1. BUFFALO JUGGALOS - Teaser

    (Source: vimeo.com)

     
     
  2. ME:  Why don’t you Introduce yourself?

    SANDY: Brandon Zawatski, it’s a Polish last name. I’m Arabian as well. 

    ME: Do you have a Juggalo name too?

    SANDY: Usually they call me Sandy, just like me being Arabian and it’s different. Or like Sandbags or something like that. Or something that Arabians have a lot, like deserts and shit.

    ME: So you’re half Polish, half…

    SANDY: I’m half Polish and half Palestinian. I’m a first generation American, actually. My mom came from Jordan.

    ME: How does she feel about the Juggalos?

    SANDY: A lot of my family members hear the bad stuff about Juggalos, not the good, so they’re not too big on it,  but I’m actually like a teddy bear. I may be Arabian and people judge, like from 9/11, but I’m the type of person that if I see a homeless guy on the street, I’ll give him my own shirt. I try to find the better in people, and that’s what Juggalos do - we don’t judge a book by it’s cover. We get to know each other and bond from there.

    ME: How long have you been into the Juggalo thing?

    SANDY: I was down since I was about 12,  I’m 22 so I could say about 10 years already. I waited about 3 years. I first heard the music and I thought, “I’m not a Juggalo.”  It’s crazy and all that shit, but after a while shit happens… like with the Juggalos, that was the only thing I had, like for a family or anything. I was left on the street as a kid, thrown out by my parents and who picked me up were a couple of Juggalos. I wasn’t a Juggalo at the time, but as time passed I just had the confidence to be like “I’m a Juggalo.” I was raised in the ghetto too, off of Broadway, but the biggest thing with Juggalos is they strive to be something different. Like they’re surviving. We’re not ordinary people, but I mean, we could be the person checking your heart rate to make sure you’re alive, we could be like your Judge or we could just be a thug on the street. But the biggest thing, it’s about striving to know you’re Family and you take care of each other, and you just know everything’s going to be alright, if you’re with strangers or not.  

    ME: How’d you meet Paul?

    SANDY: Paul, I met last year at a Tech N9ne show. I went to an afterparty at his house and then I just started coming over every day. We got to know each other and we watch each other’s back; we do things for each other - one hand washes the other. 

    ME: You grew up on Broadway?

    SANDY: Yeah, in a Black neighborhood. The biggest problem was being white. They’d assume I came straight out of Lovejoy, but they assumed I was just white. And they’d jump me - there’s a couple times where I was actually at gun point. Shit happens, but you know… The biggest thing with me, from the childhood I had, it was shit, it was horrible. Almost every Juggalo can say that  something went wrong - their mom died or their dad died. But I’m striving so my kids can have a better future. Instead of growing up in a horrible neighborhood where you see crack pipes everywhere, I want to raise them to be something or someone.  My dad was an alcoholic, and my mom was into drugs bad, I came from a family of 8 so we had to share everything, our bedrooms, all the girls in one room, all the boys in one, 8 kids, 4 girls and 4 boys. The only chance I felt I could get away was with my friends. As a kid, I’d need a key just to leave the house, the doors were locked and all that shit - it was like Lockdown. But as I started hanging out with my friends and getting older, I got introduced to the music, then I went away and I didn’t have nothing. As I was all alone, the music just gave me confidence, like tomorrow was just going to be a better day. And just the feeling at a show, you know, how much love is there. I could be tripping or drunk, but I know I’ll be safe. I could be inside a mosh pit and fall and it will stop, and they’ll pick me up. It’s all Family and it’s just something I never had as a child, in between my parent’s addictions and so many kids, there wasn’t room for me. 

    ME: You have two kids now?

    SANDY: Yes. I got a one year old and I got a newborn.

    ME: Same mom?

    SANDY: Yep. Same mom and we live together as a family. Right now she’s at the hospital which is why I’ve got my little one here today. 

    ME: Are you working?

    SANDY: Yes, I work at Walmart, and in my spare time I do home improvement and roofing. I know a lot of Juggalos don’t work, but some do too. 

    ME: You finished high school right?

    SANDY: Yes, I went to South Park. But I didn’t go to college. After I get the kids in school and stuff… What I wanna be here for is I just want to succeed in life.  I actually want to go to college. I actually want to be a teacher, I want to do Social Studies and teach kids about history, so our future leaders can change something. You know, right now, our guns are getting taken away, all of our rights are getting taken away, it’s like the government is taking all our rights away and will throw us in jail. They’re not saying it, but that’s what they’re doing - keeping us in the dark. 

    ME: Is your girl a Juggalo too?

    SANDY: She thinks I’m too crazy into it, but I mean, like she listens to the music, but she doesn’t have the confidence to say “I’m a Juggalo.,” like I did. She understands it, but I’m caught up in it a lot. 

     
  3. Kaitlin looks out on Buffalo's East Side, where she spent much of her life. She had just dyed her hair blue a few days before.
    We decided to go check out Kaitlin's childhood home, just a few blocks from Hatchet House. 70% of the houses were gone, many victims of arson. Only 4 homes were occupied, the others were boarded up.
    Suspicious residents immediately confronted us but when Kaitlin explained who she was they became welcoming. Many remembered her family. Her grandmother lived in back, she and her mom in front.
    The mood quickly became somber as Kaitlin reminisced. This is her first look into what used to be her grandmother's home. We couldn't go inside - the floor was the consistency of a wet sponge.
    Kaitlin in front of her childhood home. A neighbor turned out to be the sister of a Juggalo and she knew about the film. She told us no one was squatting there now, so I broke down the door.
    Kaitlin in her childhood living room. Most houses on the East Side look pretty similar to this these days.
    The view into the the house. The floor was littered with needles.
    I asked Kaitlin to take me to a place that's significant from her time as a prostitute. She took me to this lot, where a John once gave her $2000. We're less than a 1/4 mile from Hatchet House.
    The abandoned Central Terminal is one of the East Side's most recognizable landmarks. Kaitlin is an upbeat person and an optimist. I wanted a pic of her smiling so we took one here.
    Kaitlin painted up. She looks serious but we had a ton of fun shooting this day. This was Kaitlin's territory and she knew many of the trap houses that surrounded us as well as several passersby.

    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. 

    SCOTT: Octavia?

    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: No…..

    KAITLIN:  Absolutely. 

    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?

    KAITLIN: Trickin.

    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!

     
  4. Shooting with Big Jim

     
  5.  
  6. Shadow is a relentlessly positive and upbeat person. Here he is with Annie after Paul and Sarah's wedding Faygo shower.

    SHADOW

    Shadow (30, his given name) was one of the first Juggalos I met and is certainly one of the most distinct characters. Not from Buffalo, Shadow’s spent a good part of his life on the road, camping out and traveling (by foot) all over the country. Shadow prefers to remain anonymous (although he will appear in the film), hence the bandana and the absence of pictures. I give all of my interviewees the right to look over their interviews, and Shadow not only corrected his own grammar, he corrected mine. A very visible force walking around Buffalo’s Eastside, say hi to him, give him some change, or, better yet, he’s always looking for a ride back out West.  

    SHADOW: I’m Shadow, I’ve been a Juggalo for over 10 years, sorry I’m camera shy. I prefer to be behind the camera. 

    Shadow turns the camera on me and leaves it on me for the remainder of the interview.

    ME: You’ve been a Juggalo for 10 years?

    SHADOW: Probably more like 13. Just heard some badass music bumpin’ and I was like “Oh that’s fresh!” 

    ME: Tell me about where you’re from?

    SHADOW: That’s a long story. Oh man. Well, I’ve been traveling around on my own since I was about 15. Lived in the mountains of Montana before I came out here. Got out here in January, met some really cool Family out here. 

    ME: But you’re not from Montana?

