I Can’t Go Anywhere, but Marfa Public Radio Takes Me to a West Texas Dive

I come for songs that aren't of my own Spotify algorithm, but stay for the weather dispatches from small Texas towns.
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
April 28, 2020, 9:38pm
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In my apartment, the conditions are warm and dry like they have been every day since I installed a shitty desk near my window to work from home indefinitely. Although the weather is starting to turn, the radiators are still chugging away, and so for over a month now, I’ve spent each day opening and closing the windows, in a sick dance with an interior climate that I can’t control. But far away in Marfa, Texas, the weather is picturesque: A high of 85 under a “beautiful blue” sky, with a nighttime low dipping down to 58 degrees in the West Texas desert town. “Perfect,” Roseland Klein, the radio host says in her trembling voice. And it is.

I’ve spent most of my quarantine with Roseland and the other hosts on Marfa Public Radio, an NPR-affiliate station for a handful of small towns in West Texas. It took, conservatively, four days of lockdown for me to hate every song I’ve ever heard. Opening Spotify and scrolling through my stupid playlists, most of which are crafted for shit I can’t do anymore, like “commute to work” and “hang out with my buds,” quickly became an exercise in self-hatred. Seeking an escape, I turned to streaming radio shows; specifically, shows from a place as far away from and unlike the downtown Manhattan streets that constitute my entire universe for the foreseeable future.

During working hours, I’ve found nothing is better than Classical Midday with Roseland Klein, because Roseland’s 91-year-old voice is very soft, and classical music sits precisely at the nexus of stimulating and non-distracting. Roseland also reads the region weather report on almost every broadcast; it’s an accessory that’s definitely not needed in the age of the Weather app, but is a nice reminder that a world with big blue skies and endless horizons still exists somewhere out there. To transition from work time to sitting around in the house time, I put on Honky Tonk Happy Hour, which goes down great with the first nightly quarantine beer. I regularly pull a pen and paper out of the aforementioned shitty desk to jot down new songs I like—something that never happens within the walled gardens of the Spotify algorithm. The twangy music sounds great playing through my apartment Sonos but I know it’ll sound way better through barely functioning jukebox speakers, in some bar with peanut shells and beer on the concrete floor, when this is all over.

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