Category Archives: Shows

The Aftermath: Panoptikon at Sons of Hermann Hall

Most of the time, attempting to show plants at a late-night event doesn’t work out well, It’s dark and often smoky (these days more due to fog than cigarettes), and the people most interested in carnivorous plants early on don’t want to break free to take their plants home and those interested later tend to get distracted. However, when the venue is the famed Panoptikon, newly revived at the equally famed Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas’s Deep Ellum district, “most of the time” goes right out the window.

First things first, as fun as its original location was, the new Panoptikon locale is even easier to reach, from a vendor point of view. A few bugs need to be worked out with subsequent shows (namely, additional spot lighting), but it generally was a relaxing and friendly trip among both old friends and a lot of new attendees. The future of the Triffid Ranch is in doubt, but between here and the new locale for The Church, It Dallas’s goth community is in safe hands.

As to when the Triffid Ranch returns, that’s something that’s currently under consideration. Even after the gallery shuts down, the outdoor courtyard at Sons of Hermann Hall would be a great place to show off outdoor plants when the weather gets warmer, and the Panoptikon crew is always, ALWAYS, a joy to work with. Keep an eye open, because it could happen sooner than you think.

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 2022 – 2

Now, Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays isn’t just about a crew of outré vendors offering everything to diaphanized animals to carnivorous plants, although that IS a major draw. This year as last, HFTH runs a silent auction for the SAFE Alliance, and this year’s auction table was just packed with entries. Naturally, the Triffid Ranch had entries both for SAFE and for the separate auction to defray Blood Over Texas expenses, and there’s no feeling quite like an auction winner coming by the booth to ask more questions about their new plant to make sure they’re doing everything right. Folks, THIS is why I do this.

And thus ends the 2022 Triffid Ranch show season, I want to thank everyone coming out to Horror For the Holidays for helping with a record show season, picking my brain for carnivorous plant information, and generally coming by to say hello, and major thanks are in order to both the incredibly hard-working Blood Over Texas staff and my fellow vendors, without whom we wouldn’t have a show at all. The next planned Triffid Ranch trip to Austin is next June for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo, but already plans are congealing for next year’s Horror for the Holidays, currently scheduled for December 2 and 3 at the Palmer Events Center. I look forward to surprising everyone next year as well.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 2022 – 1

Among many other things, the events of 2022, gave a great opportunity to go through inventory and pull out a lot of containers previously in storage. One of the regular questions asked at Triffid Ranch events is “Where did you get all of these weird containers?”, and this was a question asked a lot at last month’s Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show in Austin. The absolutely honest answer is also the most worthless: “All over the place.” The bottles, jars, pots, and other containers used for smaller carnivorous plants come from commercial sources, thrift shops, estate sales, and friends who ask “”Hey, could you use this weird container that is just taking up space at my house?” If it can keep a plant hale and hearty, it’ll probably get used, but the trick is finding containers that best suit Triffid Ranch customers, and that’s always a challenge.

The other question asked repeatedly, concerning the plethora of wine and liquor bottles used for sundews and butterworts, is “Did you drink ALL of this?” Considering the number of bottles put up on display at Triffid Ranch shows, I suspect the Fitzgeralds, Hunter S. Thompson, and Brendan Behan would have balked at this much booze. The secret is spreading things out: friends donate a few bottles at a time, local bartenders donate a few bottles at a time, and others are collected at parties and events where they’re already being pitched. (A little tip for those concerned that this might be personal consumption: I cannot drink and have less than no interest in other mind-altering substances, so if you read an obituary involving either alcohol poisoning or opiate overdose, know that my death was murder.)

That isn’t the only source, though. Right now, thrift stores, garage sales, and estate sales are full of those display bottles full of pickled peppers that used to be a stalwart at Pier One stores in the 1980s, and many of them are absolutely perfect for sundews. The trick is getting the peppers out of them, and that’s a secret I’m not sharing.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 2022 – Introduction

Shows and conventions come and go, for various reasons, and it’s the outstanding events that are still plugging along five years later. This year marked the sixth since one Bunny Voodoo came up to me at a Texas Frightmare Weekend and let me know about a little November gift bazaar in Austin, and I figured “You know, it’s time to start hitting shows outside of Dallas and Fort Worth.” All these years later, with all that’s happened since then, and Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays is still going strong.

Nearly two-thirds of a decade later, both Horror for the Holidays and the Triffid Ranch are a lot bigger than they were in November 2016. HFTH has grown considerably from its one-day origins in a little Austin club, now taking over a significant portion of the Palmer Events Center in downtown Austin. It’s stretched out to two days of outré gifts and other weirdness, and it even has its own official vendor and attendee hotel. (Let me tell you: coming into town in time for the World Cup, when every last hotel lobby and takeout restaurant television screen is blasting futbol coverage and everyone in the place is glued to the results, is an experience.) It’s also running right on Thanksgiving weekend, which means that if you pick just the right time to leave Dallas, it’s a remarkably relaxing road trip, especially now that the Mad Max: Fury Road cosplay ground known as “Interstate 35 Passing Through Waco” is no more.

For various reasons, getting to, unloading, and setting up for Horror For the Holidays was particularly stress-free, with everything coming together on a particularly auspicious anniversary: the 25th anniversary of my leaving Portland, Oregon. In addition, for various reasons, this was a show loaded for bear, with a truckload bigger than any Triffid Ranch event leaving Dallas ever put together. Combine the two, with all of the space available at the Palmer, and this was a show for the record books.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – 3

The end of October is always a very bittersweet time around the Triffid Ranch, and finishing off the growing season Autumn at the Arboretum at the Dallas Arboretum was particularly so. Yes, so many of the plants on display were going into winter dormancy and wouldn’t be capturing prey until March and April. Yes, with one exception, this marked the last non-gallery show of 2022. The end of October is especially painful for personal reasons, and previous memories are now broken beyond repair. However, this was the culmination of what has been the absolute best year the Texas Triffid Ranch has ever seen, and the looks on visitors’ faces as they had the chance to see a live flytrap for the first time or watch a pitcher plant attract flies made up for any remorse or regret. If there had to be a big signoff for the 2022 growing season, the Arboretum was the place to do it

On that note, I would like to give a shoutout to the staff at the Dallas Arboretum, who did an exemplary job at helping me get set up and broken down every day, and who were just as fascinated by the plants’ antics as the attendees. I want to give equal thanks to the attendees and visitors who kept peppering me with fascinating and lively questions about carnivore physiology and distribution, and a hurrah to my fellow vendors, who also had such a great weekend that I’d watch them leave hours before official closing because they were completely sold out. Oh, and both security and maintenance at the Arboretum deserve accolades, too: all of you had a serious job from open to close, and it was an honor to be among such professionals.

