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
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.
9. What is the worst situation you have found yourself in as far as a booking or a show?
A couple of years ago a deranged sound man tried to kill Phil by choking him on stage in front of an audience. Honest to god. I’m still not over it and frankly it’s been really hard. I haven’t shared the story with anyone, partially because I’ve been afraid people would make light of it, thinking that Phil might have deserved it. This was definitely NOT the case here. The sound guy, dressed in camo clam diggers with a big knife holstered to his belt, seemed immediately offended when I asked him some questions about the sound—there would be this 30 second delay where he’d just stare you down before answering the fucking question. This was the dynamic right out of the gates! We were nearing the end of our tour when it happened. It was one of those nights when we were on second and didn’t get a sound check. I went up to the guy a few minutes before the set and asked him to put some reverb on our voices and explained our aesthetic. Man, you could just see the hate in his eyes—like I must have thought I was “all that” because I had a “standard” I wanted to adhere to. It was like “man, you are so misinterpreting me!! I mean I know I’m maybe overcompensating because you are freaking me out, but…” So, we were attempting to do the line check and it was so fucked sounding up there, we just decided to start and get through it--there was no use trying to fine tune the monitors. We told him we were ready whenever he was (thinking he’d be happy about this, as it was clear he saw us as high maintenance) and he could “turn down the lights”… and the dude said snidely into the monitors ”man, you guys are bossy”…Phil tried to lighten the mood and made a joke about feeling like we were in “a sausage case at a deli”, More words were exchanged, something along the lines of “I should come up there and kick your ass”…“okay, have at it“ , “Bring it on”. Phil was sitting in a chair with his guitar strapped on when the guy lunged toward the stage. I could tell where this was going and I had my head in my hands. I heard the collision, the guitar neck snap, and when I looked up Phil was on his back with this dude and his buck knife standing over him, squashing his neck under the full brunt of his weight. I started punching him in the back and was about to grab a chair to hit him (Phil evidently had this guy’s balls twisted in his fist, which may have saved his life!) when some people jumped onto the stage and were trying get him off of Phil. Needless to say, we didn’t play our set that night… everyone was very shaken up, but the venue was completely on our side. The cops were called but we didn’t press charges (a mistake on our end in hindsight, as the narrative morphed over time), but we needed to just get the hell out of there at that point. We had another gig the night after the incident and amazingly, Phil was able to play his broken guitar, but as the set went on his guitar started falling apart. We attempted to connect with the audience by telling them what had happened—but we were opening for another band and the audience wasn’t too moved (in fact they were like "get these crazies off the stage"!). Phil and I started crying as his damaged guitar starting to fall apart--it’s the closest I've ever come to having a breakdown publicly and to quitting music forever. It tainted everything. We were pretty pathetic. But anyone who’s ever toured knows how easy it is too start to feel like there are no buffers. To make matters worse, one of the owners of the club where the incident took place, who was there the night before, was also in a band on this particular night’s bill (this was a city 15 hours away from ground zero!). He never asked if we were ok, just completely blew it off. But it gets even weirder—turns out a famous, Grammy winning artist was at the show that night (and one of my least favorite artists ever) because unbeknownst to us, he was friends with the headlining band we were touring with. This is where it gets really weird…turns out his personal sound man was the SAME camo wearing, knife-wielding, psychopath. What are the odds of that happening!! He (the Grammy winner) didn’t watch our set, but we had to meet him nonetheless. When Phil told him the story he was completely blasé about the whole thing. It was all so bizarre, a total mind fuck, and for Phil and I, it broke us. His complacent attitude…It was like a smug, sleek, shiny boot in the face...It took almost a year of back and forth to get the money out of the venue so Phil could be reimbursed for getting his guitar fixed. I just lost my faith in humanity on that tour and I still have nightmares about this incident where this guy is coming to kill me in my sleep.
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!
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
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.
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
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
Our beloved Ruby passed away on 9/23/15...this is about her death and cremation day.
Tuesday, April 05, 2016
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))))))
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"..
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
We are playing a show in Seattle this July (no band, just Phil and I) and I've invited Mike Dumovich to share the night with us. We have shared many musical nights -and "non" with Mike over the years, and his music remains some of my most coveted. In case his music has escaped you, below is a link to his band page(check out all the records!) For me, his music sounds like the land gently whispering below while the kingdom crumbles above...it has saved me, it is part of the substrate of my being, my heart, my soul. It feels permanent.