    SHADOW: No. I was born in a Volkswagon bus. Somewhere in Michigan, don’t know where. Traveled a lot, spent a lot of time in Cali though. All up and down California. Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Michigan, Indiana, MIssouri (he says “Misery”)

    ME: So you had a hippie-ish childhood?

    SHADOW: Yeah, but I was a bad hippie.  I’m Blackfoot Comanche and Scottish, born in a Volkswagon bus with a warrior’s bloodline. That and I was short, so people would like to talk shit and I would like to put them in their place.

    ME: What do you mean by that?

    SHADOW: I was in a loooooot of fights. 10 on ones were fun for me. One of the reasons my body’s so beat up now. I didn’t think I was gonna see 18. Here I am 30. Talk about some serious overtime right?

    ME: Was it violent where you were growing up?

    SHADOW: Yeah. Yep. Let’s just say I been through Oakland and LA, Pittsburgh, Philly, Detroit. I didn’t think i was gonna see 18. 

    ME: You told me you fought for money…

    SHADOW: Yeah, that was fun. Some of my buddies„ we always fought for fun and they knew I just enjoyed decimating large amounts of people at the same time. I was good at it. Still am, just a bit slower than I was, but still fight capable. Yep, they were like “dude, we know some people.” And so they set up a ten-on-one fight, it was funny, cause  you know how in MMA and shit they weigh in, I was getting weighed in against 10 other people, 6 foot, six-three, 200lbs - that was my competition. And then there’s me, four foot nothing, 70lbs, 16 years old. I loved it -  when a group of people attack someone they all go in at the same time for the bum rush. I loved that because then no matter what I was doing I was connecting with somebody, you know, I was such a small target. I’m throwing out like this and I’m throwing back with this hand, and I’m connecting, I’m throwing like this I’m connecting. Not to mention my kicks. So they’re all sitting there kinda beasty trying to get at this little target and I’m just kicking their knees out, destroying their faces. When it’s one on one or two on one I sit here and I let people have like 3, 4 hits before I even touch em.  This is someone that’s six foot tall, pissed them off though. They couldn’t believe how much shit I talked.

    ME: How did you learn how to fight?  Did you take martial arts?

    SHADOW:  Later in life. I had over 10 years of street fighting before I got into martial arts. That’s actually one of the things that calmed me down. Before I got into martial arts I didn’t have a chip on my shoulder, I had the mountain that other people’s chips came from. So, I wasn’t a very nice person. I enjoyed fighting, but I found good reasons to fight. I beat up a lot of bullies and people who put hands on females. And, occasionally, for money, but I was poor so…

    ME: Did you grow up poor?

    SHADOW: Yeah. I love the barter system!

    ME: But now you’re such a friendly guy.

    SHADOW: Yeah. My outlook on life has changed a little bit.  When I was younger I didn’t care about myself, more or less anybody else. And I did a lot of drinking. A lot of whiskey. Whiskey and Native American - yeah it was all bad. 

    ME: Did you have to register your hands?

    SHADOW: No. I wound up stopping that style right before I got my brown belt, which is where I would have had to register. But let me tell you what, my dojo we decimated Tae Kwon Doe.

    ME: What kind of dojo was it?

    SHADOW: Jiu jitsu Savate and, a number of years later, Ninjitsu. I fought people who did Capoiera, fought Aikido, Judo, Jiujitsu. Did a lot of Parkour when I was younger.

    ME: When you were in Montana you were living in a tent on the mountain?

    SHADOW: It was beautiful. I had a fire pit, had a hot water bottle, a little metal drinking bottle, bout a liter and a half, sit here, warm it up next to the fire - kept my feet warm all night. We even had a propane stove up there. My Christmas dinner was bacon wrapped tenderloin with fried potatoes, with onions and garlic, and sour cream, that was my  Christmas dinner. Tell me that ain’t a blazing meal for a Christmas dinner on a mountain with a view of a frozen river and Christmas lights. 

    ME: Do you prefer living outside?

    SHADOW: Yep… I like traveling. 

    ME: You’ve travelled a lot.

    SHADOW: Oh yeah, most of my life. 

    ME: Have you been everywhere in the US?

    SHADOW: Most of the states, not all of them. 

    ME: You told me a story about how you walked to Buffalo…

    SHADOW: Oh no, I didn’t walk to Buffalo. I’ve walked across the country a few times but I didn’t walk to Buffalo. 

    ME: You walked all the way across the country?

    SHADOW: Pretty much, except for short rides here and there. Yeah. I’ve walked from Nashville to Michigan. Lot of very narrow shoulders, with cars that like to fly by you very fast. It was definitely entertaining. Heard some wolves. Cougar a few times. Ate a few snakes and some Bambi.

    ME: You walk alone?

    SHADOW: Mostly. Every now and then I’ve had some people. I walked from Indiana to Michigan then down to Kentucky with one of my ex’s. 

    ME: Would you just walk straight or would you take like 6 months and walk?

    SHADOW: Depends. 

    ME: Do you meet a lot of people along the way?

    SHADOW: Oh yeah. I met some really good people along the way just by walking. I’ve ran into Juggalos who didn’t even realize they were Juggalos… Look, this is the point about being a Juggalo - like what you like, be you, don’t give a fuck what anybody else thinks. It’s like this - ICP’s not telling you “don’t listen to mainstream music.” They’re just telling you “don’t listen to it if the only reason you’re listening to it is cuz it’s popular.” If you like the shit, listen to it. And if somebody doesn’t like what you listen to, tell them “fuck off.” That’s the point - be happy with who you are. That’s the main point of being a Juggalo. 

    ME: How did you end up in Buffalo, and how long have you been here? How did you meet all these people?

    SHADOW:  I’ve been here since January (8 months). Met Paul and Sarah through some mutual friend of ours. Although I heard about the Hatchet House like the first day I got into town. 

    ME: So how long ago did you meet those guys?

    SHADOW: Only about a month ago. Actually, I met Jonny pretty recently too, like when Jonny was saying he was fixing to be in a movie. I met him a couple weeks before that.  

    ME: You have so many stories…

    SHADOW: Oh yeah.

    ME:  What’s the best story you have?

    SHADOW: I don’t know. Then it’ll feel like I’m trying to boast and I’m not. Let’s see… I’m not used to being interviewed…

    ME: Do you plan on staying in Buffalo?

    SHADOW: I don’t know. One day at a time. Thats all I do. One day at a time. 

    ME: Where do you want to end up?

    SHADOW: I don’t know yet. Another reason: one day at a time. There’s a few places out east I haven’t been yet that I wanna see, and I also wanna go back west. I haven’t been to Maine yet and some of the northern states. Been through DC on my way out here this time. 

    ME: You still thinking about Washington?

    SHADOW: Possibly, like I said I just go where the wind blows. Sometimes when you set out with a firm destination you miss out on a killer opportunity. 

    ME: Have you been to a Gathering?

    SHADOW: No unfortunately I haven’t been to a Gathering yet. Every time I hear about when the Gathering is, I wind up stuck in a different state with no way to get there in time, I don’t even usually have a watch so when I’m around people I find out the date and it’s like “Fuck!.”

    ME: Have you seen ICP?

    SHADOW: I’ve seen Twiztid and Tech N9ne, hung out with R.O.C., smoked with Potluck, seen ABK and Blaze.

    ME: ABK is native American right?

    SHADOW: Yeah

    ME: And you have Native blood? 

    SHADOW:  I’m 2/3.

    ME: You didn’t grow up on a reservation did you?

    SHADOW:  No, unfortunately not.

    ME: Does that play a big part…

    SHADOW:  Yeah, I try to live my life in a good way. I’m a firm believer that I’m not gonna die until the Above Ones are ready for me when my spot is prepared - it could be today, it could be tomorrow, it could be around 300 - I’m ready to go. 

