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Camp 2019, Creative And Arguably Delicious

Travel to #ComicsCamp is a relatively straightfoward thing; there’s a bus, there’s a bunch of Campfolk on it, there’s the sun in the sky and fabulous vistas to pass through, and then you’re there. First up — announcements (watch out for bears¹, keep the cabin doors closed or ravens will get in), and intros (including a live demo of the Pacheco:North ratio; cf: yesterday), which take a while when there’s nearly 80 people to get through. In short order a set of identifying photos were taken and posted, book- and game-libraries established, lost-and-found, borrow-what-you-need, and snack tables set out.

Jeste Burton, kitchen wrangler of beloved memory, introduced herself and got to work; by the time pack-in was done, a dinner of roast potatoes and sprouts, spinach salad with mixed vegetables, pickles, and flaked chicken was approaching readiness. She really is a marvel, and the job she does delivering meals with a few dozen dietary restrictions to be mindful of is nothing less than extraordinary.

But no group meeting of this size, with a mix of familiar faces and new, ever took place without a social activity, and this year’s was even more bonkers than last year’s bizarro science fair posters.

Teams were formed. Craft supplies were made available. A two-word prompt was provided, with the instruction given to make a shoebox diorama embodying that prompt. I’m going to guess that this was dreamed up by Sophie Lager, one of the local Juneau folk who work very hard for months to make Camp happen (and a dear friend of mine), who apparently revels in the insanity that this set of instructions would foreseeably cause given the very creative people in the room and the extensive booze table in easy reach.

  • Ever wonder what an airplane whale looks like? I heard the first balloon pop during construction and a cry of dismay exclaim Oh, no! My baby!, but the second one held². Those pipecleaners at the bottom allowed the waves to move back and forth, too.
  • I personally felt that fire meeting made the most creative use of materials, what with the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos™ being used for the combustion effect. Creative and arguably delicious!
  • Most elaborate honors probably go to gryphon harpoon, what with that delicate, curling scissor work. Given the short time allowed for construction, it’s super clean and impressive.
  • I only got one in-focus photo of ham geode, so you will just have to imagine how the lid folds up to show that the box represents a pig, which you can then look inside. It’s like an fMRI, only infinitely more disturbing.
  • I didn’t find a caption for this one and never found one of the team to explain the prompt. Ocean cave, or cavern ship, perhaps? The stalactites and stalagmites with googly eyes were a nice touch.
  • It was all the file folders full of documents that made office boat so delightful. I have to believe Lucy Bellwood was involved, since the flag up top is pointed in the correct direction.
  • The pine laboratory took into account both the the noun and verb meanings of pine to talk about how desire is made, which combined with the star-headed monster on the right gave a decidedly creepy vibe.
  • I think the prompt was ferry mongoose which okay, little weird. But labelling every element like it’s a bad editorial cartoon? That’s some genius right there.
  • And then there’s this atrocity, for which I can only apologize for my part in bringing it into the world. Given the words family heart, my group decided that naturally that meant there was a family (Grandpa, Mommy, Sis, baby, dog, and cat) all linked by branching blood vessels via their necks to one monstrous, floating, common heart. As perversions of nature go, it’s pretty darn adorable, thanks to the enthusiastic ability of Andy Runton to put a cheerful smiley face on anything. I’m so, so sorry.

But the thing is? It worked. People got to know each other, fires (both of friendship and literal variety) were stoked, hangouts initiated, and scrounging for one the advanced copy of Guts that Raina Telgemeier was able to bring with her³ begun. Some tapped out early, some were at it until the early light of dawn started hinting over the mountains to the east.

A little while before departing Juneau, I noticed a pair of skydivers — they’re small and hard to see because phone cameras don’t do a great job of picking out small, light-colored things against vast swathes of uniform color, but there you are. If you draw a line from the tramline anchor station on the ridge along the 2 o’clock angle, you’ll see one of them close in, and one about a third of the way to the picture’s border.

You can see the first one better in this photo, and I’ll note about five minutes later I lost sight of them, and I’m not sure if they came down on this side of the ridge or not. The other seemed to be well over the Gastineau Channel, but I lost them also; they could have landed anywhere from the cruise ship docks to the old mining site on Douglas Island.

Now here’s the thing — when I saw the skydivers, I made an involuntary half-whistle, half whoooo sound. This prompted one of the local ravens to mimic me, repeating my vocalization for as long as he could see me. They’re not only smart and capable of holding grudges, they’ll make fun of you, too.

I’ve blurred these two photos a little for privacy. Thanks to a small Polaroid camera, everybody got their picture taken and placed on the big Who’s In Camp board. Not only could this help you identify fellow Campers, but if you were to leave (for a hike, or to head to the local beach for aurora hunting, say), you could shift your picture to the OUT column so we’d have an idea where everybody was. There was a sign-out sheet nearby with times. Nobody’s seen you for a bunch of hours? We’d see if the dogs (one lab, a pair of huskies, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in an inflatable cone of shame) could sniff you out.

¹ Aaron Suring recommends making yourself look large by putting your arms up and being loud; Hey, bear! being a potentially useful turn of phrase. Within 24 hours, this led to Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett adapting his long-running Stan Lee impersonation by deciding that Stan was a) at Camp, and b) extremely afraid of bears. If you ever wanted to know what ursaphobic Stan Lee shouting Hey, bear! sounds like, feel free to ask LArDK for demo.

But be warned that about six dozen people will never, ever get that particular set of phonemes out of their brains.

² Two and a half days later during pack-out, I had to dismantle that particular diorama and the balloon simply would not pop. I stabbed it with a pen and it slowly farted out air at me.

³ It was never not being read, and at the end of Camp, one Camper4 was chosen randomly to present that well-thumbed copy to a kid in their life, because Raina is awesome.

4 It wasn’t me, so you’ll have to wait until 17 September along with the rest of the world, kids in my life. Rest assured, it’s Raina’s most personal, relatable, and ultimately reassuring work yet. It’s almost like she’s friggin’ great at making comics or something.

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