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A Barbecue Story for America

7Is nothing sacred?

Stay tuned to learn the disappointing answer. Misquoting Neidermeyer’s opening statement at the trial of the Deltas in Animal House, a recent event of dietary disrespect and ignorance occurred at a sacred ancient temple of NC BBQ which was so loathsome that “the acts of culinary perversion were so profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here.” Naturally I shall go ahead and list them anyway.

This profane act of defiling and criticizing NC BBQ cannot be ignored. To quote the philosopher of the sea, Popeye: “That’s all I can stand. I can’t stands no more.” The time has come to leap athwart the bow of history and shout “Enough!” The two readers of this column know that I make every effort to remain neutral, beige, and boring in my opinions and observations. But I cannot let this travesty go unremarked.

Breaking my silence on current events, I follow the edict of Martin Luther, who after nailing his 95 theses to the church door in 1517, was deemed a heretic. Four years later in a church trial when threatened with excommunication and burning at the stake, he was offered amnesty if he would just recant his beliefs.
Martin Luther refused to do so, saying: “Here I stand. I can do no other.” The Holy Grub of North Carolina has been insulted by a Phillistine from north of the Mason-Dixon line. It is my sacred duty to defend NC BBQ.

Damn the cholesterol, full steam ahead.

Return with us now to November in a capital city in a southern state. Let us call that city Raleigh. It was a normal day towards the end of a normal lunch hour. Suddenly, a crime wave was identified at a famous local restaurant. Let us call that restaurant Clyde Cooper’s BBQ.

A woman, possibly from New Jersey, who we shall call Karen, ordered a plate of Clyde’s BBQ to go. Karen is a special kind of lady. A lady of exquisite breeding, unfounded egotism, and culinary misinformation. Karen is a lady who owns a cell phone. Karen knows her rights. She even knows the number of 911.
When Karen opened her box of BBQ, she was stricken with revulsion and disbelief. The BBQ inside was pink. Pink, the color of impetigo. Pink, the color of pink eye. Pink, the color of flamingos. Pink, the color of Pepto Bismol. She was stricken with mental pain and crippling emotional anguish.

This pink BBQ was not properly cooked. Trichinosis lurked in her Styrofoam box. Botulism was just a forkful away from her delicate constitution. As Colonel Kurtz said in Apocalypse Now: “The horror. The horror….”
Karen marched herself right back into Mr. Cooper’s café and demanded fully cooked BBQ or a refund. The owner explained the BBQ was pink because it was smoked BBQ.

Smoked BBQ is pink, not grey. It is smoked for over 12 hours at 250 degrees. It is done even though the smoke turns it pink. Cooper's has been smoking BBQ for over 75 years and knows pig. A refund was denied and Karen was given chicken as a substitute. Was this enough for Karen? Not a chance.

Karen sashayed out the door. She did what any Karen would do. She called 911 to report a BBQ emergency. According to press reports, a Raleigh police officer was dispatched to the scene of the crime to investigate. The officer entered Cooper's, briefly discussed pink BBQ, and according to the owner of Cooper’s, “He walked out- Kind of had a little smirk on his face.”

The officer spoke with Karen, but made no arrests of the cooks and left. Karen left a cranky one-star review on Google writing: “Worst customer service I ever had in my life. Barbecue was very pink and had lots of fat in it.”

Karen was interviewed later by WRAL, telling the TV station that “she did not regret calling the police and is considering filing a lawsuit against Cooper's.”

Imagine a NC jury brought up eating the holy grub, hearing a case brought by Karen who clearly knows nothing of our history and even less about what makes good BBQ. You can tear down our statues. You can fill Cary with Yankees. But by all that is Holy, you cannot defame our BBQ.

Where does it end? It never ends. Another NC food related lawsuit is winding its way through the California courts. A disgruntled man in Los Angeles filed a class action lawsuit against Texas Pete hot sauce claiming he was misled into thinking Texas Pete was made in Texas. The label on Texas Pete clearly states it was made in Winston-Salem, NC. His complaint alleged he would not have bought it if he knew its origin, stating that Texas Pete “knowingly capitalized on consumers’ desire to partake in the culture and authentic cuisine of one of the most prideful states in America.” Only a money poultice can make him regruntled again.

What have we learned today? Once again, very little. You can lead Yankees to food, but you can’t make them eat. Dare to strike back, put some Texas Pete on your next BBQ sandwich.

In the thankful season

5 I have missed you all!

Like the late, great Charles Kuralt, I have been “on the road,” or more accurately, on the plane for 30 hours, more or less. With various layovers, 30 hours is about what it takes to get to southern Africa and another 30 to get home.

And as we all know, there is nothing like sleeping in one’s own bed! Like Kuralt and most other travelers, I learn a great deal everywhere I go from western Europe to east Asia to the bush of southern Africa.
And, like millions of other Americans, I am always grateful to set foot back on United States soil, where I was born, grew up, and raised my own family. Seeing how other people in other places face daily life makes us understand, cherish, and willing to fight for our American freedoms.

