Monday, December 31, 2012

Lonn Taylor's TEXAS, MY TEXAS: Musings of the Rambling Boy

Though a collection of columns as "The Rambling Boy" for the Big Bend Sentinel, Lonn Taylor's Texas, My  Texas: Musings of the Rambling Boy is far from the usual mashed potatoes newspaper fare.  Taylor is a wise and lyrical writer with a background as a professional historian and his mammoth love for Texas is infectious. This is a book to savor in a rocking chair on a hot day with a tall glass of spiked lemonade at your side. Get ready to howl with the one about the in-law aunts's oodles of poodles.

(This one made my top 10 for 2012.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

September Update

A family emergency, but I'll be back podcasting as soon as possible.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Podcast #8 A Spell at Chinati Hot Springs

Elvis. The private art gallery. Lithium. And even better: no email.

Listen in to #8 in the 24 podcast series here.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Podcast #7 We Have Seen the Lights (Marfa Ghost Lights)

Podcast # 7 in the 24 podcast series has been posted, listen in anytime:


My experiences with the eerie and as yet unexplained phenomenon of the Marfa Lights; a brief discussion of some of the literature and recent research, and interviews others. 

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Podcast #6 Marfa's Moonlight Gemstones

Now live: my podcast interview with Paul Graybeal, owner of Marfa's Moonlight Gemstonesthe 6th is a series of 24 podcasts about Marfa, Texas and environs apropos of a book-in-progress (as yet untitled).
It was no exaggeration for historian Walter Prescott Webb to describe the Big Bend region as "an earthwreck in which a great section of country was shaken down, turned over, blown up, and set on fire." In short, there is ample evidence of millions of years of dramatic geological activity, with the craggiest of mountains to rocks of all kinds, from mammoth piles of boulders to pebbles. In this interview with Paul Graybeal, owner of Marfa's magnet for rock hounds, learn about agates, thundereggs, and more. 


Related links to surf:

Moonlight Gemstones

in which Graybeal makes a brief appearance. 

About the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project:

On flybigbend's YouTube channel:
Flying over La Junta
Flying over El Solitario

>Listen in to all the Marfa Mondays podcasts anytime
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Monday, May 28, 2012

The Marfa Texas Chamber of Commerce: Why I Joined

Well, it's not 1996. That's when I started writing Miraculous Air, my travel memoir of Mexico's nearly 1,000 mile-long Baja California peninsula, which was originally published by the University of Utah Press in 2002 (now a Milkweed Editions paperback). I was traveling and writing in the Anglo-American tradition of Robert Byron (The Road to Oxiana),  Frances Calderon de la Barca (Life in Mexico),  Ian Frazier (Great Plains), Sara Mansfield Taber (In Patagonia), V.S. Naipaul (A Turn in the South; Among the Believers), and -- though with a sight more depth into the actual nature, history and culture of Mexico and Baja California -- John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez(lovely book, but it mainly takes place in his head whilst observing the shoreline from the boat). I mean to say, I was writing a good old-fashioned literary travel memoir, passing through that blissfully cellphone and Internet-free territory within my shell of anonymity or, at least, the expectation that many of the people I encountered would never know much about me nor that they would appear in my book. Some of the people I talked to were not too familiar with books of any sort, and many others, even though I plainly told them what I was doing, could not fathom the nature of a literary travel memoir (no, I do not list and update the prices of hotel rooms!!). Where matters seemed to me especially sensitive, to protect them, I changed their names and some identifying details (and said so). Several of the people I interviewed then have since passed away and, as far as I know, they never had an email address.

But 2012? Different game. I mean, like, can we even have a convrstn w/o texting? "Friends" are snapping pix of their kids, their dogs, their cats, their dogs with their cats, their cats with their kids, and  by the way, the peanut-butter sandwich they ate on Tuesday, and post them all on Facebook. The other day, someone posted a picture of a blenderful of carrots he was about to zap and that peeved me enough to actually, like, lift a finger, and "defriend" him. (Why am I on FB anyway? Sandra Gulland, my amiga the crackerjack historical novelist and Internet book PR expert--check out her excellent podcast-- is why. SANDRA IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT.)

With all this texting and facebooking, does anyone have two minutes to read literary travel memoirs? Well, that isn't going to stop me from writing one (the aim of art, in my view, is to lead, not follow, the market). But with the explosion of digital communication and social media, the experience of traveling for writing is now a kind of ever-possibly public Orphic Journey. (How's that for an oxymoron?)
Engraving by Boris Artzybasheff,
from Padrac Colum's book, ORPHEUS, 1930,
now available online at

Give your name to almost anyone anywhere and chances are (if they are curious and/or have nothing better to do), they'll google you. So it's handy to have a website that offers what you'd like them to see, as opposed to, say, what Creepy Weirdo spewed on some obscure discussion forum.

