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- This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we first head to to Martin, where you can get some fun with your food. Then to Burns, where artists find inspiration in trees. We'll visit a Memphis museum where kids get lost in learning, and wind up in Nashville where music can heal memories of war. Well, peace and love to you and yours in 2020. I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome to another Tennessee Crossroads. How many times have you stopped for lunch somewhere and discovered not only some fine food, but also a kind of special experience? Well, we did when we hit the rural highways to a fun little place in Martin, Tennessee, a place that features an enticing and adventurous menu along with some over the top hospitality. Question, what happens when you take America's favorite comfort food and combine it with America's favorite sandwich? Well, here in Martin, Tennessee, it's part of the daily grind. - Welcome to the Grind. - Thank you. - [Group] One, two, three, Grind! - [Joe] If you like a little fun with your food, - No pictures, no flash photography. - [Joe] The Grind Mac and Cheese Burger Bar could be your kind of place, with more than a dozen burger varieties, eight mac and cheese choices and their insane, over the top shakes, plus a wait staff that's as entertaining as it is accommodating. And that was the plan when Mark Laderman and his family opened the place in 2017. - When we thought of The Grind, we wanted to bring as much as we could bring to every aspect of the restaurant, so it wasn't just the food. We made the food as good as we could make it, as amazing and over the top as we could make it, and then we said, let's do the same thing with the front part of the restaurant, with the dining room, and so we try to bring that with the way we interact with our guests. - [Joe] The rustic, nostalgic decor adds to the ambiance with its original steel beams and barn wood walls from the 1800s, but food is foremost, and the menu is a medley of old standbys and many new surprises, like this favorite appetizer, bourbon candied deviled eggs. And the burgers? Well, Mark, who has many years of restaurant experience, believes he's achieved the perfect burger recipe. - [Mark] The way the patty is formed is a big part of it. We have a proprietary process that gets a lot of air inside the burger, and so what happens is when the burger cooks, those pockets of air fill up with the fat from the burger and the juice from the burger, and so when you bite into it, it's a real juicy and flavorful burger. - [Joe] Feeling adventurous? Try the Luther burger, a six ounce patty topped with bacon, cheddar fondue and a fried egg, and instead of a bun, get this. It's served between two glazed donuts. - [Mark] We have an item called The Grind house nachos. It's a very large order of nachos that we bring out in a can. When we bring it to the table, we pull the can off and reveal a tower of nachos. - [Joe] Of course, mac and cheese shares top billing. You can get it in a ball that's fried and covered with cheese fondue, or how about this? Chicken mac Alfredo. - My favorite would probably be the lobster mac and cheese. I just love lobster, and it's real lobster, so it's crazy. - [Joe] That's manager Donna Mosely, who in a sense is also director of fun and good times. - We serve fun all day long, and not only do we serve food, but we serve fun, and sometimes people come in and they've had a bad night or had a bad week, and so my job to bring energy to the whole place is challenging at times, but it's rewarding too, because I feel like we can all do that together. - [Joe] That may include an impromptu game of, well, whatever they call this. - One, two, three, go. - I win! - [Joe] If you have room left, and I mean a lot of room, dare to dive into one of their over the top milkshakes. You can see how they get their name. This one's called s'more the merrier, complete with marshmallows roasted right at your table. While The Grind is a mainstay for locals, word has gotten out, and now adventurous diners are driving here from many miles around, drawn to the extraordinary dishes created back in the kitchen and by the jovial atmosphere created by the wait staff. - They're the real secret. The staff is the secret. We're always looking for amazing people that are just full of happiness and hospitality, and when we find one of those people, we grab 'em and we try to hang on to 'em. - If I can leave someone better than I found them and show genuine concern about their life and interest in what they're talking about, then I'm a happy camper. Awesome. - This is what God serves when we go to heaven. - Few art forms put you in touch with nature like making pottery. You literally mold the earth with your hands. Cindy Carter recently met a Burns, Tennessee couple who found they had a knack for creating art inspired by the leaves on their trees. - [Cindy] What makes a good potter? Hard work, careful consideration, passion and patience. - I enjoy it completely, so I don't want to quit. - [Cindy] What makes