Weird West Texas Desert: Marfa

You may have heard of this place… a mysterious small town… a minimalist artist’s hub… home of the lone Prada “store” art installation. Along with other monumental wonders like the dim-lit Stardust Motel sign and the Marfa Lights, this is a lonely pocket of the West Texas desert. There are many hidden wonders to observe in such small towns. On the surface you can only grasp so much… and when you talk to the locals there’s so much more to discover. We even heard there used to be a lonely “World’s Smallest Target Store” art installation as well, but has since been torn down.

Prada Marfa

It’s no secret getting out of Texas is a road trip itself. We left Austin around 7 am to make the six-hour drive out to Marfa by mid-afternoon. We were greeted pleasantly by the front desk of our boutique hotel, the Thunderbird, which even had old-school brass key rings instead of card keys. We are in another world that’s for sure. So we unloaded our bags, loaded the mini-fridge with some libations from our cooler, and headed to the pool.

Unfortunately, we noticed that most Marfa businesses operate Wednesday through the weekend. We had begun our stay on Monday and Tuesday. Bummer! But that didn’t deter us from generally exploring what we could during our two-night stay.

Someone in our yoga class said, “We’re on Italian time.” I wasn’t sure what that meant until we talked to our Milanese tattoo artist in Santa Fe. He said the only reason Italians know about Marfa is from the Prada installation and their tourism grew since it was erected. A few businesses run sporadic hours, maybe because they’re well off from tourism, but I’m not sure. Some businesses did not survive 2020’s lockdown and are taking time off to renovate and hopefully reopen.

Vintage Thunderbird Restaurant sign (pictured left)

It was pretty windy when we arrived and I wondered how this outdoor yoga class would be in the desert… dusty. Normally classes take place outdoors, under the sky (Big Sky Yoga) onsite at the Bohemian El Cosmico grounds. Instead, we headed to the main street to a communal residency building across from various art galleries and boutiques. It was a small class of mostly experienced yogis, all very welcoming. I recalled when someone mentioned “Italian time” as I noticed next door two women sharing a bottle of wine, laptops closed done for the day, curbside of the Stellina Mart: a petite bodega. Salud!

Everyone we met asked us if we were staying at the El Cosmico and now I wish we had! The natural property is gorgeous and expansive. There are several ways to shelter at this place: yurts, teepees, self-camp, airstreams trailers, safari tents, and the Brite Building (where our class was held). There’s even a glamorous micro-home called Cosmic Kasita, composed of high-quality eco-materials and designed with a lighting and color scheme that embodies the El Cosmico ethos. Well, till next time!

The Double R Diner, Twin Peaks

Over the mountains and through the woods…

While I was gone over holiday break, I finally made the little trek up to the infamous mountain town of North Bend. Also known as the set of THE pop culture phenomenon of 90s television: Twin Peaks.

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Alongside my parents, we’re on route to their second house, dubbed “The Nut House” in the middle of Washington State, aka smalltown, USA. An outpost of its own regard, the town of Soap Lake used to be somewhat of a health resort, but more on that later…

This must be where pies go when they die…

From Whidbey Island to the mainland, there are few main routes to take to head east. The way through Snohomish County before hitting popular mountain passes, is the little town of North Bend. Upon entering North Bend Way as you make your way over the mountains, this small avenue is lined with shops, a pub, a couple cafes and shops. Nestled on the corner near a major railroad is Twede’s Diner aka The Double R Diner.

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We had started this trek to Soap Lake, on a Sunday morning, so upon entering I 100 percent expected this place to be hopping with tourists and local brunch goers alike. No surprise, this little horseshoe shaped diner was packed. We idled up to a few raised bar seats (so old school!) and I oggled at the retro interior and neon ceiling. Patiently waiting for our busy server to make his way over, I wandered to the bathroom hallway near the back of the diner. If you should have to wait in line for your turn, like myself, just turn around and look at all the Twin Peaks prints and memorabilia that cover the eggshell wall paint.

