The Gathering of the Juggalos 2022

Well, I’m back.

Those were the words Sam Gamgee spoke to Rosie Cotton upon finally returning from the end of his journey. Sitting in the air-conditioned silence of my office, only days after the ending of the Gathering of the Juggalos, I feel rather the same.

The real world I’ve returned to is less vibrant than the one still teasing the edges of my memory—threatening to pull me blindly back through time into a realm I would rather remain.

The Gathering of the Juggalos 2022 was dubbed the Gathering of Dreams, and in many ways, that’s certainly how it feels. Too quickly it passed, and remains now as a constant dream in the back of my mind of what was, and what will someday be again.

The visions are a seemingly chaotic collection—a kaleidoscope of carnival imagery, camaraderie, and concerts.

With the lingering taste of midway food and the smell of stale soda, faces pass through my mind. They are a shockingly varied group, united by looks of grudging exhaustion, glee, and more than anything else, a burning sense of appreciation for the moment they’re in.

I was able to reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones. At a Gathering, there’s a pervasive sense of familiarity that makes real the repeated claim that these events are not merely a music festival, but rather a family reunion for the most reviled and feared lineage in music history.

Faygo flew through the air, raining down on anyone below before crashing with a colourful splash into its target. Juggalos set up slingshots to launch Faygo or water balloons into the crowd, while others struggled to outfox security and make it up onto the dinosaur’s back.

Fireworks blasted continuously in the background, and clumped in wet heaps on the ground at many points were the burned rags of confederate flags. Passerby’s would spit on them and laugh. One danced upon it. “Be careful,” said a nearby stranger, “I did that earlier, and there was shit all over it.”

I think I’ll always remember that quote.

Juggalos are a direct sort of people, and if they are passionate about displaying their hatred for hate (ironic as that may sound) so too do they celebrate what they love with ferocious vigour.

The pits in front of the ICP concerts saw split heads and shattered teeth. Strangers crashed into each other, then hugged like old friends. Mortars shot off, smoke filled the air, and people choked and gasped together. Fresh Faygo washed away blood and sweat alike.

Even amidst this atavistic revelry, there is gentleness and respect. No one who falls stays down for long, and even as they land are greeted by a rush of hands ready to pick them up and let them try again.

That’s sort of what the Gathering is about. We take care of our own. Whether it’s helping a wounded comrade out of the pit, putting together entire campsites to take care of people lacking supplies, or finding random and wonderful ways to entertain one another, Juggalos never cease to amaze with their ingenuity and unique charm.

I remember on the final night as ICP held everyone in thrall, I caught a funny sight out of the corner of my eye. It was like a white blob moving through the sky. I stole a look over, and saw that it was a Hatchetman. Someone off to the side was creating them out of foam and sending them up to dance over the crowd.

No matter where you go at the Gathering, you’ll see something memorable. I appreciate that about Juggalos.

Of course, there are scheduled events too, and some of these were chief in my priorities. Among the top of that list was the Morton’s List Revealed Seminar—at which the creators of the beloved game would reveal all the secrets of its past, and discuss the game’s future.

Despite the excellent turnout, this felt like a surprisingly intimate affair. The three creators of the game—Jumpsteady, ‘Ninja’ Nate Andren, and ‘Tall’ Jess Deneaux—shared stories of their childhoods, the creation of the game, and the magical experiences which culminated in this epic release. A photo was shared of the original inspiration for the name of the Morton Boulder, and thus the game itself.

The game’s creators had tracked down their old friend, the eponymous Morton recently, only to find that he was deceased long past. Their mission ended with celebrating the life of their friend—reckoning themselves with the clutches of mortality even as they reminisced on the days of youth, life, and blind ambition.

Morton’s List brings us full circle like that sometimes, it’s part of the game’s chaotic magic, and provided for a touching seminar.

I was able to connect with my friend and one third of the creative force behind Morton’s List—Ninja Nate—out on the grounds. He was driving the golf-cart around for those who needed transport, but spared me the time to chat. Then, he gave me a lanyard with a card for his new game, Stranger Tales, explaining that he passed one to each person he encountered, and that the symbol on the back was the harbinger to some magical connection. It was up to me to discover the meaning of that for myself.

My card showed a series of exploding fireworks. I didn’t know what it meant then, but I nevertheless wore it with the youthful enthusiasm so necessary to a festival like this.

At 15 years old, I could hardly have dreamed of an experience like this.

Of course, dreams blend and shift as we look back on them. They merge and intersect, building on one another as they exist at once in the past and the future. Every minute since I’ve been back, different memories have bounced and played before my tried eyes. Friends and strangers, concerts and events. I saw amazing performances from Sir Mixalot, Onyx, The Hatchetman Project, Esham, KRS-One, Slick Rick, and the legendary Mike E. Clark among others. The latter of these even DJ’d live for ICP, and is featured heavily on their new EP, Pug Ugly.

I watched a live Palcast Hotdog eating contest, and witnessed Babytron live up to his name as he fled the stage early for this year’s Bubba Sparxxx award (IFKYK).

As is tradition, ICP were late for their yearly seminar, and the Trash War which ensued in the meantime was one for the books. Faygo, garbage, fireworks, smoke bombs, and even an octopus took to the skies, most often connecting with some unsuspecting sucker who’d gotten himself in too deep.

Sometime around 2011, venues stopped providing chairs for this event, and opted instead for bails of hay. The rationale was that the bales would be less easy to throw at one another than the chairs, but this assumption was sorely tested. I not only saw hay bales thrown at Juggalos, I saw Juggalos themselves hurled through the air as improvised projectiles.

It was fantastic.

An improvised Zen of Love Show took the place of the traditional seminar. It was fun, but many regretted the lack of significant news or updates in the Juggalo world.

Of course, at any Gathering of the Juggalos, the ICP concerts are an undeniable highlight. This year, we had two on offer, with the first of them being a Night 2 performance focussing on rarely or never-before-played songs. This ‘Juggalo Jukebox Show’ was a legendary performance, and will likely be held in the upper echelon of ICP’s storied concert history. It opened with ‘Here Comes the Carnival’ from the recent LP ‘Yum Yum Bedlam’—the live debut of a song likely to be a live classic. As fate would have it, this writer was able to get right up to the front of the pit.

