Written by Rick Archer
Wow! What a party!! We had
the best time at Westwind Dance Club.
A pre-cruise meeting
typically serves three purposes - a chance to ask questions (very
important for first-time guests), a chance to organize carpools to
Galveston, and, best of all, the chance to meet the other guests.
We don't have a dance
studio any more, so Marla and I
originally planned to host the Bahamas Pre-Cruise Meeting here at our house
in the Heights.
Don't laugh. Ten years ago, I used to
hold huge volleyball parties here. Back in those days, crowds
of 100 people were the norm. In fact, SSQQ became so good at volleyball
that we nearly won the fabled Pasadena Strawberry Festival
tournament in 2002. We finished second out of 116 teams!
Not bad for a bunch of wimp dancers.
That was the good news.
Later that summer in 2002, one day I went out back and saw my concrete
volleyball court had been split in half after a storm. Thanks to
the root system from
a giant oak
tree that I had planted, the volleyball court was now in
ruins. In addition to the crack, the area near the tree had a
bulge in it. That side of the court
was half a foot higher than the rest of the court. The
estimate to fix the problem correctly was $5,000.
I didn't have that kind of money. Instead, I used some concrete to
patch the cracks. Unfortunately, the raised surface meant the
court was no longer safe to risk
playing on. Sadly, I decided the SSQQ volleyball era was over.
When Marla said we
needed a place to hold our meeting, my mind raced back to those days
of yesteryear. Now that the studio was closed, maybe we could
have the meeting here at the house. Why not at least throw a picnic?
One day in July I went out
back to practice shooting the basketball. The first thing I
noticed was how hot it was. Thanks to Hurricane Ike, many of
our shade-producing trees were now gone. Who in their right mind wants to
come to a meeting in this heat? Then I noticed that the
old volleyball seats were terribly worn with age. In fact,
the entire decking infrastructure was badly in need of repair.
Maybe I should have given this idea more thought.
As I mulled over the time and expense it would take to whip the
place back into shape, it occurred to me that our cruise didn't have
100 people; it had 200 people. I didn't have a place
for another 100 people to sit.
I frowned to myself.
How stupid of me. A party here at the house simply didn't
make any sense. I walked into Marla's
office to tell her the bad news. Marla smiled quietly to
herself. She had suspected this all along, but didn't have the
heart to tell me.
About this same time our
friend Gary Richardson began organizing Tuesday night dancing at a
Western club called Westwind
near the corner of Tidwell and 290. This had come about
because Wild West
decided to discontinue a long-standing Tuesday night dance program
that Gary was devoted to.
Someone suggested a
place named Westwind as an alternative. Gary had never been
there before, but since it was close to his house, he decided to
give it a try. The first thing he noticed was the place wasn't
crowded on Tuesdays. His group of 20 had the place to
themselves on Tuesdays. Since there was no DJ, Gary got
permission to play his own music.
20 became 30 the next
week. 30 became 40 the next week. Wild West's loss became Westwind's gain. At this point, Gary
was filling the club on Tuesday.
Gary also began to develop a
rapport with Azar, the owner.
Gary noticed the place
was empty on Mondays as well. Gary got permission to
offer Night Club dance classes on Mondays. Now Gary was filling
the place twice a week. Gary had found a diamond in the
Faced with our problem, Marla
wondered if perhaps
Westwind would let us have our cruise meeting there. Gary said he
would ask Azar what he thought. To Marla's profound relief,
Azar said yes. Thank goodness!
Now that we had the club
available for our meeting, this opened up some interesting possibilities.
Marla said we could meet at 5 pm to hand out information and answer questions,
then turn around and have a potluck dinner at 6 pm plus start the
I was impressed with
Marla's idea. This might just work! All our previous
pre-cruise meetings had been ho-hum get-togethers on a Sunday
afternoon shortly before dance classes were about to start.
Out of nowhere, we suddenly had been give an opportunity to have a
Sure enough, this event
turned out to be the best pre-cruise party we have ever had.
