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Marfa: From Dawn to Dusk.

​It’s been several days since I’ve returned from Marfa, Texas – a place they say is “Tough to get to. Tougher to explain. But once you get here, you get it.”

I’m not quite sure I get it, but I’ll explain as much as I can.

On Saturday morning, I set out west in the morning, and planned to drive through Marfa to get to Valentine, Texas – home of the Prada Marfa installation. And that’s exactly what I did.

For the most part, the drive wasn’t near as rural as I expected. There really was no stretch of land without gas stations, food, or rest areas (maybe one-hour stretches) as I had read online. There was, however, lots of cattle to see along with mountains and desert scenery – it was beautiful.

About 30 minutes outside Marfa is a town called Alpine. It’s small, but loaded with stuff! There was the Big Bend Brewery and a visitor’s center, and it’s home to a super nice-looking University, where I later learned that most people in the area attend.

Between Alpine and Marfa proper is the Marfa Lights Viewing Area, which is in the middle of NOTHING.

Anyway, I drove through Marfa (it takes about 3 minutes to get from one side of town to the other), and made it the 30 miles further west to Valentine (population 217). I was seriously SO excited to see the Prada Marfa, and when I pulled up, there were several cars parked across from it with the same intentions.

It looks a little smaller than I imagined, but still just as cool. It’s not too risky to run across the highway, because there’s not many people passing through Valentine. Up close, I’ll admit, things look a tad creepy. The shoes and bags inside have been there for 13 years, and they are dusty and weathered. Surrounding the installation is a chain-link fence where people have placed locks, because we just have to put locks on every possible fence, right?

When I’d seen what I needed to see, I headed back east to Marfa to check in to my trailer at El Cosmico.

El Cosmico is off the main drag in Marfa, and is just as cute as promised. The lobby serves as a provisions store, too, and they’ve got some cool stuff, and it looks like an expensive camp, which I suppose it sort of is.

I got my key, and hauled all of my bags via a little wagon that embarrassingly rattled down the rocky path all the way to my trailer.

My trailer, “Amigo”, was pink and silver, and cute! It was a little smaller than I imagine, but definitely big enough for me and probably another person. There was a booth, a kitchenette, and a full-size bed.

They had towels, robes, shampoo, and kitchen utensils, which was a nice surprise. My toilet was outside, shared with one other trailer, along with a shower.

After I got settled, it started storming, and I was suddenly so thankful for my trailer and felt sorry for all the campers in the teepees. I decided to order a pizza and pick it up, so I called into Pizza Foundation, where there’s about 3 pizzas to choose from, and I guess they always have a 2-hour wait.

They didn’t tell me a time to come get it, so I decided to go check out “town”. I quickly realized that yeah, this place is tiiiiiiny. You’re lucky if the road is paved, and because of the rain, many of them were flooded.

The only big name store I saw was Dollar General, so I stopped there to kill time. When I made it to Pizza Foundation, there was still a wait on my pizza, but they had a stock of beer from Big Bend Brewery, so I grabbed a seat and started sipping.

Pizza Foundation is likely the only place to get a pizza in town, and despite its popularity, its in a big warehouse that has little decoration and uses card tables for dining. And yes, everyone that came in was told there was a 2-hour wait on pizza.

I got my pie (an 18-inch, because there’s only one size) and took it back to my trailer where I proceeded to drink an entire bottle of wine and eat half the pizza while it continued to storm. I nixed my plans to search for the Marfa Lights because I figured they wouldn’t appear in the rain.

I quickly slept in a fog of wine, and rain on a tin roof. I woke up feeling pretty rested, and I was ready to mark things off my list of sights to see.

My first adventure was making coffee in a percolator, which was in my kitchenette. It was too small to keep the induction heater on, so I took it outside to the outdoor shared kitchen and put it on a hot plate. This wasn’t really working, so I went back to my trailer and called maintenance.

The maintenance man came and probably thought I was an idiot, until he saw the problem, too, and I ended up rigging the induction heater long enough to make one cup of coffee, which was less-than-stellar.

I immediately went to Squeeze, where I got a cup of Big Bend coffee the size of my head and some scrambled eggs which I ate in about 2 minutes.

Then, I headed to the Chinati Foundation, where I was excited to see the famous works from Donald Judd. The cement blocks were free, but I paid $10 to see a few other things – his untitled mill aluminum boxes, and “Dawn to Dusk” by Robert Irwin.

Oddly, the Robert Irwin installation was a little bit of a drive from the Chinati Foundation and it was definitely at the end of a neighborhood road (many of these houses were run-down). When I walked up to the building, an employee reminded me not to touch anything inside, and no pictures.

Basically, the entire building was the art, and the inside goes from complete light to complete dark (or vis-versa depending on how you approach it). I realized then that I’ve never really seen modern art like this, and it was pretty trippy.

Next, I went back to Chinati to see the 15 Untitled Works in Cement. These are located in a patch of desert, and while there is a path around them, you’d have to walk in the desert brush to get anywhere near them.

So, I put on my boots and ventured as far as my fears would let me. There were deer, bunnies, cloudy skies, and I was fine until I saw several buzzards, and it took everything I had not to run in the other direction.

It is said that these concrete blocks were made to work with the environment, and they do – oddly. They serve sort of as frames to various parts of the desert, but they just stood so strong, that my feeling of eeriness was heightened even more.

Next, I moved on to his 100 Untitled Works in Mill Aluminum. These mill aluminum boxes are stored in two sheds that previously stored artillery. They are brick with steel curved roofs; there’s 48 boxes in the first building and 52 in the second.

And you could hear a pin drop in these buildings. So imagine how it sounds when someone opens the metal doors to get in and out? Yikes.

These mill aluminum boxes are all the same dimensions on the outside, but inside, there’s different shapes or formations of the aluminum, which eventually starts to play tricks on the eyes. I know they offer sunrise viewings of these, and since there’s so many windows in the building, I’ve heard the reflections are really cool.

It was neat overall, and I looked at every. Single. Box. But I honestly didn’t understand that a place like Marfa, known for its art, drawing people from all over, how is it that these boxes were dusty and had at least 1 dead bug inside each one?

Like… can we get a vacuum here? I mean that just seems disrespectful, and a horsefly or whatever it was is super obvious against a complete aluminum structure. Just saying.

Next, I went to Frama – a coffee shop inside the Tumbleweed Laundromat. I got a hazelnut latte with almond milk for $5 and it was awesome.

It was about this time that I started to wonder about Marfa. Yes, there were cute spots to go visit, but as I ventured from spot to spot, it was obvious that the roads needed work, the homes were old and run-down, and I wondered where all of the money from tourism was going? Was it really doing this town any good?

I had a few shops I wanted to visit, so I went to those next: Moon Gems and Freda. To my shock, Moon Gems had wooden crates of rocks scattered outside. I was so confused, especially since there were several hipsters drooling over the piles of $2 rocks.

Inside, there were finer gems on display, but I left empty-handed.

