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!

Market In The Alley: A collective of creators, designers and makers

Ever since moving to Las Vegas, I sought out to find a gathering of small business owners and generally anyone who is side hustling in some sort of way. With Vegas having a stigma and allure of being the Sin City to satisfy your vices, I want to remind visitors (and myself from time to time) that it also is an actual place with actual people. This year I have become more invested in how I spend my time. I have been freelancing much more than actually going to my “day job”, which graciously allows me to work as part time as I want. So, with various copywriting projects filling my time, I thought what better way to ignite my right brain then to seek out the passion projects of Las Vegas and unveil some buried inspiration.

After a few years of exploring places I would normally go to “get out of the house” I stumbled upon a daytime event this past January. On a random Sunday I went to Market In The Alley in downtown Fremont across the street from the abandoned Fergusons Motel, which has been a vacant space for many years, except for the Burning Man Big Rig Jig sculpture towering above the desolation.

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Big Rig Jig at Fergusons

Now, the downtown Fergusons is a bustling hub in the making. It has finally undergone a major makeover to become a co-working space for various workshops, boutique hotel rooms, main offices for Market In the Alley and other downtown businesses. At the last Market I wandered over to take a look at the progress and there are few units already in operation, like the new Hatsumi Japanese Restaurant and a space proposed for a coffee shop.

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Photo: Fergusons Downtown on Instagram

The Downtown Fergusons collective also started a monthly event in the evenings that focuses on tasty libations: alcoholic and non-alcoholic called Pour in the Alley.

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The Pour in the Alley event is usually during the week before the next Market, which occurs every third Sunday. In the past they have had tasting events focused on tequila, coffee and most recently, mezcal. Next month’s will be rum focused. For future Pour in the Alley events peep the Fergusons Downtown Pour in the Alley Calendar.

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Big Rig Jig on a stormy Market In the Alley in February

Vulnerable moment PSA: The first time I went to Market In the Alley, I was feeling pretty down and out after getting into a car accident the week prior. I really needed to GET OUT and be around people doing cool things: making, creating, moving on, working towards their goals, instead wallowing in the event that had just occurred. I’m so happy I did, because not only was it a distraction, but it ignited something in me to keep going and keep brainstorming ideas on how to resolve the situation. And walking through the Alley is inspiring…

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Myself and friends taken at the January Market by Christopher Matlock

So, with friends from work we have made Market Sundays a regular day date. Each time we go, I always meet a new person who wants to collaborate; whether it’s cosmetology, photography, music or film production. This area is full of creatives that are wandering around looking for their next inspiration. This is what makes the wheel turn: a community of individuals that hustle for their dreams and aren’t afraid of collaborating for free.

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My hairstylist I now see, I met her twice at the market! Once at the January market and then at the February one; it was fate. She coaxed me into getting a fresh look from her along with makeup for a photo and video shoot. Out of that one collaboration, I now know a Vegas based fashion stylist, hairstylist, makeup artist and photographer. And we all have regular Market Sunday meet ups.

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Myself and Amber at April’s Market in front of the mobile Burnt Boutique

As for the event vendors, there are always so many. It’s hard to list my favorites. Vendors change monthly depending on if they can snag a booth in time before the deadline or if the event sells out. A few lovely vendors I frequent have been there regularly and always have an assortment of their own goods: from vintage wrestling tees, jewelry, coffee, organic home products, and so much more.

Each month I feel like there are more vendors than the last. Market in the Alley is definitely growing in popularity and it’s fun for everyone. There is always a rotation of live music outside nestled in the middle of the Market greens.  The Bunkhouse Saloon  has drink specials all day, plenty of food trucks to satisfy every different diet, coffee, animal adoption and morning yoga some days. As we move into the ‘hotter than hell’ of desert summers, Market in the Alley will most likely transition into a Night Market.

Hope this helps anyone in Las Vegas, visiting or stationary, that is looking for another way to socialize, take in the local scene or get those creative juices flowing… ✌️

Chicago: Where to chow & sip in Logan Square

I don’t know how I ended up eating so much Mexican food on this trip, but I can count three different times where I was having a burrito or a bowl somewhere. Tom and Kristina (Stina) mentioned that even when they went to LA, they consider their midwest city offers better Mexican food and more variety. Hmm… don’t tell my Internet husband aka LA transplant. Irregardless, here is my break down of ALL IN weekend: food and beverage edition by the days. The following places are in the Logan Square neighborhood, where I spent the majority of my weekend before Saturday’s big match. Also, where I had my first midwest version of a Rainier… Old Style.

