Friday, October 17, 2014

Can We Please Not Be Perfect?

I’m reading this great book by Brene Brown called Daring Greatly. She’s a celebrated TED presenter who researches and writes about shame and vulnerability. The point of her book comes down to connection—it is the thing we are hard-wired to seek and to thrive by. But we only can achieve this when we have the courage to be vulnerable and to open ourselves. The title comes from a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, which in part reads:

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. 

As someone who has chosen courage as my value, I applaud Brown's work and agree with her very thoroughly researched findings. And it’s interesting that now I have this in my mind, I’m seeing evidence of her theories and signs of how we humans deal with this subject.

This week’s High Country News features a cover story on author Charles Bowden who wrote much about dark and violent border drug wars, on one hand, and transcendent nature on the other. This posthumous profile was written by Scott Carrier of Running After Antelope fame, no stranger to the provocative intersection of darkness and light. The quote from Bowden that got me:

“‘I’ve always felt alone,” he says. “I have a consciousness that separates me from other people. I’m an animal, full of lust and desire. If people knew who I really am they wouldn’t like it.’”
Carrier writes, “I’m thinking that’s how we all feel, sometimes, but never say it out loud.” (Me: Oh crap! Do lust and desire excommunicate me from humanity?)

And then today I found time to watch Errol Morris’s moving portraits of three Nobel Peace Prize winners. All are inspiring; please make the time to watch these. The most interesting to me was Bob Geldof because I felt very connected to his story as he was living it. Opposed to Lech Walesa’s cheerful and undying faith, though, Geldof presents a picture of self-dislike and doubt: “There’s parts of you that you wish were other…the endless flaws…you can work with them, work around them, use them…” And then he talks about the need to act in concert with others to get things done, the paradox of individualism—that we are only powerful when we engage as community. His success in the Band-Aid/Live-Aid effort came from engaging multiple levels of community. I’m struck by the video of the Band-Aid recording session with stars like Simon Le Bon and Bono being completely joyous and without guile in their participation. Geldof did wonder at times if he was making a fool of himself, but he was compelled on anyway to help the people for whom they were raising money. I think in the language of this conversation, he dared greatly because the cause was bigger than himself. And in the end he tilted the world on its axis. “The world is not immutable,” he says.

So what am I to make of people who did great things yet who dislike and put down elements of themselves and fear what people would think if they knew the truth? Brown says that this is where our true work lies, in finding a way to reveal ourselves and in providing those closest to us a safe place to reveal themselves. This is the work of our lives, to dare greatly to be seen as our true selves—whether it is in personal relationships, creative endeavors, or even saving the world. The risk of failure seems immense, but only if you count accomplishment and production as your measure of success. If your value is courage, if your measure is courage, then by being courageous you are already a success.

Let me just call out something in that previous paragraph: "providing those closest to us a safe place to reveal themselves." I've been practicing recently (unbeknownst to my kindred guinea pigs) recognizing and being open to holding space for people's insecurities. If this is the world I want to live in, how can I be the person to be trusted, to be tender, to be non-judgmental? Bowden compares himself to an animal. We are ALL full of lust and desire or our own version of that—the icky, weak, shameful, hidden parts. What if we didn’t have to be afraid of those because we acknowledge them in ourselves and hold a loving place for them in others? To be clear, Brown doesn’t want us to share those out loud with everyone; she recognizes the downside of oversharing. But what if we accepted that everyone we meet has their own assortment of painful imperfections, and we accept that in ourselves? And what if we cultivate those people with whom to form mutual trust over the icky, weak, shameful, hidden. Endless flaws, yes. And endless possibilities for courage, creativity, compassion, and connection.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

October...OK

September hit hard this year, partly for all the reasons I don't like this time of year: fading light, death in nature, entrenched memories of the dislike of school and impending poverty of winter. And partly because another season is changing and I'm still stuck in Colorado, stuck in my job, stuck. And the yellow leaves seem to mock my dreams. (Gratitude to a trip to Tucson and wonderful friends for seeing me through September)

But with the turn of the calendar this past week I'm doing better. One factor is that I've been reminded how great a benefit to my life is meditation, and I heretofore hadn't been able to meditate in my little basement room--just not getting into the groove here. With another load of stuff in my car now, however, ready for next week's Marfa trip, the room is getting pretty spartan and I have rearranged my meditation space. And it worked. I've sat on the cushion nearly every day the past week.

Another factor was spending yesterday outside. It occurs to me that something my 8-year-old self and probably my teenage self took for granted was being outside. That's one thing I loved about my Independence, California, life: the amount of time outside. Ironically, my Colorado life has not turned out that way. I am in a city; I cannot drive ten minutes here and climb a mountain without another soul around for miles. But yesterday I did my best and drove nearly two hours to climb a mountain with 30 or so other people on a perfect October day.

The aspens up top were done, leaves shed. But I passed a few on the way who were hanging on. And the view up top revealed a few gold and orange patches among the evergreens.



A note about my hike: I am in embarrassingly poor condition. Maybe by my atrocious performance--yet diligent and determined and ultimately successful--I will be inspired to get out more. I cut myself some slack because it is hard here: there are so many people everywhere. So many people. Everywhere.

And now I sit on my lazy Sunday in some friends' sunny kitchen, taking advantage of laundry and a crock-pot in their absence. I'm reading a Brene Brown book about courage and vulnerability. Thinking of courage, it came to me earlier this week that I have favorite quote about courage and it should open my book. Yes, I am slowly preparing the novel I wrote last year for a limited self-publishing run. It is nice that the book I'm reading today affirms my top value of courage. The quote I've long connected with: "Where there is no joy there can be no courage; and without courage all other virtues are useless." Cactus Ed. (Doesn't that seem right for my book about courage, titled The Encyclopoedia of Useless Things, and featuring a character named Alkali?)

Autumn, for me, takes courage. Fortunately I have a whole string of twinkling lights of joy, including a poem for fall. As the season exerts itself, I'm reminded of the value and diligence of the dark months: of writing and other endeavors.

And I have decided to revisit my Christmas of two years ago and have an extended camp-out in Big Bend--just me and the stars and the javelina--over the upcoming Christmas/New Years holiday. Something happened on that trip two years ago that set me on a new path, something wonderful, something that makes me believe in magic.

Until then, the Kingfisher, myself, and the penultimate load head south later this week for the grandest party that Marfa throws each year. I expect nothing less than to be amazed. I think that is a result of courage, that at this stage of my life, I seem to have an unending capacity to be amazed.

