Wednesday, 31 August 2011


The scale of Texas can at times be disorientating, it’s easier to divide the day into distance rather than time. 200 miles to this place, 150 miles to the next and so on. It’s only once you can directly compare the size of the car against the vast expanses that stretch out in every distance that you get a proper sense for the epic scale of this country.

Shortly after leaving Louisiana, the corporate skyline of downtown Houston comes into focus. The now predictable format of high-rise cluster surrounded by sprawl that seems to be adopted by almost every American city is once again replicated here. Whilst the city clearly lacks any kind of genuine character, the mere arrogance and aggression that radiates off of the mirrored glass oil fortresses provides Houston with more than enough attitude to let you know you’ve arrived in Texas. After closely studying the schedule it became apparent there was just about enough time to squeeze in a 550 mile round trip detour to Dallas and Fort Worth.

The two brief stays in Houston and Dallas haven’t provided enough for me to make a fair comparison between the two, but from what I could see they are pretty similar, their freeway-encompassed downtowns could easily be mistaken for each other. We were in Dallas for one thing only; to once and for all solve the JFK assassination conspiracy, but without Jesse Ventura and June Sarpong on hand to help the trail quickly ran cold. We then traversed the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro-plex to see Tadao Ando’s Museum of Modern Art, which is probably one of the most translucent, and weightless concrete buildings I have ever visited.

We then megaloped down to Austin just in time to see the daily mass exodus at sunset of 1.5 million bats from below the Congress Avenue Bridge. After ribs in town we filled up on gas and supplies and headed west out into the desert. The terrain dries out into parched fields of dehydrated plants that rolls off into distant mountain ranges, time to whip out the Ennio Morricone playlist. We stopped off at Luckenbach which was billed to me as a “Ghost Town” but in fact was now a venue for hire that had a wedding going on and was far more lively than any of the cities we had visited.

We took the I-10 across the desert, taking full advantage of the 80 MPH limit and after about 450 miles finally pulled into Alpine, deep in South West Texas. The small town of Marfa lies about 20 miles down the road and is the random location of the Chinati Foundation, a series of exhibition halls filled with art by world famous artists, as well as several other artistic endeavours. The foundation provides 6 hour long tours of the work of Donald Judd and Dan Flavin. Fortunately for us we arrived too late to get on the list and chose instead to head to another ghost town of Shafter which was largely fenced off and somewhat disappointing. A border patrol checkpoint reminded us of how close Mexico is and of the astronomical amounts of violence that occurs only a few miles away.

On our way toward El Paso we stopped off at the most remote Prada Store in the world and then another slightly more rewarding ghost town next to a talc factory. As night fell and a fantastic sunset bled into the sky we slipped through El Paso trying not to look too suspicious as we drove around the federal facilities that make up the down town area, trying to find somewhere to eat. It wasn't long before we got out and headed north, crossing state lines and into New Mexico.

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