It was about then that I realized it had been ten years since I’d been in a Gathering pit, and I was not the young man I used to be. It was a battle to be sure. Faygos launched like missiles before and behind me. Crowd-surfers—many with steel-toed boots—crashed towards my head from the smoky stretches of humanity pressed behind me, as the sweating masses clawed for my position.

It’s not a scene for the faint of heart, but even in the mud and mire of this battleground there is beauty and friendship. Juggalos scream the words into each other’s faces, and support one another when they fall. In rare moments of reprieve, they share stories of past battles, exchange notes on the setlist, and speculate on what will come next. Namelessly, bonds are formed, only to be torn asunder by the raging movement of the crowd as the set resumes.

The bonds remain.

As the final song started, I saw my moment come, and with Faygo Armageddon in full effect, I pulled myself over the rail and onto the stage.

Watching from far off, my partner shared that she saw me make it up, and knew that it was me when I turned to pull up those struggling behind me. That made me smile.

I danced in the Faygo rain for a long while—handing out 2-Litres, helping protect the security line around J, and hugging strangers with paint smeared smiles as they stood dumbstruck by the celebration of love, madness, and unity strobing around them.

After the set, I sat soaking and trembling with an energy rarely achieved in normal life. As my partner purchased herself a corndog, I sat on a rock, staring up at the starry sky. The myriad colours of the carnival lights bounced off my wet shirt, and I knew in that moment with a clarity reserved usually for youth and the insane that this was a special moment. It was one that I could hold, turn about and examine for years to come. It was the high-watermark of a week-long dream. The terrible, white face of the iceberg—visible and real—and acting as the portent of all that might bob and heave beneath the surface of immediate recall.

Then, as I sat there staring in wonder, the fireworks went off. Dozens, in all the colours of the rainbow, exploded above, sending their dying tendrils of smoke and sparks raining down over the grounds like a final baptism.

I clutched at my chest, where my Stranger Tales lanyard showed a similar row of fireworks. It couldn’t have been clearer to me just then. Of all the dreamlike, esoteric joys I’d had, and all of those yet to come, I knew that I’d found my moment. I was simply, purely happy, and that’s a thing not easily achieved these days.

It was a like dream, and it remains such.

Some dreams never end…

Now, I’m back. But I’ve said that already. The dreams of this vacation stretch behind me like a map to a place I never knew existed. Talking about it to those who have never been there feels like a futile effort. I would come across like a child trying to relay the contents of a fairy tale to some stranger with a briefcase.

These memories are not of this world. They are for somewhere better, a dream-like place that exists still in my past, and lingers upon the edges of certainty, somewhere ahead, like a castle in the fog, or a road stretching off into the clouds. It is the promise of joy, of community, of all the things so necessary to our humanity, yet all too often eschewed in the daily grind to survive, rather than to live.

To the Juggalos, that dream will never end. Someday, I hope that you can join us.

There’s always room on our wagons.

Much Clown Love,

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

Dark Carnivals, Dreams, and the Mystery of Morton

Ten years… a goddamn decade. That’s how long it’s been.

As I drove the long road home from the Gathering of the Juggalos in 2012—bumping the brand new Mighty Death Pop album—I imagined what might change in my life before I returned.

I couldn’t have guessed the extent of it then, or how long the stretch of time would be. Much has changed in my life and the world at large in the last ten years, but fortunately, at least one constant yet remains.

Each summer, thousands of Juggalos from around the world gather in one spot for the biggest independent music festival and family gathering in the world. This year, it happens at the start of August, and is hailed as ‘The Gathering of Dreams’.

The name isn’t chosen solely to celebrate my return—although the assumption is understandable—this year the acts and events were all themed around the wildest dream of the Juggalos and the organizers alike.

It’s a return, a celebration, and to steal a line from a wildly different band, a sort of homecoming. With all the uncertainty and instability in the world of late, a return to the gathering is just the ticket to create some semblance of sense again for this and many other Juggalos.

The Gathering is a time to forget about the rest of the world, and revel in the company of like-minded lunatics, where the mundanity of life and the weight of daily norms are cast to the wayside for a party involving friends, family, wild musical acts, carnival rides, and so much more.

This year, the emphasis is on the more. As one of the dreams of Psychopathic Don Jumpsteady, there will be a very special session to discuss some of the most ancient and guarded secrets of the infamous game, Morton’s List.

For those unfamiliar, Morton’s List is a Random Reality game heralded as the ‘End to Boredom’, and does much to live up to this bold claim. Tasking players with completing real-life quests limited only by their imaginations, Morton’s List is the only game ever to be banned from Gen Con, one of the largest toy and game trade shows in the United States.

This year’s seminar couldn’t come with more karmic hype. Original creators Jumpsteady, Ninja Nate, and R. Jesse Deneaux will be coming together to share their memories, reveal key details about development, and answer the age-old question and potential quest—who is Morton? Juggalos have been wondering about this since the games release back at the second annual Gathering in Toledo, in 2001.

Ninja Nate explains the event: “Twenty-eight years after beginning the Morton’s List project, we three authors are coming together to not only share the long-held secret of the origins of the game’s name, but also to reveal wig flipping information we weren’t aware of until last year. Plus, more revelations of the future of reality gaming!”

Like many, it’s not only the specifics of the seminars, but the overwhelmingly positive atmosphere of the Gathering that has Nate excited: “I’m most looking forward to being in the same tent with so many Morton’s List players and supporters. The Karma and good vibes of all you creative, adventurous ninjas is gonna be thick as bricks!”

There’s no doubt about that. To learn these key secrets and discuss Morton’s List with fellow enthusiasts, be sure to be at the Morton’s List Seminar. Tickets to the Gathering are still available Here.

Also, be sure to check out other games by the creators of Morton’s List, including The Quest for Shangri-La, Stranger Tales, and Druglord.

Even beyond that event, this years Gathering will be a veritable smorgasbord of entrainment. Musical acts include Mushroomhead, KRS-One, Onyx, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Slick Rick, Steel Panther, Mike E. Clark, Esham, and countless others.