L'chaim, October.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Not Having Children

I read fairly recently, maybe in a NY Times op-ed, that our musical inclinations are set pretty early in life and we don't deviate too far from them as we age. This point was also made in an interview I read with filmmaker Richard Linklater about soundtracking Boyhood. Thinking about music and about Boyhood makes me think about the assumption I've long had that a person learns things by being a parent that you can't learn any other way, valuable things. But now I see the freedom I have had and yet have to learn other things, game-changing and deep, that take an amount of time and selfishness--not better or worse, just different.

I find new music all the time, unencumbered by the target age. New artists and also new genres. And, having been reminded at the age of 35 that it is my birthright to play music, I learned to play guitar. And mandolin. And ukulele. I see an accordian in my future.

Someone told me recently about a high school friend who made a teen-aged bucket list which her parents then held her to--in a good way. This prompted me to revisit my high school dreams--rock star, writer, fame. Fortunately I quickly let go of fame because that would be horrible. But it occurred to me as I was discussing this with a friend that in my own small way I am a rock star and I am a writer. You might understandably argue that it only counts if others outside my immediate circle know this to be true. But I would argue that it is in the doing and not in the recognition. How poor would we be if the total of our accomplishments was measured in what we get paid for? No, if I do it I can claim it. If in my youth I had been a pragmatic dreamer and wished to be a financially successful, published author, then I would still have a ways to go. But I simply wanted to be a writer. And I am. I write.

Now that doesn't really answer the question about the big thing that I should be learning instead of what one learns being a parent. Maybe it's enough today to recognize and celebrate that I have a track record as an adult who can change and grow and incorporate the new. There is no turning over that function to my next generation. My evolutionary role is mine alone to define, and therefore malleable until my dying breath.

From recent conversations: 1. There is no deadline, no expiration, no end until the end; 2. What you learn from being a parent is how to be a parent; 3. Find a way to be who your 8-year-old self or your 15-year-old self wanted you to be. The poet suggests that what I want is to live as gently as a book, while I am here. Before I am carted off.

I am in search of tenderness, maybe gentleness. Maybe that is the last thing among the others: rock star, writer, gentle warrior using my powers for good. Maybe after a lifetime of learning how to get lost, I can learn how to be found. Best get to it.

And finally, after some cogitation, I can do more toward being a rock star and a writer. So I will spend my beautiful weekend working on the book publishing and practicing my guitar.

February Seventeenth

Now that I am empty
I want to feel the weight of life.
Now that I am alone
I want a room with people.
Now that I'm dressed
for the coffin's slow ride
I want to live as gently as a book.
Now I say       when I have no now.


(more from Saint Friend, see previous post)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Saint Friend

This is the title of the new volume of poems by the dazzling poet I met in Marfa in March. It’s beautiful: buy it. I knew I needed it even before I saw the serendipitous cover. After I met the poet I wrote him a letter and described my take on the title: that the longevity across space and time of my best friendships makes them feel like saints. My friends are saints to me, for their value, sometimes even feeling miraculous.

I ordered the book a month ago, but it just arrived this week. The timing, turns out, was perfect—a suggestion of a vessel of words to begin to contain my overwhelming richness of friends, of very imperfect and irreplaceable saints.

         …Tomorrow I see the Vasa,
a ship inlaid with so much gold it sank
a few meters into its journey. It was raised
from the water some three hundred and thirty
years after its descent into the silt
and had a museum built around it.
The voyage sallied forth in all its beauty
and finally became a treasure. Just like
your life or mine with its quiet, dark room
holding a golden boat. A destination
different than expected. So many paths.
So many apologies. So much gratitude.


Also in my letter to the poet, I closed by saying that if he already knew too many people, I would understand. I already knew too many people, but not enough who would sit at a bar with me and talk about how we interpret the world through words. And it’s true that I often feel that I know too many people. But I’m thinking today that it takes knowing an awful lot of people to find the ones that are truly one’s own: those who will hold your struggles and those who will stick around through all the mistakes we make, horrid and amusing both.

The timing of the book’s arrival is especially poignant this week. I should clarify, I never heard back from the poet. That’s OK: it was a perfect gem of an experience, a connection. This week instead I reconnected with two other men I’m grateful to call friend. One lives far away and has been a long lesson in moving beyond mixed messages and disappointment to caring deeply for what a person can give. We share an intermittent correspondence in the exploration of how we open our souls to the richness of this life. He once talked me off a ledge, and I hope I help him too.

The aforementioned ledge is related to one of those mistakes I made with the other friend who paid me a visit this week. I’m sure I’m the only one who recognized my small act of impatience and an unkind word as a horrid mistake, a betrayal of trust. Well… This friend has been a confoundment to me as well, and largely I think because having known him many years, most of our connection has been through correspondence. But we keep at it. This visit, of laughter and music and simple stories, confirmed a shift on my part to a long-term friendship—the settling in of not wanting more than that, the blossoming of something more tangible. It is when the reality turns out to be better than any fantasy, even when the reality is more prosaic. It is laughter in the dark.

David Brooks writes in the NYTimes today about adult friendships. If he had 500 million dollars, he would spend it developing tools to cultivate friendships. Friends think through problems together, make us smarter and funnier, allow us to be unguarded, promote mutual admiration, and give us the pleasure of feeling known.

Some of my long-term friendships have been easy, a natural outgrowth of shared interests. This is mostly the case with women, although time and distance are natural editors of friendship. The ones who remain are priceless. But with men, Rob Reiner was pretty spot on: sex gets in the way (or be generous and call it romantic interest). But then this wonderful thing happens when we get past that in whatever way we get past that, which admittedly can be painful. And out of it comes something patient and tender and astonishing.

                                    …Saint friend,
carry me when I am tired and carry yourself,
let’s keep singing the songs we don’t live by.
Let’s meet tomorrow. We don’t have to wait
until the holidays. The distance is long,
but it is nothing...


(yes...)

*Just to continue the theme of coincidence: I used the term crepuscular in talking to my visiting friend. Don’t you use crepuscular all the time? Find ways to use it in sentences? There it is on page 21 of Saint Friend.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Feast of Grasshoppers

The Plains lubber grasshopper appears to be taking over the roads of west Texas. This giant, flightless insect came to my attention last year when we found them at the Shafter cemetery.

This trip, I noticed the highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive, as it were—presumably males of the species blind with the lust of the season not unlike the tarantulas I expect to see soon. My favorite stretch of road from the Guadalupes down to Van Horn was that jammed highway, impossible to avoid hitting them. I stopped to take pictures but they move remarkably fast, the living anyway. And I also then saw lots of birds along the roads that normally are unseen or seen not on the roads: many roadrunners, meadowlarks in the road, shrikes on the fence lines, all come to feast on the bounty. The land giveth. The land in monsoon season giveth absolutely.

