Marfa is a peculiar place. If I were just passing through, I doubt I would be inclined to stop. Marfa doesn’t stand out among the numerous other small west Texas towns, yet has a quiet and artistic culture all its own.
I have been wanting to take a trip to Marfa, Texas for a short while now. When I heard there was talk of tearing down Prada Marfa, I set planning in motion. Taking the six-hour roadtrip from Austin didn’t seem too long, considering the airport nearest to Marfa is three hours down the road.
Anthony was on board with the trip as soon as he found out we could stay in a teepee at El Cosmico and bring Nola, our dog. We might have made a different decision had the weatherman predicted that it would be a blistering twenty-five degrees while we were there… Thankfully, the queen-sized bed in the teepee was outfitted with mattress warmers, so we stayed toasty, as long as we stayed in bed.
Our first stop in town was Pizza Foundation, and it was the best food we ate all weekend. Businesses in Marfa have weird and limited hours. Pizza Foundation, for example, is only open Thursday through Sunday. Other places are open only for lunch, or are open for dinner, but close at 7pm. And then, there is the Latenight Grilled Cheese Parlour in the Museum of Electric Wonders where you can get a gourmet grilled cheese only from 9:30pm until 12:30 or 1:30am. In many other cases, it was indistinguishable whether a business was closed for the day, or closed for good.
After driving the wrong way and then course-correcting, we found out the the infamous Prada Marfa is not in Marfa at all. Rather, it is in Valentine, Texas, about 30 miles down highway 90. Prada Marfa is as odd and charming as it looks in all the pictures. On the way back to Marfa, expect to get stopped by U.S. Border Patrol.
Anthony and I grabbed a drink at Jett’s Grill in El Paisano Hotel, where James Dean, Rock Hudson, Carol Baker, and Elizabeth Taylor stayed while filming Giant. The hotel opened in 1930 in anticipation of an oil boom that never happened. In its glory days, El Paisano was called one of the grandest hotels between El Paso and San Antonio.
Artist Donald Judd, whose work can be seen in modern art museums across the nation, including the MoMA, the Fort Worth Modern, and the Blanton in Austin, moved to Marfa from New York City in the 1970s. His work remains a large part of Marfa’s history and culture. Anthony and I visited Judd’s Chinati Foundation, built on the old military Fort D.A. Russell.
We tried to visit the The Wrong Store, and even called the number on the hand-scribbled note they placed on their door saying, “We are here, call xxx-xxx-xxxx.” No answer, but gawking at the hand-carved door and peeking through the windows still put me in a state of wonder.
Before leaving Marfa, we stopped at Boyz 2 Men for some mediocre $4 breakfast tacos, which would never fly in Austin, and at Frama, for hot chocolate. I loved Frama’s Scrabble letters menu.
Unfortunately, we did not even attempt to see the Marfa Lights. Visibility was terrible with the bone-chilling weather.
Marfa was a a pleasant change of pace from not only my normal city life, but also from the pace of a typical getaway.