Chris Rodell [00:00:00]:
Hi. I'm Chris Rodell. Today's feature stories include one about Lake Jackson, Texas, the most confusing town in America. But first, the answer to a burning question for those of us who live here in Latrobe, or is it those of us who live here in Latrobe? 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. Is it Latrobe, or is it Latrobe? My scripted answer for that one is satisfying only to connoisseurs of small town snark.
Chris Rodell [00:00:36]:
To me, I say, it's always been Latrobe because Latrobe sounds like a bistro on the banks of the Seine River where Chablis sipping Sophisticates nibble on biscotti and brie. And anyone who's ever been to Latrobe knows Latrobe ain't gay Paris. This was said back before gay Paris was loaded with disparaging subtext. I think my answer captures the spirit of Latrobe, pretty, unpretentious, and a little down and dirty. Why I felt this should be emphasized over Latrobe's Culture, philanthropy, and artistry is a matter for the pop psychiatrists. Latrobe or Latrobe? If you believe the results of a highly unscientific online poll conducted on the, you know, you're from Latrobe If, Facebook, the locals, and a landslide, 75% say it's Latrobe. Respondents say it may have started out as Latrobe, but it became Latrobe for every high school student on raucous Friday nights when the school cheerleaders began to rev up the crowd. All the cheers and school songs led right to Latrobe, and that's what sticks.
Chris Rodell [00:01:37]:
Let's try it. Give me an l. Give me an a. Give me a t r o b e. What's it spell? Oh, it doesn't spell la. It spells lay as in yay or hooray. Pronunciations taught by ceaseless generations of choral teachers instructing how vociferously sing The Latrobe alma mater reinforced its Latrobe. Oh, dear Latrobe, high school to you.
Chris Rodell [00:02:03]:
I apologize. I don't know the melody. We pledge to be loyal and true. And while we're at work or play, we honor and love thee for a Dear old Latrobe High. Dear old Latrobe High. Still Latrobeian's argument has much support in the way of factual merits. You dig a little deeper into the word roots, you'll find grapevines. One source says the word has 17th century Germanic origins.
Chris Rodell [00:02:32]:
Name is believed to derive from the middle high German "trube", meaning grapes or of vineyards. Bunch of grapes? I say this with affection, but my money would have been on a bunch of nuts. Aristocratic origins is a surprise. Besides Arnold Palmer, Most aristocratic figure from around here is a puppet who answers the name of King Friday 13th. Royalty would seem to weigh in favor of the regal law instead of the guttural lay with those sexy implications. A site devoted to proper pronunciation seemed promising, but in typical Internet fashion, what seemed to bestow resolution only compounded confusion. It offers for this 2 syllable word, a whopping 74 pronunciations. It gets worse.
Chris Rodell [00:03:18]:
It's not a definitive list. It's Youglish, a YouTube like site that shows 74 different speakers saying the word Latrobe in various speeches. Music Story mentions it in regards to the town namesake Benjamin Latrobe. The man was well rounded as his namesake town was destined to become. I enjoyed hearing 1 woman with a beguiling Australian accent talk about the challenging work environment in the Latrobe Valley. She said automation was taking away jobs, but she optimistically said whole new industries involving creative solutions would replace them. For instance, she said, the Latrobe Valley is magnificent and would make a wonderful place for a tourist wine trail. Now that's my kind of problem solver.
Chris Rodell [00:04:01]:
I wonder if she knows Latrobe origins involve bunches of grapes or if she's just prone to giddy bursts of spiritual serendipity. The Australian city of Latrobe has a population of 73,275 people. Indeed, the website makes it seem like a very scenic place to go for a guzzle. I emailed the city manager to ask how they pronounce Latrobe, if there's anyone as famous as Palmer or Rogers from there, and if they feel any kinship with us here in Westmoreland County. And near back, which I found rude. Their loss, I was going to mail them a banana split. I sought answers from the browse worthy how many of me.com website. Tagline.