Now imagine ten of them in the visible section
of road and that's how it was at times.

 Yes, friends, another long weekend in Marfa. Where I too had a feast of a different sort. Always the food, yes. And fun. And now, more and more, the people. Stayed with Mary Lou and Chili and we performed our symbiotic dance: I encourage her to events and activities and she introduces me to her wonderful friends. I met Jim and Jim and Byron this time. I met Gory making me drinks at Maiya’s. Saturday I went to Fort Davis for their event and caught up with Bill in his living history outfit. I chatted with Dedie and Lonn who were taking it in from some folding chairs in the shade. I met a couple of camels and visited with their handler. Later I stopped in the Marfa Book Company and visited with RC and admired Alex's exhibit of photos taken on full moon nights; I was able to compliment Alex in person. That evening Mary Lou and I went to hear gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis speak at a fundraiser. Got a spontaneous hug from Cindy and a warm handshake from Daryl. Saw Jean and Richard for whom I picked up an Ikea faucet some months back. Met Tom from the radio. Ate Krista’s delicious catering. Offered a volunteer day to Buck. Later, we walked over to a place with music and watched the stars. Because we were still hungry, we walked across the street and got a late night grilled cheez from Adam, sat outside and chatted with some folks. On the way home, we didn't see Marfa Lights but we did see Boyd Elder. Next day, we sat in the shade at the Marfa Lights festival and I heard about Joe L.’s recent vacation to big cities and complimented Joe W. on the fun event. We listened to music of Primo and Beebe on the stage. Later, walking home, I passed Primo and told him how much I liked his show. He smiled politely. Then I complimented his facial hair—best in west Texas—and I got a high five. I don’t know if there’s a word for it: a mustache that reaches all the way to his sideburns and is long. Oh look, a picture. So Primo high-fived me: cool. We finished the weekend with Chinese food and classic SNL on a bank of ancient television sets at another Adam food venture, the place that’s always closed…except when it isn’t. Saw some of the same folks again, as if I were a local or a regular. Like I were at home.

Not that everyone in Marfa knows me, at least not the real me—maybe my doppleganger. I had two different people in two different places mistake me for someone else they know. The man at the Get Go asked me if I was the woman from Lubbock? No? Well, let me tell you…And he told me a story about my twin from Lubbock who was hired by the city of Pecos to do a rebranding campaign for the city. Well, folks, if you’ve never been to Pecos there’s no need to start now. Though rodeo was born in Pecos, Texas, this is a town whose time has come and long gone. I believe “armpit” is the kind word that is used to describe Pecos. So this man at the store told me to remember this: no matter how hard or unpleasant your job may be, at least you don’t have to try and rebrand Pecos. That is kind of funny. I’ll keep that in mind.

And that yet again reminds me of identity, a topic on my mind this summer as it is an important piece of the new novel. And I’ve had a correspondence recently with a friend about this…probably me sorting out what I’m trying to write, and a little bit is my friend sharing thoughts from the vagabonding nature we share. So I read over the weekend an article in GQ Magazine about a man who lived 26 years in the Maine woods as a hermit with no human contact until he was finally caught in one of his regular non-violent house break-ins looking for food. The article’s author got to know him and interviewed the reluctant speaker in prison.

"But you must have thought about things," I said. "About your life, about the human condition."

Chris became surprisingly introspective. "I did examine myself," he said. "Solitude did increase my perception. But here's the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn't even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free."


The author really didn’t buy that answer (GQ after all), but I find it to be completely profound. “I became irrelevant.” I think part of the vagabonding for me was this hackneyed thing, “to find myself.” Except that it’s true; I did. So did this hermit. I found myself and found myself to be light. He found himself to be irrelevant, which I can see the appeal: no need to define myself. But in the end I have decided against irrelevance. I wrote to my friend recently that what I crave now, in deciding to move to Marfa for presumably ever and following the writing, is commitment—which I think is the opposite of irrelevance. We become relevant because of people to whom we make a commitment. I am choosing to believe, in the end, that there is something more important than freedom. But I wouldn’t deny anyone the right to make a different choice.

It’s not black and white; we do a bit of a dance. To live among the stars, to live among people familiar and strange and rude and kind, to live between the leaf and the cloud, with grasshoppers on an August highway, broken heroes looking for love. Yes.

See Mary Lou's cool pix and her own story of our weekend here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Plan Comes Together

Which is a thing to love. So I had this idea a number of months ago--not an original idea but my own take on some art I saw. At the Chinati Foundation in Marfa they have many repurposed Army buildings now containing art. And as I've mentioned, I really don't get most of it. But dang! if there isn't one building with words, my kind of art. An artist named Carl Andre in a way made sculpture with words. And one of them sort of tells a story of Charles Lindbergh, except it's like the words of the story were all thrown up in the air and reassembled as they landed. It made perfect sense to me because I have read Lindbergh's books and know his story.

So I was describing this exhibit to someone, and I called it the Charles Lindbergh Magnetic Poetry Kit. And an idea was born. I've been making sheets of magnets, and today my sample display boards arrived. They are a bit crowded. I need to decide if they are too crowded. But I'm so Holy Crap! thrilled that it works. You see I have a dozen. It's meant to be an installation in some future hallway of mine. That's it. No big production line.

And in all fairness, I need to add an Anne Morrow Lindbergh kit. An evolving project, like my Marfa Lights cigarettes. And today, it came together.





Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mind Blown // Marfa


One thing about Marfa: it’s never boring. Even on a weekend in August after the film festival and the music festival have blown out of town and monsoon rains fill the sky with clouds and even the taco man decamps (de-airstreams) for civilization, without much effort small glimmers of enlightenment abound for those who see a prism in a piece of broken glass.
 
Last weekend was that weekend. After stuffing my west Texas storage unit full to bursting and doing a load of rainy morning laundry, the sky cleared enough for a walk out my favorite dirt road into a cacophony of birds and insects in the rain-swept grass, clouds as sculpture out among the distant mountains. Much abloom and in wet scent as I spent a couple of hours just walking, mountains in view, town in view, breathing.
 
Then I went back to the campground and found my favorite bathtub vacant and the campground quiet. Lovely bath under the grape vines. Then lunch at Comida Futura where the excellent chef Krista—reputed to be the hardest working person in Marfa (although competition is stiff in that category)—reliably serves great vegetables, needed after the road food diet of string cheese and beef jerky. Ran into folks I knew at lunch as I read through, for the first time since completion over a month ago, the first draft of Novel #2. Later after an afternoon of exploring I got a message from Mary Lou to come on over for wine on the patio. Turns out she was expecting to host me. Shared time with some of her delightful friends. 
 
