Who Told Her to Stop Dancing?

My work put me on the road from Hickory to Jacksonville, Florida on Sunday, so I loaded up my CD pack with some music I hadn’t heard in awhile. One of those CD was a collection of…


I first heard of this genre when I was in college from a Brazilian-born professor, from whom I was taking a multicultural class from. The music was, and still is to me, infectious. Because I was by myself in the car, I was having a grand dance-and-groove session on I-95 South as I made my way down the Georgia coast.

I mean, how can you not get down to the sounds of Roy Carrier singing What ya gonna do with a man like that or Chubby Carrier and The Bayou Swamp Band crooning That Zydeco Stuff. Other hit titles include She Kept Chewing Gum and “Don’t Put Your Hand on That”.; A baker’s dozen of these Acadian hits blared from the Toyota Camry’s speakers and I loved it all – and played it twice.

As I shook to the accordion riffs, my mind wandered back to a scene that involved by oldest daughter Joy when she was 3 1/2. She had been packed up with her mom and I as we made the cross-country trek from Huntington Beach, CA to Cairo, GA.

On this particular day, we had slogged through heavy rain from San Antonio to Baton Rouge, where we would spend the night. We all were hungry and honestly, we all wanted something more than McDonald’sWendy’sBurgerKing. OK, the parents wanted something that didn’t reside between two buns. I found a place called Mulate’s (sadly, it’s now closed, though the New Orleans offering is still open and bills itself as the “Original Cajun Restaurant”) and it served blue crab. I think my feeling at the time was “Shut Up and Take My Money”.

It was a Saturday night and so the place was full of diners and the floor was full of Zydeco dancers moving to the beat of a live band. Deb and I looked at the scene and we wanted to join in the fun, but among the twisting and twirling, this looked like a place where we non-Cajun infidels could get hurt.

But not long after we sat, a little girl dressed in frills and lace and such, invited Joy to dance with her. And so the California girl and the Louisiana belle moved counter-clockwise around the floor, hands joined together, spinning, spinning, spinning. For a child that had patiently (an enormous amount of patience for a 3-year-old, I might add) sat in a car for several long, boring days, this was a much-needed way to blow off some energy.

As I thought about that scene, I also remembered a recent scene in which a little boy was dancing around on a sidewalk to some music he was hearing. He was having a blast, but I watched him, I thought and said out loud, “when will someone tell him to stop dancing?”

Most of us during our very young days danced and moved about in rhythm to music that we heard. But there comes a time when a lot of us stop dancing because we’re told it looks silly. Others sing, but we hear at some point “You can’t sing.” And so we stop. That’s sad to me.

Joy took dance classes for a while, but she stopped (not her fault, but more due to circumstances) and as an adult, she doesn’t dance anymore. When I asked her why, she said,”It’s just not something I do anymore, even by myself.”  I’m guessing that’s the experience of most people. I’m guessing that someone told her in so many words or in disapproving gestures to stop it. I wonder who told her to stop dancing.

To those reading this: Who told you to stop dancing? Who told you to stop singing?

We’ve had that same sort of question asked since the Garden of Eden, no? It was God that asked Adam and Eve after they hid from Him, “Who told you you were naked?” We’ve all had an innocence that was taken away . (Not the naked part… let’s be real here.) Someone has told each of us to stop doing what we do naturally.

When asked who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus called a child to himself and responded, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

As adults, we worry too much about having the right form, the right behavior, the right manners, the right airs. We worry so much about being adults and looking the part; we get so full of ourselves, we no longer have a sense of what we once were naturally. Jesus railed against that. To me, to be that child Jesus talked about, it’s being who and doing what you were made to be – and not caring what anyone else things about it.

Among my favorite scriptures is John 10:10, in which Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” The Savior lived that out for us during His time on earth. He ate with sinners, laughed, restored wine, played with kids, and so on. I’ll bet He danced at weddings! But we… we were told not to dance.

Who told you to stop dancing?

As we press into Lent, and we begin to focus on what we might give up, I would suggest that we begin to look at who each of us as individuals really are and give up the things that keep us from that- and live life abundantly!