When I got to Freda, it was about the size of a walk-in closet, and there were a few candles for sale, bars of soap, and a tray of necklaces that were about $200. I was out of there.

I was hoping to have drinks and a lite lunch at The Capri Bar, but when I arrived, it looked completely empty and closed for good. So, I headed to Jett’s Grill at the Paisano Hotel – the set for several movies and home of the spiciest salsa in town.

I had a few margaritas, chips and salsa, and was literally the only person sitting there for hours. This is possibly where things turned even more for me – where WAS everyone? Was this what small town life was like?

I paid my tab and went to the shops inside the hotel where I found a few souvenirs, and then I headed back to my trailer.

Things were starting to get to me. I’d pretty much seen everything on my list, felt like everywhere I went I was alone, and I couldn’t quite understand what was so special about this place. It seemed almost sad to me.

I was also getting a little tired of the silence. Without wifi or a cell signal, I couldn’t listen to podcasts, so I turned on the radio in my trailer to the only station in town: Marfa Public Radio. I fell asleep in my bed and snoozed off the tequila.

When I woke up, I wanted to do something fun, and I had one place left on my list to go: Cochineal.

So, I changed clothes, and put on lipstick and ventured out. It was early for dinner, but I knew this was usually a busy place. When I walked in however, most of the tables were empty.

“Do you have a reservation?” the hostess asked.

I didn’t, and I still got a table, because NO ONE IS IN THIS CITY, I thought.

I was delighted to see all of the yummy-looking things on the menu, and my waitress was really nice. I ordered a glass of rose and got the ceviche.

Upon finishing said ceviche, I ordered a piece of fish, and proceeded to have an anxiety attack. I have dealt with anxiety for years, and as of late, it has combined with grief, and in general I am still a mess.

I felt hot, shaky, and sick, and I needed to leave, immediately. I tried to keep my cool and got my food boxed and paid my check – sadly leaving a majority of my wine in its glass. And I went to my trailer to try and cope.

The thing is, anxiety attacks can creep up at any point, sometimes they happen when you’re feeling great! But, I knew I was suppressing feelings of Father’s Day, and general feelings of being alone out in the middle of nowhere.

I was also tired of the cloudy skies, the desolate roads, and the silence. At home, in Austin, I’ve managed to create a plan for myself when I’m feeling low: I seek comfort in my kitty Blanche, watch a funny show on TV, or listen to Johnjay and Rich.

I’d left all of those things 7 hours east.

I was also a little tired of having every little thing seem different: I was tired of using an outdoor toilet, tired of jiggling the lock on my trailer door to get inside, tired of everyone knowing I was a tourist, and tired of not understanding anything about this town.

After talking with a few friends via phone, I felt a little better, or at least, better enough to head out of town and see these famous mystery Marfa Lights.

I heard mixed things about the perfect time to see these lights that supposedly only appear 15-30 times a year. I decided to go in time to see the sunset, and then I’d see how long I wanted to stay out there.

I went out around 8:30, and the sunset was gorgeous. It seemed unreal.

There were a lot of people at this viewing center, which was slightly raised and had a few built in sets of binoculars.

I was standing there just looking into the distance, when an older woman came up beside me.

“So, do you think we’re going to get to see the lights?” she asked.

“I hope so,” I said. “It seems clear, right?”

She introduced herself. Her name was Connie and she lived in Pennsylvania. She’d ridden to Marfa on a motorcycle, along with her husband and their friends, who shortly joined us on the platform.

They started telling me stories of all the places they’d biked, and we swapped information about the lights – times to see them, what we were supposed to be looking for, etc.

After about 30 minutes, Connie and her friends were convinced tonight was not the night for the lights.

“You probably came out here to enjoy some peace and quiet,” her husband said.

“No, I’m thankful for your company,” I said.

“Well, enjoy your vacation, or whatever it is you’re hoping to find out here,” her friend said.

I smiled. What exactly was I hoping to find out here?

With any trip I take, I’m always looking for a bit of an escape a change of pace, a chance to see how other people live, try new food, see what’s out there… and in a way, I suppose you always end up learning a lot about yourself when you’re out of your element.

By the time Connie and her friends left, it was beyond dark. The sky was dark, the desert even darker. But the stars were so clear, it looked like someone tossed a fistful of glitter into the sky and it stuck.

In the distance, there were lights, but conversations started to buzz about what lights were accounted for – a cell phone tower had a red light on it, and a distant highway was home to moving headlights.

But around 10pm, a staggering line of three small lights twinkled near the cell phone tower. They moved up and down, and sometimes disappeared entirely.

A woman next to me was quiet, but I pointed toward the lights, “What are those?”

“The lights!” she said.

Her son was a Marfa resident, and he said he’d never seen them so bright. Looking through a telescope, he explained his theory on what the lights were: a reflection of some sort from the moon. He said that even when researchers went to the spot directly under these lights, they couldn’t be seen.

The lights weren’t how I imagined – but they had been described many different ways. To me, they looked like little white twinkle lights – but appeared together like they were connected somehow.

After a terrible night of barely sleeping, I left Marfa right after sunrise. I was ready to get home. Looking back on my trip, I’m glad I went and saw what I’ve heard so much about. But the best way I can describe it now is from Robert Irwin, “Dawn to Dusk”.

It went from exciting and vibrant to dark and creepy, physically and mentally. But that’s the risk you take going on your own – everything relies on you, and sometimes that depends on what’s happening inside your head at the time.

West Texas was simply a backdrop for another adventure, but the Mystery Lights were certainly a bright spot in a desert of darkness.

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The Road to Marfa: Reasoning.

Beautiful!

I leave for Marfa, Texas early tomorrow morning – my bags are packed, my rental car is ready for pickup, and I’m reflecting on why I wanted to make this unique trip in the first place.

I heard about Marfa for the first time on an episode of “Courtney Loves Dallas” (on Bravo), when her friends join her for a road trip across Texas to see Prada Marfa. I honestly can’t remember if they did much else, but she later went on to make a Marfa t-shirt for her blog followers, and continues to shoot promotional items for her blog within Marfa:

I thought the Prada Marfa was cool enough to see one day, and when I moved to Austin almost 3 years ago (!), I knew I had to visit one day.

Truthfully, I’ve always enjoyed camping experiences. As a kid, my babysitter had a pop-up camper and I thought it was such an adventure. I loved walking around the campground to see how other people set up their temporary homes – with lights and patches of plastic grass.

I also loved it when the local mall had their camper and RV show – I loved looking through all of them, and thought they all looked so fancy.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted an adventure in some sort of desert (or deserted) environment. I have long romanticized life out west – perhaps that’s why I love Texas so much. The cacti, tumbleweeds, dust clouds, and horses have always appealed to me.

Like my dad, I’ve got a bit of a fascination with small towns – how people inhabit them and never leave; how they create lives off-the-grid; and how it all contributes to some semblance of meaning for us city folk.

Like anyone about to hit the road, I’m looking for clarity, a bit of a challenge, and a new perspective. I have always believed that in order to create, we must constantly work our creative muscles; always looking for new things to discover and digest.

