Thursday, July 21, 2005

I'm sitting here drinking a cold Corona with lime, but what I'd really like is a nice cold glass of ice tea (I know, I know, y'all Northerners call it iced tea, but in Texas we just call it ice tea)...anyway, I'm having the Corona instead because the solenoid on the water valve on my icemaker needs to be least that's what I think is wrong with the #*&$ thing...and I've been putting off calling a repairman because I'm anticipating that he's going to say it'll cost me a couple hundred bucks to repair it, and I know that a new solenoid costs only about $30, so I'm gonna be ticked if I'm told it's a lot of money. I know I should just replace it myself, but I've been too damned lethargic this summer to do it. I've done a lot of work on my house this summer, but I hate working on anything electrical (she says defensively). :) In the meantime I've been buying bags of ice at the grocery store and putting them in the freezer, only to realize that I go through a lot of ice. Also, it's so hot outside that the bags have usually frozen into a solid block of ice by the time I get home, but hey, I have a saltillo tile floor in my kitchen, so I just throw the bag down on the floor and voila! lots of nice small ice cubes again. However, tonight I discovered that my guys have used up the latest bag of ice, leaving me with no way to make ice tea, and thus I'm drinking an ice cold Corona...but I digress...

My son Michael (twin #1, 2 minutes older and 2 ounces heavier at birth than his younger brother, Christo) is going to be a freshman at the University of Arizona at Tucson this fall, and there's much excitement around my house these days in anticipation of that watermark event. Mike and I are going to drive out, so I've been planning our itinerary (an essential act as I have NO sense of direction and we could end up in Massachusetts if I don't have a well-planned ant-route mapped out beforehand). It's an obscene distance to Tucson by car; just under a thousand miles from Dallas. Two lllooonnnnggg days of driving, and two pretty boring days at that, as anyone who's ever taken I-20 west out of Dallas can vouch.

I've been looking at the map, trying to figure out where we can stay the first night on the road. On principle, I refuse to stop in Midland/Odessa (or even to slow down as I speed past both places) but there's nothing after Midland/Odessa until El Paso. Then I realized that if we take a couple of extra days, we can do a pretty cool side trip to Big Bend and Marfa. If your eyes are glazing over and you're thinking "She said she's drinking a Corona with lime, but what the hell is she smoking, and what's Marfa?"..Marfa is where the 1956 movie, Giant, was filmed. Y'all remember Giant: James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Chill Wills, and a very young Carol Baker, Dennis Hopper and Sal Mineo, among others...anyway, it was filmed in and around Marfa and the cast stayed at The Hotel Paisano, aka El Paisano.

El Paisano opened in 1930. Most of the time, it was a cattleman's hotel. Deals to buy and sell herds were made in the lobby, so it must have been a pretty exciting change to have real movie stars staying there while Giant was being filmed. But Marfa's in the middle of nowhere, so after the movie stars left, it went back to being a cattleman's hotel. By the late 70's it had fallen on hard times and closed its doors. Then, in 2001, it was purchased and refurbished and has since re-opened it's doors.

I was in Marfa about 18 months ago, but I didn't stay at El Paisano; I stayed 30 miles away, in Marathon, at The Gage (where the West meets Architectural Digest, according to a friend, and that's as good a description as any of The Gage). I spent a night at The Gage ( on my way back from camping in Big Bend so I could see the thing for which Marfa is most famous these days: the Marfa Mystery Lights ( and

The lights have to be viewed at night (obviously) but I stopped by El Paisano in late afternoon and walked through the lobby. It's pretty, but pricey, and it was deserted when I was there, and between the fancy, deserted hotel, the location, and the Marfa lights, I couldn't help thinking of The Eagles' song, Hotel California:

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
’this could be heaven or this could be hell’
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...

Welcome to the hotel El Paisano
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel El Paisano
Any time of year, you can find it here

Her mind is Tiffany twisted
She's got the Mercedes bends
She's got a lot of pretty, pretty boys
That she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard
Sweet summer sweat
Some dance to remember
Some dance to forget
So I called up the Captain
Please bring me my wine
He said
We haven't had that spirit here since 1969
And still those voices are calling from far away
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say

Welcome to the Hotel El Paisano
Such a lovely Place
Such a lovely face
They're livin' it up at the Hotel El Paisano
What a nice surprise
Bring your alibies

Mirrors on the ceiling
Pink champagne on ice
And she said we are all just prisoners here
Of our own device
And in the master's chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can't kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
’relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!

If you Googlelize El Paisano, you'll be directed to the website ( where there are a lot of pretty pictures of the rooms and lobby. There's something a little eerie about those pics...I half expect Rod Serling to show up and say: "You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind...a journey into a wondrous land of stop, the Twilight Zone!"


Sam said...

Wow, this sounds like it has the makings of a great road trip. I would love to be able to see the mystery lights of Marfa. We call it Ice Tea in Georgia, too.

emmapeeldallas said...


Thanks; I agree, and I LOVE the Gage!


Pam said...

I looked at the hotel pics. "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy".