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The New Shirts Have Arrived! September 4th, 2021

Just got a fresh batch of T-shirts in! Sending them out to the online store folks this Monday…so order up after Labor Day!!Even have 2XL’S!

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Summer’s Last Grip, August, 19th, 2021

A wisp of cool air cuts through, hovering below the cracked and crooked heat of the prairie, settling somewhere in it’s midst. Autumn, in it’s gentle elegant way, suggests, “my arrival is pending.“ This moment’s abrupt, like being struck by the most tender cosmic sledgehammer, gifting itself to the wilted soul needing to break out from the spell of summer’s last grip. The crickets and the cicada compete to be heard in a suspended swell of harmonic revery. A symphony of frenetic melancholia—plaintively testifying; “We know this song is coming to an end! We know! And we’re going to summon all, to divine from themselves, this ancient autumnal ache— one which must then be turned into something bigger —then oneself!” Ah yes. And Into the night you will go, surrendering—turning back into your own ghost.

*p.s the online store has just been redone, to fit the motif of this new website!New T- shirts coming soon!

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Happy Birthday Cancerians! Sunday, July 4th 2021

Right before my 53rd birthday almost one year ago, my mother pointed out to me in a very serious tone, regarding my turning 53 …she said, “it happens to a lot of people”. My mother is pretty damn funny without even trying, and I’m just really glad she and I are still on this earth together for yet another rotation around the sun, and to also get to see the unveiling of a new website that actually works;) Hi MOM!!

A few quirks are still being worked out (and the online store is getting an overhaul very soon). Most importantly though, will be new music and shows eventually, so that this site isn’t just a scroll down memory lane or a digital museum dedicated to ourselves;) I’ve stopped trying to project when exactly this will be (the record seeing the light of day)…After a difficult decade, I am just glad to still be trying to crack the code and leave a little nugget of beauty behind in this ever so complex, ever evolving world of ours…its all any of us can ask for….to try and leave a little beauty in their wake. I appreciate you stopping by, and I can’t wait to share the music, when the record is complete….Big hug and thank you Doug, for getting this site up and running! ….xoJess

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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Friends….We are soon going to have a new website and a new record….. In the meantime I’m very excited to share a brand new song from the recording session of the album….. the song will be available next week for purchase and for streaming on ALL platforms worldwide…its called Dewayne…..here is a little something I wrote about it:

I wrote a love song to Seattle through a gritty and dusty old lens…and sung through the heart of a boy named Dewayne Pomeroy. Dewayne was one of the street kids in the famous documentary Streetwise (directed by Mary Ellen Mark and Martin Bell in1984), back when Pike and Pine street were the stomping grounds for some hard core darkness—including a lot of teenage prostitution, when the kids referred to the men that preyed on young boys as “chicken hawks”… Dewayne committed suicide the day before he turned 17, which was also the day before he was to be released from juvenile retention…. He didn’t want to return to the struggle of life on the streets. Dewayne’s parole officer spread his ashes in the Puget Sound…the only people attending the funeral were three social workers.
When I came to Seattle in 1990 my first job was working the coffee counter at the Athenian Inn at Pike Place market. We served 15 cent coffee and 40 cent beer, starting at 6:30 a.m… and it was mostly the homeless that came that early in the morning-the long line already formed at the door, an hour before opening time …It was in the days when everyone knew all the homeless folk by name and you also knew their stories…. The Athenian was like a home to many of these people…They’d come in several times a day… On occasion I’d serve coffee for some of the “Streetwise kids”.
It was a hardcore place back then…People literally dropped dead on their bar stools and most of the people waiting tables, myself included, were  intoxicated by noon.  To this day when I go downtown, I still feel that same underlying energy of the place. They can shine all the granite and bulldoze the charming old buildings, but the heart and soul of downtown Seattle, the underbelly of grit and sorrow, remains a part of the city.

