It's Friday night at 11:30 or so, and the first of the alcohol-induced quarrels is under way in downtown West Palm Beach; a feuding 30-something couple causes a small commotion outside O'Shea's Irish Pub on Clematis Street. Just as the conflict looks as if it might get physical, a third party intervenes and a truce is called. But the mediator isn't a bartender, bouncer, or even a cop. He's a bum. Not just any bum -- he's the colorful street character known as Flippin' George. Proudly boasting a name most people won't say aloud in public (he prefers the n word as a middle name and insists on hearing it repeated), the short, stocky, would-be gymnast has been a fixture of downtown street life for more than half a decade. George is one of those bums with a gimmick -- front flips -- and he's got it down to a science, performing just the right number of flips and moving on before his shtick gets old. Since his debut six years ago, George has turned lots of heads and, not surprisingly, earned a few bucks along the way. But even if the money stops flowing, George says he'll continue flipping. And Clematis Street will be a more amusing place because of it.

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