Further plans with the Arboretum? Since the original lecture was rained out, the next Learn to Grow lecture is officially on the schedule for May 5, 2023. Other than that, the Arboretum crew is focused right now on holiday events, but I would be ecstatic to be able to come back and show off carnivores again. As soon as I get word, I’ll pass it on.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – 2

A little secret for those wanting to see carnivorous plants in action: whether it’s in the wild or in captivity, the absolute best time is in late autumn. Firstly, most carnivores are at their greatest size and best color in order to attract insects before they go dormant, storing the nitrogen and phosphorus gathered in those final days in preparation for reemerging in spring. (This is way beyond my abilities at the moment, but any enterprising biology and botany students looking for ideas on a paper likely to get lots of popular and professional news coverage should look at the sheer number of insects caught in Sarracenia pitchers and ascertain whether the plant absorbs nutrients during its normal dormancy or if the plant only accesses and processes the insect stew inside the old pitchers after it starts to bloom. Either would help explain why so many Sarracenia pitchers remain green throughout the winter, only dying off after new pitchers start up again during the next growing season.) Secondly, the potential insect population is at its height, and it’s hungry. The normal sources for nectar and sap for insects such as flies, wasps, bees, and moths trickle dry by the middle of autumn, and those insects are determined to stave off dying of starvation for as long as they can. With many, it’s going for unattended soda or margaritas, but a lot go for the voluminous nectar secreted by various carnivorous plants, and they get frantic for what usually becomes their last meal.

The resultant arthropod feeding frenzy made showing carnivores at the Autumn at the Arboretum exhibition at the Dallas Arboretum particularly, erm, riveting. It’s one thing to discuss dispassionately how carnivores attract and capture insect prey. It’s something different when a crowd of twenty to thirty people watch different insects at different plants to see which one falls into a pitcher first, complete with cheers and groans when a big fly or sweat bee succumbs to the promise of more nectar in a pitcher float and doesn’t reemerge.

A little aside that the Arboretum attendees didn’t get to experience: driving a van full of pitcher plants back to the gallery on a Sunday evening and listening to the angry buzzes of insects trying to escape their impending tombs. One of these days, I’ll have to record audio: the only thing creepier is when the Sarracenia leucophylla pitchers first emerge and open toward the middle of May, only to fill with click beetles. I can only imagine a field of leucos with every pitcher loaded with click beetles, all thumping the inside of the pitchers as the sun comes up and the pitchers start warming in the sun.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – Introduction

As mentioned in the past, multiple times, one of the great joys of living in the Dallas area is that once autumn finally sets in, it seems to go on forever. Once we finally get free of summer temperatures from the end of September to the middle of October, it’s not just safe to go outside, but there’s so blasted much to do outside that the challenge is not to wear yourself out. The days are just long enough, and the weather enjoyable enough, that it’s even harder to go to bed on Sunday and go back to work on Monday than at other times of the year. Spring in Dallas is beautiful, but autumn in Dallas is glorious, and half of the time, it keeps going until the middle of December. In other words, it’s a perfect time for a carnivorous plant show at the Dallas Arboretum.

For those unfamiliar with the Dallas area, the Arboretum resides on the east side of White Rock Lake, Dallas’s original drinking water reservoir and major recreational site for the surrounding area. This means that the Arboretum alternates between its own unique exhibits and gardens and spectacular views of White Rock Lake and downtown Dallas to the west. During the main growing season, the Children’s Adventure Garden and the Rose Garden are justifiably famous, but one of the biggest events of the year is Autumn at the Arboretum, with the whole of the Arboretum appropriately decorated with fall foliage and ornaments. For those of us who resist the shift over to holiday displays and continue to scream “THIS IS HALLOWEEN” until after New Year’s Eve, Autumn at the Arboretum makes the inevitable slide to Dallas winter a little more tolerable. Oh, and did I mention the pumpkins? SO MANY PUMPKINS.

It was both an honor and surprise to be invited to show off carnivorous plants at the Arboretum this year: Arboretum staff had tried to get something on the schedule for a while (I’m proud to say that many of the Sarracenia in the carnivorous plant pool in the Children’s Adventure Garden are Triffid Ranch donations), but this was the first year everything actually clicked. After the deluge on Friday, the last weekend of October was cool and friendly, not so cool that jackets were necessary but also not so warm that visitors ended their perambulations early. You couldn’t have planned a better weekend than this for one last big outdoor show before all of the temperate carnivores started going dormant for the year, and the Triffid Ranch couldn’t have had a better location than right inside the front gate.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Goth Flea Market and Cookout at Panoptikon – November 2022

After Halloween, things slow significantly as far as Triffid Ranch shows are concerned. The flytraps and North American pitcher plants need to go into winter dormancy if they’re going to stay hale and healthy, and winter shows mean a significant risk of overly cold weather on the road, which hits the tropical carnivores in all sorts of ways. In the Dallas area, November events are always a little fraught, because we can have absolutely spectacular weather for the entirety of the month, we can have a repeat of 1993 and get subfreezing temperatures for two weeks, or we can have a repeat of 2016 and get hit with unnaturally hot conditions all the way into December. It’s a pleasure to report that at least this year, the first weekend of November was one of the best your humble gallery owner has ever encountered since moving here the first time in 1979, leading to the opportunity to drag plants to not one but two events on the same weekend. The first one, on November 5, was of especial note, because it involved Dallas’s premier goth club and event center, Panoptikon in downtown Dallas.

First, a bit of backstory. Over the last 15 years, Panoptikon has migrated around the Dallas area before settling in its current location, and always with the idea of doing more than simply being a nightclub. When the original Triffid Ranch location opened, the owners announced something a bit different: a goth flea market, where regulars and occasional attendees could bring used items, new items, and handmade items and spread the wealth in various ways. If nothing else, that original flea market was a venue where I met friends who still stay in touch to this day, and the original idea was to try holding future events every year or so.

As you can tell, it didn’t happen that way, but not for lack of trying. Between other events intruding, COVID-19, and getting vendors for the market, it took a while. That isn’t a permanent state, though, and this is the start of a partnership, to go with the dear friendship of the owners, for future Triffid Ranch presence at Panoptikon events. Now that the Porch Sales are over for the year, expect guest vendor appearances in the future, including more goth flea markets and charity events (you haven’t lived until you see the outpouring of support for toy drives during the holiday season), and I want to reciprocate for Panoptikon staff and crew events at the gallery as well. The live music feeds Panoptikon ran during lockdown kept me reasonably sane all through 2020 and 2021, and it’s time to return the favor.

The Aftermath: Learn to Grow at the Dallas Arboretum

One of the absolutes about any kind of horticulture lecture is “if the weather can ruin it, it will.” The plans for a discussion on carnivorous plants as part of the Learn to Grow series at the Dallas Arboretum originally started in spring, and traditionally October is a rather dry month for month. When the rains do come, though, watch out.

