Roman Mars Describes Athens GA As It Is

Roman Mars: These special episodes of 99% Invisible are brought to you by the Lexus GX and SiriusXM. The new Lexus GX shows how an off-roading, overlanding vehicle can also be a true luxury vehicle. Every GX comes standard with SiriusXM, offering a rich array of music, sports, talk, and news. Huge thanks to the Lexus GX and SiriusXM for making this episode possible. Later we’ll meet up with a special guest, SiriusXM host and former UGA superstar quarterback Aaron Murray and experience the GX firsthand. So, stay tuned. To learn more about the GX, visit And with every purchase, you’ll get three months of SiriusXM free. The all-new Lexus GX. Live up to it. This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars… in Athens, Georgia. This is the third and final episode in a three-part series of me recording on-location guides to the design features and interesting spots in the cities I love. These bonus episodes are made possible by the new 2024 Lexus GX who heard this idea and gave the thumbs up and then shipped a Lexus there and shot video of me careening down rural highways. I’m here again with my wife, Joy, who has been generous enough to accompany me to these cities, so I have someone to tell stories to instead of me talking into a large, fuzzy microphone by myself like a weirdo.

Joy Yuson: Hi there. You’re not a weirdo. Well, yeah, you are.

Roman Mars: So, as you know but other folks may not, I lived in Athens, Georgia for a few years in the mid90s. I moved here to pursue a PhD in plant genetics, but I dropped out. And then I just hung out here for a bit, seeing bands, starting a film festival–all things that are very Athens in the ’90s things to do. The key part of that story is that I did not graduate from UGA, and mostly that doesn’t have a huge effect on my life because today I do things that are totally different than my field of study. But right here at this arch, where the town of Athens transitions to the university, the fact that I didn’t get my degree matters a lot. This pretty modest, three-column, black, metal gateway arch, which serves as the symbol of the university, was erected in 1857, and it stands at the top of a couple of stone stairs that marks the entrance to the campus. Long, long ago, it was connected to a fence, but now it just stands alone. So, people can walk up the stairs and through it or they can walk up the stairs and kind of around it. But according to tradition, I can only walk around it. Can you guess why?

Joy Yuson: Because you didn’t graduate from the University of Georgia?

Roman Mars: Because I did not graduate from the University of Georgia. Now, not everyone follows tradition. And on the way here, I didn’t even know if I was going to walk around it or through it, but I decided that I would walk around it. I’m not sure why. That’s the power of tradition. Legend has it that a freshman by the name of Daniel Redfern in 1905 vowed to never cross under the arch because he believed that until he graduated from the university, he did not possess the three virtues for which it stands. That’s wisdom, justice, and moderation. And this morphed into this widespread superstition, and it is now believed that passing under the arch before you get your diploma will bring you bad luck or the possibility of never graduating or maybe both.

Joy Yuson: Are you sure you didn’t walk under the arch?

Roman Mars: I probably did. It’s probably all the arch’s fault. But you can see here–this is what I love about this–a lot of people chose to walk around the arch. The right side of the stone step around the arch is totally worn down. It has a little dip of erosion for where all the people are walking around it and not through it. If you think about it, the people crossing here are most likely not graduates. Like, when you graduate, you leave soon after. So pretty much the only people who actually pass through here are people who have not yet earned their degree. So, it makes sense that many, many people walk around it and that causes that erosion. So, like I mentioned before, the gateway arch used to be connected to a fence, so it was like a real gate. Safety-wise, it doesn’t really matter that this entrance can’t be closed now. But it could matter for a different reason, and that reason is adverse possession. Adverse possession is an ancient legal principle that still exists today under which a person who does not have legal title to a piece of land may acquire legal ownership based on continuous possession or occupation of the property without the permission of the legal owner. Basically, if the owner doesn’t kick someone off the property, then the squatter can legally become the new owner after a certain amount of time. There are lots of conditions and requirements, but the existence of adverse possession is the reason you see little plaques on sidewalks that grant permission for people to pass over it–even though it is private property–and explicitly states that it will still remain private property to the original owner, no matter if people pass over it or not. So, gates also function like this, but really only if you can close them and deny someone continuous possession. But the reason why I bring this up at this gate that does not close is because of where you went to grad school. Where did you go to grad school?

