Magic Marfa

26 04 2021

So the rest of the drive from Sedona to Las Cruces was pretty brutal. I was in great spirits luckily with a lot to think about and a great playlist. I spent a good deal of time “downloading” song ideas. They just kept coming for me it was crazy. Don’t worry it’s totally safe to do while driving 80 MPH. I have a large pad and I just scribble. I don’t look at the page at all. I don’t think it’s always coming from my brain so I have to write it down. If you take a drink from your coffee on the road it’s similar.

I drove and drove and drove some more. Stopped for gas at a Circle K and something about their coffee station I just love…

I totally forgot that I’d be entering a new time zone when I got to New Mexico. I cheered as I crossed this new state off my list. Upon entering I saw a sign that said “Dust storms may exist” I found it such an odd way to say it. Like are dust storms going through an existential crisis? As I pondered the sign a ton of individual signs announced what to do if a dust storm were to exist and you happened to be driving through it. Pull over, turn car off and foot off the brake. I think they forgot a crucial step… pray. I’d be terrified on the side of the road waiting for another car to slam into me. I do remember my high school drivers ed teacher telling us if we had to pull over keep the car in neutral so the car has less resistance to the one that slams into you from behind. You shut the car off so the cars behind you don’t think you’re in a lane… he also told us to always get out of the car on the passenger side, even if you’re the driver so I take his guidance with a grain of salt.

So I pummeled down the road as darkness descended. Fast speed and passing tons of trucks along the way. I’ve noticed how they move and on these long inclines and grades it’s important to watch all of them interact and adjust accordingly. If there’s someone pulled over a truck will always want to get into the left lane. If you see two trucks too close the back one will likely need to pull left because their speed is too high. Just all stuff to be constantly aware of.

The crazy thing is this, all this processing, controls the part of my brain that overthinks, the intellect Jasmine was speaking of, and when that happens I’m free to have the creative side open up. It happens when I have a long drive. This was 8 hours plus.

Luckily I wasn’t tired just kind of over the tedious part of the drive when suddenly a big 3×3 cube appeared out of nowhere! It must have just fallen off a truck or just been hit by a car because it was like an explosion of gray dirt or cement or feed raining down on my car like the ash of Mount Vesuvius and making it impossible to see the road or what was ahead. Meanwhile I had to swerve to hit it as I was going fast this caused the car to shimmy back and forth six times until it regaining the grip of the road (thank you Subaru AWD). I just kept my eyes ahead looking at the headlights as I was pummeling through the dust, couldn’t slam the brakes because someone may have been behind me, but also couldn’t possibly know if someone was in front of me or where the road was going, or how long I’d be in this cloud and suddenly I was birthed out the other side. Shaken but intact. I’m so grateful for my ability to be calm and get through unscathed. So after this harrowing ordeal another few hours drive.

At about 10:30 I got to Las Cruces only to find I’d booked the hotel on I25 not I10. I’d had no dinner, no restroom since Sedona, one coffee and was now on fumes both personally and in terms of gas. I also had a piece of sand in my eye on and off for hours. All I wanted was my room. Got gas and bought two pieces of cheese to supplement another in room avocado and potato chip meal.

By the time I got to the hotel the sand lodged in my contact became unbearable and so I popped it out and held the rigid gas permeable lens in my hand knowing I have no replacement. At the hotel the associate could not find my reservation. I had to pull up the confirmation. Then the advertised “contactless’ checkin and phone activated room key meant I still had to show an ID, actually hand over the credit card which I’d already booked with and then sign a Covid waiver and then write my car make and model down. I’m still holding the damn contact in my hand! And oh was I hangry.

So it was not my best night but I got the contact safely back in my eye.

I usually boycott Walmart but the next morning I headed in for some supplies and eye drops to prevent more contact lens mishaps. Loving on Nantucket we have no chain stores so A superstore like that was overwhelming! At checkout the receptionist asked me if I was heading back to California and for a moment I answered yes, lol. I corrected myself and told her actually I’m heading to Nantucket. She knew it! She and her mom read romance novels so she knew Elin Hildebrand’s books! She was super sweet, Bethany.