The morning of October 28 ran thusly: rain, rain, more rain, torrential downpours, and the occasional Texas Wall O’ Water. The area desperately needed that rainfall, and there’s something supremely beautiful about the Arboretum in heavy mist, but the constant warnings from the National Weather Service all week involving “waters of the firmament” kept potential lecture attendees from venturing out. Was this an issue? Absolutely not. Not only was the Arboretum filled with people wanting to see the Autumn at the Arboretum arrangements no matter what, but this was a perfect opportunity to meet Arboretum staff who had lots and lots of questions about carnivorous plant care. Sure, the lecture didn’t happen, but the discussions accomplished a lot of good.

As for future Dallas Arboretum lectures, the Learn to Grow lecture was rescheduled for May 5, 2023. This works out perfectly for multiple reasons: among other things, the traditional Texas Frightmare Weekend show usually scheduled for that weekend was moved to the end of May, meaning that the Triffid Ranch returns to the Arboretum loaded with flytraps, sundews, butterworts, bladderworts, and pitcher plants loaded with blooms. And if it rains again…well, speaking from 40 years of experience, May storms in Dallas are flashier than October storms, but they’re a lot more comfortable. Let’s see what happens.

Event News and Other Weirdness

Several bits of ephemera before a busy week of site updates, because if you thought this was a busy year, wait until 2023. Speaking of this year, due to significant interest in upcoming gallery events thanks to Good Morning Texas, the planned last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale of 2022 has been bumped forward a bit, with the absolute last one for this year running on Sunday, November 6 from 10 am to 3 pm. This will be the absolute last, final, full-stop, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die chance to view or purchase Venus flytraps or North American pitcher plants, because when they go back into dormancy starting in mid-November, that’s it until next April. Bestir thyselves on Sunday or miss out.

Also, now that the official announcement is out, it’s time to get the word out about the 2023 Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows. The Oddities & Curiosities Expos are undergoing through a bit of a change next year, with additional shows in new cities (the only reason why I’m not schlepping plants to Houston next year is that the Houston show is literally the weekend before the Dallas one), and existing ones either getting an additional day or much larger venues. The Austin O&C show on June 17 still runs at the Palmer Event Center, but the Dallas Expo on March 25 moved from the old Fair Park location to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas. For those outside of Dallas, this means a much larger venue, considerably more parking, hotel space for out-of-towners within walking distance, and multiple Dallas Area Rapid Transit train routes passing by, or in the case of the Red Line, passing directly under the Center. Between these and Texas Frightmare Weekend, it’s going to be a lively new year.

The Aftermath: Crow’s Alley Dallas Flea Market 2022

The truism “If you don’t like Texas weather, wait five minutes” should come with an addendum: “You have four minutes to do EVERYTHING.” October weather makes things worse: Dallasites know in particular that when the weather shifts, it does so catastrophically, so a vague prediction of rain or thunderstorms leads everyone to rush out while the opportunity exists, or batten down and rush back outside once the debris stops falling. For those living in areas where everyone salivates over knowing exactly when a school-closing snowstorm hits, you understand the situation better than you know.

Hiding inside in anticipation, though, means missing out on some of the clearest skies you’ll ever see, which made the Crow’s Alley Flea Market gathering at Outfit Brewing such a relaxing experience. After the repeated near-tornadoes of September, getting out under clear and crisp evening skies for a plant show was worth the effort. The Crow’s Alley crew was both cheery and helpful, and working with them again is an option for next year. Outfit Brewing is a singularly cheery place, even for an involuntary non-drinker like me, and setting up in the interior courtyard was an honor. Once the weather allows more outdoor shows in spring, coming back to show off blooming carnivores is definitely in the cards.

Sadly, the window of outdoor event-friendly weather is closing, with the last outdoor Triffid Ranch show of 2022 running at the Dallas Arboretum from October 28 through 30 (and with the current weather forecast threatening inundation, thankfully the Friday show will be inside), but the plan for 2023 is to hit the ground running in April. With skies like these, it’s worth it.

The Aftermath: Dallas Vampire Court Angel Stakes 2022

In the last nearly 15 years of Triffid Ranch shows and events, I’ve been honored to show off plants at a lot of singularly interesting venues and locales. The Angel Stakes charity benefit held by the Vampire Court of Dallas definitely qualified: a charity casino and raffle? At the Haltom Theater in Haltom City? On a Sunday, in the middle of a Texas heat wave? Why, don’t mind if I do!

Firstly, high kudos to the Vampire Court: they managed to pull off their first non-Dallas event with no noticeable hiccups from the outside, and with a lot of very happy patrons. More kudos to the Haltom Theater: it’s a very well-done live music venue (with a bar & grille on the side) that could very easily become a regular venue for oddball events like this that don’t really fit into Fort Worth. Most of all, kudos to everyone who came out, because between meeting a slew of folks new to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and getting back in touch with some much-missed old friends, getting home at 2 am on a Sunday was completely worth the trip.

As for further adventures with the Vampire Court? That’s completely up to them: we’ve already talked about bringing plants to other events hosted by the Court, and now it’s a matter of confirming dates and times. One thing is certain, though: this is just the beginning.

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 7

And that’s how Aquashella Dallas 2022 ended. Two days of unrelentingly enthusiastic attendees, asking excellent questions, and eventually we had to pack it all in and go home. It’s always bittersweet when a show this good ends, and the only hope is to try it all over again next year and do it even better.

As always, I would like to thank the staff of Aquashella Dallas for a wonderful experience all the way around (the only issue all weekend, the outdoor temperature, was completely out of their control), and also many thanks need to be extended to the attendees and general visitors. You’re the people for whom i do this, and all of you made attending next year’s shows a certainty. Thank you again.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 6

One of the many perks available at Aquashella Dallas this year involved glasses. Specifically, every attendee received a pair of Fritz UV Coral Reef Viewing Glasses included with admission. According to attendees visiting the various live coral dealers throughout the show, these glasses filtered out blue light coming from the LED lights used everywhere, making the corals appear even more fluorescent than usual. Unfortunately, vendors didn’t qualify for glasses, but my gallery neighbor, who came out to view the show with friends, gave me his pair, and I’m waiting for a good cloudy day to see if these glasses offer unorthodox views of various carnivores, particularly Sarracenia pitcher plants.

This led to questions, and musing, and a possible course of action if what I seek actually exists. If it doesn’t exist, or if it’s not possible, you’ll never know, but if it does, expect a much more interactive display at next year’s show.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 5

(This space left blank, Just go to Aquashella Dallas next year, and get your tickets as soon as they’re available. Judging by the crowd here in 2022, the lines for same-day ticket sales are going to be long and very, very sweaty. Buy them in advance, so you have more time to check out the live coral displays.)

(Really. Just make plans for next year, or go to Chicago in October. You won’t regret it.)