Aside from Polish, Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood is predominantly Puerto Rican & Hispanic.

It even says it on Stina’s wrist: POLSKA, which simply means Poland in Polish. While Chicago is predominantly known for the hearty Polish and Italian-American fare, Logan Square has a very large Hispanic & Latino community. As we walked around the neighborhood from one destination to the next, I noticed several hole-in-the-wall type places that boasted “Authentic Puerto Rican flavor” of the sort. Though we didn’t have any Puerto Rican food, we definitely went to the Latin & Mexican spots that are popular among the young professionals and youth that reside in Logan Square. Oh, and beers!

Day 1: Thursday, August 30th. On little to no sleep, just landed in Chicago at noon.

Like I said in my previous post, I was not all the way awake when we landed. I just got in my cab and somewhat napped till we got to the city. I hadn’t eaten anything yet, but I knew I needed some form of energy to course through me… so give me the BEST DAMN COFFEE AROUND.

Damn Fine Coffee Bar

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Photo: @damnfinechicago

Honorable first mention to this gem of a coffee shop with a pop culture nod to Twin Peaks, which I can fully get behind. At Damn Fine Coffee I ordered an iced cold brew: Twice the caffeine and to cool me off. Desert heat vs. humid city heat… talk to me about it. This drink instantly cured me and I can once again hang.

The Map Room

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I am having the Anderson Valley Framboise Rose Gose. Delightful. Think of it as the rosé, of beer.

Our first stop was around the corner from where we were shopping in Wicker Park, about a 10 min walk from Pro Wrestling Tees. Upon entering, it reminded me of The Diller Room in downtown Seattle, inside historic building known as the Diller Hotel. The Map Room has that similar vibe with an emphasis on their beer selection being more like a library. They feature the best selection of craft, import and limited-release beers. Which makes this heaven for a beer lover searching for an obscure label.

Lonesome Rose

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Photo: @lonesomeroseforever

After a few beers at The Map Room, we hopped back on the L train back to Logan Square for some dinner at one of the neighborhood spots that offered some patio seating on the roof top… I’m aesthetically pleased. This lovely place… The Lonesome Rose is a nontraditional Tex-Mex joint that has this LA vibe. Plants everywhere, interior decorated minimally in a warehouse/container building. Very modern. Craft cocktails of course, but let’s stick to classic Modelo. They offered a few entrees and a few different tacos, that you could also make into bowls. Hello! Now your speaking my language. I got the rajas con crema bowl, because poblanos are the BEST and it’s vegetarian.

Heavy Feather

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Photo: @heavyfeatherchicago

After dinner and a few more beers, we headed over to Milwaukee Avenue, the main stretch for neighborhood bars and restaurants. Slippery Slope and Heavy Feather were on my list to check out. First impression: Slippery Slope is the downstairs dance floor and I was instructed to steer clear of that vibe. Upstairs is the classy 1970s drawing room/porn set of a gorgeous bar called The Heavy Feather. The glassware was 70s, there’s gold mirrors, actually a lot of gold, walnut bar top and plush leather rolling chairs. It has Wolf of Wall Street written all over it. Even the cocktails were appropriately named. Try the Nine to Five or the Rum Diary.

Emporium Arcade

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This is the place I have been hearing about the most, just from my friend’s Instagram feed. They know the bartender, they have bags of tokens, like Ebenezer Scrooge and his money bags. So, we’re just paying for beers. I can get behind that. This place is HUGE! It’s got a warehouse/garage vibe. Probably once was an auto garage, but is now filled with arcade games, pinball, skee ball and air hockey to name a few. Inside Emporium Arcade there is Pacman, Space Invaders and we found the original Crazy Taxi, which I had on PS2 oh so long ago. Colorful murals are splashed on the wall and theres even a food truck INSIDE the building. What?! After many tall boys and feeling mighty buzzed, we headed off to Pink Squirrel, which I’ll get back to later because they were closed for the evening.

Day 2: Friday, August 31st. Brunch & Birthday Sangria

Cozy Corner

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Photo: Facebook

Poor Tom had to work, so while he’s away.. the girls go play. This whole weekend I was staying up late and waking up late, unlike my normal early bird self. So around 10 or 11 Stina and I wandered down to the L train stop intersection where there is your basic no BS diner. Coffee and a veggie skillet for me! Enough food to keep us going all day.