Saturday the real human brainpower magic happened. We went to a roundtable presentation about the premiere Donald Judd installation at the Chinati Foundation100 untitled works in mill aluminum. The works are suffering from leaking roofs, lack of climate control, and animal issues such as bat urine. Because of these threats, the installation has been placed on the World Monuments Fund 2014 Watch List. The roundtable presentations included:
  • The executive director of Chinati gave an opening overview.
  • The US representative for the World Monuments Fund gave an overview of his organization and their Watch program that highlights resources at risk around the world and how this Donald Judd installation fits into their scope.
  • Lonn Taylor gave a history of the Fort D.A. Russell Army base that Judd purchased after it was decommissioned and repurposed for art, including a detailed history of the construction and original use of the two large artillery “sheds” that today house the installation in question.
  • The associate director of Chinati and longtime colleague of Judd’s talked about and showed drawings of the conversion of the artillery sheds from Army use to their use to Judd: replacing rows of garage-type doors with windows, adding a Quonset hut roof to the buildings, and in general re-envisioning the space as the vessel for the aluminum works—and the essential act and philosophy of bringing the landscape outside into the work as experience.
  • The conservator of Chinati then spoke about the condition of the building and its impact on the aluminum works: water damage, insects and bats that leave traces, and damage to the fasteners (I want to say rivets but that’s incorrect) that hold pieces of the aluminum together.
  • Next an architect that specializes in historic preservation described the assessment that he has done and recommendations for building improvements. His recommendations came in three categories: water management, climate control, and building structural integrity—or some similar wording. Water management has to do with the leaking roofs which have evidently always leaked. Options range from replacing the roof to keeping it but redesigning the gutters and adding a sloping layer above the original roof and resloping the ground around the buildings. Climate control focuses on two activities: replacement of the original single pane glass with double pane UV coated glass and the installation of an HVAC system. Noise concerns were mentioned. And a big concern is the impact on the visitor experience if the coated windows diminish the indoor/outdoor landscape immersion experience of a visit. Elements of the buildings’ structural integrity impact the ability of snakes, birds, and other critters to get in and do physical damage to the works.
  • Finally a conservation planner spoke about the current thinking in museum and curation circles about how we balance conflicting needs in conservation. How do we remain true to an artist’s intention when the artist never planned for the needs of longevity?
The individual presentations were followed by a lively question and answer session.
 
We ran out at the end to get to our next event, a poetry reading by Lannan resident Roger Reeves. I met Roger briefly on the 4th of July when I was last in Marfa. He has had a productive stay in Marfa and shared how welcome the community has made him feel. He read some new works and some from his book King Me. And along the way, as he grew emotional reading one of his deeply personal poems, it occurred to me how easily I slip into my protective veil of privilege—forgetting that I have one and forgetting what it means to live outside it. And so I had a lot to contemplate on these issues of race, privilege, and hair. Yes, Roger has glorious dreadlocks. I admit to some locks envy. Do I need to grow mine back? Roger himself was glorious and gave us lots to think about, both through his poetry and his appreciation of community. I did lament, however, that he was not here during the school year. Kids in public schools need to hear these poems, these stories, these responses, these ideas. But in addition to being a poet, Roger is a teacher so he has many opportunities to share his messages.
 
In a poem about(ish) a dead mare, but really about Emmitt Till:
 
This horse must lie, eyes open,
amongst the stones and fresh water
crawfish in Money, Mississippi,
listen to the men’s boots break the water
as they drop a black boy’s body near her head,
pick him up, only to let him fall again 
there: bent and eye-to-eye with her 
as though decaying is something 
that requires a witness

In the end, I understood that even though I don’t really “get” Judd’s aluminum boxes and I forget to look outside myself much of the time, there are great minds with knowledge that feeds me here. A myriad of ways of experiencing the world are constantly on display and up for discussion—and not just esoteric art, although that is part of it because it may be the most mind-expanding way of all. But also, immediately recognizable ways of experiencing the world that maybe I hadn’t thought to put together in that way. Pushing, stretching our complacency to a bigger world view that has very practical applications in our lives. All free on a Saturday afternoon with catering.
 
Some results of the monsoons:
 


 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hotels I Like

Just spent a very full work week in Tucson where I had the good sense to book myself into the historic Hotel Congress in the downtown area and across the street from the train station. Not everyone, I'm guessing, enjoys a hotel room with no television, a rotary phone, and requisite earplugs. I, however, do.

And I realized, chatting with a man next to me at dinner one night, that I have recommendations for similar hotels in many towns. He recommended a place in El Paso--where he was headed this week to take his wheelchair-using father to be awarded his high school diploma seven some decades after the father left school early to join an all-Mexican-American unit in WWII. I then recommended the Hotel Paisano in Marfa, and we chatted about the 442nd and other wartime segregation issues, and cool old hotels.

I've also written previously about the delightful Murray Hotel in Livingston, Montana. These are not swanky, grand historic hotels. They may have been back in the day. Mostly they are decorated like Grandma's house and located in train towns. Usually they are cheaper than the modern options. And they are invariable in interesting parts of town near the good restaurants--and parking can be problematic. In short, I suppose, they are not the easy choice, but they have their charms.

A few of the upsides of the Hotel Congress: an incredibly comfortable modern mattress; multiple dining options in the hotel complex, including a terrific breakfast/lunch cafe in the train depot; good/weird wall art. So while it's always good to come home, it's fun to find a good hotel that has the things I like without the things I don't.

Hotel Congress, Tucson; Hotel Paisano, Marfa; Murray Hotel, Livingston. 




Almost forgot the Hotel Nipton in the Mojave Desert, mere steps from the train tracks. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mountain Lake

Somehow in my obsession with the sparsity of the west Texas landscape, I'd forgotten how satisfying I find a hike to a mountain lake. Could be the challenge of trying to see the nature through the people. I forgive myself. And I remedied it today with a trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike to one of the easier lakes, although not the easiest--I made my fitbit happy.

My motivation came from my friend Courtney who with her husband is hiking her first Colorado 14-er this weekend, weather permitting. I recall that there was a year when I hiked a couple of California 14-ers. Rebecca Solnit writes of summiting, Mt. Whitney specifically--my last and best 14-er, ten years ago this month: "When you've risen for an hour or more, you see over the range to the next one, and the desert landscape keeps getting larger and larger, until you're looking across basin after range after basin into the distant depths of Nevada. You realize that no matter how much terrain you cover there's far more than you ever will. Mountaineering is always spoken of as though summiting is a conquest, but as you get higher, the world gets bigger, and you feel smaller in proportion to it, overwhelmed and liberated by how much space is around you, how much room to wander, how much unknown."

