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Posts Tagged ‘horses’

Sheltered

September 10, 2015 | by

Bicycling from Oregon to Patagonia. 

Jenkins-1

A view along the route through Argentina.

I was fourteen months into my bicycle trip to the bottom of the world. I’d started in Oregon, traveled through Mexico and Central America, through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and was now, in October of 2014, in Argentina. Mostly I went by bicycle. I won’t bullshit you, though: Sometimes a tire would blow and I’d hitchhike with poor farmers in fifty-year-old trucks held together by twine. Other times I’d hop a local bus to pass through an urban center like Mexico City, where the only available roads were freeways. I just want you to picture it correctly.

It was a filthy, patchwork travel plan, biking the back roads of the world, slowly making my way south. Often I’d sleep in thickets by the road; I’d push my bicycle through vines and disappear into jungle pockets and hide for the night. Some nights I’d ask a local shepherd if she minded a tent in her field; she’d nod and shuffle away with a shrug, as if I’d wasted her time by asking. I slept under bridges, in hammocks, and, once I reached the Andes, in tents. I slept in hostels when I could find them. I slept in the houses of people I met on the street, people I met on Instagram, friends of friends from back home. Read More »

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The Jimmy Winkfield Stakes

December 23, 2014 | by

We’re out until January 5, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2014 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

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A racetrack in obsolescence.

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Photo: Ilya Lipkin

Every year on the third Monday of January, the Aqueduct Racetrack, in South Ozone Park, Queens, runs a six-furlong race in honor of Jimmy Winkfield. The choice of date, Martin Luther King Day, is not accidental. Of Winkfield’s many accomplishments, which include winning the Russian Oaks an incredible five times for Czar Nicholas II, he is best known as the last black jockey to run a winner in the Kentucky Derby, in 1902.

To be black in the world of horse racing was no easy thing in the early part of the twentieth century. Winkfield, born in Kentucky, had enjoyed a storied career in Russia and France, but when he returned to America he was forced to enter a reception held in his honor through the hotel’s service entrance, with the bellhops and the kitchen staff.

Because of the raw January weather, attendance at the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes is usually rather sparse compared to the bigger events at the height of the racing season. This year, my older brother Ilya and I saw the race completely on a whim—we thought it might be fun to trek out to the Aqueduct like we used to when we were younger. Back then, if the weather was fine, our father would drive us to the track out in Ozone Park, a favorite destination for the unattached men in the neighborhood. Edik from the dry cleaners down the street was a fixture there, as was Pavel, the bartender at the Pennant Sports Bar on Northern, and Parsons, whose brother was an orderly at the elder-care facility where our grandfather died. To me, gaining admission to that world of working men was no less exciting than the races themselves. I watched with great interest as they quaffed beer and studied the odds on the board and cursed when they invariably lost their money. Being a bit older, Ilya had a better sense of what was actually going on. He nagged Pavel until the bartender showed him how to decipher the near-hieroglyphic racing form. The one time my father let him place a bet, we won eighty dollars. It proved to be a red-letter day, because that same afternoon, I fed a carrot to Cigar, the Hall of Fame thoroughbred, just before the first big win of his career. (The Aqueduct now runs a race in his honor as well.) Read More >>

Horseback Balloonist, and Other News

August 26, 2014 | by

Pierre-Testu-Brissy-1

What one did for fun in the eighteenth century. Image via Retronaut

  • Blootered, plonked, fuddled, muckibus: what we talk about when we talk about getting wasted.
  • An interview with Rachel Cusk, whose new novel, Outline, is serialized in The Paris Review: “I’m certain autobiography is increasingly the only form in all the arts. Description, character—these are dead or dying in reality as well as in art.”
  • James Wood on James Kelman: “Kelman’s language is immediately exciting; like a musician, he uses repetition and rhythm to build structures out of short flights and circular meanderings. The working-class Glaswegian author knows exactly how his words will scathe delicate skins; he has a fine sense of attack.”
  • In the UK, literature in translation is enjoying a surge in popularity. “There used to be a feeling translations were ‘good for you’ and not enjoyable … like vegetables … But actually they’re wonderful books.”
  • “Pierre Testu-Brissy was a pioneering French balloonist who achieved fame for making many flights astride animals, particularly horses.”

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The Jimmy Winkfield Stakes

June 12, 2014 | by

A racetrack in obsolescence.

Racetrack2

Photo: Ilya Lipkin

Every year on the third Monday of January, the Aqueduct Racetrack, in South Ozone Park, Queens, runs a six-furlong race in honor of Jimmy Winkfield. The choice of date, Martin Luther King Day, is not accidental. Of Winkfield’s many accomplishments, which include winning the Russian Oaks an incredible five times for Czar Nicholas II, he is best known as the last black jockey to run a winner in the Kentucky Derby, in 1902.

To be black in the world of horse racing was no easy thing in the early part of the twentieth century. Winkfield, born in Kentucky, had enjoyed a storied career in Russia and France, but when he returned to America he was forced to enter a reception held in his honor through the hotel’s service entrance, with the bellhops and the kitchen staff.

