The Time Mike Took Me To The Gathering Of The Juggalos
The following story is meant to be humorous, and is not intended to represent the real-life Mike Pence. As far as we know he did not, in fact, ever yell, “Titties!” at a group of scantily clad women.
Vice President Michael Pence has musical tastes for which the adjective eclectic is an understatement. I’ve known him man and boy and he still surprises me. Needless to say, his range of musical interests has led us down some strange, old town roads. I think you’ll like this story; it’s a good one, as they say.
It all started in his woody van, as it often does. A certain song was played in lieu of Pastor Dennis’s latest sermon on the 8-track. I was disappointed as I’d been so looking forward to his sermon on chastity. He had an unfortunate vocal tic where he placed the emphasis on the second syllable rather than the first that I much enjoyed.
“Michael,” I said. “How could you be listening to a character of the sort of this Neil Young?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Bryan.”
“Well,” I replied. “How could you trust a man who rode his horse, alone, across a desert and never thought to name your man the horse? A horse is a great friend to Man. A coworker. A fellow traveller who endures the same class of hardships as his faithful rider or master. To deny the horse a name—what sort of a man does that?”
“Well,” he chuckled. “I don’t know.”
“I’ll tell you the sort: a no good ruffian of the lowest character. A vile cretin. The kind of man who’d befriend you on the trail and then steal your supper. A brigand. Perhaps even an Englishman.”
“Well, Bryan,” he asked. “What would you have named the horse?”
“Chuffy the Bastard,” I replied, as quick as you please.
“That seems rather harsh, Bryan,” he chided.
“Well, I can’t imagine the sire and dam were married, now can I?”
“I suppose not,” he said.
There was a silence, just the hum of the road and that damned “A Horse With No Name” on the 8-track.
“Did you know, friend,” he said. “That this song is often mistaken for the work of Neil Young but is, in fact, a recording by the folk-rock group America and written by one of its members, Dewey Bunnell.”
Another uncomfortable conversational pause filled the woody.
“Well,” I said. “I know my Helprin.” Freddy and Fredericka is one of my favorite books, of course. “Anyhow, this song makes me feel dusty and dirty, like I’ve an exoskeleton of dried, flaky, odoriferous sweat.”
He reached behind my seat and into a cooler and pulled out a bottle of the Faygo.
“I think you need a shower,” he said.
“What the devil are you on about now, Michael?” says I.
“A Faygo shower is the cure for what ails you.”
“I don’t follow,” I said.
I regarded him with deep suspicion.
“You need to expand your musical horizons, Bryan,” he said.
A dozen of Faygo and several roadside micturition stops later we arrived at The Gathering of the Juggalos. I’d been given quite the musical education in the interim.
“No, Michael,” I said as we stepped out of Woody carrying all our kit. “It’s a perfectly reasonable question. You’ve got your positively charged gentlemen and your negatively charged gentlemen and between them a vast nothingness, as far as your men are concerned, being so tiny themselves. How do they, should we say, communicate, do you think? Is it all manner of shouting and the like and if so, what is the medium that carries all this attraction and repulsion information, as we’ve already established there’s nothing there?”
“Bryan,” he said with a broad smile. “Don’t you think you often overthink things?”
“I have extensive thoughts on that very subject, in fact,” I retorted.
By then we were at the gate: tan lines and portable toilets the like of which you’ve never seen.
“Now if anyone addresses us by shouting ‘Whoop whoop!’ the proper response is ‘Whomp whomp!’,” Mike informed me.
I took out my makeshift Juggalo-English Dictionary and made entries for both Whoop whoop! and Whomp whomp!
We made our way inside. Never have I seen Michael in a place where ladies’ breasts were more freely bared. A mere request and up went whatever served as a brassiere. He never requested it for himself, mind, but several times on my behalf he called for Titties, covered his eyes and let me observe the display themof.
I won’t call him a connoisseur but I cannot fault his curation.
“Now, Michael,” says I. “What is your opinion of this Charlie whose cooking I hear spoken so well of?”
He knows I have a great appreciation for the culinary arts.
“Bryan,” says he. “Our friend Charlie is not one who contributes to those, almost sacred, arts. He is instead a manufacturer of a powerful stimulant known as methamphetamine. He is otherwise a kindly soul, but his wares have ruined many a family and many a community.”
