February 26, 2020
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Where I'm From

We’ve digested brain sandwiches at the Fall Festival. We’ve touted the superior confections of the Donut Bank. We’ve gotten feisty in the great East/West Side debate. That makes us Evansvillians, right? Here, we offer stories about how Evansville — no matter where you are — can make you who you are.

Rain Delay

By Louis La Plante

My childhood in  Evansville was steeped in irony immediately: My last name is La Plante, French for “the plant,” and I’ve never cared much for nature. The La Plantes have a long history in Southwest Indiana. When I once called Evansville’s historic preservation officer, Dennis Au, he was excited. The La Plantes, French Canadian fur traders, settled in Vincennes, Ind., in the 18th century. Au’s hobby is French Canadian history, and he told me plenty about the La Plantes. At one time, motorists headed down La Plante Street in Vincennes, and the former cathedral there showcased a stained glass window of Jean Baptiste La Plante.

I’m not sure if Jean Baptiste, who is my ancestor, would enjoy today’s Evansville, mostly because there is no fur to trade. I once traded baseball cards in the fifth grade with a friend down the street in my Lincolnshire neighborhood. When it rained hard, he’d call me like he won the World Series. He loved playing in the rain and wanted to share the experience. I declined and opted for the more boring but more comforting feelings of being dry and warm. Once, after a rainstorm, I walked to his house where he had convinced himself of a funny skit to perform. Flooded from the downpour, the street was his stage. He lay down in the water with only his head and hands above the surface. “Don’t come over here!” he shouted to passersby. “The water’s really deep!” He wanted the illusion that he stood tall in the waters. He received not one grin, only disapproving looks and a few concerned stares.

This headliner with the one-man sewer show still is my friend, but now that he has an adorable infant daughter, he never asks me to play in the rain anymore. He’s a friend whom I bonded with specifically because we had no responsibilities. We were children with bikes, and the East Side was our territory unless it was getting dark out. It’s easy to remember we aren’t children in Evansville anymore thanks to numerous landmarks disappearing.

The Orient Express on Washington Avenue was a popular Asian eatery. The response was the same for every order. Order for one person? “Pick up in 10 minutes.” Order for 20 people? “Pick up in 10 minutes.” Everything on the menu took 10 minutes to make. Then, the building looked like it was on the verge of collapse, but the food was great. Now, the building looks like it is on the verge of collapse, but there is no restaurant inside. Wesselman Park’s batting cages — where we used to shut our eyes tightly as balls whizzed by at 70 mph — are broken, and Ross Theatre, I miss you.

While those markers from the past may be gone, other parts of Evansville have grown up with me. The riverfront now is accessible and convenient. Casino Aztar attracts a young crowd (thank you, Ri Ra Irish Pub). Newburgh developments creep west while Evansville pushes east.

One of those developments on Newburgh’s western edge is where my friend’s daughter was born — at The Women’s Hospital, a mecca to newborn beings. Six months after her birth, I offer her this advice when she is old enough to comprehend: Stay out of the rain.

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