So Much for the Jugga-After-Glow

On September 16th, 2017, something pretty goddamned special happened. Insane Clown Posse and Juggalos marched on Washington in protest of the FBI designating Juggalos a gang and I was one of the speakers. I’d been trying to articulate the dignity of Juggalo nation for a good half decade at this point, in two books and countless articles, so the invitation to speak wasn’t entirely unexpected but I very much expected it to fall apart at the last minute. It seemed too good to be true, but there I was, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial a little over two weeks ago, addressing my fellow Juggalos and the world at large. 

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life but it was also so intense and so unique that I keep replaying it in my mind over and over again. I’m stuck in this weird space between a lingering hangover and a weird kind of afterglow. It was an amazing experience, but one I’m still processing and figuring out. 

I feel like I haven't entirely digested the experience because it will be a while until my article on the experience is available in the next issue of High Times. My way of processing the world is writing about it. I'm used to writing super-timely online coverage in the moment and sharing my life and experiences with the world through my writing, so it feels a little weird that you won't be able to read about my experience for another month or so. It contributes to the weird sense of incompleteness. 

Before Insane Clown Posse’s climactic closing set that night, I went backstage because that was my privilege as a speaker and I’ve always wanted to check “watch Insane Clown Posse show from side or backstage” off the old bucket list. Truth be told, I probably would have had a better time watching the show out front with my friends. The energy would probably have been a lot better because truth be told, the energy backstage at the March on Washington was a little on the exhausted and low-energy side. It felt like we were all relieved that nothing had gone egregiously awry as opposed to ecstatic about the March being a huge success. 

Why wouldn’t I be tired? It had been an extraordinarily long and intense day. For me, the day of the March began at five A.M, with me vibrating with energy and anxiety after a fitful four hours or so of sleep. Then it was off to the NPR station for a live interview with Scott Simon and Weekend Edition, then walking from NPR to the Lincoln Memorial to start filming my parts for no less than four or five or six documentaries, including one for my former employer The Onion. Then I wrote a speech and watched hours upon hours upon hours of speeches and performances before a surreal and transcendent March around the National Mall with my Juggalo homies, Insane Clown Posse and Camile Doddero, a longtime Juggalo journalist I hung out with back at the Gathering in the Cave-In-Rock days. 

 I like to think I have a bit of a "Clown Colonel Kurtz" vibe here. 

I like to think I have a bit of a "Clown Colonel Kurtz" vibe here. 

Then I waited backstage to go on as the line-up was shuffled repeatedly and ultimately delivered a furious three minute speech about the March and what it means to be a Juggalo in the screamingly loud, stylized cadences of a mid 1990s slam poet. So it makes sense that even on a mild dose of Adderall (courtesy of a Juggalo homie, shout out to Struggalo Circus!), I was still on the exhausted side. I was really happy, and feeling very alive and in the moment, but I was also feeling very relieved that the March had gone so well and that I had hopefully not embarrassed myself with my role in it. 

I was a part of pop culture history. I was a part of Insane Clown Posse history. I was part of D.C history. This was some shit I would remember forty years from now, that I would put pretty high on a list of the greatest honors of my life and career. And I really wanted to smoke some weed, but that was in shockingly short supply for a Juggalo event in a city where marijuana has been decriminalized but I’m glad, for the most part, that Juggalos obeyed the laws of the land, even the bullshit ones about not smoking pot. 

Speaking at the Juggalo March and being onstage with ICP at the end of their performance (or at least before we all ran offstage when the modest stage started to groan under our collective weight) was an incredible high and I find myself thinking about the March all the time. It really made an indelible impression on me. 

I keep wanting to relive it. My only real regrets from the March is that I didn’t collect more mementos and souvenirs and also that I do not possess a single photograph of myself actually speaking. Apparently the novelty of a grey-bearded author delivering a speech about being a Juggalo in a dirty Phish tee-shirt didn’t strike anyone as the type of thing that might be worth taking even a single picture of. 

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I wish there was a Gathering happening next month, because I’m eager to get that inimitable, ineffable Juggalo feeling again, but I guess that’s what makes events like the Gathering and the March so special: they only happen every so often, and the rest of the year you live in a world that’s a whole lot less crazy than Juggalo World but also less unforgettable and life-changing.

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The Big WhoopNathan Rabin