But of course, I’m looking to unplug a bit, too. Work has been incredibly stressful, and lately, the weekends just aren’t enough time for me to recharge. I also randomly picked this weekend to travel, and as the days have crept closer, I see I’ll be well west on Father’s Day – I’m really thankful that I won’t be able to see anymore online chatter about the holiday I’m missing this year.

Grief has been so hard on my heart, my mind, my body, and my social life. I know one weekend won’t solve it for me, but I hope that with each adventure I take on my own, I grow stronger and more confident in the daily challenges I face.

I’m really looking forward to actual quiet, the quiet I’ve only experienced in the Tennessee mountains at night. That same darkness, too – it brings rest.

And of course, I’m hoping to have fun, meet people, share stories, eat local food, and take pictures; spend some time in a hammock with a book, or sit outside with my journal.

Whatever happens out there, I look forward to telling you all about it.

Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.

-Anthony Bourdain

The Road to Marfa: Packing Notes.

I’m not quite packing this lite…

Since I’m staying in a trailer with AC, I am really lucky that I don’t have to pack bedding, a tent, or any super serious camping supplies. However, the things I’ve packed for this trip are definitely a little different than what I’ve packed for other trips in the past.

I thought I’d share some of the more unique items I’m bringing in case you’re planning a similar trip!

Road Needs

As I mentioned, I got a rental car for this trip (can’t trust my Jeep). On the on hand, I have peace of mind that I’ll actually make it to Marfa, but on the other hand, I’m missing out on the comforts of my own car – specifically, XM radio. And while, yes, I could have paid extra to get XM in the rental, I took it as an opportunity to load up on audio books and CDs from the library. I’m bringing:

  • “Anthem” – Hanson
  • “Backwoods Barbie” – Dolly Parton
  • “Collateral” – Phillip Phillips
  • “Jekyll + Hyde” – Zac Brown Band
  • “Memories: Do Not Open” – The Chainsmokers
  • “Music of my Mind” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Unorthodox Jukebox” – Bruno Mars
  • “The Very Best of Prince” – Prince
  • “Wilson Phillips” – Wilson Phillips
  • “First Women” by Kate Anderson Brower
  • “One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes

I also downloaded an app called Stop by Stop that helps you plan your stops for food and gas. There is a 4-hour stretch of nothing, so I am really thankful I can easily see when to fuel up! I am also going old-school and printing all of my directions just in case I lose service.

Food + Drink

I am packing snacks and drinks for the road, but am bringing plenty just in case all the restaurants are closed and I find myself in need! Here’s what I’ve got in my cooler:

  • Pretzels
  • Sour gummies
  • Trail mix
  • Thunderbird Bars
  • Popcorn
  • Homemade cookie bars
  • Melon chunks
  • Apples + peanut butter
  • Water
  • Canned green tea
  • Bottled coffee
  • La croix
  • Wine
  • Tequila
  • Lime wedges
  • Plastic cups, flask, reusable water bottle

Electronics

I am very much planning to unplug, but I am bringing my cell phone, a wifi hotspot (for directions only), and a flashlight.

Books + Writing

I’m not necessarily planning on sitting around reading, but El Cosmico (the campground where I’m staying) does have hammocks and fire pits, plus I might want to read before bed or if I’m hanging out in a coffee shop. So, I am packing a few books (listed below) along with my journal – I have been writing in it every day lately, and I know I’ll have lots of thoughts running through my mind this weekend.

  • “Blood, Bones, & Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton: I was being SO picky about books I wanted to bring along, but I picked this memoir off my shelf because it’s about a chef’s journey in finding purpose and meaning in her life.
  • “Loop Group” by Larry McMurtry: This is also from my collection, and I chose it because it’s about two friends who set off on an adventure out west.
  • “The Vanishing Year” by Kate Moretti: This one was a reserve I picked up about a woman living a glam life and she has all these secrets coming back to haunt her. It’s basically a suspense novel that has no relevance to this trip and I’ll likely keep it at the bottom of my stack.

Clothing

I didn’t give clothes much of a thought other than for utility, and I packed a mix of things because I do think it will be cooler at night and I’m planning to hit up some bonfires, and will be outside searching for the Marfa Lights. So, I packed a baseball hat, a sweatshirt, a rain jacket, and oversized pajama pants in case I need to use the outhouse in the middle of the night. I also packed shower shoes along with slippers for wearing inside the trailer.

Linens

El Cosmico provides linens, but I did pack my own towel, and washcloth just in case. I also packed a blanket to bring with me to bonfires and for catching the lights.

Toiletries

This isn’t a trip where I’m stressing over makeup and hair, but instead I packed a First Aid kit, antibacterial gel, sunscreen, aloe gel, bug spray, baby wipes, toilet paper, kleenex, lip balm, and… I couldn’t consider this a getaway without packing a few clay face masks and a travel tube of sunless tanner.

So yeah, I think that about sums it up! I have been packing all week and just sort of tossing things in a pile as I think of them, but I feel prepared. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about WHY I’m taking this trip and what I’m hoping to gain from it.

The Road to Marfa: The Sights.

Teepees at El Cosmico. Photo from Texas Lodging.

While I have never been to Marfa, Texas, I have been doing lots of research to figure out some things I want to do while I’m camping there this weekend. Yes, I said camp. I’ll get to that…

What I’ve found is that, while Marfa is sort of a town known for being small and weird and remote, there’s enough to entertain just about anyone for a few days. I’ve put together a list of possible activities:

Lodging: El Cosmico

I mentioned camping, but it’s more like glamping, as I’ve booked my stay at the most well-known place in town, El Cosmico campground. There are safari tents, yurts, teepees, and vintage trailers. I’ve got a reservation in a trailer, so I won’t quite be one with the elements, but I’ll still be using the outhouse and the shared shower. It’s going to be rough enough.

Must-see: Marfa Lights

During the 19th century, ranchers, Apaches, and meteorologists reported seeing strange lights along the horizon, with no source in sight. Today, the mysterious lights draw tourists from across the country. The real kick? They are only seen about 15 times a year, and are often described differently by anyone who sees them. Marfa has an open field where light-seekers gather each night hoping to see the ghostly orbs.

Art: Chinati Foundation

I guess you could say the Chinati Fountain was where it all began, since minimalist artist Donald Judd created his art installations that made Marfa an art mecca worth traveling for. His art philosophy was to be one with nature, and between his cement boxes and reflective sculptures, many have said his work is memorizing.

The draw: Prada Marfa

Many people are drawn to Marfa by its 2005 art installation of a Prada store front – but it’s not actually IN Marfa – it’s 40 minutes outside of the city. Don’t worry, I’ve got to see it – but it will add an extra 2 hours to my trip home. From what I’ve heard, it’s quite a sight, so I’m looking forward to it.

