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Monday, September 30, 2013

Running Hopi: Transcending time and getting schooled by Hoffman Shorty

I run. And I weep. My tears may come from the fact that it’s 6 a.m., or perhaps from the burning in legs and lungs as I try to hold the pace of the leaders. But I’m pretty sure my sobs come from a deep joy inspired by the way the rising sun lights up the ancient buildings of Old Oraibi on a mesa distant, and the way it does so at the very moment that gravel road gives way to a narrow rain-dampened trail. This trail, I imagine, has been trod for centuries by runners vying against one another, or heading off to distant farms to tend to the corn. My 97 fellow runners and I, it seems, have transcended time.

It’s early September, and this is the 40th annual Louis Tewanima 10 kilometer footrace, which takes place in and around the Hopi village of Shungopavi in northern Arizona. The race is named after a Hopi who was yanked as a young man from his home in Shungopavi in 1907 and shipped off to boarding school in Carlisle, Penn. There, the cross-country coach noticed the youngster’s talent, and Tewanima began running competitively. He finished 9th in the 1908 Olympic Marathon, and won the silver medal in the 1912 Olympic 10,000 meter run, setting an American record that held until Billy Mills, a Sioux, broke it in 1964.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Goin' back to Winslow

Winslow, Ariz. has been described as sad, depressed, quiet, dead and creepy. Buildings once housing bustling businesses were abandoned and not even secured, left to the pigeons. A local gas station reportedly had spelled out “God Hates Winslow” on its sign. That’s probably not fair: The reservation border town of 10,000, once the economic and social center of northern Arizona that lies at the low point along the rails between Gallup and Flagstaff, is simply a victim of the vagaries of transport, just another old railroad town bludgeoned by the Interstate and bled dry by the automobile. Were it not for the prison, a community college, the power plant down in Joseph City and the hotel and fast food chains serving I-40 motorists, the place might just blow away.

At least, that’s how it looked 19 years ago, the last time I spent any time in Winslow, an accidental visit that was traumatic enough to cause me to avoid the place ever since. These days you’ll still encounter rundown gas stations, a high unemployment rate, decaying motels and the detritus that tends to pile up in the liminal spaces of the West. But you can also find vast hallways filled with giant, haunting contemporary paintings in the restored La Posada Inn – built in 1929 to serve a slower, more elegant society. In a few of those once-abandoned buildings, a type of art unfettered by market considerations has replaced the pigeons. Later this month, the Station-to-Station art on rails project is stopping in Winslow, featuring Cat Power, Jackson Browne and Ed Ruscha’s cactus omelette. And don’t be too shocked if you encounter an icon of contemporary art a la Ruscha in the restaurant at La Posada, where the food rivals any you might find in Santa Fe.

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