“Well, Michael,” I said. “You’d better believe they didn’t teach us that sort of cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu.”
I’m always ready to defend my alma mater.
At a stall Mike bought himself a spiderlegs hat with mock hair in that style. He resembled a rastafarian who’d been struck by lightning. The sight of my great friend in that ludicrous hat—so prescient is Michael that he, in response to my soundless gaping and mad gesticulations, pointed out that famed Dirty South rapper Ludacris was not performing at this gathering—was striking. It was like someone had painted Steely Dan into Washington Crossing the Delaware.
I must say my attitude changed over the course of that afternoon. There was a great sense of family and humanity to be found between the drunken wrestling bouts and the slasher references. Your man the Juggalo may not have a Harvard education but he can reassemble a diesel engine and give you a comprehensive explanation of the Cleveland Torso Murders simultaneously and with equal precision. An atmosphere of acceptance and commonality obtained throughout the event. It was a peon to the conciliatory nature of common interest and fellow-feeling.
It was beautiful to behold. I was taken up.
“Michael,” I said, filled with the liberality of the occasion. “You should enter yourself in the Freestyle Rap competition. I’ve no idea what that is, but it sounds like the class of event you might enjoy.”
I swear to you, dear reader, I said that entirely in jest. I meant to spur no eccentricity nor reveal hitherto unspoken truths. I most certainly did not entertain the possibility that my idle question would result in the cataclysm that resulted.
“You will be surprised to learn,” Mike said. “That I am forbidden from entering that competition.”
“Ah. Pastor Dennis,” I replied with a laugh. “A heretic, of course, but a stopped clock is right twice a day, they say, and twice a day he is.”
“No, you misunderstand me,” says Mike. “I am forbidden to compete in the Freestyle Rap Competition because I am a former champion.”
I was flabbergasted. Your man engaging in a rap battle and claiming, over the course of several rounds of increasing difficulty, victory was a reality I could not imagine.
“You, Michael Pence,” I said. “You blow smoke up my kilt. You’ve battled in no such manner, I’m sure. A strident argument? Of course. A witty rejoinder? To be sure. But all classes of this hipping and hopping? No such thing has ever happened, I’m sure of it. It never happened, or I’m not Bryan O’Nolan.”
A quick visit to the registration table and I was sure that, come to find out, it had. A man that you know and that I know, Mr. Michael Pence, was a champion emeritus of that august competition.
Somehow in the confusion and bewilderment I’d been signed up myself.
“Now Bryan, as a judge,” he said—a judge! he said—”I’ll have to recuse myself whenever you’re involved. The only exception is in the finals, when I will have no choice but to be a fair and honorable judge.”
“Michael,” I said. “They’ll eat me alive!”
“No, Bryan,” says he. “They’re fine fellows, and you’ve the gift of gab.”
The finals were upon us before you could say, “Bryan how have you gotten yourself into such a predicament?” Never in my life have I been so nervous. I looked about me: a broad expanse of Juggalos: my new family, looking on expectantly, myself uneasy in the knowledge that no harsher judgment is rendered than that of family; my greatest friend the now-impartial judge of my hip-hop acumin; the rank smell of the marijuana and stale alcohol in the air. I knew that somewhere Shaggy 2 Dope was listening.
I was laid low by my opponent, a jolly brigand in torn bluejeans with a day-glo shock of hair in my favorite color, chartreuse, and a backpack that surely carried equal quantities of the Faygo and the methamphetamine. He called me a leprechaun. Something about St. Patrick and the snakes. He ended by rhyming “four-leaf clover” with “bend over”. There was a grand ovation at this.
It was my turn at the microphone.
The mic was hot in my hands. The words crystallized in my consciousness as I felt the pocket of the rhythm. My mind was filled with the bevvy of rhymes I would bust and I rapped in the freest of styles. The last of these biting lines were:
Son you callin’ me leprechaun
An’ I wonder how much meth you’re on
Here I’m doing calculus, you’re tryna square the octagon
I see you rapping with your lazy flow and mumbly voice
Your rap is pants, son, I’m the freestyle James Joyce
Your flow is whack, your rhymes are iffy
If you come into my neighborhood I’ll toss you in the freakin’ Liffey.
Except I didn’t say “freakin”.
Michael did not approve.
Sometime I should tell you about the time Mike shot a Bald Eagle, which was critically endangered at the time.