I remember when I used to gauge my manliness by my ability to remove the screw off cap on a 12 ounce bottle of Coors Light. Then I did something that would mean I'd never lose a "my balls are bigger than your balls" argument. And what was that? Wrestled an alligator. At first, our constant exposure to Fred Rogers and Arnold Palmer makes those of us here in Latrobe better people whether we like it or not. Hi. I'm Chris Rodell. I've written stories and features for just about every major magazine or publication in America. This is the Use All the Crayons Podcast, where I'll share those colorful stories with you.
A woman's description of her boss caught me off guard. I needed a moment to gather my thoughts. She described her former boss as Christ-like. I never heard anyone described as Christ-like. No popes, no princesses, no generals, no uncles, no aunts, certainly no bosses. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. Many of us pray to Jesus Christ, but I'd never known anyone who lived so much like him to deserve comparison. And I'd never known anyone who'd worked directly with Fred Rogers, like Kathy Tiguano Gianelli did.
His presence was just so calming. He was truly a modern-day Jesus Christ, she said. The realization came to her on a day when she was part tantrum, part panic attack. It was her wedding day. She and her fiance, Patchy and Ellie met and fell in love like a lot of other couples. They were dwelling in the land of make believe. That's not uncommon. Many engaged couples live under that same delusion.
The idea that life is perfect and that they'll live happily ever after. Sometimes it doesn't happen that way. That's just reality. But another reality was that Kathy and Pat were spending most of their time in the land of make-believe. It was inside the WQED building on 5th Avenue in Pittsburgh. That's where Fred Rogers filmed his iconic show. We'll get back to Patsy, Kathy, and Fred, and his messianic similarities in another episode. But I want to point out not for the last time how lucky I am to have been a writer who spent 30 years where the local legends are Arnold Palmer and Fred Rogers.
Pop culture icons who just happen to be a pair of really swell gents. I got to immerse my life in theirs. It made me a better person. It's made Latrobe a better place to live. Imagine how different I'd be if I was a writer in some small Long Island town where the most notable locals were say, Bernie Madoff and Joey Butafuoco. This podcast would be vastly different. It would be cruder, more coarse, less sweet. Same goes for Latrobe.
I shudder to think. We'll get more into that later.
Hi. I'm Stan Gordon, researcher and author, and here's your colorful living tip of the day. Don't act surprised when scientists claim earth's been rotating for 4.5 3000000000 years. These surprises never started to squeak.
It was 1995, and there was just me, a blind Everglades alligator, and the law of the jungle. Jungle herbs, actually. Jungle herbs alligator park in the Everglades city. I was there to investigate a rash of seemingly unrelated and unprovoked gator attacks on mostly young single men who shared upon us for recreational binge drinking. Ask one of the guides about the frequency of the bloody attacks. Oh, sure. It happens all the time. We had an old Indian just last week, nearly got his head bit clean off.
I said, wow. How'd that happen? Said he was drunk and somebody dared him to put his head in the gator's mouth. He did and the gator nearly bit his head off. I asked, had you ever been bitten? Oh, yeah. See this scar? One had me about 5 years ago and wouldn't let go. I thought they were going to tear my arm off. They're very fierce animals, very strong.
What happened? I asked. We're having a party and my buddy dared me to put my arm in the gator's mouth. Now in defense of the fearsome and much-maligned alligator, Put anything in my mouth and my instinct is to bite down hard. But drunken gator men aren't sympathetic to this natural reaction. They're forever sitting around and daring each other to stick useful appendages into the mouths of yawning gators. The gator man never sticks so much as a wizened pinky in my mouth. I'll instantly bite down hard enough to break skin, and then hang on tight until one of his colleagues beat me into numb submission with one of his handy prosthetics. As the scarred gator guide was cataloging staff disabilities, he told me about a man whom I dismissed as fable.
He's been here 50 years. He's legally blind, but he's still wrestling gators. I I asked if he'd gotten drunk and somebody dared him to put his eyeballs on a gator's mouth. His name was Adolf Brock. He was 68, and he and a partner started Jungle Herbs after the pair got out of the army having served in Korea. His partner quit after 2 years to run a gas station. He was tired of getting bit. I told him he'd be back, but I was wrong.