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 4

A little sidenote about Triffid Ranch shows and events is that everything gets measured in “vans.” The stackable tubs used for moving plants and other show gear are a godsend for transport, and a standard U-Haul van packed to the gills has room for up to 16 tubs and still have room for shelving, tables, lights and battery (thank Arioch for LED lighting, because my current setup can run lights for two days without recharging), essential non-plant accessories (tablecloths, extension cords, ID tags, and cleaning supplies, among others), and hauling carts. (I always carry two: one big pneumatic-tired cart for hauling the heavy stuff, and a foldable cart for moving items in spaces where the big cart can’t fit.) If the show is local, there’s always the option of rushing back after unloading and unpacking to get more, venue and staff willing, but if the show is outside of Dallas, what I can jam into the van is all I’ll have. Larger trucks are an option, but finding a rental truck that also has air conditioning in the cargo area (a necessity in Texas in the summer, unless I’m driving solely at night and unpack first thing in the morning) also has to be balanced with potential sales versus the cost of fuel. It’s a tricky deal, which is part of the reason why Triffid Ranch booths at outside shows tend to be filled with lots of beginner plants as opposed to ones only of interest to specialists and collectors.

While there’s an advantage to being close enough to home that it’s possible to reload the van, that also has to be balanced. It’s really easy to have an excellent show on Saturday, completely fill another van for Sunday, and find yourself having to wrangle multiple trips to take everything back if Sunday’s show is a dud. Alternately, you can find yourself making so many sales on Saturday that not having enough surplus means you’re staring out over empty tables all Sunday, as most events and venues frown very hard on breaking down early. As I said, it’s a balance.

That said, I had high hopes for Aquashella Dallas, and attendees and staff outshone my best expectations. The only issue for attending other Aquashella shows is that based on this one, and the multiple return trips to the gallery to get more plants, I’m going to need a bigger truck.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 3

Newcomers to Dallas have every reason to be wary when a local asks “So…what brings you to Dallas?”, but it’s almost always for a legitimate and benevolent reason. Dallas was and is built off waves of people moving here from elsewhere (I myself came here on the big Oil Boom wave in the late 1970s/early 1980s), and there’s always a reason. Nobody just decides to pick up a dart, throw it at a map, and decide “Hey, I’m moving to Dallas today!” Whether it’s for family or career or school or because they fell in love with the place after seeing a rerun of the PBS adaptation of Ursula LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven, there’s always a story, and I for one love hearing those stories. It’s even better when those stories involve something that someone living here for four decades didn’t know about, and suddenly you have a serious conversation.

Suffice to say, Aquashella Dallas is FULL of stories. The absolute best part comes from casual tourists who have never been to North Texas in their lives: discovering that a particular event caused people from all over the planet to come to Dallas, in the middle of one of the worst heat waves in Texas history, means we must be doing something right, and we have to work harder to keep doing so.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 2

It’s been a very, very long time since I had the opportunity to go to a big aquarium show (early 1986, to be exact), and one of the things I’d forgotten was how dedicated aquatic people are to hitting as many shows as they can. It’s one thing for regular attendees of an annual show to plan life events around that one big show, and many people look at touring shows and plan several dates, either ones within their vicinity or ones where they’re already planning to visit family and friends. However, the folks at Aquashella have only one counterpart that compares, and that’s the music festival fan. I’ve done a lot of shows in the last nearly 15 years, and this was the first time both attendees and fellow vendors were actually disappointed when they asked “Are you going to be at the next show?” and I had to decline.

In retrospect, though, it makes a lot of sense. It’s not just that aquarium people have as wide a range of specialties as music festival folks, as well as the enthusiasm to travel the country and the world to keep up with their passions. It’s that every aquarium show really will have a range of touring displays and local vendors that make you risk missing out if you don’t hit as many as possible. The other half of the fun, also, is the sense of community among aquarists: tetra people and discus people may look quizzically at gar or axolotl people, but nobody’s putting down the other’s loves. If anything, from my booth alone, I caught several conversations about specific fish species that went from “we’ll have to agree to disagree” to “I’m going to have to try that just on your recommendation.” That’s the sort of enthusiasm that more hobbies and genres need.

All said, it’s too late for me to make the road trip with plants to Chicago for the next Aquashella show…this year. Next year, though, I may have to skip the Orlando show solely because of the date (late February shows mean not having Sarracenia, flytraps, or other temperate carnivores still locked into dormancy), but it’s high time to bring the Triffid Ranch to other cities outside of Texas, and I should have plenty of vacation time on the Day Job to let me do that.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 1

From the register side of the table, one of the more intriguing aspects about Aquashella Dallas was the brand and community awareness aspect. With the overwhelming number of vendors at other Triffid Ranch shows, from Texas Frightmare Weekend to the Oddities & Curiosities Expos, they’re also selling, and there’s always a dynamic of turning to the side to see how everyone else is doing. Many of the Aquashella booth crews, including my immediate neighbors from Tetra, were there to get the crowd excited about upcoming products and releases. As such, that meant having very experienced booth crews coming by to ask exactly why the Triffid Ranch displays were set the way they were, and offering suggestions on improvements when the only answer I had was “That’s a really good question.” They also had lots of insights into an entire slew of shows with which I had absolutely no experience, so talking shop about show attendance and potential new events was both illuminating and very, very relaxing.

The best part of discussions with neighbors, besides their surprise that I was familiar with Tampa thanks to the Convergence goth convention in 2008, was talk about the other Aquashella shows in Orlando and Chicago. The original pre-COVID plan for expanding the Triffid Ranch’s range included finally attending shows outside of Texas, and when all of your neighbors ask “Are you going to Chicago?” because they honestly think the Chicago attendees would love carnivorous plants, well, you pay attention. I’ll burn all of those bridges at the end of the year.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – Introduction

It all started in the Before Times, when a representative from Aquashella, one of the biggest aquarium shows in the country, stopped by the Triffid Ranch booth at the NARBC Arlington show in February 2020 and asked “Would you be interested in showing your plants at the Aquashella Dallas show?” The answer was typically understated (quote: “If you nail a duck’s foot to the floor, does he waddle in circles?”), and plans for later in 2020 made quite quickly. Well, anybody not knowing why the 2020 show didn’t happen was obviously in a coma until last week, and we should all be very envious of their situation. Last year, the Aquashella crew tried again, and the finalized date coincided with my best friend’s wedding, and priorities are priorities. The third time, though, was the charm, as Aquashella moved from Dallas’s Fair Park to Dallas Market Hall in 2021, and it was definitely worth the wait.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Aquashella specializes in aquatic wonders, both in freshwater and in saltwater, and the overwhelming majority of my fellow vendors focused on fish, tanks, and decorations, as well as coral, live plants, and tank augmentations. A few were devoted to axolotls and other aquatic amphibians, and a few spread out to reptiles, but most focused on fish and fish accessories. Nobody was expecting to see carnivorous plants, much less see them up close, and even the record heat of that weekend didn’t dissuade Dallasites from coming out to ogle the pitcher plants and sundews. Two days and thousands of people, and the crowds didn’t let up until about 90 minutes after the show was supposed to be finished. It was WONDERFUL.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – Finale