Dinner: Cochineal

I’ve heard mixed reviews about the food in Marfa – some people say it’s impressive, others say you’re so hungry that you’ll eat anything. But everything I’ve heard about Cochineal sounds great – the food, the drinks, the atmosphere – and apparently they have vegan items!

Drinks: The Capri

The Capri is located inside Thunderbird Hotel, known for the movies filmed there. I’ve heard great things about the food, and even if it’s subpar, it sounds like the scenery is worth a visit.

Shopping: Freda

While El Cosmico appears to have an impressive provisions shop, I’ve heard Freda is the place to get envious souvenirs, including unique jewelry. I’m there!

Coffee: Frama

This coffee shop is not only inside the Tumbleweed Laundromat, but it also has a menu made entirely of Scrabble tiles. Say no more.

And that’s my list! Am I going to do ALL of these things? Maybe. Here’s the thing about Marfa, and West Texas in general, the locals are on their own schedule. Many, if not all, businesses do not operate under regular business hours. Some tourists have said there are nights when no restaurants are open, so there’s that (I am packing plenty of food).

The other thing is (and I’ll get more into this in a later post), I’m really trying to go with the flow for this trip. I’m not going to have cell service, wifi, or TV – there is a single radio station – so I’m just going to sort of wander and do whatever. If that means resting in a hammock at El Cosmico all afternoon, then that’s where I’ll be.

Tomorrow, I’m talking about famous road trips!

The Road to Marfa: A History.

Photo of the Marfa Welcome sign from ‘The Local Palate’.

Early Saturday morning, I’m taking yet another trip that’s been on my bucket list for many years and am heading west to Marfa, Texas.

Marfa’s slogan is, “Tough to get to. Tougher to explain. But once you get here, you get it.” Before I take to the road, I’m going to attempt to share all of the reasons why I’m heading to this small town, what I’m going to do there, and what I’m hoping to get out of it, all this week on the blog in a series I’m calling, “The Road to Marfa”. I hope you’ll join me.

Today, I want to talk about how Marfa came to be.

Marfa was established in 1883, and served passesrsby as a water stop and was the freight headquarters for the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway. It has been said that the wife of a railway executive was reading “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyoder Dostoyevsky, and named the town after one of its characters.

Another version of the story claims that the town was named for the character Marfa Strogoff in Jules Verne’s “Michael Strogoff”.

Marfa is at the junction of US Highway 90 and 67 in the northeastern part of Presidio county. To the north are the Davis Mountains, to the southeast the Chisos Mountains, and to the southwest the Chinati Mountains. Marfa lays semi-protected within these escarpments on a great highland plain known as the Marfa Plateau. It sits at an altitude of 4,830 feet above sea level in a semiarid region.

Photo from the ‘Dallas Morning News’.

By 1885 Marfa had one or two saloons, a hotel, and a general merchandise store—Humphris and Company. Poker bets in the saloons were often made with deeds to town lots. Traveling salesmen stayed at the St. George Hotel, who came by train, established their headquarters in the hotel, and from Marfa made stagecoach trips to Shafter, Fort Davis, Valentine, and Presidio to show their wares.

In 1886 Marfa was now home to churches, a school, and a newspaper. C. M. Jennings began publishing the “New Era”, the town’s first weekly newspaper. Over the years, it changed hands several times until the weekly finally merged with the “Big Bend Sentinel” under the management of T. E. Childers.

In 1900 the population of Marfa was 900. Eventually the town had literary clubs, fraternal organizations, telephone service, and a bank.

Marfa’s population reached 3,909 in the 1930s, and in the 1940s, the government housed the Chemical Warfare Brigades, and soon built a prisoner of war camp nearby. Marfa Army Air field was also created near town, and when all of these military camps closed, it hit Marfa economically.

In 2016, Marfa’s population was 1,747.

The Stardust Motel sign in Marfa, Texas.

Until the 1970’s, Marfa was best known for the ghost lights and the film location for James Dean’s final picture the “GIANT”, also starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Dennis Hopper. The classically beautiful Hotel Paisano, served as the center of activity during the making of the movie.

In 1971, Donald Judd, the renowned minimalist artist and sculptor, moved to Marfa from New York City with the intention of permanently installing his art. He purchased several acres in Marfa, including the buildings of Fort D. A. Russell, and established galleries for contemporary art.

Before Judd died in 1994, he’d acquired an army base and filled it with art, which is open for tourists.

These beginnings eventually led to Marfa’s growing reputation as an artists’ community, and support for the visual arts has been carried on by the Chinati Foundation and other groups. Various art museums and galleries attract creative spirits as well as tourists and have garnered international attention.

In 2009, The New York Times started publishing several features on Marfa – the art, and the food scene. At the start of 2013, the internet freaked when Beyonce visited Marfa and posted pictures on her social channels. Natalie Portman, Robert Pattenson, and Jake Gyllenhaal have also made the trek to Marfa.

Remember how Marfa claim it’s hard to get to? It’s about 3 hours from El Paso, Texas, near the Texas/Mexico border. It’s about 7.5 hours from Dallas to Marfa, in fact, the nearest city is 170 miles away, and it’s in Mexico.

Talk about remote!

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about what there is to actually DO in Marfa.

Sources: Visit Marfa, Texas State Historical Association, NPR

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, eve! Tomorrow morning, I’m hopping on a flight to get my travel on for the holiday break, and just perhaps, I’ll get my dose of freezing cold weather for a few days.

I don’t want to get too cheesy here, but the approaching Thanksgiving holiday definitely makes me think about what I’m thankful for, and this year, my list is a mile long.

I am so thankful for my mom, my friends, everyone I dance with, my kitty Blanche, and well, everyone who has a part in creating “The Daily Show” (this year just wouldn’t have been possible without that).

I am also just generally thankful for my health, my health insurance, and doctors, everywhere. I’m really thankful for my job, for all of my freelance clients, for all of the students who’ve taken my blog class, and for everyone who’s shopped in my Etsy shop – all of these jobs and projects have allowed me to clean up my financial mess, pay off a credit card, invest in hobbies I love, and even do some traveling.

It’s not quite the time to reflect on the entire year (we still have another month to go!), but this year, I’ve lost a lot of people. Some literally, some figuratively, some have cut me out, some I’ve cut out – but I know it’s all part of a bigger plan for each of us. If you’re in my life, it’s because I want you to be, and I’m really appreciative of you.

Of course, thank you for reading my blog. I have been in a weird space with blogging these past few months, partially because of time, and partially because I feel like sometimes this blog does more harm to myself than good.

I have started journaling as a way to get my thoughts out in an unbiased, totally unedited way, and it’s helping me in a way I didn’t expect. I don’t know if those words will ever see the light of day, maybe so, or maybe not. I just know that right now, there’s people watching my every word, and I’m not willing to provide food for their fights.

Regardless, this blog is here to stay. And hey, I am, too.

In the past, I’ve put so much energy into maintaining traditions when it comes to holidays, but I’m finally feeling like I’m coming into my own. I don’t have to do the same thing every year for the holidays – in fact, I can do whatever I want!

