated.  I spent 99% of my time at my house, the dance studio, the Pistachio Club, and the Jewish Community Center on Sundays for volleyball.  How was I supposed to know the blue collar workers were keeping the Western clubs quite busy at the time?   Fortunately, I finally caught on.  Secretaries, nurses, factory workers, construction workers, truck drivers, plumbers, electricians, janitor, maintenance workers, you name it.  In other words, Western clubs is where the blue collar workers went to hang out.  The genius of the minds behind the Cowboy experiment was to create a Western club where white collar professionals would feel comfortable.  This had never been done before.  Bravo to McFaddin-Kendrick. 

 
 

As I would discover, only a small percentage of Houstonians knew anything about western dancing.  Pretty soon, a tidal wave of city folk would be needing dance lessons.   One would think the absence of public knowledge about Western dancing would work dramatically in my favor.  However, I was facing a major problem... the dancing was way too easy to learn.  I dreaded the day when Houston realized how simple the dancing was.  The moment everyone realized how simple it was to learn, I could very easily be out of a job. 

Under ordinary circumstances, a movie about the love lives of brawling lowlifes at Gilley's would hardly capture the public imagination.  However, it was the addition of John Travolta, the biggest movie star in the world, that changed everyone's perception.  Having Travolta on board gave Urban Cowboy instant credibility, especially with the people here in Houston.  Travolta's dancing reputation was all it took to make the entire city of Houston believe the Texas Twostep would turn out to be the greatest thing since popcorn, ice cream, and football.  But here's the funny thing about it.  As we shall see, the addition of Travolta to the movie was a colossal stroke of Dumb Luck. 

The anticipation of the movie here in Houston became so intense that it turned the city upside down.  Even though the dancing in Urban Cowboy would prove to be lame beyond comprehension, it didn't matter.  The irony is that Western dancing in Houston would improve not because of the movie, but in spite of it.  The intense pre-game publicity about how Travolta would revolutionize Western dancing in Houston was so compelling it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Since so many people believed the movie would put Western Dancing on the map, the dream came true anyway.  I would play a key role in making this happen. 

 

There was a part of me that believed Victoria was ruthless, but then again that brief glimpse of Sunshine Victoria in my living room made me wonder if the Light continued to live within her.  Call me gullible, but my instincts said that Victoria was not evil enough to flat-out deceive me.  No matter how much I despised Victoria at the moment for fooling me, I did not think she was a sociopath.  Selfish, yes.  Manipulative, yes.  Scared, yes.  Confused, yes.  Evil, no.  To me, it felt like Victoria had spoken from her heart in her Living Room Speech.  There was a good side to Victoria hiding in there somewhere. 

That said, there was no doubt this was one really weird woman.  She said she couldn't bear to lose me.  Great, you got me, Victoria, now what?  Not once following U-Turn Week did Victoria bring up the subject of sex.  Nor did she bother to kiss me.  This suggested she had never been interested in me sexually all along.  So now my question was to ask why Victoria forced herself to have sex with me in the first place.  On that fateful night, Victoria cajoled her way through my door, petted my dog, gave her living room speech, took my hand and led me to the bedroom.  She removed her clothes, climbed under the sheets, and patted the bed to join her.  Seeing she was determined to get this over with, I followed along like a little puppy dog.  The next thing I knew, Victoria was crying her head off while I stared at her in consternation. 

I felt like I was overlooking something.   If Victoria wasn't being Evil and she wasn't trying to deceive me, then what was her reason to have sex?  That is when the word 'misguided' popped into my head.  Victoria's tears of grief suggested a woman who had been misled herself, someone who had just realized what a fool she had been.  To me, her grief was so intense that I got the feeling she was just as much against having sex as I had been.  If so, why go through with it?

Now my mind drifted back to Cosmic Stupidity.  Victoria had hinted she too believed in Fate.  Like me, maybe she felt compelled to carry through with this fraud despite her misgivings.  To my surprise, my interpretation of her behavior had just flipped back to Mystical.  Rather than be furious with Victoria for her Vanessa-like deceit, what if the woman had been just as befuddled as I was?  Here was a woman who had been faithful throughout her marriage and yet she had suddenly broken her vows under the most depressing circumstances imaginable.  In other words, Victoria's behavior was both 'senseless' and 'uncharacteristic', my criteria for Cosmic Stupidity.

 

Shakespeare came to mind... "The World is a Stage and we are but the players.

Maybe so, but I was at best a distant third billing here in Michael and Victoria's domestic power struggle.  Although some would say I was a key player in Victoria's personal Greek Tragedy, I was more a pawn than anything else.  It had been bizarre to be held captive in my own house.  Although Victoria claimed she had moved in, that was nonsense.  Victoria had not moved in with me, rather she was just shacking up.  I was certain Victoria was using me to prove a point with Michael.  I was supposed to be the man she had risked her marriage for, but now that she had me, she didn't want me. 

Two weeks had passed since I had committed adultery.  Some people argue a single person cannot commit adultery, but that technicality meant nothing to me.  In my eyes, I was an adulterer and adultery was wrong.  During the past two weeks, my mind had worked overtime trying to deal with my fall from grace.  To be honest, I was surprised at how little guilt I felt.  My overriding observation was that I had been set up by Fate.  I was definitely angry about being tricked into this, but how do you argue with Fate? 

Although I had felt guilty the two times I attempted sex with Victoria, I no longer felt guilty.  I did not ask Victoria to show up on my doorstep.  Nor did I sneak behind Michael's back.  Michael had to know full well what was going on.  Furthermore, I thought I was doing the honorable thing to let her stay.  She had told me she was committing to me.  Yeah, right.  Her idea of commitment meant a drawer half full with her underwear. 

 

But those technicalities tend to get overlooked depending on who tells the story.  There's an old saying that no man or woman should ever have an affair with a memoir writer.  I knew how my memoir would be written, but I also wondered how Michael or Victoria's memoir would read.  I suppose if Michael or Victoria were to offer their side of the story, I would be cast as the philandering villain.  No doubt in the retelling, I would be blamed for my evil tempting of poor naive Victoria to break her wedding vows. 

Well, Victoria could spin it any way she wanted, but the facts spoke for themselves.  In her desperation, Victoria had betrayed a very fine man and risked hurting her daughter in the process.  Victoria was definitely a lost soul at the moment.  The question was how I would ever find the Light that was surely being held captive somewhere in her heart. 

As for me, although I did not feel guilty, I definitely continued to feel stupid.  I should have never followed Victoria into bed.  I had a spare bedroom with a lock on the door.  Why didn't I use it?   Too late now.  Experience is a comb Life throws you after you lose your hair. 

Unable to comprehend Victoria's Transformation from Good to Evil, I turned to Psychology.  For that matter, so did Victoria.  As I mentioned, she went into therapy.  I cannot speak for Victoria, but I gave up on Psychology and turned to Mysticism.  As far as I was concerned, Victoria's inexplicable switch from good to bad had all the markings of an Evil Spell.  I am not a big believer in the Devil.  Nor do I believe in Hell.  I prefer Reincarnation and a Loving God who gives us as many lifetimes as necessary to get it right.  However, to avoid getting sidetracked, let's skip Reincarnation.  Instead let us consider the commonly accepted theological view that God deliberately places obstacles in our lives to teach us lessons.  In Victoria's case, I wondered if her mind had been tampered with.  If so, this might explain why she had behaved in such an uncharacteristic way.  In other words, I spent my three years of sleepless nights tiptoeing around the radical idea I would one day refer to as Cosmic Blindness.

 

 


SUBCHAPTER 611 - CLAY FELKER OUTSMARTED

 

Nancy Newhouse, a senior editor in the early years of New York Magazine, once said this about Clay Felker:

"I have never seen anyone who was as open to his intuition as Clay was.  He had no barriers between his intuition and himself.  Most of us have all kinds of defenses.  But with Clay, there was no barrier.  Sometimes he was wrong, but he was right enough of the time, spectacularly right, that it was astounding."

For all the success tales that weaved through the improbable Saturday Night Fever saga, Clay Felker was the one person left with his baseball bat still resting on his shoulder.  In all my research, I was unable to find a single story to suggest Clay Felker profited from the cultural phenomenon generated by the Disco story that appeared in his magazine.  Try to imagine how the man felt when the movie proceeded to make everyone wealthy and famous beyond their wildest dreams, everyone but him that is.

Clay Felker, the mightiest clairvoyant of all things New York New York, had been reduced to a footnote.  For a man who was 'spectacularly right' most of the time, it must have blown his mind to miss this one completely.

 

Writer Nik Cohn did very well.  I read where Cohn was paid $90,000 for the rights to his story.  I also read where Stigwood gave Cohn the first shot at writing the screenplay for a guaranteed $150,000, as well as percentage points in the upcoming soundtrack album.  Who can imagine how much money Nik Cohn made once the album became a best-seller? 

Robert Stigwood did very well.  Imagine Clay Felker's stupefaction when the story from his New York magazine became important to the tune of $280 million box office and $40 million soundtrack based on Stigwood's $4 million investment. 

Disco was a trend that had been placed right under Felker's nose and all he did was sniff with contempt.  Now everyone around him was getting rich and Felker had nothing to show for it. 

Clay Felker was the man who prided himself in spotting trends before all others.  And yet the one time his talent could have really paid off, Felker missed it.  Felker was undoubtedly fit to be tied.  How could he have overlooked this Disco phenomenon? 

 

Perhaps Clay Felker was too hard on himself.  Truthfully, he never had a chance where Saturday Night Fever was concerned.  No one could have seen that coming because it was Supernatural!  It seems the Arrow of Destiny was pointed at Robert Stigwood, not Clay Felker.  Robert Stigwood instantly saw the potential in Nik Cohn's story because he had the advantage of having both the Bee Gees AND John Travolta under contract at the exact moment the story appeared.  The luck of having the perfect actor, the perfect story, and the perfect music all at the same time was unbelievable.  This was the Robert Stigwood Synchronicity

If Felker had a beef, it would have been with Nik Cohn.  Cohn outsmarted Felker by planting a bogus article in his magazine.  Using the credibility gained from getting his story published despite Felker's misgivings, Cohn's story attracted so much interest that he was able to leverage Robert Stigwood for the big payday.  Then Stigwood turned around and waltzed off with the Grand Prize. 

I imagine Clay Felker felt badly used.  No doubt his pride was hurt as well.  Given Felker's illustrious track record, you really have to feel for the guy.  Despite his razor-sharp instincts for spotting unusual lifestyles, a story worth $285 million passed right under the nose of the Great Trend Spotter.  Even more pathetic, the story was totally fictitious and Felker never caught on. 

In Clay Felker's defense, he was badly distracted.  At this same moment, Felker was in the fight of his life to maintain control of his magazine. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 612 - OUTFOXED

 

Clay Felker could have used some of that Saturday Night Fever money.  Felker was a terrific editor, but he had one major weakness... he liked to spend other people's money.  Felker's expenses were so exorbitant, they out-stripped the magazine's resources.  His lavish spending on limousines, office space and personal chefs drew heavy criticism from his board of directors.

One day Felker demanded they buy him a house in the Hamptons.  That was the last straw.  Clay Felker had grown too big for his britches.  By 1976, the magazine was going broke.  Fed up with his rampant spending, New York magazine's board of directors told Felker to find a solution or start looking for another job.

Clay Felker had recently been introduced to Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch by Katherine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post.  Graham asked Felker to show the new kid in town around New York.  The two became fast friends, lunching downtown, lounging poolside in the Hamptons and discussing mutual ventures.

Taking note of Murdoch's deep pockets, one day in November 1976, Felker mentioned his boardroom problems to his potential sugar daddy.  Felker asked if Murdoch might be interested in making an investment in the magazine.  That was akin to asking the friendly fat boy next door to watch his hot dog for a while.  Murdoch's eyes lit up.  Murdoch smiled politely.  "Why, sure, Clay, why don't you drop by the beach house this weekend?  Let's have a talk!"

 

Felker must have been in some sort of fog.  Or perhaps he had fallen under the spell of 'Cosmic Stupidity'.  Ordinarily a very shrewd man with killer instincts, in 1976 Felker not only missed on what Nik Cohn was up to, he missed what Rupert Murdoch was up to as well.

What Felker did not seem to understand was that Murdoch was looking to expand his media empire.  That is why Murdoch had come to New York in the first place.  Murdoch had started with the purchase of the New York Post, a blue-collar tabloid.  Wouldn't it be nice to have a way to reach the city's wealthy movers and shakers as well??  Now thanks to Felker's big mouth, Murdoch had just realized Felker's smart, sophisticated New York magazine was in play.

Felker was so certain that Rupert Murdoch was a well-meaning buddy, he was completely blind to the danger.  During that fateful weekend in the Hamptons, Felker poured his heart out to Murdoch.  Journalist Susan Braudy offered this startling eye-witness account:

"I had dinner with Murdoch and Clay Felker in Murdoch’s rented house in Southhampton.  Murdoch’s daughter and son served steak and fresh baby peas.  Flawlessly tasteful.  Intimate.  A stealthy trap.

I was there because I was a weekend houseguest of Clay Felker, the publisher of New York magazine.

For Murdoch, the dinner party was a high-level espionage mission.  Clay Felker had no inkling that Murdoch was secretly positioning himself to steal New York magazine out from under him.

Clay was loquacious throughout the meal.  He explained Manhattan things to Murdoch who Clay clearly saw as a bit of a rube. Clay waxed eloquent about his writers Aaron Latham and Gail Sheehy (who were also present).  He explained my presence in terms of Ms Magazine which he had helped launch and where I wrote and edited.

Clay bragged about his parties.  He confided to Murdoch that he got his best stories by listening to dinner party conversation.  He was oblivious that this time it was Murdoch who was doing the listening. 

Clay got no stories at the Murdoch dinner.  Murdoch said almost nothing.  He asked one or two flattering questions and that was it.  Murdoch was doing to Clay what Clay usually did to everyone else... listen.

A month or so later, Murdoch seized New York magazine and instantly fired Clay despite assurances to the contrary."


Clay Felker had been out of his mind to speak so candidly to the wolf.  Andrew Tobias, one of Felker's writers, had this say:

"Clay was not great with money.  He was always asking me for financial advice like how he could stint on his editorial package.  Clay's bread and butter was creativity.  The stories and graphics and writing meant far more to him than profits.  Then came the day he met a terrific young Australian publishing tycoon. Clay told me, “Andrew, you’ve got to go meet this guy!” 

Clay assumed he was setting up Murdoch to be his shining knight.  After Clay sent me over to visit Rupert Murdoch, Murdoch ended up interviewing me about the magazine.  That's when I got that funny feeling.  Sure enough, to Clay’s consternation, Murdoch grabbed the magazine out from under him."
 

Once Murdoch realized that Felker had alienated the board of directors, Murdoch had his opening.  At the same time Murdoch was sharing meals with Felker, he was negotiating behind Felker's back with the magazine's majority shareholder.  Murdoch waved big money at the Board and they took it.  Clay Felker never saw it coming until it was too late.  Once he realized what Murdoch was up to, Felker tried to persuade his friend Katherine Graham at the Washington Post to rescue him. 

 

When Katherine Graham learned of Murdoch's backdoor dealings, she called Rupert Murdoch to beg him to reconsider.

“Don’t do this to the boy, Rupert.  Don’t destroy this boy, don’t take this boy’s magazine from him.”

Murdoch could not have cared less.  Murdoch sensed weakness.  He was a shark and there was blood in the water.  Felker might be a great editor, but he was a bad businessman.   The moment Murdoch bought the New York magazine, he told Felker to hit the road.  Despite Felker's deep connection to his baby, Felker was of no use to Murdoch.  He didn't want Felker around.  A ship cannot have two captains. 

Felker had expected Murdoch would help him acquire New York magazine, not take it for himself.  Clay felt betrayed, stabbed in the back.  He had trusted the wrong person.  However, there was one last hope.  His stable of talented writers was deeply loyal to Felker.  The writers threatened to revolt if Murdoch fired Felker.  They tried to protest Felker's dismissal, but got nowhere.  Murdoch called their bluff.  If they left, Murdoch said he would replace them faster than the furniture.  Try finding another job in this market, especially after Murdoch put the hex on them.  The revolt collapsed. 

