Back from Flipside

I’m back from Flipside, my annual trek out into the heat of Central Texas for a wild weekend of art, Rangering, sunburn, and the occasional bit of whiskey. I’d actually had some notion that I would get the next column on exploring new solar systems written while I was out there, but that didn’t happen. Clearly I had some kind of temporary insanity to have forgotten just how insane it gets at Flipside. So instead of that, I give you a few highlights from that crazy weekend in the woods.

I airbrushed about a dozen people, including a few of my signature feather jobs, some leopard spots, a full-torso tiger, and some surprisingly good dragon scales. I was very happy with that last one, not only because it came out so well on my first attempt, but because it turned out that the girl I painted them on was the same girl who inspired me to learn the airbrush eight years ago. Back then she was on her honeymoon, and I saw her being painted as a leopard, and it looked so cool I decided I wanted to learn how to do that. This time she was having her eighth anniversary, and I gave her dragon scales.

I also did some Rangering. For the uninitiated, Rangers are volunteer mediators and part of the safety crew. We walk around and look for safety problems. We mediate conflicts. We look out for people who might be in trouble. We do a lot of things you might think cops do, except that we’re not cops. We don’t actually enforce anything. The folks who run the event can enforce something, but about all we do is remind people what they agreed to when they arrived. So I did one and half “dirt” shifts with all the walking around that this implies, finished off my shift-lead training with an “assistant Khaki” shift, and then did my first solo “Khaki” shift as the shift-lead on Sunday morning.

The effigy burn was fabulous. It was an almost fortress-like tower with winged figures gracing all four sides, but when it burned, it took on the look of a flaming chalice and later a flaming horned mask. And then it all came down, nice and safe. My compliments to the build team. On a more personal note, I spread the ashes of another author in the effigy on the morning of the burn. She was a long-time Flipside attendee, and I think she would have liked that.

Physically, I came through it pretty well. I kept my sunburn to a minimum, really only getting one spot on my shoulder that I missed with the sunscreen. I kept sufficiently hydrated and cool, and I actually ate pretty well. Probably the worst I got were some very sore knees from all the walking and a pretty serious case of sleep deprivation. I was getting those droopy, unfocused eyes on the final drive back into civilization, so I promptly did a face-plant onto the sofa as soon as I arrived. Eventually, I got a shower and slipped into bed for a proper rest.

I also had a lot of fun hanging out with my wife and many of our friends.  Those are tales probably best left at Flipside, but I did want to give a shout out to the folks at Purple Taco and at KFLIP.  Also, doing my shift-lead work in Rangers, I got to see more of the work of the event organizers as they did their best to balance the desire for individual expression vs. the need for community safety.  With all the flame-cannons and marauding tree-houses wandering the event, it’s a tough job.  My hat is off to them.

I will say, though, that probably my biggest surprise of the weekend was running into people who were reading my book, Beneath the Sky. After doing the launch at the beginning of May, I had split my focus between working on the next book and preparing for Flipside, so I had mostly put that one out of my mind. So it really caught me off-guard when several folks told me that they had bought it and were either reading it already or looking forward to it in their in-pile. Somewhat flabbergasted, I could only say, “Thank you. I hope you like it.”  Maybe I’ll come up with something better in the future, but for now that’s all I’ve got.

So now we go back to the normal schedule. Exploring those new planets should come around next Monday.

So, what cool thing did you do over Memorial Day weekend?