I’m not chained to locations, menus, houseguests, or expectant family members. I do what I want – it’s not the life I dreamed of, but perhaps that’s just because I didn’t know the option existed.

So yeah, tomorrow I’m bundling up (with the new John Green book in-tow), and I’m heading out for a few days to indulge, and upon my return to Texas, I’m SO happy to have some time off of work to decorate my apartment for the holidays, catch up on some TV, and work on my Etsy shop.

I hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving – I’ll be posting this week’s Book Club read tomorrow, and I’ve got a special surprise for Black Friday.

Cheers!

It’s true: You really can’t go home again.

Indianapolis.

Last week, I took a trip home to Indiana to visit some old friends and family. It had been 18 months since I’ve been back, and I was really looking forward to it.

I had three big things on my to-do list during my six-day trip: 1. Honor my friend Cheryl by participating in a Crohn’s Walk with my mom, 2. Get answers for a romantic relationship in-question, and 3. Visit my friend and her son.

Item #1 happened basically as planned, although there seems to always be secrecy and planning that happens behind my back and then – SURPRISE! – I arrive and it’s not what I thought it would be. Whatever.

Item #2 is a toughie. You see, I have had a little bit of a crush on this person for, well, half of my life. I am really lucky to call him my friend, first, but I know things were starting to inch toward the gray area and I needed to know where we were headed.

Long-distance relationships are difficult, and I have no intentions of getting involved in one unless there was a clear means to an end. One thing I wanted to know was if he planned on staying in Indiana forever.

If so, that would be something I’d have to seriously consider: would I move back to give this thing a chance? I’m happy to report we talked about this right away. I’m not-so-happy to report that his answer was yes, he’ll be staying in Indiana foreevvverrrrrr. Ouch.

Now let me say this, I’m definitely not married to the idea of staying in Austin, Texas forever. In fact, I’m already considering my next move. But I know I’m not equipped to move back to Indiana. I haven’t done all I need to do!

There were other wrenches thrown into the mix as the week progressed – things that showed me, clearly, a romantic future is just not in the cards for me and this guy. I don’t want to say much more than that; I do hope he’ll still be my friend for years to come.

It’s sad, in fact I’m still pretty bummed out about it, but I’m glad I saw things for myself and got the answers I needed before we traveled too far down the rabbit hole.

If you’ve been reading around these parts for awhile, you know that I’m kinda (ok, really) bad at dating. I have a history of ignoring red flags and getting myself stuck in some sticky situations. So, even though this didn’t end in love this time, I have to say I’m really proud of myself for standing up and not just “going with it” when I know something doesn’t align with my values. I know what I want for myself, and I’d much rather be single than try and force something that isn’t right.

So, it’s a bittersweet win.

Now, item #3 just plain didn’t happen for reasons I’m not really sure of.

I’ll say that as much as it pains me to admit it, sometimes people just grow apart, no matter how long or deep a history they have. And maybe that has happened here.

Regardless, my heart is still hurt, and I have been on the mend (read: sleeping way too much) since my return. Loss, of any sort, isn’t easy.

Aside from those things, I spent some quality time with another friend – we got some good laughs, drank delicious wine, and we endured some interesting challenges along the way.

We joined up with some old friends from high school and I laughed until my cheeks hurt over inside jokes that possibly only we think are funny. We went to see Guster and Dispatch in concert, and there were literally fireflies dancing above us, and it was the Indiana I’ve romanticized since my departure 14 summers ago.

As I always say, Indiana will always (!) hold a special place in my heart – I went through a lot of things growing up there. But when I boarded my plan to Texas last Thursday morning, every ounce of me knew that things just weren’t quite the same. Even if Texas isn’t my forever home, I know Indiana isn’t.

I spent 12 years in Louisiana, and although it didn’t necessarily feel like “home”, I accomplished so much there, and it really shaped who I’ve become. Texas, well, hard work got me here, and it gave me a fresh start. It’s an opportunity that I still sort of can’t believe I have.

So, cheers to old friends, but also, to looking ahead, wherever that may be.

Indiana: A story of what could be?

The road to Indiana.

Howdy! I had every intention of posting yesterday, but life took over – okay, more like work took over, and I was up until the wee hours this morning finishing things, and packing for my trip to Indiana tomorrow.

I planned this trip months ago, so I could participate in my second “Take Steps for Crohn’s”, which I am still looking forward to, but the trip has also transformed into something else.

It may come as no surprise that I have some pretty strong feelings for a guy in Indiana. It’s not someone new, in fact, he’s been a part of my life for years – but we’ve really been on a roller coaster.

Without going too much into it, I will say that we’ve managed to be there for each other through some very tough times, especially as of late. I’ve had a tiny crush on him since I was 15, and have been fairly honest about my feelings over the years – him, too, even though he hasn’t always felt the same way.

Recently, he quietly admitted he had feelings, too – something I never, ever thought I’d hear him say. And that’s just it: it’s the first time I’ve liked someone so much, I’d accept it if he didn’t like me. I’d rather have his friendship than nothing, and I want him to be happy, even if it’s not with me.

Strong words, I know.

And that’s the other part of this entire thing: I’m in uncharted territory. I’ve never liked someone who was quite so nice to me; never been able to actually talk to someone on the phone (especially about nerdy stuff, like politics and food); never had any sort of relationship that didn’t involve around sex, talking about sex, or planning for sex. It’s refreshing.

But, it’s also scary AF. What exactly is going on here? I can’t answer that right now. And I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer it after this trip, either.

Because if you’ve been here before, you and I both know how this ends (read this, this, this, this, and this, and this, for examples). I’ve done this. Of course, this is someone different – biologically, and in many different ways. But it has ended poorly for me before. I’m bracing myself to get on that plane next week with a broken heart, and no need for a phone.

A long time ago, I concluded I like Indiana boys because they are familiar, and because, well, I live 19 hours away and don’t really have to subject myself to the intimacy that would happen in a real, face-to-face relationship.

But what if the distance was eliminated? I always say I have stayed in the South to benefit my career. I’ve banked on the story I’ve told myself that I will always be single. But what if I put something, or someone, else first this time? What would my life be like?

There is a huge part of me that already knows the answer. My life would probably be filled with a lot more love, and a little less stress. I might actually get the thing I’ve always wanted: love. A partner.

All of that just scares me. I don’t know if I’m ready, but on the other hand, how can I NOT be ready?

I don’t want to bank everything on this trip, but I am hoping it will show me a little taste of what my story could have been; what it could be, if I choose that path, instead of the one I’m on now.

We’ll see!

PS. The blog will be sparse next week as I’ll be vacationing and mind-questing 🙂 Promise I’ll be back.

Road Trip: Baton Rouge edition.

Louisiana oak trees.

I took a road trip to Baton Rouge this weekend. Yes, it’s a route I’ve traveled many times before – however, I haven’t done it in a whole year. Truthfully, because I kept having to make that trip before (because of CASA volunteer obligations), I’m sure I turned myself off of it.