An Ode to BBQ

In living and traveling this great country of ours, I’ve had the pleasure of eating many things called BBQ and/or experiencing many events called a BBQ.

From the now-defunct Melear’s in Fairburn, GA to a buffet in Rocky Mount, N.C. that had the pig on the buffet, to a Samoan BBQ in Albuquerque, where the pig was cooked underground, to San Antonio and beef brisket BBQ to Corky’s Restaurant in Memphis and their scrumptious ribs to Kansas City BBQ to 12 Bones in Asheville and those melt-in-your-mouth Blueberry-Chipotle ribs, it’s all delicious and I wouldn’t tell any of the people that cooked the meals, “that ain’t BBQ.”

There is a saying that people in the South “eat” BBQ, while folks elsewhere “do” a BBQ. I suppose in my travels that’s true, but I’d venture to say that people in the south also “do” BBQ. But not in the same way as a person in California lighting a grill.

I thought about this when I happened upon Smitty’s BBQ in Carnesville, GA, located on GA HWY 59 in NE Georgia. You see, in Georgia or North or South Carolina, to me there are certain hints as to whether or not a place is going to have good BBQ – the pulled pork stuff, I’m talking about here, or even the Brunswick Stew. My first look at a place will help me decide if a BBQ restaurant is worth trying.

Now, I mean no disrespect to Sonny’s or Dickey’s or any other chain places. I mean no ill will to the fancy wine-and-dine places in the big cities that I’ve had the pleasure to eat at. It’s BBQ, but it AIN’T BBQ.

See, to me, a place like Smitty’s, I knew it was going to be good before I walked in. Why? The parking lot was full. I’m in the middle of “NOWHERE” and people flocked to this place. But there were other clues.

The place is situated across the 2-lane highway from a cow pasture, bordered by a barbed-wired fence. When you arrive at Smitty’s there’s a gravel driveway, with muddy, Georgia red clay along the sides. It’s a wood-framed house and before you walk in, you smell the fire upon which the remains of the pig has encountered.

I walk in and, man, this brought me back to my childhood. I sat in an area of a now-enclosed porch. Around the walls were a collection of items that certainly had no interior decorator’s touch: A deer’s head, a calendar from 1967, a local newspaper front page from 1953, a potato sack, framed pictures of Georgia Bulldog football players, American flags, scripture verses. At the cash register are York peppermint patties for sale.

This, my friends, is the final telltale sign.

Since I was eating light that day for lunch, I went with just a plain bowl of stew. What kind of stew, you ask? If it’s a BBQ restaurant, it’s the one-and-only Brunswick Stew.

Before it comes, I see others with pork sandwiches and pulled pork on a plate, baked beans, cole slaw (That I can do without)… and as my mouth waters, I know.

I text my wife to tell her what I’m having. She responds, “Is it going to be good?” From what I see and smell… oh yes.

First, I get a small tub of sweet tea in a plastic red cup. I think it was about 87 ounces. On the table, bagged by twos in Ziploc bags, is white bread. And then… here it comes.

It’s not fancy. The bowl looks like something you would’ve eaten out of in grade school. Contained therein, a thick, tomato-based stew with chicken and pork and corn and beans and who knows what else – it’s Brunswick stew. I add the obligatory anointing of BBQ sauce and 65 crushed Saltines and… The taste. I can’t describe it other than to say, it tastes like home. It tastes like New Year’s Day at my Papa’s house, when he’d make it for the occasion. It tastes like a run-down Melear’s restaurant, my first memory of eating BBQ, complete with white bread. Add in the pickle spear and the bag of Lay’s potato chips and I am 7 years-old again. And all this cost $6.84. Cheap at half the price.

You see, yes, BBQ is a food for us here in the South, but it’s more. If you do BBQ in the South, it’s what you ARE. Smitty’s, like so many small BBQ joints in the South, are family-run operations. It’s what they do and are. Their reputations are on the line. You can’t fake this stuff.

Folks, I can’t stress this enough. If you are in the South, and at meal time you see a full parking lot at a BBQ place… stop in and await the heaven-come-down-to-earth that is on hand.