It’s quiet here. There’s no traffic – hardly any cars to speak of. No trains barrel down the rusty tracks that cross through town. People enter buildings without so much as a squeak and the doors never slam. Even construction noise on the new hotel is muted – slowing the progress, maybe. On purpose, maybe, buffering its stark, glaring newness next to its crumbling neighbors. The air is calm but not still: a hushed wind lifts the lounging dust into a languid, casual ballet. It floats down San Antonio Street, twirling over the waving fingertips of grassy fields and settling in the small square yards of the town’s two thousand-and-some residents.
Marfa, Texas, is small to say the least. Her quietude is almost ghost-town worthy but she has a huge underlying personality – you just have to keep your eyes open. And listen.
There’s a small house on the corner near the post office with a large covered patio in the back. Its occupants keep the grill in the front drive, though, and the grill is always smoking.
There’s a man by the name of Ken who knows no stranger. He’ll befriend you on sight, a gentle hand on your shoulder and a direct but warm hello. He’ll tell you the history of his town and himself while you wait on the patio with him for his vegan organic food truck supper, calling out greetings and snippets of news to anyone who happens by.
There’s a magical place called El Cosmico. It’s an incarnation of a future dream we have – a bright, welcoming, inspiring space for travelers to come and sleep and be and take a break from the road for a minute. It’s southwestern and Hindu and chic and 1960s groovy all at once – radiant colors and cosmology blend with sweet incense smoke and the “pop” of opening Tecate bottles. And there’s free coffee in the mornings.
There’s art. Everywhere. Marfa is a town of artists – of creators. They manifest screaming, vibrant hues from a parched, monotone palette and create for the sake of doing so. There’s art in the dichotomy of tumble-down houses that sit across the alleyway from a new and shining industrial steel pizzeria. There’s art in the simply styled (hipster before it was cool) friends huddled on the patio of a locally crafted shop, complimenting the newly casted jewelry. It’s literally on the trash cans painted red, white and blue and tagged This Is Not Art. And there’s art in El Cosmico, who’s neighbor across the street is the always stoic, always watchful Border Patrol. There’s a contemporary art museum, too, and a minimalist space, a number of galleries tucked in unassuming buildings, and an Andy Warhol piece currently on display.
And there are lights. Mysterious lights that appear south-west of town, over the horizon after dark. They’re unexplained, but the people of Marfa have constructed a fairly grand viewing area so you can sit and watch and be part of the spectacle, and decide for yourself what you want it to mean.
We found Marfa by chance on our way to Big Bend National Park. After suddenly recalling the Prada Marfa art installment from 2005 we changed course – it’s totally picture worthy
Prada Marfa is a “pop architectural land art project,” and it’s quite the statement. It’s luxury on the side of a lonesome highway beaming with sunshine and surrounded by riches of dry brown dirt that catch in your throat if you gasp with too much admiration. It’s posh in a box, secluded and protected against the lonesome desert elements for all to admire.
After a handful of photos we stopped in town, just to check it out (and we needed ice cream). When we stumbled on El Cosmico we decided to stay and explore. The following day we decided to stay again. We’re glad we did.