Everyone had a blast!
For starters, we had 125
people. Let the pictures tell the story. Everyone brought food
- there were two entire tables of potluck dishes to choose from!
The food was absolutely
delicious! It was so good I had to go back for seconds.
I had been dancing for an hour, I got hungry
again. Wow! There was so much food left that I had a
completely different meal that just was just as good as the first!
yum yum yum.
I wasn't the only person
who liked the food. Everyone was raving about it! We
obviously have some great cooks in this group. This is
something we need to do again!
The neat thing was that
everyone sat down at a table with friends. The conversations
became animated. This evening was almost as good as being on
the ship itself.
Those full bellies paid
off. We turned the lights down low and suddenly the dance
floor was teaming with bodies! Even better, people like Marty
Shea, Priscilla Ray, Sol Eisenbaum, Lee Ann Parkinson, and Philip
Easterling dropped by to join us. In other words, the party
was open to the entire dance community... I liked that a lot!
One person I enjoyed
seeing was George Mr. Handsome Sargent. Mr. Handsome, of
course, is someone I always pick on in every cruise writeup. Does George enjoy the
terrible things I say about him? Well, I'm not sure. I
know for a fact that George complains that I always pick him on him
and that very little of what I say is correct. And yet he
keeps signing up each year for the next cruise. So draw your own
conclusions. By the way, that's George with his mouth open in
the picture to the right. No surprise there.
All I know is that
George's buddy Margarita Marsharita (sitting next to George) had told
me two specific things when I saw her four days earlier.
First Marsharita said
that George was DEFINITELY not coming to the pre-cruise meeting.
George said there wasn't anything about this cruise that he didn't
know already. Second of all, there was an unbelievably
important Texans pre-season football game on TV that same night.
He would not miss an important PRESEASON game for the world!!
Second, Marsharita said George had given
up dancing. George said he was tired of dancing. He was thinking
of taking up a new hobby like joining the professional hot tub stuffing
circuit. I frowned when I heard this. I had no idea that
sitting in a hot tub could even be classified as an 'activity', much
less something you could compete in.
In Handsome's defense, if anyone
stuffing into a hobby or a skill, that would be Mister
Handsome. He has developed profound hot tub skills. In
fact, the first thing I heard him say at Westwind was that
he was working on a plan to get the entire 190 passenger group into
the Conquest hot tub at the same time. Well, good luck, but
don't ask me to be on the bottom.
Later that evening, I
was stunned to discover that George was out on the Westwind dance
floor. Now maybe it was illusion, but George APPEARED TO BE
DANCING. I figured he would deny it, so I took a picture.
Unfortunately there wasn't enough flash to do the moment justice.
I am sure that George will say it was just someone who looked like
One person who
definitely had a
great time at our party was Gareld McEathron (pictured on the
right). Tonight was Gareld's 82nd birthday!!
Back on the 2008 Cruise,
Gareld had celebrated his 80th Birthday on board the ship. To
have some fun with the event, I had brought a box of plastic leis
along for the girls to put on his shoulders while they gave him a
hug and a big smooch (read
I don't know who had
more fun - Gareld or the 60 women who smooched the lucky guy. I
think a couple guys smooched him too. However, Gareld got so swamped with leis that I began to worry he
might suffocate! Fortunately, he survived the experience and
got a big kick out of it.
Here at Westwind, when I
saw Gareld, I remembered it was again his birthday. So on the
spur of the moment, I asked him to get out on the floor and told the
girls to line up for a new round of kissing and smooching.
Sure enough, a line of
60 women jumped from their seats for a chance to smooch our
celebrity. Talk about popularity! I was actually
It is a good thing
Gareld's wife Virginia is a good sport. As I told Gareld's daughter
Deborah later on, this guy gets more action than a rock star.
The guy is a born babe magnet.
