I’d learned about Marfa from an old girlfriend who grew up in West Texas. I’d had it safely tucked away on my list of places to visit and was finally able to make it out that way. After more than 500 miles from Dallas you’re really out there. As in the proverbial middle-of-nowhere out there. Abandoned houses, fenced in grazing areas, scrub brush and an old volcanic tableland were about all I found.
When I initially saw the town there was a mixture of possibility and disappointment, just like the relationship with that girl. Just like any place though, once you wander around town a little bit the latent photographic possibilities begin to reveal themselves. None so rich as the town’s quirky little trailer park called the El Cosmico. It’s one of those places that you’d absolutely love to run across half-way through a road trip, so that you could sit and pause a while. It was a great place to meet other travelers, like the Powell family from South Carolina who were on their way to Big Bend National Park, and you could easily stay for a while and write that book you’ve been dreaming about.
I awoke early in the morning and looked for scenes of everyday life in Marfa. A beautiful court house, an old theatre, and while not pictured here I was fascinated to see the office of the Big Bend Sentinel, one of those iconic newspapers that has lasted while others have jumped off the cliff.
For those who’ve heard of Marfa, you’ve certainly heard of the Marfa Lights. About 9 miles west of town on Highway 90 you’ll find a Marfa Lights viewing area. Sure enough, after waiting about 20 minutes they began to appear. The red light is not one of them, it’s a consistent beacon, but the three white lights to the right are the mystery lights. The come and go, they appear in different places, and in some photos I could see they’re moving about, leaving streaks behind. The native people in the region thought they must be fallen stars. Some believe they are glowing gasses related when methane is released from natural gas or petroleum hydrocarbons. I was content to let it remain a mystery.
More wandering around town led to more artistic people, like Sarah, a designer and art director from Brooklyn, who’d taken short respite from the big city in a great little AirB&B space on a boat.
I wandered the back roads and the front roads, finding old cars, technological relics from the past, authentic cowboys, and more old cars.
There was more formal art found at the Chianti Foundation, on poles in the desert, and finally in the newly iconic Prada Store (actually in Valentine, about 40 minutes northwest of Marfa). Marfa is full of wonderful surprises, and if you’re around Big Bend, or on the southern leg of a long road trip, it’d definitely be worth the drop in. I may just return when I put together that photographic book one day.