So when you look out onto that great body of water that seemingly stays the same while everything surrounding it is changing at break neck speed, and the numbers of homeless proliferate just as quickly, think of Dewayne and all of the other lost souls that still wander the streets of Seattle, even more incongruous and discarded than ever, and think of the words of Dewayne’s parole officer…”Dewayne is finally free and he’d never been free before”….… Thank you for listening….Jesse

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Recorded and mixed by Johnny Sangster at Crackle and Pop, Seattle Wa between 2015-2017
Additional recording at  Studio Litho by Rachel Field
Mastered by Rachel Field and Ed Brooks at Resonant Mastering, Seattle
Written by Jesse Sykes  published by Spooky American Music BMI adm. by BMG
Jesse  Sykes- voice, acoustic guitar
Phil Wandscher-  all other guitars
Anne Marie Ruljancich-viola
Micah Hulscher-piano
Dan Walker-Hammond Organ
Bill Herzog- ride cymbals
Jason Merculief- snare and kick drum
Johnny Sangster-bass guitar, Wurlitzer, triangle and bells

 

Jake London, Johnny Sangster, and Phil -choir

posted by Jesse Sykes 8:10 AM

New T shirt design available in online store!!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

New T shirts are available in our online store!! This was designed by Phil and is from a photo he took of me in Paris back in 2013…..right now I am missing the 2xl’s and form fitting ladies t-s…but will add them to the next batch …xj

posted by Jesse Sykes 10:30 AM

11 Questions with Jesse Sykes- By Gary Heffren (repost from another blog)

Monday, October 17, 2016

 

Last August I sent out questionnaire’s to many of my musical and artists friends they all had the same 11 Questions. so thus the name of the column. I will publish one a week for you all. I got some tremendous response from a wide variety of people including Keith Morris, Lira Roessler, Lou Skum, John Dowd, and Mike Watt among many others. I want to start with my dear old friend jesse sykes . I love this woman to death. Her and Philip Wandscher have been making some of the greatest music of the last 10 years. so … here we go. her depth of honesty in this is beautiful and horrific. Here’ one for Tim Mays and Lucina Go, and many of you saw her with the Loons, old friend of mine, and another who thinks out of the box, and is a true visionary… and i love her Miss jesse sykes:

1. Would you name all the bands you have played in, and if you can remember approximately what years, and any recordings?

Children of the Future, Merkin, The Administration (1982-84), Made Of Wood (1992-1994), Hominy(1995-97). All of the 80’s were just high school bands…no records. The 90’s can be forgotten as well (one cd made with Hominy)…. Sang and co-wrote a song on “ALTAR” a collaboration with SUNNO))) and BORIS( 2007). Performed live with the ensemble a few times in the states and overseas. Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter (2001-present), 4 albums, 2 eps. (*new record pending)….

2. what music, or life happening made your decision to play? and why?

I always played an instrument as a kid, but at age 12 guitar was summoned by a deep budding love for; sorry–Lynyrd Skynyrd!!! (the original, not the ridiculous version that must have Ronnie Van Zant rolling in his grave!). I went to a really uptight private school from 1978-81 (I eventually got kicked out in 8th grade!) and there was a lot of anti-Semitism (my maiden name was Solomon-can’t get more Jewish then that!). Kids would call me a “kike”, “Jew this and Jew that” –that sort of thing. They were all blonde haired, blue eyed, country club kids with names like “Beanie” and “Buffy”…to make matters worse, we played sports on the country club’s private property (which was across the street from the school), but they didn’t allow blacks or Jews and back in those days no one minced words or pretended this wasn’t the case. It was accepted as normal and it was clear. They might as well have had a sign on the entry way. Me and the handful of other Jewish kids (there were like maybe 4 or 5 tops) and the one black kid, were made aware this was the case almost daily-it was a constant awareness. This school turned me into a very rebellious kid- and it was the perfect cocktail of being bullied and finding rock n’ roll at the same time, that allowed these things to converge and I never looked back. Being sent to this place was the best thing that could have happened to me, in terms of waking up a monster inside me, and making it my life’s mission to be open and tell my own truth, always…. I’ve known since the end of 6th grade that music was all I wanted to do with my life and that I never wanted to be part of mainstream society. It took many years for it to evolve into being more than a concept, or a vehicle to simply express rage and youthful exuberance…the nuances and complexities came much later, as did the band that would allow me to incorporate all these elements in a cohesive, emotionally outside of the box way.