In between watering holes and feeding, Stina and I spent the day exploring. All the way to Lincoln Park where the St. Valentine’s Day massacre took place. Which is no longer a parking garage and is just a lawn and alley way. Still, I thought it was a novelty to observe a piece of Chicago Mafia history. Feeling the muggy 2pm lag, we went to the fanciest 7-11 that was in the bottom floor of this Victorian-esque building… to get Slurpees.

Later that evening… I tag along to a birthday dinner and we go bowling!

Emporium Pop-PUP @ Emporium Popups

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Photo: @emporiumpopups

Later that evening, we rendevouz at the apartment to gather Tom and head out to Emporium Popups, right next door to Emporium Arcade. This month’s popup is called The Dog’s Day Pop-PUP and Doggo Play Place. They have built a giant dog house inside the bar, including a ball pit, fire hydrant, and funny cocktails aptly named to celebrate all doggos! In partnership with “local canine crusaders” One Tail At A Time, a no-kill shelter in Bucktown dedicated to rescuing and finding homes for all breeds. This building rotates its themes each month bringing in pop culture references (one of them was Stranger Things themed) non-profit collaborations and so much more.

El Cid Mexican Restaurant & Lounge

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I love making no plans when traveling because it usually means I’ll tag along with whomever is hosting me. After we left Emporium we headed on a short walk to the main “square” of which Logan Square historically is named after. Surrounding this round-about there are several bars ad restaurants. El Cid would be where all the Chicago friends of MY friends will gather and celebrate. Normally, I would jump on the margarita pitcher, but we all went for several pitchers of Sangria. One pitcher in, it started down pouring outside and I LOVE IT! A little drenched everyone moved inside. The restaurant manager was wound up like a squirrel accommodating everyone he could. We were his favorite table obviously and hooked us up with another pitcher, extra brandy.

Pink Squirrel

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Remember how I mentioned Pink Squirrel earlier? Well we finally came back! And it was much more lively on a Friday night. This petite cocktail bar wraps around with pastel, vinyl booths along the wall and a two lane duckpin bowling alley in the center of this exposed brick building. So many retro vibes! It had hints of 60s & 70s in their branding and of course with old school bowling under a neon pink sign… how could you not fall in love? To top it off this place is known for its boozy milkshakes. Fun Fact: The Pink Squirrel is a famous Midwestern cocktail that put Milwaukee’s Bryant’s Cocktail lounge on the cocktail must-see list.

Day 3: Saturday, September 1st. Leaving Chicago proper to head to ALL IN in the ‘burbs.

The Last Breakfast: Revolution Brewing

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Photo: @revbrewchicago (my PBR not pictured )

On the morning of ALL IN, I’m saddened to leave the city so quickly, but also excited to witness this monumental wrestling event that has been building up nearly nine months. Initially, our last stop was going to be the Chicago Diner, known for its vegan menu and… a thing of insatiable beauty, vegan milkshakes. Though with notoriety comes the weekend brunch rush. So unfortunately, the wait was long and I had an important date later. Revolution Brewing right next door was a very close 2nd choice and an impressive not-so-basic pub and brewery. With items like a breakfast burger and shakshouka, Bloody Marys crafted with an unexpected ingredient of porter AND a craft beer back, makes this morning classic a must. I had the “breakfast from scratch” their take on the basic breakfast: two organic eggs (your way), potatoes, biscuit with jam and sauteed spinach. Go here!

I bet this made your mouth water a little bit! And this isn’t even half of what was on my list. I guess it’s time to plan another trip… or move here?!

Check out my other Chicago posts on thrifting and pretending to be a local 

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Photo: @lonesomeroseforever

P.S. I’m obsessed with this styling! This t-shirt is from Lonesome Rose and can be purchased online and in store, so I’ve heard. This typeface is nothing like I’ve ever seen either! Designer Eileen T. designed this surreal Tuxedo Mask inspired graphic for Lonesome Rose, and I think we can all agree… there is no lonelier rose than Tuxedo Mask’s single rose he throws when he comes to Sailor Moon’s aid.  Go pick one up in store before they run out. Or if your not a Chicago native like myself you can go online to their parent company Land and Sea Department.