And the Horse Will Play Your Grandmother: My Day of Equine Family Therapy
“Will you be my father?” Connie asks with the twisting posture of a nervous child. We just met half an hour ago. She’s old enough to be my mother.
“I’d be honored,” I reply.
She places her hands gently on my shoulders. “This is my father,” she affirms, smiling sweetly.
Connie hasn’t spoken to the real man in 20 years, making this a tricky role to play. Rounding out the family is a Jack Russell Terrier named Jack (her daughter), a chestnut mare named Jackie (her grandmother), and a few other human strangers in various roles.
The matriarch of our little clan is Sara Fancy—a former competitive bodybuilder and ex–punk rocker who developed a love for horses in midlife. She was particularly fascinated by the animals’ apparent intuition, their ability to read and respond to human emotional cues. This sensitivity, she believed, could be harnessed for therapeutic purposes. Building on the work of psychoanalyst Bert Hellinger, Fancy bought several of the animals and a desolate plot of land in Southern California. She erected stables and a yurt, and named her new homestead the Silver Horse Healing Ranch. I drove down from LA this summer to experience Fancy’s horse therapy firsthand.
The cars arrived in clouds of dust stirred up from the dirt road. We all met one another inside Sara’s kitchen. There was Connie, a longtime Silver Horse client, and her friend Kay, who was there for support. After them came Christopher Rutgers and his wife Stephanie. Like many visitors to the ranch, Christopher had been referred here by a traditional therapist.
“We also get a lot of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts from the clinics,” Sara added in her cheerful British lilt.
After several cups of tea and slices of watermelon, we strolled to the stables under a blazing blue sky. A horse named Pretty Boy sauntered to the edge of the corral, pushing his cheek into Sara’s hand. “Pretty Boy’s owner was going to shoot him in the head and throw him in a landfill,” she explained, rubbing his muzzle. “Luckily, the man called me first and asked if I wanted him. I can’t use Pretty Boy with clients because he’s a little mousy, but I took him anyway. Ironically enough, some time later Pretty Boy’s owner ended up shooting himself in the head.”
Tana Toraja Villagers Take Tomb Sweeping to a Morbid Extreme
The Tana Toraja regency on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has an unusual death ritual: Every few years, families reunite to exhume the bodies of their deceased relatives, clean up the inside of their coffins, and sometimes give their ancestors a fresh change of clothes.
A Visual Guide to Making Action Bronson’s Borek
By now, you’ve seen Mr. Wonderful’s how-to video as he makes his childhood favorite, borek, with his aunt. Now it’s time to make it on your own with this illustrated guide. You’re welcome.
Family4Love Is the Facebook of Incest
The profile for TampaRob could be that of any dad. “I have two sons that are 13 and 10, and a daughter that is 11. We stay pretty busy with soccer, gymnastics, and music lessons.” But then there’s the pitch: “We are active and open-minded and enjoy each other and enjoy meeting others the same.”
Welcome to Family4love.com, the Facebook of incest. In the website’s lingo, an “active family” is one that embraces having sex with one another. “Enjoy meeting others the same” means “come join us.”
With 3,086 members, this is a relatively small community, but one that is part of a larger subculture that uses the internet to get extremely nasty with their relatives—both as role-playing and what appears to be the real thing. Click around and you’ll find groups devoted to “Wisconsin families that love each other,” a wealthy gentleman with far from paternalistic intentions looking for a surrogate to carry his children, and even a page devoted to filthy confessions like “I love the smell of my husband’s cock on my toddler’s face when I kiss her.”
Family4Love isn’t the only site of its kind. Incest forums are all over the web. There’s even asubreddit devoted to it. One competitor, Social-Incest.com, calls itself “The place that connects your family in more ways then [sic] one.” And you thought it was awkward when your mom added you on Facebook.
Family4Love flitted into the news last year, when Stephen Lewis, a marine at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, used the site to seek out sex with a father and his children. But the family’s profile was a set-up by Homeland Security and Lewis was arrested. He reportedly admitted to having sex with minors and owning child pornography on his phone. (Calls to the Department of Homeland Security in San Diego to check up on this case were not returned.)
My Dad the Bodybuilder
The Profiles Issue of VICE
included a portfolio of photographs of NYC-based artist Aneta Bartos’ 69-year-old father, titled simply, Dad
. I have been following the development of Aneta’s work since 2012, when I covered a group show she was included in for TIME
blog. We met in person last year, when I wrote about her show Boys
for the Camera Club of New York’s blog. That show, composed of murky Polaroids of boys masturbating, was installed in the rooms of a somewhat seedy Flatiron district hotel, and it made me realize that Aneta was thinking about her work in a much more comprehensive way that simply creating images to be disseminated—she controls their context as carefully as possible, and is an exacting craftsman in terms of color and print quality. She is sensitive to her subjects, and watches prudently over the ways her images of them are presented.
