Last Friday, Voice Media Group announced the winners of their first music writing awards. This winning piece by Jesse Sykes first appeared in Seattle Weekly's print edition.
By Jesse Sykes
As I was growing up in New York state--where the residents want you to know they don't live in "The City"--the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Woodstock, and the music of The Band were all entangled in the region's mythology; on occasion, the boundary between the distant and recent past blurred completely. The Redcoats moved through our town during the Revolutionary War, 109 of our residents served in the Civil War, The Band's music--made a familiar 100 miles away--was a ubiquitous presence, and Woodstock took place on a farm down the road from a house our family used as a hunting cabin. In my young mind, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, Levon Helm and Max Yasgur all seemed to be of the same era, one far removed from my own.
Life as a child is surreal anyway, but my hometown of Pound Ridge was like re-enactment bootcamp, with the adults hell-bent on making little anachronisms of us all. Fife-and-drum corps was a rite of passage for most, and Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Fourth of July events all ended with gunfire at the village cemetery set on a beautiful hillside in the middle of town: "Burial Hill," they appropriately named it, where the graves seemed like museum installations. As kids, it seemed unfathomable to think that you could be set on that hillside for eternity, lying beside strangers who had died in ways that we couldn't comprehend.
Most of the homes in the area were hundreds of years old, and came with incredible stories. But more important, they came with ghosts. Even the newer houses seemed haunted, and we kids were sure they were built on Native American burial grounds. My first meaningful kiss was on the "pound" that Pound Ridge was named for--the flat, long hill where the Native Americans kept their game animals. Roads ran through these ridges: "Pound Ridge Road," "High Ridge," "Long Ridge." These ridges, with their dark winding roads, held secrets, waged bets, mercilessly took lives on blind curves, and provided boundless beauty and depth of field. If you listened, there was the sense that they were willing to reveal their secrets.More »