    ME: You seem so resigned?

    SHADOW:  Everyone’s gonna die. I just don’t fear it. Ain’t nothing I can do about it. This place is a hell hole. I told my best friend I don’t want no sad ass funeral for me when you find out I died. I want you to throw a big phat ass party with all the homies and remember all the good times you had with me. The world, in general, if you look at it, and actually look at the shit that’s happening, you should be able to understand. I mean, our country is pretty much in debt to China for millions of dollars, our commercials try to tell us to give our money, which is worthless anyway, to other countries to feed their children when we have starving children of our own that we can’t feed. How stupid is that? Yeah, it’s sad that these kid are starving in their country, but we have kids that are starving in ours too. Politics are all messed up.

    ME: Do you consider yourself pretty cynical?

    SHADOW:  No, i’ve just seen a lot more than most people really see. Especially ones that don’t actually leave town and stuff, or the city where they’re from. And I’ve seen it from the grimy side because I grew up a street rat.

    ME: Did you grow up in Oakland mostly?

    SHADOW:  In the woods and in the hoods. Wasn’t too far from San Francisco, but it was more up in the mountains.

    ME: Is your family in California still?

    SHADOW: Oh I only really knew my mom. My Ace is out there though. (Ace means “best friend”) 

    ME: You talk to them a lot?

    SHADOW:  Every now and then. Got some adopted family that’s out there too.

    ME: They miss you?

    SHADOW:  I talk to them when I can but it’s been a while honestly. When stuff of mine gets stolen I lose phone numbers and everything. Shit happens. 

    ME: Does your stuff get stolen a lot?

    SHADOW: I’ve had to replace stuff about three times in the last 5 years. 

    ME: How did you replace everything?

    SHADOW:  Very slowly.

    ME: Do you do odd jobs to get money and stuff?

    SHADOW: Yeah. That and I let people kick me in the junk for money. $20. I made it my hustle - I’m a human stress  reliever. I found out when I was young and doing all that fighting and they’d resort to kicking me in the balls. I’m not one of those guys that’d be like “Oh that hurt so bad” and drop. It’s like “Really? You had to resort to that, you couldn’t have just took your ass whupping like a man. You took the first swing, so now I’m gonna beat your ass twice as bad because you took that bitch move.”

    ME: Any luck with the getting kicked in the balls business in Buffalo?

    SHADOW:  I been too stressed to really deal with the public. I can only deal with the public in small increments.

    ME: Are you happy having you’re own space and stuff?

    SHADOW:  I don’t mind being by myself. You’ve noticed I have diarrhea of the mouth. It’s because I’m used to being by myself. I can go months without saying anything. When you’re hanging out with people and you don’t talk, people tend to think you’re pissed off, so I force myself to talk.

     
  7. Brothers

     
  8. The family in front of their Cheektowaga home.
    The family after a day painted up at the wedding.
    Matt's a proud Veteran of the Iraq war.
    Matt in his backyard.
    Seth poses for the camera. The family often jokes that Seth is going to be a model.
    After a while, he told me what pictures to take of him.
    Adriana and Felicity play behind Dom on a quiet suburban street.
    The kids run through a field after Paul and Sarah's Faygo shower.
    Dom painted up at the wedding. Matt stands in the background talking to Adriana. (photo by Eliza Hittman)

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    Cheektowaga. American flags hang limp on a windless day as birds chirp. A medium-sized house tucked into an unassuming suburban street. A cat, a naughty-but-lovable dog, a gold fish. A swimming pool, words posted on the walls, chores to be done, the dishwasher runs.  A “Boy’s Only!” sign on a young boy’s door.  A veteran, a hero. A mom with a big smile. Four very social kids. Six people who constantly finish each others’ sentences.

    Meet MATT (30), his girlfriend CATIE (27), and their combined family: DOMINIC (10), ADRIANA (6), SETH (5), FELICITY (14 months), and ZYLAH ( -1 month and counting)

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    Matt and Catie at the wedding. Catie’s 8 months pregnant.

    SCOTT: So you’ve been down for a long time right?

    MATT: Not really a long time, not as long as most. I started listening to it I think when I was in 8th grade but I wasn’t “down”. I just listened to the music. My first experience was the “Riddlebox” - me and my buddy were just pumping iron to it.  It was just different, it was rap but it was dark, and, being a teenager, we’re talking the mid 90s, it was just cool. It expressed how I felt at that moment in time, you know, dark, alone - a suburban kid with nothing really to do other than to go to school and come home every day. I never had any inspiration to do anything. I tried to play professional sports, never really went anywhere. I played baseball, I played football, we were too poor to play hockey, my favorite sport, so I usually played in the street.

    DOM: You did track right?

    MATT: I did track for 1 year, but I never strived to… grades, I never cared. My only drive was literally the military my entire life. When I first came out, I just wanted to be in the military, that’s all I wanted to do. I didn’t even know why until I actually joined -  it was because of the camaraderie, the loyalty and the duty and the respect that you get and can give back. It was a brotherhood that’ll never go away - it’s just awesome.

    SCOTT: What branch of the military were you in?

    MATT: Army. In from 2004 till 2007, and I was discharged with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My spine curves really funny, it doesn’t S-shape, it L-shapes, and both my knees are shot. I was supposed to have surgery, but I think surgery’s just gonna make it worse. I’m scared to hell of going under the knife at all. Even after I was blown up 20 plus times, from hanging bombs on an underpass to dead dogs stuffed with explosives to car bombs and then being shot at all the time. I was actually in Iraq in 2005, during the elections, so everyone that was there was fired up. We didn’t know what was going on, we didn’t know who the next… this was like the first true rebuilding stage of a country and everyone had their own opinion for the first time ever. Plus you had the insurgent cells just going crazy, trying to do whatever they could to deter the people and military forces from letting this happen. But it did go off and it was the first step to rebuilding an entire country. From what I saw it was a success.

    image

    SCOTT: So you’re happy about what you did there and what was accomplished?

    MATT: Oh yeah, absolutely. Our forces did what we had to do the way we were trained to do it. I was quite pleased.

    SCOTT: What happened, you got blown up and were discharged?

    MATT: After being blown up so many times you end up getting what they call TBI, a Traumatic Brain Injury. It’s kind of like multiple concussions on top of concussions on top of concussions. And you can’t think straight sometimes, sometimes you stutter, sometimes you lose track of thought. I cannot carry a backpack on my back. My knees - I ‘d rather have the knee pain than the back pain. The back pain is insufferable. I stand a lot, it grinds down my knees but I’d rather have the knee pain than the back pain. My back will actually start spazzing out so violently I have to lay down and it hurts even more, but I can’t stand because I’m shaking so bad. 

    SCOTT: Do you get veteran’s benefits?

    MATT: Oh yes, I’m 100% disabled, and that’s just for PTSD, which is a whole nother disability. That’s a mental disability where I can’t handle a lot of things and it’s either fight or flight. I was always trained to fight. I never run away, I go forward, and that’s what usually gets a lot of veterans with PTSD in trouble because we only see that one out and it’s usually through violence. It usually gets us thrown in jail or doing something where we’re going to wake up the next day and completely regret… you know. It’s rough to deal with but I’ve gone to many classes, I’ve spent time in Batavia - they have an entire PTSD unit up there to help us learn how to control every aspect of our lives, whether it just be breathing, counting to ten, or just continuously rethinking our actions and the consequences.

    SCOTT: Are you happy with the services you’re being offered?

    MATT: Absolutely. What I’m not happy about is that there is over 2.2 million veterans, right now, that are still waiting for their VA compensation to go through. They’ve filled out the paperwork, some of them multiple multiple times, and they’re still getting denied. That’s what bothers me. 

