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Archive for February, 2015

“I want to go to Marfa,” Alexis said, “ it’s on my bucket list.”

“What and where is Marfa?” I responded.

“Marfa, Texas, it’s an artists’ colony and has a hotel from the 50’s completely retro but renovated. That’s where I want to stay. There is also an art installation outside of town, a fake Prada store. I want a photo of me in front of that. Marfa was written up in Dwell magazine and it was also on Sixty Minutes. It’s supposed to be like Taos was for artists in the 50’s. If you Google Prada Marfa you’ll see the art installation.”

So I said: “Sure why not, I’m into art and artists and I’ve never been to Marfa.”

Marfa is not someplace you go to on the way to someplace. South and east of El Paso, sixty miles north of the border, not too far, by Texas standards, to the Big Bend National Wilderness area where my sons and I went backpacking back in the day.

So we drove to Las Cruces and stayed overnight, not much to comment on. Have you ever been to Las Cruces? The next day on to Marfa with the fake Prada store about 35 miles from town. We went past it at 75 mph. Two carloads of people were stopped to take photos. Alexis said; “Let’s go on and come back tomorrow, I want to clean up before the photo and there is a crowd now. We don’t want strangers in the photo.”

Today we went back. The big Prada-Marfa signs above the door on either side were gone. Ripped off during the night? The online photos of the installation show it with the signs in place. The displays of shoes and purses inside were still intact but the magic was gone. It’s all about the sign!

Here is Alexis, being held up by the sign thieves. IMG_0020

Charlize with her friends Alexis, Mimi and Zsa Zsa near the pool at the Thunderbird Hotel.

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I left a copy of Travels With Charlize at the local bookstore and during lunch had a nice conversation with Ken Whitley, another writer, retired from Shell Oil and a Marfa resident for the last seventeen years. He stopped by our table while we were eating lunch to compliment Alexis on her jewelry and her shoes. Not an uncommon event.

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The Phoenix I knew, before leaving in 1970, is no more. The northern suburbs now stretch all the way to Cave Creek. My brother and sister-in-law moved to Cave Creek eleven years ago. When I practiced veterinary medicine, never certain I practiced well enough or long enough to really be good at it, there was nothing between my clinic on 32nd St. and Bell Road and the town of Cave Creek, seven or so miles north. I had a few clients in Cave Creek so I drove those miles on a two-lane road full of drops down into washes then up again. Today the road is divided, two lanes to a side, no dips and the previously empty desert is full of subdivisions and strip malls. Compared to the eclectic neighborhoods of Seattle and Edmonds, the subdivisions are monotonic, ersatz adobe style, flat or tile roofs, varying shades of tan. It is early spring in the Sonoran desert and the cacti are getting ready to bloom, some already have. If I lived in one of those subdivisions, even though I still have positive feelings about the desert, I think I would need a trail of bread crumbs to find my house after a couple of glasses of Malbec.

 

The biggest change though is the shear number of people and the resulting traffic. I took Alexis to see where my clinic was and the building I built is still there. Here is a photo of the Paradise Animal Hospital in 1962:

My beautiful picture

Now the place is a Mexican furniture, knickknack and pottery store. We went in and most of the rooms of the clinic had been reconfigured and obviously repurposed. The indoor kennels have been removed and the openings to the outside runs closed. The outside runs have been removed. My old reception area is now a private office, my old office full of knickknacks for sale. Just for fun I peeked in the restroom. The fixtures have been replaced but the door to my old darkroom was still there, closed. I opened it and the room was empty but still painted black! Here is what the place looks like now:

clinic & charlize

Charlize couldn’t have been less interested.

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We’re on the road again, Charlize and I, this time with company. Alexis and her two Yorkshire terriers Mimi and Zsa Zsa are making travel even more fun. We left early Wednesday morning, the 4th of February. We crossed over Snoqualmie Pass in spitting snow but the road was clear. On the eastern slope the snow was heavier with spotty dense fog all the way to Yakima. Near Cle Elum in a patch of light fog the traffic was heavy and moving too fast for the conditions. I moved into the passing lane to get around a slow moving semi. A car came up fast and tailgated me. I watched in horror as a black SUV traveling west veered onto the median and went airborne flipping sideways at least three times, with parts of the vehicle separated and airborne. It landed on its wheels shuddering. There was only the soft median to pull onto and the car was still on my tail. There was a long line of cars on my right. I slowed and the traffic following swung around me. I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw that three cars had pulled off onto the right shoulder and all the drivers were on their cell phones. I was already too far away to get off the highway safely then get across to the median to offer any aid. I have Googled several times but can’t find any reports of a fatal accident at that location on that date. It was not an auspicious way to start our trip.

We pulled into Boise, ID that evening and checked into our first of many La Quinta Inns booked because of their dog welcoming policy. The receptionist offered dog treats, we call them “cookies” and at the mention of that word all three dogs commenced spinning. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Alavita an Italian restaurant in downtown Boise only a few blocks from the State Capital Building. We decided that all the customers in suits and ties were lobbyists. If you are in Boise this restaurant is worth the effort and then some. Alexis and I always order different dishes and then share, it doubles the experience.

The next night we were in Ely, NV after a day of empty highways and empty spaces. We gained an hour back after losing it in Idaho. We got settled in the room then caught up with the local Ely Times and the Sherriff’s blotter, interesting stuff going on in tiny Ely. We tried to identify a place to eat but the choices were so limited we elected to eat some fruit we brought from home; the huge salads we consumed at lunch would tide us over.

All three dogs are now experienced car travellers. Whenever we stop they stay in the back of Whitey until their leashes are in place then take advantage of the first non-paved location we can find to do their business. Charlize taught the other two to take advantage of every opportunity.

Las Vegas, after a short drive, was Las Vegas. We walked the old part of downtown experiencing the low-rent Las Vegas. Then checked into our La Quinta before cleaning up and going to the “Strip” for some serious people watching and dinner. We discovered Vegas people watching to be a unique experience, on many levels. The casino staff people are interesting to observe since it appears their every action is calculated to obtain a gratuity. The slot machines draw an intense set of focused characters mesmerized by computerized spinning, flashing images. Blackjack players seem more social, more relaxed but still focused. All excitement focuses on the craps tables.

We wandered through the Cosmopolitan, where we took advantage of their free public parking, then the Bellagio. Mega casinos but we were there just observing. The problem was to try to escape the cigarette and cigar smoke. Apparently the people of Nevada are in denial about the adverse health effects of second-hand smoke. Maybe the casino workers have to sign some sort of legal document recognizing they are working in a hazardous environment and give up their right to sue. Our hotel was non-smoking though so perhaps the casinos have special dispensation.

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