Of course, the Wicked Clowns themselves—ICP—will be playing not one, but two sets. They’ll be the headlining act on the final night, and will also perform a ‘Super Mix Juggalo Juke Box Show’ featuring rare and never-before-played-live songs. This one will doubtless be a special draw for many seasoned Juggalos.

If music isn’t your thing, there’s an endless supply of alternative activities running all throughout the day and well into the night. Haunted Houses, Carnival Rides, Sideshows, countless Juggalo vendors selling rare or customized merch, the return of Big Silva (if you know you know), a seminar with the infamous Bigfoot researcher Todd Standing, and the annual ICP Seminar—often likened to a yearly Juggalo state of the union address.

Of course, even when the events stop, the Gathering never sleeps. It’s the Juggalos themselves who are the main event, and they keep it going all night long.

It’s certain to be the event of a lifetime, and there’s not a Juggalo I’ve spoken to that isn’t counting the days.

The Gathering of Dreams runs from August 3-6, 2022. Click here to get your tickets.

I’ll be on the scene as early as possible, taking it all in, living the dream, and rejoicing amongst the Juggalo Family. Check back here afterward for a full report.

Until then, stay down with the clown.

MCL,

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

Wicked Juggalo Podtrash

As the more astute among you may have figured out, ‘The Gentleman Juggalo’s’ hiatus is seeming mighty permanent these days, but that doesn’t mean that Brad OH Inc. is out of the Podcast game completely.

Not by a longshot.

In fact, my recent appearance on the amazing ‘BoomBastiCAST’ Podcast has led to the creation of a new show with my friends Mathew and Kandis at ‘Wicked Juggalo Podtrash’. Connecting virtually, the three of us come from far away locations and different eras in ICP’s long and storied history. I think this adds a unique spectrum of voices and opinions as we discuss recent Juggalo releases, news, and whatever the fuck else happens to come up.

It’s been a blast recording it so far, and I hope that my readers, new Juggalos, and other curious parties enjoy it as much as I have.

Check us out here for all the latest Podcast drops and other news.

MCL,

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

‘Yum Yum Bedlam’- Review

The past few months have been a rollercoaster for the Juggalos—and that’s not meant to be a carnival joke. Back in October of 2020, during one of the Patreon streams they hosted to stay engaged during the pandemic, ICP announced that their next Joker’s Card, ‘Yum Yum Bedlam’, would be released on Christmas Day of that year.

There was much to be excited about. Not only is the release of a new Joker’s Card a momentous event for any Juggalo—as evident in our previous reviews, such as that for the most recent Joker’s Card, Fearless Fred Fury—this was to be the first female Joker’s Card, and wild speculations abounded.

The fifth card of the second deck, Yum Yum Bedlam (YYB) was said to be about loyalty. YYB represented temptation, and all the lurid things which drive us away from what really matters. It was a fascinating concept, fitting in well with the more individual morality-based themes of the second deck.

Loyalty has been a significant topic at Psychopathic Records as well, with the departure of several acts still looming large. Further, Violent J’s recent breakups hang over the album, promising a personal touch to the themes of betrayal, loss, and seduction.

As the first female Joker’s Card, the album also holds an important role for the Juggalette community. While ICP have been accused of misogyny over the years, their countless female fans would be quick to challenge those assumptions, rallying behind the inclusivity most often discussed in relation to the Juggalo family. With a female Joker’s Card, ICP would have a great opportunity to explore those themes and more.

Christmas came and went however, and while this writer certainly hopes that all the Juggalos and Juggalettes shared some wonderful memories and got some memorable gifts, Yum Yum was not among them.

On February 17th of 2021—colloquially known as Juggalo Day—ICP released Yum Yum’s Lure, a teaser EP for the perpetually delayed Yum Yum Bedlam.

As the year wore on, news came at the Gathering of the Juggalos that Violent J was suffering heart problems, and ICP would soon have to step back from their regular schedule. The details of that announcement are covered here.

Finally, it was announced that YYB would make its long-awaited debut on Halloween night, 2021. This time, the Clowns didn’t disappoint.

-Click Here to get your copy of ‘Yum Yum Bedlam’-

Yum Yum Bedlam arrived—almost a year late—and the Juggalo world was more than ready. As is my custom, I listened the first time in the dark, with a good pair of headphones and my expectations soaring.

The first thing that jumped out was the arrangement. YYB didn’t follow the Joker’s Card prototype of Intro song, Character song, then shit-talking song before moving into sex songs, ghost stories, and other Juggalo staples.

The Intro—a well-performed ambience and voice piece followed by eerie chanting to reinforce the character—was followed by a high-energy, classic sounding song, ‘Here Comes the Carnival’, which was deceptive in its sound. The happy vibes and bouncing rhythm did nothing to betray the dark undertones of the lyrics, which described people being maimed and killed at a violent, destructive carnival ground.

While the content itself is fairly typical fare around here, the discordance between the content and sound felt fitting given the themes of temptation, betrayal, and deception woven into the album. After a few spins of the album, this song strikes me as one of the most important on the record, which will be expanded on later.

‘Wretched’ is one of the more heinous tracks they’ve recorded in a while content-wise, while ‘Clown Drippin’ is a fun if content-light comedy song. On an album with a more traditional arrangement for the Clowns, this might have fit as a more typical third track shit-talk type song, but YYB is not a traditional sort of album.

‘Gangsta Codes’ is a classic ICP story song, with a message similar to some of their older material, such as the classic, ‘Murder Go Round’.

In ‘Queens’, ICP pull no punches in addressing directly and without the cover of heavy metaphor the thematic question many Juggalos assumed had to be addressed on this album. As the first female Joker’s Card, what did it have to say about relationships in general, especially given J’s recent struggles?

It proves to be a refreshing take, delivering on ICP’s astute moral insight and—to those less familiar—surprisingly progressive outlook. The song reminds the listener to cherish their loved ones, and those who help increase their shine, or risk the brutal pain of loss.

