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West to Marfa for New Year's Eve

Michael Barnes, Out & About

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Our New Year's weekend in Marfa was so packed with incident, it took Griffin School teacher Lawrence Morgan and me two hours to relate the tales to my partner, Kip Keller, upon our return to Austin on Monday night. Start with a broken radiator in Johnson City, a heroic dash to Marble Falls with a friend of a friend from Dripping Springs to pick up a replacement van, almost running out of gas between Fort Stockton and Alpine on a cold desert night, being locked out of our Paisano Hotel room at 2 a.m., a wayward woodpecker, and adjusting to the ephemeral hours of West Texas businesses.

On the other hand, we relished the socially spirited Rock Hudson suite, the party base camp established by Austin leading men Eugene Sepulveda and Steven Tomlinson, deeply spiced leek and potato soup at Q Cafe in Marfa, giant burritos at Alicia's in Alpine, and a New Year's Day picnic in the Davis Mountains arranged by Hopfields' bar manager and traveling companion Carter Wilsford. Also in our five-rowed "church van" were Seattle software pros Justin Harrison and James Reggio, as well as cheerful SicolaMartin tech Ian Carrico. We hiked Davis Mountains State Park, stopped by the rattlesnake museum in Fort Davis, braved the winds at McDonald's Observatory and took in the ironic Prada Marfa installation, made poignant by passing through the corroding town of Valentine first.

The highlight of Sunday night was a game of "Celebrity" matched against the mind-blowing telegraphic powers of writer-performer-coach Tomlinson, actor-director Shawn Sides, composer Graham Reynolds and their fleet-tongued team. The social roster included writer-performers Beth Broderick and Dennis Bailey, poncho-wearing celebrity lawyer Dick DeGuerin and his gracious wife Janie DeGuerin, Marfa patron saint Tim Crowley (the Houston lawyer, not the Austin banker), former state Sen. Joe Christieand ageless wife Tana Christie, as well as timeless Miss Texas 1956 Barbara Hill, also known as a Houston art dealer.

For a mecca of minimalist art set in a bare-bones landscape, Marfa delivers maximal diversion. Always take along a guide, however, because few obvious signs of social activity mark this retreat for Austinites longing for open skies, wide streets and the art that intrudes almost not at all on the enduring West Texas scene.

mbarnes@statesman.com