But when a friend announced he was making a big move (13+ hours away), I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to hop in the car and go for a drive.

I needed a place to stay for one night, so I slapped in on Facebook, and within one minute I had an offer from a sorority sister whom I haven’t seen in several years. I took her up on her offer, and spent Friday night doing a little baking, packing road trip snacks (fruit, cheese, trail mix, of course), and packing my clothes.

I’d also given my car a little love with an extensive oil and three-filter change, plus a tire repair, and even a tire replacement. I was ready!

I hit the road at 8am on Saturday, which would put me in Baton Rouge around 3pm provided there wasn’t much traffic or bad weather. I’ve made this trip so many times to know it rarely takes the 6.5 hours Google Maps says.

But, I was in no hurry. I didn’t have to be anywhere specific until 9pm, so whatever. I used the car time to catch up on my favorite Radio Andy shows: Reality Checked, Jim Parsons is Too Stupid for Politics, and Dan Rather’s America.

I also listened to some Dispatch I got from the library (I’m seeing them in concert next week), and made it about halfway through an audio book.

The drive from Austin to Baton Rouge is mostly farm land – especially during the Texas half of the trip. Lots of cows, steers, and neatly rolled hay. I am a sucker for these types of views.

I made it to Baton Rouge a little before 3:30, and was so happy to see my hostess, Sarah, along with her son – both of whom had just survived his birthday party. We spent the afternoon visiting, and were treated to pork chops from Iverstine Farms, along with some fancy rose Sarah discovered on Instagram. It was a perfect Saturday evening.

Already buzzed, I headed to the goodbye gathering at a nearby bar, where I took advantage of the cheap, local beer. I do miss Abita!

It was fantastic to visit with my friend and see some familiar faces, I didn’t realize just how much I needed that feeling of comfort – that feeling of home.

The fact is, I wasn’t born and raised in Louisiana. I’m from Indiana, where I’m traveling at the end of this week. And while I have spent years calling Indiana home, I don’t know if that word is the right one.

Yes, I spent 18 years there. But I spent 12 in Louisiana. And you know… I grew up, big time, in Louisiana. I survived a culture shock, had my first serious heartbreak (on top of many others), endured multiple hurricanes, got my first apartment, my first job out of college… it’s easy to say that a lot of things about me where shaped in Louisiana.

So many of my friends there are like family, and when 95% of my family doesn’t talk to me – friends are all I’ve got.

I don’t regret leaving Baton Rouge – it needed to happen, for the sake of my career, my creativity, and still for my sanity. And I know the chances of living in Louisiana again are slim-to-none. But it’s always going to hold a really special place in my heart.

I left Baton Rouge at 10am on Sunday – and was met with some pretty heavy traffic and construction on the drive back. Pair that with a decent headache from my Saturday festivities (when in Baton Rouge…), and it made for a less than stellar trip, but I made it safe, and I even got a Diet Cherry Coke – so we’re putting that down as a WIN in my book.

It was a quick and fun weekend – a much-needed, heart-fulfilling trip. I’ve got another one coming up this week, and well, I’ve been sort of harboring the story around that for awhile. I’ll spill it here later (this week), but I’ve still got to find the words to explain it.

So, cheers to tired Mondays – as long as the soul is full.

Taking steps for Crohn’s.

Take Steps for Crohn’s!

Howdy! I’m still recovering from a two-day work trip to Dallas, and the weekend. I didn’t get back from my trip until Friday night, and still had some loose-ends to tie up before it was really the weekend, but I didn’t waste much time drinking a beer and falling into bed. I had to be up at a reasonable hour for Austin’s leg of the “Take Steps” – a walk to raise money for a cure for Crohn’s disease.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this walk. While I am SO, so grateful for everyone who sponsored me (I raised $175 toward the cure), no one agreed to walk by my side. So, I woke up on Saturday morning to find it was storming quite heavily in Austin. Nonetheless, I ate, got dressed, and drove 20 minutes to the expo center.

I checked in, soaking wet, and got all sorts of free swag because of the amount of money I raised. I still had an hour before the actual walk started, and there wasn’t much for me to do – there were plenty of things for kids to do, but I sort of slinked away and tried to kill time listening to podcasts and staring off into the rain.

I thought about Cheryl, my friend who died after fighting with Crohn’s. She was my reason for walking on Saturday. Truthfully, I felt like a jerk. She did everything with a smile, and there I was – a grouch. But, I wondered if she was with me in spirit then, and possibly laughing at the fact that this walk was indeed inside a barn, and I was about to embark on a dusty, dirt path in brand new sneakers.

I also wondered why I’d never walked before; why had I not supported my friend when she was alive to see it? The truth is, she made Crohn’s look easy when it probably was not. I know everyone’s experience with it is different, but I know her battle was difficult at times.

As my hour-long wait came to an end, they invited everyone over to the stage. They called up some of the big donors, introduced doctors in the area to help those with Crohn’s and similar diseases, asked those diagnosed to come to the stage, and introduced their “Hero” – a boy who was probably 14-ish, and had been undergoing treatments for years. He spoke, and said his doctor found a treatment that worked for him and put his Crohn’s in remission… until his body developed antibodies to it, and now he was on something new. And while this treatment helped, he said, it was not an eliminator. Our money is working to possibly create an eliminator – and together, Austin raised $62,000+ for the cause.

And with that, we walked. It was a short walk, but I’m glad I did it – for Cheryl, but also for myself. I often take my health for granted, and it was very eye-opening to see others around me who have to work hard and take lots of medications to even try to feel normal. I can’t imagine.

But, my fight for Crohn’s isn’t over. I’m walking again, in a month, in Indianapolis, to raise more money and honor Cheryl once again. And if you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join me. To join my mom’s team with me, please click here. I hope to see you there!

‘Southern Charm’: To Liver and Die in Charleston.

Shep and Cam.

Can I just say that Monday nights are pretty awesome – I’ve got two of my favorite dance classes to take, and then I come home to some great TV, plus there’s that whole feeling that at least Monday is over. Right??

I was extra excited to see last night’s episode after last week’s craziness with Craig and Naomi. So, let’s get into it. At the top of the episode, Shep’s doctor calls and tells him the results of his labs. Turns out he has an elevated enzyme in his live and needs to cut back on the drinking, and will be tested again in two to three months.

At another house, Cameron is waiting on Craig (typical). She’s showing him some investment properties so he can fulfill one of his many dreams! Turns out, he’s pretty picky about what he wants in a rental home, and Cameron asks him if Naomi is supportive of this financial decision. He says he can’t continue to do things JUST for her, or else he’ll come to resent her.

Meanwhile, Patricia is at the pool with Chauncey and Whitney stops by and tells her about the conversation he had with Thomas about dating. Patricia suggests Landon as a possible match for Thomas, and of course, she decides she should host a casual dinner party and she can seat Thomas next to Landon (how Charleston of her).