‘Panic Attack’ covers familiar ground for J, but does so with an energy that’s reminiscent of songs from two decades ago or more. While Shaggy arguably remains the standout on the second deck, J has shown up with a new fire. His choruses are better, his screams are louder, his lyrics are more creative and on-point. It reads like a good sign for the beleaguered Violent J, and perhaps if he doesn’t yet have his demon’s conquered, they may be well corralled.

A special mention must go out to Richard Cheese for his contribution to the outro of this song. His lounge-style crooning of ‘Fuck the World’ from the original fifth Joker’s Card is a hilarious touch.

‘Fuck Regret’ turns the tone of the album towards a forward-looking perspective, while ‘Insomnia’ takes a trippy journey through the titular struggle. Part way through the song, the beat changes and the song slips into a more psychedelic beat calling back to the classic song ‘Joke Ya Mind’. This mid-song tonal shift is employed several times throughout the album, and felt like a return to the longer, more committed approach to songs of old.

While ‘Heart and Soul’ continues with the more encouraging message that permeates the album, ‘The Drunk and the Addict’ is a surprisingly personal tune, with both J and Shaggy being comedically direct about their addictions—past and present. This impressive song continues the trend of being more honest about themselves in the second deck of Joker’s Cards, which treats J and Shaggy more as real people—as Joe and Joey—then as the cartoon characters they often portrayed in the original six.

We’re around two thirds through the album now, which is an interesting time for a Joker’s Card character song to turn up, but ‘Don’t Touch that Flower’ is exactly that. With a bouncy hook and catchy refrain throughout, is does a fine job of furthering the story of the Yum Yum Flower.

It occurs to me at this point that more than any other album, this has been reminding me of ‘The Wraith: Shangri-La’. The unusual arrangements, rich and varied sounds, bombastic energy, and enduring positivity brings a similar vibe to that essential Juggalo classic.

‘The Joksta’ brings us back to more humourous, light-hearted trash-talking, with a subtle approach to examining our inner nature that brings a darker subtext to the song. That’s contrasted perfectly by ‘Bitch I’m Fine’, which hilariously describes the endless maladies the aging duo claim to have suffered, then breezily brushing it off with a playful chorus boasting the track-title.

As the album approaches it’s long close—this happens to be the longest Joker’s Card by several minutes—the song ‘Carnival of Lights’ brings us to an unexpected high-point. With an inviting description of the inclusivity inherent to the Juggalo world, the song assures the listener that they have a perfect place within the embrace of the Carnival. With it’s equally catchy music, this song forms a beautiful counterpart to the similarly titled second song, ‘Here Comes the Carnival’. Both invite the listener to a Carnival with high-energy beats and pleading voices. Both have a positive sound and an invasive beat, but what each deliver couldn’t be more different. While the earlier song grants only pain and loss, ‘Carnival of Lights’ brings us love, inclusion, and unconditional support. This stark dichotomy is reminiscent of the side-opening tracks from YYB’s sister album, ‘The Amazing Jeckel Brothers’, which were positive and negative versions of the same song, titled ‘Jake Jeckel’ and ‘Jack Jeckel’ respectively.

It’s a timely and well-appreciated reminder that love is a two-sided coin, and while there’s a lot of pain and hurt in the world if we aren’t careful, there are also brilliant joys and experiences which can make all the rest worth it if we can only achieve them.

The penultimate ‘Ain’t No Time’ gives us a deep look into some of Violent J’s inner turmoil, and delivers in spades. It’s a touching, brutal song that reminds us of the journey the album has taken us on before ushering us into the finale, ‘Something to See’.

This song explores the idea of what a person might choose as their last vision before going blind, and reminds us of the countless treasures there are in the world if we can only shake off the temptations that blind us. The chorus concludes that the Juggalos, live at a show, would be the greatest sight to choose.

It’s a love letter to the family, and a fine closing to an impressive album.

The mastering on the final song seems a bit off, but the rest of the album sounds consistently fantastic, especially the notable return to basslines that have some kick to them.

I’d be remiss to not mention the ubiquitous producer tags throughout. It seems like a modern trend that can’t be avoided, and while they didn’t ruin my experience the way some listeners say they did, it can hardly be denied that tags on every song—and sometimes two on one song—feels like overkill.

In the end, ‘Yum Yum Bedlam’ is a fantastic release. ICP have really improved their chorus game on this album once again, and whether they’ve nailed the perfect balance themselves or just knew when to bring in assistance, there isn’t a single tacky chorus on the album.

YYB may be one of the most impressive albums the Clowns have released since 2009’s ‘Bang Pow Boom’, and sets up for the next sixth Joker’s Card perfectly.

That’s still good while away though, as the liner notes of YYB confirm earlier announcements that this will be the most heavily supported album yet. In addition to the preceding ‘Yum Yum’s Lure’ EP, three more EP’s will follow. The booklet announced the dates and names of each, and is shown below.

-Click Here to get your copy of ‘Yum Yum Bedlam’-

Yum Yum Bedlam’ is still fresh, but in many ways it already feels like a classic. While years of repeat listens will be the only way to fully appreciate the depths of the album and reveal its final place in the story, its’ quality, intrigue, and plain old fun mean those listens will be an absolute treat.

Yum Yum.

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

Guest Appearance on the BoomBastiCAST Podcast!

Guest Appearance on the BoomBastiCAST Podcast!

Just when you thought our days of casting pods were over, we’re here to prove you wrong! While the official Gentleman Juggalo podcast does remain on hiatus, I have a guest appearance this week on the ever stellar ‘BoomBastiCAST’ podcast.

BoomBastiCAST covers all things pop culture, and is hosted by my friend—and fellow Juggalo for life—Mathew Fisher. On this episode, he hosts myself and our friend Kandis to discuss the new ICP album, Yum Yum Bedlam. Click Here to listen now.

That’s not all though—check right back here in two weeks for the official Brad OH Inc. review of Yum Yum Bedlam.

Until then, stay down, much clown love!

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

Reminder- ‘All Mapped Out’ is Available Now

‘All Mapped Out’, the fourth anthology by the Edmonton Writer’s Group is available for purchase now! You can pick up the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

All Mapped Out’ is the newest collection of stories from The Edmonton Writers’ Group. One of Edmonton’s longest-running writing groups. The stories in this book showcase the talents of a group authors from throughout the area. Previous EWG collections like Between the Shelves and Edmonton: Unbound both revolved around a central theme. All Mapped Out follows that same format.