Joy Yuson: I went to Columbia.

Roman Mars: For people who don’t know, where is Columbia University?

Joy Yuson: It’s in New York City, in the borough of Manhattan.

Roman Mars: So, Columbia is an open campus. The public can cross the grounds if they want to. We tour there with some of the kids on, like, the hottest day of the year. They thought they were going to die. But once a year on a Sunday morning, Columbia locks those gates, and it’s not because they’re doing maintenance or anything. It’s just to demonstrate that “this land is ours and you the public can’t make a claim to it.” Because the public is kept out once a year for one morning, no one can eventually own it by possession. Now again, I don’t think there’s any way to close the gate, but I’m sure around campus or in whatever town or city you’re in, you will find markers guarding against adverse possession either by legal notification or a physical barrier. Now, I am choosing to not walk through the arch. But as a member of the public, I think it is important to roam on land that is open to the public because adverse possession can work the other way, too. Like, if the public stops accessing public land, some jerk can fence it off and take it away from us. This is something I always say to the kids–if we don’t use rights, we lose rights. Speaking of the inalienable rights of humans and the unconscionably evil act of taking those rights away, let’s take a look at the plaque back there beyond the arch. This is the most prominent plaque on campus. It’s right here at the entrance and it recounts the founding of the university. It reads in part, “Endowed with 40,000 acres of land in 1784 and chartered in 1785, the charter was the first granted by a state for a government-controlled university. After Louisville and then Greensboro were first selected, the current site was chosen. The first president and author of the school’s charter, Abraham Baldwin, resigned when the doors opened and was succeeded by…” Yada, yada, yada… More names. Okay. Here is the key part. “During the War for Southern Independence, most of the students entered the Confederate army. The university closed its doors in 1864 and did not open again until January 1866. After the war, many of the Confederate veterans became students.” It goes on naming famous professors and chancellors from there. In the bottom corner, you see that it was erected in 1991. So, you were born and raised in California? Have you ever heard the phrase, “the War for Southern Independence?”

Joy Yuson: No, I haven’t.

Roman Mars: Yeah, the, quote unquote, “War for Southern Independence” is pathetic, white supremacy language steeped in racist, revisionist, lost cause ideology. There is no excuse for it. A few years ago, the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission recommended that additional texts be added to this marker–and they had a bunch of other recommendations for public art that told the full history of slavery and white supremacy here–so more people can be welcome in this space. But I’m not sure what has been done. This plaque is still here however, and it is bad. I’m all about always read the plaque, but when this thing isn’t being outright racist, it’s just a boring list of names–like, an extremely dull Klansman wrote it. Literally anything would be better. And I say this because this is a beautiful place. I loved going to school here. I loved living here. Everyone here deserves better. So, walking around that arch, that’s a tradition that I can get behind. Mollycoddling the people who want to keep lost cause rhetoric alive–that is a southern tradition that absolutely needs to go, especially because a university and a university town are all about learning and growth. There is so much potential for excellent, smart, interesting, historically accurate, nuanced, challenging, comforting, inclusive messages that could be embedded all over the landscape here. This is a place that has done great things, and they should be highlighted. I think this place is worth it, and I think it’s worth the hard work to make it better. So always read the plaque, but–you know–with caveats. Okay, so we’re going to walk a few blocks that way to another historical marker, which tells a great story Up a cobblestone street and kind of protruding out into the intersection of Finley and Dearing is the Tree that Owns Itself. It is a white oak that–according to legend–has legal ownership of itself and the eight feet around it. The story is that a man named William Jackson–who was maybe a professor at the university, maybe a doctor, maybe a colonel, maybe all three of those things–had lovely childhood memories of this tree and, desiring to protect it for all time, deeded the tree the ownership of itself and its surrounding land. This happened sometime in the 1820s. There is no real legal basis for this tree owning itself, but for nearly 200 years, the stated position of the Athens-Clarke County Unified government is that this tree, in spite of the law, does indeed own itself. It is the policy of the city of Athens to maintain it as a public street tree. It has gone through some rough times. It needed some help in 1906, and George Foster Peabody of the namesake of the Peabody Awards–which are given out by UGA–paid to have new soil and these little concrete bollards and chain barricades around it. He also paid for the plaque. The old one is around the corner and is very worn. But the new one has a more legible inscription, and it reads, “For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides. William H. Jackson.” This is also a brass plaque that reveals that this is not actually the original tree. That tree fell down in 1946, and it was replaced. So, some people call this the Son of the Tree that Owns Itself. I love the spirit of this. This is a tradition with no real-world grounding at all. There is no way that this tree actually legally owns itself, but people treat it as real because this story and this idea represents the best of our values, and everyone can see it and they can see it etched into stone. So, let’s head to a park I’m excited to check out because it was not here when I lived here, and it sounds so cool. So, we just got biscuits and sausage gravy from Mama’s Boy and walked to the river behind it and to this amazing park. This is a lovely example of the Rails-to-Trails movement that gained traction in the early 2000s as people saw more and more opportunities to convert disused railway routes into urban trail systems. In New York City, a series of old elevated rail lines on the west side were slated for demolition until citizens got really serious about saving it. And ultimately those raised roots became the now super popular High Line Park trails, which we have been to and took the kids there, too.

