Will Hayden felt like he was in the Twilight Zone.
The Denver musician was at work in Longmont on Wednesday, October 23, when he heard that President Donald Trump was talking about building a wall in Colorado. Specifically, Trump had said this at a speech at an energy conference in Pittsburgh that day: “We’re building a wall on the border of New Mexico. And we’re building a wall in Colorado...a big one that really works. You can’t get over, you can’t get under.”
Hayden himself had proposed much the same thing late last year, in a GoFundMe spoof urging residents of this state to make Colorado great again by building a wall around it. And now here was the president suggesting exactly that...or at least suggesting building a wall across Colorado, even though the southernmost part of this state is almost 500 miles from the Mexican border.
New Mexico lies between Colorado and Mexico, as former Colorado governor and current Senate candidate John Hickenlooper wrote in a tweet tagging Democrats in the state to the south: “Do one of you want to break it to @realDonaldTrump that Colorado’s border is with New Mexico, not Mexico...or should I?” “
Well this is awkward…,” tweeted Colorado’s current governor, Jared Polis, who’s been having his own spat with New Mexico over which state grows the best green chiles. “Good thing Colorado now offers free full day kindergarten so our kids can learn basic geography.”
Hayden’s initial response was that Trump had gone way beyond awkward. “My first thought was that he is in progressing stages of dementia,” he recalls. “Part of me thinks maybe he saw those joke articles that spread about a year ago and that latched itself onto his meandering memories. But another part of me just thinks he doesn’t know the layout of the United States.”
Hayden, a native of La Junta who moved to metro Denver to pursue his music career, certainly does. And when he launched his own GoFundMe build-the-wall campaign on December 28, he included this:
Here in Colorado we are being accosted by outsiders jacking up our rent, smoking our weed and using our preciously fracked energy. We need a WALL around Colorado to stop people from entering. In addition, I promise to use these funds to attempt to force out anyone who has moved here in the last 10 years in an effort to MAKE COLORADO GREAT AGAIN!!!
In the nine-plus months that followed, Hayden netted a lot of laughs and shares, but only $100 toward his admittedly lofty goal of $1 million. “Since Trump apparently is giving the green light on the Colorado wall, I may have to step up my efforts,” Hayden says now.
On October 28, Hayden posted his first update to the page in six months: “Good news, everybody! Trump gave us the GREEN LIGHT to build the biggest, bestest, most beautiful wall. Together we can MCGA!!!!”
Money was never the point of this campaign, though; Hayden always intended to donate the cash to charity, and said just that on his GoFundMe page: “This campaign began as a simple joke, but since it has ‘gone viral’ to an extent and received donations, this money will be put towards helping people, unlike the Trump border wall funds that only serve to divide us.” (In fact, shortly before Trump announced he was building a wall across Colorado, Hayden had refunded the contributors who asked to be reimbursed and given the rest of the haul to Ferret Dreams Rescue and Adoption.)
Instead of actually building a wall, Hayden’s goal was to build awareness of the idiocy of all the wall-building talk, which was then reaching a peak as veteran Brian Kolfage pushed his own GoFundMe campaign to give the government funds to pay for construction of a wall. After raising more than $25 million, Kolfage’s plan morphed into We Build the Wall Inc., an effort to build the wall privately that includes former congressman Tom Tancredo on its board. And in the process, Hayden took a few shots at transplants.
Some of Hayden's songs for his band, Television Generation, have done the same thing. As Colorado Public Television's Sounds on 29th, which aired an in-studio performance with the group on October 14, notes, "This trio captures the spirited restlessness of punk, translating that energy into a mechanism for storytelling. These rambunctious ones give a voice to the frustrations many musicians are facing right now in a city that is becoming increasingly unaffordable for artists." (The performance is so rambunctious, in fact, that "viewer discretion is advised"; watch it here.)
"Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats appeared on the show, as well as many other great local artists, so that was certainly an honor," Hayden says of the gig.
The band will be at Lost Lake Lounge on November 10 and has a new album that will probably be released early next year. It's also working with the members of local legend Dressy Bessy, says Hayden, who adds that "John Hill and Tammy Ealom are two amazing people who have been helping us navigate the music world beyond the local scene."
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And as for that world beyond the local scene, Hayden realizes that there could be the makings of a new song in Trump’s comment about the wall, even though less than 24 hours after making that blunder, the president tweeted that his reference to Colorado was made “kiddingly,” in a 47-word message that clarified absolutely nothing.
“I feel the situation is so bizarre, I really should,” Hayden muses. “I tend to need a lick or a lyric to come to me first, so it’s only a matter of time now that the idea is there.”
Just make it a big one that really works.
Update: This story has been updated from an earlier version published on October 23.