Here is how Richard Reeves, one of Felker's stunned writers, put it:

"This was a time that we all thought the power was with the writers, with the creative people.  We were wrong.  In a way we were forced to learn what they already knew in Hollywood: That’s not the way it is.  The power is with the money.  While we wrote about that all the time, and while Clay understood that intellectually, as a businessman I don’t think he got it."

1976 and 1977 had been tough years for Clay Felker.  First he was outsmarted by Nik Cohn and Robert Stigwood.  Then he was outfoxed by Rupert Murdoch.  Felker's beloved magazine had been ripped out of his hands.  Following these two back to back defeats.  Clay Felker was heart-broken and devastated.  He was also out of a job. 

What would he do now?  The answer was a major key to my Destiny.  Can you guess?

 


SUBCHAPTER 613
- CLAY FELKER'S VISION

Let's face it, there’s nothing quite like seeing the words ‘based on a true story’ at the start of a movie.  Great selling point, yes?  No doubt there was much sanctimonious criticism when the truth came out that the entire story was imagination.  But in reality, there was only one real victim - Clay Felker.  Nik Cohn leapfrogged to the stratosphere using Clay Felker's unwitting shoulders as his springboard. 

Although Nik Cohn did not personally bring about Clay Felker's ruin, he was responsible for the greatest indignity Felker ever suffered.  Felker built his reputation on his ability to spot things before they happened, to spot trends, to identify sub-cultures and bring them to light.  New York magazine was not only directly responsible for bringing the Disco sub-culture out of obscurity, the sensation caused by Cohn's article led to Saturday Night Fever, the major cultural icon of the Seventies.

Clay Felker was given credit for spotting the most 'lucrative' trend of his career... the Disco energy.  And yes, Felker did not mind taking credit for it.  But in his heart, Clay Felker knew that he did not deserve the credit.  Felker had completely missed on this story. 

 

Saturday Night Fever created America's love affair with partner dancing for the first time since the golden era of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  Seriously, this movie was a gold mine for all.  Everyone who touched this movie profited immensely. 

Everyone, that is, except Clay Felker.  It is unlikely that Felker even made a dime.  Felker made it his business to find hidden nuggets.  As the ultimate 'trend spotter', Felker scoured New York to uncover interesting items, then told one of his gifted writers to go poke their nose into it.  Felker understood these nuggets were not going to come to him, so he was always on the lookout wherever he went. 

Unfortunately, despite his razor-sharp instincts for spotting breaking developments and unusual lifestyles, a story worth $285 million somehow passed right under the nose of the Great Trend Spotter.  The reason Felker never batted an eyelash was easy to explain... there was not much of a trend to begin with!

Disco was on its way out when a street hustler named Nik Cohn penned a completely fictitious story about teenage Disco dancers in Brooklyn.  At this point, Cohn got lucky beyond his wildest dreams.  His first stroke of luck was sneaking his bogus story past his highly skeptical boss.  Cohn's second piece of luck came when Robert Stigwood noticed his story.  This gave Cohn the chance to cash in on the credibility gained from publishing his story in Felker's magazine.  Cohn sold the screen rights to movie producer Robert Stigwood for a pretty penny. 

Clay Felker was fit to be tied.  How did he ever miss this?  Of course Felker had no idea he was being duped.  He assumed the story was legit and understandably felt cursed for missing the Disco trend so badly.  Given Felker's illustrious track record, you really have to feel for the guy.

In Felker's defense, he had been preoccupied with a difficult power struggle for control of his magazine.  Throughout 1976, Clay Felker was embroiled in a struggle to keep Rupert Murdoch from seizing control of his New York magazine.  Quite frankly, New York was just as important to Clay Felker as my dance program was to me.  It was his baby. 

By not paying better attention, first the legendary magazine editor let himself be exploited by Nik Cohn.  As if that wasn't humiliating enough, things went from bad to worse when Felker lost his power struggle to media mogul Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch betrayed a gentleman's agreement he had with Felker to seize control of New York magazine.   Clay Felker was publicly humiliated.  First Cohn made a fool of him, now Rupert Murdoch, a supposed friend, had confiscated his magazine.  The final blow came when Murdoch fired the friend he had betrayed.


 

 

During the time Clay Felker was unemployed, he watched helplessly as the combined box office and soundtrack sales made Saturday Night Fever one of the most lucrative films in cinema history.  Everyone who touched this movie got rich.  Nik Cohn came away with $500,000.  Robert Stigwood made $300 million.  Felker was aghast to realize he was the big loser in the amazing SNF bonanza. 

This was surely the lowest moment of Clay Felker's life.  Bitter at his fate, Clay Felker had a score to settle.  Still smarting from having the Nik Cohn story lifted out from under his nose by Robert Stigwood, Felker became obsessed with getting payback.  He wanted to create his own sequel to Saturday Night Fever before Stigwood did it himself.  Felker was determined to beat Nik Cohn and Robert Stigwood at their own game.  Felker decided he would use his skills to create the sequel to Saturday Night Fever.  

However, there was one huge problem... Stigwood had the rights to Saturday Night Fever, not Felker. Since Felker did not own the rights to SNF, his only choice was to make some sort of 'Disguised Sequel'.  Easier said than done.  How does someone make a sequel that isn't a sequel?  Looking for that answer became Felker's burning obsession. 

Felker knew his goal was a long shot at best.  However, to his credit, Felker knew he had the contacts and the skill to pull it off.  To begin with, Felker had just as many show business contacts as Stigwood.  In addition, Felker knew the SNF formula by heart.  Throughout the making of Saturday Night Fever, Felker had occupied a catbird seat which allowed him to watch every move Stigwood made.  Felker had the knowledge and the contacts to make it happen.  Now he needed the right vehicle.  If the master trend spotter could use his talent to track down something similar to the Disco story, he was certain he could emulate Stigwood's success. 

It was a race against time.  Grease had just finished filming, so it was logical to assume Stigwood would turn his attention to making a sequel to Saturday Night Fever.  Felker had to beat Robert Stigwood to the punch or see this opportunity slip away.

 

At this point, Felker finally caught a break.  Since Robert Stigwood had no idea Felker was chasing him, he turned his attention to making Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a 1978 American musical mishmash starring the Bee Gees.

Given this unexpected reprieve, Clay Felker scoured the land for some sort of idea.  The inspiration Felker was seeking took place on a 1978 summer trip to Houston.  Ironically, Felker's plane touched down in Houston at virtually the same moment Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was being released.  Stigwood had produced a giant flop at the same time Felker was about to start his path to redemption. 

Clay Felker had come to Houston to give a journalism speech over at Rice University.  Right now, Felker was feeling dejected in the search for his 'vehicle'.  He had looked far and wide for a solution to his 'Sequel' problem without success. 

When Felker landed in Houston, 24 months had passed since Nik Cohn's Disco article was published.  18 months had passed since Felker had been ousted from New York magazine.  12 months had passed since he acquired Esquire Magazine.  7 months had passed since the debut of Saturday Night Fever.

The clock was ticking and no solution was in sight.  Nor did the airport help Felker's bad mood.  As Felker walked through the Houston airport, he was surrounded by images of Saturday Night Fever.  Disco was the talk of the land.  Thanks to the Disco Inferno currently burning throughout the country, Felker was reminded of his shame by Disco merchandise and advertisements in every shop he passed.   No doubt Felker cringed every time he saw a picture of John Travolta to remind him of his oversight.  Felker vowed to find a way to even the score or he would go nuts trying. 

 

Bill Broyles, editor of Texas Monthly magazine, and Mike Levy, publisher, were sponsors of the media event held at the Rice University School of Journalism.  These two men met Felker at the Houston airport and took him to dinner.  Afterwards Levy and Broyles asked Felker what he wanted to do next.  Visit a Disco?  Felker nearly vomited.  Go back to the hotel?  Felker shook his head.  Felker said he had never visited Houston before.  Since the evening was still young, would the men mind showing him around the city?   

 

The three men got in Levy's car and drove around.  On impulse,  Levy and Broyles took Felker over to Gilley’s in neighboring Pasadena.  Since Felker said he could not stand Disco, they were going give their guest a first-hand look at a different type of Texas nightlife.  

The moment Felker walked in the door, his eyes grew as wide as saucers.  This vast honky-tonk featured a country band, country dancing, a mechanical bull, punching bags, pool tables, and scores of urban cowboys on the prowl for urban cowgirls. 

The moment Clay Felker saw all those couples dancing to western music, the tumblers fell into place.  This was it!  Felker had just found what he had been looking for.  Felker realized Gilley's was the country-western equivalent of 2001 Odyssey, the nightclub featured in SNF

Give Felker some credit.  It took some genuine imagination to see the next 'Saturday Night Fever' amidst the honky-tonk chaos.  Right now two thousand people were participating in what had to be the most alien environment imaginable to Felker's elitist Eastern sensibilities.  However, Felker was not put off by the strange sight.  Not one bit.  Felker's vision was filtered through a rose-colored lens known as dollar signs. 

Felker said absolutely nothing to his Texas Monthly friends.  Now that he had found his pot of gold, stealth was mandatory.  Felker was getting ready to beat Robert Stigwood to the punch. 

 

The moment Felker returned to his hotel, he wasted no time.  Felker needed a country-western story similar to the Nik Cohn story and he needed it fast.  So Felker called his writer friend Aaron Latham at 3 am in the morning. 

"Aaron, get on a plane and get your butt down to Houston pronto!"

Aaron Latham was a Washington DC resident who was married to long-time 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl.  Although Latham was born in West Texas, he went to college at Princeton.  After graduation, Latham remained on the East Coast to begin his career.  Latham had been Felker’s primary Watergate reporter at New York magazine back in the early Seventies.

Latham and Felker were now close friends.  This was a good thing since Felker needed someone he trusted.  If one word of this leaked out, Robert Stigwood might step back in.  After Felker's emergency phone call in the middle of the night, Aaron Latham made a beeline to Houston. 

Aaron Latham had never heard of Gilley's.  But that didn't matter.  He understood that Felker wanted him to cut and paste Nik Cohn's Disco story into the Gilley's C&W environment.  Latham began fast-tracking the script for Felker's precious 'Sequel in Disguise'.

 

Clay Felker had told Aaron Latham to introduce himself to Sherwood Cryer, co-owner of Gilley's.  As the two men walked around the club, Cryer advised Latham on various angles for the Esquire article.  Sherwood Cryer had a big smile on his face.  Cryer did not mind walking this stranger through the cavernous paths of Gilley's.  Cryer knew exactly what Felker was up to.  Clay Felker had taken Cryer into his confidence to say he intended to make Gilley's the Country-Western equivalent of Saturday Night Fever.  Cryer had a strong hunch this story was going to put Gilley's on the national map.

During his tour of the club, Aaron Latham met some interesting Gilley's regulars including the colorful operator of the mechanical bull.  Unbeknownst to Latham at the time, the bull operator was an escaped convict hiding in plain sight here at Gilley's.  The man somehow persuaded Latham into riding the mechanical bull.  Latham was a brave man.  Since beginners were sure to be thrown, it took real guts to get up on that violent machine. 

Sure enough, Latham was quickly thrown off the bull... and immediately got hooked.  Latham spent the rest of the day trying to master the mechanical bull.  Bruised, beaten, and sore all over, Latham laughed at how seriously he had taken the challenge.  Latham vowed to make that mechanical beast the surprise star of his story. 

Latham hung around Gilley's for a month.  He interviewed everyone in sight and rode the bull every chance he got.  The more people he talked to, the more he realized many of them had grown up in the Texas countryside just like he had.  They had moved to the big city to chase factory jobs created by Houston's booming economy.  The Gilley's regulars brought their country ways along with them.  Their boots, cowboy hats, trucks, Wrangler jeans, and love of country music played a big part in who they were.  Right now, these people were straddling two worlds... the country and the city, half-Urban, half-Cowboy.

Latham smiled.  He had his theme.  He called these uprooted kickers 'Urban Cowboys'.  Latham wrote his story about young men who spent every spare evening trying to impress women by riding the mechanical bull and looking for love on the dance floor.

In September 1978, Latham's The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy and America's Search for True Grit appeared in EsquireThis was undoubtedly the most pretentious title in history.  Clay Felker had the sense to place a powerful subtitle on the cover of his magazine:  'Saturday Night Fever, Country-Western style'.  Clay Felker's headline worked like a charm.  As Felker hoped, Hollywood got the hint: 'Disguised Sequel'.   

Irving Azoff, business manager of the rock band Eagles, saw the chance to do for his stable of country music artists what Robert Stigwood had previously done for the Bee Gees.  Azoff won the bidding contest and began producing Urban Cowboy

In a blinding stroke of good fortune, John Travolta pursued the lead without even being asked.  With Travolta on board, the success of the movie was virtually guaranteed. Urban Cowboy became Brooklyn with boots on, a hard-hitting story of directionless youth with John Travolta as the Dancing Cowboy.

 

I have to believe that Clay Felker's Urban Cowboy project must have been deeply satisfying.  Considering the hardships he faced, Felker was surely proud of himself.  My favorite part of the Clay Felker saga was how he carefully exploited the knowledge gained from following Robert Stigwood's moves.  Clay Felker had the sense to capitalize on it in a very unique way.  The movie box office take was $53 million, the soundtrack earnings were $47 million which adds up to a tidy $100 million.  Not bad for a lame rip-off. 

Putting this 'Disguised Sequel' together was an extremely clever move.  Nor was Felker finished.  There is ample circumstantial evidence to suggest that while Aaron Latham was writing the script, Clay Felker contacted everyone on his Rolodex regarding tie-ins to the movie. 

For example, it cannot possibly be a coincidence that the United States was bombarded by Country-Western fashions prior to the release of the movie.  Nor can it be a coincidence that the movie soundtrack was released well in advance of the movie release.  All the marketing was in place long before the public had the slightest idea this project even existed.

It also stands to reason that Clay Felker or one of his associates tipped off Lance McFaddin.  McFaddin was the director of Houston-based McFaddin-Kendrick, the company that specialized in opening fancy nightclubs such as Foxhunter, élan, Ciao, Rodeo, and Cowboy. I am certain that Lance McFaddin used his insider knowledge to orchestrate the curious Disco-to-Western chain reaction that upset me so much.  McFaddin-Kendrick's February debut of Foxhunter to Cowboy was the opening shot in the Western Club Transformation.

Here is an interesting article that casts more light on the unusual Western Transformation. 

   


C&W Nightclubs Riding High

Written by Michael Demarest
Time Magazine, 1981

"In 1975 Houston had at most a dozen cactus cabarets.  By the time 1981 rolled around, Houston now had more than 300, few of which cared to emulate Gilley's Dodge City outlaw style.

In February 1979, McFaddin-Kendrick, a Houston-based conglomerate, opened Cowboy, the city's first upscale Twostep saloon after doing extensive market research.  Following its success with Cowboy, McFaddin-Kendrick then went on to launch a national chain of 40 western barns that mixed country music with disco music.

Cowboy's success revolutionized the club industry. Before then, there was no such thing as a "classy" country place.  It used to be your choices ranged from your standard country dump #1 to your standard country dump #2. 

No one recognized the market for "attractive" western clubs even existed.  For that matter, no one had any idea it was possible to successfully mix disco music with country and western under one roof without people killing one another. 

However, once Cowboy took off for the moon in typical Space City fashion, everyone else jumped on the bandwagon and opened Cowboy imitations.

The most successful, Fool's Gold and San Antone Rose, were located in affluent Houston residential areas and, like Cowboy, catered to the Gucci gauchos. 

Imitation proved to be the most sincere form of flattery." 
 

 
 
 
I was well aware that Victoria would be the perfect wife for me.  Victoria was no ordinary woman.  She skyrocketed my career and became the driving force in my business.  She was a terrific mother, a terrific business woman, and ridiculously popular.  Beautiful, smart, outgoing, committed to the same goals as me, I had never met any woman like her. 

 

 


SUBCHAPTER 518
-
SUPERNATURAL SITUATION 65

 


Rick Archer's Footnote: 

With Patricia's entry into my life, the Stage was set.  My three modern-day Goddesses were now assembled.  Patricia was the most beautiful, Victoria was the most talented, and Joanne was the best dancer.  Victoria, Joanne, and Patricia would soon begin a head to head battle to be crowned the Supreme Goddess of Disco

An Archer named Paris had judged the Beauty Contest that led to the Trojan War.  An Archer named Rick would preside over the Battle of the Disco Divas, a contest filled with tears and bruised egos. 