    CATIE: The kids health insurance…

    MATT: Plus, my kids’ health insurance absolutely sucks. I get for them (Dom and Adriana)…

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    A sign points to Dom’s and Adriana’s rooms.

    CATIE: I get the other two of them Medicaid and Fidelis, which is better.

    MATT: Way better. They (the VA) expect me to pay a $50 co-pay even though I get money from the VA.

    CATIE: They have free college education though…

    We talk a bit about Iraq as the camera cuts out. Matt’s been shot and was injured severely several times from explosions. 

    MATT: I lost my best friend in Iraq and then back home I ended up losing two family members here on my mother’s side. That was really difficult, because I couldn’t go home, you know, drop everything and go home. So I never got to take care of the loss that I had. It was just very difficult to have to deal with all that. Especially when you come home and you get smacked in the face with that, Dom was still very young, and his mom was going to move all the way from here down to Ft. Bragg, South Carolina, so… All of that, all that new, old, my brain was going in so many different directions it just didn’t feel like it could actually handle it. I started to snap, and they sent me for evaluations, found all these problems, and eventually, a year later, after all these evaluations, from the Colonel all the way to my doctor, they all said “you’re getting discharged on an honorable discharge. You’ve done us a great service for being a great soldier. Never complaining.” My record was always clean. So they just let me go.  It’s really very weird for the military to spend so much money on somebody and just to let them go, so that’s when I knew there was a problem with me and I needed to get it fixed or at least learn how to deal with it better. That’s when a lot of my problems with my ex-wife started, because I wasn’t able to handle myself in a reasonable way, lots of yelling, lots of screaming. Dom remembers, he was young but he remembers.  

    CATIE: She was lost too. She didn’t know what to do either. She was working full time…

    MATT: And now she wasn’t working at all. 

    CATIE: When he came home he was at home with 2 small kids all day, after just going through all of that.

    MATT: It was rough. And we actually lasted at least another 4 years, but then she couldn’t handle it anymore. I was taking my medication but my medication was turning me into a zombie, I was no help, I couldn’t remember anything…

    CATIE: The medicine sucks.

    SCOTT: Do you still take the medicine?

    MATT: No. No no no. Not at all. I just learned how to moderate everything and if I’m getting too stressed out…

    CATIE:  We use St. Johns’ Wart!

    MATT: Yeah! St. John’s Wart really balances the Seratonin - it’s really weird but it works.

    CATIE At least he’s still here when he’s taking that. 

    MATT: I’m zoned out. I don’t even know what I’m watching. Drool out the corner of my mouth, shit like that.

    CATIE:  Yeah, he’ll sleep for 16 hours.

    MATT: 16 hours. Wake up, don’t even know what day it is. 

    DOM: Sometimes he falls asleep in a cereal bowl!

    SCOTT: Like face down?

    DOM: Yes!

    MATT: I have done that yeah.

    DOM: I watched him and I was like: “Wake up! We’re eating cereal.”

    Everyone laughs.

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    Gifts from the kids, Juggalo and Iraq memorabilia occupy a place of honor in the house. 

    SCOTT: So how long have you been together?

    CATIE: We’ve known each other for ten years now. 

    MATT:  …and we’ve been a couple for two years.

    SCOTT: How did you become a couple?

    CATIE: We had long gaps in our friendship, just from losing touch and finding each other again. I was hanging out with this guy that was at Matt’s friend’s house - I was talking to his roommate at the time. I came by to drop groceries off and I opened the door. Matt was standing there and we started talking again and just have been inseparable since.

    image

    SCOTT: How long have you been living here together? 

    MATT: Two years.

    SCOTT: So pretty much since you guys reconnected?

    MATT: Yeah!

    CATIE: We reconnected and hung out for a couple of weeks and I started bringing Seth over a lot because Matt had the other two kids for Seth to play with. It was better than what I was doing, driving around with my friends all day trying to find things to do that were kid friendly and that weren’t going to drive us crazy.

    DOM: [Seth] wasn’t a demon back then.

    CATIE:  No he didn’t turn into a demon until he turned three. That day he woke up and it was like a switch. We were just hanging out a lot and one day I just never left.

    MATT: I haven’t asked her to leave yet!

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    Seth is a John Cena fanatic. He shows me his room.

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    Felicity shows me her bed. Seth, who’s tough to keep out of photographs, pops up to tell me he sometimes sleeps in the tent.

    SCOTT: Were you still coping with, well, i guess you’re always coping with the PTSD?

    MATT: Yes. 

    SCOTT: Did you have lots of trouble…

    CATIE: We worked really hard to get to where we are now. There was a lot of partying and a lot of numbing and self-medicating with…

    MATT: other things…

    CATIE: …things that he shouldn’t be messing with. He worked really hard and it took a lot of patience but we finally got to a good place. 

    MATT: I learned where to just say “no”, and start dealing with my own emotional problems instead of just numbing them. Just numbing them doesn’t help because they’re still there, I just don’t feel them right now. But when I wake up not only am I gonna feel like crap but now I have to deal with emotional problems. And it builds up and builds up. It’s taken me a very long time, the two years we’ve been together she watched me go from borderline alcoholic drug addict to what I am now, which is just a family guy.

    ADRIANA: You’re a family guy daddy!?!!

    The kids start singing the song from Family Guy.

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    Adriana shows off her bunk bed.

    SCOTT: I could make a whole film just about your kids by the way. There’s a lot going on here!

    CATIE: We don’t even let them watch tv till the sun goes down. No morning or weekend cartoons. They wake up, eat breakfast, do their chores, and then they go play. 

    image

    The chore wall.

    SCOTT: Do they have chores they have to do every day?

    CATIE: Yeah. On that wall near where we were standing when you came in , each of them has their name on a board and there’s a TO DO side and a DONE side, and a NOT DONE on the bottom. So they move it from TO DO to DONE. If it wasn’t done right, I move it to NOT DONE.

    DOM: And then we redo it.

    CATIE: Then they redo it. 

    SCOTT: Do they try to trick you?

    MATT: No. 

    CATIE: I’m pretty strict with the responsibilities.

    image

    When I walked in the house Dom was busy doing the dishes.

    MATT: We want the kids to know what real responsibility is. I mean, there’s kids that don’t know what responsibility is. They think that they’re entitled to everything - you’re not entitled to nothing unless you work for it.

    CATIE: We want to let them know that we’re a family, we have a lot of us in one house, and one person cannot do it all, we all need to pitch in and help. You pitch in and help when you see help is needed. We walked around the Erie County Fair and every piece of garbage we saw one of the kids I was pointing to to pick up. Things like that, kids don’t know.  There’s too much throwing trash around and not picking it up. I want my kids to be the ones who say “Hey, you probably shouldn’t leave that sitting there.”

    SCOTT: These two guys are in school (Adriana and Dom)?

    DOM: I just got out of Elementary School. Now I’m going to Middle school. She’s still in Elementary.

    CATIE: And Seth’s gonna start kindergarten!

    image

    This is Adriana’s word board. 

    SCOTT: You’re going to have all this time at home by yourself now!

    CATIE: Yeah right! Well there’s Felicity and then we’ll have this new one.

    MATT: Felicity and Zylah.

    SCOTT: You know you’re having a girl?

    CATIE: Zylah Elizabeth.

    SCOTT: Where does that name come from?

    MATT: I wanted a Z name!

    CATIE: He liked Zelda, and I liked Leah. 

    MATT: I got A right here (he puts his hand on Adriana) to Z (he points at Catie’s belly), and everything in between! 

    SCOTT: You’re going to need about 19 more!

    He laughs.

    MATT: Nope - this is it! This is it! Catie has to get a job after she’s done recuperating from the pregnancy just so we can stay afloat. I do not want to drown with this many kids.