a good marriage? Ditto. - I had to teach him how to glaze once he quit working. He retired. - Yeah, she had to teach me how. - [Cindy] Ronnie and Patty Thornton are a pair of potters who every day work side by side in the garage of their Tennessee home. The pieces they press and push into shape are inspired by the rustic scenery that surrounds them. The couple spends a lot of time together, a lot, not necessarily unexpected once they reached retirement, but they certainly didn't expect this. - We just started doing it and said hey, it worked it for us. - [Cindy] A second career, a second calling, a second chance to redefine their lives as professional artists. - I got this wild idea to make my own mug, because I love coffee. - [Cindy] Patty's coffee craving brought her into Dickson, Tennessee's Renaissance Center, a place where students of all ages can pursue a variety of artistic expressions, but she says the buzz she got once she actually started getting her hands dirty was a rush she did not anticipate. - It was fun, but it also would make me cry sometimes because I could not get it as soon as I wanted to get that mug to look like a real mug, you know. - [Cindy] Over time, Patty started improving, often bringing her work home to Ronnie for inspection. - Actually, she got me into pottery. - [Cindy] A year later, they both were taking pottery classes at Pegram's Mud Puddle Pottery Studio. - Once he started taking classes, it sort of just rubbed off. He couldn't go backwards, he liked it. - [Cindy] Soon, this couple's so-called hobby started shaping into something more. Friends and family pointed out their work was good, real good. Good enough people might actually pay for it. - It takes a while. It takes a good while for you to get your confidence. - [Cindy] And once the confidence and creativity started colliding, the couple decided to take a chance and sell a few pieces at the Clarksville Farmers Market. The response was so strong, Patty and Ronnie started selling more and making more. - We were both working full time jobs, and then trying to do that show every Saturday and build up inventory. We would come home during the evening and work down here 'til bedtime, and then do the same thing every day. - [Cindy] Something had to give, and that's how the Thorntons decided to retire from their previous professional lives and grab hold of their new identities as artists. - I never thought I would do it, no. Not in the least. It's just happened, that's all I can say. It has just happened, and it's been great. It has been great. - [Cindy] Their work reflects the Tennessee foliage that surrounds them. - Figs, see the figs on 'em? - [Cindy] Redbud leaves, Sycamore leaves, they all wind up carefully etched into or painted on to the various pieces. It's their signature, really. - You don't want to copy someone else. You want to have your own ideas, and it just worked out. People loved it. - When lush Tennessee vegetation is your signature, it can make creating art in the winter months a bit challenging, which is why the Thorntons have a freezer full of inspiration to choose from. Remember, this is all done by hand. It's a slow process creating a single piece. There's the shaping, the drawing, the heating, the glazing, the drying and so on. - If she throws a mug today, we would be lucky to get it done, finished completely in two weeks. - [Cindy] For the Thorntons, the retirement years are not about taking a step back. And again, there's a lot of togetherness. - We have our moments sometimes where we, oh, you shouldn't do it this way, you shouldn't do it that way. Everybody does that, so we really enjoy it. We enjoy working together, and like I say, we've done it for 10 years. - [Cindy] Which is why the Thorntons are glad they decided to reshape their lives as potters, as artists. - [Ronnie] I think it's therapy, I really do, and meeting all the people that you meet. - The freedom to do something you enjoy, that's what I love. - Nice work, Cindy. I think you might agree that kids spend too much time these days staring at screens for fun, Tennessee Crossroads excluded, of course. Well, Danielle Allen found a spot in Memphis that not only makes youngsters forget about their phones, it also teaches them something in the process. - [Danielle] The Children's Museum of Memphis, where a kid can be a kid, or a firefighter, or a policeman, or anything they dream up, really. This is where imagination takes center stage. - At the end of the day, the museum is all about teaching children, but doing it through play. We don't have a lot of collections. This is not a collections museum of dinosaur bones and artworks. This is really a touch, play and feel museum, and so everything is designed to really engage a child's movement, creativity and engagement so that they can have fun, but also learn while they're doing it. - [Danielle] Stephanie Butler is the executive director of the museum. She says learning this way is essential to a child's growth. - [Stephanie] Learning through play is a key part of human development. All children, even when they're in diapers and