3. Was it difficult to find your first band or was it happenstance? where and how did you meet?

 It was always happenstance….but that’s a matter of perspective I suppose. In high school I begged a bunch of boys who had a band to let me sing a few songs and that band morphed into others, but it was always the same group of kids, more or less, and I don’t know if I can really count it as my “first band” since we didn’t even write our own music for the most part. They saw me as a pain in the ass I think, but I was persistent. I just wanted to sing. Really nothing much to report other then we had a lot of fun playing parties and on occasion I’d sneak into bars and sing (back in those days it was easy to get into bars underage, cause the drinking age was only 17). At 14 I was pretty clueless about the notion that I could start my own band…but songwriting wasn’t on my radar back then. It was all ego…I just wanted to be rapt in that energy that rock music provided. I could easily have been a groupie for that same reason, but the higher part of me always talked myself out of that notion. When I graduated art school (1989) I was doing pretty well in terms of being a young artist, in that I was on the right track and had lots of opportunities being presented …I’d done an internship with photographer Mary Ellen Mark and was obsessed with her and her husband’s movie Streetwise (about street kids in Seattle in the 80’s). I was a budding street photographer, but was becoming disillusioned with the art world in NYC-the hazing for example, of assistants and interns really bummed me out -and also, believe it or not, I felt NYC was already starting to get too gentrified -even back then. Seattle seemed grittier (at least through the lens of Streetwise) and I felt like I could go there and disappear, because I think I wanted for myself to become as interesting as the characters I was looking to take pictures of – these were people that had in many ways “disappeared” from society. At a young age I valued the notion that one must live life in an extreme way to become “interesting”. I hated being young for that reason alone…I always felt a bit like a poser and hated hanging out with people my own age for that reason. We were all sort of pretending to be war torn and rag tag…and even if we were, (as many of us came from fucked up families and were no strangers to sorrow) we still had the sheath of youth on our side (which though unfair, always seemed to knock you back a few pegs)… Anyway, chasing freaks around seemed disingenuous after a while because I felt I wasn’t mirroring what I was chasing….So I put down the camera for the time being to just live. I was just a kid 22 or so….at the end of the day, because music was what I truly wanted in my soul and to embody – I decided to focus only on it…I wasn’t all that selective at that time in my life and kind of joined forces with the first thing that came calling (I’m embarrassed to admit)…So that’s how I came to Seattle(1990) and started playing music with my first band technically; me and a couple guys decided to leave the east coast to chase a dream of being in a band, but also were seduced by what then seemed to be a gritty and forlorn place. The high suicide rate also was a plus…kind of took the edge off of feeling like I needed to be well adjusted. These “guys” all left Seattle one by one, after only a few years, but I stayed. Meeting Phil years later was easy. I was on my favorite bar stool. And keeping the Sweet Hereafter together is effortless, because it’s a way of life vs just a band. It can’t break up ’til one of us dies. All the other stuff was just to get me to this place…or to get me to sit on that particular bar stool, on that particular night….yeah, The Sweet Hereafter is my first band.

 

4. Now after all these years looking back, any regrets? Any feeling that your pursuit of music held you back from what you saw your friends at the same age happening (marriage careers, etc) ever make you double think what you were doing?

I have some sadness about the loss of certain band members along the way-in terms of how things went down and some friendships that seem to have been mired in the muck…but no, I’m the opposite of many when it comes to regrets about the big overarching life matters…I look at my friends with kids and I think “thank god I didn’t go that route!”…I am fortunate to have no regrets in that department. But, I’m also fortunate in that I’ve never cared about money or major success. I always figured there was a chance I’d end up being a full time train hopper or hobo (this might still be in my future)…so the small successes I’ve had in music have been more than I could have hoped or dreamed in many ways. I’m saddened however that minor cult status bands used to be able to make a meager living (comparable to waiting tables for example) and I feel that’s been taken away. If I didn’t live in Iowa, I’d be waiting tables again….and there is nothing wrong with that…my point is simply, that access to free music online has taken that nugget of income away. Sometimes I do regret not being a train hopper still, because it seems the ultimate freedom and only way to combat the bullshit that reigns supreme these days… the way the world has become hurts my sensibilities, like Seattle becoming the playground for Amazon is a great example…the craziness of it all…sometimes I think I may try to live as far off the grid as possible, just finally disappear…I miss the grit and the wonder that seemed to be embedded in our culture before the tech industry got everyone drinking its Kool -Aid…

