lance armstrong is in the middle of some bike race in france. today is his day off. on his twitter account, he posts simply “I miss Marfa.” i am amazed.
as a young lad growing up in west texas, i looked upon marfa as one of those places way out to the west that were just sort of there. alpine, fort davis, fort stockton, terlingua, boquillas. basically a series of potential bathroom stops on the way to the mountains.
marfa’s claim to fame was the “Marfa Lights.” the details of the phenomenon make my head hurt, but in a nutshell they are spooky lights that float around in the middle of nowhere. nobody’s ever been able to explain them, or if they have it happened after i left in 1979 or so. news travels slow to these parts.
the lights became the reason for my one major encounter with marfa. my brother at the time was a columnist for the local newspaper (newspapers were a way of accumulating the day’s news, printing them on paper and then delivering to people’s yards. it was very trendy back in the ’70s.) he got wind of a major expedition to solve the marfa light mystery, and volunteered to assist. anything for a column. he promised beer and oreos if i accompanied. i was in.
my recollections of the event are extremely hazy. maybe because it was really late. maybe because it was really cold. maybe because i had way too many oreos. all i remember is driving around endlessly in the beloved toyota land cruiser which provided no shelter from the extreme temperatures, eating oreos, and realizing that if you go for 24 hours or so without sleeping, you can see marfa lights everywhere.
now, many years later, the tiny west texas town of my past appears to have become an arteests’ colony/hip retreat for parisians and new yorkers. and apparently, homesick tour de france cyclists.
i could have grown up in a time where one of the world’s great cultural meccas was just down the road in a formerly dusty west texas outback. instead, i grew up in a time where the only thing out there worth chasing was a mysterious light and a package of oreos.
i wouldn’t have it any other way.