Early this spring, Aneta showed me photographs of her bodybuilder father she had begun making on a trip home to Poland. Using a Kodak Instamatic camera and long-expired film, her father is rendered in his native landscape, a powerful and imposing figure set against pastoral scenes and glowing sunsets. The aesthetic of the resulting images oscillates between family album and soviet propaganda poster, but the quality of the pictures is always dreamy. ”His presence takes me back to my youth, to what felt like an endless stretch of days in a worry-free world anchored by my powerful and loving father,” Aneta told me. “I reflect on how his commitment to education, fitness, organic food, and the simplicity of basic living has kept him so young and full of vitality.” Since we published these pictures, Aneta has returned to Poland and continued to photograph. When I saw the latest pictures, I couldn’t help but think the Dad series might become her best work yet. But I wanted to know more about the relationship between photographer and subject, because it’s not as if she is photographing just any model. It changes the dynamic to photograph someone who is this close to you. I talked to both Aneta and her father Zbigniew to find out more.
VICE: Zbigniew, what is your health regimen like?
Zbigniew Bartos: Before I turned 60, I ate everything, without any special diets or restrictions. During that time most of the food in Poland was natural and healthy, therefore spending a few hours in the gym three times a week seemed like enough to stay healthy and in shape.
After I turned 60 however, I began to pay more attention to nutrition. First of all, I buy all my food directly from farmers whom I already know. I prepare most of my food myself. I also make my own wine and health tinctures.
I eat small amounts a few times a day making sure that the meals contain a good balance of acid and alkaline. I always consume a lot of proteins derived both from meats and vegetables. I eat garlic, onions, tomatoes and radishes daily and my favorite fruit is apples and wild blueberries picked from the forest.
Thanksgivukkah Is Coming and It Will be the Greatest Night of Our Lives
Thanksgivukkah 2013 is just around the corner and no one is more excited for it than me. Okay maybe Rob Reiner. That’s right, Thanksgiving, the national holiday where we give thanks for the previous year’s harvest and the first night of Hanukkah, the Hebrew festival of lights both fall on the same day. This quirk of the calendar has created one giant, starchy, delicious, guilt-riddled holiday for us to enjoy. It’s one of the rare occasions when something secular and something Jewish combines perfectly. It’s basically like if Liev Schrieber and Naomi Watts’ wedding ceremony was made into a national holiday minus the chocolate fountain. It’s also the opposite of watching George W. Bush light a menorah… or struggle to say “mazel tov” in that stupid hillbilly accent.
I don’t know about you but my inner Mandy Patinkin is kvelling! But before we get into all the wondrous things about Thanksgivukkah let’s take a step back and figure out how exactly this “mitzvah” (blessing) happened so that we may adequately thank “Adonai” (God, or as my people call him “G-d”) for allowing us to be alive during this once in a lifetime opportunity.
How to Survive Thanksgiving
Immediately after the big Thanksgiving meal, the scene in my parents’ house usually plays out something like this: I’ve got indigestion, everybody hates the Cowboys, and a baby or animal has thrown up in my brother’s lap. Thanksgiving is more agreeable with the aid of a cocktail.
For most people, the liquor cabinet at one’s parents’ house hasn’t been updated since the DeLorean was considered cool. But if you’re lucky, there’s a good chance that a bottle of America’s oldest spirit, applejack, lurks behind those unopened bottles of cream sherry and Midori. My prayers are with you if you’ve resorted to the family Midori.
Applejack is distilled from hard cider, and has been getting Americans sauced since the 1600s. Boozehound George Washington produced the hooch at Mt. Vernon, Abe Lincoln poured it by the glass inside his Springfield, Illinois, tavern, and that freegan-looking vagabond, John Chapman
, was the spirit’s unofficial spokesman in his lifetime, instructing farmers on how to freeze-distill—a process known as “jacking”—their own cider while he roamed about the countryside, spreading his seeds. Literally.
My Cousin Joe Was a Hitman for the Boston Mob
Above: Members of the Winter Hill Gang, including the notorious James “Whitey” Bulger (bottom right) and the author’s cousin, Joe McDonald (top left).
My cousin killed people.
At least, that’s what I’m told. I never met Joseph McDonald, but word is he preferred using a handgun. He liked to get in real close so that the soon-to-be deceased could figure out what was coming. His intense, bald visage would be the last face they would see on this earth.
He was my grandfather’s first cousin, my first cousin twice removed: a bookmaker, loan shark, thief, World War II vet, drunk, killer. He was a member of the Winter Hill Gang, the most notorious Boston-area outfit of the last half-century. There are Winter Hill guys who have admitted to murdering 20 people, guys who tried to run guns for the IRA, and guys who fixed horse races up and down the East Coast.
Some of the Hill’s associates started grabbing headlines in the early 1960s. Some of them, like James “Whitey” Bulger, continue to do so to this day. Lots of people died. Lots of people were sent to prison. So being related, even distantly, to one of the main players in that gang is, well, strange.
My father’s family—a clan of nurses and engineers—know next to nothing about Joe, who died in 1997. They are not the sort of people who rob warehouses or break out of prison.
The author’s cousin and Winter Hill Gang member, Joe McDonald.
One of my aunts says there was shame, that my grandfather and his siblings were law-abiding folks who couldn’t relate to Joe’s life. Joe’s name was never mentioned. The relatives who did meet Joe only did so once or twice, and memories are slippery things.
Did he get pinched in a New York City train station while dressed as a nun with a machine gun under his habit? No, says another one of my aunts, the machine gun was in a hockey bag. There was no habit. It was all over the news, she says.