5. Influences, influences. influences.please!

 Back in the early days of youth it was pretty much obvious classic rock…Led Zep, Cream, Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Airplane, Quicksilver, Neil Young, The Band, Grateful Dead (pig open era!!) Beatles, Stones, Velvet Underground, Allman Bros, Van Morrison – but also some jazz I was fortunate enough to find in the tiny record store I frequented; Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, some blues singers…Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton. Loved Wilson Pickett, Slim Harpo, Little Willie John, Aretha Franklin, then the Fairport Convention, Leon Russell (huge obsession!!) Joe Cocker (Mad Dogs era!)……then came art school in the mid 80’s and there was the Throwing Muses, Minutemen, Violent Fems , the Cult, Gun Club… folk and country (too many to name) came a bit later –a guy named Paul K that I was obsessed with…he turned me onto Townes Van Zandt and that too really changed the game for me. I had the good fortune of meeting him in my mid 20s and he left an indelible mark on my heart…no one’s matched it since…He made me realize that night, I was on the right path, as I started to doubt myself in that period. He made me realize the importance of songwriting and what dedicating your life to your art might look like down the road(he was explaining to me that it wasn’t pretty). A few years later came stuff like Flower Traveling Band, CAN, Hawkwind, Dungen, SUNNO)), Boris, Giant Sand, Marissa Nadler, Dave Alvin, …really dig Stephen Malkmus’ “Real Emotional Trash”… it’s so hard cause I know I’m leaving out so many important recent ones!!! My biggest influence in terms of my own music that’s maybe slightly detectable in recent years (in that I’m always trying to write a song that captures some fragment of his essence) is Nicolai Dunger (Swedish singer songwriter) I could listen to nothing but him from here on out and feel it’s enough to sustain me emotionally. My favorite records of his are; “This Cloud Is Learning”, “Soul Rush” and “Tranquil Isolation.” Oh, and Gary Heffern….!!!! Your pure heart and soul, keep me wanting to stay in the ring of fire!

6.What do you listen to now compared to what you were back then? Do you feel that your musical approach has changed and/or any new appreciation for music that you ignored in the past.

When I was a kid I was less open minded for sure in that I was not into quiet folk music except Cat Stephens-he was the exception…I would have found most folksier artists boring or at least not have been willing to give it a try (I was rigid) and I think I would have had trouble wrapping my head around certain punk bands as well….I had no exposure to that stuff at the time and it wouldn’t have resonated to what I was already emotionally adhering to, in terms of my personal everyday backdrop…which was being alone a lot in the woods…so it was music that matched my interpretation of sky, nature-a certain romance had to be there. A certain classical structure I guess…. Now it’s hard, cuz the bar gets higher as we have so much to reflect on and so much is still being created. I’m personally not interested in music that sounds like “other” music to me, because I’ve already fallen in love with the original too many times over…What I mean by that is, it’s often kind of cookie cutter nowadays and the age old archetypes just kind of keep resurfacing, one after another…it’s like a Renaissance fair–anachronistic culture on crack! So truth be told, I’m not really “searching” anymore…I let it find me organically…..I hate the way music looks in a FB pipeline (notice i said “looks”)…like a little two-dimensional nugget in a two inch square. It turns me off in that context…I can’t listen to music at all thru a lap top and I don’t own a smart phone or an i-pod (just the name turns me off; i- “POD”-barf!!)…So there’s no way I can fall in love with it thru the random FB feed…and songs are seemingly all that goes thru my feed when I can stomach being on fb and peeking in to the pipeline. A lot of middle aged men out there, seem to have not outgrown their homo erotic relationship to the teen dream rock stars of their day…and I get this (I really do)…but I guess for me it’s kind of painful to stay in that state all the time–I had to move on and let go a bit, find some distance from my beloved past in that there is some sorrow embedded. My associations with a lot of music from my past are painful to me now, in many ways and I guess I just need to see what life feels like without those particular lifelines. So in the interim I listen to lots of classical music and Nicolai Dunger….I’m trying to understand this and ”ll let you know when i do! There’s plenty of time to go back to the classics and if I continue to live, I’m sure more than enough new stuff will find me…..there’s time. As far as my personal approach to making music; I’m not trying to fit into a record label’s parameters of always needing new music out there all the time (since we aren’t presently on a label)…that notions great if you are super prolific…I’m not… my music has to reflect my life and I need a lot of time to reflect and deflect…so it slows me down, or has slowed me down…I hate the indie rock parameters that are so deeply instilled in the current paradigm…I don’t listen to music in 18 month tour cycles and two year record cycles…you know?

7. do you have children? what are they listening to that “you just don’t get”?

No kids. Maybe I didn’t have kids out of the fear they’d listen to shitty music! Or worse-not be interested in music at all. The only thing I really “don’t get” is that many younger folks don’t care who the artist is, in relation to the music they hear on playlists and whatnot….for me, that was always important…..the messenger was someone I wanted to know- and context too really meant something….the history, the mythology…in many cases it all seems lost now.