Caught in the middle, I would have gone into hiding had I known the misery in store for me.  While Paris was allowed to shoot his arrows at someone else, these women would aim their arrows at me.  I was the hunted one.  And what prize would go to the winner?  That would be me.  I was not only the judge, but I was also the trophy.  And which woman would be the winner in this contest?  Keep reading.

The Beauty Contest was literally the most important single event of my dance career.  The interaction between these three women would create consequences that would last a lifetime.  In retrospect I would decide this life-defining situation was Supernatural in origin. 

 

 

 
I had not forgotten Eric, the man who should have ended my dance career back in May.  Eric's behavior in Stevens' office was beyond irrational.  One does not get anywhere in life without a little common sense.  Even a dimwit should have known that all Eric had to do was flatter Stevens and butter him up.  Instead Eric barged in the office and demanded that Stevens make him a business partner.  The whole thing smacked of Temporary Insanity.  Hmm.  Or was it 'Cosmic Stupidity'? 
 
First of all, the Ritz Disaster saved my job because it immunized me from the danger of Cliann's dire predictions.  No matter how many times Cliann warned Stevens about me, he would point out that no one as inept as me could possibly be a threat.  It was a curious quirk of Fate... Cosmic Stupidity perhaps... that Stevens had become completely blind to me as a threat when his wife saw it clearly.  Second, his nonchalance was about to pave the way for a lucky break that would send my Carpet Ride skyrocketing into the upper atmosphere.  Without the Ritz Silver Lining, no doubt he would have been on guard.  Sometimes it helps to be taken for granted.

So what about the Ritz?  My horrible Bad Luck had turned into wonderful Good Luck.  Very confusing, but utterly fascinating.  Stevens made a bad mistake by underestimating me.  I was ambitious, oh yes, indeed.  I was very hungry, I just didn't let Stevens know it.  I continued to pretend to be a stumbling, bumbling fool like Claudius.  Meanwhile I continued to seethe over the Ritz Disaster.  Certain that Stevens had deliberately set me up for humiliation, I lusted for the day when I would get my revenge.  It was coming soon.
 

 
Magic Carpet Ride is a very long book that unfolds in two stages.  Oddly enough, I wrote Part Two first.  It explains the uncanny events that led to the formation of my dance studio.  This section is chock full of the weird events that led to my eventual success. 

After the aforementioned shoving incident on the cruise ship in 2012, I began to write my book.  One day I was taking a long walk in the forest with my wife Marla.  She asked me to describe how the book was coming along.  When I explained I started the book with my abysmal failure in Graduate School, she stopped in her tracks and turned to me with a frustrated look on her face.

"Rick, you cannot start there.  People will not appreciate what you accomplished unless they are clear how you became so screwed up in the first place.  You must explain your strange childhood.  Otherwise your story will not make sense."

Marla can be unusually blunt, so it took me a moment to deal with being termed 'screwed up' by my wife.  Fortunately I knew where she was coming from.  To appreciate white, you must know black.  Marla was right.  To fully understand the origins of the handicaps I was forced to overcome in Part Two, my childhood needed to be included.  Part One covers both my failure in Graduate School and my troubled childhood as well.  Let me add that Part One is very important because it covers an event that I consider to be a true miracle. 

Throughout my Magic Carpet Ride saga, I became aware of a Good Luck - Bad Luck dichotomy.  For example, I thought I was the luckiest guy in the world to be accepted into Graduate School and handed a full scholarship.  However, by the time Christmas rolled around, Colorado State had turned into the worst experience of my life. 

Is there a way to escape our Fate?  If everything Pre-destined, are we 'responsible' for our mistakes?   If everything is Pre-destined, what is the point of trying? 

 

 

In my despair, I was certain I must be the unluckiest guy on earth.  And yet the day would come when a series of baffling coincidences would make me feel like the luckiest guy in the world.  I did not get just one lucky break, I got ten of them in a row.  In fact, my luck was so unusually powerful that I began to wonder what on earth was going on.

Over time, I became convinced a Hidden Hand was responsible.  No one had the right to get as many lucky breaks as me.  Every gamble I took paid off.  People appeared at the right moment to hand me golden opportunities.  Every time I made a serious mistake, an amazing rescue appeared out of thin air. 

We all know that coincidences and lucky breaks can be unsettling.  Often we have no idea what to make of them.  A coincidence can be something odd like running into a childhood friend in an unexpected place years later.  Or it can be getting a phone call from a distant relative moments after thinking about the person for no reason.  Ordinarily we dismiss these moments and turn our attention elsewhere.  However, once in while, we run across a coincidence that is so unusual that we are forced to stop and consider the possibility of a supernatural explanation. 

 

After three years of non-stop lessons, to my surprise, I was handed three opportunities to teach line dances in the space of four months.  Although I did not ask for these opportunities, at least I had the sense to take advantage of what was given to me.   I still wasn't much of a dancer, but I knew enough to explain how a line dance works to another person.  That's not saying much.  After all, teaching a line dance is about as humble as it gets in the World of Dance. 

Two months later I caught a huge break.  Saturday Night Fever appeared in the theaters and created an instant demand for dance lessons.  Despite the fact that I barely knew what I was doing, I instantly became the best-known dance teacher in Houston thanks to a bizarre, one in a million fluke.  I had gone from Zero to Hero in ten seconds.  That was the moment my 'Magic Carpet Ride' soared beyond my wildest imagination.  With each succeeding lucky break acting as my next stepping stone, I embarked on a strange career as a dance teacher despite no apparent gift for dancing whatsoever. 

I was fully aware how unusually fortunate I was to be in the forefront of this Disco phenomenon.  However, my life was so busy with a frenzied, rollercoaster existence, I did not have the time or perspective to fully understand what was happening to me.  Given that I was basically incompetent at what I was doing, it took all my strength and cunning just to cope with the myriad of obstacles laid in my path. 

It took seven long, difficult years for the dust to clear, but then one day I realized I no longer had to struggle.  After surviving challenge after challenge by the skin of my teeth, lo and behold, I had created the largest dance studio in Houston.  Nor would it stop there.  The day would come when I would own the largest independent dance studio in the country. 

I knew this had to be a mistake.  I could not have done this on my own.  Convinced I was some sort of Destiny's Child, I looked back and carefully chronicled every event, every lucky break, every coincidence, every unusual situation, every special person who had opened doors for me at just the right time.  The total was staggering.  I came up with a list of 80 events and unusual situations so far out of the ordinary that I had no choice but wonder if a Hidden Hand had been involved in arranging these events.

Lining each lucky break side by side, these stepping stones diagrammed a clear-cut path that seemingly had been laid out for me well in advance.  All I had to do was follow the bread crumbs along the way.  And then one day the lucky breaks stopped.  I concluded now that I had assumed the role I was meant to fulfill, someone decided I no longer required any special help. 

From this point on, I led a hectic, but normal life.  30 years passed with no more weird coincidences, nothing out of the ordinary.  During this time, it turned out I had a special flair for running a dance studio.  As my program grew by leaps and bounds, I received many compliments.  Maybe too many compliments.  Although I would never forget the lucky breaks that had given me my start, I started to get the big head.  Surely it was my talent that explained my success.  I began to believe with my kind of ability, I would have eventually  made it this far even without all those lucky breaks back at the start.  I was quite proud of myself.

In 2010 the lease on my dance studio was about to expire.  After running the dance studio for 32 years, I was tired, worn out.  Financially secure for life, this would be a good time to stop.  Who wants to be signing a long-term lease at age 60?  So I sold my beloved dance studio.  Unfortunately, once I saw how inept the new owner was, I regretted my decision.  Bitterly unhappy with the way the new owner handled the studio, the moment my non-compete clause expired in 2012, I was aching to get back in the game and open a new studio. 

Out of nowhere, a person approached me with a golden opportunity.  I could rent his existing dance studio for pennies compared to what I used to pay.  No lease was necessary.  Since the financial risk was negligible, this looked like the real thing.  In fact, this was such a lucky break, I was convinced I had received a signal from beyond to continue my dance career.  I had everything going for me... a good reputation, a great location, a huge email list of former students, two excellent business partners, and thirty-plus years of experience.  But it didn't work.  Over a six-month period, nothing clicked.  How could this be?  I knew every trick in the book.  After all, I was the one who once created the largest dance studio in America.  Unfortunately, a strange series of bad breaks suggested I had made a mistake.

The final straw came when a drunken bully half my age attacked me in front of throng of dance students.  Shoving me backwards, he put his chest into mine and accidentally spit in my face with rage.  And what was he mad about?  He was furious because I had told his girlfriend the party was over and that the last song had already been requested by someone else.  I stood my ground and angrily refused to apologize as we went jaw to jaw.  Eventually cooler heads pulled the man away.

At this point, I expected my friends to stand up for me.  After all, several people who I counted as friends had witnessed the event.  To my surprise, due to this man's popularity, most of them said they did not want to choose sides.  I was incredulous.  Meanwhile my assailant claimed to everyone who would listen that I had been rude to his girlfriend.  Since I did not start the altercation, imagine my amazement when the court of public opinion went against me.  "The customer is always right, even the drunk ones.  Rick should have backed down." Back down from a jerk who assaulted me?  Sorry, but that's not me.  

I was angry and humiliated at being embarrassed like this in front of people whose respect meant a lot to me.  However, on a deeper level, I was bewildered.  The irony was inescapable.  When I was a young man and had nothing going for me, I was a success beyond my wildest imagination because I received one break after another.  Now that I was older and wiser with every possible advantage going for me, one misfortune after another had doomed my comeback.  I asked myself one question over and over again... how much sense does it make that a man would lose his temper over something so trivial? 

 

Feeling abandoned by my friends and crushed by my failure, I quietly closed my latest dance program and went into hiding.  I did not fail for lack of trying.  Nor did I fail due to any stupid mistakes.  I failed because every possible thing that could go wrong did go wrong.  In fact, I didn't just fail, I failed so miserably that I was forced to raise an eyebrow.  If I was reading my tea leaves correctly, someone really didn't want me running a dance studio any longer.  Looking for answers, one day I ran across an Arabic saying that made a deep impression on me.

If it is meant to be, God will move two mountains to make it happen.  And if it is not meant to be, you will never taste it even if it is placed between your lips. 

I was crestfallen.  Right now I felt like I had been scolded by God.  Back in the early days my first dance studio, I was convinced my success was due to help from beyond.  Due some miraculous lucky breaks, in a sense God really had moved two mountains.  This will become apparent in my story. 

Now late in my life when I took my continued success for granted, God had seemingly ripped further glory right from between my two lips. 

However, over the years my ego grew.  Sure, I was lucky back in the beginning, but the studio's continued success was surely due to my talent.  Now I knew better.  My talent meant nothing.  What had just happened was so far out of the ordinary that I decided God had sent the young man who attacked me as a messenger.  The message was clear.  I could have all the talent in the world, but unless I followed God's Will, I would never succeed on my own merits.  I was abashed by this realization, but grateful at the same time.  All credit must be given to God.  If God means for me to succeed, I will.  And if I am not meant to succeed, I will not succeed.   Heck, even I can read the writing on the wall when the letters are large enough, especially when someone spits in my face. 

So I asked myself a question.  If teaching dance was not what I was supposed to do, then what was I supposed to do?  I decided it was time to write this book.

There will be those who scoff at the suggestion that our lives are guided by Fate.  I counter by saying there is much about this world that we do not understand.  If someone watches carefully enough, they may notice this world we call 'Reality' is filled with unexplained phenomena.  If one explores these mysterious observations further, there is no telling what one may discover. 

 
Was I as mediocre as Stevens made me out to be?  Yes and no.  Using the Peter Principle analogy, I was fine at the level I operated at.  The first two months went well.   Three years of practicing line dances and freestyle paid off handsomely.  The phone kept ringing off the hook and I handled all comers.  Everything went so smoothly that I thought this is how it would always be here at my Dream Job.  Then one day the Honeymoon ended.  Stevens had decided to promote me to my level of incompetence.  Now my job was in serious jeopardy.

 

 
During my dance career, all sorts of strange dances had their day... Dirty Dancing, Lambada, Samba, Lindy Hop, Argentine Tango, Zydeco, Zumba, Hip Hop, Western Line Dance.  I was not interested in these dances, but I still managed to show respect.  If someone wanted me to offer a class for these exotic dances, I simply went out and found an instructor to teach it.  Not once did I turn up my nose although I will say the 'Achy-Breaky Heart' line dance tested me sorely. 
 
Becky's announcement that she was quitting caught me totally flat-footed.  I fully intended to pine for her over Christmas, then act on my New Year's resolution to ask her out when her class resumed in January.  So much for that fantasy.  I had never been the same since dropping the ball with Katie.  Now my shame was deepened with the knowledge I had made essentially the same mistake with Becky.  When would I ever learn to conquer my fear and speak up?  And so the Epic Losing Streak extended into 1976. 

However, life must go on.  My relationship with Gaye was the main reason I began to take small risks with dating.  My tattered love life acted as a laboratory for training experiences.  I would screw things up and then Gaye would coach me through my mistakes.  Spread across 1976 were 14 short-term relationships, none of which I would remember if I hadn't written the names down of the various ladies. 

One lady lasted as long as a month, but the rest were one or two dates.  There was a reason they didn't last long.  As always, I avoided any woman who might pose a threat.  By avoiding challenging women, I reduced the drama in my life.  Oddly enough, there was not one date which included dancing.  I suppose the memory of Katie at Melody Lane had something to do with that.  I still had a gaping hole in my heart for her.  Or maybe it was my crushing failure to ask Becky out when I should have.  That said, I made sure to continue my dance lessons.  We will get to that shortly.

During the year, I slowly gained at least some courage with women.  However, I pushed them away if they got too close.  Then I would discuss my latest failure with Gaye.  Gaye was trying her best to educate me on women.  She understood my Phobia quite well.  It was her theory that I was a good person with a big heart who hid behind a wall.  I turned into a Porcupine whenever threatening women entered the picture.  That is when my dark side kicked in.  I became touchy, obnoxious, arrogant and insensitive.  The Cassie story is a good example.  Gaye understood this was my way of staying safe and protecting my feelings, but added there had to be a better way to handle my fear of rejection.

 

 

Science does not like 'Fate' at all.  The word 'Fate' conjures up images of Curses and Superstition.  Superstition is defined by science as a belief that is considered irrational or supernatural.  Superstition is said to arise from from ignorance.  It is created by an incorrect belief in Fate, in magic, and fear of the unknown.  It is commonly applied to beliefs surrounding luck, prophecy, and certain spiritual beings, particularly the belief that future events can be foretold.  Things people believe are caused by Fate can always be explained by science. 

 


Rick Archer's Footnote:

The dark shadow that haunted me throughout the Lost Years was my Rejection Phobia.  My fear of women can be traced directly to Vanessa.  The most significant consequence of Vanessa's lies and betrayal during graduate school was my loss of trust in women.  This Phobia was very powerful.  It made me gun-shy around attractive women.  To begin with, it caused me to avoid approaching any woman who might have the potential to hurt me.  If I thought a certain woman was special, I automatically avoided her.  However sometimes I was lucky enough to accidentally meet a special woman, someone like Rachel or Katie.  To my surprise, both women seemed to like me in spite of myself.  So naturally I spent untold hours worrying about getting hurt again the same way Vanessa had hurt me.

It was my bad luck that Rachel did indeed hurt me the same way that Vanessa did.  Her decision to sleep with Aaron, the Rice professor, reinforced my fear that any woman I cared about would eventually hurt me badly.  Sorry to say, but the memory of both Vanessa and Rachel affected me terribly when I met Katie.  In the back of my mind, I was certain that she too would hurt me.  This fear was so intense that I was never able to work up the courage to ask her out.

What made Katie special was her uncanny ability to get me to let down my guard.  Katie was like a horse whisperer or dog whisperer.  Animals who have suffered abuse from people or been traumatized through an accident develop dangerous behavior such as biting or snarling that are almost impossible to heal.  In Katie's presence, I was an entirely different person.  I could laugh, I could joke, I could smile, I could let my warmth show.  But the entire time, I worried that if I trusted Katie too much, she would hurt me.  So, with the memory of Rachel and Aaron fresh in my mind, rather than take a chance, I simply walked away from Katie. 