But not only is the writer with a website (and what writer doesn't have a website?) more potentially visible now, so are the subjects of the writing themselves. Just for example, and to state the obvious, perhaps, even the tiniest B & B or cottage for rent by owner, even the eensy weensy of the weensiest sandwich shops, all have websites and Facebook pages, and many maintain twitter feeds. (Check out the fabulous Food Shark food truck, y'all.)

When I was traveling in Baja California back in the late 90s, many villages had only just-- literally a month or so ago-- gotten their first telephone. The larger towns, such as Cabo San Lucas, had (very patchy) Internet service, but there were so very few websites that when, apropos of my book, I posted a "Baja" page with links, it popped right up near the top of the search engines. Nowadays... ha! My little Baja page is buried on the other side of Planet Jupiter in another galaxy. (I don't even bother to link to it. But here are some podcasts.)

Plus, anyone, including your neighbor's uncle's monkey, can post on,, wikipedia, twitter...  It's totally, ayyy,here comes everybody.

So now when I'm traveling through far West Texas for this latest book project-- as yet untitled-- most of the places I want to see and people I want to talk to have some (or a huge) on-line presence. To just to give you an idea, I'm thinking that, for my next foray, I might:

---> take the rock art tour at Hueco Tanks State Park
---> interview Big Bend Sentinel columnist and historian Lonn Taylor, whose book, Texas, My Texas, I am reading right now
-->get more of that unholy (both literally and figuratively) Swiss chocolate at Squeeze Marfa
--> go stargazing
--> hike to an Apache hideout in the Big Bend with wilderness guide Charles Angell
--> interview Simone Swan, who has a rather astonishing adobe Hassan Fathy-inspired house
Need I mention that almost all the relevant websites have a "contact" page. Click and ye shall communicate.

Far West Texas is a bodaciously big area but, people-wise, pretty small. So who's this C.M. Mayo person? What's she writing about us?As I write and travel, I feel exposed in a way that was impossible to imagine only a decade ago. So I realized when I started this new book that I'd need to approach it in a fundamentally different way. I decided to embrace the Internet and social media, to be as forthright and as visible as reasonably possible (but no worries, I won't show you what I zapped in the blender last Tuesday). Yes, the book itself is under construction and that work, as ever, is a good old-fashioned, I meansolitary Orphic Journey. But the fact that I'm writing it and what, in a general sense, I'm after, information about what I've previously published-- all of this is public with a side project I've dubbed

Towards that end, I made that webpage, frequently mention it in this blog, opened YouTube and vimeo accounts, started a twitter feed, got aniTunes RSS feed going, and. . . drumroll . . .  joined the Marfa, Texas, Chamber of Commerce.

Well, porquoi pas? They are happy to have new members, the price is right, and they are -- bless 'em-- announcing my monthly podcasts in their weekly newsletter.

Here's the latest:
--->Click here for the direct link to the podcast.

(What would John Steinbeck say? Not sure I'd want to know. Oh. Eh, I think he's laughing. In a good way.)

P.S. Check out this article on Marfa by Ramón Rentería in the El Paso Times: "Metamorphosis in Marfa: Newcomers Offer Infusions of Arts, Enthusiasms." (It sounds like the very doppelgänger of chapter 2 ofMiraculous Air, about the town of Todos Santos.)

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Podcast #5 Cynthia McAlister with the Buzz on the Bees

>Listen in here.

Cynthia McAlister is an expert on the bees of West Texas, and as those of you who have been following this blog know, I'm crazy about bees, so this interview is one I was especially delighted be able to do. It was recorded in late January when I was traveling in the area for my book (as yet untitled). I've been back since and will be posting more podcasts-- they're scheduled for the  3rd Monday of every month through the end of 2013-- including one on the remote and restful Chinati Hotsprings and an interview with the owner of Marfa's fascinating Moonlight Gemstones. Stay tuned.

Links to surf:
About the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project

Previous "Marfa Mondays" podcasts:
-->Avram Dumitrescu, An Artist in Alpine (April 16, 2012)
-->Mary Bones on the Lost Art Colony (March 19, 2012)
-->Charles Angell in the Big Bend (February 20, 2012)
-->Introduction and Welcome (January 16, 2012)

More related surfing:

Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute and Nature Center

Cenizo Journal
 (download for free and read McAlister's article in the bees in the winter 2012 issue)

Farm Stand Marfa Blog, "The Bee Is Not a Machine" and "The Bee, the Blossom and the Beginning of Civilization"

My Mexico City Melissa Garden (mini-clip video)
(a melissa garden is a garden for bees)

An excellent recent article in the San Diego Reader"Marfa Moments"by W.S. Di Piero

And another in the El Paso Times by Ramón Rentería, "Old-time Marfa Lives on in Memories" 

Many more links to read about Marfa & Environs here.

