I met KAITLIN, 22, at my first Juggalo concert, ABK at the Forvm. I had only known everyone for a month or two, and she was introduced to almost everyone at Hatchet House that day. I gave her a ride to the afterparty and found her friendly, personable and easy to talk to. We became Facebook friends, where I noticed that she defused constant conflicts between Juggalos and Juggalo-haters, writing things like “Sorry you feel that way. You should come hang out with us some time and maybe you’d see us differently.” I assumed Kaitlin was a totally normal, extremely well-adjusted and balanced woman who had probably led a totally normal life and had just gotten involved with the music. The next time I saw her, I realized she wasn’t drinking - I asked her why and the doors opened. Kaitlin’s story is extra-heartbreaking when you spend time with her, because she’s just really fucking nice and really positive. We went out for a fish fry one Friday (which is what people in Buffalo do) and chatted about her life, then she took me on a little tour of her old haunts.
KAITLIN: My name’s Kaitlin. I am 22 from Buffalo NY. East side of Buffalo. Born and raised in Buffalo, obviously, horrible place to live. I plan on getting out eventually. But…
SCOTT: Why is it a horrible place?
KAITLIN: It’s just everything that happens here. All the bad memories, all the house fires I been in, all my childhood in general, that’s the worst part. My family’s from here. There’s literally nothing good that’s happened in Buffalo other than the birth of my children - that’s it.
SCOTT: So about being a Juggalette - how long have you been down for?
KAITLIN: I been down for about 9, 10 years. I had an ex-boyfriend that listened to it and he always wore a hatchetman necklace. I always seen it and I always wondered what it was, and I asked, and he was like: “Oh that’s hatchetman, you don’t know who ICP is?” And I’m like, “no.” Then he just pulled up his whole playlist and we just sat there and listened to every song. We listened to ICP for about five or six hours, it was awesome. Ever since then I was pretty much hooked.
SCOTT: What about it did you like?
KAITLIN: The style. How creepy their voices were. It was awesome. And of course my dad absolutely hated it and I was going to be into anything that my parents hated at the time.
SCOTT: That was when you were on the East Side of Buffalo?
KAITLIN: At that time I was forcefully living in Blasdell. But of course I would transition my way to the East Side. I might live in Blasdell, but you can’t make me. That’s what I’m saying, the East Side will suck you in.
SCOTT: Did you like Blasdell?
KAITLIN: I hated it. You take me from living on like Sycamore and Koons and dropping me in the middle of Blasdell. It was like: “This isn’t me. All these people are corny, they’re little goody two shoes, little prissy kids that don’t do nothing - they’re little squares. I don’t wanna be with you people, I wanna get drunk, I wanna get fucked up.” That was it.
SCOTT: That was like early 2000s? What was it like living on the East side then? You don’t have to say anything you don’t want to.
KAITLIN: Well, most of my childhood was there. I got into drugs real heavy, that’s the one thing that drew me back to the East Side was the drugs. A lot of friends… A lot of people that I considered family. The only reason I considered them family was because they gave me drugs. Just, always run down, everything was so easy. Everything was run down. You didn’t want to deal with people, you had so many places to go. I could pick any single house that I wanted to because there were so any abandoned houses. If I wanted to run away, if I wanted to go somewhere, I’d just pick a house.
SCOTT: So you would squat?
KAITLIN: Mmmhmmm. I was homeless for about 3 years. That was awesome. I used to steal the solar lights off peoples’ lawns and then charge em up during the daytime and bring all the solar lights in the house. All the windows were boarded up so all the house would be lit up. Couldn’t see inside the house, the inside was lit up. I took cold showers for 3 years.
SCOTT: How old were you when you started squatting?
KAITLIN: Mmmmm 17 1/2. I ended up catching a charge. While I was living on the East Side I was still getting high on Felony Probation, doing everything that I wasn’t supposed to do. Felony Probation caught me, and they made me do time, and once I did time is when all the drugs and alcohol and everything stopped.