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You will find printed film stills, behind the scenes shots, magazine covers and newspaper headlines. What’s so interesting about Twin Peaks is not only its avant garde storytelling and existential themes, but how it pioneered the long form TV drama. What prevails Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services is the 45+ minute long shows like the UK’s SkinsRiverdale, Dexter, Gossip Girl and the list goes on and on. Twin Peaks set that stage for the popular shows that we binge watch today.

They got a cherry pie that’ll kill ya…

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It was around lunchtime when we arrived to North Bend and really, I had only one thing on my mind for this visit, cherry pie and diner coffee. I’m used to my mother’s flakey berry pies, which she makes at our small town cafe Whidbey Pies. This hunk of diner pie, was satisfying and totally different. It’s a classic. It’s what I expected: that sweet, gelatinous artificial cherry filling with a thick crust, almost like shortbread cookie. The best, though unnecessary, part were the giant sugar crystals that coated the top. Loads of coffee and sugar… I’ll be buzzing for sure. The cool whip (a’la Stewie Griffin) I could have done without. Well, it takes a pretty photo! The drip coffee is acceptable, even Dad approved.

The rest of the menu is a classic supplier of diner favorites and comfort food. No surprises there. Definitely worth a stop if you happen to take a day trip into the mountains for a hike around lunchtime.

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Hop outside and around the corner there are a few murals for the perfect photo-op. On the side of the restaurant there is a colorful one complete with a slice of pie and coffee in the background. I wonder how many people just come in for only pie…?

Behind the restaurant in the alleyway, there is the infamous Twin Peaks city limits sign with the roadside going off into the distance. This roadside location was originally on my itinerary to stop at. But, so many fans had attempted to steal the sign, that whoever got it, got the last one. No more sign at 41471 SE Reinig Rd in Snoqualmie.

No matter, that’s why this is the one stop you can get most of your Twin Peaks fix. Pie, coffee and photo ops. Other neighboring towns such as Fall City and Snoqualmie are home to trails where you can find Ronnette’s bridge and the Fall City Roadhouse and Inn, aka The Bang Bang Bar.

Seattle: Capitol Hill Block Party

Yet another music festival?! Can we just take a moment to appreciate just how many long weekends have turned into an excuse to play music, serve street food and have Kombucha cocktails? Yeah, those freakin’ exist, a nod to Northern California, which is where I had my first Kombucha drink, period. Seattle is of course growing to be the most plugged-in city since San Francisco’s real estate skyrocketed. No one wants to hear “it’s sad that Seattle is losing its charm and grungy music scene roots”, San Francisco once had punk roots and still does in some parts. Change is good. (Take that with a grain of salt) Change is happening. Even though development is happening, music will never leave Seattle. Not if Kurt Cobain’s ghost has anything to say about it. So, here is a little bit about my Sunday ticket to the 2018 Capitol Hill Block Party…

Sunny Sunday stroll on my way up to “the hill”

After a bit of breakfast and coffee at my friend Stefani’s house, she sent me on my way with a water bottle of some sort of tequila drink in my purse, dropped me off in our old stomping grounds of Fremont, (also home to the Fremont Vintage Mall) where I happened to be entering the Fremont Sunday Market! Score!

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Photo: Fremont Sunday Market… [cool embroidery]

Every Sunday in Seattle, various neighborhoods host markets offering trinkets, food and homemade oddities. In Capitol Hill, which is my destination for Block Party, has a market that stretches along Broadway Street East. You can find a plethora of consumables like: fresh produce, baked goods, and juices. The Fremont Sunday Market is for the antique hunter… there are SO many booths that have antique furniture, home decor and my personal vice… vintage fashion, patches and accessories.

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Photo: Fremont Sunday Market 

So of course, I had to stop and take a stroll. There was this vintage booth I stopped at and totally missed an opportunity to score a perfect Levi’s denim jacket at a reasonable price. But, it was July and no way was I gonna trek around a music festival carrying around more layers. So, I went for some cute Lolita heart shaped glasses with pink lenses to complete the look. Also, I can’t remember the name of this gal’s booth, but she had SO MANY PATCHES I about lost my shit. I will definitely be back to make a special trip for artwork and patches. I have a problem.

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My Instax souvenir from CHBP… I don’t know what to do with my arms.