By turning my back on Katie, I was safe again, but I was also forlorn.  The healthy side of my mind knew I had passed on a once-in-a-lifetime kind of girl.  My failure to tell Katie how much I cared about her ripped a giant hole in my heart.  This was the moment when I knew I was profoundly crippled.  This Phobia of mine was so serious, I might never be able to lick it.  I felt like I was destined to screw things up with any important woman I met for the rest of my life. 

One day I asked myself an interesting question.  I had been trained by my life experiences to give up.  Was it possible for me to reverse that mindset on my own?  Can someone with psychological issues as deep as mine overcome them by himself? 

With the benefit of hindsight, I think the answer is 'No'.   I was my own worst enemy.  When it came to women, I had dug myself into a hole so deep I cannot imagine how I would have ever climbed out under my own power.  As my story has shown, I certainly wasn't getting anywhere using my own methods.  Not only that, the insidious thing was that I was not in enough pain to force myself to seek help.  I figured if I drifted long enough, eventually some girl would come along who would take me the way I was, warts, scars and all.  Sure, I was lonely.  Sure, I was depressed.  But at least I was safe.  I could live with loneliness, I had done it my entire life.  But I could not live with another broken heart.  So I quit.  I gave up trying to overcome my fears.  Therefore I consider it a miracle of sorts that Gaye appeared on my doorstep.  Gaye was a Godsend.  I thoroughly believe this.  As we shall see, Gaye became the person who helped me turn my life around. 

I have a confession to make.  If there is one thing I regret, it was my utter powerlessness to solve my problems on my own during the Lost Years.  At this time, I had two glaring issues in my life.  Thanks to Dr. Fujimoto, I had no career.  Thanks to Vanessa, I had no girlfriend.  I also had no willpower left.  If I had not stumbled into Gaye's office, I cannot imagine conquering my handicaps on my own.

This helpless period of my life explains why I have long been obsessed with Martin Seligman's 'Learned Helplessness' experiment.   Once Seligman trained a dog to give up, he was baffled at the dog's inability to see it had the power to easily solve the next problem in Stage Two.  I strongly identified with those dogs.  Back in high school, I had been trained to give up around women.  Now with each new woman I met, I had the power to change my behavior, but all I did was give up at the first sign of trouble.   

Martin Seligman was determined to find a cure for the helpless attitude of the dogs.  In the end, he discovered the only way he could cure the dogs was to drag them KICKING AND SCREAMING over their barrier during the shock process.  Without his help, the dogs would have never jumped.  Instead they would have wallowed on the electrified floor of the compartment whimpering in pain. 

I had no business becoming a dance teacher.  The whole thing was a complete accident.  In fact, when I look back at how my Lost Years turned out, I feel like the Universe played a huge Cosmic Joke on me.  Let's say it was my Destiny to have a dance career.  That is what the book is about, right?  I wish I could claim that I had an early fascination with dance and took one bold step after another to make things happen.  Then I could say I was a daring visionary and take credit for my success.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth.  There's an old phrase, 'Take the Bull by the horns'.  Unfortunately, rather than forcefully attack the difficult situation of finding a career, I did absolutely nothing.  I was such a fearful young man that I was incapable of taking the slightest risk.  Not only that, I had my priorities all screwed up.  I was so desperate to find a girlfriend, it took forever to figure out that if I had a career, the girlfriend problem would have taken care of itself.

It is embarrassing to admit how lost I was, but....

What happened instead was the Universe pulled me kicking and screaming past my fears every step of the way.  First the Courtesan book tricked me into thinking that 'Dance Lessons' would solve my loneliness problem.  Lot of good that did me.  I never found a single girlfriend during the Lost Years.  The next trick came courtesy of Mark.  I was unwilling to practice my dancing, so Mark asked his friend Donna to drag me onto the dance floor.  And how crazy was it that I immersed myself in the Gay Community for eight months?  Good grief, I was so scared of women the only way I could learn to dance was to practice in a gay dance club.   However, once I reached my goal, now I was too fearful to leave!  So the Universe sent Manimal to nudge me along to my next Stepping Stone.

 

 

Considering my strong interest in Fate, it might come as a surprise that I have a skeptical streak as well.  Unlike some gullible people who will believe anything if it's in the Bible or a preacher says it's so, I prefer to mull things over and reach my own conclusions. 

Back when I was in college, I was so full of despair I wondered if God even existed.  I wanted to pray to God and ask for help, but I couldn't make myself do it for the simple reason that I was unsure that God existed.  One day a Quaker friend suggested I read Autobiography of a Yogi.  I loved this book and found myself very drawn to the concepts of Reincarnation and Karma.  This was my introduction to the concepts of Eastern Religion.  However, I could not accept these far-out ideas simply on Faith.  I needed to know more.  So for two years I read every book I could get my hands on that dealt with psychic phenomenon and the nature of coincidence. 

At the end of my Magical Mystery Tour, I was 99% convinced of the existence of God and Fate.  It was time to quit reading and start contributing, so I concentrated on becoming a therapist.  Unfortunately, that noble intention led to the most crushing defeat of my life.  After being tossed from graduate school, I had no idea what to do.  Far too miserable to think about the future, the first thing I did was concentrate on putting an end to my unbearable loneliness.  Dedicating myself to finding a girlfriend, I settled on dance lessons as my best strategy to get to First Base.  Only one problem... I could not dance a lick!  However, I had promised God I would keep taking lessons, so I stuck with it for an eternity.

After nearly three years of dance lessons, I met Katie in a Ballroom dance class.  I was thrilled!  Imagine that, my far-fetched strategy had finally paid off.  Hallelujah!  Katie was a sweetheart.  I would have married her in a heartbeat.  Even better, Katie really liked me.  But then came the night when Jack, the instructor, invited our class to go dancing with him.  Katie said she would meet me there.  The evening went well until Katie mysteriously seemed to lose interest in me.  As if on cue, Jack came over to ask Katie to dance.  Katie dropped me in a flash.  Never the sharpest guy around women, I wasn't sure how to explain the sudden cold shoulder.  That is when I remembered seeing her face drop when I told her about my low-paying child abuse job.  I watched in horror as Jack swept the lovely Katie off her feet with a Waltz.  Gee, I wish I could dance like that.  That is when it hit me... women are attracted to excellence, not mediocrity. As I sat there watching Katie laugh and smile, the most horrible thought in the world crossed my mind.

"How will I ever support a family without a career?  Kids cost money!  Without a career, I will never be more than a friend to Katie."

Full of despair, I got up and walked out the door.  That was the last I ever saw of Katie, the girl I wanted to marry.  Walking away from Katie was so unbearable, I went into shock.  It was painful to realize my poor judgment had sabotaged this promising relationship.  I was so busy taking dance lessons as a way to get to First Base it never dawned on me I had no strategy to get all the way to Home Plate.  I had just wasted three years on a bunch of stupid dance lessons and a dead end job when I should have been training for a career that held promise.  How could I have ever been so stupid? 

This realization cut like a knife through my heart.  The biggest irony of all was that after three years, I wasn't even much of a dancer.  I felt like I had absolutely nothing to show for all that time.  I was so angry at myself I could not see straight.  The loss of Katie and the realization that it was my own fault was so devastating, I lapsed deep into depression.  Without a career, how was I ever going to put an end to my 13 year Epic Losing Streak?

Slow to recover from the loss of Katie, I spent the next couple months unable to decide what to do.  Computers?  High school history teacher?  Sports writer?  I was sick to my stomach because each idea required further training.  I was very reluctant to go back to school, not after the way I had been treated at Colorado State.  Paralyzed with indecision, one day something strange happened.  Right in the midst of all this despair, Rosalyn asked me to substitute teach her dance class. 

This Stepping Stone was followed in rapid succession by two more Stepping Stones.  In the space of six months, I suddenly had a full-time job as a dance instructor.  The strangest thought crossed my mind.  It felt like the stars had just lined up for me.  I wonder if this will lead to something? 

 
 

Then Katie came along.  Katie was a major threat to my dance career.  Seriously, if Katie had become my girlfriend, dance lessons would have gone out the window.  But the Universe knew how to keep us apart.  My inability to see a simple opening like asking Katie to practice with me outside of class was Mistake Number One.  Mistake Number Two was my inability to realize Katie had hinted for me to come to her house and take her to the dance event at Melody Lane.  These errors were borderline criminal ignorance.  I was so utterly blind to these obvious openings that I have to wonder if 'Cosmic Stupidity' was in play. 

My desperation following Katie's loss was so painful that I completely gave up on women.  That allowed me to finally get around to thinking about a career.  And what good did that do me?  I showed up in a woman's office who never said a single word about my career.  But what Gaye did do was turn my life around.  In other words, I was tricked again, but for my own good. 

So what about my Accidental dance career?  In my case, it would take three years to learn how to dance.  Here's the deal... people with actual dance ability can cover the same ground in a matter of weeks or a few months at the most.  No one takes three years.  No one but me, that it.  Due to my snail's pace, the Game was to keep me taking dance lessons for THREE YEARS without giving me the slightest idea where the lessons were headed.  In order to keep me committed to dance lessons that were not doing me a bit of good, the Universe had to go to some rather extreme lengths.  Cosmic Stupidity blocked me from asking Katie out, Gloria played her peculiar role of keeping me 'preoccupied' until the timing was right, and Gaye would begin the difficult process of ironing out the flaws in my personality.  In the meantime, I made no progress whatsoever towards achieving a so-called legitimate career.  Following my dismissal from graduate school, all I did for three Lost Years was wander around like a fool wondering what I should do with my life. 

I think it is safe to say my Accidental Dance Career was no accident.  Someone was guiding me every step of the way.  Given that I had no idea what was going on, it is truly humbling to say I did nothing to deserve the career that would one day be handed to me.  I did not decide to become a dance teacher.  Someone decided it for me.

 

Let me share another unusual twist.  25 years after I met Gaye, I decided to organize my first-ever cruise trip for my dance studio.  I was genuinely pleased to discover I was very good at persuading my dance students to sign up for the trip.  Imagine how surprised I was to get 100 people to join me on my very first try.  Not only that, I did a terrific job of keeping them entertained during the trip.  I organized dance lessons during the day and hosted dance parties on each night of the trip.  The adventure went so well that my students begged me to do it again the next year... and the next year... and the year after that. 

That first trip was special for another reason.  I met my wife Marla on that 2001 cruise trip.  Marla would be instrumental in helping me embark on a second career of organizing cruise trips.  So here is what is curious.  In 1975, Gaye asked me to fantasize a dream job.  Out of nowhere came an unexpected desire to be the guy who organized the games and activities on a cruise ship.  My unusual idea went absolutely nowhere at the time.  However, 25 years later, I ended up doing the job I had dreamed about in Gaye's office.  Considering I had never been on a cruise trip in my life back in 1975, my surprise fantasy bordered upon precognition. 

 

"Are you confident that the way you view the world is the way it really is?"

I cannot scientifically prove that Fate is a Reality.  However, I have shared one observation after another to suggest there is more to this world than meets the eye.  If you think my story has been strange so far, it just keeps getting stranger.

 
As the Reader has surely noticed, it is unusual to read a book told from two directions.  First I explain each important incident as it happens using my perspective at the time... 'Life must be lived forwards'.   Then I explain the same incident based on the perspective of a 70 year old man reflecting on his past... 'Life can only be understood backwards'.  In other words, I wasn't just thinking in Realistic terms,

 

 

According to Dr. Hilton, there are two ways to deal with a Phobia, the easy way and the right way.  The right way is to get back in the saddle and start riding again.  However, most people take the easy way out.  It is so much easier to simply avoid the situation that causes the panic.  Rather than get in the inner tube for a river adventure, the woman who feared water snakes opted to throw her money away and go home.  Caroline solved her drowning phobia by taking showers rather than baths.  Caroline had it so bad she refused to sit in six inches of water in her daughter's kiddie pool.  After filling the little pool with the hose, she would sit on the grass and relax as her daughter played.  Caroline could not care less that she was avoiding the problem.  Her solution worked just fine. 

I did not have the luxury of avoiding my problem.  The longer I avoided women, the worse the problem became.  I was 24 with the dating skills of a 16-year old.  I was incapable of making the first move, especially if the woman was beautiful.  Due to my facial scars, I refused to approach any woman I did not know and take the chance she would recoil in revulsion.  For my entire life, I had solved this problem in a very simple way... if a girl approached me first, then I could talk to her.  To me, that meant she had seen my face and my face was acceptable.  However, if a girl did not talk to me first or give me any encouragement, I assumed I was not attractive enough.  Consequently I refused to approach an attractive woman unless she made the first move. 

This was a terrible attitude.   The kind of women I was attracted to expected the man to make the first move.  Fat chance of that.  Even I knew that much.  I hated being passively stuck waiting for a girl to approach me.  Right now I could not even get to First Base unless the girl did the work for me.  For example, I never could have approached Vanessa in a million years.  She had approached me.  Likewise, Debbie and Yolanda had approached me first.  However, my experience at Colorado State had shown that few women were as aggressive as these three.  Until I found a way to lick my fear of approaching women without prior encouragement, I was doomed to remain lonely.

 

 

Yolanda's Yes-No act reminded me of high school when two similar Lolitas had moved into our house.  When Janie and Linda came along, I was miserable from dealing with that boyhood curse known as overactive sex drive.  At 18, I wanted to touch a woman in the worst possible way.  That left me with one of the toughest decisions of my life.  Now that these two smiling girls had been dropped in my lap, the temptation to act was overwhelming.  Should I or shouldn't I?

My mother's words immediately returned to mind.  "It wasn't love, but it wasn't bad."  Due to my mother's fond acceptance of casual sex, I wondered if these two girls felt the same way.  Would these two senoritas like sex for the fun of it?  Or was affection necessary?  It wasn't like I had anyone to ask.  How Janie, Linda, or women in general felt about casual sex remained a complete mystery to me. 

At the time, I had never touched a girl in my life.  Linda and Janie had appeared at a very difficult time for me.  The indifference of the girls at St. John's had ruined all my self-confidence around girls my age.  Due to nine years stuck on the bottom rung of the St. John's social totem pole, any girl who allowed herself to be seen with me would have been subject to embarrassing ridicule.  That is how radioactive I had been.  So imagine the temptation the inviting smiles of Linda and Janie presented for me.

Linda was my favorite.  She was just one year older and definitely interested.  Linda had an infuriating way of sitting down on the couch so close that our bodies touched.  Linda would snuggle up and smile, daring me to act.  My arm yearned to go around her shoulders and my hand lusted to touch her bare leg.  I was well aware the door between my room and Linda's remained unlocked at night.  Imagine the temptation this situation presented.  I believed the open door was a clear non-verbal signal.  So what should I do?  Linda was ten feet away with an unlocked door.  All I had to do was open the door and see what developed.  Given the way Linda smiled at me in daylight, I expected to be received with open arms in moonlight.  There was nothing stopping me but my conscience.

However, I never made a move.  It was one thing for my mother to take the hand of a Greek sailor and lead him out to her car.  That was 'Her choice'.  It was another thing for me to crawl uninvited into bed with a woman who did not speak a word of English.  Yes, Linda had signaled interest, but she not given verbal permission.  There was a big difference.  Now if Linda opened that door and crawled into bed with me, that would have been a different story.  To my regret, that never happened.

In the end, my Code of Honor stopped me.  These two girls were guests in my home, not convenient sex objects provided for target practice.  Considering we did not share a language, the likelihood of misunderstanding was virtually guaranteed.  What was I supposed to say when our fling was over?  What was I supposed to do if Linda got pregnant?  I hated passing up the opportunity, but it was the right thing to do.  Coming from two different worlds with little in common, there was no future here. 

If I knew what Linda thought about casual sex, that would have helped considerably.  Unfortunately, as it stood, my inability to speak Spanish made me decide to err on the side of caution.  I was sick with disappointment.  Seeing Linda quickly acquire a boyfriend magnified my pain at passing on this golden opportunity.  In the immortal words of Mae West, He who hesitates is a damned fool. 