mom and dad are interacting with them, a big part of how they're learning, you don't think you're teaching your child, but you are through playing peekaboo, through playing with different toys and so-forth. The museum is able to do that on a grand scale. - [Danielle] That grand scale includes a station to plant vegetables, flying a huge plane through the sky, and there's even a place to go hang gliding. It's a creative way to reinforce what's learned in the classroom, which is something parents appreciate. - Lots of fun, very different, creative-type things, out of the box, out of the ordinary. - [Danielle] The Children's Museum of Memphis has a history that's just as interesting as the present. This building was once a National Guard Armory. It sat empty for years before the museum opened in 1990. Since then, hundreds of thousands of kids have passed through, solidifying its place in Memphis culture. - [Stephanie] It is a cultural amenity. It's a civic amenity. Certainly, it's an important destination for people visiting the city. We're certainly a regional draw, especially for folks in rural areas who may not have access to a children's museum, so I think that's important, but I think at the end of the day, whether it's to one-time visitors to the community or our residents and citizens, what it does is it importance of children. - [Danielle] Obviously, the museum is geared toward children, but there is one thing people of all ages enjoy, the Grand Carousel. Immaculate horses fit for a king and a queen, and it's a ride that parents and kids equally get a kick out of. It's a piece of Memphis history that connects the young and the old. - [Stephanie] When the Libertyland closed down, the carousel had been part of the fairgrounds and of Libertyland since the 1920s. It's a 1909 Dentzel carousel. Everything is hand carved. It's an amazing work of art. It's an amazing historical feature, but when Libertyland closed down, it had gotten very safely mothballed and put away safely. The community, the city really wanted to be able to keep it, but there wasn't a home for it. The museum and its trustees really had the vision to think what better place, especially since we're located right on the side of the fairgrounds, to really be able to be a home for the carousel. - [Danielle] Getting a carousel running again was no easy task. It had been in storage for years, so crews had their work cut out for them. They had to carefully remove layers and layers of paint, but after a year of work, the horses looked shiny and new. It now has the colors and look of the original carousel from more than 100 years ago. - The carousel was fun. I really liked to see my little sister having so much fun on it. - [Stephanie] I think it's a great draw. I think it does bring in a broader group of people who suddenly see the carousel when they're driving down Central Avenue and think, wow, I remember that from the fairgrounds or from Libertyland back in the day. - [Danielle] The carousel also has a chariot for wheelchairs. This is one of the many ways the museum is making sure everyone is included in the fun. - We're always striving as we improve our exhibits and so-forth to make sure that exhibits are accessible, especially to those kids who have physical disabilities. - All right, on your mark, get set, go. - Go, go, go! - [Danielle] The Children's Museum of Memphis saw more than 260,000 guests last year, and they have plans to bring in more. They're refreshing popular exhibits like the replica of the FedEx plane, and they're adding new editions to help children learn in new ways. But no matter what kids play with here, the museum hopes to have the same impact on every child who walks through the door. - I think wherever the child is coming from, whatever their background, their ability, we want to make sure that we have an experience where they can come and be inspired and engaged, and at the end of the day, we want people to come and leave thinking, wow, I might want to be a dentist, or I might want to fly an airplane. But at the end of the day, we're trying to think about, what are we trying to inspire and teach kids with this, and then how can we design it so that kids are gonna have fun? - Thanks a lot, Danielle. A song can make you smile, it can break your heart, and sometimes perhaps a song can save your life. Well, that's what a group of songwriters have been finding out as they help returning veterans deal with memories with music. Rob Wilds takes us to the front lines of Operation Song. - Thousands of people from all over the world dream of being right here on Nashville's Music Row, and they dream of writing a song that's gonna make 'em rich and famous. After fighting the battle, a few actually do become rich and famous, and then what? Well, some of them have decided that they're going to help other people who have fought more personal and deadly battles, far removed from music row. This is an everyday occurrence in Nashville, folks gathering around the table to try to come up with a story, a song. Most of the people at this table have stories to tell that are too