SCOTT: How long ago was that?
KAITLIN: About 3 years ago.
SCOTT: You been clean for 3 years?
KAITLIN: I’ve been clean for 2 1/2 years.
SCOTT: How long were you in jail for?
KAITLIN: The longest I ever did was ten months. It isn’t that long but it was still hard. I go to Alden every time. Once they start to get to know you by name there it gets a little easier. Every time I went to my unit I would always have a few people I knew. It got easier and easier every time I went until I would just do what I had to do. Everybody’s sitting in the bullpen whining and complaining they want to go home, I said “I wanna go upstairs to my cell, get my oranges, get my pillow and go to sleep. I want to go to sleep.” We’d get put in our oranges, we’d get sent upstairs to our unit, I’d go up there before them, they’d walk into the unit and I’d already be up in my room sleeping. You’re not going anywhere. And even if you do get somewhere they’re gonna get you. I just never really paid attention to it [being in jail], I always considered it like a vacation. People say “Oh I got locked up. I got arrested.” I got saved. They saved me, because the way that I was going nothing would have turned out the way that I thought it would have. There’s been many times where I should’ve been dead. So jail definitely saved my life.
SCOTT: Is Alden a tough jail?
KAITLIN: If you keep your mouth shut like not a lot of people know how to do, you’re good. Just stay quiet. It’s not like the streets - you can’t just start beefing and then run away. Where you gonna run? Leave everybody alone.
SCOTT: Do you still talk to people from Alden?
KAITLIN: I used to but I kinda fell out. I stopped going to visits and stuff. I don’t have a way out there. I wish I could. There’s a lot of people I would love to see, like my friend Lexi. Every single time we went to jail I would take care of her, she would take care of me. She died… four months ago on the corner of Broadway and Swinburne in an abandoned house - she overdosed. She functions better in jail than she does on the streets. She belonged in jail.
SCOTT: Did you go to her funeral?
KAITLIN: I didn’t even know she died. It wasn’t even on the news or anything like that. Of course a drug addicted prostitute - nobody’s gonna put that on the news. Kinda makes me sad cause even though they’re considered bad people, they’re really not. I’ve met more trustworthy friends in addiction than I have on the streets any day. I miss her, but at least she’s not getting high anymore. That girl was like as skinny as a toothpick - beautiful as ever though. Oh well. Shit happens. I’m kinda happy she’s not here anymore though. Saving her little boy a lot of trouble.
SCOTT: She has a son?
KAITLIN: Mmmhmm. Didn’t want her to get high anymore. He was 7 years old, he knew what she was doing. He just didn’t want her to do it anymore.
SCOTT: You have two kids of your own now right?
KAITLIN: Yes. My son Scott is 5, and my daughter Octavia is 3.
KAITLIN: Octavia is my middle name.
SCOTT: That’s cute.
KAITLIN: Yeah, my initials spell “COW”.
SCOTT: Was that on purpose?
KAITLIN: I think my mother did it on purpose! She won’t tell me.
We eat for a while and talk about GED classes.
SCOTT: Did you get your GED in jail?
KAITLIN: I just got my GED like 4 months ago. I just got it. My probation officers made it mandatory to go. It was a lot easier than I thought. My teacher gave me all these outrageous tests and quizzes and stuff, but she told me, “the final’s not going to be as hard as the stuff that I’m giving you.” So she’s giving me outrageous questions and crap, 90% of the stuff she gave me wasn’t even on the final! I passed it with flying colors.
SCOTT: How long did it take you to graduate?
KAITLIN: The first time I was in the class I was in a halfway house, but then they wouldn’t let me go to my GED classes. Like, how can you tell me I can’t go to my GED? That’s for my education! They were like “You get discharged or you stop going to GED.” If I were to get discharged I would’ve had to do my prison time for my Felony Probation, that’s 7-10 years. So if you total it all up from the time I stopped until the time I started again it was like 6 months.
SCOTT: I thought it took a lot longer.
