Day 5: Marfa, TX
“Yeah, that’s tall Emily. She works part-time for the paper,” responds Dan to learning that the girl whom I found on coachsurfing.com was blond. I ask how he knew and he smiles, “Well, we only have two Emilys.”
Dan used to write for Spin in LA before he moved to Marfa to write a book on becoming an EMT along the Texas-Mexico border. His story is not uncommon around here; I also meet a Stanford-trained Oakland curator who moved to Marfa to work on his ceramics and a Brooklyn graphic designer who moved here to make found photograph collages. And like everyone I meet, he’s welcoming, wide-eyed, and aware of all of the town’s Emilys (and Jennifers, and Bobs, and etc.).
When I meet tall Emily at the only bar open on a Wednesday she introduces me to the other Emily, who is conveniently short and brunette, and I feel like I’m part of something. Marfa, with its mix of an incredibly inclusive population and incredibly exclusive geography, feels like a child’s fort. When Dan arrives, they start to explain how a town like this came to be.
Emily #2: “It’s all about Donald Judd.”
From what I gather, the minimalist art hotshot fell in love with Marfa while in the Army. In the 90’s, right before his death, he established an art foundation here. Around it a thriving arts community was born that still stands in great contrast to the smallness of this incredibly small town. Marfa has 2,000 people, eight galleries but zero hardware stores, and three locavore restaurants (and one food truck) but no real grocers. There is one road into town that doubles as the one road out of it, and for its duration there is nothing but decades-vacant cattle farms. It’s like if Greenpoint was dropped into the center of the Sahara.
As Mike the ceramist puts it, “This place shouldn’t exist.”
After a few drinks I come back to Emily’s place. The town’s constant buzzing of indistinguishable (murderous) insects offers the proper soundtrack to her joint smoking and stories of how she found herself here. As she muses over how Marfa is everything Dallas wasn’t, I imagine trying to kiss her. I’m aware that this would be beyond presumptuous and completely at odds with the couch surfing community, but also it seems like the only right thing to do. Marfa has romanced me, and I’m looking for a way to express my affection by way of one of its two Emilys. While tuning out her horse riding ramblings, I determine I’m trapped – it’s too late to check into a hotel, I had already learned that nighttime driving equates to instant death, and if I slept in my car a snake would certainly crawl through my exhaust and suffocate me – meaning any sudden mouth-related moves were too risky.
So I’m on her couch, distracted by what may or may not be a vinegaroon lumbering towards my face. Its six spindly legs move dyssynchronous, like an AT-AT Walker set to poison me with it venomous bug vinegar. But I’m calm because this is just part of life in Marfa, the single most curious place I’ve ever been. I feel lucky to be here.
Day 6: Texas Forever
Driving to Austin I think about two, and only two things,
1. Seriously, how often are these truckers jerking off? Do they slow down a little when the get towards the end of the matter? If these dummies can do it, why couldn’t I?
2. Texas looks so much like Texas. Speeding through, all the plains and lived-in towns look unmistakably like the opening shots from Friday Night Lights. I even see a water tower proclaiming, “5-Time Texas State High School Football Champions”.
Both fantasies are brought down to earth when I see the Dillon-blue flashing lights of the cop car behind me.
My heart thumps more intently, my brain scatters. Can I get arrested in Texas just for possessing non-Christ-like thoughts? Is she going to kill me?
Instead of coming to the driver side window, the policewoman, who could pass as Guy Fieri’s sister (or Guy Fieri himself on a good day), makes me open the passenger side door—I try to shift my shirt down in an attempt to cover my barely clothed lower-half. I laugh audibly when I see my shaking hand pass over my license and registration. My demeanor, as is always the case when talking to people with guns, is that of misplaced chumminess, as to say, “Can you believe you pulled me over?” The gunperson always hates it—she is no different.
Guy takes a while with my out-of-state paperwork, giving me time to think about how much of a dick Tim Riggins was when he got out of Texas jail (my likely next stop on my trip), and worse, the Post-Governor Bush Texas death penalty boom (my presumed fate at said Texas jail).
She eventually gives me a ticket for the aforementioned speeding and, luckily, not for the masturbatory debate. I say “thank you,” hoping she’ll say, “have a nice day”—she does not. I wait for her to drive off and pull over the next car with out-of-state plates before I put on shorts and continue on my way.
This is the worst crime I’ve committed since I stole a figurine from the Las Vegas’s M&M World as a crush-ridden 15-year-old. It feels like I got away with murder, like Landry did in the second season of Friday Night Lights. I want the policewoman and her blonde-spiked hair to come back so we can discuss how art really imitates life sometimes or how boring it is driving alone, with all the talking to yourself about jerking off and television.