8. Are you surprised to still be alive?You can go into any detail that you want on this.

Yes, I’m amazed!! Best question I’ve ever been asked! Amazed, I haven’t died or been killed yet. And every day is a struggle. It’s always been this way for me since as far back as I can remember…that being said…I love being here and I love the struggle.

10. What would you say to a kid that’s just starting out today?

Go for it-because if it’s real to you- that ache, then it’s probably more than just the music you are chasing anyway…it’s the need to testify, to detect bullshit…to have a voice, to have a community -and be wide open to remind others they too can be wide open. I do believe music saves lives, cuz it most certainly saved mine.

11. any new albums or music or art coming out now? and thanks for your time! Phil and I are going into the studio soon to start recording for a new record…We’re very excited about the new songs…it’s a new beginning.
I hope you have enjoyed this. go buy her records. support the arts. this is the longest of the interviews. she gave it her all. much love to all of you. and thank you jesse so much!
Heff

posted by Jesse Sykes 11:10 AM

Tix for Oct 27th show available very soon!! Moments away…

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Just a quick note to let you know that the tickets are not on sale yet for the show at the Sunset on Oct 27th….The show should be announced (and the tix link made available) any moment. I jumped the gun by sending a mailer out too soon, cuz I was so excited!! To be cont….and sorry for any confusion. Also more notes to follow…..concerning what we have been up to all year….xojess

posted by Jesse Sykes 4:29 PM

September, always. (More thoughts on loss.)

Friday, September 02, 2016

September, always.

Someone told me they had a dream last night and I was there hanging out with some of their departed friends, but smiling a reassuring smile from across a room…makes sense on this day, an anniversary….I get a thrill now when I go to sleep, because I always hope to see Ruby or some of my departed friends and family ….Funny with age, the balance quickly can become disproportionate…you can find that more of your top tier loved ones are dead then alive…it gives you no choice but to become a good confidante to death….I know I’m not the first to say this sort of thing…but when those you love are in death’s embrace, you have to fall in love with death a bit too….I still see Larry Barrett rolling his eyes at half the stuff that comes out of my mouth (I’m sure he’s rolling them over my attempt to be poetic here!)…He’s still keeping me in check and I’m still hearing him everywhere. His laugh. Sometimes I don’t even think he liked me at times, but I know for sure, we were friends. I think it was this day last year, on the 1 yr anniversary of his death, his brother scattered his ashes in a lake in Idaho, to be eternally alongside his mother …I’m still transfixed on how a lake can become, or embody your beloved friend and how your friend is now the lake that his ashes were scattered within. Since childhood, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this for every person that is now a lake, an ocean, a tree, a beautiful rose bush, or a marble monument. I haven’t seen this particular lake, but I do dream of it.

My walks these days are extra blissful and even though I’m fully engaged with life, its been mostly Ruby coming to me thru all the bursting energy of the prairie plants, the insects and the clouds..the insane colors.This was a place she loved ..(There’s a certain spot on this walk I do everyday, across from a meadow, were I always think about Larry and the lake that is now Larry-always without fail. So, more then often, he joins me for the duration of these meditative jaunts through this labyrinth of tall grass prairie) I miss you Larry, if you woke up now, you’d simply ask “how long was I out for?” and it would have felt like a simple dream…

And Ruby my girl, my dear sweet dog, who made me realize in those alternate parallel universes they speak of, I must be a mother to many creatures…..I’m missing, miss, miss, missing you! In three weeks it’ll be a year you died in my arms, on your own terms, while I “sang you out” . It was a privilege to see you out of this world. Its been brutal for me but, yeah, there’s that strange beauty of the missing itself. I wonder sometimes what the by product of the weight of missing is, for all of us?…It seems as if by now we all must have spun webs of silk the size of the universe’s many mysterious curtains, filling the whole galactic theater…Or we’ve at least bled infinite jars of honey to nourish those in need of honey…it must be the case. God, i hope so. I don’t think music itself can house this energy-its way more mysterious ….this missing is way more clunky (like the milky ways gravitational force and then some)and also impossibly refined…or, its just a boring word perhaps. Love.