KAITLIN: Oh no. It all depends on how stupid you are. And I’m not that stupid. This only took me about 6 months.
SCOTT: Where’d you go to high school originally?
KAITLIN: I went to so many high schools it’s outrageous. I ended up getting kicked out so my mom sent me to the Maritime military school down on Genesee. I got kicked outta there and then I just dropped out. I said “Screw it. I don’t really care anymore.” At the time school wasn’t even on my mind - it was just partying, thats it.
We start talking about drugs and Juggalos. One of the first things people who don’t know any Juggalos ask me is about the drugs Juggalos do, and they always assume Juggalos do meth…
SCOTT: I don’t know any Juggalos who do meth. I don’t know anyone in Buffalo who does meth.
KAITLIN: I’ve done meth a few times.
SCOTT: Have you? It’s not really a Buffalo thing.
KAITLIN: No. The one thing I didn’t like about meth was the shadow people. Like you get high enough days, the longest I was ever awake on meth was like two weeks, and you start seeing like shadows moving and shadows walking around and crap. I’d be twitching uncontrollably. Geeking. It’s a horrible drug. I can make a whole batch of meth in three hours up in your kitchen.
SCOTT: Let’s make some money!
KAITLIN: Haha yeah. It’s a lot of money. But yeah, crack was my drug of choice. That had me going hard forever.
SCOTT: How long were you doing crack?
KAITLIN: God. 8 years, 9 years.
SCOTT: You started how old?
KAITLIN: Like 14 or 15, something like that.
SCOTT: How’d you…
KAITLIN: Family. Family. Bad bad influences. Cause it’s like once that first hit and you’re done. One is too many and a thousand is never enough. It’ll have you going for days. My body used to give out. I remember walking underneath the viaduct over on William and Fillmore and I just fell out, passed out. I woke up two days later on my bed.
SCOTT: Do you know what happened?
KAITLIN: No food or sleep, just crack and alcohol, for like two weeks. My ex-girlfriend was behind me. That was an awesome day. Just passed out flat on my face.
SCOTT: Do you remember the first time you did it?
KAITLIN: I literally felt like I had the biggest needle of adrenaline just shot straight into my heart. I felt like I could do anything - I felt like superwoman. To me that beats any drug I’ve ever done. It’ll always be my drug of choice - crack cocaine. But I’ll never touch it ever again. It’s a disgusting drug. If I look back at my before and after picture, it’s horrible, absolutely horrible. My hair was falling out, my face was sunk in. Two years ago I weighed 132, I’m up to 216 right now. That’s a lot of weight to lose. i looked disgusting, my skin was grey. I was not attractive. I wasn’t as cute as I thought I looked.
SCOTT: Do you have a picture?
KAITLIN: Mmmmmhmmmm. That’s my reminder.
SCOTT: You got the thousand yard stare going on in that picture.
KAITLIN: Oh yeah, I was zooted in that picture. I sent my ex girlfriend to the store to get me a bottle of water and a lighter. At the time we only had our temporary benefit cards, we didn’t have the ones with our picture on it. She went to the store got me a bottle of water, brought it back - she got flavored water, didn’t get regular water. I can’t cook crack with flavored water, so I went and got regular water.
At this point Kaitlin details to me a scam she ran on drug dealers where she would exchange food stamps for crack and then call in the food stamps stolen. I’m leaving the details out.
SCOTT: Did you get caught for that?
KAITLIN: A few times, but I always got away. I’m sneaky.
SCOTT: So you could get like $3200 in crack in a month? Jesus.
KAITLIN: Robbing him (the drug dealer). Blind. I would go to a neighborhood that you don’t really know many people in. Like the West Side. I’m not really familiar with the West Side, so… Say I gave the dopeboy $800 in food stamps, I got $600 in crack.
SCOTT: How long would that last you?
KAITLIN: About 3 hours.
SCOTT: 3 hours!?!?!
KAITLIN: Till it was gone.
SCOTT: Not coke…
KAITLIN: No. Rock.