 

 
It was one thing to be defiant in Dr. Hilton's office, but I recall falling apart after I left his office.  I had never felt more defeated in my life.  Vanessa had set the tone in November and now I had just spent the past three months in fruitless pursuit of 50 women.  During the Epic Losing Streak, I had nothing to show for this intense period of my life but disdain, disinterest, and even some downright cruelty at the hands of Christine and Debbie.  It was left to Dr. Hilton to hand me the staggering evidence that I really was the biggest loser of all time.  But to his credit, Dr. Hilton opened the door to my comeback.  This incident with Debbie very well could have been 'The Point of No Return'.  By showing me what I had been doing wrong, a glimmer of hope had been restored.  Yes, it was too late to try again here at Colorado State, but I vowed to do better when I returned to Houston. 

 

 

 


Rick Archer's Note:

"Jason knows how much I love Carl Jung, so he found an article in a Psychology magazine he wanted me to read.  It came complete with a story about a fascinating coincidence."

"What did the article say?"

"It covered Synchronicity and Coincidences, pretty much the same things you and I have talked about from time to time."

"Did it cover any new ground?"

"It clarified some things.  The article defined 'Synchronicity' as a 'meaningful coincidence'.  At first glance two events have nothing in common.  However, after further developments, now the two events seem to be strongly related.  For example, last week I told you about my curious idea to look for a summer job as a camp counselor.  I dismissed the idea as nonsense, but then out of nowhere a job as a camp counselor fell into my lap.  Once I paired the two events together, I had a meaningful coincidence. 

The article explained that Dr. Jung was subjected to considerable criticism throughout his career for espousing his radical concept that 'Coincidences' may have a far deeper meaning.  Jung used the concept of Synchronicity to justify his theory that a coincidence might be considered a paranormal event.  A highly successful therapist, Dr. Jung felt he possessed the gravitas to endure the scorn sent his way.  Keep in mind that Dr. Jung enjoyed considerable popularity with those who agreed with his theories on the supernatural.  However, at the same time, no doubt Jung tired of the ridicule he was forced to endure from those who dismissed his theories as crackpot pseudoscience. 

Jung went pretty far out on a limb.  His suggestion that 'Coincidence' might be evidence of natural laws such as ESP and precognition were deeply unsettling to many people.  Personally, I am glad he said what he said because Dr. Jung is the reason I decided to give coincidences a closer look.  Since modern miracles are few and far between, in my search for evidence of God's existence, I settled on coincidences and improbable events as a way to bolster my confidence in the existence of a Hidden World." 

"So what was the coincidence in the article?"

"The article wanted to demonstrate what Carl Jung was talking about, so the author interviewed two men about an unusual event they shared.  The first man was George Feifer, a man whose novel The Girl From Petrovka had been made into a movie.  Feifer said in September 1971 he had foolishly lent his personal copy of his novel to a friend who promptly lost it.  Feifer had been reluctant to share this copy for several reasons.

To begin with, his copy contained much-needed corrections.  Apparently Feifer's book had first been published in England.  However, the upcoming American version contained major errors.  There were so many mistakes, his New York editor told Feifer to proofread the English version and translate it into 'American'.  For example, Feifer underlined necessary changes such as turning 'labour' into 'labor', 'centre' into 'center'

This was painstaking work since some pages had up four to five corrections.  During the process, Feifer developed a sentimental as well as practical attachment to this copy.  He would write personal comments in the margins that could help him with his next book. Therefore Feifer was very upset when his friend reported the book had gone missing from his car in Bayswater near the center of London.  When frantic searches failed, the book was irretrievably gone.  Feifer said it upset him because he was a superstitious sort and this seemed like a bad omen.  Perhaps his book was jinxed.

The article next interviewed an actor named Anthony Hopkins.  In 1971, Hopkins had agreed to appear as third lead in the movie version of The Girl From Petrovka.  The plot revolved around a love affair between spies in Soviet Russia.  This role was a huge break for Hopkins, so naturally he wanted to give his best effort.  However, since he knew little what the story was about, Hopkins decided to get a copy of the book and study how to approach his role in advance of the filming.

Living in the English countryside, Hopkins made a special train trip into London for the sole purpose of obtaining a copy of the best-selling book.  However, despite a determined search of the city with its limitless number of bookstores, Hopkins came up empty.  Hopkins was shocked at his inability to find a copy of the Petrovka book. 

Hopkins headed back to the train station feeling deeply frustrated.  After all, what were the odds that this popular book was unattainable in a city the size of London?  Hopkins had just entered the station at Leicester Square to board the train home when he noticed an abandoned book laying on a bench.  Imagine Hopkins' surprise when the book turned out to be a well-worn copy of The Girl From Petrovka.  This was a strange coincidence indeed, but it was about to get stranger.

Now Feifer continued his side of the story.  Two years had passed since he lost his book.  In 1973, Feifer travelled to Vienna to write an article about the novel's filming.  On the set, Feifer was strongly drawn to Anthony Hopkins.  As the two men struck up a conversation, Hopkins told Feifer about a puzzling incident when he had found a copy of the Petrovka book on a bench in a train station, the unlikeliest of places.

At that point, Feifer began to complain how his original copy had been stolen and how the loss of that book still irritated him.  Feifer said, "I can't replace that book.  That copy had all of my original annotations!"

At that comment, Hopkins raised an eyebrow because the copy he had found in London had contained detailed notes in the margins, notes that Hopkins had found useful.   Hopkins said, "Can you wait here for a minute?"

Hopkins went to his trailer to fetch his copy, then brought it back and showed it to Feifer.  "Might this copy," Hopkins asked, "have some personal meaning for you?"

Feifer gasped.  This was indeed the missing personal copy of the book.  Anthony Hopkins was not only the person who found George Feifer's missing book in the absolute middle of nowhere, he became the person to return it to its owner.  This wasn't just one coincidence, it was two coincidences of the highest degree."

 

 


SUBCHAPTER 140
- LESSON LEARNED

 

At this point, Dr. Hilton spoke up. 

"Do not despair, Rick.  You had it pretty rough, but it is never too late to have a happy childhood.  Just remember the second one is up to you and no one else.  Let's get those issues of yours solved and then you can write your own happy ending."

"I don't know about that, Dr. Hilton.  Dr. Fujimoto robbed me of a lot of my hope that things will turn around anytime soon."

"We can talk about that in a moment, but first I have a question.   After your Jones Scholarship disappointment, you were reeling out of control.  Why didn't you go speak to Mr. Curran?  I bet he could have set you straight."

"I told you about that once before.  Mr. Curran knew about Little Mexico, my father's $400 insult, and my mother's cold shoulder.  However that insane cheating episode on the German test was different.  I was so ashamed of myself, I did not dare go near Mr. Curran.  Now that I had found in Mr. Curran at least a semblance of the father I never had, the thought of disappointing him was more than my pride could bear.  That's why I never asked Mr. Curran why Mr. Salls, a man I thought liked me, had turned his back on me."

 

"That's right, I forgot.  Lucky for you Mrs. Ballantyne came to visit when she did."   

I nodded in agreement.  "You know, as you and I have talked over these past few weeks, I have noticed a pattern.  It seems like every time I was about to fall to pieces, someone stepped up to take care of me.  In a way, it is kind of weird."

"How so?"

"I feel like every time I was ready to flip out, a benefactor would appear at the exact time to rescue me from my latest crisis."

"I think I see what you are getting at, but why don't you spell it out for me?"

"When I was falling apart prior to my parents' divorce, Dr. Mendel suggested sending me to St. John's.  Where would I have been without St. John's?  Three years later, Mr. Powell helped me survive the 6th Grade when my mother was scaring me to death with her suicide attempt and Blue Christmas.  By giving me a writing goal to concentrate on, I managed to pull through.  As for my mother, she was lucky too when Uncle Dick and Aunt Lynn came to her rescue.  Then they turned around and bailed me out too.  When my father refused to extend my time at St. John's, they paid my way for the next two years. 

About this time, Mr. Chidsey was kind enough to offer not one, but two scholarships.  In the 9th Grade, Mr. Curran helped me cope with the acne crisis.  In the 10th Grade, Mr. Ocker gave me the job that brought me out of my acne-induced shell.  In the 12th Grade, Mr. Curran repeatedly reached out to help a deeply troubled boy.  When Mrs. Ballantyne encountered me in my near-suicidal kid, on the spot she too decided to help.  Mrs. Ballantyne refused to leave until she had totally restored my lost confidence.  And of course the entire time Mr. Salls was secretly keeping his eye on me.  Not only that, he arranged my college scholarship without even being asked."

"You make your point well.  Despite operating without a safety net due to the neglect of your parents, it does seem remarkable that at the worst times, someone always appeared to help you out.  I get the impression that someone was always watching out for you."

 

I raised an eyebrow.  "Do you mean that in a realistic sense or mystic sense?"

Dr. Hilton smiled.  "I was trained as a scientist, so I have a strong skeptical streak.  But I also like Carl Jung, the man who suggested certain things happen for a reason.  In your case, I see where important people appeared at the right time with uncanny precision.  Your bizarre Twilight Zone episode with Mrs. Ballantyne is the most outstanding example, but as your stories make clear, there was always someone there to pick you up just as you were about to fall.  For that matter, even your dog Terry watched out for you."

 

At the thought of Terry, I quickly agreed.  In some ways, Terry had been the most important friend of all.  He was my constant guardian, my true companion. 

"You know, Mrs. Ballantyne said something to me during our parking lot conversation.  Out of nowhere, she shared that a Galveston mob boss had paid her way through college.  I still remember her exact words.  "Can you believe that?  A simple act of kindness from a stranger, a gangster no less.  This was the biggest break of my life.

How was Mrs. Ballantyne's lucky break any different than mine?  Mr. O'Connor made sure a young man he had never met in his life would have a chance at a college education.  The kindness of these two men had a profound effect on both our lives. 

What I find fascinating is that after Mrs. Ballantyne's mob boss taught her the value of kindness, she was given the chance to put that lesson to good use on the day she met me.  The gift of her time, her caring and her wisdom came at the perfect moment.  Only a miracle could have saved me and that is exactly what happened."

"If that is the memory you best remember, then I would say you received the perfect finishing touch to your St. John's education.  May I ask how you intend to use that lesson?"

"I will never forget how Mrs. Ballantyne's empathy helped me overcome a terrible crisis.  Someday I want to return the favor.  I hope someday I will come across a kid who clearly needs a lift.  Perhaps I will know the child well or maybe just barely.  And when I get my chance, I hope a few kind words of my own will have the same healing effect that Mrs. Ballantyne's conversation once had on me. 

I will do this because Mrs. Ballantyne taught me the power of a simple act of kindness."

 
I developed a strong suspicion that I was 'Fated' to be caught cheating.  I base this conclusion on the fact that it took an extraordinary circumstance for me to be caught cheating.  The utter improbability of the boy's appearance at the perfect time to catch me in the act is undeniable.  However, what is less obvious were the circumstances that led me to cheat in the first place.  I contend it was my 'Blind Spot' regarding Mr. Salls that led to my cheating mistake in the first place.  If at any time during my Senior year Mr. Salls had indicated I might be in line for a scholarship, I doubt seriously I would have made a fool of myself by cheating on that test.  Instead, Mr. Salls' penchant for secrecy led to an insane pressure that caused me to snap.

I do not believe I am the only person who has ever done something inexplicably stupid.  At some point in our lives, we all seem to make at least one incomprehensible mistake, then spend the rest of our lives trying to figure why we made that choice in the first place.

There is a very strange saying in our culture... 'The Devil made me do it.'  Many people use this explanation to somehow make sense out of a horrible mistake.  I do not like this expression because it sounds like a way to evade taking responsibility for one's misdeed.  On the other hand, look at it this way.  'Blaming the Devil' speaks to the helplessness people feel when confronted by an action that in hindsight feels totally senseless. 

What happens if we substitute the word 'Fate' for 'The Devil'?   Instead of saying 'The Devil made me do it', what if we say 'My Fate made me do it'?  I contend that would change our view of Reality in a very dramatic way.  In my case, I am not trying to evade responsibility for cheating by blaming it on 'Fate'.  Trust me, I paid dearly for my mistake.  My perilous spiral towards the Abyss was the direct consequence of my cheating mistake.  Instead, what I am driving at is a whole new way of looking at mysterious situations that alter the direction of our lives.  Maybe at some point in everyone's life, we are destined to needlessly sail our personal Titanic straight into an iceberg and suffer the consequences.  Why would we behave senselessly?  Because our Fate renders us 'Cosmically Stupid'.

For the sake of argument, let's pretend that Fate really does exist.  If there is a purpose to Life... and we all hope there is... then that purpose is probably for each individual to learn from one's experiences.  How does one learn without making mistakes?  A favorite theme of Greek Mythology is the deadly character flaw which causes a hero's fall from grace.  If Life is for learning, then what did I learn during my personal fall from grace?  For one thing, I was so shaken by the eerie nature in which I was caught, I decided I would never cheat again.  In addition, I learned not to jump to conclusions.  Thanks to my Blind Spot, I was certain that Mr. Salls had given the Jones Scholarship to Katina because I had cheated.  It was this incorrect conclusion that created my perilous descent to the Abyss. 

 

 
 

The combination of getting caught cheating and the pressure I was under regarding the Jones Scholarship had turned me into a nervous wreck.  Following the German test cheating incident, I was consumed with guilt.  Not only did I hate myself for this unforgiveable mistake, my worries about paying for college were eating me alive.  Unfortunately I had absolutely no one to talk to about my fears. 

Ordinarily I would speak to Mr. Curran, a teacher who often served as a confidante.  However, I couldn't talk to Mr. Curran because I would be forced to admit I had cheated on the test.  I couldn't talk to Mr. Salls lest the subject of my cheating arise.  The combination of father's $400 rejection and this cheating incident, I was caught in an ever-worsening tailspin.  However, if I could just win the Jones Scholarship, I believed I could crawl to the Finish Line and take my chances at Georgetown."

Dr. Hilton nodded.  "That makes sense.  However, before you begin, I have a question.  Why so many second chances?  By my count, the men at St. John's looked the other way on at least three occasions including the restroom infraction, the gym clothes incident, and the cheating incident.  Why do you suppose they were so lenient?"

"Looking back, I believe Mr. Salls and Coach Lee knew more about my problems than they let on.  I was so lost and self-absorbed, it never occurred to me that people like Mr. Salls and Mr. Lee had been observing me with concern for some time.  I always thought I was invisible, but not to these men.  They made it their job to keep an eye on everyone.

Mr. Curran and Mr. Weems were two men who knew about my problems with my parents and Little Mexico.  Both men periodically invited me to their home for long talks.  I had blurted out some of my problems to Mr. MacKeith as well.  I believe at least one of these three men passed on my story to Mr. Salls as a head's up.  "Keep an eye on that Archer kid, he's really having a hard time of it at home."

At the same time, I am sure Mr. Murphy kept Mr. Salls informed of my frequent visits to Penalty Hall as well as my continued defiance of his authority.  I am sure Mr. Salls was exasperated with my discipline problems and who could blame him? 

Please keep in mind this is just conjecture on my part, but I think Mr. Salls thought long and hard about me.  Although I never had a single heart to heart talk with the man in my life, I often saw him studying in class.  Please forgive me if I am wrong, but he and I had what I would call an unspoken connection.  For one thing, I know I impressed him during our three years together in German class.  If nothing else, he knew how hard I worked.  If my instincts are correct, I sincerely believe Mr. Salls took a special interest in me.  I suppose he decided that deep down I was a good kid despite my rebellious exterior.  So to answer your question, my guess is Mr. Salls chose to gamble on me.  If Mr. Salls could get me through this rough patch of my life intact, I had a fighting chance to straighten things out in college.  On the other hand, if he threw the book at me as was his right, I very well could have gone down with the ship.  That's how close I was to the edge."

"Do you believe Mr. Salls did the right thing by looking the other way?"

"You know, that's a tough question, Dr. Hilton.  I have already given that some thought.  My life has been dominated by the decisions of two men.  One man, Mr. Salls, took the soft approach.  The other man, Dr. Fujimoto, took the hard line.  Yes, I think Mr. Salls did the right thing.  Things were so tough for me in my Senior year that I did not have the resources to cope with much more disappointment.  I had been stripped of my entire support system, so one more major blow and who knows.  In a sense, Mr. Salls decided to kick the can down the road.  Unfortunately, once I made it to Colorado State, my problems from high school finally caught up with me just as Mr. Murphy predicted.  But you want to know something funny?"

"Sure, what's that?"

