Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Marfa Minute

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The drive to Marfa is the most intimidating part of the Texas art Mecca. With two 4x4 vehicles, four Yankees and three Texans it took us 9 1/2 hours, over $200 in gasoline and about 48 beers. By the time we rolled into town only a half-hour late for our appointment at the Chinati Foundation we had already squandered our best opportunity to see Donald Judd's vision for this little burg.

That it has eclipsed any major city's attempts to claim the art tourism crowd is a testament to the role of mystery in any religious experience. Appropriately, we honored the mystery by not visiting a single gallery while in Marfa.

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We stopped by Ballroom Marfa in the morning and a pretty Australian blonde let us know they wouldn't be open until April for Hello Meth Lab in the Sun. The galleries along San Antonio Street looked like bullshit hangers-on, filled with the navel-gazing artwork prevalent when rich women let their cousins and shopping friends believe they have an art career.

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The sun beating down was a harsh reminder of how dehydrated and drunk we were. Down Highland Street the galleries still looked like shit- or they were invite only (call for reservations) and it didn't seem worth it. Apparently Donald Judd's nephew is cashing in on the name with his architecture firm.

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The big 'ol pink courthouse sits in the center of town like a dollop of meringue. Around to the right we took a closer look at the old jail. An overly eager mover let us know that Texas A&M was moving out of the building and we could "go right on in". Too funny. That wouldn't be the last West Texan to let us a little close to their thought process. The steel rooms were heaped with demographic research. Upstairs old ballot boxes littered the floor around a maximum security cell, four walls of steel bars centered in a slightly smaller concrete bunker.

Inside the prisoner door were small crayon drawings. A giant bottle of booze sat next to a stoic pack of Marlboros, while many little people danced around a giant boombox- seems like the 80s were the last time anyone was locked up here.

There are so many bikes just leaning on doors and stoops in Marfa, without a lock in sight.

After a grass wildfire on the other side of town billowed black smoke into the sky we took a 'short' drive to Van Horn to pick up my brother off the bus from El Paso.

That night was cold and crisp as we took a walk into town to grab dinner. Since when does eight people walking down the road prompt someone to pull a dangerous U-Turn just to ask "Are y'all Germans? I thought you were Germans or Pollocks." and then speed away. We were still a little flustered two minutes later, when a white sports car wheeled around to ask if we were "...going to the show?" What the fuck is up with Marfa?

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Since the bulk of town shut down at 8 pm we were limited to the Pizza Foundation- which was some good shit. We brought in another batch of beers and bitched about basketball to the Bostonian chef who couldn't get enough of the Celtics. A rich New York couple came in for a pie. We found out that "the show" was an El Paso new wave cover band- hardly exciting news.

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After a trip to the El Presidio for last call (10 pm) we walked back by Copper, recognizable only from the element symbol Cu on a board in front of the half-finished restaurant. The place was full of high-schoolers and a couple of badly fake bikers searching for prey. It looked like shit. Luckily for them they were the only game in town, and after a few more beers we went back to see the band.

Hipsters gyrated slowly in the dark main room. A bunch of emo kids drank cool beers while we barged past the front door looking like hoosiers with pockets full of Bud Light cans. I'm not one to rock the boat in light of some too-cool-for-school attitude, but my compatriots were not having another minute of Morrissey covers. When a leather jacketed Boston mick wearing his baseball cap backwards started taunting the band the crowd reacted quickly with utter dismay- slinking out of the room, all the hipster oxygen was gone. What was Patrick yelling at the lead singer?

"Play something with balls!"

The skinny old guy was shitting himself. He lost his audience, his vibe and his cool little insulated Marfa crowd. Who were these dudes who went the wrong direction for spring break?

It didn't take too long for him to recover. First a Ramones cover. Then some Minor Threat. The room was drunk and sweaty and punk rock with swinging beers and shoulder-grabbing camaraderie. The band started switching instruments with kids from the crowd. Someone knew the drum line for Blitzkrieg Bop. A bass player emerged from the crowd in Chucks and a short skirt. An encore of "the first song I ever learned how to play on guitar" happened to be Anarchy in the UK, fucking sweet.

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On the way south out of town in the morning we drove by the Chinati. At least we saw it.

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On south to Big Bend...

1 comments:

Tom said...

great post, sean. very enjoyable.