Joy Yuson: Yeah, it was beautiful.

Roman Mars: Also in the early 2000s, an old, elevated rail line trestle was going to be turned down right here where this park is, but it was saved because of the trestle’s cultural significance. And that cultural significance is that in the spring of 1983, one of the greatest bands to ever exist, R.E.M., released its debut album, Murmur, and the tracklist on its reverse side was overlaid on a photo of an old, local wood railway trestle that stood right here. Over the decades, the bridge has been this destination for fans of the band. When I lived here, people climbed on the trestle, and they nearly killed themselves. And the locals were committed to it being preserved in some way. Coincidentally, the same year Murmur debuted in 1983, something else happened that led to this park being here and to the trestle’s preservation. Congress amended the National Trail System Act, and in doing so, they made Rails-to-Trails conversions easier to implement. So, there was cultural significance thanks to R.E.M. Thanks to the National Trail System Act, there was a pathway to turn this into a park trail. But there was still the issue of what to do with the old, wooden trestle itself that went over the river. So, park planners wanted to use the bridge as part of the trail, but the old, abandoned structure that’s depicted on the album was deemed too unsafe. So, there was a thought to keep it as is, and the trail would just go alongside it, using a series of switchbacks to just bypass the bridge entirely. But the solution was seen as defeating the great goal of creating a continuous, safe, flat trail open to people of all ages that crosses over the river. So, there was talk of replacing the old structure, plank by plank, like a ship of Theseus type of thing. But that was deemed a little too unrealistic. Ultimately, it became clear that the original framework had to come down and be replaced by something new. Most of the structural elements had been just rotted beyond repair. And its place is what you see in front of you. This replacement bridge mimics the overall aesthetic of the wood framed Murmur bridge but also features new, robust engineering elements, like a set of arch steel supports. Another nice new addition are the overlook platforms up there that are midway across a trail creek that are really lovely. Construction of this new pedestrian trail was finished about a year ago, and it carries forward a lot of the look and vibe of the vintage Murmur bridge. It is a really worthy tribute to the past, but it’s infused with new life and new function. It’s this perfect mix of nostalgia and real progress, making this community better and more welcoming for all citizens. At the official opening of the Firefly Bridge in April of 2023, R.E.M.’s Murmur played in the background, which is a really nice accompaniment to any civic ceremony. Projects like this can be this huge boon to the public–railway pathways especially. These are really rare direct routes to and through the hearts of cities. These paths cut across city grids in ways that would be effectively impossible to carve out from the filled in fabric of modern, urban environments. So, they’re really special and worth the effort of converting them for modern use. This Firefly Trail, which is a small part of this 39-mile proposed path, joins a host of really impressive Rails-to-Trails projects across the U.S., including the 606 trail in Chicago and the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis–these have already been extensively built out as well as the Los Angeles River Greenway and other urban projects that are still in the works. Kurt and I talk about this a lot in our book, the 99% Invisible City, which I’m sure you’ve read cover to cover many times.