I also had the more pedestrian pleasure of hiking to a number of lakes in the Sierra Nevada. While nothing compares to the view from Lone Pine Lake, where the far edge appears to tumble straight off into the wide blue world, I think my favorite was Muir Lake because it was relatively easy to get to and relatively unvisited.

Today's hike began in rain which the volunteer at the shuttle station said would blow over, and it did. The trail wandered me up and over a small hill in a pine forest to a small lake surrounded by forest. A few rocks along the edge provided seats for visitors. I had a snack and watched dragonflies in the reeds. An unidentified brown duck dabbled.

Because the park has an efficient shuttle bus, I was able to return by a different route, a much steeper downhill through aspen and flowers with a view across the wide road-and-river-traveled valley to Long's Peak and many others.

Then home and errands and traffic and pavement and people. Days like this make me miss the Owens Valley with the wilds and the desert and the burrito without the blasted city. But I am happy to see so many people enjoying our national parks. The parking lots were full, we waited in line to board the shuttles--but once on the trail, there was plenty of room for all of us. And I couldn't begrudge the hollering children at the lake. My God--the great outdoors--who knew it could be this good, this much.

I came back through the Big Thompson canyon where so much was lost in a flood last September to the real world where much was lost yesterday. I feel like I am waiting for things--which I hate and find inevitable and unavoidable. For today, though, the waiting room raced my heart and smelled delicious after the rain and felt a little smaller in proportion to it all.








Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday Happiness Report

Things Interfering: rain ad nauseam, the feeling of stuck.

Things Helping: another job to apply for, jalapeno-cilantro pesto on my carne asada, latest McMurtry saucy heroine, work trip to Tucson next week, it’s my Friday, friends, dreams of Marfa, driving through Old Town in the morning on my way to work with folks out sweeping sidewalks and delivering goods and enjoying the morning air, knee socks and boots.

Well all right then.

Marfa train.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Coffee and Magic


So I mentioned the frustration/wonder/random magic that Marfa can be—and nowhere is that more evident than as a volunteer for the Marfa Film Festival. The deal is that you do some shifts and get a free pass to the movies. And the deal is also evidently that your shift will never start or end at the prescribed time and you surely will not do what’s listed as the duty. Sometimes that means cutting limes for three hours. But one day it meant that I suggested I get my ukulele out of my car and I sit out front and play some songs so that passersby knew there was something going on inside the poorly signed venue. Magic. I even lined up a second gig which didn’t really come to pass. Nu conteaza.


The festival itself stunned me, so many good films you’ve never heard of. A few highlights:

Boyhood: This is the new film from Richard Linklater which follows a family, and particularly a boy, over twelve years. And the unique concept of this film is that he actually filmed the same actors over the course of twelve years. So we watch the boy grow up, and the changes in his family and parents over that time. The concept is brilliant, but also the whole movie feels like an important emotional journey. It’s a long movie that ends when he goes to Sul Ross State University and goes on a hike with new friends to the Big Bend area. I really, really loved this film. One funny thing is that Charlie Sexton plays his father’s buddy. I haven’t seen him in a long time and he still looks great, but he looks old. We’re old. We all got old. That too is one of the messages of the movie, an immersion in the passage of time. On top of it all, it’s a bit of a postcard from Texas: Houston, San Marcos, Austin, Big Bend. This is the one movie that I know will play theaters and I can’t wait to see it again.

The Last 40 Miles: This is a short film about a man riding in a van 40 miles from his prison to the execution location. It is a perfectly realized gem of a movie showing the atrocious miscarriage of justice that is our justice system. This, along with another film of similar theme and films of other societal wrongs, contributed to the emotional rollercoaster of my week. In a good way.

The Color of Pomegranates: This 1968 silent film by a Soviet/Georgian director about an Armenian poet was accompanied by a group of live musicians who performed a score. CocoRosie was the duo of sisters joined by a couple of local musicians¹. This screened at the outdoor venue the first night and then in the theater my last evening in town. I don’t even know how to begin to try and describe it, except to say the second time it made me weep. Weep. The movie was weird with images of orthodoxy and sheep and chickens and rugs being washed and other things of another era and another place which might have been like Romania and might have been like Turkey and might have been like art. The music was voice and cello and flute and recorder and guitar and piano and was very much like art. And it was maybe the most beautiful thing I’ve experienced in quite some time. And I thought how much I love my life. It was that good.

Lambing Season: This short film was good and I enjoyed it, but it really stood out because the name of the producer is the name of the daughter of an old friend from years ago. She was maybe 13 when I met her nearly 20 years ago. Ack! More old! Bravo to her.


And I met a couple of guys who have been to the Transylvania Film Festival in Cluj the past two years. How funny. Ce faci? Bine.

In addition to the films, I had a wonderful time staying at my friend’s house. We visited the pool at Balmorhea one day—the largest spring-fed swimming pool in the world. So we get lots of little fish. Heaven. And one night we went to an opening party of a new Food Shark² restaurant endeavor, followed by music at Padre’s with ML’s friends. She introduced me to the newest poet in residence and ribbed me: I know you like those Lannan poets. Just the one, actually. But I had a nice chat with Roger. He said something interesting about grace which I thought about for a long time on the way home yesterday.



And so another visit to Marfa has come to a close, and it was a particularly rich visit with the highs and lows I’ve come to expect and welcome. It rained heavily the two evenings before the festival and then the nights of movies under the stars were perfect. There was coffee and there was magic. There was quiet and there was cacophony. There were tacos and fried chicken and goat-milk soap and topo chico. And as always there was the sky. The sky, the sky, the sky.

 

One last story, because I have written here before about coincidence. In my Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit writes about coincidence as evidence that you are living your life as you should--by letting go into the stream. Coincidence means life is aligned. So last night I was catching a rebroadcast of Vin Scelsa on my satellite radio. Vin was having his own coincidence of having played a song with a reference to a Nicaraguan boxer on the same day, unknowingly, the said boxer, then the mayor of Managua, took his own life. In the subsequent conversation with a guest singer, he played me Snowin' on Raton. I know, I know, everybody's always playing Snowin' on Raton. And I'm always driving over it. No big deal. Except I guess it means I'm where I'm supposed to be for now.

