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A Dance to an Atlanta Night

Stephanie’s feet are bare, and she is on a sidewalk, and she is dancing. And everything in the world is exactly as it is supposed to be.

We’ve already been hanging out with each other all evening, our group of a dozen or so. I’m visiting Atlanta for the weekend and have immersed myself in their company. They are familiar companions who know me like my oldest friends. Many of them have seen me in great pain, and in predicaments so seedy I shiver at the details.

Dancing FeetMy struggle with addiction, the disease I don’t write about as often, has a harder time being fabulous. I suppose my sense of humor about being an addict in recovery is more limited. But the recovery process itself is filled with friendships and giggles and sparkling life, and of unexpected moments of grace. Like this one.

Stephanie has put down her yogurt to show us her routine for a dancing fundraiser coming up. It will raise money for those in recovery, like some of us gathered here. The fundraiser is probably a test of courage rather than talent, with amateur participants spending weeks learning routines and then earning votes at the event, through donations tossed in their bucket. It takes guts and heart and it helps a very good cause.

She is without shame or self-consciousness, kicking off her shoes in front of the yogurt shop as we all step back and take a seat on benches and planters. Other customers stand about with their cups, chatting with chocolate sprinkles atop frothy spoonfuls of almond mocha and french vanilla.

I’ve been delighting in their company, this happy group, in various combinations the entire weekend, and my departure the next day is looming. I want to take them in, hugging and reconnecting.

Dancing_feet - CopyDavid is happier than before, and has a boyfriend. Christi’s skin still defies time, age, or stress, as does her steady manner. My best friend and host Charles is among them, gamely hanging out with this motley group whenever I visit. Gary looks handsome and sports his usual ease. I can’t stop hugging Robb.

You may know these people, this constellation, whether or not you’ve ever visited the Big Peach, because they are the friends borne of an ego falling away, when we finally stop posturing and strutting, when we lay bare our doubts and fears and are rewarded with knowing glances and strong hands squeezing ours.

You may know them, or something close. I hope so.

Stephanie is humming her musical accompaniment as she shows us her steps, and we all take happy bites and watch her. Cars roll by. A trio of teenage girls nearby giggle and clap. “She’s a dancer, too!” one says about another, and the young woman steps forward and shadows Stephanie, becoming her partner. A Dance to an Atlanta Night.

It’s a scene from The Music Man, I think to myself, or from a turn-of-the-century ice cream social. We need parasols and handlebar mustaches. And as soon as they finish their dance, I know it’s time to leave. I don’t want this sight to become buried too deep, for it to compete in my minds eye with newer, lesser ones.

Even now, the memory aches.

Dancing_feet - Copy - CopyI say my goodbyes as David and Christi step forward to demonstrate their partner routine for the fundraising contest. The yogurt is gone but people are in no hurry to move on. During my walk away I can hear them snapping their fingers, keeping time.

In the car with Charles, I ask him to slow down as we pass the scene in front of the store. David and Christi, dancing together and laughing at their mistakes. A small crowd of friends and strangers, clapping.

I wonder what the prize for winning the contest might be, and how it could possibly be any more precious than this.




  1. Steven Honzik August 14, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    That was beautiful, thank you Mark. Brought a tear. xxoox

  2. richard August 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    My current favorite line from the Big Book: “We commenced to outgrow fear.” I love you, Mark. You are my current favorite brother.

  3. Carole Ann Kaplan August 14, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Mark, one of the things I most admire about your writing is your ability to bring the reader to the “place” where you are. I’ve read a lot of your posts and this one strikes me as the most “tender” for lack of a better word.

    Your friends in Atlanta were there with you on your path and remain with you still. That’s a great gift you share.

    Your thoughtfulness to include the photo of Stephanie dancing is the “piece de resistance” to your writing. I can’t see her but I can imagine her skirt swirling as she dances.

    I am reminded of the time I was in Albuquerque with a friend and we ventured out to the plaza where there was live music and one woman was dancing, free and all by herself. I wanted to dance with her and promised myself if I ever had the opportunity again, I would indeed dance.

    A few years later on a cold winter night on the square in McKinney, Texas, I had the opportunity to dance freely. The fun of it all was that another woman, a stranger, joined me. Given the opportunity, I’ll dance again. Thank you for doing what good writers do….take us to the places we remember.