Our authors write in a variety of genres, including romance, science fiction, mystery, crime fiction, historical fiction and non-fiction, and many write stories that revolve around world-building.

Having a central theme helped challenge the creativity of each member who submitted a story. If you think All Mapped Out is a geography book, you would be letting your mind wander in the wrong direction. Each of the fifteen stories are about the journey each author takes you on. Some will make you laugh, or bring a tear to your eye, and others will take you to a magical or futuristic destination. Whatever the final destination our stories take, we hope getting to the end is half the fun.

Whatever emotions these tales evoke from you, The Edmonton Writers’ Group hopes you enjoy your travels with our authors.

My story in this anthology is called ‘The Great River’. This is a story I’d meant to write for a while, and the theme of the anthology seemed like the perfect place for it. It’s really a simple hero’s journey, but the idea of the protagonist’s slow-dawning realization, and the wandering journey of self-discovery through a post-apocalyptic future really hooked me.

As a life-long devotee of Professor Tolkien, I had always imagined I would never venture into writing fantasy, as to my mind, it had already been done far better than I could ever dream. ‘The Great River’ is most likely the closest I will ever venture to that genre — its simplicity and singularity keeping it sufficiently distant from the richness of Middle-earth.

Remember, you can pick up the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

-Brad OH Inc.

Launch of ‘All Mapped Out’ and the Conclusion of ‘A Good Place for a Miller’

Today, we are happy to provide new information about ‘All Mapped Out’, the fourth anthology from the Edmonton Writer’s Group. ‘All Mapped Out’ is a collection of stories by Edmonton writers, and each story is connected by the theme of maps. With approaches as varied as the writers themselves, stories cover arrivals, departures, and other life journeys.

Like our previous anthologies, all profits from ‘All Mapped Out’ will be donated to the Edmonton Public Library.

‘All Mapped Out’ is available now! You can purchase the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

Finally, as promised last post, today we’re also sharing the second part of ‘A Good Place for a Miller’—our story from our previous anthology, ‘Edmonton: Unbound’.

The first part of the story can be found here.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘A Good Place for a Miller’ (Part II):

… “So, there are others there too?” asked Jeremy, surprised by the speed the men travelled at, and doing his utmost to keep up without seeming like he was trying to.

“Should be a few,” Slick said.

“And…they won’t mind either, if I join?”

“Not if you don’t cause trouble. The way you drink beer, you should be just fine, kid.”

“Yeah,” Lucky agreed, “leaves more for me! Haha.”

… “So,” said Slick, “what’s this festival you wanted to go to anyway? Must be something, if losing it’s worth losing all the rest.”

“Yeah, well I think so. But it’s not just about that, it’s about having the ability to choose something for myself. I’ve been listening to this band for a long time, and they really speak to me. So, I wanted to finally go to this festival they have—the ‘Gathering of the Juggalos’—and meet some of the other fans from around the world.

“You know, they’re a sort of community themselves, the Juggalos. They’re united by their role as outcasts, their love of the music and even a special bond with each other. Outside of my house, I’ve never had anything like that and…”

“Boy, I feel like I’ve had it easy hearing all this tragedy,” Lucky joked.

“Go on kid, you’re alright,” said Slick.

“Well,” Jeremy continued, somewhat less sure of himself now, “It would have been nice to feel like a part of something, you know. I don’t know why they couldn’t just let me have that.”

“Ain’t their choice,” said Slick. “If you wanna go to the damn thing, then go. Hell, I left my home, such as it was, long before your age. Look at me now, got all the ‘community’ I need, just like you say.” Slick grinned and slapped Lucky on the back. Jeremy felt his stomach drop.

Mill Creek Ravine was a long, wooded section of the city which followed naturally the curve of the tiny creek. Dirt foot-paths and off-leash trails were the primary function of the park, weaving through trees and alongside the creek-bed where the thin trickle of water which had long ago burrowed the ravine from the hard earth tickled the polished stones of its bed.

Walking a long stretch bordered tightly by trees on both sides, Jeremy heard footsteps approaching. From around the corner came a man, woman, and young Golden Retriever pup, all jogging peaceably—the last vestiges of civilization draining from the park along with the day’s light.

“Hello,” Jeremy smiled and nodded, a custom long ingrained by the rigidly enforced politeness of his upbringing. Much to his surprise, he was met only by distant avoidance, and the couple hurried past with no greeting and as little eye-contact as they could manage.

Jeremy heard Slick chuckling to himself, and felt the chill of night begin to gnaw at his exposed flesh. “It’s weird how little time I’ve spent down here, living so close and all. It really is pretty this time of evening,” Jeremy said.

“You go where you need to be I guess. Not much need of a cold forest for a guy like you. Not most of the time, least of ways,” said Slick.

“I only go where my needs are,” said Lucky, crushing another empty beer can into his bag as he grabbed a fresh can from the sack on Slick’s shoulder.

As the trio moved, the trees parted, affording a panoramic view of the valley, and up to Whyte Avenue. A short hill rose to their right, and Jeremy noticed a picnic table and fire pit which he initially took for the group’s campsite. But they kept walking, past the bench, and back down into the woods, crossing a wooden bridge as they went. Finally, the pair slipped off the path and knelt by the stream to fill their canteens. “What’s that for?” asked Jeremy.

Slick rolled his eyes and chuckled loudly. “For drinking, what the hell do you think? It’s not all beer all the time down here you know. A man needs real water now and again.”

“Speak for yourself, I’m fine with beer,” said Lucky.

“That’s half your problem,” said Slick, and Jeremy allowed himself a laugh of his own.

Taking a knee on the bank, Jeremy cupped his hands and filled his mouth with water, swishing it around in his cheeks to rid himself of the beer’s stale aftertaste. The water was dirty and tasted odd, leaving a gritty feeling in his mouth even after he’d swallowed. Jeremy remembered fighting with his parents many times over being told to settle for a cup of cold tap water in place of a soda, and felt a hot flush steal over him.

“So, how long have you guys been out here?” he asked.