Every show away from the gallery brings up the eternal question about the volume of plants being hauled out: “Too little or too much?” Last year’s Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo pushed that to the limit, with nearly everything being hauled off, so the plan this year was to bring out as much as was humanly possible. With previous years’ interference gone, the plan was to pack the van as tightly as possible with as many plants as possible, short of strapping goldfish bowls to the roof. (Considering the heat that weekend and the perpetual traffic jam that is the city of Waco, the halfway point between Dallas and Austin, that might not have gone over well.) Seemingly impossibly, the crowds at the Expo were even larger than last year’s: most shows start to peter out about an hour before closing, but many vendors, myself included, were still making sales a half-hour after the official close of the show, and a lot of us went back home with nearly-empty cars, vans, and trucks. Many of us are loath to admit that we were almost glad that the Expos are only one-day shows: if the Austin Expo ran for two days, I’d have needed a 15-foot truck to hold everything.

And that finishes it up. Many, many thanks are extended to the crew at Oddities & Curiosities Expo for managing to pull this off at so many locations every year, more thanks are extended to neighboring vendors who had to listen to me extol the features of carnivorous plants for eight hours (all of my neighbors were an absolute hoot, by the way), and the most thanks to the people who figured that Austin summer heat was no reason to stay home that weekend. Thank you all again, and now I have to make plans to exceed everyone’s expectations for 2023.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 7

As of the beginning of May, the Triffid Ranch has been appearing at shows and events for 14 years, starting with the much-missed CAPE events run by Zeus Comics in Dallas on Free Comic Book Day. (Technically, they started even earlier, when the famed artist Lea Seidman hired me to be her booth bimbo at CAPE shows and I’d drag along plants to show what I’d been doing since I quit writing.) In that time, EVERYTHING has changed, especially in the world of shows catering to the strange and esoteric. The focus has changed from “this is the only place you’ll find this odd stuff” to “the audience needs a good reason to come out in person instead of buying online,” and some shows get this. Others don’t, which is why so many comics and memorabilia shows are now overloaded with essential oil and other MLM dealers, and others are needing to crowdsource to get operations money because they can’t guarantee enough of a turnout to pay the bills. (Mark my words: a lot of old-school literary science fiction conventions will be dead before the middle of the decade because they’re still waiting for 1985 to roll back around and make them relevant again. As it stands, they’re doing next to nothing to attract new audiences and their existing audience is dying of old age: I’m 55, and when I’m one of the youngest people at a convention, either as an attendee or a vendor, it isn’t a good sign.)
I’m very glad to say that the Oddities & Curiosities Expo gets this, and continues to be very careful about the variety of vendors it allows every year. I’m very honored to be one of those who makes the cut every year, and I do my utmost to raise the stakes on plant selection and variety each time so as to return the sentiment. I’m also glad of the audience, because they give extra inducement to push the limits every time. Thank you all.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 6

For most people attending shows and events in summer, especially a Texas summer, precious few are making plans for next year. For those of us vending, though, the vast majority are watching for announcements of registration for tables and booths with the intensity of a starving python and about half the table manners. For those whose livelihood depends upon moving across the country following events, it’s all about the logistics of which show and when, particularly when three big and popular shows run on the same weekend and chopping oneself into thirds simply isn’t an option. For those of us with day jobs to augment the hustle, the priority switches to “How many vacation days do I have next year, what is the absolute furthest I can drive after a show and still go to work on Monday, and how badly will the boss freak out if I have vehicle trouble and can’t get back for two or three days?” (Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it happen.)

Even though the emphasis today is on events held at the gallery instead of traveling shows, the Triffid Ranch is already making plans, starting with the 2023 Oddities & Curiosities Expo schedule. Now, we won’t get that until Halloween, and there’s no guarantee that the Triffid Ranch can or will get into any of the planned shows: I acknowledge that I’m up against some absolutely incredible artists and dealers. One thing is for certain, though: Dallas and Austin are going remain on the event schedule because of their popularity, and 2023 just might be the year that the Triffid Ranch leaves the state. If this means Little Rock, New Orleans, and Oklahoma City, well, that depends upon the time of the year. (I would have loved to have been a vendor at the New Orleans Expo, if only because of the number of much-missed friends in Nola, but this year’s show was at the beginning of the year, and that just wouldn’t have been possible for multiple reasons.) As everyone learns more, the details will be shared. I promise.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 5

One of the regular questions that comes up at Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows is “Do you have anything that’s native?” Well, that’s an interesting question, in more ways than one. Now, if the question applies to Texas in general, we have quite a few, from the famed sundews of the Bastrop pines to the Sarracenia of the Big Thicket in far east Texas. (I had been told for years that only one species, Sarracenia rubra, was native to Texas, and then Dylan Sheng of Plano Carnivorous Plants shared photos of big stands of Sarracenia alata in East Texas. Because Sarracenia habitat is notorious for poaching, and many carnivore bogs are now threatened both by poaching and habitat destruction, Dylan didn’t share the location and I’m the last person to press the issue.) As far as Dallas and Austin are concerned, though, there are no known carnivores in either area, so anyone insisting upon native plants is out of luck.

Note that I said “known carnivores,” however. The reality is that new carnivores are discovered all of the time in the most unlikely places, with about five new species described per year and a new genus every two to five. This doesn’t include previously known plants later confirmed carnivorous (Triantha occidentais in Oregon is a great example, as is the carnivorous passionflower Passiflora foetida), or known carnivores found in new places, such as the Venus flytrap colony found near Pensacola, Florida. This is why I emphasize the “known” part and encourage younger carnivore enthusiasts to keep exploring, because the odds are good of someone discovering a previously unknown carnivore hiding in plain sight.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 4

One of the regular questions asked at Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows is “Where do you get all of the great pots you have?” Well, that’s a funny story. They literally come from all over: garage sales, gifts from friends and cohorts (I was given a large number of odd pots by my late mother-in-law, and I’m hanging onto one especially wonderful pot from her for a very special plant), on the side of the road after someone moved out of a house or apartment, repurposed items never really intended to be plant containers…there’s no telling. All that matters is that they’re distinctive, and that they can hold potting mix and water.