    SCOTT: It must be a bit of strain to have five…

    MATT: Four yeah, and eventually five. But we do have a good support system which is our family. My parents are there, her parents are there, my ex’s mother’s there, so there’s always somebody I can call if I need something. 

    SCOTT: Are you from out here also Catie?

    CATIE: I’m from Lovejoy.

    SCOTT: And you’re thinking about getting a job when you have the baby?

    CATIE: Yeah, I don’t care what. A clerk job or something for a couple hours a week for a little extra. Cause Matt’s doing it all and this is the longest I’ve ever not worked, it’s almost  two years now and it’s too long. I lost my one job, I worked with autistic guys in a group home for almost 6 years, and then I lost that job. There was a lot of management changes and clashes, And then I got pregnant right away and I was like “Oh man!” And I just haven’t had time to go back to work, and helping him get back together.

    image

    This is Catie’s escape. She tells me she’s often either sitting on the hot tub or sitting in the hot tub.

    ADRIANA: Um can I have a huggy and a water bottle?

    CATIE: If there’s water bottles clean.

    SCOTT: I haven’t asked either of you about any Juggalo stuff yet. How long have you been…

    CATIE: I’ve been Juggalo since college, 2005-ish, maybe 2004. Somewhere around there. I started listening to it in high school - I went to St. Mary’s of Lancaster, just cause it was a Catholic school and my mom was big on the Catholic schools.  My best friend in high school was this guy who wore Tripp pants - kind of the “different” one at school. When he would give me rides places he would always have ICP on in his car. I hate bass, I have really sensitive ears, so I can listen to things but it sounds crappy to other people, but that’s how I listen to it. So I hated it while he was playing it because he had big speakers in his trunk and I could’t hear anything except this “Woooooooo” with the windows vibrating and I was like “This is awful,” the whole time, “this sucks, please just get me home.” But by the time I got to college I started actually listening to it and hearing the Cds and things. My little brother likes a couple of the Cds - he doesn’t consider himself a Juggalo, but he likes the music and respects it and understands us being Juggalos but doesn’t understand the ignorant gang Juggalos.

    DOM: He said “Great Milenko” was his favorite album.

    image

    SCOTT: Did you go to college here?

    CATIE: I went to D’Youville for three semesters and then I dropped out cause I was gonna join the army and that’s how I originally met Matt. I was in physical training for an entire year to get my weight down so I could join. I have a “three strike rule” - the first time I went there was too much protein in my system, they wanted a doctor’s note. Then, the second time, they said the doctor’s note wasn’t the right kind, then the third time I did all the testing, and they have this “stepper” - it’s just a block where you have to step up up down down, and I tripped, so I failed. And I’m like “seriously? I must really not be meant to do this.” So I went a different way and went full time with the autistic guys.

    SCOTT: Did you like working there?

    CXATIE: I loved it. It was really stressful, but I’ve always taken care of people so it was like extreme babysitting. They were in no way babies, they were all the same age as me, more or less, but I liked it.

    image

    Matt and Adriana show me some of their Juggalo memorabilia.

    SCOTT: Matt, did you get out of the Juggalo stuff when you were in the Army?

    MATT: No not at all. We actually had a coupla guys that were really into it and I connected with them, but it wasn’t until I met Paul and his crew that I started to really get into it.

    SCOTT: So you didn’t consider yourself a Juggalo until you met them?

    MATT: Well, there’s actually a song “what is a Juggalo” by ICP…

    DOM: It’s on “Great Milenko.”

    MATT: There is no definition. It’s pretty much just “be who you are and don’t let anybody judge you and don’t judge anybody else for being who they are.” You don’t know who they are, you’ve never walked in their shoes. Stuff kinda like that. So yeah, in reality everybody’s kind of a Juggalo in their own right, because everyone’s walked a different path and done different stuff. You just usually connect with people that have done similar stuff, or you find people so interesting because they’ve done different stuff. In my group of friends we’re all Juggalos, even the ones that don’t call themselves Juggalos at all, like [our friend] Fatz. Not a Juggalo at all, but doesn’t apologize for being himself and lives life to the fullest. That’s how I see being a Juggalo - living life to the fullest and enjoying every single day no matter how crappy the day is. If you keep holding onto a little bit of something, a little bit of happiness. That’s my definition. 

    SCOTT: Is your son is also a Juggalo?

    Dom nods.

    MATT: In training. He doesn’t know exactly who he is yet but he’s learning, he’s growing, he’s very very intelligent - Straight A student.

    DOM: I was a straight A student when I didn’t have my glasses. And then I got my glasses and two of my subjects went down to B’s. 

    SCOTT: What happened? I hope it wasn’t reading!

    MATT: Reading - he’s always been a straight A student. He reads at a very high level and comprehends at a very high level.

    SCOTT: So you like school?

    DOM: A little bit. 

    SCOTT: Whats your favorite subject?

    DOM: Math! Well, it’s not my favorite but I’m really good at it. I have to say Science would be my favorite subject. 

    SCOTT: What are you guys studying?

    DOML: All sorts of different stuff, like, land and water and stuff like that. 

    image

    Dom shows me a model of the solar system hanging from his ceiling.

    SCOTT: How long have you been into this Juggalo stuff?

    DOM: Probably since I was like 5.

    MATT: No…

    DOM: No?

    MATT: You really didn’t start learning anything, it’s been within the last year/year and a half that he’s been, you know, I’ve allowed him to listen to it. With the understanding that it is only entertainment. I mean, you don’t use words like that -  you’re still too young to understand what “fuck” actually means. You can’t just pop off at the mouth swearing all the time just  because you feel it’s… It’s kinda difficult, I’ve always had my parents with the “they should never say anything like that”, and then I have my own ideas of where you should be able to say anything you want. I was in the military -  I fought for the Freedom of Speech. Number one above all that’s what I believe is Freedom of Speech, you should be able to say whatever you want, just understand that there are consequences to everything you say and do. And he has understood the concept of consequences. He’s gotten in trouble for saying certain words, like the “MF” word.

    DOM: I never said that.

    MATT: You mouthed it. Remember at Grammys? He didn’t say it, but he mouthed it, and everybody knew what he said because it was very slow! And everybody was looking at him and it’s like… it’s really difficult, because when you’re going through stuff like that being a parent, but, at the same time, wanting your kids to be themselves it’s like a grey area, it’s like a crossroads. Because I feel one way and I also feel the other.  I’ve been down that road and I grew up in a Roman Catholic household. You’ve got these different views and now they’re conflicting, what do I do?  I try to instill into him that “yes it’s okay, but only in certain situations.” He’s still learning about situational awareness. That’s why I call him a Juggalo-in-training, but he’s a very good kid, I can talk to him about just about anything, anytime. Just like you can tell daddy anything, right?

    DOM: Mmmhmmmm

    image

    Dom in his room.

    SCOTT: So what music do you like?

    DOM: I don’t know. I like rock and stuff like that. And rap and hip hop and all sorts of stuff like that, and it’s like a mixture of all of them. 

    We talk about music a bit and I find that the guys have surprisingly diverse taste - everything from Katy Perry to new Country and a lot of stuff in between.

    image

    Matt, painted up, talks with Adriana. 

    SCOTT: Anything else you want to say?

    MATT: What was instilled in me as a child with wanting to join the military so bad I was told at a very young age that you sow…

    CATIE: You reap what you sow. 

    MATT:  “You reap what you sow.” That’s exactly what my father told me. I got a job at eleven and a half years old, just delivering Metros (a local paper)  at a penny. Each insert was a couple more cents or whatever. 

    DOM: What are Metros?

    CATIE: The newspaper’s in the little blue bags.