Joy Yuson: I did. Of course, I did. And I listened to it.

Roman Mars: I think it’s safe to say that the aesthetics of the Firefly Bridge would be totally different if it weren’t for R.E.M. making the trestle famous, and I think that’s glorious. It’s really, really nice. So, we’re going to stick with the album Murmur because it’s one of the greatest albums of all time. So, if you flip over the LP to the front, you will see a picture of an outdoor landscape covered in a vine called kudzu. Have you ever heard of kudzu?

Joy Yuson: I haven’t. That sounds… That’s a cool word.

Roman Mars: Yeah. Kudzu is an ornamental vine from Japan. It’s everywhere in the south, and that was by design. In the 1930s when the Dust Bowl was raging, the U.S. government was rightfully deeply concerned about soil erosion. So, they cultivated kudzu seedlings and paid people to plant it. So, they paid both the landowners to plant it on their land and teams of young men to do the job, including my grandfather who grew up in Atlanta. That was one of his summer jobs. So, kudzu was planted everywhere. And in the right conditions, it is a very, very aggressive invader. On the cover of the Murmur album, you can see what it does. It just overwhelms everything in its path. It grows over abandoned structures, like cars and abandoned buildings. It climbs trees and signs. I remember it being called the Vine that Ate the South. I lived in fear of it growing up. It was like quicksand. You remember being afraid of quicksand? I thought it was possible that kudzu would consume the entire United States. It turns out it’s maybe not as bad as all that, and I only read this recently in an article in the Smithsonian from 2015. Kudzu needs a lot of sun. It can be kept in check by grazing. Also, one of the beetles that eats it in Japan finally made its way over, and it’s also eating it here. But still all along roadsides and in abandoned places, it really thrives. So, it’s at its worst where humans can see it. But forests are not as overrun as you could imagine while you’re seeing it speeding down rural highways. It’s still a big symbol of the south. I was on the founding committee of the first Athens Film Festival in the 1990s, and the Kudzu was the name of the award for the best film. It’s all over southern gothic stories. It’s a very creepy creeping vine, but I was happy to learn it’s not quite as bad as I was raised to believe. But it’s better than the doomsday scenario that plagued my brain as a kid. So, the last story I want to tell you is a very 99PI thing that happened to us when we were driving to the Lexus photoshoot. And I’ll tell you that story after this. This special episode of 99% Invisible is brought to you by the 2024 Lexus GX and SiriusXM. The Lexus GX is at the apex of high-end luxury and high-end utility, which means you can get very comfortable with massaging seats and a drink cooler in the center console, and you can tow four tons of whatever makes you happy behind you.

Eric Kavanaugh: The towing capacity of 8,000 pounds–that’s a lot. That’s a lot.

Roman Mars: That’s Eric Kavanaugh, senior advertising planner and our guide to the Lexus GX.

Eric Kavanaugh: To be able to confidently tow any utility trailer of that weight is really impressive. The V6 engine being a twin turbo–the feel when you really step on the gas–you have that instantaneous acceleration from the turbos. I’m just so excited for… I want to drive this one more often.

Roman Mars: I don’t know how much things weigh. Like, how much is 8,000 lbs? What should I be thinking of?

Eric Kavanaugh: We’re going to have to save that conversation for a rainy day because it gets into gross combined vehicle trailer weight rating, tongue weight, etc. But I would think a medium-sized boat would fit right in line there. And anyone that is towing should know that they should read their owner’s manual and understand how much their trailer weighs and what the combined weight is of the trailer and their vehicle. But tons of information on if you want to inquire more about the different towing capacities by grade and all of those differences between the different models.