  4. Vanessa August 14, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Thank you, Mark. You got your life back. You certainly did!

    I love you,

  5. Subversive Librarian August 15, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Mark, thanks so much for this. It’s beautiful both in form and substance, and I feel like I was there.

  6. Randy Heinitz August 15, 2010 at 8:12 am

    I have never been to Atlanta and I do not know any of the people from this night. I am aware though of the miracles that happen when we participate in life and let others become a part of it. Thanks for sharing yours…. and for the reminder to take part in the dance and not watch from the curb.

  7. bill konigsberg August 15, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Lovely, Mark. Truly lovely!

  8. Leann rossi August 15, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    My God you had me in tears in only a way that a fellow in recovery can. I embrace your words like a hug, for these are my people, and you will forever be a huge part of my recovery….. I love you so very much Mark, so very much…

  9. Bobby Long August 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Thanks so much for that, Mark. It’s been almost a year since I left Atlanta and the wonderful recovery friends you write about. I miss them- and you greatly. Your posting is bittersweet. Bitter because it reminds me so eloquently of the wonderful people who are in my life so much less than I wish they were today. Sweet because it reminds me of all the wonderful days and nights I spend making memories just like the one you write about.

  10. Lou August 16, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Good to see you last weekend. I love this article. Be good, my friend.

  11. Jonny August 16, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Thank you Mark! I love your writing. This is a very tender piece which brought a tear. Great seeing you while you were here and I still plan to come see you! Love you!

  12. Charles Green August 16, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Mark, that WAS a truly a wonderful, spontaneous moment at the frozen yogurt shop that night as Stephanie began showing her steps and was joined by a total stranger, a young graceful dancer, dressed in a black cocktail dress, barefooted. One of those “precious particles” of life where you sit back and truly live in the moment.

  13. Jackson Bass August 16, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Great story, beautifully written. And Robb is very huggable.

  14. jimmy palmieri August 16, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    not every day is perfect, but you certainly experienced one that night.

  15. Brian August 17, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks Mark…I wish I was there. The beauty of Friends and Ice cream… Who can ask for more.
    Sober on, my Brother.

  16. David S August 18, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Thank you for that Mark! It was great seeing you, and of course, performing for you! After all, you DID discover me 🙂 Your warmth and love translate across state lines and through “cyberspace”, almost as much as they do in the flesh! See you soon I hope!

  17. Sherri Lewis August 18, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Sweet dancing feet! Love your blog Mark! OX

  18. Lewis Gannett August 18, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Pretty cool and pretty nice.

  19. Bill Maloney August 18, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Excellent entry, Mark. You truly are a gifted writer.

  20. Sue August 18, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Love hearing about you enjoying your life.

  21. Jim Allen August 18, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Mark inspires me, his wide range of interests and talents is testament to the inherent limitless potential we can all release once we surrender and work for a new boss.

  22. Carole Ann August 18, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I hope you will write more in the same style as this piece. There is something about the piece that resonated with so many of your readers and with me. I’m searching for the words to express how I feel. There is such a sense of peace, serenity, quietness about your writing in this piece. I hope you explore that more. Your choice to photograph only the dancer’s feet was really a good one. We were left with our imagination to complete the scene. Give us more…..

    Thanks, Carole Ann. The stillness in the writing comes from the influence of this group of serene, centered people. I wasn’t sure such a specific slice of life would work or be of interest to others; it’s nice to get your support and I’ll try more of this in the future. — Mark

  23. robb K (yup I love to hug!) August 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Mark, how do i now respond when I am overflowing with so many thoughts, emotions and gratitude? I guess by saying thank you, for your gift, and for capturing that evening. A year or so ago, a few of us started going to dinner on Sunday nights, it has grown to a dozen or so and has become “family” dinner. Sometimes the faces change , but the “family” doesn’t. We are all so different… age, sex, skin color, sexual preference. The one thing we have in common is our recovery, and every Sunday night, we eat, laugh, tease, and yes, sometimes dance. That particular Sunday night was more special than usual, a family member came back to visit, you. I can still close my eyes, feel that humidity, see your smile, taste that frozen yogurt…and see my family on the sidewalk, dancing with out care. Thank you again for capturing and sharing that evening, but more so, for being part of it. Love…Love…LOVE you! Robb K.

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