The United States is a relatively new country compared to European nations, India, and certainly China. We are older and more experienced, though, than some African nations, many of which divorced themselves from European colonial occupation in the mid-20th century and are still feeling their way. For some, birth and maturation continue to be painful.

Among the joys of traveling in southern Africa are the well-run national parks and game reserves that spotlight, and more importantly, protect Africa’s spectacular wildlife—lions, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, and the list goes on. Tourism, the area’s most important industry, supports these efforts.

The harder reality is that South Africa and Zimbabwe both have high unemployment rates and, not surprisingly, high rates of crime and homelessness. Government corruption is a pervasive factor.
Kliptown, a squatter community in the city of Johannesburg, stopped me in my tracks.

No government—city or national—provides any service, including electricity and plumbing, to this community of about 45,000 souls.
One positive is an after-school program for local children established by 3 young men who grew up there which received worldwide recognition as a CNN Hero. A California family funded a brand new $2M facility after seeing the news coverage.

Which brings me to Nancy Pelosi.

Love her or loathe her, Nancy Pelosi tells us our system of government works. Pelosi is the first and only woman to become Speaker of the US House of Representatives and third in line to the Presidency.

Her tenure in the house spanned four Presidencies, the Iraq War, the Great Recession, the Affordable Care Act, and the Insurrection which could have taken both her life as well as our nation’s.
Following an unprecedented attack on her elderly husband, Pelosi stepped away from leadership responsibilities, but she has been and remains a highly polarizing figure in American politics.
For more than a decade, she has been demonized by the opposition.

Nancy Pelosi would not know me from Adam’s house cat, but she probably would not be surprised that more than a decade ago when I ran for public office, mailers went out of the two of us photoshopped together as if we were best friends.

The opposition meant this as a negative, but I was flattered.

I mention Pelosi because she is an example of what works in our country despite our deep and pervasive divisions.

The reality that our nation has survived an insurrection and that legislative power is being transferred, however contentiously, tells us that our structure is holding—at least for now.
We got through our mid-term elections with grumbling and disappointments for sure, but candidates are not alleging widespread voter fraud or refusing to accept election outcomes.

Our United States is far from perfect, but we are working on our issues, just as we have been for about 250 years. I am really glad and thankful to be home.

We must be willing to let go in order to properly receive

19When was the last time you gave thanks for something you lost?

Forty years ago, Southern rockers 38 Special penned and recorded a song which claimed the charts as it encouraged us to “Hold On Loosely” lest we lose control. While I wouldn’t suggest the entirety of the song is good relationship advice I’ll admit that learning to loosen our grip may not be that bad an idea.

We often have a tendency toward placing too much trust or value in the things around us. That could be money, the job or promotion we’re clamoring for, or a relationship.
These are all things that we desire; things which become objects of our affection.

The danger to our wellbeing is when these things — or a multitude of others— become objects of our obsession. More profitable than the advice from that 80’s radio hit is something we can read in the New Testament book of James.

In the first chapter, we’re invited to see that “…every good and perfect gift comes from above.” (v.17) The writer, believed to be the half-brother of Jesus, opens the book (or letter) asking us to “count it all joy whenever we face various trials.” (v.2) The people knew what James was talking about.

People in the early Christian church underwent both persecution and ostracizing when they proclaimed their belief Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the son of God.

Things they had worked for — their homes and businesses — were stripped away as they found themselves on the outside of the Jewish culture looking in.

Lifelong friends turned their backs on them, many were forced to ply a new trade as longtime customers refused to have anything to do with them (let alone do business with them), and they found themselves exiled — by choice or by force.

The Messiah was the very thing they prayed for, yet when He arrived, to follow Him was to let go of everything they knew and valued.

Sometimes we must let go of things, too. They are often the very things that keep us from something better. Jesus tried to explain this as a wealthy young business leader approached Him asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. He had observed all that was moral, built a profitable business, and seemingly had it all. Jesus told him to “…sell it all, give to the poor, then come follow Him.” (Matthew 19:16-21) Unwilling to let go of the good for the great, the young man went away sad.

And so it is with us. Be careful not to hold too tightly to the things that are more like anchors than oars.

We may find ourselves sinking, ever so slowly, never loosening our grip on the things we once longed for, but which may now be the only thing standing between us and the greatest gift we could ever imagine.

Let go, and thank God for the gifts He gave you, and the even better gifts He’s offering you now.

Carolina leaders should heed Cicero

4North Carolina has an official state bird (the Northern Cardinal), an official state reptile (the Eastern Box Turtle), an official state insect (the honeybee), an official state mammal (the Gray Squirrel), an official saltwater fish (the Channel Bass), an official freshwater fish (the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout), an official state marsupial (the Virginia Opossum, which seems awfully unpatriotic), and two official state amphibians, the Pine Barrens Treefrog and the Marbled Salamander.

We have something like an official philosopher, as well, although no legislation has confirmed it. North Carolina’s state motto is esse quam videri, which translates as “to be rather than to seem.” You can find the motto on the state seal, among many other places.

While the underlying idea didn’t originate with him, this specific Latin phrasing came from the pen of the Roman orator and statesman Cicero, who was a contemporary (and enemy) of Julius Caesar and a hero to the founders of North Carolina and the United States as a whole.