    MATT: Never got to do the Buffalo News. By the time I was 14 1/2 I was a cart pusher at Tops. I did that for 4 years then went without a job for two months, got my job back did that for another 2 years, then got a job at Mighty Taco. Did that for 4 more years, that’s where I met my ex-wife. Then I did SBS, factory jobs, Buffalo Hospital Supply, the Bavarian Cream place on Henry, Metal pressing as well. I’ve worked my entire life, so the military was nothing when I finally went in, even though I went another two months without a job before I got in. That’s two months in my entire working career that I didn’t have a job. And that really bothered me. 

    SCOTT: Is it hard for you not to work right now?

    MATT: Yes! Constantly! I feel sometimes a little worthless, but then I get over it and look around and just do something for my kids.  Even little things. As long as it puts a smile on their face then I’m doing my job as a father. Or just teaching them values and lessons in work ethics, this is my new job - being a father. A full time father. With… no benefits. 

    We laugh

    MATT: Well, the smiles are the benefits.

    ————

    image

    One last one of Seth. The kid’s a natural.

     
  9. Ryan outside of his apartment building downtown.
    Even doused in fake blood, Ryan still has a smile on his face.
    Redpop.
    Ryan sewed this himself.
    Ryan is one of the few Juggalos I've met with no tattoos. This is just a birthmark that I decided to shoot.

    INTERVIEW:

    SHAGGY

    Ryan/Shaggy (20) radiates positive energy - every time I’ve been around him he’s had a smile permanently on his face. We met at Canalside in downtown Buffalo, where he’s been living for the last few years to talk about music, his childhood in Black Rock, comics and whatever else.

    ME: Can you introduce yourself?

    RYAN: Ryan Hanson, my friends call me Shaggy, my rap name’s Weapon X. I currently reside downtown near the Erie Canal, Buffalo NY… and I’m a Juggalo.

    ME: How long have you been a Juggalo?

    RYAN: It’s been quite a while actually. I got turned on to the whole thing when I was like 8 years old. I’m 20 now. My friend Ronny, whenever we would hang out we would go to his house and he would show me this group called Insane Clown Posse. When I first heard of it, I was like “what is this, a rock band?” “Nah, it’s a rap group.” “What genre?” He was like “It’s horrorcore.” I was like “What’s that?” He told me it’d be like what would you do if you took horror movies and put them in song lyrics. He played a song, and immediately, it was funny. They were really funny at first, then I understood the movement of the Juggalos. Really dedicated fan base, every fan considers themselves Family, even like complete strangers. They’ll accept you for who you are. Most people find you weird, they’ll take you in. You’re just a regular person like us. Since then, it’s going strong.

    ME: Are there a lot of Juggalos in Black Rock?

    RYAN: Nah, mainly it’d be just me. A couple people hear about Juggalos and don’t pay it no mind, others have some type of criticism, others do respect the movement. When you do find it it’s actually kind of a pretty good feeling, you know there’s actually somebody out there interested in the same things you might be interested in. There might be an occasion where you’re sitting on the bus and you find one sitting on the bus probably going the same place you’re going, you see one walking or one riding a bike down the street, sometimes you’re just minding your business and they say “Wassup Family?” They say hi, hang out with you for a little bit, go about their day. I just like the feeling of that.

    ME: Have you gone to the Gathering?

    RYAN: Nah, that’s like the main thing I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve tried but money’s tight for me, trying to find a job, it’s a little difficult, but that’s the sole thing I’ve always wanted to do. See shows, artists I’ve always wanted to see live: ICP, Twiztid.

    ME: Youv’e never seen either of them?

    RYAN: Nah I haven’t seen any act on Psychopathic records. That’d be like a dream come true.

    ME: So did you go to high school in Black Rock?

    RYAN: It was mainly over towards the East side, I went to Burgard high school, graduated June 21st 2012.

    ME: Did you go to college at all?

    RYAN: No, I just want to be employed, you know…

    ME: What are you thinking about?

    RYAN: Anything’s good for me really, I applied for the Cheesecake Factory for dishwashing. I’ve only had one job, it was seasonal work at Party City over on Elmwood, nice people but long hours. Busy too. If you guys are planning on applying to Party City for seasonal work, be prepared!

    ME: So tell me about your music?

    RYAN: It’s a little less horrorcore. More kinda like comic book references, video games, more like cartoons type of stuff. I’m kinda versatile, but there’s still some lyrical abilities I have yet to learn - wordplay, alliteration; people tell me I’m good, I made my own page on Facebook. I can’t really freestyle, but I like writing stuff, you know writing stuff down. I’m solo and with Jonny (Blaze) and Julian (Notti). Like a trio. We got a fourth person sometimes. I forget the name of our group but I know we’re trying to get off the ground, at least around Buffalo. Conversations we had, Julian always has aspirations of like going to Philly, going on tour, but we gotta start off small. Whenever we’re sitting around, we’re always thinking about different names for everyone, so each of us will probably have a different name the next time we hang out. Other than that, music, movies and comics are like shit we always talk about.

    ME: I saw you’re really into comics…

    RYAN: Oh yeah, I love comics. Marvel is my favorite, Spiderman, Hulk, Deadpool all that. Me and most of my friends always have debates, like what superhero, Marvel or DC, would win in a fight! I’m proud to call myself a comic book nerd. I’m still a nerd to this day. Reason I got into comic books, my Dad would take me to my Grandmother’s, whenever we’d go to visit, I’d try to find something to do, she would collect these comic books, they’d always be in these plastic bags, stacks this high. They had this dude named “Mad Dog,” “She-hulk”, “James Bond Junior.”, “The Defenders”, “Iron Fist,” a couple “Spiderman”. I went through all of them. She passed away a couple years ago, and I’m still kinda wondering what happened to those bags of comics to this day.

    ME: Was your dad like a comic guy too?

    RYAN: He knew I liked comics but the only character he really liked was Spiderman. Out of all the superheroes when I was a kid, Wolverine and Deadpool are my favorites now, but i was a Spidey fanatic when I was younger. He was always funny, whenever he’d fight the bad guy he was always talking. That was my favorite part.

    ME: And horror movies…?

    RYAN: Oh man, I’m a horror movie addict! Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, Hatchet, Amityville Horror, the Exorcist. I love me a good slasher film!

    ME: Even the older ones?

    RYAN: Oh yeah, Psycho. That’s a good one. The Birds… My favorite movie I’d have to say is kinda underground, it’s called “Chain Letter.” It was a gory one!

    ME: Tell me more about your family.

    RYAN: Me and my brother, we still have a good relationship, he’s an awesome big brother. He lives in South Buffalo. When I was growing up, he’d always try to toughen me up. To this day, I fight when I have to, but I’m a peaceful guy, I don’t really like violence. He noticed that, and he thought it was going to be a problem so, you know how like older brothers pick on little brothers trying to get them to be a man, in his way it was a way to toughen me up and make sure I can still be a nice guy but take no shit from anybody. Sometimes when we got older he started letting off on me, whenever he would see something funny, I was always the first one he would show. Then there’s my mom. My mom’s like the coolest person you’d ever meet, strict sometimes, but a very sweet woman. Just really big temper, loud! Whenever I would forget to do the dishes or clean the house, I’de face the wrath the next day. But whenever me and her walk around or we go to the store and I help her with groceries, she’d always be greeted by everybody! She works at Wegman’s and ECMC, but everyone knows her from Wegmans. She has two jobs. At Wegmans everybody knows her. Back when I was younger, my dad used to make me walk her to work, whenever I’d walk through the store everybody would always say hi to her, wall to wall. I was looking like “Damn mom, you know everybody!” She wouldn’t leave me out to dry, she’d always introduce me. She got the job when I was 8 years old, right before I became a Juggalo. She got a job at ECMC, I haven’t been in there but I know everyone would say hi to her. She works as a nurse there. She’s awesome. Greatest mother you could ever have.