"If I had to fall apart somewhere, I could not have chosen a better place than this."

Dr. Hilton smiled.  "Now that is a very interesting thing to say.  I happen to agree with you, Rick.  You have shown me that you have all the talent in the world.  You have a lot of rough edges, but you also have a big heart.  I can see that in you.  A good heart is so much more important than a wall full of degrees.  You are smart, your heart is in the right place and you have determination.  You say that Mr. Murphy predicted your downfall and that came true.  Maybe so, but I have a prediction of my own.  I predict one of these days you are going to put it all together and accomplish something special.  Now please tell me about your Abyss."

 

 

If the God Apollo can guide a poisoned arrow to the heel of Achilles, why can't some unseen being do the same thing to my face?  If the Goddess Athena can whisper to Odysseus the idea to build a Trojan Horse, then why can't some Hidden Being whisper to my mother not to worry about my acne attack? 

If it is my Fate to become permanently disfigured, then there has to be a mechanism by which my Fate is delivered.  I do not claim to know what this mechanism is, but after a while the existence of Unseen Beings administering Karmic consequences no longer seems quite so far-fetched. 

Thetis, mother of Achilles, made the fatal error of leaving her son's ankle unprotected.  Was Thetis a victim of Cosmic Stupidity?  Perhaps my mother's common sense was blinded in a similar way.  My mother assumed that my swelling was surely temporary, so why not wait a day or two... or three... or four? 

That delay was enough to doom me to be permanently scarred for the rest of my life.  Sad to say, my Destiny would pivot in a very dark direction due to this event.  Given the perspective of a lifetime of experience, I have no doubt the freakish Acne Attack was an act of Fate.  I give it a rating of 5 Stars on the Mysticism Scale.

 
As I trudged home in the snow, I was grim and bitter.  I sat in the dark brooding for hours on end.  Despite the gloom, I definitely felt better knowing the full picture.  It was a relief to discover I wasn't losing my mind after all.  If anything, I punished myself for doubting myself so much.  What I should have done was gotten to the bottom of this while Vanessa was still in town instead of cowering from her.  I was furious that Vanessa had treated me so coldly.  Vanessa knew right from wrong.  What had I done to deserve such blatant treachery?  I had always lived by the code that I am my brother's keeper.  If I saw a hurt animal or a human being in trouble, I would try to help them.  Nor would I intentionally do something to put another person at risk.  Apparently Vanessa felt no need to follow these basic rules of decency.  

 

 

Has the Reader begun to notice the Supernatural events and situations are starting to mount?  As a way of keeping score, we have only reached the 25% point on my List.  There are many more to follow.  Some are merely curious while others are unbelievable.  Although it is hard to believe in coincidence as proof of a hidden side of existence, I predict as the total rises, it will be very difficult to believe in anything else.
 

 

 


SUBCHAPTER 108
- MR. mURPHY'S PROPHECY

 

"Now that you had your cherished scholarship to college, how did the rest of your school year turn out?"

"I wish I could report a triumphant final two months of school, but I fell to pieces instead.  I stumbled so badly that I barely crawled across the Finish Line.  Now that I had my ticket out of St. John's, I grew more surly than ever before with Mr. Murphy.   It seemed like I argued with Mr. Murphy every other day about my hair.  He would tell me to get my hair cut, I would promise to get it cut, and then I would ignore him completely.  It had actually become more amusing to aggravate the guy than to simply do as he asked.

Naturally Mr. Murphy grew impatient with my continued defiance.  He sent me to Penalty Hall two Saturdays in a row, but the hair still did not get cut.  The big showdown came in early May.

"Mr. Archer, I have repeatedly requested that you get a hair cut.  Each time you have promised to do so and each time you failed to keep your word.  For the past two Saturdays, I have sentenced you to Penalty Hall, but you have failed to heed my warnings.  So now you are down to your last strike.  I will give you to the end of the week to cut your hair.  If I see you with long hair the following week, I will suspend you."

One week later, Mr. Murphy caught up to me again.  He was shocked to see my hair was still the same length.

"Mr. Archer, did you not listen to a word I said?  I asked you to cut your hair.  What is your excuse this time?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Murphy, I did have my hair trimmed as you requested.  However, I guess I did not have it trimmed to your satisfaction.  I promise to cut it again this week."

"Do you not recall I threatened you with suspension last week?"

"Yes, sir, I do recall that and, as you requested, I did have my hair trimmed.  I apologize if the change is not apparent."

Mr. Murphy stared at me for the longest time.  For one thing, I wasn't arguing with him, I was apologizing.  That in itself was quite a switch.  Furthermore, my hair was so long, who could tell whether I was fibbing or not.  For the record, of course I was fibbing.  Finally he took a deep breath to calm down.

"All right, Mr. Archer, I will give you one more chance. Defy me again and you will be suspended.  Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir.  I promise to cut my hair."

Believe it or not, I actually did get my hair cut.  Not much, but enough that the difference was notable.  What Mr. Murphy did not know is that I could not care less if he suspended me.  There were two weeks left in the school year.  Why should I care if he sent me home for a couple days?

One week later, there he was waiting for me outside of History class. 

"Mr. Archer, I would like a word with you."

Oh, great.  Not this again.  I stopped and let Mr. Murphy conduct his inspection.  He even made me turn around so he could inspect the back.  What a jerk.  Mr. Murphy frowned mightily the entire time. 

"Young man, I see a token difference, but the length of your hair is still not acceptable."

I hated it when he called me 'young man'.  It felt like such a put-down.  At that point, I lost my temper.

 

"I'm sorry my haircut is not to your satisfaction, but I did what you asked and got a haircut.  I made sure to get a receipt.  Would you care to see it?  I just can't seem to make you happy.  Would you like me to get another haircut or you would rather just suspend me instead?"

A look of hate flashed in Mr. Murphy's eyes.  I think he understood that the short time remaining was the explanation for my latest show of defiance.

"Mr. Archer, your continued insolence is disgraceful.  You think disobeying me is amusing, but I have something to tell you.

You have brought dishonor to this school.  Your continued disregard for the rules is unforgivable.  Let me add your ongoing impertinence towards me has demonstrated a total lack of respect for my authority.  If I had my way, you would have had your scholarship revoked long ago.  You don't deserve it.  In my opinion, you do not belong here at this school.  Your lack of discipline makes it clear that you do not respect the gift that has been given.

For your sake, I regret that you never learned your lesson.  You will leave here thinking you are too superior to follow the rules, but I have news for you.  Someday you will learn the hard way that you aren't nearly as smart as you think you are.  You will argue with the wrong person and it will cost you more dearly than you can ever imagine.  At that time, you will remember what I said today."

 

And with that, Mr. Murphy wheeled around and marched off."

Dr. Hilton sat up in his seat.  "Are you serious?  Did he really say that?"

"Yes, Dr. Hilton, that is exactly what he said."

"At the risk of upsetting you, did you think of him when you first realized Dr. Fujimoto had failed you in his class?"

I smiled ruefully.  "Yes, Dr. Hilton, that is exactly who I thought of.  I could not believe this jerk's prophecy had come to pass almost exactly as he predicted.  It was almost kind of spooky."

Dr. Hilton grinned.  "I apologize for smiling, but for crying out loud, Rick, you say some of the damndest things I have ever heard.  I still can't believe Mr. Murphy said that.  He really had you pegged, didn't he?"

"I am afraid he did.  Mr. Murphy was dead serious.  Those were the harshest words he had ever spoken.  Due to my defiant attitude, I usually responded with my fair share of sarcastic comments, but not this time.  I was so rattled by the depth of his anger and his sense of doom that I decided this might not be the best time to mess with him further.  With the end at hand, Mr. Murphy had obviously decided to dispense with being polite.  Our short time left together might explain why he decided to lay some serious candor on me.

I understood that Mr. Murphy lived and breathed the school rules.  However I refused to accept that my scholarship hinged upon things like regular haircuts, punctuality to class, not running in the hall, avoiding using a faculty restroom and better attention to the dress code.   It wasn't like I showed blatant disregard for the rules, but there was definitely a part of me that questioned the importance of certain things like hair length."

Dr. Hilton smiled.  "Your mouth has a death wish, doesn't it?  I know you have a curiosity about the supernatural.  Do you think Mr. Murphy had a blinding vision of your future?"

I snorted scornfully.  "You're teasing me, right?  It doesn't take a Nostradamus to see my smart mouth and rebellious attitude would get me into a lot of trouble someday."

"So how do you feel about Mr. Murphy given what you know now?"

"Oh, wow, Dr. Hilton, you are on a roll today.  How do I feel?  Hmm.  I hate to give the guy any credit, but he obviously knew what he was talking about.  Mr. Murphy could see that with the chip I had on my shoulder and my defiance that sooner or later I was going to run into a disciplinarian who would cut me down. 

It was my good fortune that the SJS administrators used a soft approach given my bristling, moody nature.  Otherwise my problem-filled time at St. John's would have been far more difficult than it already was.  Had they used the lash rather than mercy, given my desperation, maybe I would have gone over the deep end.  Lord knows I came close enough as it was.

Unfortunately, as you and I have discussed, their mercy came at a price.  Mr. Murphy understood that my bad attitude towards authority was a ticking time bomb.  My rocky childhood had left me badly damaged.  My lack of self-confidence, my bitterness, my sarcasm and lack of social skills around boys and girls my age were weaknesses that would haunt me again in years to come."

"I would agree with that.  Mr. Murphy could see your thin skin and defiance set you up for a train wreck sooner or later."

"So now I have question.  What do you think about St. John's in relationship to me?"

Dr. Hilton grinned.  "This is therapy, Rick.  Didn't Dr. Fujimoto teach you anything?  I'm not allowed to give my opinion.  Are you trying to get me fired?"

"Oh my gosh, listen to you, Dr. Hilton.  C'mon, I want to know what you think."

"The first thing you ever said to me about St. John's was that it was both a curse and a blessing.  Everything you have told me bears that initial assessment out.  Forget the education angle for a moment.  Given the utter mediocrity of your parents, I think St. John's may have the luckiest break you ever got.  I think the teachers at that school gave you the guidance and support necessary to prevent you from getting into far more serious trouble.  You had all sorts of terrible breaks, but you also had instructors at St. John's who went way out of their way to keep you headed in the right direction.  If it wasn't for St. John's, I don't know how you would have ever made it out of childhood in one piece.  Considering how miserable your childhood was, your nine years at St. John's was the only thing that kept you glued together.

On the other hand, you paid a terrible price.  There can be no denying the cruelty you were exposed to during your teenage years.  When you say you were made to feel you did not belong at your school, I do not think that was your imagination.  People have ways to get their message across.  Several times you have said you were forced to raise yourself, but that you turned out twisted.  That is an accurate self-assessment.  The St. John's experience turned you into a broken kid.  The Acne story and the Abyss story in particular make it clear that your social development was delayed years behind that of your peers.  You have not yet told me about your college years, but I imagine you paid a heavy price for your St. John's problems.

The way I see it, your St. John's years gave you the education necessary to accomplish some impressive things someday.  But first you will have to overcome the crippling character flaws you developed at your school.  For example, you have every right to blame your poor performance in Dr. Fujimoto's class on the difficulties you encountered at St. John's.  You have made great progress in the time we have been together, but I fear you are still facing a very difficult uphill climb.  You have some pretty serious inner demons to overcome, but you also have great determination.  I will be interested to see who wins.

Okay, enough for today.  I will see you in here next week."

 


SUBCHAPTER 109
- ACADEMIC GLADIATORS

 
"Hello, Rick, how are you doing today?"

"Okay, I guess."

"Last week you said you fell to pieces at the end of your Senior year.  I would like for you to finish the story."

"My Senior year was one long horror story.  My life was so chaotic that I spent virtually every single moment filled with anxiety, anger and frustration.  So when my Hopkins scholarship came through, I found myself completely adrift.  With the pressure off, I discovered I had no remaining will power.  I suppose I had an attack of 'Senioritis'.

The fatigue from all that stress caught up with me in a major way.  In the final two months, I could not seem to force myself to study unless it was an area I was interested in.   In particular, my apathy affected me the most in Calculus.  I was so disgusted with Mr. Flansburg that I stopped studying Calculus in the final two months. 

I could not seem to force myself to do the work.  Nor did I pay attention in class.  I completely tuned Flansburg out.  I was there, but I wasn't there.  To deal with my boredom, I spent my time daydreaming about girls, basketball and college.  

 

I have little doubt Flansburg took careful note of my lack of attention.  Rather than chew me out as I deserved or throw an eraser at me like Mr. Salls, he had another idea.  Flansburg disliked me so much he gave me a "65" for my final grade, the SJS equivalent of a "D". 

I was furious.  What an insult!  Not once in nine years had I made a single grade below 80.  In addition, I had done well enough in his class back when it mattered.  Despite all my problems with studying thanks to the Jehovah's Witness organ music and the Little Mexico situation, I had made an '80' in Calculus for the first quarter, an '80' in the second quarter, plus an '80' in the third quarter. 

Now I was stuck with a '65' for the year's final grade and there wasn't a thing I could do about it.   I wasn't expecting this grade at all.  A '75' was warranted, but not this black mark.  Yes, I goofed off in the fourth quarter, but not to the extent indicated by my final grade.  I concluded Mr. Flansburg chose to drop me to a near failing grade out of spite.   

There were two kinds of grades.  There was one grade for each of the first three quarters and then there was a final grade which was cumulative for the entire year.  Let's see here.  65 = 80 + 80 + 80 + X divided by 4.  X + 20.  Mr. Flansburg had given me a "20" for my fourth quarter performance and final exam performance.  Trust me, I wasn't that bad. 

Clearly, this grade of 65 was meant as a rebuke.  Mr. Flansburg had sent me a message.  Well, I got the message loud and clear.  My Calculus misstep had been caused by the worst case of burnout imaginable.  I just never expected the man to be so vindictive.  I think Mr. Flansburg was just as irritated by my bad attitude as Mr. Murphy.

Since the grade was meaningless, I was surprised at how much I resented his insult.  Mr. Flansburg had wounded my academic pride.  It didn't affect my college plans, but it probably changed my class ranking.  Without it, I would have graduated with High Honors instead of Honors.  The 65 grade rankled me for days, make that weeks, make that years.  This was Flansburg's way of telling me what he thought of me so I would remember him.  I am sure he would be pleased to know it worked.  Six years have passed and I can report this insult still irritates me to this very day."

Dr. Hilton said, "I find it interesting to see how much you obsess over your class ranking.  You took a lot of pride in your grades, yes?"

"No kidding.  I wrapped all my self-esteem around my grades.  However, I wasn't alone.  We were taught to be academic gladiators.  Due to my sheltered existence at St. John's, there were many things I was totally unaware of.  Case in point, I had no idea how brilliant my classmates were until a curious incident that took place about this same time.  A major reason for the school's exemplary academic record was its skillful use of head-to-head competition.  St. John's students quickly learned to compete or be weeded out.  One day I ran into Henry, a former classmate.  His mother taught at St. John's and he had been a lunch-time buddy of mine for several years until he flunked out. 

Sad to say, due to his poor grades, Henry always had a low self-esteem.  He once told me he thought he was stupid.  Due to his lack of confidence, one can see why Henry choose to sit at the same lunch table as me.  He knew I would be the last person to ever pick on him.  Although I liked Henry a lot, I secretly agreed that he was less intelligent than his classmates.  I would never say that to his face, of course, but I did have a low opinion.  For several years I had observed how badly Henry struggled in class.  Try as he might, Henry just could not seem to do anything right.

One day at lunch during the 9th Grade, Henry confided that he was the lowest performing student in our class.  Consequently Mr. Chidsey had quietly suggested to his Henry's mother that she send him to Lamar High School next year.  Maybe he would do better in public school.  Sure enough, when school started in the Fall, Henry was missing.  Considering how few friends I had, I was very sorry to see Henry leave. 

Three years had passed.  One day in May of my Senior year, Henry stopped by St. John's to get a ride home from his mother.  That is when I ran into him.  During our conversation, Henry told me he had made straight A's at Lamar High School for the past three years.

 

That revelation took me by surprise.  How was it possible for Henry to perform so well?  Did I underestimate him?  It is embarrassing to admit this, but Henry had just shown me what an ignorant fool I was.  Without any way to compare my classmates to students from public schools, it had never dawned on me just how bright my classmates were.   The worst student at St. John's leaves and becomes the best student at Lamar. 