I’m flying to Seattle in a few weeks…I’ll look down from the plane, possibly holding a strangers hand, as I often do on planes during take off….and I’ll look at the state of Iowa below..It’s splayed out like a geometric quilt, and it’ll “be” Ruby I’m looking down on-covered by the quilt….Then, when I get to Seattle, I’ll pass Larry’s old house, the adorable small bungalow that was the epicenter of so many good times ….and i’ll see the godforsaken sterile condo that was built there after they tore the house down…(boy you got out at the right time!)….But I promise, ill be thinking of the lake, Larry

 

Image may contain: flower, plant, cloud, outdoor and nature

posted by Jesse Sykes 3:06 PM

Our beloved Ruby passed away on 9/23/15…this is about her death and cremation day.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

(((This turned into an essay of sorts about Ruby’s cremation day (a word i hated when it came to being associated with her) and its about her essence of course..written not of sound mind perhaps, but there’s beauty in the story and i needed to tell it quick…thank you all so much for your kindness and love))))))
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Well, first morning with out her. (Now it’s afternoon) ….I was saying to a friend, “its quantum”…a silence that’s turned in on itself….our parrot Grub is calling her name, “Ruby, Ruby!”. Whistling the dog call whistle he does so well,” Pspsstphhw”.”Come here, girl!” But still it feels silent and vacuous…Even with our other dog Zinka nipping and gnawing as she does in the morning first thing -even with her nails on the wood floor and her barking at the mailman…I’m not hearing Ruby’s waking routine–her clamoring for a walk, busting open the bathroom door, poking her head through…her circling three times on her bed before she plunks down with either a thud or a gentle curl. Ahhh, this void. Brutal. Then there’s what my friend, who just lost her dog said to me in a sweet consoling email-the question of “what do you do with all that love?” That’s the thing…..I guess, you lean in harder, punch and rip the substrate even more furiously…love people harder for all the sorrow you know they feel too…I guess that’s all we can do…I know, you know, we all must know this- even before we get there with whichever supreme loss we know will inevitably happen and that we must endure….but its a knowing that’s ineffable and changes shape before you can etch it out with any words or actions. So without the proper words, ill just say, I guess I actually don’t know you know, or I know….but we “do” instead, letting our actions speak for us in these times, no matter how fumbled they may seem. Every thing I reach for, touch, look at, contains a split second of me thinking she is here still in the house, then I get that harsh burst of reality..muscle memory…she is embedded in every pain, ache, and bug bite I’m scratching today-I got these bites when she was smiling and sitting at the park the other day- so engaged and happy.. I’m still trying to wake up…trying to get in the mode to write, cause there’s so much I want to say about her-if i loved her boundlessly for 15 1/2 yrs, I love her even more now…didn’t think this was possible! .I had said yesterday in my post that I was ” terrified of living in a Rubyless world”…But I knew the truth that Ruby was always in everything already-she is why I reached and loved harder then I thought was possible for a broken soul like myself…She made me less base…more tender….every tree top, every blade of grass, every thing that traces an outline of anything else-she seemed to be present in -and this changed me and the way I saw the world…My heart today feels like its been pummeled by a million tiny hammers made of feathers, and my heart knows better then before that it has a job to do……and Ruby led me to this knowingness from the moment I cupped her beating heart in my palm and felt it stop…….

Yesterday morning started with a long drive at dawn through the country where we were able to attend her cremation…the man gave me directions the night before that clearly and intentionally brought us on the scenic route (this we realized when we returned home as the highway was right there) He said “I find people end up elsewhere if they use GPS”…I feel after meeting this man, that what he meant by “elsewhere” was a metaphor…He wanted us to be present for the beautiful drive …not “elsewhere” GPS would have led us to the highway and we’d have missed the stunning entry to his world…That drive,her last, was part of the whole experience-of the letting go..(We don’t use GPS,and i don’t even drive!…but he didn’t know this!)…I had seen commercials all these years for this place..an animal cemetery/crematory called “Loving Rest Pet Cemetery” and I always cried when it came on….I never thought in a million yrs however I’d seek this particular place out for the same reasons most of you wouldn’ t(it always made me think of the Eroll Morris film doc called “Gates Of Heaven”)….But I knew all these yrs that when I thought of her death it really concerned me that I wouldn’t know what was going to happen to her body once I gave it up to whomever (vet etc) for her to be cremated-for me this matters. And I knew when I lived in Seattle in particular, burial wasn’t an option. I’m old school. When my grandmother died at home (she lived with us) she remained in state her last night and my mom tenderly sponged her and changed her nightgown before the undertakers took her away on a snowy February morning…(our old dog, that had become inseparable from her, died a few days later) So I guess its instilled in me, to not have your loved one whisked away before you can say goodbye on your own terms and take care of them one last time…In a perfect world maybe you’d have 48 hours, like some other cultures do.

