Leaving Marfa, I drove through miles and miles of absolutely miserable desolation. Only oil derricks and flat, flat. The one highlight was driving through Wink, Texas where Roy Orbison grew up. But, don't blink as you drive through Wink...you might miss it (I've been working on that for a week).
I'd scheduled some service for my van in Lubbock and was anticipating a long-ish stay there. I stayed in a hotel and planned for at least four days. As it happened, my van didn't have the recall I thought it did (whew) and the other repair was done super fast. So, I had time to just chill.
Like Marfa, I've been dreaming about Lubbock since I was young. When I checked in, The woman at the front desk asked, “What brings you to Lubbock?” Front desk clerks love to ask this question. I suppose it’s a good way to judge who is in town for business or a funeral or to lounge at the indoor pool. I dread the question from anyone because I always feel like I have to explain myself, “See, I’m driving across country and stopping at places that I’ve always wanted to see and I’m supposed to be writing a book and I quit my job…” No one wants to hear all that. So, I often say something weird to kind of shut down the conversation. In Marfa, for instance, when the clerk at the Hotel Paisano asked me what brought me to Marfa, I said, “James Dean.” It was basically true, afterall. So, in Lubbock, I said, “Buddy Holly.”
“Oh,” she replied, looking at me a little sideways. “Well, welcome.”
She handed over the key and I was free to trudge up to my room without any more explanation. This will sound a lot like what I said about Marfa earlier, but it is nonetheless my story: In 1993, when I was in the 8th grade, the USPS released the Elvis Presley stamp.
It was a big deal at the time. I remember it well. And I wanted it. My mother very kindly ordered me a Legends of Rock N Roll box set that included stamps, a booklet, and a cassette tape of the featured musicians’ music. I loved it. I listened to that tape endlessly. And I discovered a slew of new artists (new to me, that is) to love: Bill Haley, Richie Valens, Otis Redding...and Buddy Holly.
I found Buddy Holly’s voice to be extra romantic, charming, and beautiful. He wasn’t overtly sexy like Elvis. He wasn’t exuberant like Bill Haley. He was more subtle and, to an 8th grade girl, very non-threatening. I loved him. I loved his glasses and his bowtie. I loved that his band was called The Crickets. I loved his hiccuping and the spare, careful way he played the guitar. I found The Buddy Holly Story, starring a young and still sane Gary Busey, on VHS at the public library and watched it over and over. I purchased myself a tape of only Buddy Holly music at the local department store. I was hooked.
So, in 1993, I knew that one day I would visit two places: Buddy Holly’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas and the place where that fateful plane ride ended, Clear Lake, Iowa. It was a mission. I was 13 and determined...but, lacked any means of going anywhere without my parents. Twenty five years after I first heard that dreamy voice, I arrived in Lubbock with one mission: to have a Buddy Holly adventure. Lucky for me, Lubbock is very Buddy Holly-proud.
The Buddy Holly Center sits near downtown and features a number of pretty devastating memorabilia. I found myself tearing up a couple of times. The first was at the sight of the pair of his spectacles, preserved behind glass. They’re not just any old pair of his
spectacles, though. They are, in fact, the pair retrieved from the wreckage of the plane that killed him. It tore my heart out. Then, I cried a little more when seeing his high school bedroom suite displayed just as it might have been when he slept in the bed. I couldn’t help imagining all the dreams and ideas he had while lying on that bed. It was sad in its mundanity and because this place, created in his memory, has so little by which to remember him. He was all of 22 years old when he died.
The day after my visit to the Buddy Holly Center, I drove to the Lubbock City Cemetery to see his gravesite. After Hank Williams's grand monument in Montgomery, I wasn't sure what I'd see. For Buddy Holly, it's simply a modest marker with his named spelled correctly (he was born Holley but a misspelling on some paperwork when he first began recording created an unintentional stage name).
When my reservation ended in Lubbock, I drove myself to Roswell, New Mexico. Roswell is everything you might imagine: kitschy, funny, silly, and pretty small. I camped there
and the password for the wifi was 'alienpeople'. Really. I visited the UFO Museum and Research Center which is part historical record of the 'incident' that occurred in Roswell in July 1947. The museum includes a veritable mountain of historical documentation that what was discovered by William Brazel was no mere weather balloon. The building is also home to some hilarious "installations" of alien ship landings and an alien autopsy. I enjoyed it (and the place was packed!).
From Roswell, I made my way to Albuquerque. I had some plans there, but found that many of the monuments I wanted to visit were affected by the Federal Government Shutdown. So, I ended up just admiring the lovely scenery and hanging in my van. Not bad but a bit of a bummer, nonetheless.