Chris Rodell [00:04:39]:
There are 329,463,000,944,000,000 people in the United States. How many have your name? As always, before getting down to business, I let my mind enjoy a pointless ramble. The results, in the US right now, there are 3 Christopher Rodells, Sixty six Arnold Palmers, 453 Fred Rogers', and for the umpteenth year in a row, 0 haphazards. Haphazard was the name I used on my 1st fake ID. And there's not 1 single Benjamin Latrobe alive in the land. But there are a 122 Latrobe in America. I looked into talking to one who is a blood relation of our town namesake. He's Charles Rusty Latrobe of Moncton, Maryland, popular real estate agent for 40 years.
Chris Rodell [00:05:26]:
He's the great great great great great grandson of Benjamin Latrobe. Turns out neither Latrobe has ever set foot in Latrobe. But I'm a big Arnold Palmer fan, he said, and he's the greatest. Okay. Then for our purposes, you qualify as an expert witness. So is it Latrobe, or is it Latrobe? It's Latrobe. It's always been Latrobe. Pronounced it Latrobe.
Chris Rodell [00:05:47]:
So I and many others have been flat wrong all these years. Latrobe does sound French. And like the French have on occasion done throughout history, I surrender. I was wrong. The grid is gone. The sophisticates have won. Latrobe is a French sounding place after all. Well, la di da.
Chris Rodell [00:06:05]:
Or is it Lady Day? Lake Jackson, Texas is the most confusing town in America. In these times of tumult and upheaval, it's easy to feel bereft. But where should you go when you're sure you've lost your way? We wanna start in Lake Jackson. One peek at the local map and you realize Lake Jackson's the way to go. Log time city manager Bill Yenny told me all about it. We have this way, that way, anyway, circle way, parking way, winding way, and we have his way, which runs behind the local church. About 50 miles south of Houston, Lake Jackson, population, 26,849, is to sensible civic planning What happened to Costello, Arc, a baseball play by play shtick. Jenny said, it's not uncommon to give people directions that include some variation of Take this way 3 blocks and make a left on that way until you get to any way, which invariably provokes the confused response.
Chris Rodell [00:08:12]:
Which way? Then he says, that's when you have to correct them and say, no. That would be the wrong way. Blame a harried secretary to town planner Alden b Dow. The Dow was stumped how to name the names of the streets and instinctually resisted common names from conformity bound grid cities. He expressed his exasperation to a secretary. The story is, she said, don't ask me. You've got all these streets going this way and that way. He said, perfect.
Chris Rodell [00:08:38]:
That street will be this way, and this street will be that way. Bob Sippel knows. He remembers getting hopelessly lost as an executive for Wholesale Electric in 1981 when he first visited Lake Jackson. He said, I drove around and around and kept seeing these crazy signs. Didn't think I'd ever find my way out. I completely lost my sense of direction. I said to my wife, Laurie, honey, you better get used to this place. I don't think we're ever gonna get out of here.
Chris Rodell [00:09:03]:
Sippel's never left. He's became mayor in 2006. The confusion he said is an accepted way of life in Lake Jackson. I've never heard a single complain about it, Sipple says. People think it's quaint, and they've really come to identify with it. It's really become an essential part of Lake Jackson's charm. It's not too confusing for a man who at his very core is a staunch proponent of fiscal clarity. Yes.
Chris Rodell [00:09:27]:
Libertarian darling and former US rep Ron Paul calls Lake Jackson home. It's where he practiced OB GYN before turning to politics. His congressional office is on West Way, which used to be which way until the mid 19 eighties when bankers interested in locating a branch there persuaded officials that a financial institution on the street name which way might breed concern with customers seeking stability. Jenny laments that some of those terms have fallen by the reverse of what otherwise would be known as the wayside. Street that tracks past where the town's little regional landing strip used to be is now called Abner Jackson Parkway in honor of the town's namesake. And he said he preferred it when the old airport road was runway. The loss of which way in runway, also due to precautionary business considerations, Chagrins the mischievous banter of Jenny till he sees opportunities everywhere. He dreams of a day when he can ceremonially Sever ribbons on splendid tree shaded thoroughfares with names like my way, your way, our way, yonder way, Highway, parkway, right way, out of the way, and by the way.