Then, Chelsea and Austen go on another date – beer tasting (perfection). They get to talking about Shep and Austen tells Chelsea that Shep was a little disappointed that he was the last to know about the two of them talking. However, Austen assures Chelsea that he’s squashed it and he has no questions about it, and he does not feel like he violated Bro Code.

Remember last week, when Cameron had the witch doll made for Shep? Well, she takes him out to dinner: a table for Cameron, Shep… and Mama Estelle (Cam’s doll). She explains to Shep that she had a doll made for him because she was going to cast a love spell on him but she’d since changed her mind. So, she gave him the doll and said he could use it when he met someone worth falling in love with.

Later, Patricia’s is putting the final touches on her dinner party, and she says, “With these kids, I can just go to Costco and buy all the liquor.” Seriously? I would PAY to see Patricia in a Costco. The dinner party goes fine, but it doesn’t seem like any crazy sparks are flying. However, Thomas sniffs out that it’s a setup pretty early in the evening.

Meanwhile, Craig is on the sewing machine, embroidering tiny images of his cat, Gizmo, onto pillowcases. Naomi is not impressed by this at all, and when Craig casually mentions that he put an offer in on a house, she’s not really interested in that, either.

Later, Shep joins Kathryn for his first ever yoga class, as he continues his journey to detox. He’s struggling pretty hard throughout the class, but afterward tells Kathryn that he’s trying to see what it’s like not to drink every night. There’s a few clips of Shep at home, taking vitamins, and making a fruit smoothie in a Vitamix. He then calls his mom and says, “I just made a smoothie!” …It’s probably one of the cutest TV moments, ever.

Speaking of parents, Austen has dinner with his parents, and they are REALLY fired up about him starting a business. They don’t see his work as a beer salesman as anything serious; they want him to settle down, get married, and have a 9-5, and they really want him to make a business plan to show them he’s getting serious. Whoa.

And finally, the gang heads to Jennifer’s sip and see, where Thomas and Landon are flirting pretty heavily, and Naomi and Craig continue their fighting in front of everyone. Basically, she’s calling him out on his bullshit and he sees it as her not being loyal…which doesn’t really make sense.

But at the end of the episode, it doesn’t look like things between them are getting cleared up anytime soon, because she leaves the party without him. Bloop, bloop! Guess we’ll find out next week!

Life after vacation.

Le sigh.

Hey yo! I’m starting this week off with an apology – I know I only blogged twice last week, which was not planned. Vacation kicked my ass!

I got back to Austin Monday night around 9:30, and by the time I got home, showered, got myself ready for bed, and watched “Southern Charm”, it was after midnight. When I arrived at work on Tuesday, there was all sorts of unnecessary drama that I did not need.

By the time things were starting to feel back to usual around the office – I even got things organized there, and started catching up on all of my podcasts again – the power went out and completely jacked up our internet, leaving us to work from home for a day and a half. Ugh!

It took me much longer to get back to my “normal” life than I thought. And I wondered… is this vacation after 30? I’ve always heard people complain about jet lag and adjusting back to regular life after vacation, but never really experienced it. Whew, not until now!

But, I did take a few dance classes last week, and then used my weekend to help get myself back in order.

After all of the junk (but very delicious) food and drink I had on vacation, I was excited to clean out my fridge and hit the grocery with a list of fresh produce. I am happy to report that my fridge is now full of Naked Juices, fruit, raw veggies, boiled eggs, and soda water. I’ll be living off that until I feel skinny again.

I spent a majority of my Saturday volunteering for the Austin Film Festival – an event that’s become very special to me. There was an opportunity to earn some hours by passing out fliers for their kids’ Summer Camp… I ended up walking 12,000 steps going door-to-door, and even ran from a couple of roosters on my route! It did nothing for my vacation fatigue, but it was an interesting way to spend a Saturday.

I also finished reading a book – so look for that review right here, on Friday for Blanche’s Book Club.

I did a few chores around the house, and have, at the very least, prepped my laundry for a trip to the laundromat tomorrow. And finally, I got word that my Blog Class at UT was confirmed for this semester, and it starts on Wednesday night! I’m so excited to be back teaching, and am looking forward to meeting a new group of students. Teaching is such a thrill for me and I’m excited to share my love of blogging to a new set of students.

So, I’m hitting the ground running this week – I’m back at work, back to dancing, blogging, teaching, and eating healthy (I even made veggie “sushi”) for awhile – at least until my next vacation, which is planned for the end of June. Summer is here, y’all, and I love me some summer adventures!

Isn’t it true, that when you take a vacation, you just want to keep taking them? I feel like whenever I go on vacation, I try to think of ways I can adjust my current life so that I can take more vacations and/or travel to more places. Then I just simply WISH that my life was a vacation, but I suppose it wouldn’t be as special if that were the case… or would it? I’m willing to be the guinea pig.

And so, I’m back – and I’m finally feeling refreshed. I’ve got some fun stuff planned for the blog this week (“Southern Charm” recap, a John Mayer review, Blanche’s Book Club, etc.), so I hope you’ll stick around. It’s good to be BACK!

Vegas recap.

Howdy! I’m still very much in recovery mode after a fun-filled trip to Las Vegas over a long weekend. I am tired, and completely off-schedule given the time difference, and in general I feel like I need to do a juice cleanse and/or eat a bunch of acai bowls until I feel clean again.

But of course, life doesn’t stop, work is nuts, my apartment is in shambles, and my calendar is full. Whew!

However, I was so excited to take a look at ALL the pictures I took (it’s a lot, just look at my Instagram @OrangeJulius7), and definitely wanted to post my favorites here – in no particular order.

I landed in Vegas late Thursday night, checked into the Palms, and promptly made myself a drink and hit the slots – losing $20 nearly immediately.

On Friday, it was a little chilly outside so we skipped on the pool and ventured to The Strip to partake in street drinking, gambling, sight-seeing (particularly the fountain at the Bellagio), and overeating at Wahlburgers.

Friday night was the Backstreet Boys concert at the Axis near/in Planet Hollywood, which was difficult AF to find. But, the hunt for the venue was worth it, because BSB pretty much made all of my boy band dreams come true. They played ALL of their hits, danced a lot (they even did the same dance from some of their music videos), and even wore glittery suit jackets for a few songs – and I about lost it. It was fantastic!

After the concert, I was on a mission to find two “secret” gems in Vegas – the Moet champagne vending machine and the unmarked pizza spot. We found them both, met a few cool people along the way, and saw some great views of the city. And, that pizza was some of the best I’ve ever had.

View from the Palms pool + lounge.

On Saturday, we hit the Palms pool (which was laced with security), shelled out the cash for a giant Palms Punch (nearly $50 for a souvenir cup filled with rum and champagne), and relaxed until it was time to get ready for the John Mayer concert. We even enjoyed a yummy dinner outdoors along the strip, before screaming our faces off at Mayer’s last show before meeting up with Dead & Co.

He mixed things up, singing several songs from “Room for Squares”, and of course, several from “The Search for Everything” – but I think he shocked everyone when he brought out the John Mayer Trio for a few songs.