>Get the newsletter

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Podcast #4 Avram Dumitrescu, an Artist in Alpine

The monthly Marfa Mondays podcast is live: an interview with Avram Dumitrescu, an artist whose paintings have been featured in "Marfans: Art from the Plateau" at the Nancy Fyfe Cardozier Gallery in Odessa, and also showcased in Cenizo Journal. A native of the Channel Islands and raised in Belfast, Dumitrescu earned a bachelor's degree and Masters in Applied Arts from the University of Ulster at Belfast. He is married to journalist Megan Wilde. For more about Dumitrescu, and to view his portfolio, visit

Recorded in late January 2012. (About 36 minutes)

>Click here to listen in.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Podcast #3 Mary Bones on the Lost Art Colony

Just posted: the third podcast in the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project 2012-2013:

>> Click here to listen in

Yours Truly interviews Mary Bones, curator of the exhibit "The Lost Colony: Texas Regionalist Paintings," in theMuseum of the Big Bend, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas. 

The Lost Colony refers to the summer art colony at Sul Ross which began in 1932 and ended somewhat mysteriously in 1950. Alpine is 30 minutes northeast of Marfa-- right next door. Of the region, as Michael Duty writes in the introduction to the exhibit's catalog, "It... has long called to artists who have been captivated by its natural beauty, its history, and its people. In recent times, the area has also drawn the attention of writers and reporters who have written numerous articles touting the area's prominence as something of a center, albeit a far flung one, for contemporary art. Those articles focus primarily on Marfa and the influence that minimalist sculptor Donald Judd has had on the town..." Later, Duty adds, that Judd "was certainly not the first artist to be so captivated". 

Mary Bones explains the inspiration for the exhibit, and shares the stories about and friendships of some of the painters, in particular Texan Julius Woeltz and his teacher Xavier González, a native of Spain, both of whom made trips to Mexico City to study the Mexican muralists, including Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. 

Some of the other painters discussed are Mabel Vandiver, Anna Keener, Elizabeth Keefer, Coreen Mary Spellman, Harry Anthony De Young, Beatrice Cuming, Otis Dozier, William Lester, James Swann, Ethel Edwards, Alice Reynolds, and Juanita Montgomery. Several of these paintings can be seen in the article by Mary Bones, "The Lost Colony: Texas Regionalist Paintings - Rediscovering an Artistic Past," Cenizo Journal, 4th Quarter 2011.

>>Previous Marfa Mondays podcast: Charles Angell in the Big Bend.

>>For more Marfa Mondays podcasts, and to read about the project, please visit

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Podcast #2 Charles Angell in the Big Bend

Now live: The Marfa Mondays podcast, this month, an interview with Big Bend expert Charles Angell, which took place at the Hoodoos in Big Bend State Park, right on the Rio Grande, and in Fort Leaton, near Presidio, Texas. Listen in at or directly

The Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project is a monthly podcast about Marfa, Texas and environs. It began last month (listen to the introduction here), and will run through the end of 2013.

Here's a mini-clip (a brief, edited video) about the Hoodoos:

>More mini-clips about Marfa and the Big Bend.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Podcast #1 Introduction and Welcome

Today, Monday, January 16, 2012 is the launch of the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project: Exploring Marfa, Texas and Environs in 24 Podcasts, one per month through 2013. This project is lieu of (though maybe in addition to) writing magazine articles as I proceed with a book project the title of which... well, it's way too early to say much about that. Suffice it to say it will be a travel memoir about West Texas.

>>Listen in to today's podcast here.

The next Marfa Mondays podcast will go live on Monday February 20th. I am not sure yet but I expect it will be about Cabeza de Vaca's epic journey through the region in the 16th century. 

It's been an age since I did some travel writing. My book on Baja California, Miraculous Air, came out in (ayy!) 2002. Since then, I published a couple of long essays in literary journals, (The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou's Mexico City and From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Lake of Oblivion), but almost all my recent writing has been either blogging or fiction, e.g., The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (2009), another novel in progress, and translations of work by Mexican writers Agustín Cadena, Álvaro Enrigue, and Francisco I. Madero. I am very much looking forward to doing more travel writing; apart from venturing into odd corners of the world, one of the things I love about it is the chance to interview people.

Follow the Marfa Mondays Podcasts on twitter @marfamondays or sign up for my free newsletter.

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