Roman Mars: Cool. Thank you. We checked with Lexus, and they said the towing capacity was over 9,000 lbs on some models. So, like our friend Eric said, check your owner’s manual. With the all-new Lexus GX, you can get the whole crew together, be very comfortable, get out there, and take on the world. Now, I love music and I love news and I love talk radio. But to me, there’s something really special about sports on the radio. And when you’re in the deep south, that means you’re listening to and you’re talking about SEC college football. And it just so happens that SiriusXM has a channel for that and the perfect person to be your guide to the SEC.

Aaron Murray: Aaron Murray. I currently work as a host for SiriusXM, the SEC channel, ESPN as a commentator for collegiate football, and then President of the Players’ Lounge. So just a few things that take up my time–and a father of two as well.

Roman Mars: Tell me about your career at UGA.

Aaron Murray: I got here in 2009, redshirted my first year, so I didn’t play my first year, played the next four years, 2010 to 2013, and was pretty successful, setting numerous SEC records–or the Southeastern Conference–which still stand today. Touchdowns, yards… Someone just broke my completion percentage record, but the other two stand, which are the ones I really want–especially the touchdown. So, it was a really good career. I had a great time, played in some really big games, and played in a couple SEC championship games that we were close to unfortunately winning. One came down to the final play of the game sadly, but it was a lot of fun, a lot of great memories, and–like I said–a lot of great success, which allowed me to then live out my dream of getting a few years in the NFL.

Roman Mars: For people who don’t know… Okay, so there’s college football. And then there’s SEC college football. Tell me about the distinction there.

Aaron Murray: It’s different. I always tell people in the state of Georgia, when it comes to the hierarchy of just teams in general–obviously you got the Falcons, you got the Braves, you have the Hawks, you got Georgia football. They are kind of like the big four. If you had to rank ’em, it’s Georgia football one, a significant drop… Probably the Braves. Falcons? Maybe even, like, United? United’s awesome. Soccer has gotten really popular in Georgia and especially in Atlanta. But there’s a big drop from Georgia football, which is not a professional sport, to everything else. And that’s just the south. I mean, you have Alabama where there’s no professional teams, so people love and don’t even talk to their family members when it’s Auburn Alabama Week for goodness sakes. It’s different. And that was one of the things that was eye-opening to me because I thought, like, “Okay, I’m just going to go play football.” I didn’t realize that my performance on a given Saturday affected so many people the way it did. I mean, there was a time where we had one loss my junior season to South Carolina. I got home, and my house on campus was egged and teepeed. I was getting hate mail and hate messages on social media and the message boards and all that–and I just thought I was coming to play football. I didn’t realize… I don’t want to use the word “religion,” but it’s pretty darn close to that here in the south, especially college football. And at times it’s great because you’re worshiped and you’re loved and you get free drinks and food and pats on the back, but then when things aren’t going well, you don’t even want to walk around campus, especially the quarterback position because you are praised for wins and you’re blamed most of the time for the losses.

Roman Mars: So now you do commentary for the SEC channel on SiriusXM. Tell me about what the channel is. And tell me about what your job is there.

Aaron Murray: The SEC has been the most dominant conference in college football for two decades now. They’ve had the most championships, they’ve had the most first rounders, they’ve had the most Heismans–everything–all the awards. So, it’s the best conference in America, and we had the focus solely on that for me for three hours a day, which is pretty easy and pretty fun. And I think it’s going to be only more and more, obviously, as this conference continues to grow.

Roman Mars: So, how’d you go from being a player to being a commentator?

Aaron Murray: I never thought I’d get into media when I was done, but it kind of just fell into my lap my first year at the NFL to jump into commentary. And I kept being told, like, “Hey, if you’re going to do games or do studio work, the best way to improve is to do radio because radio is more difficult.” You don’t have a game to help you. You don’t have graphics to help you. You have to fill air for two, three hours. I think there is a level of credibility when I jump on a broadcast or jump on my Sirius show, and my commentator was like, “Oh, we’re here in Athens, Georgia, for Georgia versus so-and-so. And I’m here with the SEC’s all-time leading quarterback in touchdowns.” It does add a level of credibility for when people listen to a game or show.

Roman Mars: Are you live on the air, or do you record a little ahead of time?