The last part is the hardest. Most houseplants prefer well-drained soil, but carnivores prefer boggy conditions, and that means that the drainage hole has to go. Most container and urban gardening books have extensive instructions on how to drill holes in the bottoms of containers so they can be reused as flower pots, but ask “But what if I want to seal up a previously established hole?”, crickets. Let’s just say that the extensively reorganized backstock of pots for upcoming shows has a shelf dedicated to upcoming carnivore conversions, and epoxy putty is an old and dear companion.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 3

People previously unfamiliar with the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo tend to ask me “So what else is at the Expos besides carnivorous plants?” I can give generic assessments on the amount of interesting things, ranging from antique taxidermy to pottery to candles, available at each show, but I can’t give particulars half of the time because I’m lucky to see the outside of the booth the whole day. By way of example, I didn’t know Dead Dave Designs was at the Austin Expo until I read about it on Instagram the next day. This is in no way a complaint about the intensity of the crowds, but the advantage I had in the Triffid Ranch booth being next to the restrooms in the event center hall was that I actually saw a few fellow vendors, such as Demetria of The Curiositeer, as they were using the facilities before leaving that evening. The crowds weren’t impassable, but they were consistent, and most of us vendors were still taking care of customers a half-hour after the show was officially closed.

Even better, with some shows, you see a lot of returning customers after a few years, but the Expos are always a mix of long-timers, old friends (literally, in some cases: I was able to talk with a friend from the beginning of my writing days in the late 1980s whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years), and a whole lot of new people who wanted to see what the big deal was about. I can only imagine the number of lifetime friendships started there over chance encounters over a hippopotamus skull, as well as the number of kids in a decade who learn “Your father and I met RIGHT HERE, in front of a moose head.”

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 2

One of the surprises this year has been how smoothly shows have run so far. The original Triffid Ranch business plan for 2022 was to expand both growing area and variety of plants available, only for everything to shift drastically in January. A new greenhouse, a new Sarracenia growing area, and a markedly improved container and supply storage system certainly helped, as did the surprise freezes in February and March that led to significantly larger and more energetic blooms on all of the temperate carnivores. On a personal level, losing 15 kilos and being able to start a new exercise regimen meant being able to get trucks loaded ahead of schedule. It’s to the point where, combined with the new hair style and color, returning customers asking “Where’s the other guy?” are asking this legitimately, instead of it just coming from scammers telling me “the other guy” agreed they could take a plant without paying.

Because the one factor that made being timely so difficult is now gone, it’s actually possible to make plans for 2023, especially as far as road trips are concerned. The Texas Oddities & Curiosities Expos are doing so well that the hope is to do what was originally planned for 2020 and take the Triffid Ranch outside of Texas. With luck, the scheduling for shows in New Orleans and Oklahoma City should allow the opportunity to make more epic road trips, and we should know if that’s possible when the Expo crew releases its 2023 show schedule on Halloween.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 1

It’s now been four years since the Triffid Ranch first set up at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo, and three years since the first road trip to Austin’s Expo, and I have only one concern. Right now, the Expo is becoming a gigantic show on a par with Texas Frightmare Weekend, and attracts much of the same crowd. (In fact, several attendees came by specifically because they heard about the Expos at Frightmare this year.) The only difference is that the Texas Frightmare Weekend crew spend all year preparing for each show, planning events and activities so everyone attending gets the maximum entertainment value for their admission. The Oddities & Curiosities Expo crew doesn’t have big media guests, but still pulls off a similarly massive event…and manages to do this nearly every weekend through the year, traveling all over the United States to do so.

Now, looking at how the Expo crew manages a touring event like this without visible issues, some people might argue that this is the future of traveling conventions, and everyone with similar events had best get their acts together. Others might posit that the maturity of the internet makes big traveling events like this possible in the first place, and events like this wouldn’t have been possible twenty years ago. All I can say is that it behooves us all to do everything we can to keep the Expo crew hale, hearty, and happy, because we all need to know how they do it and whether it involves bathing in the cerebralspinal fluid of virgins.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – Introduction

The middle of June in Texas, anywhere in Texas, is always a pivot point for culture in the state, and it always depends upon the weather. Contrary to popular opinion, while “hot, sunny, and dry” may be the default, that doesn’t always apply. Sudden thunderstorms come out of nowhere and go to the same, turning the Texas convection oven into a steam bath. This understandably gets organizers of events in Dallas and Austin and San Antonio a little nervous, because no matter the amount of promotion and publicity, potential attendees are a bit loath to come out in the middle of a storm dropping grapefruit-sized hail.

This last weekend, though, the old rain god Tlaloc decided to give us all a break, and the weather for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Events Center in Austin was about as good as it gets in summer. In response, a lot of folks from Austin (and Houston, San Antonio, and much of the surrounding area) braved both the sun and Austin’s notorious traffic to peruse treasures from dozens of local and traveling vendors. The Triffid Ranch joined the party for the third time since 2019, and the response was nothing short of phenomenal.

The best compliments anyone can get at a show such as this comes at the beginning, when fellow vendors start buying out items as soon as they’re put on a table, and at the end, when other vendors race in and exclaim “Whew! You’re not broken down! This is the first time I’ve been able to get out of my booth all day!” before buying up what’s left. In between…well, the following posts should show off exactly how interesting it got all Saturday.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – 8

And like that, it was over. Texas Frightmare Weekend has always been a blowout of a show, from the first Triffid Ranch table back in 2009 to now, but 2022 was far and ahead the most successful show to date, and now it’s time to plot and scheme to do even better. That’s as much of a tradition as bringing doughnuts for the Frightmare crew, and one I want to keep going for as long as possible.

On that note, many thanks need to go to the Frightmare crew, starting with Loyd and Sue Cryer for their leadership and going through the army of staff, security, and support that make Frightmare happen every year. It’s been a rough couple of years for everyone, and some folks weren’t here to help us celebrate the end, but in their memory we’re all going to make 2023 even bigger than ever.

So what’s the plan for the future? Well, the first is that it’s time to move to a larger table space for 2023, as can be judged by what little is left in the photos above. All of that, of course, is contingent upon making the cut in vendor selection next year (in order to give as diverse a selection of vendors as possible, vendors are carefully curated each year, and everyone has to reapply as if this was their first show), but Danielle and I discussed some possibilities in both presentation and selection that should surprise and delight. With luck, a lot of the distribution issues that brought everything down to the wire this spring will be minimized or reconciled in 2023, and certainly all of the tribulations of the first half of 2022 aren’t going to happen again any time soon. Until then, many thanks to everyone who came by the Triffid Ranch table, even the Spy Clown, and get ready for some major new changes next May.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – 7

One of the many Triffid Ranch services that’s not exclusive to Texas Frightmare Weekend, but that gets a lot of use here, is the holding service. Essentially, a lot of customers want to purchase plants early on, but need to leave them at the table for the duration of the show. Sometimes it’s because they’re staying at an overflow hotel (and this year, Frightmare had a LOT of overflow hotels) and they don’t want to risk the plant being damaged, sometimes it’s because they won’t have room in the car until the end of the convention, and sometimes it’s as simple as not wanting to lug a big contraption of glass and peat around a big crowd all weekend. To facilitate customer convenience, I’ve developed a system that works extremely well: upon purchase, the customer gets a ticket asking for name and phone number, which gets put onto the plant’s ID tag. If 4:00 on Sunday rolls around, the customer gets a friendly call to remind them that they still need to take their plant home. In the last decade since Frightmare set up at its current location, I’ve had to call maybe five people, and generally they all get their charges before we have to start breaking down at 5:00.

