Monday, March 24, 2008

Day 4 - leaving Marfa

Sunday morning, our last chance for a delightful Marfa meal. On our way out of town we hit Austin Street Cafe, and it's WONDERFUL! I forgot to take notes, but we had something called Green Eggs, and it was a crust-less spinach omelet-like dish, and fresh blueberry French toast, and some really wonderful coffee. It was a bright, chipper place in an old house with really friendly staff, and a lovely garden out back.

Alas, we must hit the road. On our way out of town we stop for a moment at the crazy Prada Marfa, an art installation that looks just like a Prada boutique - replete with shelves of shoes from the 2005 collection - and sits plum in the middle of nowhere near Marfa and Valentine. There's a great entry in ArtForum about Prada Marfa (and Marfa in general), just click here.

Also, a little slice of West Texas here...nothing like an open road and roaring wail of a train to make one homesick for Texas! Pardon the windy noise. And thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day 3 in Marfa

The next morning, everyone looks a little green as we rally back at the Brown Recluse, whose homegrown organic coffee is just what the doctor ordered. They were packed (thanks to us) and the huevos took a while, so we perused their selection of cool old books and bought some t-shirts. Everyone but us is leaving today, so people clear out quickly, and the newlyweds pack off to Alpine to catch the overnight Sunset Limited train to Houston.

Eric and I wander the town, it's still down season so it's pretty quiet, but we do find some galleries open, including Inde Jacobs, where we talk to one of the owners, Vilis Inde. He describes how much he loves living in Marfa, after time in New York in Santa Fe. It's a terrific little contemporary gallery. We stroll on and stumble on Yard Dog Gallery, the West Texas outpost of one of my favorite little Austin galleries. Chat with the gal behind the counter, a very cool chic who moved here from San Francisco to work at YD and pursue her video art. She, too, raves about living there. It's so interesting to think about the culture shock these artists went through, moving here from such huge cosmopolitan areas, and loving it so much!

Anyway, at Yard Dog I buy a couple of tiny nature photos mounted on 100% recycled barn wood by Rebecca Tolk, who shot them with a Holga. They're lovely, and only $20! You can buy them on her Etsy page at

Then, as we tend to do when we travel, we discover a great pizza place called Pizza Foundation. The pizza is so yummy, thin crispy crust, tangy sauce and tasty pepperoni. The frozen limeade rocks, too.

As we make our way back to the hotel, we mosey into the Presidio County Museum, a blissfully old-school and non-technological look at the history of the area, from fossils of the area to the lives of the Native Americans to the different sorts of barbed wire by ranchers. Good stuff.

After some chilling at the hotel, we decide to go for a drive. There are scenic drives all around Marfa, so we pack up a bottle of wine and hit the road, hoping to find a good sunset spot. Instead, we find ourselves meandering through Fort Davis, magnetically drawn to the McDonald Observatory (well-known for the home base of the NPR segment "Star Date"). It's about 40 miles from Marfa, and SO WORTH THE DRIVE! We're lucky enough to be there on the night of a Star Party - sign us up! We gather with a group of about 100 (apparently during the busy season it can be 1,000) at an outdoor amphitheater, watching the sun go down, the sky go dark, and the stars light up. It's close to a new moon, so the stars are really shining. I'm so happy to see the Milky Way again. There's classical music playing, and life is good! Here's a little clip.

After it gets pretty dark, and now that our eyes are adjusted a bit, a guy takes the microphone and starts telling us about what we're seeing in the sky. He has a really spectacular green laser pen, one so powerful that he can point out a constellation like it was a Power Point presentation. He shows us the Pleades (seen below, thanks NASA!), also known as the 7 Sisters, Cassiopeia, and so many others. It was so spectacular. He also pointed out something we'd never heard of before: the Zodiacal Light. Gorgeous! Everyone leaves the amphitheater and gets in line at one of five telescopes, each showing a different thing of beauty in the sky. The most amazing was Saturn - and its rings! It was crystal clear, it just felt like you could reach out and grab it.

What a great show that was! Drive back to Marfa (listening to Moby), stop for a drink at Maiya's, head back to the hotel and rent "Giant," (when in Marfa!) and stay away for about half of the movie. Life is good!

Next up: the journey back....

Friday, March 14, 2008

Day 2 in Marfa

Day Two, Feb. 29

Waken to a blazing bright morning, and join the night-before couples at Conchita’s for ridiculously yummy and cheap breakfast burritos. I decide I’m eating bacon at least once daily on this trip. Kate and Willy are amazingly calm for their wedding day – the notion that all their family members are ambling their way to this tiny town doesn’t stress them out one bit. That’s why we lurvel them.

A walk back to the hotel, a little washing up, a little marveling at how clean the air smells. Kate and Willy go for a stroll with Pat and Claire (how many couples go for random strolls on their wedding day? Again, lurvel!). Then Kate and I make our way back to Alpine to pick up her wedding flowers at Flowers @ 6th Street. The owner (Sherri, think?) is lovely and delighted to meet Kate, after all their phone conversations. The flowers are real purdy. Then Kate and I pop into like five nail salons to see if we can score a mani/pedi, to no avail. But it was fun looking, even just so I could announce to a bunch of strangers that Kate was getting married that day! Pulling back into Marfa we stop at the Brown Recluse for an iced latte, and speak to the nice owner, who moved to Marfa from South Africa (would love to know more of that story!). Kate tells me when returning here for breakfast tomorrow. She finally seems to be getting a little nervous.

