* * *
GET A LAY
OF THE LAND
* * *
After two days, six tanks of gas and an indeterminate number Diet Red Bulls, we finally cross into Marfa city limits.
(Marfa, Texas. Population 2,000.)
Up in the sky, a huge gray blimp heralds our arrival.
Boys: It's a spy ship!
Me: What? No, no, no. I'm sure it's some kind of art installation.
(Oh, the naiveté of the Urban Mommy -- of course I am totally wrong. We find out later it was looking for drug smugglers.)
Driving through town, we are immediately aware that this is no ordinary place.
(Yup. You read it right. Marfa, 2011)
Since there are going to be six of us in toto (the husbands are flying in the next day) we have rented a Victorian adobe house called "El Sueno" smack in the middle of town. It has a big walled garden, a separate guest house in back and is conveniently located next door to the historic Hotel Paisano, which is supposed to have the best margaritas in town.
(House info HERE.)
Sure enough, it isn't long after the menfolk land that they amble over for a pick-me-up.
(Leland and Piero at Jett's Grill, Hotel Paisano)
"Another round, please."
* * *
SOME COMMON QUERIES
* * *
"HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT?"
Here's three ways. Take your pick.
1. Marfa is a bouillon cube of art and culture in the middle of the high Texas desert.
2. If Marfa was a person, it would be a cross between David Byrne and Carrie Bradshaw and be best friends with David Cross and Carrie Donovan.
If I had to come up with a slogan, it would be --
"Marfa. Where everything feels possible."
beneath that vast blue sky are
all these insanely creative people doing insanely creative things.
"WHO LIVES THERE?"
Cool people like her.
(Waitress/shopkeeper/stylesetter. I became obsessed with the way she
safety-pinned her vintage dresses into these amazing couture shapes.)
(100% unadulterated cowboy)
uthor/raconteur/unofficial mayor Ken Whitley
with yours truly.)
(Marfa artist Campbell Bosworth and his wife Buck in their church/art gallery)
(Siblings Wilbur and Joy at the Saturday farm stand
"IS THERE REALLY THAT MUCH ART TO SEE?"
One of our favorite destinations was the Marfa Ballroom, run by the fabulous J.D. DiFabbio, which showcases the work of emerging artists. We found ourselves stopping by every day -- to take another look at their current show ("The World According to New Orleans"), to ask J.D. what was going on that day, and to find out who was meeting where for drinks. They're tapped in.
(Outdoor installation, Marfa Ballroom, 2011)
The other was touring the Chinati Foundation, Donald Judd's testament to the power of art amid nature. It's a soul-renewing experience.
" I'M A CULINARY SNOB. WHERE DO I EAT?"
Pretty much everywhere. This town takes its food seriously. As my friend Jeanne said on our last day, "We're definitely Marfa-tter than we were when we got here."
There's Cochineal, a Marfa restaurant with an interesting Manhattan backstory (click HERE). It serves simple rustic food and is especially popular for weekend breakfasts. We ate here three times.
There's the Food Shark truck, serving up Mediterranean food by way of West Texas. Crazy good. Try the "Marfalafel."
There's the Miniature Rooster, a culinary fusion of North Carolina and India, the two owners' homelands (I had grits and chole puri.) The tagline on their website says it all: "Small in stature, fierce in flavor."
There's Maiya's Restaurant around the corner from the Hotel Paisano. Moody low-key vibe, fresh seasonal food -- we were trés content.
There's the Pizza Foundation which sells a homemade watermelon-mint slushie that will have you immediately standing in line for another one.
And for coffee that does a brain cell good, there's no better place than Frama (120 North Austin Street). FYI, Frama is an anagram for "Marfa", hence their Scrabble-themed menu board.
"IS IT FUN FOR KIDS?"
My nine-year-old son said it was one of his best vacations ever. Maybe it's because he got to lay pennies on the track on the way to breakfast every morning...
...and then go hunting for them afterwards.
Or maybe it was the free outdoor screening of "Giant" that we were lucky enough to be in town for.
(Marfa town square, 2011)
Or driving out to look for the famous Marfa Lights -- and SEEING them! (Bright flickering orbs whizzing around in the darkness. Honest to goodness.)
(Actual Marfa Lights, 2011.)
Or the daily trip to the Dairy Queen.
Or hitting up Padre's for some late-night pool sharking.
"WHAT ABOUT THE SHOPPING?"
We didn't have near enough time to check everything out (for a complete list of stores, click HERE), but oh, we got some goodies. Favorite stops included JM Dry Goods for curated Tex-ican clothing and handmade Marfa soap...
...and The Wrong Art Store for sculptural wood pieces by artist Campbell Bosworth.
Check out this brilliant replica of the Marfa water tower he made. One smooth difference? His dispenses tequila.
A couple of years ago, Campbell "made" $2.5 million in drug money. This is all that's left.
Pick your stack up now.
"ARE THERE ANY DAY TRIPS I CAN TAKE?"
Lots. We went to the swimming hole in Balmorhea State Park and stopped in Fort Davis for a bite, but next time we'll be sure to visit the McDonald Observatory (and check out their "star parties"), visit the Chinati Hot Springs and drive through Big Bend National Park.
"DON'T LIE. HOW HOT DOES IT GET?"
According to everyone we spoke to, almost NEVER as hot as when we were there. (Did you know Marfa is almost a mile high? It's 4800 feet above sea level.) Summers are hot, dry and mostly dealable. But I'm thinking October through June might be the ticket.
"ANY LAST WORDS?"
Check the schedules of the big foundations like Ballroom Marfa and the Chinati before you go. They each have biannual galas and art openings with big-ticket performers (Sonic Youth played there recently), and apparently, those weekends are non-stop fun.
"ANY LAST, LAST WORDS?"
No trip to Marfa is complete without visiting the Prada installation.
(Prada Marfa, 2011)
* * *
These days, I'm happy to say there's a little bit of Marfa in Hollywood.
(Purchased at Ballroom Marfa)
(Purchased at Wrong Art Store)
(Purchased at JM Dry Goods)
But even better, I left a little bit of "A Bloomsbury Life" in Marfa.
(Prada Marfa, 2011)
Photo credits: Lisa Borgnes Giramonti, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Leland Orser.