Usually working with the gators really gets in your blood. In fact, no blood was spilled during my wrestling match. In fact, the whole thing lasted less than 2 minutes and it was really pretty choreographed. They'd secured a 7 foot gator, had me sit on his back with his snout in my hands, then they took a picture. Then they had me hold him by the tail and took another picture. Then they declared me the winner so it was all staged to sort of put on. A fraud. Can you believe a paragon of journalism ethics like me would stoop to such chicanery? I still have the pictures on my phone, And don't hesitate to bring them out anytime some human bottle opener thinks they can challenge my manly bona fides.
I retired undefeated. One and 0. I I still think of returning to the pit. Rudolph's right. Alligator wrestling really can't get in your blood. But what keeps me from going back is the thought of my blood getting into the alligators.
John Jamieson, retired sheep farmer. My colorful living tip of the day is Learn the fine art of knowing precisely when to quit.
I'm aware of many unfortunates to lament being flat broke. In fact, I envy them. I aspire to being flat broke. I'm a whole different and exotic kind of broke. Mine is a life of shrill desperation. I've maxed out my credit cards, bummed what I can from family, and until say, Oprah gives 7 and L a 5 star review, there is no rational way out. And the new lows keep continuing their descent. How low? I bummed $30 gas money off a passenger last week and have since been trying to avoid all the places she goes.
That's challenging because she's my 23 year old daughter. It's impossible to avoid a person who says things like, please pass the salt at the dinner table. Well she'll just have to wait. Flat broke, I'm concave broke. Waking up every day and realizing your flat broke is beginning that day with your toes on the starting line. You're in the race. When you hear the starter's pistol go off, you can be reasonably sure the bullet isn't heading your way. Being concave broke means you start the day out every day in a hole. Others may feel embarrassment at that realization.
A soul sucking shame that leads them to take prudent steps to alter the situation. Maybe get a job or 2. To me, the only real embarrassment isn't about the situation which I believe is common, but the fact that I don't have a good story to tell about how I got here. No hookers. No pharmaceuticals. No mistress. No lost weekends in Vegas. It's just the cost of me doing business like me.
I steadfastly believe that I will prosper doing exactly what I've always been doing. This is the very definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I've drawn a line in the sand. I remain adamant, resolutely adamant, that one day soon my break will arrive. Admittedly, I've been saying that exact same thing every day since 1992 and have been wrong every single day since 1992. If my idea of quitting a traditional work 31 years ago was a get-rich-quick scheme, then it's failed on both counts. The scheme hasn't made me rich and it's taken a lifetime.
I believe I've tried everything. I populate the social media. Had books traditionally published and self published. I've taken my titles to chain stores and independents. I've tended book tables at fairs and farmer's markets. Nothing's worked, including me. You may have heard I'm starting a Use All the Crayons Podcast. You have heard that, haven't you? It'll be a celebration of Latrobe and the very best of the 25 100 human interest stories I've covered for the last 3 decades.
So it's the sum of my parts because really that's what I'm all about. I want to talk to every single person on the planet and find out what makes them tick. Why do they love? What do they hate? Is the struggle all worth it? And in life, is there such a thing as a truly happy ending? So I'm putting on a big fundraising push which involves me writing letters to people who have a lot of money and asking them to give some of it to me. It's that simple. Honestly, I thought if I ever put the word out that I needed dough, the result would be like the final scene from It's A Wonderful Life. The telegraphs would ring clear all over in Europe. Yee haw. And folks would show up at the Tin Lizzy with hampers full of cash to dump over my head while I was power napping with my face on the bar.
Didn't happen like that at all. But that's not to say it still might. And wouldn't that be glorious? So you see my finances may be concave but my spirit soars still. I can't help but wonder if subconsciously this was part of my plan all along. Maybe I knew I wouldn't be satisfied until I could claim I become what I've so zealously pursued my entire life. A great story with a really happy ending. Listen, rate, and review all episodes. Please follow me on Instagram.
Please share this with an aggression that's unbecoming. You can buy crayon signed copies of Use All the Crayons, and 5 of the other 10 books I acknowledge writing at chrisrodell.com