Not just deserts
Marfa, Texas, USA

But the sky! 




People talk lovingly about the Texas sky and I always thought it was a myth. But in Marfa the sky is, literally, the limit. For every interesting find, the sky will distract your attention upward, tenfold. Every sunset has to be photographed. Every starry night must be gazed upon in disbelief and wonderment at the other Clark’s fire pit. 

“And it’s super gay,” Clark assures me one night, as if this topic of conversation was the only thing that would peel my attention away from the stars. Getting a large portion of the town’s visitor traffic at his Airbnb, Clark was surprised to find how many guests were not only art fans and UFO junkies, but also Friends of Dorothy … in deeply Republican Texas. And Clark isn’t the only gay-owned-and-operated hotel business in town. The much more high-profile, El Cosmico, which was opened in 2006 by celeb hotelier Liz Lambert, is a ‘Glamping Ground’ complete with refurbished vintage trailers, TeePees, Safari Tent options and a “Sweet Do Nothing” manifesto.

“Oh yeah, Marfa has become the post-Coachella and pre-Burning Man, spot,” Clark assures me, with El Cosmico’s Trans Peco Music Festival. “Although… no one has ever brought a poodle with them, though.”

Eye roll.

The town is lit

Like a cartoon desert cliché, actual tumbleweed is known to blow across the road. But in Marfa, the tumbleweed would probably get collected, spray-painted pink and proudly displayed in a store window with fairy lights. Ranchers in cowboy hats would drive their pickups past otherworldly concrete boxes. On the horizon, a Blue Origin (Space X Rival) rocket is primed to catapult itself into the atmosphere. These are just small yet profound examples of how Marfa is more than a place, but the embodiment of expression. A mash-up of classic, Western Americana intersecting with art, science and the natural landscape has created an abundant ecosystem of living, breathing, collective oeuvres… and you can feel it. 

“My movements become highly intentional. It is as if I am part of something greater, like I am inside an art installation, being observed.”

As I hang out in Marfa, doing my best Jill Soloway impersonation with my reusable canvas bag from The Get Go (Marfa’s delightfully dinky grocery) over my shoulder; my movements become highly intentional. It is as if I am part of something greater, like I am inside an art installation, being observed. There is an eeriness to it all, though, a The Hills Have Eyes feeling. Which is not surprising as, aside from being in the general vicinity of Roswell, Marfa has its own unnatural phenomenon: The Lights. The mysterious orbs that flicker above the foliage and can move at lightning speed have been supposedly debunked by scientific circles as atmospheric reflections and/or human creations. However, they were first noted in the 1800s and have remained consistent since. Skeptics and phenomenon enthusiasts alike come to Marfa and – as fate should have it – the most popular viewing location is along Route 90 between town and the Prada store… or what I choose to call, Phantom Poodle Central. 

If I can’t get the best night photo of Prada Marfa, I will damn sure try to get the best sunset photo. Yes, I know; completely unoriginal, but hey. So after saying goodbye to the other Clark, I set out back the way I came along ‘the 90’ only to arrive at the Prada store, which was swarming with Hipsters, keen to get the same shot as I am. What is first annoying, quickly became heartwarming, as I watch a pop-cultural art installation bring so much joy to so many selfie-taking, fedora-wearing foreigners: art, architecture, and nature coming together to form a coherent whole. As I stand, waiting for the perfect moment to take my own picture, the group starts to sing in unison, “The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.” 

Right then, some tumbleweed blows across the road, with a piece of paper stuck to it. 

“Oh my god, grab it!” I scream, interrupting the poor, unsuspecting Glampers. They all stare in shock as I chase after the tumbleweed like a possessed maniac into the sunset and Chihuahuan desert. I don’t catch it, but I am pretty sure it was a ‘missing’ poster for a lost Poodle.  

For more on Marfa, Texas, check out www.marfachamber.org or www.visitmarfa.com.

If you fancy exploring the rest of the Lone Star State, www.traveltexas.com is a great resource.

Photography courtesy of Travel Texas, Hotel Saint George, the Lyda Hill Foundation Forms, part of Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Creative Commons and via Unsplash

Get out there

Do…

… take an expedition with Rangefinder West Texas. It is the most luxurious way to see the National Park that nobody really knows about.

… try and get to Big Bend National Park; it is close by and has a classic Americana West feel.

… send a postcard. Hotel Paisano has a wide selection of Prada Marfa postcards that everyone loves to collect.

Don’t…

… eat lunch before 2 pm. Most restaurants close early so your only dining options will be  Subway or Dairy Queen. This is when you realise you’ve left the big city.

… forget to take antihistamines or allergy medicines. Desert flowers and dust can cause major allergic reactions, even in those who don’t usually suffer from allergies.

… speed. Cops on Route 90 are generally unoccupied and may be so bored that they will pull you over just to have a chat.