Michael Goes West (Texas): Art & Aliens Marfa Edition

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We finally completed the long drive across nearly the entire state of Texas! After taking pit stops in Fredericksburg for breakfast and Alpine for lunch, we’ve really really made it to our destination, Marfa.

Oh you don’t know Marfa? Well, let me tell you, it’s a very weird place. Very. Marfa attracts both the yuppie and hippie art crowds as well as the extraterrestrial explorers. Isolation-seeking artists flock to Marfa to work on their macaroni-art masterpieces in seclusion, yuppies flock to think they’re cool view and purchase these works, and outer space weirdoes come to attempt to get abducted view the famed Marfa Lights. Don’t worry, I’ll explain this all in more detail later.

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Welcome to Strangeville

Upon arriving in Marfa, we head straight our hotel lodging. I’d say “hotel”, but that’s not really an accurate description for El Cosmico.

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El Cosmico

I’m sure your wondering what’s so strange about El Cosmico and why I wouldn’t consider it a hotel. Well, I usually think of a hotel as one large building with many rooms, but El Cosmico is more of a campground with permanent outdoor lodging options including yurts, teepees, and trailers. When we first heard about El Cosmico, we tried to book a teepee, because who wouldn’t want to come home from a trip and tell people they slept in a teepee? But none were available on the day we were staying, so we ended up with something completely different altogether.

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Teepee’s and Tents

Instead we stayed in this thing: The Branstrator!

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The Branstrator

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The sexy wood-lined interior

There’s a number of 1950s airstream trailers offered, each with their own unique idiosyncrasies. They each have their own outdoor porch and fully functioning indoor plumbing, but there’s one thing that really drew us to the Branstrator…

The awesome, ceramic, OUTDOOR bathtub. You’re damn right we used it!

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Hot Tubbin’

After getting washed up and ready for the evening, we headed out for the night. Marfa itself is quiet compact. I made dinner reservations at THE restaurant in town which was located only 2 blocks from El Cosmico. Because everything was so close, we decided to squeeze in one extra quick stop before dinner at the famous Hotel Paisano, just a block further, for a cocktail. This is an actual hotel unlike the place we were staying. Its claim to fame is that it’s where the legendary James Dean made his final film, Giant, before his untimely death.

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Hotel Paisano

In order to not be late for our dinner reservation, we stayed only for five minutes, enough for a drink. I keep it simple and had myself an Old Fashioned. It’s a classic and well made, perfect for the setting.

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Old Fashioned

We dash off as soon as the last drop is drunk and arrive at Cochineal just in time for our dinner reservation. A full review of our incredible meal is coming soon!

After dinner, we drive a distance East of town to check out the infamous Marfa Lights. Once we’re out of the car at the viewing site, we find ourselves in the black of night alone with a pair of townies hanging around drinking beers, waiting to spot the lights. We’re told that the lights look like glowing orbs in the sky out in the distance over the desert and that, yes, that they do exist. Well, I’m not so sure about that because the only thing I saw were a couple of guys hanging out in the dark near a men’s room possibly trolling for hookups. Do the Marfa Lights exist? Maybe, but I sure as hell didn’t see them.

Just as we’re leaving the viewing area, the rain picks up so we hustle back to El Cosmico for shelter. The rain doesn’t let up the whole night, so we lucked out having the trailer instead of a teepee to shack up in.

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The other trailers

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Some art at El Cosmico. I see what you did there, Mr. Artist!

The next morning we pack ourselves up, check out of El Cosmico, and grab a quick bite at the local, Swiss-owned cafe called Squeeze before trying to see the rest of the Marfa sights.

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Squeeze

I found myself drawn to their specialty breakfast of Swiss Knackwurst with Eggs and had myself a coffee to help wake up from the dreary rain. This breakfast is on the light side for me, but those thin discs of sausage are grilled really well and make for a satisfying start to the day nonetheless.

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Swiss Knackwurst with Eggs

Most people would argue that the most essential aspect of visiting Marfa is seeing the art. Unfortunately, both the famed Judd and Chiati art galleries were not open during our visit. You’d think it would be included in the Marfa guidebooks, but for some reason nothing is open on Mondays or Tuesdays. Go figure. Fortunately for us, the things we really wanted to see are don’t have opening or closing hours. Maybe you’ve heard about Prada Marfa installation or even the controversial Playboy sculpture?

At first we try to find Prada Marfa in town since it does in fact have “Marfa” in the name. There’s only like three roads in town, so we figured it wouldn’t be that hard to spot, but it was nowhere to be seen! Yelp had it positioned in town, but that was absolutely incorrect. I looked elsewhere online, found the actual location, and was stunned to learn that it was actually a 45 minute drive into the desert outside of Marfa, IN THE WRONG DIRECTION. Great. Well, we’re here, I guess we’ve got to do it.

We hit Route 90 and are quickly confronted by the controversial Playboy sculpture only five or ten minutes outside of town. This installation is a very new addition to the Marfa landscape and has been causing quite a stir in the media since its construction. Many people seem to feel that it’s a blatant attempt to put unsanctioned and unwanted advertisement on the road as opposed to the more subtle, artistic, political statement that the long-standing Prada Marfa makes. I snap a few photos before we race off through the rain to our actual destination.

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The Playboy Sculpture

I’ll admit, I was kind of annoyed that “Prada Marfa” is not located in Marfa. It’s actually 37 miles down the highway Northwest of Marfa, literally in the middle of nowhere, and is technically not even in Marfa. It’s actually in Valentine, Texas. As if Marfa isn’t remote enough for this piece.

Oh well, we made it to this very famous statement on culture and counter-culture. I think the message they are trying to convey has something to do with the peak of culture and fashion situated in the middle of the desert, the farthest thing from high culture. Maybe you’ve know of it from that time Beyoncé stopped by? Anyway, it’s a pretty cool looking sight since there’s literally nothing around it for miles. This is definitely the most remote place I’ve ever been.

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Prada Marfa

As soon as I finish taking photos, we backtrack to town then race off southward. Come back soon to hear about the next leg of our road trip all the way down south practically to Mexico to the Terlingua ghost town, Big Bend State Park river tour, and more.

El Cosmico
@el_cosmico
802 S. Highland Ave. Marfa, TX 79843

Hotel Paisano
207 N. Highland Ave. Marfa, TX 79843

Cochineal
115 W. San Antonio St. Marfa, TX 79843

Squeeze
215 N. Highland Ave. Marfa, TX 79843



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