"Can I help you with something?" the clerk asks, making me feel pervy for staring at a picture of two supermodels crushing their giant breasts together in an erotic embrace. She is young — late teens, early twenties — and has a pierced nose and tongue.
"I heard you guys sell a lot of, like, Insane Clown Posse stuff here," I say.
"We do," Pierced Tongue responds, raising an eyebrow. Guys like me don't inquire about items like these in stores like this very often.
"Because my cousin is into that band, and I was thinking of getting him something for his birthday." And like that, I sacrifice my cool cousin with his indie-art-rock-punk sensibilities to the gods of douchebaggery, all because I'm curious to see where the legions of Denver's Insane Clown Posse (ICP) fans — Juggalos and Juggalettes, they call themselves — purchase the accoutrements necessary for their impossibly trashy lifestyle, an ethos driven by grown men in clown makeup who refer to the music they make as "horror-core." Openly.
Pierced Tongue goes behind the counter and removes a pipe with a small bubble on the side of it. Inside the bubble floats the tiny silhouette of a man running with a blade: the ICP Hatchetman, she tells me.
"Do you sell a lot of this ICP stuff to people?" I ask.
"Oh, yeah, at least two or three items a day," she responds. "For some reason, this part of Denver has a lot of Insane Clown Posse fans. This is kind of like a headquarters around here, I guess."
I decide not to fake-buy my cousin any such garbage. Instead, I pump Pierced Tongue for more details about the ICP fans that parade daily through the store.
Some are perfectly respectful, perfectly cool, she says, but some are little bastards, rude and aggressive. She tells me about one kid recently who stuffed a bunch of merchandise in his pockets and sprinted from the store, out on to Sheridan heading south. Pierced Tongue's co-worker chased after the kid and brought him back, where they very coolly informed him that if he gave back what he stole, there wouldn't be a problem. Juggalo ran again. And again he was apprehended. This time they had him handcuffed to the wall when all of a sudden his little Juggalo brother and Juggalette sister showed up.
"This girl couldn't have been more than twelve. Thirteen, tops. And I could not believe the filth that was coming out of her mouth. I mean, I've heard it all, but that little girl just had the most foul mouth. And she was screaming so loud."
In the end they called the cops on the Juggalo, who managed to transfer his bag of weed to his siblings, who fled into the neighborhood prior to the po-po's arrival.
Next, Pierced Tongue and I talk about music. Much to my surprise, she's a hippie, she tells me, loves Bob Weir and String Cheese. She saw Weir in Detroit about a year back and considers it the highlight of her life, her being a mere ten feet away from his guitar, as she puts it. And suddenly I feel bad for being so judgmental. Here I was thinking this chick was a Juggalette herself, or at least a reformed one, when it couldn't be further from the truth: She's just a pot-smoking flower child who digs guitar solos the length of telethons. And what's so wrong with that? Who cares what kind of music you're listening to as long as it rocks your world? This chick digs hippie music, the trashy Sheridan throngs dig Insane Clown Posse, I like music by men in women's jeans. Who's to say which of us is right?
"I think I'm going to pass on buying anything today," I tell Pierced Tongue, turning to leave with a refreshing, newfound sense of musical tolerance in tow.
"I hear you," she says to my back. "If I ever caught my cousins listening to that ICP bullshit, I'd kick their little asses."
— Adam Cayton-Holland
Tommy's Slalom Shop
A guitar player who fled Texas in the 1970s because there was a "Stevie Ray Vaughan on every doorstep" there, Tommy Phillips came to Denver having grown up on water sports around the Gulf Coast.
One day in 1981, his brother-in-law, Herb O'Brien, of the O'Brien water-ski company, sent him a slalom ski, so Tommy took it down to Sloan's Lake, at 17th Avenue and Sheridan, where a small community of water skiers could be found every weekend. The ski was newer and better than what most people had, and Tommy ended up selling it for $50. After that, everybody wanted one, so he kept taking skis down to the beach at Sloan's, and eventually had so many boxes coming to his house that he decided to rent a strip-mall shop next to the lake.