So since I had such a short day planned I opted to head to Hatch, NM home of the famous Hatch chile peppers, just a quick 40 mins to the North, out of the way, but close enough. As I drove in I was greeted by kitschy huge signs and a big man holding a tiny RV. The town is tiny too… very quickly I came across Spanky’s, the restaurant where Kern McNutt told me I should go. I’d forgotten his parents are living around there! But I knew he knows Hatch so. Before I knew it I was outta town so circled back and decided to first do some shopping.

One of the stores that caught my eye had gorgeous bunches of chilies drying outside and bags of them for sale. More chilies than I or The Hungry Minnow could ever use! When I entered the store I was struck with the intense smell of the freshly ground peppers and spices. Lots of Mexican handicrafts and kitchen items. So I loaded up on everything the Minnow could possibly need! Cumin, oregano, ground green Hatch chile, extra hot Hatch red chile powder So excited to be able to shop and not worry about how to get it home. That said the car is getting very full! The guy at the shop complimented me on my Spanish, so I was proud. The place is called Grajeda Farms.

Went to Sparky’s to get the green chile cheeseburger, fries and a half sweet half regular iced tea. Luckily I got in just before the crew of Harley Davidson riders or I’d have had a much longer wait… but Sparky’s has all sorts of cool stuff to occupy your time including large sign and icons from old restaurants. So vivid and bright, unfortunately not the beat time to take photos, the sun makes it hard. The burger was huge and had piles of chiles and cheese sauce all glommed on it. So tasty. The best part is the grease of the burger and the juice from the chiles combine underneath the fries and drench them in spicy liquid.

Then it was on to one more shop for a few more pepper strands and hit the road. Stopped off in El Paso at the El Paso Connection which is an enormous endless warehouse full of Mexican imports, artesanias, furniture and the like. I was able to restrain myself enough to not purchase too much, so I just got a few hearts and stars that I can paint.

The road seemed so short with only a 5 hour jaunt. That said I lost another hour to the time change. Makes you wonder how time really works when you cross an imaginary line and you “lose” an entire hour. Time is stretchy, in my opinion. If you’re doing what you should do and enjoying it and are present you don’t feel it passing, I’d think most of us can agree. Like when I’m scalloping or playing music or with someone who I can connect with on a deep level. Time flies. I’ve found on the road 8 hours is nothing like 8 hours not moving. It seems faster somehow…

Once you get off the major road and onto 90 East it’s a whole different kind of experience! No more huge trailers dragging their loads, just one lane in each direction and a dotted yellow line. For the first half hour I saw not one car. And no one was behind me for the majority of the drive. So incredible really!!

Off to my right the sky was cloudy and striated and to the left it was blue and clear, me zipping right down the middle of two weather patterns. Dust devils were forming and swirling like little dancers flitting across the dry ground. They were bigger than I’d ever seen. I wanted to take a picture but there was no where to take one and they were so elusive they seemed to be ghostly in their impermanence, appearing from nowhere and then disintegrating into nothingness. I thought of ghosts in an attic rattling chains for attention, these haunting dust spirals that touched the clouds and connected them to the land were like that. I found myself almost transported into another dimension in this unique and desolate landscape, nothing up ahead and nothing behind.

I was struck by the intensity of the scent emanating from all the spices mingling in the car from the warmth of the day. Suddenly it occurred to me, “I am steeping in the incense of my ancestors.” I felt suddenly the symbolism of this. These were the ingredients my Abuelitas used, they would have ground them themselves and made log cooked stews with them. They probably smelled like this. I recorded this fleeting thought so I would not forget and seconds later came to a grinding slow down as a woman in an orange bikini top and jeans roller skated down the middle of the road, her friend taking video of her in front of the Marfa Prada store art installation. I ground to a halt just after the store so I could take some photos and observe a black dot on a cloud. After a ton of photos it was back on the road to find the black spot become a weather balloon. As I drove down this crazy barren highway into town I was struck by a song in a song on a CD I’d randomly pulled from the heap in the seat next to me and now, Talking Heads Road to Nowhere was playing. Funny also because my album title is “Road to Know Where.”

The town of Marfa is super small, not as small as Hatch but small. I tried using intuition to find El Cosmico the hotel my friend and travel writer recommended, but had to resort to Google. It was good to get the lay of the land though and I saw some great murals. A tip if you’re driving around Google maps doesn’t seem to work here, lol. I’ve been doing U-turns all over town.