Slick gazed upward, as if loosing himself in the riddle. “Hell, I don’t know. I’ve been out and about, on and off different streets most of my life. Bounced between cities, occasionally found spells of work. I just go where I see fit, find what I can. Same for Lucky. Same for most of us, I guess.”

“So,” Jeremy continued, feeling emboldened and connected to these two strange men, “is there anything that would ever make you stop wandering? Where would you want to stay, if given the chance?”

This brought a pause from both men, and a long, terminal silence. Finally, it was once again Slick who broke the tension. “Stay, huh? Well that’s just it I guess, ain’t it? I stay where I can, where people will have me. Like I said kid, you ought to go where you’re wanted, and make it fit as best you can. Running around trying to find a place to rest is no kind of life, after all. What the hell is it you think you’re looking to find out here anyway?” Slick sealed up his canteen as he spoke, and motioned the others back onto the trail.

Jeremy thought about the warmth of his room, and the lock on his door. He remembered the porch light left on when he arrived home late from work, and the judgmental glare of his father waiting in the porch when he arrived home late from anyplace else. “Well, I guess I don’t know what I want to find exactly. But I still want to have the chance to search for it, you know? Didn’t you ever want more freedom—the chance to make decisions for yourself, to seek your own destiny and see what you’re truly made of?”

Slick gazed intently for a moment at his dry and cracking, discoloured hands, and Jeremy felt his own—soft and sweaty, fidgeting in his clean jacket pockets. “Can’t be much help on that point, I’m afraid. Never had any shortage of freedom,” said Slick. “No family, no commitments. Free as a bird, like they say. But don’t you worry, someone at camp might be able to point you in the right direction. It’s not far now.”

Together, Jeremy and the two men continued, crossing another short wooden footbridge, winding again through the trees until finally, at Slick’s cue, they turned off the dirt path and traipsed deeper into the woods. Jeremy felt his stomach growling, and a queer feeling welling up in his chest. He swallowed back a sudden lump in his throat, and fell in line behind Lucky.

Not far in there was a break in the trees, and at a bend in the creek, a small campfire burned in a hole dug in the earth. A bedraggled man and woman clung to each other near the flames. Further out, sitting cross-legged on the rocks by the water, was an older man with a somber look on his red, weathered face.

Slick and Lucky offered some brief greetings, and took their seats by the fire. “These are Grace and Riley,” said Slick, pointing to the couple near the fire, “and that one we just call ‘The Old Man’. He comes by this way now and then. This is Jeremy, he’s with us for now.”

“Hi,” Jeremy knew his greeting was muted and sheepish, and was relieved when it drew nothing but a brief nod from the couple, and an inquisitive, bemused stare from the Old Man. He settled in front of the fire beside Slick, still nursing his now warm beer.

“You’re a lucky bunch tonight,” said Slick, passing around his bag of beer.

“I’m lucky!” said Lucky, taking one eagerly.

“So, Jeremy here’s feeling lost—looking to figure out how he fits in, and thought he might find it down in these parts,” Slick explained to the uninterested crowd.

“He’ll find something,” said Grace. Jeremy squirmed.

“I just,” he began once more, and took a swig of stale beer to bolster his courage, “I just want to do things on my own for once. I want to know how far I can go without anyone else taking the wheel from me.”

From across the fire, the Old Man stirred. He stretched his back, then leaned forward, a deep and ancient sounding rumble welling up from his chest which slowly grew into articulated words. “We all want control of our lives at some point,” he said. “And that’s just fine. But it’s not the times we’re in control which define who we are, boy.”

An uncomfortable silence hung in the cool night air. The rest of the vagrants eyed one another and sipped on their beers, waiting for Jeremy’s response.

Taking a pull from his own diminishing can, Jeremy considered his words carefully. ‘Control of our lives,’ he reflected in his head. He could remember his parents setting his clothes out as a child, pulling him from parties when his behaviour was not acceptable. He recalled his awards for academic excellence and the raise he’d recently been given at work. “But I’m not out of control right now. I’m doing pretty well, honestly. I just want a bit more freedom.”

“Don’t we all,” the Old Man replied, “but when we fight most desperately for control, we often lose what we’d look to gain.”

Jeremy was confused. He knew he’d learned a lot at home, and was merely eager to put that into use. He felt ready, and resented any implication to the contrary. He wished that he could speak as freely to his parents as he could to these bedraggled strangers—to tell them how important the Gathering was to him, and what it would mean to him if he could only go.

The Old Man leaned forward, “What are you thinking about right now?”

Jeremy’s beer can was empty. He crushed it up and tossed it into a pile of other discards. ‘Home’, he knew.

All week when he was there, Jeremy had dreamt of freedom and independence. Tonight, in the cold, with beer and liberty and everything up to him, he found himself looking back to the comfort of home, and family.

The Old Man smiled, and Jeremy understood.

Soon, he would speak to his parents about what he needed, and the value of the trip he was now determined to take one way or another. It was something he needed, and that was a good thing to know. But more important still, Jeremy now realized that ‘community’ was not a tangible thing, but a function served—it was the people one could rely on when they needed more than themselves. Through happenstance or fate, the men and women at the fire tonight had found it by necessity. Jeremy knew now that he needed to return to his, and to understand that independence was not about being alone, it was more about knowing when you shouldn’t be.

“I should be going,” he said. The small gathering gave him a content nod, and returned to their own affairs.

In front of Jeremy, the way home stretched out mysterious and still. The night was dark and the path was long, but Jeremy knew he could face it on his own for the simple fact that in the end, he would not have to.

Coming Soon… ‘All Mapped Out’

Today, we here at Brad OH Inc. are happy to announce that the Edmonton Writer’s Group will soon be releasing our fourth anthology, ‘All Mapped Out’.

‘All Mapped Out’ is a collection of stories by Edmonton writers, and each story is connected by the theme of maps. With approaches as varied as the writers themselves, stories cover arrivals, departures, and other life journeys.

Like our previous anthologies, all profits from ‘All Mapped Out’ will be donated to the Edmonton Public Library.

In order to celebrate this exciting new release, we will be releasing—tor the first time online—the story from our most recent anthology, ‘Edmonton: Unbound’.

