Work’s been hell. After having so much control over the finances at my old job, giving it over to a centralized Accounting Department has been extremely difficult. There are also two huge events we’re organizing in May that are still in such infant planning stages that I want to tear out my hair. Added to that an injury in the tendon of my right thumb, which has effectively rendered it useless and me unable to enjoy fun and stress-lowering physical activities such as yoga and hooping, and I’ve been an unhappy camper as of late. The end is in sight, but oy, there are weeks yet to go until I’m there.
Saturday’s river trip helped, and Monday’s evening jaunt to Marfa helped even more. We met up with a Shambhala acquaintance of mine who lives part-time in Marfa with her partner, an artist who works by commission. We had beers and tasty food at Jett’s Grill, and I hadn’t realized how much I missed hanging out with intellectual non-Christian pinko commie LGBTQ kinds of folks. My people! Though we’ve met tons of cool people in Alpine (including a bunch of hoopers, whom I intend to befriend more readily once my hand heals up), a lot of folks are more conservative, and since so many of them are also my coworkers, conversation tends to stay fairly surface and safe (though not unpleasantly so). It felt so freeing to hang out with someone who knew me in my Austin life, and who shared so many perspectives and interests with Josh and me.
(I miss my Austin friends so much.)
After dinner, we parted ways with our new friends and went to Ballroom Marfa to listen to Marisa Anderson, a guitar virtuoso from Portland whose albums have been on heavy rotation on our shared Spotify. Her stage was the parking lot behind a community art center, decorated with carpets, candles, and her guitars. I had a free beer and watched local Marfan families and their kids jostle for chairs and carpet space. Anderson herself was a stout and unassuming middle-aged woman whom I liked the instant I saw her. I loved her plainness, her humility, and her sure mastery of her instruments. She joked easily with the kids up front, many of whom she’d met earlier at their elementary school, where she had let them try playing her slide guitar.
Her set drew heavily from her latest album, which was a series of solo covers of songs and hymns in the public domain. She spoke a little bit about each song before playing, and it was obvious that she, though truly a master at her art, was still very much a student, too. She was passionate about the history of the songs, and that passion seeped into her performance. I’m typically not one for guitar solos, but these were so engaging, so deep and beautiful, and sometimes funny, too. Once all the kids had gone home (either due to the coming desert evening chill, or to short attention spans), she described a song as “Me at age 19 on mushrooms at a bluegrass festival, where all the hundreds of people playing banjos in the parking lot dissolved into ONE SONG,” which described exactly what she played next. (The old tattooed knee-sock wearing artist weirdo old dude next to me kept replying, “Yep, that’s it,” and nodding in agreement.)
Josh bought two of her albums after the show, and we spent a few minutes chatting with her. Her last song during her set was a medley of songs on the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music, and we had a nice, short chat about its various (and mostly sucky) tribute compilations that have come out over the past decade or so. I was glad to hear her medley would be on a future album. I was so happy to tell an artist to her face how much I appreciated her, and how I hoped her future travels would be safe and fun. Hearing such music on a beautiful spring night carried me into the next day on a raft of contentment, and today wasn’t as hellish at all.