Eventually, this was going to have a slight hiccup, and that came with a customer with phone problems. The hotel, like so many other 1970s/1980s semi-Brutalist constructs, was built when nuclear war was a more realistic future shock than handheld universal communication devices, so calls drop and calls never get through. Eventually, though, our buyer was able to come by the gallery to get her new plant, and everyone was greatly amused by the resolution.

Here you go, Wendy. That pot belonged to my late mother-in-law, and she’d have been thrilled to have learned how happy you were with it.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – 6

One of the really nice things about being a vendor at Texas Frightmare Weekend is that there’s absolutely no telling who’s going to show up to say hello. I’ve had people I haven’t seen in thirty-odd years drop by (yet another reason why Frightmare needs a revival of the old Dallas Dawn of the Dead audience participation midnight shows), I’ve had the kids of high school classmates pass on regards, and I’ve had a lot of guests stop by to see what’s what. This usually ends very well: there was the time when I came around a corner with a cart full of plants on Sunday morning to hear “Wow! Pitcher plants!” and nearly literally ran into Mark Rolston admiring the Sarracenia. What I didn’t know was that he’s a serious plant enthusiast, and I introduced him to the sole Roridula I had at the time, and we were on such a roll that his handlers nearly literally dragged him away to get him to his first event in time. This happens a lot on both Friday (when vendors are first setting up and guests are getting an idea of where they need to be) and on Sunday (when everyone finally gets a chance to see what everyone else is doing because we’re all still in a bit of shock from Saturday), and the only issue on Friday is that you get caught in great conversations right when you also need to finish emptying the truck at the loading dock and give someone else a chance to unload.

So, the Lance Henriksen story. What most people don’t know is that in addition to his extensive and lively acting career, Mr. Henriksen also has a well-deserved reputation as a potter, and I’d always wanted to talk to him just on that. Well, I got my chance, kinda: as Danielle and i were getting set on Friday afternoon, who else should walk up and ask “Are these real plants?” but one of our guests of honor. Quick explanations, and then back to the loading dock to finish dragging plants in, with a promise to go into detail if he had the chance to come back. If he didn’t, this was understandable, because we’re all busy, this is work for guests and vendors alike, and there’s so much to see at Frightmare that it’s easy to forget the last wonder you spotted when looking at the next.

Anyway, a very nice couple came by on Saturday to buy a purple pitcher plant, and then they came back a couple of hours later to get another. This happens regularly, but they had a better explanation than simply “We wanted another to keep the first one company.” They were in line for an autographing session, Mr. Henriksen saw their Sarracenia purpurea, and bought it off them since he wouldn’t have time that day to come by himself. So far as I know, it’s now in his house, enjoying the Los Angeles breezes, and if anyone involved with the Los Angeles Carnivorous Plant Society is reading this, you should be getting a very distinguished guest at your next show and sale. I made sure to pass on that information.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – 5

I’m asked on a regular basis by folks yet to experience Texas Frightmare Weekend “So what else is going on out there?” I have to be absolutely honest and admit “I have no idea, because I’m lucky to get out from behind my booth.” Considering that the booth gets mobbed during setup on Friday afternoon (I’ll tell the Lance Henriksen story with another installment) and only shuts down at 11:00 that evening, going out and exploring on Friday evening isn’t an option until someone develops an effective vaccine for sleep. (As it was, Friday was so lively that even after filling a 15-foot truck, I had to go back to the gallery and get even MORE plants on Saturday morning.) Since Saturdays are the main time for single-day pass holders, the aisles in both of the dealers’ rooms are best described as “rivers of people,” especially in between guest panels and movie screenings. On Saturday, the dealers’ rooms close at 7:00, and only the young, the determined, and the rugged go to parties or events instead of trying to recuperate for Sundays.

Mileage may vary between vendors, but Sunday is the biggest day at the Triffid Ranch booth for two reasons. Firstly, a lot of attendees come through on Friday and pick out plants to keep in reserve until Sunday so they don’t have to carry a 20-kilo plant enclosure all weekend. Secondly, with everyone else, they know what their budget is like: they’ve checked out of their rooms, they know how much money they need for gas and food to get back home, and they know how much space they have in their vehicles for further purchases. After about noon on Sunday, the crowds generally don’t let up until about 4:00 pm, giving us vendors a chance to regroup and pack up incidentals when everything starts to close at 5:00. If things work well and we don’t have any issues with finding loading dock space, the overwhelming majority of us are out and gone by 6:00, with only a few still around by 7:00. After that, it’s all about starting to get ready for the next year’s show, because it’ll be starting before we realize it.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – 4

I’m regularly asked at shows “Could I watch a plant eat something?” As a general rule, especially with Venus flytraps, the answer is going to be a hard “no.” It’s for multiple reasons: digesting insect prey usually takes from three to five days, the production of the digestive enzymes used to digest prey require a lot of light for energy, and most venues don’t have anywhere near enough light, so that prey rots before it can be digested. If you’re lucky, the rot only kills the individual trap, but sometimes you can be incredibly unlucky and have that rot spread to the plant’s crown and lose the whole plant. I’ve done a few demonstrations at museums of how flytraps capture their prey, but always with the understanding that the plant was going to be back outside and in full sun in the next twelve hours or less.

Now, if a bug gets caught on its own, though, there’s not a whole lot anybody can do. That happened at Texas Frightmare Weekend, when intrepid cohort Danielle spotted a big fly having entirely too much fun sopping up nectar on a big Sarracenia pitcher on Saturday morning. Over the next hour, when we could spare a glance, we’d look up to see the fly dallying and daring to climb inside the pitcher for more nectar, only to panic and fly off before getting too far inside. That went on for a while, and then we looked up and we had a no-fly zone. This meant one of three things: the fly found itself trapped, the fly got bored and found somewhere else to go, or one of our fellow attendees, vendors, or guests got hungry. At Frightmare, there’s no telling.

Now, one of these days, there’s going to be enough of a lull in the crowds, or I’ll have an opportunity to hang around on a Saturday evening, to demonstrate how so many carnivores fluoresce under ultraviolet light for a suitable crowd, and how that attracts insects. Next year, most likely, if we can find a room that’s completely dark. This year, we just had to watch Seth (and in “Brundle”) and experience it vicariously. I don’t know: should I set up a Triffid Ranch Cam just to let people watch the plants through the show?