Because of the raw January weather, attendance at the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes is usually rather sparse compared to the bigger events at the height of the racing season. This year, my older brother Ilya and I saw the race completely on a whim—we thought it might be fun to trek out to the Aqueduct like we used to when we were younger. Back then, if the weather was fine, our father would drive us to the track out in Ozone Park, a favorite destination for the unattached men in the neighborhood. Edik from the dry cleaners down the street was a fixture there, as was Pavel, the bartender at the Pennant Sports Bar on Northern, and Parsons, whose brother was an orderly at the elder-care facility where our grandfather died. To me, gaining admission to that world of working men was no less exciting than the races themselves. I watched with great interest as they quaffed beer and studied the odds on the board and cursed when they invariably lost their money. Being a bit older, Ilya had a better sense of what was actually going on. He nagged Pavel until the bartender showed him how to decipher the near-hieroglyphic racing form. The one time my father let him place a bet, we won eighty dollars. It proved to be a red-letter day, because that same afternoon, I fed a carrot to Cigar, the Hall of Fame thoroughbred, just before the first big win of his career. (The Aqueduct now runs a race in his honor as well.) Read More »

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A Horse Named Paris Review

June 7, 2014 | by

Paris-Review-Race-2

Go baby go!

With the Belmont Stakes upon us, today is an apt day to revisit a our Spring 1976 issue, in which George Plimpton made an astonishing equine discovery:

This office received a letter from an English writer who reported that at the racetrack he had put a fiver on a horse named Paris Review … We have looked into the matter. Paris Review, a chestnut with a handsome star on his forehead, was born in 1972 in the U.S.A. (by Noholme II out of Pride of Paris), bought by John Hay Whitney’s Greentree Stables at the Saratoga Stakes, and named by Mr. Whitney soon after.

Paris Review, pictured above, may never have enjoyed the cultural primacy of your California Chromes, your Secretariats, or even your Mister Eds—maybe it was that missing definite article holding him back—but he had his day in the sun. In his second year, he won, placed, and showed in a series of races in England. After that, he was bought as a stud and sent to Australia, where presumably he had a lot of fun.

Plimpton closes the piece by “passing on to the Australians a few suggestions of titles of poems and stories ‘out of’ the literary Paris Review which could be applied to Paris Review’s offspring”:

Looking Backward; Last Comes the Raven; Ho Ho Ho Caribou; Phenomenal Feelings; Travel Dust; Chest of Energy; The Flying Fix (!); Mister Horse. If there were not a limit imposed by the Racing Commission on the number of letters possible in a horse’s name, we would offer these two poem titles, Going Downtown to Buy Some Pills, and (our favorite) Nimble Rays of Day Bring Oxygen to the Blood.

Read the essay here, and gamble responsibly this evening.

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Equestrian Summer Camp; Desolation Canyon Ranger

September 20, 2011 | by

Jean-Francois Millet, Peasant Spreading Manure (detail), 1855, oil on canvas.

Most dust jackets list only literary accomplishments, but I’ve always been a fan of offbeat author bios. So I asked some of my favorite writers to describe their early jobs.

Laura van den Berg: A friend and I once spent two summers running an equestrian summer camp. Our qualifications? We knew about horses, my parents lived on a small farm, and my friend’s job as an elementary school teacher provided us with an eager clientele. But we had never run a summer camp before, which might explain why we fed all our charges peanut butter sandwiches; saddled up a white pony as old as Gandalf who lived to stomp the toes of small children; failed to require release forms; offered cold, hard cash to the camper who could go the longest without asking another question; and decided our time together should culminate in all the campers spray-painting psychedelic designs on an edgy 1,300-pound Pinto aptly named Art. Miraculously, no one ever got hurt, lawsuits were never filed, and no horses were harmed in the making of this summer camp.

Maile Meloy: After college, I had a summer job in Utah as a river ranger in Desolation Canyon, on the Green River, working for my uncle. It wasn’t even really a job—it was a volunteer position that came with a stipend and a tiny trailer to live in, which looked like it was full of hantavirus. The job usually attracted very crazy people, so I think my uncle was using me as a buffer against the lunatics. The river trip down Desolation Canyon takes five days, and the launch is in one of the most remote places in the country, at the end of a long, tire-eating dirt road through the desert. I’d brought a friend along, who also wasn’t crazy. We had Bureau of Land Management baseball caps and a list of permits, and our job was to check the boaters onto the river early every morning. We told them not to touch the pictographs on the canyon walls and made sure they had firepans and groovers. Firepans keep ash and cinders out of the sand. A groover is a rectangular ammunition can, repurposed as a toilet. Nothing decomposes in the desert, so everything has to be packed out. Some people say it’s called a groover because the steel can left grooves on the backs of your thighs before people started adding toilet seats. A couple of kayakers showed me an empty plastic mayonnaise jar and insisted that they were going to use that. There was an odd intimacy in having such conversations. People invited us down the river, and we declined, so some left us beer and all were gone by 9 A.M. Then the day stretched out, empty and unimaginably hot, with no TV, no phone, no Internet, and a crackling CB radio for emergencies, and I wrote stories. 

Chris Flynn is the books editor at The Big Issue and the fiction editor at Australian Book Review.

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