Aaron Murray: Oh, we’re live. So, I just plug on in and sit at my desk and pray my dogs don’t bark too much. My son gets home from school at 5:30, and he loves to just run into my office. “Dad, dad, dad!” I’m like, “I’m on radio.” He’ll jump on the headset sometimes and say, “Hello. Go dogs.” And then he’ll go off to his little play area downstairs and have some fun.

Roman Mars: You can hear Aaron Murray on the SEC channel, which is just one of a bunch of riveting sports radio channels included with your free three-month subscription to SiriusXM with the purchase of a new Lexus GX. To learn more about the GX visit The all-new Lexus GX–live up to it. So, on our way to the Lexus photoshoot, a very 99PI thing happened. North Georgia was built around trains. The original name of Atlanta was Terminus because it was at the end of both the Atlantic and Western rail lines. As such, someone proposed the name Atlantica Pacifica to replace the name Terminus–I presume because it sounded prettier–and that was quickly shortened to Atlanta. Now I live next to the train line in Normaltown, and we passed my old neighborhood on the way to do the interview with Aaron and take pictures of the Lexus GX. But we were stopped along the way because a tall truck tried to get under a low train overpass, and the top of it got sheared off, which reminded me of one of my favorite stories from the 99% Invisible City about the Can Opener Bridge. Nicknamed the Can Opener Bridge, there is a rail overpass in Durham, North Carolina, that has become famous for scraping the tops off of trucks that dare pass beneath its tracks. The Norfolk Southern-Gregson Street Overpass was designed to allow safe passage for vehicles up to around 12 feet tall, which probably seemed like more than enough overhead when it was constructed in 1940. Over the years, though, trucks got taller, and more and more trucks hit the bridge. Despite the implementation of a series of bright signs, flashing lights, and other warnings that the driver’s too tall vehicle is about to be loudly decapitated, these collisions just kept happening. A local resident named Jürgen Henn was working in a nearby building when he began to notice the high frequency of incidents involving the bridge.

Jürgen Henn: It’s pretty crazy sometimes. I sit there at my desk working peacefully, and all of a sudden there’s this massive crash out there. And I almost fall out of my chair.

