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Section 2.....Keepin' Goin'

The Art of the Infamous Alias

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The Art of the Infamous Alias
Phil Jose

I need a show of hands. How many of you out there have ever known a colorful character named Edgar? I thought not.
However, there is hope. Edgar need not be destined to a life as bland as plain yogurt just because of his name. He can become a reenactor. That way he can not only dress flashier, but can also earn himself a colorful camp name.

You've probably already noticed that there's a lot of folks in camp running around with names as far removed from their weekday world as their clothing is. Bill, Joe, and Zelda have been transformed into Mudslide, Flaming Fringe, and Freckled Fox. (By the way, these are not people I know! I've just spent ten minutes of lunchtime making them and their stories up, although the scenarios are plausible.) With disclaimer firmly in place, let's get down to the nuts and bolts.

There's only one carved-in-granite rule: In the entire history of the world, no one has ever given themselves a camp name. Getting a camp name is not an act of the individual, but a process of consensus. So if you think that you're going to hang a nice, noble moniker on yourself, fer-git it! You must first earn one, and you're going to be stuck with what you get.

Adhering to the principle of "ladies first," let's begin with Zelda's story. Since she's a product of my lunchtime daydreams, Zelda is a good-lookin' redhead. That led to her camp name by the first method: It was built off either a trait or a habit of hers. ("Fox," hopefully, is rather self-explanatory, and "freckled," because that's what most redheads do a lot. Git it?)

Zelda had it easy taking the slow track. It might have taken her a little longer to get tagged with her camp name than it did her fuzzy-faced counterparts. At least, though, her dignity remained intact. Bill and Joe didn't have that option when they took the fast track. You see, the fast track consists of one simple action: you do something incredibly stupid in front of a large number of witnesses. Fer example:

Bill is a rather big individual. As the rain trailed off on the Saturday of one of his first events, he realized that he was about to be late for the camp potluck. Being late for a meal is one situation in life that Bill finds intolerable. He grabbed his plate and his dutchful of chili and hurried in a beeline down a hill, towards the food. Now there's a reason most folks equipped with a brain do not hurry down a wet hill in mocs: The soles of the mocs tend to turn into slime on the sodden grass and the concept of friction is waived from the very laws of physics. Bill realized this only a couple of paces down the slope.

The folks at the potluck were amazingly unconcerned that something with Bill's size and velocity could single-handedly take out all of Traders' Row. They were far too busy laughing as Bill, his dutch lid, the dutch, and the chili contained therein all found their separate and gooey paths down the hill. As Bill came to a butt-first halt, the camp's wannabe humorist was already at work: "There's something I ain't never seen before—a human mudslide!"

And thus was history made.

But don't think that camp names are just stuck on hapless pilgrims. There are some seasoned folks in camp that took their time, were cautious to all hazards, and still wound up with a name that immortalized the moment. Let's see how Joe got named Flaming Fringe:

Flaming Fringe had been in reenacting a lot longer than Mudslide. He had been lucky enough not to be caught at anything too embarrassing. Then came the day he went for the coffee pot and got distracted with the sleeve of his warshirt just a little too close to the fire… Now Joe swears up and down that it was only sweat in the fringe steaming itself out. However, there were witnesses who are almost reputable around that winter campfire, and they insist that Joe is understating the case just a might.

I would like to give just a few words of comfort here. Let's say that you've had a momentary lapse of attention in camp and are now known as Steps-Where-Dog-Has-Been. Does this mean that you're doomed to wander from event to event with the stench of that one slip forever surrounding you? Of course not. Camp names are not permanent; they're merely changeable. The method of change is simplicity itself: You only have to do something even stupider in front of an even larger crowd.

As with all my articles, I hope this one has been useful to you. At least, I hope it's been motivation for you to be both careful and discrete. Remember, your colorful new name is limited only by the size of the crowd, the crowd's imagination, and your own native ability to screw up.

Just remember that it's all in good fun. The camp names I've given our imaginary friends are pretty much the norm. Seldom do you run into anyone tagged with "Jerkface" or Stinker."

And when you do, you can pretty well bet the rent that there's a really good camp story to go with it.

Copyright 1999, Philip Jose.


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