In a flash, I developed a new appreciation for the intelligence of my classmates.  My classmates were the best and brightest Houston had to offer, but I had never quite grasped the extent until Henry's revelation. If Henry was among the smartest kids at Lamar, then every one of my classmates must be brilliant in his or her own way.  Why had I not seen this before?

In a sense, we had been trained as scholastic warriors.  We were all sparring partners.  Using our minds and our willpower, we fought on a daily basis to be the best and to improve our academic standing.  The tough competition brought out the best in us.

Although this 'D' I had received in Calculus infuriated me, it served to reveal the burning desire to strive for excellence that St. John's had instilled within me.  Katina and I were members of an elite group of Academic Gladiators.  Like fighting ability in ancient Sparta, academic performance was worshipped at St. John's.  We were the best and the brightest.  I had received the finest training imaginable and I would never forget this."

 


SUBCHAPTER 110
- CLOSE CALL

 

"I nearly got killed on the final day of my SJS career.  I had just finished taking my 'final' final exam and now I was headed home in my VW Beetle around 11 am.  Due to an avalanche of memories and mixed emotions, I was deeply preoccupied.

It was raining hard.  In the heavy mist and rain, I failed to notice the distant car in my lane up ahead was not moving.  Unbeknownst to me, the car was parked illegally in front of a church.  Since Westheimer was a busy four-lane artery, it never dawned on me someone might be stupid enough to park a car there.  I never gave that car a second thought.

 

Lost in my daydreams, it was not until the last second that I realized my mistake.  If I acted fast, I had just enough time to switch lanes.  Ignoring my brakes, I turned the steering wheel sharply to the left. 

To my dismay, my car with its worn tires lost control on the wet surface of the street.  Now the back end of my car began to fish-tail.  The tremendous force whipped my car around a crazy 360 degrees before it came to a stop.  

Amazingly, the back end of my car did not hit the parked car during the spin.  It must have missed by inches.  However, I was not out of danger.  For one thing, I knew another car was right behind me.  As my car whipped around, the powerful force of the 360° turn caused the door to open.

Just as the car came to a halt my left car door suddenly popped open.  Since I was not wearing my seat beat, the violent spinning movement threw the upper part of my body awkwardly onto the wet pavement below.  Falling in slow motion, I was able to break my fall with my hands. 

However, when I tried to wiggle free of the car, to my dismay, my legs were caught between the seat and the steering wheel.  Frantically squirming any way I could, I could not seem to extricate my legs.  As my upper body dangled outside the car, my feet and legs remained inside the car. 

My face was literally resting against the city street.  Looking to my right, a car coming straight at me missed hitting me by inches.  That was bad enough, but what about the car that had been behind me?

I was panic-stricken.  During that crazy 360° spin, I had noticed the car coming up from behind.  Would it be able to stop in time on this slick pavement?  Because I was blind in my left eye, I could not see what was going to happen.  No matter how much I struggled, I was unable to move.  

 

With my legs all tangled up in the car, I was trapped.  My blindness intensified my terror.  I was certain the car behind me would smash my car at any second and hurt me terribly.  The terror increased when I heard that car's brakes squealing.  Unable to see or move, all I could do was listen in horror as my fate unfolded behind me.  Was that car about to hit my car?  Or worse, was that car about to run me over? 

I was scared for my life.  I figured I was about to be crushed or decapitated.  I frantically worked my legs, but I think in my panic the struggle made things worse.  Then to my immense relief, I heard the sound of the oncoming car disappear. 

But I still wasn't out of trouble.  What about the oncoming traffic from the other direction?   Looking back to my right, I was very relieved to see they posed no threat.  The cars coming from the opposite direction were slowing down to have a look at me.  One man called out to ask if I was okay as his car passed me.  From the ground, I replied that I was stuck, but I wasn't hurt. 

There is an interesting device known as the Chinese finger trap.  The more one struggles, the harder it is to free the fingers.  My legs had refused to respond to my struggle during the emergency.  However, now that I took my sweet time, I was able to extricate my awkwardly tangled legs by working one leg at a time.  I got up and looked at the car behind me.  It had come to a stop a mere two feet away from the back of my car. 

The driver was still in his car when I waved to him that I was okay.  I thanked him profusely for watching out for me.  The man smiled and spoke to me through his open car window.   He could hardly believe what he had witnessed.  He said I was really lucky.  It was very fortunate that he had been watching carefully in the rain or he probably would not have been able to stop in time.  Some instinct told him to slow down which is a good thing.  Otherwise the wet surface would have caused a problem. 

I nodded in agreement and thanked him again.

I was soaking wet from the rain and laying on the wet street.  Plus I had no business standing here in the middle of Westheimer Street.  After a quick inspection, I realized there was no damage to my car or the parked car.  How I had avoided hitting that parked car was beyond me.  My car had surely missed hitting it by mere inches during my circular tailspin.  However, since there wasn't any damage, I decided I was free to go.  Thanks to the dramatic 360° fishtail, my car was more or less already headed in the right direction.  So I gingerly got back in my car and took off.  Soaking wet and scared out of my wits, I shook like a leaf the entire way home.

This had been a brush with death."

 


SUBCHAPTER 111
- GRADUATION DAY

 

"Graduation Day at SJS was painful to say the least.  Graduation should have been a moment of triumph, but it was an empty moment to be sure.

The Graduation ceremony took place during a balmy evening in late May 1968.  The crowd sat in temporary chairs placed in the middle of the Quadrangle facing an elevated podium.  

Attendance was mandatory for Upper School students, but I had skipped it the past two years.  What were they going to do, put me in Detention Hall?  Tonight was different since I did wish to receive my diploma.

I was handed a program that listed the evening's activities.  The program said I had graduated with Honors.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  I was grateful to see my poor Calculus grade had not cost me this distinction.

 

Now I settled into my seat.  There would be a long wait.  I knew the ceremony where the 50 Seniors were handed their diplomas came last.  The long climb was over.  Tonight my nine years of struggle would come to an end.  With the Rock of Sisyphus seemingly secure on the ledge high above, my nine year ordeal was over.   

Graduation Day should have been a proud moment, but it was anything but.  To my regret, this event gave Father of the Year an excuse to show up.  This was the first time I had seen him since the $400 insult three months ago.  The nerve of that man to even show his face... as if he had somehow contributed to my high school career.  I snorted with disgust at the sight of the him.  Thank goodness his witch of a wife did not come along. 

To my surprise, my father sought out my mother and sat down beside her.  I believe this was their first meeting since the divorce.  If I didn't know better, they were happy to see each other.  As I sat in a separate section reserved for the Senior class, I watched them talk about old times as if nothing had happened.  I shook my head in disgust.  They should have been ashamed of themselves.  My bitterness was almost impossible to contain. 

Overwhelmed with contempt, it was nothing short of a miracle that I was graduating tonight.  I lost count of the times I narrowly missed a nervous breakdown thanks to those two clowns.   Neither parent had the slightest idea what I had been through in my Senior year.  They were too oblivious to know or care. 

I scanned the crowd to spot Mrs. Ballantyne, but couldn't see her.  Instead, to my surprise, I saw my nemesis Mr. Murphy glowering directly at me.  Judging by his expression, I had gotten under his skin one too many times.  I fought a giant urge to wave at him and smile, but changed my mind.  That man was staring at me with such fierce disgust that I was unnerved.  His hostility creeped me out. 

 

As the evening began, I noticed how impressive Mr. Salls looked in his crimson Harvard gown.  The first part of the Graduation evening was devoted to handing out achievement awards.  St. John's had instilled the achievement ethic in all of us from the moment we set foot on the campus.  Tonight the school would honor the best and brightest.  The achievement awards were presented for excellence in all sorts of categories... academics, sports, drama, leadership and so on.  I watched as one student after another paraded to the podium to receive a certificate from Mr. Salls. 

I had never received an award.  I was good academically, but certainly not the best.  As for sports and extracurricular activities, no chance of that.  Last time I checked, one must at least participate to be eligible.  However, I sensed I had a strong chance of winning the school's award as the best German student.  As one might gather, due to the cheating incident, I had deeply mixed feelings about this topic. 

Although one part of me yearned for public recognition that I was good at something, I dreaded the thought of facing Mr. Salls tonight.  The cheating episode back in February had led me to believe that Mr. Salls was still displeased with me.  I was certain he knew the truth.  Although he had never said a word about it, I grimly recalled the frown on his face the day he asked me to his office to hand me Ralph O'Connor's phone number.  His terse reception had reinforced my fear that he was indeed angry with me. 

Therefore, when my name was called to come up to the podium and accept the German Award, this moment evoked more dread than it did satisfaction.  This should have been a moment of great pride for me, but I was deeply unhappy as I walked up.

I tried to detect a smile in Mr. Salls' stern face, but there was none.  His eyes bored into me like a hawk as he handed me my award.  He handed me a certificate, then barked out a brief congratulation in his harsh, raspy voice. 

 

"Ausgezeichnet, Herr Archer.  Gute arbeit."  (excellent, Mr. Archer, good work)

Instead of smiling back at his praise, I looked down.  I could not look him in the eye.  I was too ashamed to make eye contact.  I cannot begin to say how empty that victory felt.  Feeling that I had tarnished this honor, I did not deserve an award for German achievement. 

What I learned is that cheating sabotages one's pride in the accomplishment of a goal.  The German award was the only prize I ever won at St. John's in nine long years, yet I had managed to rob myself of any satisfaction.  At a moment when I should have felt triumph, I felt nothing but shame.  The worst part of the evening was knowing that I had let Mr. Salls down.  That thought completely devastated me.  I wanted him to be proud of me, but I had thrown any chance of that away.  How could I have been so stupid?

 

Later in the evening, I was called forward to receive my diploma.  Again, I was too ashamed to look Mr. Salls in the eye.  I said "thank you" for my St. John's diploma, but I felt so empty inside. 

Without a doubt, I was crushed to know how much I had disappointed this man.  I could have cared less about Mr. Murphy's low opinion of me, but I very much wanted Mr. Salls to know how much he had meant to me and how grateful I was for my scholarship and my education. 

I had put in nine years to reach this moment.  This evening should have been a time for celebration, but it was a time of sadness instead.  Plagued with guilt, I was miserable the entire night.  My entire experience of Graduation Night was one long feeling of regret.  

If I could have said one thing, I would have told Mr. Salls not to give up on me.  Just because I didn't participate in activities and just because I was the toughest discipline problem of any student they had, deep down I was a good kid who intended to make good use of this fine education. 

Clutching my diploma tightly due to the tension I felt, the moment the Graduation Ceremony was over, I wanted to leave.  But first I forced myself to go to my parents and say goodnight.  My father handed me $50 for which I thanked him.  After that, I quickly left because I had a party to go to.  I did not want to spend another minute with either parent.

 

I had lied to my parents.  There were no celebration parties awaiting me.  Who would dream of inviting the Invisible Kid to a party?  So I decided to have my own party.  I went home and sat on my bed in the dark with Terry beside me.  Nine long years were over.  I was embarrassed at the realization that I had to crawl across the Finish Line.

Of all the things that had gone wrong in my Senior year, cheating on that German test had to be the dumbest thing I had ever done in my life.  As I lay there in the dark, I was totally mystified by that incident.  What possible reason could I have to do something so colossally stupid?  If I didn't know better, the Devil had made me do it.  Except that I didn't believe in the Devil.  So why did I do it? 

Despite all my disappointment, I was at least able to realize how grateful I was for my St. John's education.  I just wish I could enjoyed my final year.  This had been a truly miserable year.   The temptation of Linda and Janie, Little Mexico, my Christmas fight with my mother, my father's $400 insult, caught out of bounds by Mr. MacKeith, caught stealing, caught cheating, losing the scholarship to Katina, Mrs. Ballantyne's mysterious visit, skipping the basketball team, fighting with my grocery store manager, Mr. Murphy's constant wrath, Mr. Flansburg's 'D' in Calculus, a near fatal car accident, Mr. Salls' disgust over my cheating, my fears about not going to college, my bitterness towards my classmates, it all added up to make my Senior year one of the four toughest years of my life.  

I had just received the most incredible education any young man could ever ask for, but all I felt was that hollow, empty sense of regret.  These past four years of High School Hell had taken a heavy toll on me.  With a huge sigh, I drew my dog to me and hugged him.  I smiled and told Terry, 'You know what?  I could never have done this without you.' 

And then I cried for a while.  Terry always had that ability to reach my soft side and turn on my tears.  Where would I have been without my dog to remind me that deep down I was still a good kid?"   

 
 


SUBCHAPTER 112
- SUPERNATURAL EVENT 13

 


Rick Archer's Footnote:

I listed my near death car accident as Supernatural Event 13 and gave it a Two Star rating.

I had been very fortunate.  One car coming from the opposite direction narrowly missed me, but it was the car behind me that offered the greatest threat.  If the driver behind me had not been paying close attention, I would be dead now or headed to the hospital.  I still could not believe I had been forced to lay flat on this busy street for a full 30 seconds and no car had hit me.  I hated being so helpless in such a dangerous situation.

Was it 'luck' that saved me?  It crossed my mind that someone might have been watching over me.  Ever since my encounter with Mrs. Ballantyne, I had given the thought of Guardian Angels considerable thought.  This close call put me right back in my strange mood.  I still had trouble finding any sort of rational explanation for Mrs. Ballantyne's recent appearance.  All I knew was that for all my mistakes and all my problems at St. John's, I also seemed to lead a charmed life.

I wondered what that man had meant about 'some instinct to slow down'.  Was my Guardian Angel watching out for me again?   I had no way of knowing the truth, but that didn't stop me from wondering.  I was already convinced some invisible being had guided Mrs. Ballantyne to my side two months earlier.  Now I had yet another reason to ponder the mysteries of the Universe.
 

 

 

The second issue is our random encounter at Weingarten's.  Mrs. Ballantyne had no business being at Weingarten's.  The store was nowhere near her neighborhood nor was it a fancy store.  I understand that we all run into people we know and don't give it a second thought.  However, our encounter at Weingarten's was special because it took place smack dab in the middle of my serious crisis. 

As we shall see, after our meeting took a mystical turn, I would later conclude that Rick Archer and Maria Ballantyne were destined to never meet until this specific moment here in my Senior year.  Therefore I will list our 'Accidental Meeting at Weingarten's' as Supernatural Event 12 and give it a Five Star Rating.
 

 


SUBCHAPTER 116
- CARL JUNG AND EDGAR CAYCE

 

You know, there's something I haven't really ever had the nerve to tell you, Dr. Hilton."

"I find that hard to believe.  You've told me everything under the sun."

"I know, but I have never talked to you about Mysticism before."

Dr. Hilton nodded.  "To be honest, I am not surprised that you have brought up this issue.  I try to keep my opinions to myself, but there is something I find very odd about Mrs. Ballantyne's visit.  To me, it violates all laws of probability."

I smiled.  "You never cease to surprise me, Dr. Hilton.  That is exactly where I was headed."

Dr. Hilton smiled back.  "During my own days of graduate school, I took a passing fancy in the work of Carl Jung.  Are you aware of his work on Synchronicity?"

"Yes, I remember studying him back in college.  Interesting concepts about the nature of coincidences."

"Yes, that's him.  Dr. Jung was a pretty far-out guy.  Like you, he grew up a loner and had lots of time to think about things.  He was fascinated by coincidences.  Jung seemed to have two minds about the supernatural.  He had a public presence that attempted to understand coincidences ‘scientifically’ and a private one that acknowledged ghosts, visions, and premonitions as part of the essential mystery of life."

"Goodness gracious, I had no idea.  I have only heard of his public positions.  How did the scientific community relate to him?”

"Not very well.  He spent his whole life mired in controversy.  In particular, Jung had a long relationship with Sigmund Freud. They were contemporaries and even collaborated on occasion.  However, Jung's fascination with the supernatural drove a wedge between the men.  I think at one point Freud shook his head and told Jung he was completely nuts.  Jung was stung by the criticism and withdrew to follow his own path.  I thought the whole thing was very interesting.  While Freud focused on scientific, analytical explanations for human behavior, Jung's preoccupation with the supernatural led him in a different direction.  Both men would analyze the same behavior and reach different conclusions.  Psychology is a little bit like Religion.  No one really knows what God thinks, so everyone loves to argue about it.  Psychology is the same way.  Since no one really knows what makes someone tick, some like Freud's explanations better, some like Jung better."