¹ Another truism of Marfa: we have the thing we do to make money, the thing we do that is our passion, and the 3-5 things we do that contribute to community. In this case, my Manhattan-mixing bartender is really a musician who sat in with CocoRosie. My contributions to community this time were volunteering and singing some songs.

² Hungry People (ode to a Food Shark)

This is for all the hungry people
Thinkin’ the Food Shark passed ‘em by
Don’t give up until you eat from the silver truck
Marfalafel in the sky

This is for all the thirsty people
Thinkin’ the Food Shark left ‘em dry
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver truck
You’ll never know until you buy

Well I’m on my way to the tables in the shade
Well I’m on my way back home

This is for all the hungry people
Thinkin’ the Food Shark passed ‘em by

Don’t give up until you eat from the silver truck
It’ll never let you down or it’ll never give a f---
You’ll never know until you buy…

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Loveliness of Morning

Morning comes late to Marfa, out at the far western edge of the central time zone. So I can sleep in in my comfy guest room at Casa Mary Lou. Then enjoy coffee and meditation on the back porch facing south with a great view of the Marfa watertower on which the light is constantly changing and always beautiful.

Marfa mornings are anything but quiet. With our days in the 90s now, all creatures take advantage of the cool: black-chinned hummingbirds at the feeders, house finches and curved bill thrashers pecking at the oranges ML puts on posts, three kinds of doves waking up, boat-tailed grackles in the neighbor's yard, and a mockingbird who has learned a distinctive ringtone that confused me at first but now just impresses me.

Cars go by on the streets but I can't see them past the corrugated metal fence that contains ML's beautiful gardens. The dog and the cat have the run of the wonderland. I hear the spray of the hose that makes it all possible.

And the trains, always the trains. They run all the time and indicate a truism of Marfa: to be happy here, to succeed, one must take Marfa on its own terms. It's not perfect: it's just perfect for me. The trains are predictable, all else may not be. And while sometimes this is frustrating, sometimes it is wonderful and occasionally it is lovely beyond comprehension.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Home/Sick

A hundred things remind me of my Owens Valley life, but probably nothing as much as this time of year and the approaching 4th of July holiday. When one lives in a town named Independence, the bar is set very high. Last year I was in Marfa for the 4th and in great relief that the town does nothing.

My first summer in Romania I was terribly homesick on the 4th, the day we all were required to throw a picnic party in a park for our host families. It poured rain. And I was homesick. And a couple of very thoughtless Romanian Peace Corps staffers insisted that I focus instead on the wonderful new memories I was making. I couldn’t explain to them that I was not some 20-year-old away from home for the first time. What I was mourning was not just being away but the loss of home. This was the second year after the fire, the first year after the flood, and the first year of the rest of my life not living there. If that sounds overly dramatic, you try riding out a holiday in the pouring rain in a foreign country and get back to me on that.

July 4th in Independence includes a barbecue and nighttime dance party in a park where I once had the wonderful experience of drinking beer and sharing deep conversations with one of the finest men I’ve ever had the opportunity to try and date. The timing was off, but the fact that we even tried I credit to the summer night holiday magic. Then there’s the parade which goes up main street one way and then comes back, the pie social, the 5K, the arts in the park, and the fireworks out at the airstrip. For a town of 500 people, it’s unforgettable.

Then there were the disasters: the wildfire of 2007 came just two days after the 4th and had the town evacuating against a wind-driven downslope inferno. A couple of my neighbors lost houses. The next year, a week after the 4th, our same neighborhood suffered a catastrophic mud flood when the rain fell on the burn area from the year before. The reaction both times of the community was immediate and compassionate and complete. I know what community means.

Curiously, my mind is stuck always not on the events of the flood—I try and forget those memories—but on the days leading up, the days of bounty and grace. I’ve written before about our blackberry June, the bounty that year of apricots and blackberries and coffee on the porch, the simple pleasure of early morning walks with a bobcat sighting, figs ripening at Manzanar. Maybe that is a condition of our human coping mechanism, the slowing down of time before the crash, the sepia-toned sunlight falling across horses in the pasture, across the sunflowers coming up in the beds out front. There will never be blackberries like those blackberries in that particular season. And I will never pick them again with my neighbor Judy, whom we lost in another July later on.

And so I approach July in sadness but not regret. It will pass, as it did in Romania. It’s better to recognize and embrace what is going on in my emotions than to try and brush it aside. This year I will also spend the 4th in Marfa, my last best place. I don’t really want to go to Independence anymore; my time there has passed. But what a lovely time it was.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ode to a Meadowlark

I had the very great pleasure this morning of going outside and learning something new. The occasion was a talk about a favorite author, Loren Eiseley, and the setting was a favorite local natural area, Soapstone Prairie, north of town. What I didn’t know before today was the connection between the two: Eiseley participated in the early excavations of the Lindenmeier site which is now part of the natural area. This paleo-Indian dig site linked our understanding of human inhabitation in the Americas to animals known to roam more than 10,000 years ago, thereby expanding our evidence of human inhabitation by some seven thousand years. Eiseley’s discoveries did that.

I know Eiseley as a writer of poems and essays that connect his passion for our understanding of human time, his grasp of our connection to the natural world, and the inner workings of the human heart in all its dark and awkward intricacies. He is largely overlooked in our time, so it was a joy to learn a bit more about his life and early work from a fellow admirer.

In addition, the prairie is stunning this year in its lushness. Again, we’ve had a lot of rain this spring—steady, consistent, helpful rain—so the landscape is green and in bloom. And I was reminded today on my drive up and our walk around of how much I appreciate meadowlarks, the voice of the prairie, plateau, the grassland, the cow pasture.

I first came to know and understand the meadowlark at Bryce Canyon when I would drive out on the plateau in the evenings and sit at the stock pond and watch for pronghorn. Rabbits would come nibble the roadside grass as well, and I saw firsthand the difference between cottontails and jackrabbits. I also listened to the bird at the top of the swaying small tree a bit past the pond. With my binoculars I identified it as a meadowlark, and I’ve never forgotten the distinctive song.

When I had dogs, meadowlarks inhabited all the best places to walk the dogs—the cow pastures and country lanes. They are not birds of the high mountains or deep forests. Instead, with windows down and traveling a modest 50 miles per hour, I can hear them in my car—that crystal voice cutting through the noise of the engine.

Perhaps, I thought today, that is a commonality of my western homes. I had them in Utah, California, now in Colorado if I can get out of the city, and in Marfa. I don’t know if they are eastern or western; my book suggests there is overlap in their territories. I just know that they are a constant, and a joy.

