Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Farmer Ira and The Gathering of the Juggalos

Ira Murkajetty was raised with the idea that the best investment was always real estate, and especially land.  Banks could fail, stocks could crash, but land would still be there, unless of course, it was on a coast or river, where it could be washed away.

So, when Ira was in his late 40s, he bought 80 acres of beautiful wooded land near a state highway and good, paved county roads in northeastern Florida.  His first choice was Ponte Vedra.  His second was St. Augustine. But, both were too expensive, so he decided to buy land in the small town of Alachua, Florida.  The land was high and dry, for the most part, and with only one swampy, boggy area, with only a smattering of alligators. He built a small house and a big barn and officially became a farmer. His main crop was hay.  For his other income, he bought and sold vintage Schwinn bicycles.

When Ira turned 75, he started to realize that his nest egg was not doing much for him.  He was also sick of losing auctions on E-Bay for old Schwinns and it was getting increasingly difficult to find spare parts.  One morning while he was drinking coffee and eating his morning English Muffin with Smucker’s strawberry jam, someone talked about how much money people could make by leasing their land out to be used for music festivals.

“Well,” he thought to himself.  “I have just the place.  It’s dry, the hay has just been cut, and so there’s room for parking and a stage. Plus it’s wired for electricity and I already have a detached bathroom with 4 toilets and 4 showers.”

He called up the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, and then Jacksonville. Mary Kate, in Gainesville, was the most encouraging, albeit guarded.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked.  “It just so happens that a group just contacted us for a festival this summer. They call it “The Gathering of the Juggalos,” and they usually get between 8,000 and 10,000 attendees.”

“That sounds nice!” said Ira. He had never heard of a Juggalo. His mind immediately converted it to “Buffalo.” In his mind, images of a cross between blue grass and a small symphonic orchestra playing pop tunes, like the Boston Pops Orchestra in Tanglewood, Massachusetts years ago.  Well, if this went well, he might even talk to people about having Shakespeare in the Park and perhaps weekly bluegrass and square dance meetups.

“Ira, if you do this, please be sure to get a LOT of liability insurance,” she said.

“Oh, okay,” he said. He was thinking about doing that anyway, since it would make it easier to sell the land or do anything.  So, he called up his insurance agent and got a $10 million umbrella policy for the next six months.  It was not expensive, and he felt sure he would recover it.

In the morning, Mary Kate called him and told him that she had given his number to a group called ICP, and also a company representing musicians.

He talked to a very polite man who introduced himself only as Shaggy. “We will have music from all our groups and artists. We’ll have a few wrestling matches, and also different types of fashion and drama exhibitions.”

“That sounds nice. How much will I be paid?” asked Ira.  We’ll pay you either $50 per person, or a flat $250,000, if you prepare the fields and put out bales of hay, parking, electrical outlets, porta-potties, open air showers, and camping spots where we need them.”

“I’m in! Yeeee hawww!” shouted Ira. He had not been this excited since he competed in a local rodeo when he was a teenager.

So, Ira did everything he thought would be prudent. He bought the umbrella policy. He got insurance on all of his equipment and business fixtures. He obtained casualty insurance for the relatively few things that could be destroyed.

He told his buddies at The Breakfast Shack that he was a bit surprised at how thick the contract was, but he signed it. “$250,000 will set me up! I’ll be able to retire! Finally!” he gloated.

But, all was not well in the little paradise of Alachua.  First, Ira wondered if his high blood pressure medication was making him hallucinate one night when he looked out into the field and saw two women in rainbow bikini tops and painted clown faces, and three men in baggy clothes and clown faces.

“What?  Clowns?  Clown masks?  Luchadores?”  he questioned.  He decided he needed a long night’s sleep.

But, his eyes had not deceived him.  On the agreed-upon set-up date, equipment appeared, beautifully choreographed, almost as though controlled robotically. If it had just been the setup for the music, he would have been less nervous.

He walked up to the guy he thought he had signed a contract with, but was shocked when he turned around and had on clown makeup, too.

“Shaggy?”  Ira asked.

