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Originally published on April 14, 2020.
Installment #16: “What I Did On My Cross-Country Trek Across The Cursed Earth”
So…about all those plans for 2020. Funny, huh?
If there’s anything approximating a silver lining to the last month, it’s that we’re all discovering which of us have the ultraviolet senses of humor. I mean, no zombies, no Daleks, no triffids, no rampaging bands of mutants attacking the walls of Mega City One, no Australian motorcycle punks in bondage pants tearing down the highways with stolen guzzoline, no teenage crack shots with telepathic dog companions, and not even a sardonic name for COVID-19. I mean, “Captain Trumps” is close, but it’s probably not going to catch on, more’s the pity. If humor is the psyche’s way to deal with an interrupted defense mechanism, then the smartalecks will be the ones to inherit the Earth…if they can keep it away from singing roaches, re-emerged dinosaur men, and the constant need to roll for beneficial mutations.
After the snark comes the urge to help. The Triffid Ranch is going to be fine (check out below for details), but it’s hard not to worry about friends, cohorts, and interesting bystanders. For those without means or motivation to keep up with Dallas news, the whole of Dallas County is still on shelter-in-place orders until the end of April, and it’s becoming likely that the existing order may be extended. Most school districts have given up on classes returning to finish out the school year, more and more businesses are letting everyone work from home (although plenty are already itching to require their employees to come back; we’re rapidly recognizing the sheer number of managers who want to oversee large groups of organ donors solely because they aren’t allowed to stick their family members with hatpins), and any kind of social interaction is increasingly virtual. Yeah, it’s rough, and it might be rough for a while.
Again, the urge to help. Given a few minutes, we could all think of several people and venues to which we could point and say “Don’t worry about me: go help THEM” and mean it. Let me start the ball rolling. Friends who have never been to Dallas, and whose total knowledge of this city comes from that godawful TV show from 40 years ago, wonder why I stay and why I keep fighting to make this place better. Here are some of the reasons why.
Firstly, it’s time to give a shoutout to a friend and a cohort, one of the biggest smartalecks in Dallas journalism, and someone who also believes that We Can Be Better. I’m talking about Pete Freedman of the Dallas news site Central Track. All of the local news venues are hurting: I’m also giving a shoutout to the Dallas Observer, and I’m even willing to let slide 40 years of bad blood with the Dallas Morning News now that the James Lipton of Fandom moved on. However, Central Track is exactly the sort of gonzo news source that Dallas has needed for decades: it’s smart, it’s concise, and its staff is more interested in punching up than in catering to fevered egos, both outside and inside the newsroom. The reason I bring up Pete and Central Track is because its emphasis was on culture and local events, and when the events all shut down, so did all of Central Track’s advertising. If nothing else, go digging through the archives (the breakdowns on the State Fair of Texas are priceless), subscribe to its newsletter, and let the staff know that they’re appreciated. Me, I’m sending doughnuts.
Secondly, Dallas also suffers from a reputation for corporate dining that’s also 40 years old, even if it’s hard not to take licks for being responsible for the Brinker restaurant empire. We also have a reputation kept inside for some really incredible options from a huge array of ethnic cuisines, especially in the Richardson and Garland areas. With the lockdown, all sit-in dining is banned, so a lot of great places are having to squeak by with pickup and delivery sales. Recommending all of the places worthy of inclusion would take all week, so I give two recommendations for restaurants right next to the gallery that are especially near and dear to our hearts: Sababa for Mediterranean cuisine and Tasty Tails for New Orleans-style seafood. Sababa is literally across the street from the gallery, and Tasty Tails is about a block north (dangerously close to the Richardson Half Price Books), so when things get closer to normal, it may be time to invite everyone over for one big gathering and see why we stay.
And then there’s the stuff to do while sheltering in place. I personally owe Keith Colvin of Keith’s Comics a whole series of debts for kindnesses and considerations over the years, and that has nothing to do with recommending his shop for takeout orders of the best in comics and graphic novels. Likewise, although the flagship Half Price Books location is closed to visitors along with all of the others, they’re also filling pickup orders from requests made online and by phone. And when this is over, I have a very big Nepenthes attenboroughii enclosure waiting for the flagship store, so the sooner it’s all over, the better, eh?
Okay, that’s the help list from over here. Let’s see yours.
Well, since all of the previous drama has made things awfully entertaining around here, should I mention that it’s bluebonnet season in Texas? Seriously: if you live in the North Texas area, take advantage of the opportunity for exercise outside to go stare at wildflowers for a few hours. If you don’t, then there’s always photos, right?
It’s up for the Hugo Award. It’s been all over NPR. Just trust me: go out and snag a copy of This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. As always, I’m biased: Amal and I have been friends for years, even though she worries about how and why I know about the prevalence of carnivorous habits among nominally herbivorous animals in the Scottish Highlands, but don’t let that stop you. As always, I feel an enclosure coming on, and it’s a matter of making it do justice to their book.
A benefit of shelter-in-place? It’s getting caught up on music I’d meant to check out but hadn’t the opportunity. In this month’s case, it meant falling down the Calling All Astronauts rabbit hole, and it’s a deep hole. As it turns out, that works really, really well as gallery background music while working on new enclosures. Uncle Zonker says check it out.