As a stylist in Latin, a practitioner of Roman law, an advocate of republican virtues over imperial ambitions, a translator and teacher of classical Greek ideas, and a philosopher of metaphysics, politics, and ethics, Cicero had an outsized influence on the world we still inhabit many centuries later.

He is also very quotable. You will find his sayings sprinkled throughout Western literature, law codes, and even inspirational websites. Unfortunately, these quotes aren’t always placed in context, which can sometimes drain them of their intended force and meaning.

For example, North Carolina’s motto is taken from a treatise Cicero wrote on the subject of friendship. He noted that real relationships must be based on honesty, not pretense. “The man to open his ears widest to flatterers is he who first flatters himself and is fondest of himself,” Cicero wrote, and the result isn’t a real relationship of two mature human beings. “Fewer people are endowed with virtue than wish to be thought to be so,” he pointed out. “It is such people that take delight in flattery. When they are addressed in language expressly adapted to flatter their vanity, they look upon such empty persiflage as a testimony to the truth of their own praises.”

Can you think of anyone in public life today to whom Cicero’s argument applies? I can, too. But that hardly exhausts the potential applications of Cicero’s wisdom to modern politics. Here are some other lessons that North Carolina leaders ought to take to heart.

In his treatise on moral duties, addressed to his son, Cicero argued that “while there are two ways of contending, one by discussion, the other by force, the former belonging properly to man, the latter to beasts, recourse must be had to the latter if there be no opportunity for employing the former.”

In other words, force may be necessary to resolve certain kinds of disputes, but it ought to be a rare and last resort. In the political context, this is an argument for letting people make their own decisions and work out their own voluntary arrangements as much as possible, keeping government intervention to a minimum.

In another work, Cicero wrote that “we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue.” Leaders should always look before they leap — and think about the long run, not just the short-term effects of their decisions.

That’s a point about the future. “To be ignorant of the past,” Cicero also wrote, “is to be forever a child.” To study history is to recognize that past generations with the greatest of intellects and best of intentions have often faced similar problems and attempted solutions. Some succeeded. Many failed. All yielded useful lessons.

If North Carolina leaders want truly to be rather than to seem, they could do far worse than heed the philosopher who wrote our motto.

Strength exercises can help prevent ankle sprains

18Ankle sprains make up about 25% of injuries resulting in a visit to the emergency room. An injury occurs when the ankle is rolled or twisted in an awkward position. Your ligaments are the stabilizers for your joints that help with excessive movement and most sprained ankles involve movement on the outer side of the ankle.

Recently, I did not see a hole while walking and my ankle went into the hole. I felt it turn, and thankfully it did not result in an injury. I am a big advocate of ankle strength and flexibility and for that reason, my ankle was flexible enough not to sustain an injury when I stepped in the hole.

The importance of ankle flexibility and strength exercises is often overlooked and not addressed until an injury occurs.
The ankle is the first major joint that absorbs shock when our feet hit the ground. Lack of mobility and strength causes the body to absorb the shock in other parts of your body causing an imbalance up the kinetic chain. The result is compensation in other parts of your body which could cause you to have knee, hip or lower back pain.

The term ankle mobility refers to the flexibility of the foot in plantarflexion (pointing the foot) and dorsiflexion (pulling the foot upward). Another form of flexibility in the ankle is the performance of inversion and eversion which is the ankle rolling side to side, which is a common reason for ankle sprains.

Strong ankles are just as important as flexibility. It is the ankle strength that helps us sustain our balance and perform activities such as running, walking, jumping and squatting.
Weak ankles are not something that we may pay attention to but there are signs that your ankles may be weak or have a lack of mobility. Some of the signs include repeated turning, discomfort and swelling, chronic pain, tenderness, and feeling your ankles wobble on uneven surfaces, dancing or walking.

Ankle exercises are part of my classes at the end of a session. You can do simple exercises at home to strengthen your ankles and make them more flexible while sitting, standing or watching TV.
In a standing or seated position practice dorsiflexion and plantar flexion while moving the foot forward toward your shin and pointing. Rotate the ankle in forward and reverse circles. Tap the foot, right, middle and left. Practice rolling your foot over from one side to the other.

Stretch bands can also be used with ankle exercises. The bands serve as resistance when doing exercises such as plantarflexion, dorsiflexion, circles, taps and stretching.
Standing heel raises aid in strengthening your ankles and can be done standing at a counter. Raise the heels up and down or extend half of your foot over a step or riser while holding on to something for stability raising your heels up and down.

Single-leg exercises can also help with ankle strength and balance while holding onto a stable surface and progress by lifting and lowering
your heel.
Squat jumps or jumping rope also add to the strengthening process. Seated ankle strength exercises can be done by pressing the foot on a ball or placing a weight on the thigh while raising and lowering the foot.

It is important to know when to see a podiatrist. Left untreated, weak ankles can lead to activity restrictions. Your podiatrist can recommend exercises and a plan. Ankle sprains generally take an injury two to 12 weeks to heal with varying degrees of a sprain and may need some therapy.

Live, love life with mobility.

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