Much more to see today as well: lark buntings, pronghorns without visible babies (I guess that’s this year’s nature obsession), excellent displays of native grasses, flowers in bloom including a miniature globemallow that seems common the whole route from here to Texas, and an oriole in a farm shade tree on my drive up to Soapstone Prairie.

As a final note about Eiseley, 95% of my books are in storage these days. But one of the handful I saved out is an Eiseley—and ironically or coincidentally my fellow read from it today because it is his book most related to his work as a bone collector. I have other books of his that I enjoy more, but this one is important to me because it is the first one of his that I read. It seems darker (titled The Night Country, what would one expect?) and more in touch with the darker, primordial nature of our human existence. Eiseley makes an exquisite guide to that world because he knows deeply how connected we are all to it, despite our civilizing. And he has compassion for our journey out of it and back to the land of the meadowlark and the globemallow. He understands truly what it means that we discovered fire. 



Above, blue flax with needle-and-thread grass in the background. Below, tiny prickly pear in bloom with Indian ricegrass in front, if you can make out the tiny tan seedheads. I've always liked these two grasses because they are so distinctive. As a lazy naturalist, I enjoy species that are easily distinguishable from their friends; hence my love of the Swainson's hawk. 




Monday, June 16, 2014

800 Miles for Whiskey

...or a pictalogue of a well-spent weekend.

A metaphor for the week that necessitated the escape?


















Even Moses got excited...


















The Promise...



The reward...



The Kingfisher...


















In addition, as if necessary, I ate my favorite fried chicken, lazed in my favorite bathtub on a hot Sunday afternoon, got a recommendation for a Persian poet, had crazy and delightful dreams on a moonlit summer breeze night, played some ukulele, saw Swainson's hawks and pronghorn babies, and bought a book called A Field Guide to Getting Lost with this gem: "To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography."

*Just a disclaimer for those concerned about my drinking problem: last month when I had my annual physical, I wrote honestly on my form that I have five or less drinks a month. I didn't feel the need to mention they are all in Marfa.

*Another disclaimer: no turkey vultures were injured in the making of this journey.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Murals for Truckers

Years ago when I was working as a production assistant on TV commercials in New York, a big part of the job was driving around the city to rental houses—props, gear, stuff—and picking up or dropping off what we needed for the shoot. The Excedrin commercials that kept me fed and clothed many a month used some props from a medical supply shop in a huge building over on 26th and 11th. I should say, this building was so huge that it took up the whole block from 26th to 27th streets and 11th to 12th avenues. And a lovely old industrial building it was with great and plentiful windows. I see on Google Maps that it is still there.

The really unique part about this building from the standpoint of someone with a rental 15-foot cube truck was the service elevator. Instead of parking outside and taking a big elevator for people and stuff up to your floor, at this building you actually drove around to the back on 27th Street, drove down a steep, bumpy ramp to the basement level of the building and drove on to one of three elevators that took you—in your truck—up to the loading bay of your floor. Each elevator was operated by a real person, and a man at a booth outside assigned you an elevator so you knew how to queue up down in the basement. When you were done and came down, you drove straight out and up a ramp to 26th Street.

Along the way, up to our desired floor, we stared out our front windshield at the concrete or brick wall passing before our eyes—for six, eight, or eleven floors. Because most of us PAs had higher aspirations, we were always sharing crazy ideas for art or business. We decided that these elevators needed murals for truck drivers to look at while elevating.

We came up with two ideas: Jack and the Beanstalk, and an undersea adventure. You must remember that the wall space was maybe fifteen feet wide and eleven stories high, so it would need to be something that played out vertically. Unless I’m misremembering, we never came up with a third mural for the third elevator.

Then today as I was brewing my coffee in our break room, mindlessly staring at the rainforest poster on the wall, it came to me that a journey through a rainforest from floor to canopy and the sky above would be the perfect third mural.

As if anyone cared or I would ever do anything about this. But as I noted before, dreams are like bones we bury for ourselves to dig up later. And maybe it’s good to remind myself that truck drivers in New York City need art too.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Zephyr?

I must forgive myself the disorganization of my life the past month (moving into a basement, two storage units, multiple trips). I have had two short pieces of writing go missing--one was an addition to a scene in my novel, an important scene that ties to things to come; and the written description of a sort-of dream that I had. In the chaos of the move and of working on my computer in various places and actually using different computers I had misplaced both of these. And then too, traveling around and jotting down ideas in airplanes, strange rooms, outdoor lunch tables, etc. I have needed to sort the wheat from the chaff and actually figure out how to incorporate these vignettes into my story.

So imagine my delight this morning when I opened the story document and found, down at the very bottom past the story itself and the outline and the notes, the sort-of dream. Turns out I had gotten out of bed and typed it up instead of hand-writing it. That's why the frantic search through the pile of chicken scratchings came up empty. The paragraph seems weird and disconnected, but actually I know exactly where it fits in my story. And now I'll post it here so that it will not disappear again.

By the way, other random vignettes that need to be transcribed today: stories from the Museum of Disasters; a comparison of looking into the woods unleafed for winter like a house without curtains; and a bar called Club Soda.

I awoke from a dream about a bullet severing in slow motion the hemispheres of my brain, and I lay awake considering something I’d read about the infinite number of dead souls and the infinite number of souls waiting in line to be born and their envy of the feeble-minded living who can’t appreciate that simple fact. And I imagined a featureless plane, maybe like a desert or the moon, with a Ferris wheel, like at a carnival. Only here the Ferris wheel was the only attraction. And the line was immense. But the people on the Ferris wheel were otherwise occupied with bickering and worry and didn’t notice the view or the zephyr. The word zephyr seemed important. But then I defended the living by thinking that life isn’t like a Ferris wheel at all and that we do actually have to work, and life is work, and life is hard. But still I thought about the Ferris wheel. And the scene must have been night because the wheel was lit up. But still despite the darkness, I could see the milling souls, the infinite number of milling souls looking up at the illuminated Ferris wheel that contained the idiot living.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Last Outpost


It’s snowing today in Fort Collins—heavy, wet, spring snow that pulls down the tree limbs and makes traffic crawl. I took my breakfast, in honor of all my mothers, at Lucile’s, a very popular New Orleans-style brunch spot here in Old Town. I sat at their bar eating my Hank’s Eggs and drinking strong coffee and reading, still, poems from the poet I met in Marfa. The reason I chose his book today is this one perfect poem:

Oyster Bar

Gone are the knives
and the wet newspapers,
the split shells,
their raw, cold moisture,

the ocean quietly
laying its salt down
beyond the window.

