I went to Flipside, a local Burning Man-style event in the Austin area, in 2007, the year it rained almost non-stop all summer, making water, not fire, the reigning element at Flipside. I spent half a day on Friday there, Saturday morning and Sunday night. I high-tailed it out of there on Saturday morning, unsure whether I’ll come back. I did return on Sunday afternoon, and these disjoint blog posts speak about my mixed experiences with it.
It started with an apprehension
After fighting my own apprehension that this is not for me — bohemian artsy events are probably not a kind of thing analytical introverts thrive on — I set out on the road. In 2007, Flipside took place on a piece of land near Flat Creek, east of Dripping Springs. I stopped on the way at a Subway in South Austin to get a sandwich, thinking it was going to be my last “real” meal (as distinct from bagels and canned fish) for a couple of days. (Hah! How wrong I was!) There was a nice Scooters coffeehouse next to the Subway, and I really had to fight a temptation to stay there and indulge in the wireless internet and air conditioning, instead of heading off into the woods. What was I thinking when I bought a ticket for Flipside? That was nearly 5 months ago, and I was definitely in a different state of mind when I decided to go there. I must have felt some temporary yearning for something different. I could not remember that frame of mind now. But it seemed silly to back out. Besides, those peculiar frames of mind come back to haunt me once in a while, and I knew if I backed out, I would come to regret it one day.
I was supposed to camp together with my friends P and M, and their friends. My apprehension was further fueled by what P said. First, P came back to Austin on Friday morning because he had serious back problems the night before. He had to rest at home before heading back to Flipside on Saturday with M. He said that due to unusually wet weather, the roads on the Flipside site were incredibly muddy, and most of the inner roads were closed. Only the main road was open. So the question was, how would I get my stuff to the camp from the car? I had a cooler I could barely lift in and out of the trunk, plus 10 gallons of water; a tent, camping gear, clothes, food. And I didn’t know anybody in this camp, except P… who wasn’t there. So it was with major doubts that I trudged off to the camp to investigate the situation. But the people there turned out to be very friendly, and helped me haul the stuff from the car. That was great — I didn’t expect them to be so friendly to strangers.
The three greeters at the greeters’ station. Despite their wacky attire and poses, greeters’ mission is very serious. They read you the rules you must obey while at Flipside. First and foremost: leave no MOOP! (Matter Out Of Place. In the mundane world they call it trash, I heard.
I don’t have a camping gene
I also wasted lots and lots of time on trying to pick a site to pitch the tent, as well as trying to put together the said tent. The first unpleasant surprise was that even though we were in a quiet camp, the camp next to us was playing loud music. The quiet / noisy camp separation was about as useful as having a no-pee section in a pool.
Fortunately, the noisy camp also had a power generator they kept running the whole time, and the white noise it generated drowned out the music to some degree. (Actually, some of my campmates found the generator noise more annoying than the music! I’ll never understand some people.) Anyway, at first I wasted about an hour trying to decide where to put my tent. Although P offered me to use his tent while he was gone, I thought his tent was too close to the source of the music. So I picked a site much further away. Then I realized that the music was worse there, because you couldn’t hear the generator anymore — nothing to soften the impact of the music. Then I picked another spot. For a good chunk of eternity I struggled with the tent, which seemed so easy to set up when P and M showed me how to do it. In my hands, it was a tangled mess. Perhaps it’s not too surprising considering that the last time I went camping was 10 years prior to that. Finally I gave up and decided to stay in P’s tent.
Here is one of my campmates Ross, also known as RA. He demonstrates his hydration pack. He carries the hydration pack in his backpack, and runs the tube to his mouth.
The camp I stayed at was called Hanging Gardens Of Babylon. As one can see, it had some hanging things. Not exactly gardens, but… hanging, nonetheless.
Ross admitted the camp was underdecorated, but, well, there is a hanging chair and a hoop.
A beautiful onion dome-like structure at our neighbors’ camp, called Get Lost. This was a camp by, or for, the fans of the “Lost” show, which was wildly popular in 2007.
The structure looked even better at night, when illuminated. Too bad this camp played loud music day and night. However, they were upfront about it, and apparently our camp leader Ross (“RA”) didn’t have a problem with it. So in the end I could only blame myself for not finding out about noise levels beforehand and not finding a quieter place. But then I didn’t have much choice of where to camp, as I didn’t know anybody else at Flipside and I can’t even set up a tent.
A mutant vehicle decorated with religious symbols. Somebody later added this explanation: “It’s Maximo’s Mercaba! Better viewed in the darker hours with full archangel wings extended alit with el-wire, the candles all aglow and a healing pixie atop the dancing tongue, showering passersby with incense and blessings.”
As we were walking around the Flipside, one of our campmates, Katie, suddenly recognized the guy in a car, and sat down on the hood — perhaps so that he won’t run away?
These two strangers called themselves Sal and Mary, Queen of the Universe.
On Friday night, the effigy was still being worked on. Somebody later commented:
“At the point this photo was taken, they were still adding railings, filling in gaps between ramp segments, and adding lighting to the railings.
There had been a plan to make the railings into MIDI input devices, so you could play the effigy like an instrument, but I think that got pushed back because of rain (imagine!).”
About 3 weeks earlier, I was at a fundraiser for the team that builds the effigy, and there I got to see the effigy’s head.
And here are some pictures of the effigy burning.
The cello-shaped head is prominently visible in the fire.
A Middle East-inspired costume with a sequined veil and wings
This blue crocheted dress is one of the better costumes I saw at Flipside. It is tasteful in a way I didn’t see very often at this event, and flattering too.
Costumer in “Chain mail” of metal squares (left). Right: my campmate Katie.
Rabbit Hole was the name of the cave / tunnel that lead to the creek. Very beautiful, very scenic!
Inside the Rabbit Hole cave / tunnel. It even had stalactites and stalagmites!
The Rabbit Hole tunnel exits into the creek.
On the left side of the picture you can see a little dam across the Flat Creek, where people liked to hang out.
Cliffs on the other side of Flat Creek
The dam across Flat Creek, up close. “Dam” may be a stretch, because it’s not human made — it’s just some boulders blocking the stream. But people liked to hang out here.
A young family
People in blue and white costumes
More people in costumes
A circular seesaw at the Ish camp
Bill, one of our camp members, is about to enter a tent in the Ish camp. The richly decorated camp grounds make you wonder what wonders await inside. The Ish camp may have been the most beautiful of all Flipside camps — what can I say!
I went to sleep around 2 a.m. that night, but could not sleep. Even with the noise emitted by the power generator, I could hear the brain-numbing techno music all too well. And no amount of white noise helps when a random stranger (not even a campmate) decides to bang on a drum outside your tent at 4 a.m. Because it takes too much imagination to conceive that there may be actual people trying to sleep in that tent. Or perhaps I give too much credit to humanity by imagining that they would care if they only knew.
I couldn’t sleep at all that night. I got back to Austin on Saturday around noon to give a break to my then-husband so he won’t have to spend all weekend taking care of our daughter. But I was so flattened with fatigue I was afraid I would require care myself! I never felt that way after a night of a garden-variety insomnia.
Nonetheless, Flipside was beautiful at night. This thingy, I think, is called geoglow.