After the concert, we noticed the roller coaster at New York, New York was eerily close to the T-Mobile arena, so we rode that… which was pretty terrifying, and thankfully was a drunk decision.

On Sunday, we had another day of adventure, hitting Linq for the delicious, huge plates at Hash House a-go-go (I got the Indiana pork tenderloin). Then, we checked out the Linq promenade for the Sprinkles cupcake ATM (I got the chocolate marshmallow), and to check out the High Roller.

Then we caught a ride to Fremont Street – Vegas’ original strip – where there are lights covering the street, live music, and several old casinos (some even spit quarters). To close the night we headed back to the strip for a nice dinner at Hexx – a bottle of wine, impressive charcuterie, shrimp pasta, and a sunset view of the Bellagio.

On Monday morning, we headed out for one last adventure: the Neon Museum. Neon signs are a signature of Las Vegas and have been since it was born, but many casinos change their names or simply lease their signs, so many of these signs end up in a “Boneyard”, which is what we got to tour. It was dozens upon dozens of neon bones, complete with a tour guide who told us all sorts of great history, and we even talked about the history of fonts and how neon is made. It was fantastic!

I flew home to Austin Monday afternoon, and although I felt my body was ready to get back to my usual life, I was sad to leave. That was my second time in Vegas, and both times I’ve just had SO much fun. I always feel like I need to make massive life changes once a vacation is over. I sure was sad driving the country roads home – with no neon or flashing lights to guide me.

But, who knows what’s in store for me over the next few months! I know I’m going to try and keep things exciting. I hope you enjoy my pictures 🙂

The history of Las Vegas.

Viva Las Vegas!

Tonight, I’m hopping on a flight to Las Vegas, ready to spend most of my dollars on drinks and slot machines, wear some of my tackiest clothes (a cactus bodysuit is packed), and eat sinfully delicious food until my stomach hurts.

It will be my second time in Vegas, a place I’ve come to associate with good times. But how did Vegas, as we know it, come to be? I looked up a little info.

Las Vegas was incorporated in 1911, and its first claim to fame was its railroads. At the time, gambling was illegal, that is until 1931 when casinos began to takeover Fremont Street (the city’s only paved road), joined by showgirls.

In just 10 years, “The Strip” was born, and served as a second home to casinos and huge, glittery signs running off hydropower. By 1966, small casinos turned into massive ones that took their design cues from escapes around the globe – Paris, Rome, Egypt, and New York.

I remember years ago, before I’d ever been to Vegas, a family member went for a work conference. Upon his return he said he didn’t like it – “It’s just excess in every single way.”

And that’s exactly why I love it! Want a casino? How about one that’s 171,000 square feet, like at the MGM? It’s the biggest casino in the world.

During my last trip to Vegas, we stayed at the MGM hotel & casino, not knowing how historically huge it is, and I was stunned every time I went downstairs. You could actually never leave if you wanted to – or you COULD leave and step outside to see the lights, huge fountains, ceiling-high strands of crystals, a near-replica of the Eiffel Tower – it’s all so much to take it, but it’s a treat for the senses!

This time, we’re staying at the The Palms and I’m just SO excited! The Palms is owned by a very famous Vegas family, the Maloofs – which may sound familiar to you if you’ve watched “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”, as Adrienne Maloof is one of the heirs to the throne.

The Palms was, at one time, home to the only Playboy club in the world. It has since closed, but it was quite iconic with crystal chandeliers, magazine covers throughout, and Roberto Cavallie bunny costumes.

The Palms is also home to a few famous suites, including the Hardwood Suite, which runs a cold $25,000 per night. Here’s the scoop from CNN Money: You don’t have to be a professional basketball player to enjoy the hardwood suite at the Palms, although if you are, then this is the room for you. In addition to the half basketball court, electronic scoreboard and extra-long beds, there’s also a locker room that can be stocked upon request with basketball jerseys and or cheerleading outfits — heck, you can even get your own cheerleaders if that’s what you want. As a general rule, most special requests will be gladly filled by the hotel staff. The two-story suite, which has a full bar as well as plenty of room for a DJ booth, is as well suited to partying as it is to playing games; in fact Russell Simmons and Paris Hilton have both hosted lavish affairs here.

If you’re a fan of MTV’s “Real World”, you may remember the cast of “Real World Las Vegas” resided at the Palms, and their suite still stands as the “Real World Suite”, minus all the cameras. It’s 3,000 square feet and even houses the original “confessional” room if that’s what you’re into ($10,000 per night).

…So, there’s that. I’m ready. It’s been a minute since I’ve had a vacation and I’m looking forward to a long weekend of glitter and adventure!

John Mayer’s perfect setlist.

Hello, love.

Well, I’m heading to Vegas on Thursday and aside from seeing the Backstreet Boys, the excitement of the Strip, the relaxation of the Palms’ pool (and bar), I’m also seeing my soulmate, John Mayer.

I’ve loved John Mayer since the first time I saw him live, when I was 16. If you do the math, that was almost 16 years ago – a very long time to be in love. But, like most relationships, we’ve had our ups and downs…

Almost exactly five years ago, I made plans to cross an item off my bucket list: Go to a city I’ve never been to and see a concert.

That city was Las Vegas, and that concert was John Mayer. I bought the tickets, lined up to meet a friend there, and we were SO excited. But about six weeks before our trip, John Mayer cancelled his tour because he had to have surgery on his vocal chords, and would be on rest.

Needless to say, I was crushed. But, my friend and I still decided to go to Vegas, and we still had a lot of fun. It would be another long while before John Mayer went on tour. And when he did, I saw him three times, in three separate states. I’d seen his tour so many times that year, I’d nearly memorized his set list, and could often tell by his guitar choice or chord tuning, what he was about to play.

But that was, like, three years ago – and now the guy is finally back on tour. I’ll be honest, I’m not so sure about this album, “The Search for Everything“. Yes, there’s some songs I like, but it’s no “Paradise Valley” – I absolutely love that album.

When he released “Love on the Weekend“, he promised he was going on tour, and he also said it would be everything we’d ever dreamed of. Whoa, whoa, whoa – big promises! It’s really okay, John, you don’t have to put on a nationwide tour just to finally profess your love for me.

Kidding aside, I got to thinking about what a perfect John Mayer concert would look like. After seeing him at least a dozen times over the years, I’ve heard him play some of my favorites. But what if there was a concert full of them?

I’ve refrained from looking up the setlist for this tour, but I’ve put together my own – what would be the perfect John Mayer concert setlist for me? This was tough, but here it is:

Why Georgia

If I Ever Get Around to Living

Moving On And Getting Over

Waitin’ On The Day

Split Screen Sadness

Born And Raised

Love On The Weekend

Clarity

On The Way Home

Tracing

In Repair

Dear Marie

Stop This Train

*Encore*

In Your Atmosphere

Wildfire

…What do you think? We will see how his concert compares… I have absolutely NO idea what to expect! I’ll definitely let you know… (you could also follow me on SnapChat and see for yourself @OrangeJulius7).