Nancy and three of her friends, Nancy Breul, Jean Saillant, and Ellen Buchanan, chose Big Bend National Park for their 13th annual national parks trip. Nancy and I thought about going to Big Bend while I was teaching at Baylor Law School for a term, but it was a 9 1/2-hour drive each way, and hours away from the nearest airport, the Midland International Air and Space Port. That would have cut deeply into my Texas barbecue survey, so the trip never came off.
But Nancy and company are intrepid, and off they went, a long day via Dallas to Midland. Jean got the Real Trooper Award for taking three flights on two different airlines: Detroit-Atlanta, Atlanta-Dallas, and Dallas-Midland. After the three-hour drive to Marfa, they arrived at the Hotel Paisano.
Tired and hungry, they swept into the hotel restaurant, Jett’s Grill, and ordered a huge platter of shrimp nachos to share followed by individual wedge salads. It may seem an odd combination, but they arrived famished and ordered the nachos immediately with plans to order a full dinner. The nachos proved not only wonderful — just wonderful — but also huge, enough for a meal for all four of them. So they had salads to clear their palates after the nachos, much as the formerly very hungry caterpillar ate through one green leaf. Not incidentally, the hotel has a full bar, for those who were interested.
The restaurant is named for Jett Rink, a character in the 1956 film, Giant, which was filmed around Marfa. Jett was portrayed by James Dean, for a while a culture icon of social estrangement among teenagers. On camera, Dean expressed social estrangement primarily through a failure to speak up or enunciate. His mumbling reached an apex (or nadir) in Giant. The cast also included Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and a galaxy of lesser stars, and they all stayed at the Hotel Paisano in Marfa during filming. You were wondering when I would get to the point.
Ah, the point. The Pueblo-Deco Hotel Paisano remains an oasis of the West Texas feel of Giant amid the invading art scene (stay tuned). The Paisano has a large comfortable lobby that continues the graceful Pueblo-Deco style of the building. Extra-large candid photographs of the Giant stars grace the hallways and lobby, and there’s a lovely courtyard with a fountain. The rooms are spacious, and some have large balconies. Nancy and company dined in the courtyard on their second night in Marfa after touring the Marfa art scene. (Next post, I promise.) They shared a dinner of appetizers while sitting at a wrought iron table next to the fountain, as the sun went down on a clear moon-lit evening.
Wish you were there? Head to Marfa. Head to the Hotel Paisano. Look up at the sky. Have some food. Have a drink.
No need to thank me.