What I love about Seattle is that you can get pretty much anywhere within city limits via bus. So, I took one of the busses out of Fremont to downtown Seattle, which is near the retail core, Pike Place Market and all the touristy spots. If your willing to walk, Capitol Hill is but a short trek up hill on either Pike or Pine Street. Adam (my Internet husband) and I would always walk up or down if we wanted to go up to our spots.

Capitol Hill Block Party 2018

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I’ve only been to Capitol Hill Block Party (CHBP) one other time in 2015. I ended up attending because I won a single GA ticket from one of the bars Sam’s Tavern. How did I win? I made up a burger creation and posted it on Facebook. They saw my description and picked me! A for effort. I wasn’t much with the whole music festival scene, but I’m much more intrigued on how CHBP involves local businesses, sponsors, and hasn’t skyrocketed in pricing. I’m lookin’ at you Coachella, I mean with good reason, they’ve split that festival up into two weekends and its where anyone who’s got celebrity status can be spotted. Seattle is home to Capitol Hill Block Party and Bumbershoot, another big festival that falls on Labor Day weekend.

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Photo: Throwback #CHBP2015 babes.

My reasoning for going to just attending Sunday, was that I could spend the weekend in Seattle and explore my old neighborhoods without being dedicated to Capitol Hill all weekend. Sunday would be like my last hurrah before leaving Washington… So I opted for Sunday, the final and third day of the festival. I only REALLY wanted to see one artist that I saw on the lineup and he played on Sunday at the main stage as the closing act. So, I thought, perfect, I can go and wander around all day, hear new music and totally engross myself. When I mean engross myself, I wanted the full experience of being VIP.

The VIP Experience: Worth It?

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I went back and forth so many times before I hit the purchase button. But, it really is worth it. With General Admission, it gets you into the block where everything is. Thats it. Which is plenty for some people, if you want to be there for the sake of being there, there you go. If you want a little bit more like… um… free food and drink passes?? Then buy the VIP ticket. My girlfriends that I met there always go VIP and seem to know everyone involved in the music festival production world, because they’re ALWAYS at every music festival it seems like. So, what the hell? What’s great about VIP is that there is a separate lounge area with furniture, like outdoor patio setups for bracelet holders. With entry, they give you three drink tickets, which are good at the VIP bar. Oh yeah, did I mention we have our own bar?!

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From the CHBP2018 VIP photobooth: my friends are hot.

Also, when you go on Sunday… your friends, who have been there all weekend, are a bit partied out and give you extra drink tickets. Score! There’s a ping pong table, a photo booth, lounge area and street taco catering by Poquito’s (a local Tex Mex place next door) So… a place to sit, free food, free drinks, photo booth, swag bag, and all near main stage? Sure, sounds like a great deal.

Like I said, it all depends on your personal preference and what kind of experience you want to have as a ticket holder. I really wanted that catered experience. I got four free drinks out of it and they fed me. Which could easily be a little expensive at the beer gardens. I was introduced to many great bands, I entered contests to win a trip to Austin, Texas, got an Instax photo taken, free sample CD of Austin musicians doing covers of classics, free water for everyone… AND FREE TACOS. The tip of the night was running from one stage to another to catch the last act of the night, the musical styling I bought this ticket to see: Father John Misty. Some of you may know him from the Fleet Foxes as J. Tillman. He has since been crushing it in his solo career under stage name / cult leader Father John Misty.

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Photo: Capitol Hill Block Party (Father John Misty)

I have no complaints whatsoever on the production value of this caliber. Capitol Hill Block Party has crushed it yet again. They made me really appreciate the place I come from and love to visit. They brought me together with friends, with the old establishments and watering holes I used to frequent… a great trip down memory lane. They have introduced me to new music that are becoming some of my new favorites. It’s peaked my interest to be present at more music festivals for years to come… Coachella for festival fashion, CHBP for my home, Pitchfork & Lollapalooza so I can stay w/ my Chicago fam/friends and Outside Lands for San Francisco. I went to Outside Lands when it first unveiled back in 2008… I actually think that was my first music festival ever. Damn 10 years later…

See ya at Life is Beautiful!

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