SCOTT: You’d smoke that much crack? With other people…
KAITLIN: Me and my girlfriend. I’m greedy. I don’t give away crack. Don’t touch it, it’s mine.
SCOTT: So you would smoke $600 a day in crack…
KAITLIN: I used to smoke about $2000.
SCOTT: A day!!??! How would you get that much money?
SCOTT: You would get that much money?
KAITLIN: Mmhmm. I’ve already got charged - I have prostitution charges on my file… So if you pull up my rap sheet court’s gonna say prostitution, that’s the last charge I ever caught. If I can make $60 full service, if I can make two or three licks in an hour (licks = blowjobs), that’s like $150/160. And on top of it, it was me and my ex girlfriend working at the same time, so, there’s two of us, double the money. She’d buy her stuff I’d buy my stuff. It was easy, easy money. And what we’d charge for both of us at the same time. But yeah, easy money.
SCOTT: How long did you turn tricks for?
KAITLIN: 8 years.
SCOTT: How old were you when you started?
KAITLIN: 14. 13, 14… Somewhere around there.
SCOTT: How’d that start?
KAITLIN: When I seen older men looking at me the way they did. I developed earlier than a lot of kids, so… I knew what I had, and I started to figure out how to use it and I started taking advantage of it because I liked nice things.
SCOTT: Were you doing it before you started smoking crack?
KAITLIN: A little bit before. Once I figured out what crack was it was all over - I didn’t do it for nice things anymore. I sold everything I had. Sold it all.
SCOTT: Did you do it on the internet or like…
KAITLIN: Oh no, all streets. Walked the streets. Fillmore and Broadway, and then Broadway to Schutrum. She laughs.
SCOTT: Familiar area! (Hatchet House is on Broadway and Schutrum).
KAITLIN: I wouldn’t go past Schutrum.
SCOTT: Why not?
KAITLIN: Territory. Like, some girls you’ll get along with, some girls you won’t. There was a lady named Cookie, and me and Cookie, we go hard. Like, Cookie’d see me, I’d see her, we would go at it. Knives, bottles, forks. I would stab that bitch with a fork. So, I got tired of getting infections from her dirty knife, and she got tired of getting infections from my dirty fork, so… sorry, I know you’re eating! So like, “don’t go past Schutrum, I won’t go past Schutrum.” I’m like “deal.” She didn’t say anything about Schutrum and Sycamore, so she was only limited to a certain little corner. …
SCOTT: Do you ever see her now?
KAITLIN: She ended up having heart surgery and she got a pacemaker put in, and the doctor told her not to smoke anymore, not to get high, and she got high. Took one hit and her heart exploded.
SCOTT: So you can go past Schutrum now I guess?
KAITLIN: Now I can!
SCOTT: So how did you get out of this stuff? Did organizations reach out to you or…
KAITLIN: I always do bed to bed transfers when I go to jail. I would go to jail, then I would go to rehab. The last rehab I went to was Stutzmans on Forest and Grant. Then from rehab I would go to a halfway house, where they would have house advisors on call, give you like a schedule, you have to go to AA and NA meetings. First halfway house I went to was Casa Di Vita, on the West Side. It’s actually really nice there - you have to make your own food, clean your own room. After that I went to supportive living, got kicked out of supportive living because I was complacent, I was young, I “knew what I was doing… Don’t say nothing to me.” I got kicked out and went back to jail. After that I went to another house, then to the worst halfway house in the world - it’s infested with bed bugs. Then I went to New Life on William and Memorial, right across the street from the train station.That house was awesome. It’s mostly the reason why I don’t do drugs anymore.
SCOTT: Why’s that?
KAITLIN: They literally just stripped me butt naked and just threw me out there. “You’re a drug addict. You’re this, you’re that, you’re gonna change this because you want this.” They told me what I wanted because I knew what I wanted. They showed me how to have fun clean. I just graduated from supportive living 6 months ago finally.
SCOTT: What does that take?