I didn’t want to bury her here in Iowa since we may not be staying here much longer…. A while back a friend had told me she brought her dog and placed it inside the refrigerator at the place he was to be cremated…this was a start, i remember thinking…..I felt like “ok”,: “ill at least do that, when the time comes”…wrap her up in a blanket like my friend did- and put a picture of her in her best years to show the attendants that she was loved,( as my friend did) I was extremely touched by this story….Nothing against anyone else’s choices, as its not always possible to avoid, and we all have different needs and outlooks on this sort of thing, but I didn’t want Ruby in a fridge…for me, that was harder to stomach then the flames themselves.

As anyone with an old dog knows, you have many scares…we had mast cell cancer surgery, lumps and bumps on both ends removed,allergies(Ruby would for years allow me to put all 4 legs at once in little bowls, to soak her paws that used to get infected with yeast and excessive licking)…then 8 moths ago the seizures came, in one 24 hour bout-and we were told this would be the end…The ER vet said, “one month tops” (hell, he wanted us to put her to sleep that very night!). Well in typical Ruby fashion, she bounced back a week later and became very vibrant-almost more so then pre- seizure(b12!) and the seizures never returned…But in that short window, when we weren’t sure if she would make it, I did some research and got prepared for the inevitable… What are the odds, my vet uses this place from the TV commercial for their cremations…So I called to ask if I could deliver her myself at least. When they said I could, I felt elated I may have bypassed the need for her to be placed in the fridge….then I asked if I can attend. “Yes” they said. Jackpot! lastly, I asked, “can she be cremated alone”? “Yes”. Relief. I knew I at least had that part of the equation prepared and felt a bit less anxiety…I wouldn’t have to worry any longer about some complacent glue huffer handling my beloved Ruby..How it was going to go down in terms of her death, was anybody’s guess at the time,and this of course has always caused me major anxiety and of course great sorrow. So, I feel blessed and astonished at how it ended. It was a beautiful departure that she died in my arms at home, naturally. I had laid alongside her all day into the evening and sang to her for the last 20 minutes before she let go.

After her last drive through a stunning countryside, we arrived and I had the notion in my mind that if it felt too creepy or wrong, we could take her home and bury her(which would be the only other option). When we pulled up it didn’t feel real…..The man who came out looked like a farmer, not a pet cemetery guy,(or at least he didn’t look like the guy from the commercial that I was expecting-but it was him)a plus, but I was still rattled and unsure- I had my doubts..I asked the guy “so what made you go into this line of business”?….. i asked abut a million questions and had to wrap my head around what was about to happen…Eventually he asked;”will you be ready in 5 minutes” ? Mike my fiance, tenderly insured me she was really dead and that she really was no longer needing her body…I needed to be told this even tho I knew this….I was a child again in this moment….I huffed her neck, the backs of her velvety ears ,embraced her for a few minutes, one last time and then I let john(the man) take her out of the van and we all went inside .I had her wrapped in a beautiful blanket that i will never wash…and had her cremated with another.

Because.it felt like being on a farm- that helped me psychologically…it was like a big barn with machinery..a fork lift for horses was the first thing you see upon entering-which he was very proud to show and explain to me,..A huge cremation chamber for them…I tried to think of the furnace Ruby was placed into as a portal-a place in which she would simply go back to the elements and be transformed..By the time I left I had a fondness of sorts, for the furnace-it didn’t seem as sinister or morbid anymore….I think that because Ruby was being associated with this beast of a caldron I had to see some sort of beauty in it now..(maybe ” beauty” and” fondness” are too strong a words, i’m at a loss for now! i just needed to not be slayed by their epic finality and cruel truth)..I liked that it was open and light inside the room, big glass doors opened to the countryside- not at all creepy….In fact it was helpful that there wasn’t any pretense…no pews, no inner sanctum(tho he said they used to have that in another building, but it burned down) When the dreaded moment came and he placed her in the cremation chamber, a metal door came down slowly and I let out a wail that must have been centuries old….I didn’t know a sound like that existed within me. It was so hard to release her, but I knew I had to be there when the process started…when the fire was turned on… to know and see the transformation-to see her out all the way. It was a loud rumble, not unlike a jet engine taking off.

