Random Erik

Ramblings on Cartoons, Music, Pop Culture and Whatever

Mystified in Marfa

Marfa. I still can’t get my head around Marfa. Which probably accounts for the mystique around the place. Part art colony, part Fortean destination for the mystery lights, part dusty old western town and, apparently, part performance art piece to befuddle tourists. Buildings, without any signs indicating what might lie inside, could be art galleries, stores, or buildings abandoned by people who forgot to lock the door.

If it sounds like I didn’t like Marfa, you misunderstand me. It’s just that there’s a sense that it’s a town that relies on tourists but doesn’t want them around. Or, as Maggie and I decided, the place is an inside joke we’d stumbled in to.

The note we got from our lodging company was excited to announce a restaurant with a great menu had re-opened but failed to mention that it had closed again, possibly the next day. A “must-experience” Sunday-morning only cafe (held in the owners’ house) presented a “closed” sign well after opening hours. A check of the calendar (yep, Sunday) and the cafe’s website (no mistake about the hours) led to a phone call. “We only do that on the first Sunday of the month now” is the response. Soon, they will open and close at random, playing a game of cat-and-mouse with breakfast-hunting out-of-towners.

I got the feeling that the locals know these things through some mysterious osmosis, the same one that let’s you know that a charming but unsigned and abandoned-looking building is a theater. Sometime late on Saturday playbills go up and a mixed crowd of locals form an orderly queue. On Sunday morning, the playbills are gone and the building becomes an enigma once more. Perhaps it will house a concert hall or a dog-racing track next week, or perhaps it will sit empty until the wind changes.

We did discover Padre’s, a really cool bar that served really good food. We enjoyed an evening on the patio drinking, playing classic pinball machines and listening to a band warm up for a dog-charity benefit. And I watched an older long-tall cowboy guy hitting on a hip young bartender… an awkward and oddly touching interlude ended when she escaped to take my order.

We also did our laundry in what surely should be the business plan for all laundromats: a big room full of washers and dryers connected to a coffee and ice cream shop. I’d probably take my laundry there regularly even though we have a fancy new washer and dryer at home.

One thing that really sticks with me? Lots of people there ride bikes, and pretty nice bikes. No one locks their bike, though, they just prop them up when they reach their destination. There’s something comforting and safe in knowing that there are still places where you have confidence your bike will always be just where you left it.

Click the thumbnails for bigger pictures.

4 Comments so far

  1. Nick Ramos on October 24th, 2010

    That’s the #1 place in Texas …that I want to visit. Will get there eventually!

  2. Annie on October 26th, 2010

    Not a bad description of my home town. You should come back and spend more time here –

  3. Lynn on October 29th, 2010

    We’ve been to that area so many times, but always by-passed Marfa. Guess I was afraid we’d see Marfa Lights and have to move there and set up our RV for life– with a big sign about “yes, it happened to us” on it….. But now that I know I can do my laundry there, I think I’m game…

  4. Louise on June 12th, 2011

    We hit Marfa last December returning from Big Bend. A sleepy little oasis of a town. Presidio Hotel adds a dash of historic elegance. Then caught a lightshow of the Marfa Lights-pretty cool. Wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. (If you go, bring binoculars, but you’ll still be intrigued…)