That's when I noticed
Marla smooching the guy too. Gee whiz, it is one thing to send
the guy a legion of women, but now my own wife is getting in on the
act! Hmmph. I think I am going to have Marla schedule a
cruise for my birthday and see if I can work this angle to my own
Changing the subject, I
didn't take very many pictures. Please forgive. Historically,
I can either take pictures or I can dance. I am not very good
at doing both. Tonight I was having so much fun dancing that I
completely forgot I even had a camera in my pocket. Oh well.
I wasn't the only person
having fun dancing. I grinned when I saw my buddy Joel Konkel
out there dancing Swing to a perfectly good Twostep song. Both
Swing music and Twostep music have similar speeds. Since Joel
is such a Swing nut, he always finds a way to transform a night of
Western dancing into some extra Swing dancing as well.
Joel isn't the only
Swing nut in the group. Charley Denton and his girlfriend Rowena
reminded the group that they are organizing a group to wear flapper
dresses and Zoot Suits on Formal Night during the cruise. Mind
you, I have no desire to wear a zoot suit, but I am in full support
of whatever floats your
I am sure I will be grinning from head to toe as they use their
special form of madness to turn our Bahamas Trip into a Zoot Suit
Riot. On the other hand, if they get into dress code trouble,
I don't know any of them!
If I had remembered, I
would have taken a picture of my friend Velma, or MVP
as I like to call her. Velma is one of those people who have
natural charisma. That girl is a born leader! Born
trouble maker too.
On our 2009 cruise,
Velma took her dinner table of 10 strangers and welded them into a
solid unit of 10 trouble makers. Velma even gave them a name -
The WTH Club. The WTH Club got the
award for most noise, rowdiest behavior and most fun of any table...
and believe me, they had competition.
They even had the nerve
to ask me if they
were in line for a reward of some sort. I replied that the joy of
misbehavior is rewarding enough.
At Westwind, Velma
announced to me that 9 out of 10 people from last year's table had
re-upped for this year's Bahamas cruise. I could see she was
bragging, but I was still pretty impressed.
That's amazing! I was curious about something. I
asked Velma how on earth so she had persuaded so many people to return. Velma and smiled. "These
guys are my peeps. I keep 'em in line!"
Then MVP let me in on
her secret... throughout the year, Velma organized regular monthly
get-togethers for the WTH Club. Sometimes they
all met to go dancing. Sometimes they all met to have dinner.
Sometimes they met to take a dance class together.
It didn't matter what
the occasion was as long as they all had fun. As a result, the
friendships that were forged on the cruise stayed connected
throughout the entire year.
I smiled. The long
history of SSQQ has seen many similar groups form. It doesn't
happen often and I certainly don't have control over it, but when it
does happen, I am always happy. This is how we build our
Truth be told, the
greatest legacy of SSQQ Dance Studio and our Travel group are the
many friendships that will continue for years and years to come.
We have truly become a community.
We are all fortunate to
have Marla to thank for this... and that includes me. I am just as
grateful as everyone else. I remember how suspicious people were of
Marla in the early days of organizing SSQQ cruise trips. They
questioned every move she made. Whatever went wrong was her
Not any more. Over
time, thanks to one successful cruise after another, people saw first-hand
that this was a woman who knew what she was doing. Today
Marla's word is golden. Everyone knows that Marla has every
trip completely under control. Marla's reputation for
excellence is so well-established that people trust her completely.
People sign up for her cruises and just relax. They know they
will get exactly what Marla promised.
Thanks to Marla, our
Travel Community is poised to thrive for many years to come.
However, tonight's Westwind Party hinted strongly at an important
new wrinkle to our future. In addition to headline-grabbing adventures across the Seven Seas, I
think our fun night at Westwind is just the start of many
weekly and monthly get-togethers throughout the year.
If getting people together on a regular basis works for Velma, it will work for all of us. If Saturday
Night at Westwind was any indication, a lot of you agree the time
has come for adventures on land as well as at sea.