Behind the Wheel: Tune in next time
July 7, 2005
Between Española and Ojo Caliente is where I started to think that New Mexicans have it all figured out.I was driving north on Route 285, having spent Independence Day in Albuquerque. Cruising the radio dial for something – anything – to listen to, I happened upon a radio program that was brilliant in its simplicity.The deejay, Orlando, had that perfect sing-songy tone in his voice and an accent associated with Latinos in rural New Mexico. He was taking call after call. Residents in tiny towns like Tres Piedras rang up the station to give Orlando the scoop on what they had for sale – cribs, cars, stacks of firewood, a room for rent.The caller would give his or her name and location and describe what was for sale and then tick out a phone number. Gracias and adios, Orlando would say, and it was on to the next caller.Alternately, people would call to report lost dogs, tell the rest of the listeners that they need a trailer for their all-terrain vehicle, or inquire about a number they didn’t quite catch for someone who has something they’d like to buy.It was a radio swap meet, completely in Spanglish. It told me most everything I needed to know about the people who live on remote ranches and in modular homes in the shadows of mesas and tall cottonwood trees.I know this sounds like dull stuff, but I believe there are two states of being on road trips: mind-numbingly bored, and everything else. It’s easy to romanticize road trips, remembering the moments when you found a heavenly slice of pie at a roadside greasy spoon, or when you finally passed a semi-truck on a narrow two-lane road and the landscape stretched out in front of you, unencumbered and enormous.You have to hold on to the small things on each trip, like listening to Orlando’s radio show until the station gets too fuzzy. Or pulling over to check out some fresh elk jerky or nuts from a Piñon tree.New Mexicans don’t have it all figured out – they have their own quirky problems like every state, including how much their governor should spend on his new private jet. But this radio show gave me a picture of the state I wouldn’t have gotten just by ordering a green chile cheeseburger.