Marfa, City of Lights

When we stopped in Memphis, we met a couple who told us to stop in Marfa and stay at El Cosmico, a spacey tripped out trailer lodge, like a fancy hostel or outdoor hotel. In Austin, the opinions were mixed: Marfa is full of hack artists who couldn’t make it in New York and trust funders who are trying to build their Instagram following while running a boutique that sells $80 t-shirts; Marfa is a cool little town full of young artists who want more space to be creative; Marfa is boring and missable. Lots of conflicting stories about this small town, some from people who had never been there. I was most excited about the story of the lights of Marfa, bouncing, glowing orbs that bounce along the horizon line at night, at about shoulder height, inexplicable as all things of beauty tend to be.

We had a difficult time leaving Austin, having difficulty finding someone to work on our van, since it has East Coast rust. In fairness to the van, its rust passes all Pittsburgh tests; but Texas just wasn’t ready for us, I guess.

We got to Marfa’s light viewing area well past dark, and boondocked for the night. It was surprisingly cold, but there was a new moon and the milky way swept across us like a fever and we sat under it, unable to count stars but only subtract from them the planets and supernovas that pulsed red in the night. The lights themselves were much lower, and if they hadn’t been there since the Aztec people and possibly before, I would attest that they were headlights from an unknown road, people with flashlights out hunting too late and lost. But they are something else in the universe, undeterminable and possibly better that way.

The next day we headed to El Cosmico to find out about camping and to hand over the caramels our friend Emily at Betterdays Caramel Confections gave us to deliver to Brad, the maintenance supervisor and an old friend of hers. Brad and his friends were definitely the best thing about Marfa, and El Cosmico wasn’t what we had expected, but once we spend an evening at the local watering hold with them before cooking a meal at the outdoor communal kitchen, where no one came out to say hello and listen to music and drink with us, we got it: El Cosmico is a place for people who need their vibe constructed for them. Once that clicked, then the overpriced vintage campers, teepees, and yurts made sense; the vintage repurposed cleaning vehicle and the $30 incense made sense; the bountiful free fair trade coffee and soft jams and twilight glistering walkways and unused platforms all made sense. We appreciated the fairly affordable place to cook food and take a shower, and left town as quickly as possible, headed straight to Terlingua.

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