Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Marvelous Marfa

One of the aspects of our lifestyle that we looked forward to and now enjoy is the ability to spend time in small towns. It's amazing to us how many out-of-the way places have interesting stories. Marfa, Texas is one of those interesting places that's fun to explore. Marfa sits out in the West Texas plains, 30 miles from Alpine and about 400 road miles from San Antonio. With only 2400 people, much of it is a typical old ranching hub, with closed storefronts, deteriorating houses, and an overall sense of despair - but wait! Hidden underneath the depressing appearance is a noteworthy history and a long-standing mystery; but first, the history. Marfa began as a train watering stop in 1882 when the wife of an engineer, who was at the time reading Brothers Karamazov, named it after a servant in the novel. It became a local hub for ranchers and farmers, and during WWII was the site of an Army Air Corps training base (even then they trained pilots in miserable places). The big event, though, was the arrival in 1955 of the cast of the movie Giant, with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and a host of other stars. It was notable as James Dean's last movie before he truly became one with his sports car. The local hotel, the "Paisano" hosted the cast, and has a wealth of memorabilia of their stay- they even have a small TV playing the movie over and over and over.....the hotel has been restored after a shaky past (at one time over 800 "time shares" were sold, but the hotel was sold for taxes and everyone lost their investment - there's a lesson here somewhere), and is very pretty with a fair dining room. The real culinary find of our visit was the Blue Javelina restaurant (see review); it seems that Marfa is slowly becoming an "artist" community and is getting upscale with it's eateries. But the really stunning attraction, the thing that makes you ask "How come we haven't heard about this?" "Why hasn't Fox news told us?" "Does Geraldo know?" are the Marfa Mystery Lights!! Since the late 1800s, people have reported seeing the strange lights which appear almost nightly, move around, change colors, and do all sorts of unearthly things. We of course had to see for ourselves, and so we bundled up and traveled to the MMLRNVA (Marfa Mystery Lights Really Nice Viewing Area), complete with red lights to guide you to the viewing platform without ruining your night vision. Sure enough, strange lights appeared near the mountains on the horizon, complete with flashes and color changes. Really weird. We think there was more, but we were met by two nice gentlemen in the parking lot, strangely dressed in black suits and sunglasses. But they were nice enough to take our pictures with some kind of strange blue flash and I.......gosh, I don't seem to remember much of anything else. So, if you're ever on the road between San Antonio and El Paso, don't take I-10 like most folks, jog south to Marfa and have lunch at the Blue Javelina and stick around for the Mystery Lights- be a part of the select few that have seen the mystery! Just avoid those two guys in the parking lot......

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