    ME: You guys live together now?

    RYAN: Yeah, but most of the time I’m by myself because she works at ECMC and might go to Wegman’s right after work. We still got a good relationship.

    ME: Do you want a family and all that stuff? Family of course! Not now obviously, probably like 25, early 30s. Little family, family of 4, family of 3. 1 or 2 kids. I don’t want too many kids, a parent with too many kids has got some bad ass kids. ME: So what do your family think about the Juggalo thing?

    RYAN: My brother knows I’m a Juggalo and he’ll crack jokes on it. Cause he thinks ICP is like the only people I listen to. There’s other artists, some on different labels. He’s into like mainstream, like Wayne, T.I.. I do my own thing, I have some ICP in there, some Twiztid, but I have some other old school acts: KRS-1, Eminem, Wu-tang, Fat Joe, Nas, Big Pun, Biggie.

    ME: So you do listen to some mainstream stuff?

    RYAN: Back when it was good. Instead of all like, nowadays, everything is exactly the same but back then it was always new artists coming to the game with something different. That’s what always kept bringing me in - old hip hop. The hip hop I stayed with is kinda like mid/late 90s, early 2000s. Up until like Soulja Boy came out, that’s when I stopped. There’s a couple mainstream artists I actually listen to, Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, everybody in Odd Future. Frank Ocean. That’s about it.

    ME: Underground vs Mainstream, is that important for you?

    RYAN: Nowadays with like mainstream you can just say anything and put it on a beat. Underground actually has some talent. People put time and patience into what kind of lyrics they write. The more and more they put out, the better they have to be. Other rappers are only considered well known cause of their popularity. Fans nowadays are always concerned about how much a rapper always makes. I don’t see what that has to do with music. Everybody in America, the rappers want them to follow along in their footsteps. There are people who claim that they’re different, but it’s like “you’re just the same as the next man.” Like that song “I’m Different,” by 2 Chainz. Some of his lyrics don’t really make sense. They always brag about how much money they have, what kind of jewels they rocking, what kind of clothes, what kind of girls they sleep with, how many bottles they popping, what kinda weed they smoking. Underground people, mainly MCs, we always rap about like how versatile words can be. That was what pulled me in. There’s an Xzibit song I heard it’s actually kind of true, the game is 10% skill, 90% Hollywood. Mostly rap nowadays has to do with fame and not like the art of hip-hop. Rap stood for “Rhythm and Poetry”, and poets would come in and read what they wrote over a beat. That’s gone.

    At this point a strange old white guy comes up and interrupts us. He makes some vaguely racist comments, calls me a nerd, compliments my camera, and tells us he’s a better writer than Walt Whitman and Thoreau. His fly was down. Ryan is gracious and friendly with him, and never stops smiling.

    RYAN: That’s how it is sometimes with people in Buffalo - you know people are pretty nice. They’ll just come up and sit down with you and start making conversation.

    ME: You want to stay in Buffalo?

    RYAN: As much as Buffalo is my home, I do kinda wanna see the rest of the world. I’ve never been anywhere else, I haven’t even rode on a plane before. I always wanted to see what it was like to fly on a plane. The only thing I ever experienced was riding the metro when I was younger. I’ve always wanted to go someplace nice, like Bahamas, or Jamaica or Florida, Hawaii. I haven’t really been nowhere, I’m stuck.

    ME: Have you ever been down to New York City?

    RYAN: The City. Nah I’ve heard good things about it, it’s a big place, I wanna check it out one day, especially Times Square. I wanna see what Times Square is like.

    Hear Shaggy’s music:
    https://www.facebook.com/WeaponX716 

     
  10. You don't see Jon without a cigarette in his mouth very often.
    Jon at Paul and Sarah's wedding. The first time i saw him painted up.
    Jon shows me one of his favorite spots from childhood, a secluded hill overlooking the train depot. He's hopped a train to Syracuse. Some day, he might want to hop one to California.
    Jon shows me one of his favorite spots from childhood, a secluded hill overlooking the train depot. He's hopped a train to Syracuse. Some day, he might want to hop one to California.
    Jon takes off his bandana and shows it to me - this one's his favorite. He looks strikingly normal when you see him without it.
    Jon's bandana - a Chinese symbol.
    Choke marks on Jonny's neck from the night I drove him home. When we were walking around, Jon told me you can always tell if a white kid is from the ghetto by their teeth.
    Jon's hatchet tattoo.
    Some Juggalos come from hip-hop, some from metal. Jon sports a HIM tattoo. He grew up listening to Metallica and Black Sabbath.

    JONNY EDWARDS

    I met Jonny Edwards (28) my first time at Hatchet House and he’s one of the people I’ve seen the most since. The second time we hung out, Jon got in a little bit of a brawl in the back seat of my car - thankfully, no one was really hurt, it has since been cleared up and everyone’s Family again. Jon will be the first to tell you about the duality of his character, so I’ll just leave that to him below… 

    JONNY: Wassup fam? Jon Edwards aka Beast aka JonnyJon. Whoop whoop what’s good? I been down literally since age 11. The first album I listened to was “The Ringmaster”, and the song “Chicken Huntin” was, at that point in time, one of the songs that got me into my male whorishness. Because I took it as a different meaning than others, you know. (“Chicken Huntin” is an ICP song about killing rednecks - Scott) I’m looking for scumbags but at the same time I’m also looking for girls. Me being young and adolescent basically molded everything I am today. I been through a lot of hard shit. A lot of hard shit.

    ME: How old are you now?

    JONNY: I’m 28 years old. Or young. I’ve been in jail, outta jail for over a year and a couple months altogether. I didn’t do no hard time, but I did enough time to where it effected me. (He points at his head) You know?

    ME: What was jail like?

    JONNY: I’ll put it this way. Jail was basically like a day camp that you couldn’t leave. Ever. Until your appointed date out. So I was there for a year, I was in the kitchen unit for 6 months, and I did the cooking for the entire jail, and then by certain circumstances people were getting jealous and shit, they wanted to get on the cleaning crew so they decided to put a cigarette into my box of personal things. I got raided that day and I got sent to the Box. And then I was put in a 4x8 cell, by myself, for over 2 months.

    ME: Solitary confinement?

    JONNY: Solitary confinement. And my teenage years weren’t that bad. I grew up in Cheektowaga over near French road. My buddy Paul I’ve known him…

    PAUL: Whoop Whoop!

    JONNY: Whoop Whoop! I’ve known him since I was little. Cuz he knows the same people I know. We didn’t know each other, per se, until a couple years ago. And uh, well, I’ve always been part of the Family, I know a lot of people in the Buffalo Juggalo Family. I’ve dated a couple girls, they know who I am. They knew who I was - I was not a bad person but I wasn’t good when I was younger, so I’ve done my fair share of evil and good. And I guess that stems down to the fact that I’m genetically a fucking Gemini. June 4th all day. I’m a Lunar Gemini, so I’m just as crazy at night as I am during the day. I don’t try and live like that but it happens. I can’t help it so I just give in, as you’ve seen (see above). I try and be a good person, I really do, but there are some points where you’ve just gotta put your foot down and say “enough’s enough, I’m sick of being treated like crap.” Even though people don’t think they’ve treated me like crap, I’ve been treated like crap mentally.

    image 

    (Jon’s proud of his eyes. He had a bit of a black eye this day from the fight).

    ME: Was your childhood rough?

    JONNY: Oh yeah. I’m 28 years old, my childhood means nothing now. I was the redheaded stepchild. I was the black sheep. I’m the oldest of 5. And I paved the way for all of em. And they’re all doing good, mind you, all of them. I’m the only one who’s not.

    ME: What do they do?