Pulling up to the hotel I saw a bunch of tents and campers and entered the gift shop which was decked out with great merch. They even had a Topo Chico tshirt, Topo Chico is my favorite Mexican mineral water. I had just picked up a bunch at my last gas stop. The stuff is great. I wanted every shirt I saw, one with mushrooms on it, one that said Manana. So I was next at the counter and there they have these amazing serape inspired duvets and robes. Stunning the color combinations, and pricey $180!

So I’d opted for a small trailer. El Cosmico rents everything from yurts to teepees to trailers of all sizes and types. They also allow overnight RV parking and camping. I was told I’d be staying in #23 Lil’ Pinky.

Wow was I glad to be here at daylight. It was just amazing. Hammocks are hung all around the trees in little groupings. There was a kitchen with a refrigerator and cooking utensils and stove and such. All open air with counters and high tops and chairs. There was a bandstand where in non Covid times no doubt the music must be great. Then all the campers were spaced out with porches facing the bandstand and there were little platforms also all in a semi circle facing the bandstand with its sun motif.

I approached two small pink trailers not knowing which one. No numbers on them no names and I had a key… I told myself I did actually know which it was, the one on the left and used the key and voila. The cutest trailer ever. So comfortable, just ideal. They’d redone the counters in a orangey red and there was a perfect little diner table with seats reupholstered in Mexican blankets. The bed had that beautiful serape duvet and four fluffy pillows. A two burner stove, fancy new stainless steel fridge and a sink with a fancy slice of yucca soap and some pure Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap and a teeny sponge for your dishes. There were three candles with the fanciest compostable matches from Mexico. A fan, cutlery, can opener, corkscrew, paper towels, French press and coffee and AC unit. Absolutely everything you’d need and in the closet two of the fancy robes to use! The deck connects the two trailers and there’s a shared toilet and an outdoor shower. It was magical. I had everything I needed!

I headed to town to hit the Waterstop restaurant that the front desk person said was really great and got steak frites and a beer on the early side because I wanted to go and try to see the Marfa lights phenomena. The place was super cute and I was able to get some writing done. Headed back to Pinky and was debating going to see the lights, it was kind of overcast and I just wanted to hang at the hotel, but at 8:20 I headed on out.

There’s a viewing area outside of town, just ten minutes away where people gather to see the lights. Off in the distance mostly on the horizon these lights dance. They combine and separate and combine again like square dancers at the county fair. They started to come out as dusk fell and became stronger as the darkness deepened. It was cool but I’m not sure what to think. Could it be explained? Probably, but it seems that logic has no business in Marfa. The lights aren’t hurting anybody and they’re not scary so who needs to explain them away? It’s fear that tries to paralyze us, over-rationalizing when magic is truly all around us. We just don’t want to see it, so we ruin it, we become seers (and see-era) with an adult eye rather than child’s eyes… we judge and worry and hem and haw and say oh what if? Then list for ourselves the litany of ways the shit could hit the fan, and so we don’t dare. We don’t dare ourselves to let go of what if’s and just DO. I’m all about this concept of doing, the magic will take care of the rest. I may sound crazy, I know, but I feel amongst my people here, just a little bit crazy enough to know if I can dream it I can make it happen.

After the initial spell with the lights was complete I watched for a bit more. I met a guy named Matthew, he took a photo of me, he’s heading west from Toledo, Ohio, nice long road trip. I asked him to take my picture and we became FB friends. Fun to meet others whose journeys are different yet so similar at the same time. We agreed that traveling alone is great because you can change course in a breath. Change your plan, stop wheee and when you want. Again, funny to think that our paths should cross here in Marfa. Will I meet Matthew again in the future? Why did our paths intersect here and now? Are all these connections meaningful or are some just random? So many journeys all intersecting and so I’m trying to read into whether there’s a message in every intersection or just some.

After leaving the viewing area I took one look back from an area near where I parked and the lights seemed more active from over there. I watched for awhile in the dark. It was utterly dark with the almost full moon, but there are few street lights so as not to not interfere with the viewing, I heard someone in the gravel and realized it’s probably not the best to stand there alone at night staring into the night. I mean I’m not crazy right?

Side area viewing off the platform.


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28 04 2021
Michael Harter

What a voyage!

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