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Desert Dispatch Vol. 5

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: MPR Block Party by Hannah Gentiles. Each week, we'll feature a different image from a listener or staff member. It can be taken on a camera, a phone – whatever floats your boat. Send your snapshot to photos@marfapublicradio.org.
Hannah Gentiles
PHOTO OF THE WEEK: MPR Block Party by Hannah Gentiles. Each week, we'll feature a different image from a listener or staff member. It can be taken on a camera, a phone  whatever floats your boat. Send your snapshot to photos@marfapublicradio.org.

Last week, I was taking a meeting in Studio C, which we affectionately refer to as “studio closet,” when a sleep-deprived Marfa Public Radio staff member knocked on the door. I paused the meeting to ask what they needed.

“Nothing," they said. "I just wanted to lie on the floor.”

That is, to me, a perfect encapsulation of the station’s membership drive.

Studio C, for reference
Zoe Kurland
Studio C, for reference

There are things that happen at Marfa Public Radio that feel surreal. Part of that relates to the elements– our tower literally gets struck by lightning, strong winds take out our signal, or surprise desert snow piles on our satellite. And then there are the surreal things that tend to unfold here: serendipitous connections and experiences that seem like they only really happen in Marfa.

Drive week was no exception: while pitching was underway, our signal went off the air in Marathon, and, simultaneously, a filmmaker named Peter Crosby came to visit and offered to make a short documentary about our station. He arrived on Thursday at sunrise and spent the day filming everyone on the staff (he had to try hard to get here before Carlos, who arrived every morning at 4:45 a.m.).

Peter and his dog Murphy spent three days at the station, conducting interviews and taping us as we pitched on-air. Check out the trailer for that here.

Hannah Gentiles

Over the last week, you heard from everyone on the Marfa Public Radio staff about why you should donate to our station, and I’d like to add to that: put simply, it’s not easy to make radio in the middle of the desert, but we do it 24/7 because we love this place and the people who make it special.

Marfa Public Radio only exists because of the support of our wide-reaching community, and as a reader of this newsletter, that means you. Writing the Desert Dispatch, I’ve gotten to see just how big that community is– you reply from all over the state, the country, and the world with messages about the latest dispatch, or what Marfa Public Radio means to you.

If you haven’t yet donated to support our work and existence, head to marfapublicradio.org.

Hannah Gentiles

We Threw a Block Party

In celebration of this last week of drive madness, we opened the radio station for a block party, and y’all came out! The station was packed with friends, neighbors, volunteers, and visitors who happened to stumble upon our party while walking around town.

This was a Marfa Public Radio style block party: we lined the driveway with vintage trucks, thanks to DJs David Branch and Dave Harding, and listened to great music as the sun set. As we stood outside, I couldn’t help but think back to our building’s origins– before it was a radio station, it was a small car dealership. I love seeing Marfa Public Radio filled with excited people, ready to celebrate, standing around trucks and picnic tables, a permutation of what the space once was– the same but different.

If you missed the block party, don’t worry– you can listen to this 3 hour immersive taping, featuring DJ sets from David Branch of Honky Tonk Happy Hour, Jacqueline Delolmo of Sweethearts on the Radio, Michael Camacho of The Rock Pillow.

Hannah Gentiles

Guest Book

Throughout the week, people came by the station to drop off their donations and share what Marfa Public Radio means to them– a familiar voice, connection to their community, or the source of endless good music. Here are some of the messages we got from listeners this week:

Thank you for all that you do. I live in Houston but work in Odessa and depend on y'all for some degree of sanity (local coverage and programming is spectacular).

I drive from Fort Davis to Alpine every day and I love listening to all of your programs!

I think I've been listening to Marfa Public Radio more than my own member station here in Michigan because y'all are knocking it out of the park. The nightly music is my main jam, but you're doing great on news too. Keep up the amazing work.

Hannah Gentiles


Burlo – During the month of May, we’ll be featuring Caló phrases relating to witchcraft. Siról, a lot of the context underlying Caló is what is referred to as magical realism in Latin American literature, where people casually interact with devils, navigate curses and cast spells. This week’s word is called burlo or burlar. In Romaní, it means game. In Spanish it means to make fun of somebody. In Caló along the Rio Grande, it means to engage in The Borlo, where you try to be more devilish than the devil.

Caló is a borderland dialect. You can find more episodeshere.

Other programming:

Ballots were cast and the results are in: voters in the Big Bend and Permian Basin weighed in on local city council races on Saturday, including a race in Midland. That story from Travis Bubenik and Mitch Borden here.

In case you missed it, Marfa For Beginners was featured on All Things Considered this past weekend. Listen to Elise Pepple chat with NPR’s Scott Detrow about the idea behind Marfa For Beginners, and the process of making it here.

Me interviewing Ester Sanchez for Marfa for Beginners

Tune in tomorrow during Morning Edition and All Things Considered to listen to a Nature Notes on the mysterious hybridization of two warbler species in the Davis Mountains. You can find past Nature Notes episodes here.

Also, some special programming: this week, two of our reporters are on panels discussing their work and the state of journalism.

Mitch Borden will be a panelist for The Texas Tribune’s “We the Texans” series, where he’ll be joining other journalists to talk about news deserts in Texas, and how to ensure Texans across the state have access to reliable local news. You can find more information on that here.

And Annie Rosenthal was on a panel on Tuesday called "Anatomy of the investigation: Investigating Reproductive Health" for the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization. You can find details about that talk here.

Here are 5 songs fit for a block party from Michael Camacho. Check out this mini playlist here.

  1. Candlelight - The Mystery Lights
  2. Future Lover - The Sacred Souls
  3. Progress (feat. Yim Yames) - Booker T. Jones
  4. Dance With Me - Liam Bailey
  5. The Passenger- Sioxsie & The Banshees

You can find our block party and all of our music shows on our Mixcloud.


It's Dark Sky Week at the McDonald Observatory!

Until May 11, you can join the observatory for a celebration of the famous night skies in Far West Texas.

Events include special tours, astro-photography workshops, science lectures, a film screening of the documentary The Stars At Night and more.

For a full schedule of events, visit mcdonaldobservatory.org.

If you have PSAs you want on the air or in this newsletter, head to www.marfapublicradio.org/psa.

Merch in the Wild

Becca's Marfa Public Radio mug by the window in Fort Davis– the picture of serenity.

Do you wear a Marfa Public Radio bandana when you're herding cattle? Do you use your tote bag to head to the beach? Do you show off your Marfa Public Radio socks when you go bowling?

If you wear, use or spot Marfa Public Radio merch out and about, send us a photo to photos@marfapublicradio.org with the subject line "Merch in the Wild.”

And you can get your own MPR merch here!

Zoe Kurland is a senior producer at Marfa Public Radio.