KAITLIN: Supportive living, you have your own apartment, it’s run by the state. You have a house advisor that comes and checks on you once a week. They come and they Tox you, make sure you’re still clean. Check your room, make sure you’re not breaking rules. It’s kinda like you living on your own, but with some supervision. It’s really hard to transition - when I got outta jail I was like “Wow, real clothes. Ooooh. I get to wear real clothes.” Seeing real people was weird, I’m so used to seeing orange. It’s really weird.
SCOTT: Do you keep up with the people from rehab as like a support network?
KAITLIN: Oh yeah, like my friend Amanda. We went to Alden together, we went to Stutzman rehab together, Casa Di Vita together, and we’re still friends. It’s just encouragement. Like Sarah and Paul for instance, they know that I’m in recovery and I don’t do drugs. Sarah and Paul will keep an eye on me to make sure, cause everybody at Hatchet House knows I don’t do drugs, so they kinda watch out, it’s kinda that support right there. They care enough to watch out for me.
SCOTT: Wasn’t it, like, totally terrifying to be a prostitute on the streets of the East Side for so long?
KAITLIN: Yeah. It was. Very.
SCOTT: How did you get through that?
KAITLIN: There was this guy in rain boots, this weirdo. He always walked around in these yellow rain boots. I don’t know what this dude’s problem was. Like, he had something in his pocket and he took me up on the train tracks behind the William and Fillmore gas station. I don’t know why but I thought it was a gun or knife or something like that, and this dude’s like talking to me real rude. He’s like, “I’m not paying you, you’re doing this for free, I’m gonna fucking kill you.” So I pulled his pants down round his ankles and I start sucking the dude’s dick, and I grab a handful of rocks. My bad, but I took this handful of rocks and smashed his nuts as hard as I could. This dude was on the floor screaming. Screaming. Stomped out his face a few times, ran his pockets. My friend Becka heard him, she came running up the other side of the tracks, helped me. Stomped this dude out. Took all his money, took all the drugs he had in his pocket. And then the same week, Becka got high, thought I robbed her, this girl came running up on me with a brick tried to bust me in my head with a brick. I grabbed my railing off my porch, my railing was rotted to crap, I just ripped it right off the porch and I beat her with my railing. It was horrible.
Kaitlin tells me some seriously compromising stories after this. You’ll just need to use your imagination.
SCOTT: Do you still see some of the dopeboys?
KAITLIN: They always see me when I go cash my checks. They always see me and go “Yep!” I’m like “What?” They’re like “You still clean?” They said “For how long?” I said, “I just celebrated two years.” They says “Good. You come on this street looking for drugs I’m gonna fuck you up. Don’t ever come on this street looking for drugs. You got out, stay out!” They worry though, cause they don’t want me to get high any more than I wanna get high. I don’t wanna go back to that. Thank God I made it out disease free. That’s the one thing God blessed me with. Every girl out there at least has one thing, like Hepatitis, Herpes or something. My friend just had to have her entire throat taken out and replaced because the meth and the crack rotted her throat, and she used to shoot heroin in the veins in the side of her throat, so the heroin rotted at her throat, and she has AIDS. Now her throat’s fake, it’s just a big fake tube. It’s horrible. She’s gonna be dying soon too. She’s 28. She’s so young. Now you see why I don’t like the East Side of Buffalo?
SCOTT: Is it hard for you…
KAITLIN: I know where I came from, I know the things that I went through. There’s a lot more but that’s meant for another day. People are capable of doing anything they wanna do, and I really really really wanted to get out, and there are some people that are just stuck. Like, I used to trick and get high with ladies I’ve seen since I was 5. Same ladies out there since I was 5. Still out there. It’s like “I wanna help you. I know what you have to do. I know how you have to do it.” I wish I could do it for them but they don’t really want the help. If they don’t want the help then there’s nothing I can really do. So I kinda have to give up on it.
SCOTT: Do you think you would’ve got out if you hadn’t been arrested?