Roman Mars: In 2008, he installed a video camera to document the collisions. Since then, he has captured and posted over 100 videos. These short films capture a delightful spectrum of mayhem, at least for those inclined towards infrastructural schadenfreude. Especially tall trucks are stopped entirely by the bridge and bounce back like a person hitting their head on a kitchen cabinet. Shorter vehicles slide under with just a painful screeching sound. And in some cases where the vehicle’s height is just right–or rather just wrong–the entire tops of the vehicles are peeled back like a sardine can. Hence the name the “Can Opener Bridge.” After watching dozens and dozens of these incidents, one starts to wonder how such an obvious problem can go unfixed for so long. The railroad, the city, and the state have all taken actions to reduce incidents involving the bridge over the years–but with limited success. The railroad installed a crash beam to keep trucks from hitting the bridge itself. This protected the infrastructure and any freight and passengers that might be traveling overhead. But it didn’t do a lot for the trucks down below. Understandably, the rail company’s concern is not with the trucks on the road, but the trains on the rails. For its part, the city of Durham installed a supplemental array of warning mechanisms, introducing three low clearance signs posted at each of three intersections in advance of the bridge. A pair of smaller roadside signs with a stated height limit of 11′ 8″ were also put up, which shaved a few inches off the actual limit to introduce, you know, another safety buffer. At one point, the state of North Carolina also installed an OVERHEIGHT WHILE FLASHING sign with blinking orange lights directly in front of the bridge. Trucks, however, continued to crash into the beam, so the sign was removed in 2016 and replaced with a higher tech OVERHEIGHT MUST TURN variant coupled with an LED display, all linked with sensors to detect approaching oversized vehicles. The system was integrated with a new traffic light so that when the sensors were tripped, the stoplight would turn red. The idea was to give the truck drivers more time to notice the warning sign before plowing ahead. Despite this more sophisticated intervention, however, the bridge continued to claim and maim trucks. Since no amount of warnings seemed sufficient, other solutions were considered over the years, like raising the bridge, lowering the street, or redirecting truck traffic entirely. The railroad long argued that raising the bridge would require significant regrading on both sides, potentially costing millions of dollars. Lowering the street was also deemed impractical because a sewer main runs directly below it. Installing a low clearance bar in advance of the bridge or otherwise redirecting overheight traffic away from the area entirely would be challenging, too. Delivery trucks need to be able to drive right up to the bridge, then turn in order to access a set of restaurants nearby. Rerouting them just isn’t feasible. Finally, after years of delays and buck passing, in October of 2019, a work crew converged on the site to do the improbable and raise the bridge. What was once the 11-foot-8 bridge is now more or less a 12-foot-4 bridge, according to the new road-flanking height limit signs. Though according to Jürgen Henn’s measurements, the actual clearance is around 12 feet 8 inches. For the not so low cost of half a million dollars, the North Carolina Railroad Company jacked up their tracks as much as they could without impacting nearby crossings on either side of the Can Opener. Of course, this height still won’t accommodate every truck. The state allows vehicles up to 13′ 6″. Sure enough, a metal chunk was clipped off the top of a truck in a video posted by Henn just a few weeks after this “fix” was enabled. For decades, the Can Opener Bridge has represented a perfect storm of financial limitations, physical challenges, and political bureaucracy, all conspiring against a complete and permanent design solution. Even now that the bridge has been raised, it may still prove to be a flawed piece of infrastructure and a persistent nuisance. All cities have things like this–ill-fitting byproducts of conflicting priorities that trip up citizens or scrape their vehicles. But few are as large, troublesome, or as widely shared on the internet as the Can Opener Bridge. I was shocked to be out in the world to see a similar story play out when we were being driven around Athens. But the driver who was taking us around said, “Oh yeah,” he sees it all the time. So, we’re back at the arch in downtown Athens, and the last thing we have to do is to walk about a block that way to Wuxtry Records. And we have to tell the clerk some of the stuff we like. And then we just have to buy whatever record they pick out for us because they know what they’re doing.

Joy Yuson: Great. Let’s do it.

Roman Mars: Awesome. Okay, that’s it from Athens, Georgia. Over and out. Thanks for joining us for this special Athens, Georgia, edition of 99% Invisible, brought to you by the Lexus GX and SiriusXM. Thanks to Eric Kavanaugh, Aaron Murray, and Joy Yuson for being my special guests. The new Lexus GX showcases how aesthetic appeal compliments utility, proving luxury and capability can coexist. And when you throw SiriusXM on there, you have everything you need to be out in the furthest reaches while still being connected to a passionate community of sports fans, music loving DJs, world-class talkers, comedians, and thinkers. To learn more about the GX and SiriusXM and Lexus vehicles, visit The all-new Lexus GX. Live up to it. I also encourage you to go to this episode’s page on, where you can look at me posing with a very fancy car. And you can watch me driving down the highway with it. And you can stream your first three months free of SiriusXM, where you can listen on the SiriusXM app, online, or on other compatible devices. You’ll get more than 425 channels, including ad free music, sports, comedy, news, and more. You can listen anywhere on the all-new SiriusXM app. Go to to subscribe to SiriusXM. 99% Invisible was reported this week by me, Roman Mars, and Kurt Kohlstedt–and edited by me, Roman Mars, with production help from Isabel Angell and Sarah Baik. Mix and sound design by Dara Hirsch. Music by Swan Real. Kathy Tu is our executive producer. Delaney Hall is our senior editor. The rest of the team includes Chris Berube, Jayson De Leon, Vivian Le, Lasha Madan, Christopher Johnson, Martín Gonzalez, Joe Rosenberg, Gabriella Gladney, Neena Pathak, Kelly Prime, and Jeyca Maldonado-Medina. The 99% Invisible logo was created by Stefan Lawrence. We are part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM podcast family now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora building… in beautiful… uptown Oakland, California. Our headquarters online is



Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt


Roman Mars

Production help

Isabel Angell and Sarah Baik

Mix and sound design

Dara Hirsch

Executive Producer

Kathy Tu

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