Saturday, July 14, 2012

Marfa. I don't even know how I'm going to do this post. There's too much. Marfa is like eating a handful of sugar. Like painting your room hot pink and neon blue. I don't mean to say that Marfa has aesthetic qualities of abundance, quite the contrary. But for me, it aligns so well with my aesthetic preferences that it's like someone took my brains and made a city out of them. So I'm having this strange feeling of familiarity with my own aesthetics and distance from my insides as they are now externalized, which is not how I've ever encountered them. I'm sure none of this makes sense. I can't really comprehend it, which is why I feel so overwhelmed. But it's a good kind of overwhelmed. An awe and an appreciation. I love people who recognize the significant ways in which the aesthetics of an environment can greatly affect intellectual and creative energy. And Marfa is the headquarters of that kind of thinking.

I entered Texas on I-10 and drove past Juarez. That in itself was a strange feeling that set the tone for my impending arrival in Marfa. A fairly rich American city [El Paso] out my driver side window, a hill of dilapidated hovels [Juarez] out my passenger side window.  
Yeah, cause that's not a metaphor for anything in this part of the country... achem.
And then, as I'm driving down the nothingness of westbound 90...

This was all before I even entered Marfa city limits. Everything just got progressively, exponentially stranger after that.

I pulled up to El Cosmico, my "hotel," which is really just a bunch of beautifully painted and refinished RVs, yurts, teepees, and campsites. 

My trailer is called "Little Pinky" and it's got a full sized bed, a little kitchen with a sink and stove, a booth style table with hot pink sparkly booth seats, a fridge, and a closet. The entire thing is decked out with designer and artisan products like Dr. Bronner's soap and fancy mayan matches for lighting the three lovely hot pink candles that line the kitchen counter. Outside there is an outdoor toilet, which is actually really nice and exactly like an indoor toilet except that you can see stars while you pee. There's also an outdoor shower that is three canvas walls and a canvas curtain on top of a slab of very clean concrete. Showering there in the morning is wonderful because the water is cool and the sun is hot, and it's a perfect combination.

The main office is also incredible, filled with El Cosmico paraphernalia, colorful wool blankets, candles, and drinks/snacks for sale. It also has wifi, air conditioning, and excellent furniture, so I've spent this afternoon here. First chance I've had at real downtime since my trip started.

Here are some of the other trailers available:

The El Cosmico property, which includes a hammock grove and an outdoor community kitchen:

And if the Prada Store and El Cosmico weren't weird enough, there's the entire town of Marfa to contend with, which is saying a lot because it's a very small town of about 2,000 and there's only one major intersection. The town is half upscale New York/LA/Europe reminiscent galleries, restaurants, and shops, and half run down, abandon, crumbling west Texas architecture. There's a huge art tourist population here, thanks to Donald Judd, and then there are the ranchers and Marfa natives, some of whom are very disgruntled about the art and the subsequent tourism. I don't totally blame them. In exchange for great food and innovative art, there are also very high prices and too many hipsters to count. There's a special brand of hipster here though. Hipsters who want to get away from major cities, but who recreate the aesthetic feel of major cities in the process. Here's a taste of the town: 

There's a train that runs straight through the middle of town multiple times per day and night. I've always loved trains, but I love them less when they blaze past me, blaring, flashing, shifting the energy instantly, but only momentarily.  

If that's not enough info, here's a breakdown of my time here:

I arrived Thursday night and immediately went to Maiya's Restaurant after checking into El Cosmico. Had tasty pasta and the best whiskey sours of my life.
When I returned to El Cosmico, there was a live band outside of the main office. I watched them awhile before getting ready for bed. I lounged around for a bit, then, around 1:30am, I lay outside on my patio and looked at the stars. The Milky Way is brighter here than I've ever seen it anywhere. And there were plenty of shooting stars. Just another way that Marfa qualifies for the title of my heaven on earth.

Friday, I walked around for a long time taking many of the above photos. I ended up at a restaurant called Squeeze Marfa for lunch where I ate a goat cheese sandwich [mind-blowing]. They sell very expensive Swiss chocolate [$13/bar] as well as a variety of tea and coffee brewing devices. I bought a tea pot and some loose tea.  
After a long, relaxing, delicious lunch, I wandered more, took photos, and talked to a girl in this gallery:
Hit up Marfa Book Co., which is right next to the Marfa Public Radio station building. Bought Eleni Sikelianos' The California Poem and Satantango by László-Krasznahorkai.
A day out was followed by about an hour of downtime reading Satantango in the hammock grove at El Cosmico where I eventually fell asleep.
I woke up and realized where I was and that I was planning on going to a photography opening. This woman, Lesley Brown, was having a reception at the Hotel Paisano. I found two photos I loved and just had to purchase them.
After spending more than I can responsibly afford on photographs, I went to Cochineal, which is the best meal I've had in Marfa so far. On my walk there, I was followed by a cat. He stopped following me when I met some dudes who invited me to see their band at Padre's later that night, but then he reappeared at dinner and ate with me for a bit. At dinner, I met a couple from Switzerland and talked to them for about an hour about art, travel, my "job," their life in Europe, and their trips to the States. It was one of those perfect travel interactions where you meet people, learn about them, tell them about yourself, all the while knowing you'll likely never meet again. And in addition to that awesomeness, at one point my waiter walked up to me and said, "Do you want to hear how good life can get? This dessert is on the house. The guys in the kitchen told me to give it to you on us because they said you're beautiful and by yourself and you should have a free dessert."
Post dinner included a trip to Padre's to see the aforementioned band, Not in the Face, followed by a drive east out of town to try and glimpse the Marfa Lights. No such luck, but the lookout was star-filled and peaceful. 

Today was my big Chinati Foundation tour, which started at 10am, lasted two hours, had a two hour lunch break, then resumed for another two hours at 2pm. The following, in order, are the works of Donald Judd, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Of course none of these photos do the works justice. My favorite piece is Judd's Untitled (Concrete Boxes). If I could imagine the physical incarnation of ghosts, they would look like those boxes, always present behind the main buildings, haunting the fields at the outskirts of the property, never moving, but appearing as if they're moving as the day light alters the box's shadows. If I had acres worth of a backyard, and if Judd were still alive, I'd have him install the boxes on my property. 

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