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Originally published on July 17, 2020.
Installment #19: “A Little Deluge Will Do Ya”
July in Texas, to folks who don’t live here, brings up one impression: blasting heat. After 38 of my last 40 summers in Dallas (two were spent trapped in Portland, Oregon, which has its own summer weather issues), it’s hard to argue with that impression, because that pretty much sums up July…about half of the time. Figuring out which half, though, is the fun of it, because you won’t find any hints as to how a summer is going to proceed until about two-thirds of the way through.
For those outside of North Texas, we may not have the same plant diversity as the famed fynbos of South Africa, but we have a lot of the same climate. Although it may not appear so when you’re on it, but the northwest portion of the state is at an incline, and one that you can’t appreciate until you try driving a big truck toward Amarillo and realize that the aforementioned incline requires slipping into lower and lower gears. That incline, the Edwards Plateau, is a little show of plate tectonics, as the irresistible force of the expansion of the Atlantic Ocean and the immovable object of the great Pacific Plate mean that everything to the west of Dallas is gradually crumpling and buckling. Meanwhile, the Great Plains to the north constantly heat up this time of the year, setting off winds that are fed by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, leading to a constant south wind through Dallas for about nine months of the year. The sun goes down and the south wind usually dissipates, only to start up the blast furnace shortly after sunrise.
What does this mean? It means that you should buy cookies and beer for every Dallas-based meteorologist you ever meet, whenever they need it, which is all of the time. With precious little warning, cold fronts bracketed by the Rockies pass down past the Texas-Oklahoma border, only to run into that south wind coming up from the Gulf. They don’t just release gentle rains, either: the collisions usually produce huge waves of small but intense storms that rip through the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex like a shotgun blast through tulle. Ten to 30 minutes of intense rain, and then the south wind cuts through and sucks out every last drop of moisture out of the area. When the winds stop after dark, the local humidity rises a bit, and we may even get enough clouds to hint at rain. As soon as the sun comes up, though, it’s back to hot, sunny, and dry enough to make every breath feel like concrete aerosol.
Oh, but the fun comes when you make the assumption that this will continue. The end of July is always hot and dry, unless a cold front passes through for a week and makes everything cool and rainy. It’s always the same through the day, until you see a storm front coming out of the west dropping so much rain that it looks like a wall of water coming at you. That rain is always diffuse, until you’re standing on one side of a street under a full sun watching the other side of the street drown under the onslaught. That rain is always coming, until you look at weather radar and watch as the storm that just pummeled Fort Worth evaporates halfway to Dallas. Oh, and those storms always rush out of the west, until they suddenly come steamrollering in from the Louisiana border. The one absolute is that we haven’t seen snow flurries in July since the mid-Pleistocene, but grapefruit-sized hail is just as much fun, especially for pedestrians and cyclists without easy access to shelter.
And what does all of this have to do with carnivorous plants? It means that you need to have pity on all of your outdoor plants, and not just the carnivores. You can move out of the way of Texas weather. They’re kinda stuck.
Welp, since Texas Governor Greg Abbott keeps plagiarizing his COVID-19 policies from an obscure 1974 teleplay (and I suspect that life will again imitate art when his supporters decide that he’s insufficiently ideologically pure), shows and events keeps getting cancelled because nobody can guarantee the safety of attendees and vendors. The latest casualties are the rescheduling of the New Orleans Oddities & Curiosities Expo previously set for August 29, and the Houston Horror Film Festival previously set for the subsequent Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, their new dates for 2021 are the same weekend, and that weekend is the weekend after the rescheduled Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo, so I’m having to delay New Orleans and Houston for 2021. Please: if you’re interested in either, please don’t stop planning to attend when it’s safe to do so. Until I’m able to be in three places at once, though, it’s just not an option for this little carnivorous plant gallery.
As for everything else scheduled for 2020, it’s a wait-and-see schedule right now. NARBC Arlington is still on for September as of this writing, and AquaShella Dallas is still on for Halloween weekend, so keep checking back for details. We’ll have a Triffid Ranch show sometime between now and when the Dallas Cowboys finally win a shutout World Series pennant: I promise.
This time on Shameless Plugs, it’s time to hype up a longtime vital service while everyone is refocusing on cooking on their own. As an enthusiastic lover of spice that ranges from “medium hot” to “that salsa just peeled the enamel off my teeth in big floppy strips,” I’d be remiss in not mentioning that the crew at Defcon Sauces has been experimenting with a lot of new rubs, sauces, and powders, and the Defcon Malum allium garlic powder is now an essential spice at the gallery for lunch breaks. (I bow to nobody in my appreciation for the Defcon Habby Horse hot habanero/horseradish sauce, so the Malum Allium was a very welcome surprise for roasted vegetables and other dishes that could use a bit of a kick.) Edgar Harris says “check it out.”
As an additional recurring plug, the Dallas goth club Panoptikon already has a special place with the Triffid Ranch (co-owner Jiri forgets more about carnivorous plants in his sleep than I’ll ever be able to learn), and the ongoing shutdown has hit it as hard as every other club in the area. That said, the crew has become very proactive with regular Friday and Saturday night events via Twitch, and the Friday night streams are now essential listening while I’m working at the gallery. And now you know why it’s been a little while since the last Triffid Ranch Twitch event: no way am I interrupting their show for any reason.
They were delayed for a while due to printing issues, but the reprint of Redfern Natural History’s Drosera of the World just arrived, and each volume is potentially dangerous if falling from even from a moderate height onto an unsuspecting bystander’s head. All three of them together could kill a moose, and the interiors are just as lethal to anyone wanting light reading. All three are beautiful volumes of the world’s known sundew species, with the stunning color photos we’ve come to expect from Redfern. When they’re sold out, the odds are pretty good that the only place you’ll be able to get them is at an estate sale, so get your order in before they’re completely gone, and don’t worry about the price. If anything, they’re underpriced for the value.
Regular newsletter readers may already know how much of the Triffid Ranch gallery soundtrack consists of entries from Austin’s One Eyed Doll, and singer/guitarist Kimberly Freeman has been busy during the pandemic. She currently has a large selection of new songs and covers in the Kimberly’s Quarantine Playlist on YouTube and elsewhere, including the only cover of John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” I’ve heard that’s worthy of the time. Go give them all a listen, and join me in looking forward to new entries as events keep grinding on.