This story, ‘A Good Place for a Miller’, was written specifically for the anthology, and touches on some topics that are unusually personal for my writing. It’s an anomaly of sorts, and I enjoy it for that very reason.

‘A Good Place for a Miller’ will be released in two parts. The first will be found just below, and the second will be released soon, along with updated information about where to pick up your copy of ‘All Mapped Out’.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘A Good Place for a Miller’ (Part I):

Jeremy Miller was 17 years old the only time he ever ran away from home. Slipping out the back door late in the evening, he’d passed the Youth Emergency Shelter, and loped out onto the grassy incline which fell away from the cracked sidewalk and sloped down into the cool green hills of Mill Creek Ravine. Jeremy had walked this little strip on his way to work and back many times in his short life, and had more than once contemplated taking the small step off the sidewalk and down into the valley below.

Today, he had finally decided to make that idea a reality—and not just as a detour on his way to work. Jeremy wanted to escape, to find himself, and more importantly, to find out if there was anyone else in the world feeling as desperate to get started on life as he was.

“Might not be what you’d call living exactly, but it’s half true at least, I guess.” The old man with the dirty toque scratched at his beard, and ran his index finger along a scar on his cheek.

Jeremy didn’t understand. “What do you mean? You live here, or you don’t.”

“Sometimes we sleep here, sometimes we sleep other places. Living means something different to each of us kid,” Dirty Toque spoke from the side of his mouth.

“That’s just the kind of thing I was hoping you’d say,” said Jeremy. “That’s why I came here today, to find out what life really means to other people.”

“I’ve got all I need to live right here,” said a younger man with dry, red skin and a stained plaid jacket. He held up a can of beer and burst into a chorus of dry, staccato laughter.

Jeremy had to bite his lip to avoid letting loose a sarcastic quip he might regret. Self-talk was a long-standing habit of Jeremy’s—perhaps a relic of his being an only child of two very busy parents, or perhaps more so the result of his self-imposed isolation and natural introversion. In truth, it was some combination of those, and no doubt other, more implicit reasons as well.

The older man inched his way forward—a nervous, perhaps predatory approach that made Jeremy squirm beneath his new jacket, which was admittedly too heavy for the meager, early spring weather.

“You have plenty more than you need to live by the looks of it kid,” he pulled at the sleeve of the jacket, “what are you doing down here anyways? ‘Find out what life really means’…what the hell is that about?”

Jeremy tugged away instinctively, feeling guilty about his sudden apprehension, yet unable to shake it. “I don’t live very far from here,” he explained, “but I’ve never really spent much time down in these valleys. All my life I’ve heard about the people down here, whole communities, who know and trust each other. They survive because of their connections, not despite them. You’d think that sort of thing would be more abundant out of the valley than in it,” he finished, and a shadow blew across his face even as the chill of night began to deepen.

It was true. Jeremy had often heard tales of this coven of the lost; a significant community of Edmonton’s homeless who set up makeshift shelters down in the woods of Edmonton’s River Valley—a series of park lands forming one of the continent’s largest city parks.

These gypsy-esque men and women often partied long into the night, despite their desperate circumstances. That kind of resilience had often struck a young Jeremy as brave…inspiring even. If any of it was true.

These tales had come to Jeremy through the complaints of his chagrined neighbours, whispers from children whose parents were police officers or probation workers, and the often-elaborated speculations of his rather distant academic peers—speaking of things they’d seen, or rumours they’d heard as if the River Valley was some far off and inaccessible source of fear and legend.

Mill Creek Ravine, though not a part of the River Valley proper, was close to Jeremy’s house, and he had determined it would be a good starting place.

“Yeah, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” mumbled the younger man. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Jeremy Miller, and I’d like to join you for a while, maybe have a talk. I hope it doesn’t seem rude or creepy,” this statement drew a series of inquisitive, raised eyebrows from the two men before him, “I just want to know what people live like when all is truly equal.”

“Can’t get more equal than nothing for everyone,” said the first man, with a chuckle.

“Miller, eh?” asked the second, “that’s a bit fancy for these parts, ain’t it?”

Jeremy scrunched up his face, but again held his tongue. “It’s just a joke, son,” the man with the toque cut in, “‘Miller’ is a beer, but a bit pricey for us. I’m Slick, and that there’s Lucky. Guess where he gets his name,” he finished, reaching into a bag at his side and passing Jeremy an unopened can: ‘Lucky Lager’.

It was cold in Jeremy’s hand, and heavy. “Thanks,” he said.

“So, just what is it brings you to a place like this anyway?” asked Slick.

Jeremy considered this for a moment. How could he take his whole life’s experience and present state, and sum it up for a stranger in the cold? He held tightly onto the can of beer, and pushed his finger under the tab. It popped open with a sharp crack and impotent hiss.

‘Why am I here?’ he ran the question through his head once…twice. It was a big one. Jeremy sighed, and brought the cool lip of the can up to his mouth. It tasted awful—thin and watery, with a strange, bitter flavour. He forced it down, and the aftertaste somehow brought to mind the smell of his mother’s fresh bread baking on cold winter mornings. Jeremy forced this down as well.

“I guess it’s been coming for a while now…I just needed to get out of there. I’m tired of having no control over my own life, and no ability to change anything around me.”

Slick grinned. Lucky took a long pull of beer from his own can.

Jeremy tugged on the sleeves of his jacket, self-conscious now as he gazed upon the crusty and tattered garments of his new friends. “Maybe it seems silly to you guys, I don’t know. I do everything right…I get the best grades I can, hold a job, try to be respectful around the house, but my folks still always think they know better. I wanted to go down to the States for a music festival this summer…I thought it would be a chance to figure out my place, and to experience a sense of community built around something other than common location. I’ll be on my own soon, and by then I’ll need to know how to build my own life, but I’ll never be able to do that with my parents constantly worrying about me and holding me back.”

“Doubt you’ve done much to solve that worrying bit tonight,” said Slick.

“You’ve got that right,” Jeremy agreed. “Still, I’ve never had to struggle for anything, I’ve never even known anyone who has! I don’t know how to trust strangers, or judge intentions, or what it takes to rely on anyone outside of my immediate family. In less than a year, I’m meant to be a man, and it’s high time I started acting like one!”

