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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Miller's Grocery and Deli

Christiana, Tennessee is a very small community with a Post Office just off Highway 231 between Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee on state road 269. It is literally just across the tracks as you turn east off of 231. But you may miss it because there are no signs on 269 telling you to look left for the town. You may wonder why I bother to bring this up.

Emily heard from a friend about this little place to eat there. Saturday we decided to run some errands and take a drive up that way with the idea of checking Christiana out along with Bell Buckle, Tn. We missed the town on the first pass so I got out the GPS and used it to find our way to the little town. There is a sign off 231 telling you when to turn but after that you are on your own. The place we wanted to try out is called Miller's Grocery and Deli. Here is the only clue you will find telling you where to look.

Here is what the place looks like and I think you would agree, it isn’t the most inviting store front. But it truly hides a great eating establishment.

As the sign says, it doesn’t open until 11 and Em and I were the first two customers to arrive. We looked it over and reviewed the chalkboard menu then sat down on the bench outside. It wasn’t long before other cars started pulling into the gravel parking lot. None the less we were the first two in and that is how I got pictures of the place without customers.

The food was very good with me having meatloaf and Em having fried oysters. I know they looked good because an old woman walking by stopped to take a good look at them and told Em how good they looked and she would have to get her husband to order some. Now two things about this: 1) with the reputation oysters have as a sex enhancer, one might question her motivation and wonder why Em ordered them as well and; 2) only in the South do folks consider it ok to stop by and comment on a stranger’s choices off the menu. And you wonder why we call everyone family down here?

Our waitress was a very attractive young woman with too much mascara. I wondered why some guy hadn’t grabbed her up and taken her off to some populated part of the world. She asked how we came to know about the place and Em told her it was by word of mouth. The young girl told us her Mom had worked there 10 years and they never advertised the place. I guess she was surprised anyone ever came by considering how out of the way it is. But let me tell ya, word gets around when you have good food. At least four groups of people ate while we were there and one carryout which was the woman who owned the antique store called “Hunny Bunny” just up the street. It was the only other store on that street. Hell, it was the only other building on that street. Inside Miller's as you can see is a time capsule of stuff. It is very popular these days for junk to be hung and shelved all over restaurants, but those that have local junk still hold my interest.

We filled our bellies and Em ordered two deserts, both some form of chocolate. She started one and it was so rich she ended up taking the rest of it and the other one home.

Here is their menu in case you're interested.

We headed out for Bell Buckle, TN and upon arriving we couldn’t get into town because an 18 wheeler had gotten itself pinned in while turning off a side street.

It is a small town, but kind of well known for it’s Moon Pie and RC Cola festival it holds every year. Bikers like it too. There is going to be some kind of Bikers gathering there this coming weekend.

But this little town is also know for its Webb School. It was built by Sawney Webb, who’s goal was to build moral character, make ladies and gentlemen of his students, and prepare them for any challenge that may come their way. The school has accomplished this for over 135 years through a solid liberal arts education, a strong sense of honor, and an interactive school community. The School has produced 10 Rhodes Scholars and its graduates have gone on to attend prestigious colleges and universities across the nation and to lead important, successful and fulfilling lives in business, education, and the arts. Which if you ever get a chance to visit is quite an accomplishment for a little place out in the grass lands of Tennessee.

The town has many fine old homes and the business district is a row of old stores selling antiques and sappy god loves you signs. Not a lot different from any other place trying to survive with no other industry around.

We headed out into the country and drove the back roads back to the house. There was going to be a hell of a storm that night but you would never have known it by the way the day went. It was a good day and we ended it at Tammy’s Outback with a steak cooked by Farnell. But that is another story all together.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Jackson, Zen, And A Long Drive In One Weekend

Things change and sometimes it can be felt below the belt even if it is a good thing. I took Emily to Nashville for her Lasik enhancement this weekend. It was our plan to visit some sites up that way after her day of darkness. We altered that plan a bit by going to my old high school after we visited The Hermitage.

It was a unusual school in that it was round. The gym was in the middle and two floors of classrooms were built around it. Our assistant principle married one of our teachers during my time there, which I think is kind of out of the ordinary. I remember sitting in Economics class with a teacher that not only was teaching a boring subject, but was a boring person himself adding to the tendency to fall a sleep. Only on the days when the band would practice marching around the building playing “Up Up and Away” (5th Dimensions) over and over again would my sleep be interrupted. The standing joke around the school was “old dogs walked themselves to death looking for a corner to piss in.”

It was really Emily’s idea to revisit my old school. For some reason she wants to see my past. I can’t imagine why. After this trip, I’m not sure I ever want to revisit my past. It was a “Zen” moment to say the least. First the little round school (with it’s lovely stand of old oaks) over the inlet and out in the country east of the town proper of Hendersonville was now a Middle School in a business district with a grassy soccer field in front and the only thing round was the roof over the gym since they added to the building expanding it out into the old student parking lot. The new high school was now to the west of the athletic field which was behind my old school. I wasn’t into athletics (I was and still am an explorer) so the football field doesn’t hold any nostalgic value for me. However, looking into the glass doorway of my old school did bring back memories. Like most schools it has the admin offices located by the front door, but looking down to the curved hallway is what did it for me. I walked that circle many times.

The idea that my old high school isn't good enough for the current generation was disconcerting. I guess I just never felt obsolescence so strongly before. I know things have to advance, but I couldn’t help but think that there was an arrogance of modality at play here. That is to say, the current generation of parents needed a new more modern facility for their offspring to highlight there change to a modern little city over the once sleepy little community in the country it use to be. I felt no connection with the town. It is an ugly little shopping spot with a park on its part of Old Hickory Lake.

My old house and neighborhood was a joy to see. I use to walk out the back of the school and past the athletic field into a meadow where I would often scare nesting birds off their nest in the spring time. I enjoyed knowing the signs of such things. As a Boy Scout, I knew that when a bird faked a broken wing it was trying to lead me away from the nest. It was cool knowing that back then. There are some of us who don’t see life as one competition after another, but rather a wonderful place to explore and learn about and from. My neighborhood was just past that meadow and in those days it had nice brick houses but not much in the way of landscaping. Today it still has nice brick homes with well cared for yards and lots of big trees. My old house which was a corner house with trees lining one side was nicely cared for and the trees were still there and looking magnificent (nearly 40 years later).

It didn’t help that we visited the Hermitage first and got a dose of a self made man who imposed a lot of cruelty on people as part of his legacy. Jackson has never been my favorite president. He is one of those men who’s effect on history I view as a point in which life really could have been significantly different if he had died at birth. I don’t mean to say Jackson was a monster of a person. He, like all of us, is a product of his upbringing and he did many great and kind things and his persona had a powerful influence on the people of Tennessee. His presidency did shape this country and some of those changes are what I find fault with. Not to debate the pros and cons of Jackson, but rather to make a point that few of us are given opportunities for greatness and most of us are not. Not to say we can’t be influential during our life time, but most of us are most effective in a much smaller pond. Mixing that idea with the visit to my past, I have to come to grips not only with how small my pond is, but how little a ripple I’m leaving.