"Which one do you like?"

"I thought Jung was interesting, but my professor bit my head off when I mentioned him one time.  After that, I figured if I was going to get my degree, I needed to forget about Carl Jung in a hurry."

"I see you played department politics better than I did."

"Yes, that's true, Rick.  And it is also true that I had much better parents than you."

"You know, my father did do me one favor.  When I met with my father shortly after Christmas during my Senior year of high school, he handed me The Sleeping Prophet, a book about the mystic Edgar Cayce.  Despite my intense animosity towards my father, once I started reading the book, I could not put it down.  Have you ever heard of Edgar Cayce?"

"No.  Please tell me about him.  Is he alive?" 

"No, Edgar Cayce died shortly after World War II.  He was an uneducated man who seemed to be able to access Universal knowledge by going into a trance.  Once he was in a trance, he came up with amazing medical cures that far transcended his conscious knowledge of medicine.  One skeptic after another challenged him, but as far as I can tell, he was the real deal.

Pertinent to my problems in my Senior year, I was obsessed by the unfairness of everything that was happening to me.  So when I ran across the chapter where Edgar Cayce talked about Reincarnation, that really caught my eye.  Cayce's revelations about Reincarnation came while he was in trance. 

As I read about Cayce's understanding of Reincarnation, he pointed out that the soul is constantly experiencing the consequences of its choices from previous lifetimes.  His ideas offered an explanation for accidents, diseases, and bad luck that was much different than the traditional Christian concept of One Life.  That thought gave me the willies.  Was it possible that George Broyles had been paralyzed due to something he had done in a previous lifetime?  Was it possible that my acne curse was payment for past misdeeds?  If Reincarnation really did exist, then suddenly there was justice in the Universe. 

It was my reading of the Edgar Cayce book that opened my eyes for the first time that maybe there might be more to this world than meets the eye.  I sort of forgot about the book for a while due to all my worries about the Jones Scholarship, but then one day I got caught cheating in the weirdest way imaginable."

"You are talking about the boy who walked in on you at the exact moment you started cheating."

"Yes.  And I wasn't happy about it either.  I had taken every imaginable precaution to prevent this from happening, but the guy barged in out of nowhere at the perfect moment to catch me.  How was this even possible?:

"I happen to agree with you, Rick.  I thought that was a pretty strange coincidence myself.  So what does all this have to do with Mrs. Ballantyne?"

 

"I was very pleased that Mrs. Ballantyne had been able to finally place me.  It was not easy, but the most visible parent at St. John's had managed to place the least visible student, a nondescript boy who just happened to be a huge admirer.  But what a weird place to meet! 

Although one part of me was thrilled to be noticed, another part of me wondered what took so long and why did it happen in such a weird way.

By all odds, we should have met at St. John's long ago.  All she had to do was smile, nod, or say hello, but in nine years she had never seemed to notice me.  That was strange enough.  But what was even stranger was having her meet me in a remote spot miles from the SJS campusIt had taken nine long years, but the most famous parent at St. John's had just noticed the Invisible Student for the very first time. 

Dr. Hilton, I felt very uncomfortable at how utterly random this meeting was.  This meeting was quite a coincidence.  Think about it... we should have met long ago at St. John's.  Since our school was very small and Mrs. Ballantyne was on the premises every day, I saw her on average 3 times a week.  40 school weeks in a school year over 9 years.  3 times a week, 40 weeks, 9 years = 1,080.  I estimate I spotted Mrs. Ballantyne at least 1,000 times at St. John's over the years, probably more.

1,000 sightings at St. John's, but not once had this lady exchanged a glance, smile or simple 'hello'.  Not once.  A couple times our eyes met, but she stared right through me without changing expression.  I swear I am telling the truth.  There was never the slightest bit of contact between us.  Like two strangers who ride the bus to work, over the years we had shared the same bus ride 1,000 times, but not once did we share the same seat. 

This inability to connect might make sense if we were talking about a large college campus, but keep in mind that St. John's was so small that I literally passed right by Mrs. Ballantyne at least once a week.

The dominant feature of St. John's was a lovely green expanse in the center of the school known as the Quadrangle.  Many classrooms surrounded the Quadrangle.  Since only Seniors could walk in the Quadrangle, the rest of the students and the faculty were funneled into a rectangular open-air Hallway that connected 20 classrooms and the Administration office.

Mrs. Ballantyne used the same Hallway I did.  Mrs. Ballantyne loved to patrol that hallway because it gave her a chance to run into one of her seven children and share a word.  Other times she would walk down that hallway with Mr. Salls beside her. 

Considering I used that hallway nine times a day, I passed within inches of her at least once a week.  Other times I would find myself walking right behind her.  All she had to do was turn around and we would have been face to face.  But that never happened.  Not once. 

"Did you ever try to make contact?"

"Absolutely not.  I was far too respectful to deliberately do something to make her notice me.  However, I did go a little bit out of my way sometimes.  Whenever I would walk past Mrs. Ballantyne, I would look directly at her.  Her face never changed.  She always had her blinders on. 

Here is my point.  By the laws of probability, we should have met by now.

Furthermore, by the laws of probability, we had no business meeting here at Weingarten's either.  What was this woman doing here at the remote edge of a parking lot two miles from school?  The utter improbability of this chance meeting left me very unsettled. 

If this chance meeting had been arranged by someone, Mr. Salls for example, I would have given it no more thought.  But as far as I could tell, this meeting was a complete accident.  If that was the case, then I had to wonder if there was a supernatural element to this encounter." 

 

Dr. Hilton stroked his chin and gave it some thought. 

"Fortunately for you, I am more open-minded than the average guy.  My wife and I go to church and I am about 80% sure that there is a God.  However, I don't know much about the supernatural.  I took the scientific route rather than the Carl Jung route.  Be that as it may, I am familiar with the laws of statistical probability.  Based on my understanding of probability, that boy had no business catching you cheating on the German test.  By the laws of probability, given your interest in Mrs. Ballantyne, I also agree she should have noticed you long ago.  Furthermore, I find her appearance at your store just one week after the strange scholarship event rather unsettling.  All three situations are definitely out of the ordinary and I have no explanation.

However, we are out of time today, so we will have to come back to it.  I will make you a deal, Rick.  If you promise to read up on Carl Jung over the next week, then I promise to read a little bit about Edgar Cayce.  You have definitely awakened my curiosity.  One more thing."

"What do you need?

"Is there more to the story of Mrs. Ballantyne?"

"You have no idea."

"Excellent.  To be continued?"

"Yes, sir, to be continued."

So here is a quick overview.

  I was an only child.  At age 9, my parents divorced.  I was quickly abandoned by my father.  After marrying his mistress one year later, my father more or less forgot I existed.

  My mother did not have proof my father had a mistress, but she told him she did and he believed her.  As a bizarre condition of the divorce, my mother blackmailed my father into paying the expensive tuition to send me to Houston's most exclusive private school for three years.  My father made good money, but he didn't make that kind of money.  This explains why my new stepmother resented me as a burden and chose to poison my relationship with my father.  It also explains how a poor and extremely awkward 9 year old boy somehow found himself rubbing elbows with the children of Houston's elite moneyed class. 

  Following the divorce, my mother went off the deep end.  My unstable mother lost job after job.  Since she could not pay her bills, we were frequently evicted.  I had 11 homes in 9 years.  This explains why I wrapped my entire childhood around an obsessive dream to get to college and escape my mother. 

  Due to my mother's economic woes, at various times my mother and I occupied either the top rung of the Lower Class or the bottom rung of the Middle Class.  Thanks to a series of scholarships, I was able to remain at my private school even after my father deserted me completely following the 6th Grade.  By a margin roughly the size of the Pacific Ocean, I was the poorest student at this rich kid's school for nine years, 4th Grade to 12th Grade.  To say I was 'outclassed' is putting it mildly. 

  To deal with her loneliness, my mother spent three, four nights a week in bars looking for men.  Consequently, I spent a lot of time alone starting at age 9.  Since we moved all the time, making neighborhood friends was difficult.  As the token poor kid at a rich kids school, I was slowly but surely ostracized.  While the kids around me seemed to flourish, I found myself trapped in an odd, almost orphan-like existence.  I found it easier to become a loner and cling to my dog as my best friend in the world.  With an unreliable mother, no nearby relatives and no family friends to lean on, I was forced to start raising myself.  I did the best I could, but as my story will reveal, I did not do a very good job.  I grew up twisted, bitter and gnarled. 

  As if being the poorest kid was not bad enough, I had the misfortune of becoming the ugliest kid in my school as well.  In the 9th Grade, a bizarre lymph gland infection made a mild case of acne explode into an ugly crisis.  It took two years for the acne to pass, but the ordeal was not over. To my dismay, I realized the acne had been replaced by deep scars.  Due to my acne-related disfigurement, I did not have a single date during high school.  Feeling like the school leper, I shied from any girl who came near.  It was during this time that my classmate Harold referred to me as the 'Creepy Loser Kid'.  Sad to say, his harsh words would haunt me for many years to come. 

 

 

 

Although I am hardly an expert on Scripture, I am familiar with the story known as the Conversion of Paul.  This biblical story helps illustrate my theory.  Saul was a man who earned a reputation as a cut-throat enemy of Christians.  Saul was quick to ruthlessly punish anyone for their Christian beliefs.  He was so cruel that one might consider him a 'Blind Fool' for his evil ways.  Then one day this avowed opponent of Christianity was confronted on the road to Damascus by Jesus.

As Saul neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
 
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," the voice replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do next."

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless.  They had heard the voice but did not see anyone.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So the men led him by hand into Damascus.  For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

—Acts 9:3–9

 

This event triggered Saul's metamorphosis into Apostle Paul.  One might say he was blinded in more ways than one, but saw the light.  Saul changed his mind about Christianity and became a strong advocate.  After the amazing confrontation, Paul dedicated the rest of his life to spreading the word of Jesus.  For the purposes of my 'Cosmic Stupidity' theory, the Conversion of Paul suggests that people can wander through life completely misguided only to wake up one day and realize they have been in the dark the entire time. 

The question is why was Saul in the dark in the first place.  If my theory of Cosmic Stupidity is correct, then it was Saul's Fate to remain a Blind Fool until it was his time to become Enlightened.

However, before we begin, I want to take a small detour and talk about a 1967 movie called The Producers

In case you don't know the story, the plot revolves around two men who are determined to stage the WORST Broadway play in history.  Through the use of creative accounting, by making a flop, they will create a giant tax write-off.  They come up with a musical titled "Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden".  The sight of Hitler strutting around complete with dancing girls who can't dance and bizarre songs about world domination and the joy of crushing Europe was in such obvious bad taste, the Producers were certain the play would close after one night.

However, the audience misinterpreted the show completely.  They thought it was brilliant satire.  This play was so weird it was good, sort of like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Against against all odds, the play became an accidental smash hit and the Producers were ruined. 

I have long felt a deep kinship for Mel Brooks, the screenwriter and the director of The Producers.  Brooks said this movie was his big break, adding that he considered his script to be the best work of his career.  A lot of people agreed.  His wildly creative movie script earned Mel Brooks the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. 

There were all kinds of suspicious breaks that surrounded the making of this movie.  Brooks mentioned all the weird people who accidentally beat out better-looking, more famous people for the part.  To his surprise, these little-known actors turned about to be perfect for their part.  The real-life Producer of the The Producers had a problem.  No one wanted to direct this movie.  They all said the movie had 'flop' written all over it.  So Brooks offered to do it himself even though he had never directed a movie before. 

On the first day of filming Brooks said 'cut' when he meant 'action' and vice versa.  Finally someone had to explain he had it backwards.  Brooks admitted he was so totally unprepared to direct this movie, he was having a nervous breakdown.  Just when he thought this movie was too ridiculous to have any chance of making it to the screen, things started to click. 

In his own words, Brooks said, "And then we started rolling and I started crying because it was a miracle.  It was so beautiful.  Zero Mostel looked right into the camera and said, ‘This guy (Gene Wilder) should be in a straightjacket.’  When Mostel broke the fourth wall, everyone cracked up and the tension was gone.  Suddenly it felt like God was on my side."

Brooks has said that without The Producers, there might never have been Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Spaceballs.  Brooks confessed he had no idea where all his crazy ideas came from.  It was almost like... dare I say it?... Divine Inspiration.  Based on the description of his experience, it sounds to me like Mel Brooks had a Magic Carpet Ride of his own.  This is why I found the story about this movie so compelling.

 

 

 

So how do we explain the greatness of George Mitchell?

Mitchell offered a clue of his own.  In 2010, George Mitchell wrote an open letter on the importance of Education.  Here is an excerpt: 

I was born in Galveston, Texas, to Greek immigrant parents.  I was a teenager during the Great Depression.  Although I grew up in a very meager, yet loving, environment, I always considered myself fortunate to live in America where the opportunities are unlimited.  Yet sometimes we seem to take it all for granted.  I disagree.  I believe we need to create opportunities for others wherever we can.

I quickly learned that a good education, hard work, dedication, willing mentors, and a few lucky breaks meant the difference between success and failure.

Throughout my life I've seen firsthand how even a little financial assistance could mean a chance for struggling students, dedicated scientists, and families to reach their goals.

I've witnessed how underwriting large-scale academic programs, performing arts, and medical research programs can be quite appealing.  Those ventures have far-reaching, long-term benefits for society as a whole, often extending for successive generations.
 

George Mitchell was more than willing to act on his own advice.  At the time of his passing in 2013, Mitchell was far and away the largest donor in the history of Texas A&M University.  Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp offered this poignant eulogy.

George Mitchell was a great example of what makes this university so special.  He truly loved the school and believed in paying forward to benefit the next generation of great Aggies with his time, talent and treasure.  The George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy will be his most visible legacy, but his impact and influence runs deep throughout our community as Texas A&M’s largest benefactor ever.  We will never forget him.”ť

Who could have predicted the son of poor Greek immigrant would make billions finding oil and gas in places where others never thought to look?  In retrospect, the signs of Mitchell's greatness were there all along.  An outstanding student, George Mitchell finished high school in Galveston at 16.  In 1935, Mitchell was accepted into Texas A&M, a school with a strong petrochemical engineering program. 

 

Lacking money, lacking a car, lacking encouragement, Mitchell was completely on his own up at A&M.  There was no support system waiting for him, no friends from high school.  There were no trips home to cheer him up.  There were no loans available, no work-study programs.  The only money he had in his pocket had been made selling fish caught back in Galveston.  His father was too busy losing money at poker to provide any help.  Therefore, in order to stay in school, George was forced to constantly scramble for tuition.  Fortunately, his father's abandonment had done Mitchell a strange favor... it had given him plenty of practice at learning to fend for himself.  It is a good thing Mitchell did have a work ethic because he operated on a razor thin margin. 

His financial problems were intensified by a hard and fast A&M rule... non-payment of tuition meant automatic expulsion.   As a school based on military principles, A&M took a hard line where tuition was concerned.   Tuition in those days was $39 a month.  A student was given 45 days after the bill was due to pay up.   After that, it was time to go.  No exceptions!

Unfortunately, the day came when the money dried up.  No matter how much Mitchell hustled to make ends meet, could not find the money anywhere.  Mitchell was frantic.  No matter how hard he tried, Mitchell could not scrape the needed money.  George grimly faced the fact that unless he could think of something, he would be forced to drop out of school.   Mitchell could not let this happen.  His entire future rested upon completing his education. 

 

Desperate, the young man thought about asking his father for help. This was the move George dreaded making. For one thing, it was a long shot. Depending how the poker cards had been falling, half the time his father was penniless.  More important, Mitchell's pride prevented him from asking his unreliable father for anything.  However, now that it was beg or leave school, George swallowed his pride and wired his father for money.  We already know how this story turns out, but but let's read what George Mitchell had to say about the incident. 

"As I expected, at the time Dad wrote back that he didn't have a cent to his name.  So my dad said he would ask Sam Maceo, the Godfather of Galveston, if he would help. 

My father said, 'Mr. Maceo, sir, my son is the top student at A&M, but he is going to get kicked out because he doesn't have any money.  Do you think you can you help him?' "