Back to the hotel. I score cheap nail polish at the dollar store and do a really crappy pedicure on myself by the pool (with a Shiner, of course!). Family members start to arrive, most having flown to Midland and then driving three hours from there, and staying at the Hotel Paisano. Kate’s transformation from cutie pie to Amazing Hot Stuff Pinup Girl begins. She has the most amazing green dress with big hoopy thing, and ‘40s style hair and makeup. For a while we’re not sure of the whereabouts of the groom, but my husband is also missing so we assume they’re doing…something. They finally arrive, and it turns out they were wandering the county trying to find the wedding cake, which was baked by “Josie, a lady who works at the bank” who happens to live even further out in the middle of nowhere. But they did have time for falafel and hummus at the Food Shark.

We drive the lovely bride to meet her court at the Hotel Paisano, and much camera-snapping by the outdoor fountain ensues. It's also a reunion of sorts. I've known the bride and her family since I was six years old (!!!) and haven't seen any of them in far too long...I love that we are seeing each other again at such a special event in such a faraway place! So after the shutters stopped clicking, we walk around the corner to the Presidio County Courthouse and ascended its many steps to the cupola. What a great setting!

You can see the edge of Marfa in all directions, then the vast expanse beyond. The Justice of the Peace arrives, and what is her name? JUDGE CINDERELA of course!! She is Judge Cinderela Rice Guevara, and she's the loveliest little judge you ever did see. The vows that she read were so perfect for our dynamic couple, and brought us all to tears. It was so fantastic!

Back down the stairs we go, much more camera-clicking ensues all the way down the stairs, out the door and down the street to dinner. We forced the newlyweds to stand in the middle of the street to get some lovely shots of them in front of the courthouse. Then we make our way into Maiya's Restaurant and partake in margaritas (I like to call them Marfa-ritas) and another fantastic meal. Life is good (there's Eric and me, enjoying our 'ritas)! And here are my kooky friends, Scott, Sarah, Kate-the-bride, and Patti, the one who brought us all together back in the beginning!

After dinner, we're back at the Hotel Paisano, and stumble on an art opening at one of the hotel's galleries, the Greasewood Gallery. Lovely huge landscape photographs of the region by Richard Finker, and the artist and gallery manager so nice and completely cool about a whole wedding party filling their room and drinking their champagne. The Hotel Paisano takes great pride in its role in the classic film "Giant," and there are photos of Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson and the ever-gorgeous James Dean proudly hung. The whole town is quite proud of the setting of this and many other films, including the recent "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men."

So, back to the hotel for some outfit-changing (ready for sweaters and boots!), back to the T-lounge for another drink, then off we go again to the Marfa Lights Viewing Station, where the weird green and red lights entertained us while sipped Sofia Coppola champagne and devoured the yummy pecan/chocolate cake made by the nice lady who works at the bank and lives out in the boonies. I'd say it was one spectacular wedding day!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Three Days in Marfa - Day 1

It has already been two weeks since our journey to Marfa, TX, so before more time passes here's our Marfa experience, somewhat stream of conscience...

Day 1, Feb. 28
Fly into El Paso, rent a car, head East. Ten minutes from town is when the wide open space begins, along with the higher speed limit - 80mpg, which means we go 85. We're promptly pulled over by a highway patrolman with a striking resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones. He was real nice and gave us a warning, and I almost asked for his autograph.

The countryside is fantastic, especially once you pull off I-10 and onto Highway 90. To your right is the mountains that spread out to Big Bend, and on your left is grasslands and rumbling cargo trains. Decompression begins set in. Our driving CDs: Dave Brubeck, White Stripes.

Three hours after leaving El Paso, we're in Marfa, Texas, a town long on our to-visit list. Our friends Kate and Willy, who live in Houston, are so cool that they decided to get married in this quirky, funky, artsy, dusty outpost. It's pretty much just past the middle of nowhere in West Texas, but has transformed into a contemporary art mecca in the last couple of decades. To read more about the town's original artsy cheerleader Donald Judd and the Chinati Foundation, click here.

So we pulled into the Thunderbird Hotel, a stylish little modern hipster-type place opened by the folks who brought us the lovely San Jose in Austin. Kate, the bride, greets us in the parking lot, jumping up and down and clapping and looking as blissfully happy as a bride ought to look. Hugs, kisses, checking in. Lovely room, WiFi and ethernet, iPod docking, quirky gifties, etc. Made the mistake of not transferring to a room NOT below someone else (lots of noisy footsteps overhead), but real nice, nonetheless. Kate/Willy's romance package includes a great CD of funky love-related tunes, bottle of champagne, and pink christmas lights strewn on the floor. Very cute.

Kate and I enjoy a Shiner Bock by the pool (ahhh), then rally at the T-bird Lounge with the other early-arrivers Claire and Pat, another fun Houston couple. I have a Snake Bite, which here means Apple Cider and Plum Wine - YUM!

We shoot some sunset photos, then head 20 minutes east to the town of Alpine for dinner at the Reata Restaurant, which makes fine "Cowboy Cuisine," including amazing jalapeno cheddar grits and bacon-wrapped asparagus! We feel so special, having such an intimate night with the blushing couple.

On our way back to Marfa, we pull over to the Marfa Lights Viewing Platform. Much has been written about the Marfa Lights, so I won’t go into detail. But they are indeed very strange and cool and should definitely be on your “One Day…” list. It’s very chilly and windy, and the sky is so HUGE and clear. The Milky Way does indeed still exist! Melancholy over living in a place with only one or two visible stars sets in – as does fatigue from the long day. One more drink at the T-bird Lounge (music: Pixies’ Debaser), one more round of hugs, and off to bed. TK: Days 2 and 3...