I hope the room
leading into death
has these lamps,

that our farewell
to everything
has this ease
and lasts as long as us
ordering another ale
to wait out the rain.

I love this poem for its simplicity, its perfection of tone, something so known and so surprising. I feel this way today in the snow. Last year’s spring snows upset me when I was trying to travel, but today I have nowhere to go beyond the restaurant, beyond the coffee shop. There is an ease to my day which is a relief.

Two days ago I made a list of things giving me anxiety. I’m not prone to anxiety so I feel like it’s a problem that I should be able to solve. The list is largely composed of reality that conflicts with my wishes—the root cause of most suffering. The answer for most items is simply patience: I’m doing all I can do to effect a job change to make Marfa work, I don’t need to make a decision on a house despite my impatience to have a home there, my temporary basement lodging is really quite satisfactory. Yesterday, my first free day in quite some time, I hammered out another 2000 words on my novel—atrociously dull words but words nonetheless—and I will do the same today.

I am buoyed today by a line in another poem by the poet, a simple line in a poem that may or may not be about aging: “This is the last outpost before things become what they are.” Maybe I read that as this is the last outpost before I become who I am. This becoming business has grown tedious and I simply want to be who I am, for things to be what they are. This coffee shop in Fort Collins looking out at the May snow feels like the last outpost. And it has the ease of waiting out the rain.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Birthday Week II


I guess I really came to Lyle Lovett in 1992 with the release of Joshua Judges Ruth. I've seen him perform at Avery Fisher Hall, Central Park, and Wolf Trap. All mythology I think I know about Texas begins with his music, as does the musical foundation through which I see the world.

So when the opportunity arose to see him at Gruene Hall--THE dance hall down in Texas--I could not resist it. Some hightlights: This Old Porch, North Dakota, That's Right: You're not from Texas, Steve Fromholz's Texas Trilogy, and TVZ's White Freightliner Blues. And then this:


The show finished off a nice sister weekend wherein we caught Trans-Pecos scorch folk duo Maria Moss and Jon Hogan in conjunction with a Saturday night catfish fry. And other sister stuff as we pass the Texas baton. Perfect.

An aside about pockets: The poet has a poem about a pelican who scoops up a duck in it's pouch. It came to me that I could fit a duck in the pocket of my brown uniform dress--at least a wild duck, probably not a domesticated duck. And it wouldn't be happy in there. But I could absolutely pelican a duck. So all weekend I was speculating what else I could fit in my pockets. Turns out I could fit 14 slightly used Gruene Hall signature plastic wine glasses in my pocket--another souvenir.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Birthday Week I

The drive is very long. And sometimes it’s night. And sometimes it’s windy. And thank goodness it’s not ever snowy because I must draw the line somewhere. And it's always beautiful with stars or sunrise or Venus coming up below the crescent moon or buffalo gourds in bloom or vast expanses of desert. And sometimes it rains mud.

I make the drive because, in the end, Marfa is where my heart lives now and I find it comforting to be reunited with it. An aside, last week in negotiations with my employer to work remotely, the boss did admit there were precedents in our work group—but those were people who needed to follow their spouses’ employment. A wise and experienced NPS friend today replied, “Did you tell him that you needed to follow your heart, which is way more important than a spouse.”

The pre-birthday Marfa weekend included a last-minute mortgage pre-approval from my credit union to appease the realtor I had an appointment with. My credit union hasn’t always been the most efficient operation, but dang! she turned it around in an afternoon. So after celeb-spotting Wallace Shawn at the Food Shark, I looked at some houses. And then I dumped a load in the storage unit. And then I arrived at the guest suite of my friends Dedie and Lonn who may rival the best hosts ever, and I know some great ones, and I napped and bathed—before a delightful dinner party with margaritas and patio dining.

Coffee on the patio in the morning was soundtracked by a canyon wren, followed by requisite Saturday tacos soundtracked by chorizo songs. One cannot make up the fact that the taco man is also a DJ and musician and obviously has a sense of humor or an uncanny knack of coincidence.

Then I did some laundry—did I mention I’m out of my apartment and spent much of last week cleaning top to bottom so that I could run away on the weekend?—that I didn’t have a chance to do all week. I think I also visited a local history museum, saw one more house, caught up on some email, visited the magical Marfa Book Company where I bought myself a birthday present, attended a poetry reading (the other poet in residence who wrote the book on jagged, broken love—wonderful), drank whiskey and ate lamb chops, and finished the day at the…

Oh, how to describe the drive-in. Years ago in the Owens Valley, my friend April had a theater in Lone Pine where she showed movies on Sunday nights. She made and sold food—usually just one option of maybe pesto pasta and a salad—and showed movies that normal people might not have an interest in seeing. We were a small band of devotees. This might be similar. My friend Lonn gave me some backstory. Seems one of the large and monied arts organizations of Marfa has bazillion dollar plans to build a real drive-in, but arty. In the meantime, the taco man scraped up a few hundred bucks* and bought a projector and built a screen in the lot next to the taco airstream. Not room for many cars, but you can bring your own chair too. It’s really kind of brilliant. This week we watched a Marvin Gaye biopic. You can get brisket from the airstream, or the Museum of Electronic Wonders and Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlor is right across the street.

The next day, after Sunday breakfast of Dedie’s yummy Finnish pancakes, was community day at Chinati.

I took advantage of the naturalist and works-in-concrete walk. The day was enhanced by spring wind, the kind of wind that let you know it meant it, the kind of wind that left no doubt that it was windy. I loved it. Then later I went to the barbecue and was blown away by the ten-piece Mariachi band. I sat with a big smile on my face thinking once again, always, you can’t make this stuff up. Really great.


Finally, Sunday evening Dedie had gotten me on the guest list for a performance of The Threepenny Opera done by the community. Turns out Wallace Shawn, noted actor and writer, had been in town, as he is most years, to contribute to community theater in Marfa. The performers, though, were all local—and Marfa has talent to spare. The show was fantastic, and at the end when the bad guy is spared by proclamation, the back roll-up industrial door of the theater rolled up and one of the actors (a young boy) rode up on a horse to deliver the proclamation. Fantastic.

So much more, there’s always more: the light, the fried chicken from sweet Mark and Kaki, Mallory remembering my name, being told I’m entertaining by Lonn (perhaps the most entertaining person in the region), the bluebonnets and ocotillo in bloom, the stories, the stories, the stories, the art, the laughter. And my birthday. Yay. It's Part I because this weekend I fly to San Antonio to enjoy Lyle Lovett at Gruene Hall with my sister. More yay!

 
*Addendum: it might have been, in fact, a couple thousand bucks.