    JONNY: My brother Zack he’s a machinist, my sister is a janitor kind of, I don’t know what her actual job is but she works in the school system. Elementary schools. My sister Sarah is going to become a cop. My brother Chris, the youngest one, he’s in the service, he’s going to be a Marine. And my sister Ashley is a pretty good bartender.

    ME: Are you out of contact with your family?

    JONNY: I try and keep as much contact with them as I can, until they start acting dumb, like “Why can’t you do this for me?” How come you won’t do shit for me?

    ME: Are you Polish?

    JONNY: I’m a mixture of a lot. I believe I have Puerto Rican in me. From what I understand I’m mostly Welsh, Native American and Polish. The eyes is because of the Indian in me. I might have a little bit of Korean, I guess. I don’t know, my family was nothing but whores. I’ve done some delving into my family history and a lot of them were whores. And, I already been through that in my teenage years, I was with a lot of girls at one point. They didn’t care, which was wrong but at the same time was cool for me. Every teenager if they had more than one girlfriend they’re the fucking shit. Early 90s, definitely. I went to high school in West Seneca East, so yes, I’m a Trojan, I use Trojans all day. Very safe play.

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    (Some Juggalos come from hip-hop, some from metal. Jon sports a HIM tattoo. He grew up listening to Metallica and Black Sabbath.)

    ME: You were a Juggalo in high school?

    JONNY: Since before high school, I was a Juggalo in middle school. 7th Grade, that was about the time it started kicking off. When I was like 12 or 13, I was doing paper routes. Do you know how much money I was making? $700 off of one major route. And it was all mine. I had money.

    ME: Were you living with your parents through high school?

    JONNY: I was living with my parents, paying rent.

    ME: You were paying rent when you were 15?

    JONNY: Yep. First job I had was over at Arby’s - half my paycheck was going towards rent. And my parents think I’m crazy when my mother was asking me for rent. Their vehicles broke down. Most of my money went to fixing their vehicles. Their third vehicle my brother fixed, cause I was living over in Riverside, because I couldn’t live there any more. There was only so much I could be taken advantage of. There’s only so much you can take. And me being a human, I can only take so much. I got into an altercation with my stepfather, he told me if I don’t like it, “get the fuck out,” so I got all my shit and left.

    ME: How old were you?

    JONNY: 18. Right when I was of age. Dropped outta school because they told me I couldn’t come back another year.

    ME: Did you finish high school?

    JONNY: No. I mean, I’m not stupid, I’m not unintelligent, I know how to read and I know how to write. I don’t have any problems with history, sciences, but I do need to go back, it’s just I have to find time, and these days time is something I don’t have. As soon as I have two or three months to myself to buckle down and focus.

    ME: You have 1 year left?

    JONNY: I’m four credits shy. Couple classes: history and science. I did my math, I got that done, I got that done in tenth grade. I hate math. If it ain’t countin’ money with your fingers people, you really don’t need it unless your becoming a rocket scientist, and no one in Buffalo is going to become a rocket scientist. I was trained to become part of the military but never got to. My whole family was part of the service, so I was being trained without even knowing I was being trained. As you’ve seen, I do get my shots in where it counts. I don’t like to hit people, I’m more passive aggressive, which is more dangerous, I know this, that’s why I don’t fight. When I do fight, if I lose it, I’m afraid. I see what I’m doing but I can’t control it. That’s the whole thing that happened that night (see above). I couldn’t control who I was. That was just raw me, and all my anger, I wasn’t trying to project it towards anyone I was just trying to get it out. No one was listening. That’s what I kept saying “no one wants to listen to me.” All I want to do is get it out.

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    (Choke marks on Jonny’s neck from the night I drove him home. When we were walking around, Jon told me you can always tell if a white kid is from the ghetto by their teeth.)

    ME: As far as Paul and Sarah…

    JONNY: I love Paul and Sarah. They are my family. I’ve been hanging around with them for about 3 and a half years, and they’ve seen me in my worst spots, with girlfriends and stuff. You know, they basically said I wasn’t allowed at the house for a while, cause I got bad, I got nasty for no reason to everybody, because I was being fed lies and lies. I didn’t know what was real.

    We talk about Jonny’s ex-girlfriend a bit. He was taking care of and helping her raise a son (not his).

    ME: What are your aspirations?

    JONNY: I wanna be remembered. That’s it. I just wanna be remembered for who I am, not what I’ve done.

    ME: How about having a family of your own, is that important to you?

    JONNY: At this point, where I’m at right now, in this city, that’s not going to happen. I have to get out of here. Don’t get me wrong, I love Buffalo, born and raised, all day, 716 everyone, I have to get out. It’s gonna drive me insane, I’m going to be put in a straightjacket, in a rubber room, closed and locked away.
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    (Jon shows me one of his favorite spots from childhood, a secluded hill overlooking the train depot. He’s hopped a train to Syracuse. Some day, he might want to hop one to California.)

    ME: So where do you want to go?

    JONNY: I wanna go to Ireland. The homeland. Dublin. That’s where I wanna go. That’s where I feel everything’s going to happen.

    ME: Have you been there?

    JONNY: I haven’t been outta New York State. I went to Toronto but that doesn’t count. That’s 5 seconds away over the fucking bridge. Whopdeedoo. I been to the middle of the state - I been to Syracuse, I been to Alleghany, Erie Pennsylvania, went swimming down there.

    ME: You swam in Erie Pennsylvania?

    JONNY: It’s okay. It’s alright. I washed myself off with bleach, bro. I’m whiter than usual because of that. But, it’s not that I hate my life, I just hate the people who come into it who are ignorant and not respective of other people. Like, when they go off about who they are and then they go and try and force their views on people like me or around me that are my friends, don’t project your evilness on us, we are not doing nothing to deserve it. I know what ignorance is, I’m very learned in my vocabulary. I use them in a different term because that’s the way I talk. I talk different, people always think I’m weird and somewhat retarded, but the way I say things in my head, the way I voice it, it sounds perfect. There’s no other way that you can understand exactly what I’m saying unless I say it that way. It’s more hand gestures, body language and it’s just this (he points to his mouth) that sweetens the earlobe and peppers the brain. 

    We talk about why he was in jail.

    JONNY: I made my mistakes. I was a whore when I was younger. It stemmed from 11 to 21, for my whole teenage years that’s all I had and I was working like a crazy person, making money, doing my bit on the side, not too bad, just simple shit, selling pot (legal disclamer: this was while Jon, now 28, was in high school). Big deal, everyone smokes pot. If you don’t do it, don’t knock it. It is a calming tool for most people these days cause there’s a lot of stress in this world, a lot, and a lot of people don’t know how to deal with it. I’m bipolar, I suffer from depression all kinds of crap. I don’t take meds for it, I smoke pot. And it evens me out. I smoke pot, play video games, kill people on video games… being a good citizen. I work hard every fucking day. I really do.
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    (Jon takes off his bandana and shows it to me - this one’s his favorite. He looks strikingly normal when you see him without it.)

    PAUL: A lot of people, like he says, turn to Juggalos, to like get away. See how Violent J and Shag were persecuted for trying to become white rappers.

    JONNY: That’s the thing I hate the most. As soon as they came out, shortly after Eminem came out. He’s just doing what they were trying to do first. Granted he went mainstream and they still stayed Underground. I believe Underground is better than mainstream anyway. It’s just, they’re not selling out.

    PAUL: They do what they wanna do.

    JONNY: And that’s how music should always be, you know. That’s the dream. People sit there and tell me “Why don’t you get a different job.” Because I like making money the way I do, I make sandwiches for people, I make people fat, I’m not a fat person, I’m a customer service person all day. I can make money and sell shit to you without you even knowing it. I work at Arby’s. I’m the backline closer. You want good food, come see me.