horrible to say aloud, memories buried deep. These people gathered at the VA Hospital in Murfreesboro are veterans dealing with PTSD. - [Man] Not as good as Jimmy Ray or anything. - [Rob] The idea is to drag out those dark, horrific memories and sing about them. It's a perilous journey from the subconscious to the page to the performance. Good thing these men have some of the best to guide them through that territory, Don Goodman, who's written many great songs like, - Oh, I believe there are angels among us. - [Rob] And Steven Dean, you know his work, too. ♪ He said I been watching you dad ♪ ♪ Ain't that cool, I'm your buckaroo, I wanna be like you ♪ - [Rob] Both Don and Steve are members of Operation Song, set up to help veterans put the nightmares in their minds into songs to lessen the burden they all share. - You can't cure PTSD, it's a mental disorder. It's the spawn of Satan, but we can give them a way to step out, to leave it alone, and to accept the fact that they're not the only one going through it, and here's a great part of it. When you write the song and the song gets played, other guys hear it. It's therapy for them too, because then they realize they're not the only ones going through it. - [Rob] Sounds risky, but it works, according to Megan Peeler, who is a music therapist at the VA in Murfreesboro. - It seems to hold this safe space for the veterans to open up more and share more and experience more camaraderie, and heal more effectively without the use of medicines. They share their stories, they share their experiences. - [Rob] The process is the vets tell their stories, stories from many wars, separated only by the calendar. - Same old song, same old story. - We had helicopters come in with the chaplain came in and said hey, I'd like to visit you, however, we've gotta leave. Over the mountains right there is the Taliban, and they're planning to attack. - [Rob] Ideas get tossed around the table. They call Don Shakespeare, since he sort of guides the brainstorming about lyrics. - Where were you at Christmas? What year were you in? - What year? - Yeah. - '08 and '09 is when I was over there. - Were you there at Christmas? - [Rob] Steve they call Beethoven. He's the music man. - I will be listening to what they're saying over there, and then this music starts coming to me and working the phrasing into a melody. It's so fulfilling for me, and the fact that we're actually helping someone, getting their song, this PTSD, getting it out of their system onto a piece of paper. There's been so many times that we've been told that this was better than any therapy they'd ever had. ♪ When I was in Iraq on the frontline ♪ ♪ No one had told me I'd be back in Tennessee ♪ ♪ Feeling like a stranger opening gifts with my family ♪ I'm good with that. That's real good. - [Rob] Real good, but not finished. County Q Studio in Nashville donates its time and talent to make a professional recording of each song. ♪ It's been called the forgotten war ♪ - [Rob] This one sung by Ian Wagner, who had his foot shattered in the Middle East, and with that, he'll tell you, his life shattered as well, until Operation Song came along. - It's been life changing for me. It's really helped me focus and given me a purpose, and leading the way for my other brothers who were suffering from PTSD to see that you can step up and you can grow. - [Rob] Growing so that now Ian is a songwriter and a singer himself. ♪ We should call it the forgotten victory ♪ - [Rob] Once the song is cut and the folks at the studio work their magic, it goes back to be played for a very tough audience, the veterans who conceived it, and Arthur Rollings, who lived it. ♪ Took the battery out of daddy's old Chevy ♪ ♪ Hooked it up to the radio ♪ - [Rob] Arthur, a farm kid from Joelton, put into the crew of a bomber shot down over Germany, suffered in the Nazi POW camp. ♪ Of a lonely POW, yeah ♪ - That was pretty good, wasn't it? - You like it? - Yeah I did, I liked it very much. - [Rob] The music professionals who lead Operation Song have won Grammys and fame and fortune, but they'll tell you there's no praise quite as important as what comes from a veteran like Arthur Rollings, or his story made into a song that made him feel less alone. - It sent chills through me as I was singing the thing, and I thought, what a wonderful way to end something. It just looked like the world was around me. - It's an absolute honor to work with you, American hero. - Well, that about wraps up our first show of 2020. Hope you enjoyed it. Hope you spend some time on our website, of course, TennesseeCrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook, and please join us next week. I'll see you then.
January 09, 2020
Season 33 | Episode 21
This week on Tennessee Crossroads, feast your eyes on The Grind Mac & Cheese Burger Bar in Martin. Meet a couple from Burns who create nature-inspired pottery. Feel like a kid again at the Children's Museum of Memphis. And hear from veterans who are learning to deal with trauma by writing songs about the memories that haunt them. Brought to you by Nashville Public Television!