It turns out the man, John, that runs this operation (family run) was one of the biggest characters I’ve ever met…..kind of a Santa Claus type…big overalls..long white hair…since the cremation took 90 minutes, he had time to tell me many stories…He told me that he has never cremated a horse that belonged to a man-only women .The most recent one was 45 yrs old (the horse). He told me too that he gets tons of calls from frantic families that have lost elderly loved ones and are about to bury them and then the loved ones old dog suddenly dies…These people want to have a quick cremation so they can put the ashes in the casket. He always helps them out. Not surprising this is so common, as it happened to us. He also told me one of the reasons it was always a rule(back in the day) to not let people be in the same room as the crematory or to not have a wall to separate them from the furnace, is because I guess there is fear of people trying to jump inside to be with their loved one, or pet…i get this!! My guess is he had me pegged as a potential jumper when he heard those wails……but there were no walls.

Anyway, this place had an animal cemetery and you have to believe me…it wasn’t hokey, or lets just say, in this context it made sense and was very sweet and innocent…these folks were for real, or at least they were the type of “for real” I needed them to be…….I sat on a little bench in the cemetery comforted by the fact that there were so many loved, departed pets surrounding me…Tombstones etched with names like “Midnight”, “Tootsie” “Samantha Parker” even some horses!….. I sat on a bench and watched Ruby come up out of the smoke stack ..As I mentioned….the setting was extremely rural-hillsides that seemed to be fluorescing(in the words of Gary Heffern regarding his dog Butch’s death and my observations of Iowa’s stunning coloration)), little homesteads with horses and mules….winding roads…heavenly .It brought me so much comfort to think of her particles descending upon this beautiful swatch of land.

It just so happened John was a huge bluegrass fan and player -and at some point he invited us into his home which was part of the compound..we had no idea til he invited us in what was in-store….He eventually led us to a room with 100 guitars or so on the walls mostly..but before that he made me play a song and then he sang a couple for me …Kind of sounded like Johnny Cash-he had major heart and soul, like a preacher singing, which he was- for the animals…it was so surreal…but it made me think how amazing it was that Ruby was sent off by this eccentric (in the best of ways )gatekeeper, that was such a celebratory character..its as if she were saying..”Jesse, this is why you play music and can’t go off the rails”…and ” I’m going to be ok Jesse, I’m just REALLY going to be in everything now, literally…you will see me everywhere!”…..Anyone that knows me knows, I don’t usually sing in strangers living rooms- meaning I don’t bust into song just because a guitar is laying around……I’m kind of squirrely that way! But I sang for her….

They had a huge x-mas tree in the room with all the guitars on the walls- and I asked what the deal was; he said, “oh, that’s my music tree.” It was decorated with little musical instrument ornaments…When I told him about Ruby being on the stage of the Fillmore once, he gave me an old poster of Janis Joplin “live at The Fillmore”….I didn’t feel apologetic for deciding to find meaning in all this…after all Janis Joplin is my earliest hero ..one of the reasons I sing in the first place .I just cant explain the gratitude that I will always associate Ruby’s cremation, truly the saddest day of my life so far, with this strange thru the looking glass experience of life affirming, celebratory zeal…Ruby is my guide dog-literally- and she brought me right up to the end, to a place I needed to be…she, the black ribbon running thru my life, tied the final bow .I had always thought it would be dark-a morbid experience to go this route. I said ” I’ll need to be bathed and spoon fed when she goes”(i’m not out of woods yet frankly)…but instead, I had the minister of an animal cemetery/crematory who chaperoned my sweet girl to the next world, stick a guitar in my hands and say,”sing me song”..

posted by Jesse Sykes 4:26 PM

Holiday Sale in the Online Store!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seasons Greetings Folks!! We have a few cds from our catalog that are marked down to $8.00 only and an EP marked down to 5 bucks…Sale goes on till Jan 1st!!! Reckless Burning cd $ 8.00 Marble Son cd $8.00 Tempest EP $5 Please visit the store(link below)for other odds and ends for the music lover in your life!!! Enjoy the winter, the holidays, the warmth of kindred spirits- and we will see you somewhere out there in 2015!!! love, Jesse http://www.theconnextion.com/jessesykesandthesweethereafter/jessesykes_cat.cfm?CatID=48

posted by Anonymous 11:24 AM


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