“So, you ran away to freeze under a bridge? Not many men I know choose that.” Slick rubbed at his scar.

“Why are you here then?” asked Jeremy.

“Not to prove a point. ‘Least ways not anymore.”

“It’s not about proving a point, it’s about being prepared,” Jeremy stared off towards the bright lights of downtown Jasper Ave, and spoke as if to himself. “When I’m out on my own, I want to be able to make a difference. I want to be able to walk amongst and understand all kinds of people, and I’ll need to do that if I want to change anything in this world. I know perfectly well that I have it easy, but that will only make it harder for me to have any real impact. I need to understand and experience all levels of society before I head out into it…how else can I know my place?”

Lucky chuckled at this, “I tried to find my place once too…ended up same place as you started. Funny, ain’t it?”

“Well,” said Jeremy, braving another sip of beer, “how did you guys end up here? Is it really like they say, is there really a whole community down in these valleys?”

Slick sighed. “Community is just any folks that can’t make do without one another kid. If I were you, I’d go back home to yours now. Be warm and happy—the choice don’t always last.”

“Go home, watch TV…be happy.” This time, Jeremy took a bigger swig of beer. He didn’t notice the taste. “What kind of happiness is it when you don’t ever know anything else? It’s placation, not peace! I want to know everything life has to offer Slick; how else can I ever know where I fit in?”

The men shook their heads vacantly, then nodded to one another. In an eerily unified motion, they tossed their empty beer cans on the ground, crunched them flat under their feet, and tucked them into a grimy plastic bag held by Lucky.

Jeremy gazed silently down to the creek below. On the far side of the little trickle of water which made up the creek was a dirty grey concrete wall—the dual struts of the bridge which shortly turned into Whyte Avenue proper. Whyte was another legendary Edmonton locale—but one which his lack of a fake ID prevented Jeremy from resorting to in his current moment of doubt.

Slick reached into his bag, tossed a beer to Lucky, picked one out for himself, then glanced up at Jeremy, who nursed his current one self-consciously. Slick smiled, and swung the bag up onto his shoulder.

“Better get moving.”

“Where are we going?” Jeremy asked.

“I’m heading to camp, I expect Lucky is as well,” said Slick. “Where you’re going, that’s up to you.”

Jeremy scrambled to his feet, nearly spilling his still near-full beer in the process. “But…can’t I come along?” he whimpered.

“Like I said,” Slick spoke over his shoulder as he walked, already turning left onto the path running beneath the bridge they’d been stationed under when Jeremy had slipped off the street and into the valley to find them, “that’s up to you.”

“So,” Jeremy rejoined, sidling up alongside the duo, “do you camp here every night?”

“Some nights I camp here, some nights I camp other places,” said Lucky.

“Different folks all got their own spots. Right now, we’ve got a lil place up by the bend in the creek. Not a whole lot, but it works,” said Slick.

“So, there are others there too?” asked Jeremy, surprised by the speed the men travelled at, and doing his utmost to keep up without seeming like he was trying to.

“Should be a few,” Slick said.

“And…they won’t mind either, if I join?”

“Not if you don’t cause trouble. The way you drink beer, you should be just fine, kid.”

“Yeah,” Lucky agreed, “leaves more for me! Haha.” …

To be continued…

Edgar’s Worst Sunday Review

Today, we have a great new review of Edgar’s Worst Sunday to share. This comes from our friend Ellen Michelle, who you can visit right here.

-Click Here to Buy-

-Brad OH Inc.

Ellen Michelle’s Review of Edgar’s Worst Sunday:

This book offers an interesting take on the afterlife and what it would really be like if Heaven was simply our greatest fantasy.
I struggled with the rating on this book (why can’t I do half-stars?!) but ultimately decided that although some solid editing would have taken this book to the next level, the author was trying something unique and I have to give credit for a well done effort.
The main character, Edgar Vincent (don’t call him Vincent!), is inherently unlikeable, which makes us wonder how he was accepted into Heaven in the first place. He gives off the vibe of being an unreliable narrator, but really he tells the truth the whole time—the truth just might not be what you want to hear. If you don’t mind reading about a character that isn’t likeable, this is a good choice! Edgar is well developed and has a nice arc that shows that he starts to understand what he did wrong in life, and what he might do if he were given another chance. Does he follow through on this though? Only time can tell.
The side characters—mostly Edgar’s best friends from life—are a bit repetitive and do little to add to the story themselves aside from giving Edgar flashback stories to tell. Each has their own distinct function and characteristics, but ultimately they were all just drinking buddies with Edgar.
It’s really Edgar’s story, and I think the nature of how the side characters are treated add to Edgar’s characterization. You can see that Edgar is selfish and narcissistic, so it makes sense that a story being told from his point of view wouldn’t focus on how wonderful his best friends are. Rather, he tries to show how he is better than them. A good narrative device to use—this could have been made better by some solid editing, but I see what they’re going for and it works well with who Edgar is as a character.
This is definitely not your typical afterlife story, and religion plays only a very small part in it, but it is definitely an intriguing look at what happens when our wildest fantasies are presented to us in what appears to be the afterlife.
In most regards, it does not seem like it could possibly be Edgar’s WORST Sunday, but it is definitely a very long Sunday filled with various mishaps and a lot of drinking—trust me, don’t play a drink-for-drink game with this book, it won’t end well.

‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’ Selected for Inclusion in the Capital City Press Collection

Today, I’m thrilled to announce that Edgar’s Worst Sunday has been selected for inclusion in the Capital City Press Collection!

-Click Here to Buy-

The Edmonton Public Library is committed to supporting and promoting the work of local writers. The Capital City Press Collection, housed at the new Stanley A. Milner Library, celebrates and showcases books written by authors residing in the Greater Edmonton Area, as well as members of the Alexander First Nations, the Enoch Cree First Nations, and the Paul First Nations.

The collection will be unveiled on February 14th, 2020 at the opening of the new Stanley A. Milner Library. I’ll provide more information as it becomes available.

-Brad OH Inc.