Thursday, December 4, 2008

Texas Turkey.

Matthias, who took most of these photos, almost catching me with my pants down.

The Prada Store on Route 90, just outside Valentine.

For spying on the illegals.

The Rio Grand.

We hiked into this canyon, despite warnings that the path was closed. We survived.

The explorers: Douglas, Andrea, Matthias.

Getting ready for the hot springs, two hours and a rutted dirt road outside Marfa.

Tomas and the hungry cat.

Birthday paparazzi.

Making 40 wishes.

Bettina and Andrea surveying the breakfast table.

The courthouse on Marfa's main street.

Bettina reflected in one of Judd's 4 squares.

Judd's tidy downtown work space, as he left it when he died in 1994.

At the block, Judd's home near downtown, the adobe brick is weathering faster than the concrete joints.

At Chinati.

Paula and Robert at afternoon coffee.

Tomas skyping with the cat. Meow Slovakia.

Robert making a place to nap.

Paula getting sun.

Bernd and Matthias.

My favorite Chamberlain.

More of Judd's 4 squares in the downtown Chamberlain building.

Chinati event building.

Some of Judd's 100 stainless boxes at Chinati.

Bernd and boxes.


Douglas and Chinati graffiti, in German.


Carving the 18 pound bird.

Our Thanksgiving table.

Marfa's water tower.

Big Texas clouds.

On the range.

Tomas, shutterbug.

Matthias, closer than he appears.

Lone Star sky.

Some months ago I realized that the travel bug wouldn't let me ride out an entire 12 months in New York City. The confluence of my 40th birthday and Thanksgiving created the perfect excuse to follow up on an old plan, first hatched by Mark Verzosa some 7 years ago, to visit Marfa, Texas. In 1974, Donald Judd, with the help of Dia, bought up much of the town and an old army base outside.

I had originally wanted to get us all to chip in for an RV to drive across to Texas, but limited time led to flying. I put the word out to all my friends, far and wide, and came up with a group of 8 willing to make the trip, three from Germany. All but three of us were German (two Americans and a Slovak) and all but two of us were architects (an installation artist and a writer). Some of us met up at Wal Mart in El Paso, where I was told a turkey could be had; some of us met up on Route 10 outside El Paso; some met us in Marfa. Bernd, Paula and Robert, the Texas Trio from Germany, made a two week swing out of the trip, driving a loop through the American Southwest. We stayed in a salmon-beige four room house in the "suburbs" of Marfa and explored the surroundings for a week.

Our visit included a tour of the Chinati Foundation, the army base where works by Roni Horn, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin and others is exhibited. We also had a tour with the Judd Foundation of Judd's downtown home, The Block, and the others buildings he purchased during his time in Marfa.

We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on the back patio under a thick and close blanket of stars, Venus and Jupiter hugging the crescent moon. And on Saturday, I was presented with the most amazing Texas-sized breakfast - and presents! Oh the presents!

We soaked in the Chinati Hot Springs after a rumbling, wild ride through deserted Texas range, and solved each other's greatest problems. We explored the plateaus and canyons of Big Bend National Park where the Rio Grand sweeps through rock and desert, first south and west then north and west, along the Mexican-American border.

We stopped for pictures at the oddball Prada Store, set alone and out of place along Route 90 outside of Valentine.

Thanks to Douglas and Andrea, Bettina, Tomas, Matthias, Robert and Paula, and Bernd for making the trip, spending the time, cooking the food, presenting books, talking around the fire, and generally making life so damn worth it.

And a special thanks to Elizabeth for setting the table.

Around the hot springs on the night of my birthday, we delved into a discussion, since I was one of the first to hit 40, of what each wished to accomplish by their big 4-0. It was one of the most interesting and frank conversations I've had in a long time. I'll be following up with each one of you individually.

A closing Ode: Robert Creeley died in Marfa in 2005 while a resident at Lannan. We paid our proper respects after Thanksgiving dinner with a few poems under all that star-heavy sky.

If ever there is
if ever, if ever
there is, if ever there is

from John's Song, for John Taggart