It seems to me we have passed into a time when opinions don’t matter. Maybe some people still enjoy having them, but my own too-familiar opinions leave me stranded in a state of inertia. For the first time in my life, it seems that what I believe is no longer relevant. The steamroller has mashed me flat.
So I find my solace in all my familiar places, none more familiar, or more comforting, than the Country-Western songs I listen to on KUNM or KSFR. My favorite of these balladeers of heartbreak is our own Bill Hearne, who for many years along with his sweet-voiced wife has kept the crowd two-stepping on weekday nights at Hotel La Fonda. It seems wonderful to me that the dismal remodeling that reduced the dance floor to a handkerchief and added enormous televisions and a greatly expanded bar has had little or no impact on Bill and his fellow musicians or on their devoted fans who continue to twirl, rope-twist and sweetheart as they have for years.
One of my favorite songs on one of Bill’s CDs is called “Border Radio.” As usual, it is a broken-hearted lament for “a Cajun man who’s gone.” The bereft woman’s only comfort is her border radio station, whose fifty thousand watts carry songs deep into Mexico where she believes her lover has flown. She prays that he’s listening to their favorite tune.
Border radio played a big part in my childhood and adolescence in Kentucky. Our WHAS radio station also had a fifty thousand watt capacity, and at night I could pick up the Big Bands playing on hotel rooftop ballrooms in Chicago, which seemed so very far away. That was the dance music my parents and their friends knew, the Waltzes, Foxtrots and American Tangos they performed with, it seemed to me, great expertise at every formal party and wedding.
Couple dances went the way of all flesh before I was grown, and radio seemed to have been subsumed by television, but the concept of a radio wave reaching across space, time, and borders has stayed with me. Radio provided the glue that held disparate strangers together, giving me and surely many others a sense of kinship with people we would never meet.
So when Bill croons, “She’s listening to the border radio,” I know it’s not only her lost Cajun man she’s seeking to connect with but all those nameless and faceless listeners across the border—all the borders, that threaten so direly to cut us off from each other.
My dear one reminded me this morning that it was Ronald Regan who told Mikhail Gorbachev to take down the Berlin Wall, and I imagined the cry crossing all borders, real and imagined: TEAR DOWN THIS WALL! Take down all walls that separate us, especially the ones that divide so-called whites from so-called blacks.
The Berlin Wall came tumbling down shortly thereafter, as have all monuments to injustice, sooner or later.
This time, though, we can’t wait.