“Yes, I’m Shaggy 2 Dope,” he said.  “Thank you again for letting us lease your property for our annual Gathering of the Juggalos.”

“Oh. Okay,” said Ira.  He still had the feeling he was in the kind of dream you have when you hit snooze and you shouldn’t.

Just then a pickup truck drove up and two men and two women got out.  They were wearing something that he had only seen on the box of his granddaughter’s My Little Pony and Sweet Unicorn toys.

“Whoop, WHOOP!  Juggalo family love!” they shouted. One of the women waved what seemed to be a plastic hatchet.  “Juggalo code!”  one woman sang out.  Ira was to learn later that these were the good Juggalos.  He never did encounter any of the 10-15 percent bad apples, who behaved with such depravity and criminal intent that they were classified as a national gang. If Ira had met them, it is unlikely he would have rented out his little corner of rural paradise.

Another shook up a 2-liter bottle of what appeared to be a neon-colored pop.  He could make out the word, FAYGO.

Ira looked at the different pieces of equipment.  It slowly dawned on him that ICP stood for Insane Clown Posse, and he had just agreed to allow his beautiful meadow to be used for a gathering of what looked like a cross between Halloween and the very last night at the carnival of a rural county fair. He also learned that the Insane Clown Posse was often considered the most hated band in the world.

“What is … uh… a Juggalo?”  he asked Shaggy 2 Dope.

“Ira, I’m totally straightedge, but I will say that not everyone is so. I’m so impressed with Juggalos. Most are very creative, entrepreneurial and hard-working. We started out poor. I mean rough in Detroit. But, we pushed ourselves very hard from the very beginning – we dreamed of this. We started out wrestling, then the horrorcore rap. No one really understood us, but then over the years, we have a strong gathering of like-minded people. But it can be a little rough.”


Ira shuddered.  This group was starting to scare him. “Uh. I think I might need to visit my relatives in Gainesville for a week or so.  You’ll have this cleaned up, right?”

“Yes. Without a doubt.  We work hard all year to make The Gathering of the Juggalos something they will remember.  Our record label artists will be performing, and we’ll have all kinds of acts and shows,” said Shaggy.

Ira cringed.

“I don’t think I want to know,” he said. Ira had a bad feeling about it.

“Well, perhaps you don’t,” agreed Shaggy.

Two weeks later, Ira returned to his farm and was delighted to see that it was very clean, just a few deep tread marks and a place where it looked like a few dozen bales of hay and some cut grass had burned.

That night, he noticed a new movie on cable.  The name of the movie was Family (2018, dir. Laura Steinel), and it starred Taylor Schilling and a young actress, Bryn Vale, as her young niece who, due to being bullied at school, wanted to run away and become a Juggalo. He watched the movie, and found it to be quite heartwarming (although the Juggalos still made him nervous).

A few months later, he got a call from Shaggy.

“Ira, we loved your farm and we were planning to contract with you again. But, your county banned us. They said that while they appreciated the fact that they could have access to federal funding since the Juggalos have been officially classified as a gang, the townspeople sort of rose up against it."

Ira had not actually spoken with the town officials. He had read an Opinion piece in the Alachua Weekly Gazette that criticized Ira for renting his place out for such a self-contained festival. "It did not benefit the community," said the writer.  "Everyone brought in their own supplies, and there was little or no economic activity in the community, except for groceries, alcohol, and gasoline. No one stayed in the hotels, and no one shopped in our Florida Heaven Antiques Mall." 

Ira focused his attention back on the conversation.

Shaggy 2 Dope continued, "Your place is a good place for a festival, though.  Let me know if I can be of help in finding a situation that would be a good fit."

"Maybe something like a blue grass festival with clog dancing?" said Ira. Those types tended to be really obsessive and would buy Indian tacos and embroidered household items.

Ira mentally calculated how long thw $250,000 would last him, and he drew a long, contented sigh. He was sorry that the bad apple Juggalos had ruined it for the Alachua location. Oh well. One must count one's blessings. He would talk to a financial advisor tomorrow.

In the meantime, “whoop, WHOOP!”