KAITLIN: If I actually had somebody that was willing enough to… Lexi for example. I was going to take Lexi into my home, my food, my clothes, my electric, my gas, my everything. Anything that she needed I would’ve gone outta my way to get for her, but she didn’t want the help. she wasn’t done yet. My higher power told her when she was done. Now she’s gone.
SCOTT: Was it weird for you the first time you went to Hatchet House in that neighborhood because…
KAITLIN: …of the street (Schutrum)? Yes. I was very very paranoid. Very paranoid. I’m good on credit though, cause I don’t owe anybody any money. I never front without paying back, ever.
SCOTT: Does anybody recognize you on the street?
KAITLIN: Everybody that lived on that street is either boarded up or in jail. I don’t know anybody there anymore. I know the skunks out the end of the street. They never leave.
SCOTT: The skunks? What are skunks?
KAITLIN: The animals! There’s skunks all over them train tracks. They never leave. It’s horrible, cause they’ll hide on you, they’re sneaky, I’ve seen them do it. They will hide in between the houses and they’ll wait for you… Perfect example, Cookie, her house was at the end of the street at the train tracks, they would sit on the side of the house and wait till they saw you, run along the side of the house and spray you, then run back along to the train tracks. Just to be an ass - you’re not bothering them whatsoever.
SCOTT: So now you’re clean, you have a job…
KAITLIN: I’m graduating Felony Probation in about 5 months. Graduate drug court in 5 months also. The past three months have been absolutely phenomenal. I got my GED, moved out of supportive living, I got a job, I graduated drug and mental health counseling, I’m off meds, got visitation with my son, I got engaged. Right now everything is as it should be. Of course I don’t have everything that I want, but as of needs, I’m good. I really couldn’t have asked for things to be any different. I’m off papers in 5 months - my five year mark was in January.
SCOTT: You’ve been on probation since you were 17?
KAITLIN: Ugh. Yeah. I was… oh God. Yeah. I’m happy I am where I am today. I met a lot of awesome people on the way too.
SCOTT: Your fiancee - how long you been with him?
KAITLIN: This is weird, I was his high school stalker. Like I was absolutely in love with this kid. The first day I saw him I was like “Oh my God, who are youuuuuuu!?!?!” My friend was like “that’s my cousin, he’s off limits” and it literally crushed my heart. He had his face covered in metal, eyebrow piercings, septum, his lip, his tongue, his ears, unnnhhh! Had this long rat tail, like he only had hair right here and then the back was all shaved - it was down to the middle of his back. He had a big Slipknot tattoo on the side of his leg, Tripp pants, Slipknot shirt, his makeup. Oh, he looked so sexy in makeup… I stalked him for the longest time but I never said anything to him. Sooooo, we’ve been together for a year and two months. I used to see him everywhere. He used to work at Tops so I used to go to Tops on purpose just to see him. So, I seen him the one day with my ex, we weren’t dating at the time, me and her just broke up, we were friends, we were still talking, and I seen him and gave him a hug. He gave me a hug but his hand stayed on my back for a little bit too long. And I’m like, “oooooh, I’m getting your phone number.” So I got his phone number, I called him like 3 months later, we started texting or whatever and then we met up, and he just asked me if I wanted to go out with him. I went on this whole big spiel, like “I wanted you for so long, i was your high school stalker, blah blah blah” and I told him everything and he was like “Okay, you’re weird.”
SCOTT: Did he even know that?
KAITLIN: No idea. No idea. So now it’s like I got the man of my dreams. Finally. I finally got him after having a crush on him for 6 years.
SCOTT: Did he remember you from high school?
KAITLIN: Barely. He knew who I was, he knew my face, but when it came to remembering me as a person he had no idea who I was. It was awesome!
SCOTT: When do you guys want to get married?
KAITLIN: July of next year hopefully. He drives me insane, I wanna kill him every day. He’s annoying. I just wanna kill him. I love him but I hate him so much. He drives me absolutely insane! But yeah, he’s a pain!