Chris Rodell [00:10:38]:
Clearly, he'd find a kindred spirit in a long ago, a motorist His creativity nearly earned him a bureaucratic liberation from an careless driving citation. The guy was caught going the wrong way up one way street. Said he thought the signs were typical of Lake Jackson. He says there are parts of his defense that I can certainly admire.
Colorful living tip number 3 60. Aspire to one day be as happy as all the girls in the hair commercials. They make having really great hair seem utterly euphoric. Probably is. Yeah.
Chris Rodell [00:11:10]:
It's probably cool to have good hair. Question. How long before the United States Postal Service starts delivering humans. That the post office loses 1,000,000,000 each year should come as no surprise. Postage is way too cheap. It's still miraculous to me that any individual organization can deliver, say, a poetic poem from New York clear to San Francisco and have it only take 4 days and cost just 46¢. Of course, those same 2 hypothetical lovers could porn Skype for free. And today, everything is all about instant gratification, and that's the problem.
Chris Rodell [00:11:46]:
Needs to do something radical to reengage the public. Needs to begin mailing people. The idea occurred to me last evening when I was sitting in the bar, And Mailman Joe walked in and announced he was going to order a drink in Klingon, and he did. Or so he said, there were no Klingons in the bar who could verify the authenticity. Tuesday must be Klingon bowling night. Either way, the English Speaking bartender responded with what I guess you'd call working man sign language. He flipped him off, brought him the same drink he always drinks. But Joe's a perfect example of why people still love the creaky and often inefficient postal service.
Chris Rodell [00:12:21]:
It still has a human face even when it's speaking Klingon. Most of us grew up with a regular mailman or a woman showing up nearly every day with a smile and a stack of mail, often containing actual human letters for us to cherish. People still connect to mail carriers. Take Joe, always a lively source of conversation. He said, in English, by the way, that the holiday postal rush is already underway, and he'd been busting his hump all day delivering an assortment of oddly shaped packages. I told him about the time I did a story for National Enquirer that ran under the headline, post office really delivers. It was about a day we mailed assortment of oddball objects around the country. Items included a rubber snake, a set of false teeth, a hula hoop, and a big bag of goo.
Chris Rodell [00:13:09]:
Understand none of these objects were wrapped. He put stamps on the addressed objects and send them on their merry way. Delivery rate, 100%. Didn't surprise Joe. Yeah. We'll deliver anything, he said. Anything? I asked Joe if he'd mail me to Key West. He gave it some thought and said, I don't think we could mail a human being.
Chris Rodell [00:13:29]:
I was determined to find out how much it would cost. I asked about the cost of shipping a 190 pound package that far. You couldn't get a package of the way that much up on the scale. But if the package could climb up on the scale itself, I'd stumped him. I could see he wanted to wear this to work. He's a real idea guy, and he could figure out a way to earn the postal service more revenue. Maybe he'd get a better route where poodles outnumber the rottweilers. I could walk Joe's route with him and deliver the other side of the street, further slicing postal expenses.
Chris Rodell [00:14:02]:
Multiply that across the country and imagine all the added revenue. Most of today's mail is aptly considered junk. Many kids today get their aunt many birthday wishes through social media. They don't know what it's like to open the mailbox and discover the joy something so human as a handwritten letter can bring. So just imagine the joy and revenue it would bring if during the holiday season, the post office delivered something truly human. Hello, aunt Minnie. In case the old babe speaks Klingon, that'd be at many. Thanks for listening.
Chris Rodell [00:14:36]:
Please continue to listen to check-in every week. Rate, review, and follow all episodes. Follow me on Instagram. Special thanks to Matt Fridge and the gang at Headspace Media in downtown