Friday, December 14, 2012

Road Trip to Marfa

We finally got to Marfa not long ago.

Our friend Noam (whom I've known since his birth in Las Cruces in 1975, but who now lives in London) is there as a sort of "artist in residence" at a gallery run by some European foundation. 

We were there only about 18 hours, and most of the time when we weren't asleep we were walking and talking with Noam, shooting pool and talking with Noam, dining in a fancy restaurant and talking with Noam, or sitting around at the gallery space where we all slept. 

Nevertheless, I did shoot pictures, mostly while walking and talking, or at least walking and listening.
Marfa has a population of about 2100, and is very far from anywhere, unless you count Valentine, which has about a third of that population, or Alpine (the home of a team that plays against the Las Cruces Vaqueros in an independent minor league no one outside West Texas or southern New Mexico has heard of), or Fort Davis to the north on state highway 17 -- or Big Bend, which we'll visit next month, I hope.

Yet it has some galleries and restaurants you'd be more likely to find in San Francisco or London than in a wide spot on Texas State Highway 90.  My sister and brother-in-law have even read of Marfa in the New York Times.

Anyway, I carried my camera.
. . .

The last picture show flickered off here a long time ago . . .

. . . and this modern art is on the fender of a pickup truck
that left Detroit early in my childhood

On closer examination Marfa might be a strange place, with its mixture of artsiness and small-town Texas.  Noam lives in London, and the folks who run the gallery he's at are European; but when we walked passed the football field he noted that he'd attended a Friday night football game that could have come straight from the television series.

We didn't see much of the arty side, but thoroughly enjoyed the two bars in which we shot pool.  One even had shuffleboard.

We did hear the train come through at about two or three in the morning.

Saturday after breakfast we hit the road again, returning by a less direct route to take a look at the countryside north of Marfa.

Barely beyond the city limits we paused to photograph a distant windmill -- and noticed, as you can see in the closer shot below, the Border Patrol blimp that sits above a section of Highway 90 watching the border.  We'd passed under it the
previous day.  It must be an odd day's work, hanging around up there looking through binoculars, or whatever they do!

On the other side of the road, up a slight grade, a horse grazed on the horizon.   Later it seemed more elemental as a pseudo-painting than as a photograph, though. 

This was just hanging on the fence as we neared Fort Davis

She was a rancher's wife (and professor of mathematics) who
paused to chat with us when we stopped by the skeleton

Fort Davis turned out to be a strangely evocative little place, at least in the strong winter sunlight that day.  Trees.  Craggy cliffs overlooking part of the town.  More than a few old places, some of them in disrepair and some nicely done up for the tourists, with several looking as if they had interesting stories to tell.

Surrounding the courthouse, the constable, the court reporter, and other functionaries all had their parking spaces clearly marked.

The street then came to a dead-end at a cliff, and in that setting and that light the church looked so inviting I might have gone in and prayed awhile if it had been Sunday.

Then we made our way through town and out the other side, where Fort Davis itself -- the national historical site -- boasted a set of huge cottonwoods so old that they were roped off and a sign warned folks that branches or trees could fall at any time.

Fort Davis is in Jeff Davis County, in the Davis Mountains, but the pretty countryside more than made up for the local lack of imagination about place-names.

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