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – 2

One of the better surprises at this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend involved something of which nobody had any control. Most years in the Dallas area, dormancy among temperate carnivorous plants is a holiday affair: no more temperate carnivore sales after Halloween, everything is well-established in the beginnings of dormancy by Thanksgiving, and everything stays quiet until the first signs of bloom spikes around St. Patrick’s Day. This means that the height of blooming is around the middle of April, and by Frightmare’s traditional opening by the first weekend of May, most of the blooms are already spent. This year, though, we had a reprise of the funky cold waves of 2015, with big multi-day subfreezing shocks at the end of February and in the middle of March, causing everything to reset. This meant that the earliest bloomers, such as Sarracenia flava and its hybrids, still had a few extant blooms by the end of April, most temperate carnivores (most Sarracenia, threadleaf sundews), were just getting going, and others such as Venus flytraps and Sarracenia leucophylla pitcher plants were just waking up. Even now, over a week later, Venus flytrap blooms are only now starting to open, the triggerplants are growing back but generally without blooms, and the leucophylla finally have their first pitchers of the season.

What it meant for Frightmare, as in 2015, was that attendees got to see not incipient Sarracenia seed capsules but flowers in their full glory, giving a view of what a particular plant looked like in bloom and with pitchers. Sarracenia blooms already look bizarre enough to be mistaken for traps themselves, so that added just a little extra spice to the proceedings. It’s always great when a touch of atmospheric serendipity improves the whole Frightmare experience, especially for kids that never had any idea that carnivorous plants bloomed at all.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – 1

To start off this story, let me introduce everyone to Danielle. Danielle started as a longtime Triffid Ranch customer, where we both first met at Texas Frightmare Weekend nearly a decade ago. She and her husband Sean own custom enclosures (A Canticle for Troodon and Skarif Salvage), they’ve been wonderful sounding boards for gallery plans and strategies, and I;m proud to call them dear friends. Heck, Danielle and I even worked together in 2021. When I was getting everything together for this year’s Frightmare, not only was she the logical choice for booth cohort, but she volunteered.

It’s not an exaggeration in the slightest that without Danielle’s capable and expert assistance, this show wouldn’t have turned out anywhere near as well as it did. All three days, she was seemingly in four places at once, manning operations during the one major issue the whole weekend (large trucks had to move to overflow parking in DFW Airport, and I would have been back with plenty of time if the hotel’s parking shuttle fleet had two vehicles undergoing repairs that Friday and the third nearly 90 minutes late), and even entertaining convention guest Lance Henriksen as he asked question after question about the difference between Nepenthes and Sarracenia pitcher plants. (A heads-up to the Los Angeles Carnivorous Plant Society: you may be getting a few new attendees before too long, because we bragged on you lot all weekend long.) More than a few times when I was too frazzled with multiple questions to answer others, she stepped in and took over, making sure that I remembered to drink water and wear clean underwear.

And trust Danielle to see connections that I was far too busy and harried to notice, and take advantage of them. Halfway through the show, she noticed that two Sarracenia containers had, erm, somewhat of the same theme, and insisted we put them together right in front so everyone could appreciate them. “I’m twelve,” she said, and apparently everyone else at Frightmare was twelve, because the juxtaposition was a huge hit.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – Introduction

It almost didn’t happen. When the new year starts with a neighbor deciding to celebrate the holiday by firing an AR-15 into the air down the street and one of the rounds hits the roof of your house, this may not be taken as an auspicious omen. A frantic move in mid-winter, repeated freezes right when all of the temperate carnivores were just starting to wake up, ending a job, having a friend accidentally faceplant while furniture-shopping in an Ikea, having the gallery nearly catch fire…oh, it’s been one whole set of tribulations in this foul Year of Our Lord 2022. Every once in a while, though, the planets and moons all aligned, the lenses clicked into place, and things not only ran as well as they did in 2019, they sometimes ran better. This pretty much summed up this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend.

To say that this was the best Frightmare the Triffid Ranch has had the pleasure of attending is a quantum jump in understatement. We’ve been hearing terms such as “revenge travel” to describe the rush of people deciding that they’d better get out and do things NOW, but that didn’t come close to summing up Frightmare this year. We vendors regularly joke that if Frightmare gets any bigger, we’ll have to bypass moving to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas and just go for a custom facility with enough room for everybody, but THAT didn’t sum up Frightmare this year. When the General Admission crowd started coming through on Saturday morning, jokes about George Romero films and Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumpers were a bit inadequate, and even THAT didn’t sum up Frightmare this year. This was a show full of longtimers who hadn’t been out in three years, and a show full of first-time Frightmare attendees, and a show full of people who had never been to any media convention, especially something as big as this one. For all of us vendors, this was a show just loaded with surprises, and when it finally ended three days later, we were all exhausted but ridiculously happy at the same time.

So what happened? Nobody seemed to have an answer, but nobody was complaining. The halls and aisles went from “busy” to “human river” in moments, and any of the tables in the two dealer’s rooms were a perfect place for peoplewatching. It was one big wild celebration of life with a wrapper that said “premier horror convention,” and if 2023’s Frightmare reaches these heights, we won’t know what to do with ourselves. If it exceeds this year,. watch out.

To be continued…

Have a Safe Weekend

No open house this weekend: as I’m writing this, the whole shebang is moving to DFW Airport for Texas Frightmare Weekend, and we may be gone for some time. Talk to you when it’s all done.

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 6

In many ways, and I speak from experience, being a vendor at an Oddities & Curiosities Expo is like being a barista in a shopping mall Starbucks on the first shopping day of the holiday season. Namely, the crowds come pouring in right after the doors open, and you only realize that the doors are closed when the crowd lets up and you get a chance to check the time. In small retail, this isn’t a bad thing, and my only regret was not being able to get a quick shot of what little was left at the booth after the Expo closed. Suffice to say, for this coming Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo in June, the selection will be greater because of the number of plants out of winter dormancy, AND there should be room in the truck for a few surprises that nobody is going to expect. And after that, it’s only a short six weeks until Aquashella Dallas.

As always, there are a lot of people to thank for this year’s Dallas Expo running as smoothly as it did, starting with the Oddities & Curiosities Expo staff and crew. Three years after the first one rolled into town, and they still act as the gold standard for convention and exposition operation: when I compare them in professionalism and sheer hard work with the Texas Frightmare Weekend crew, this is an incredibly high compliment that I don’t give our quickly or easily, but they earn it every time. Here’s to their organization and curatorial skills (I may not have been able to leave the booth, but I saw a lot of other vendors’ works going by, and the Expo crew works incredibly hard to keep a wide and surprising variety of goods in each show), here’s to the fellow vendors who made setup and teardown as easy and friendly as it should always be, and here’s to everyone who came out to look around and left with plants. You’re the reason I do this multiple times a year.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 5

Every year, the first show of the season usually gives a hint as to the general vibe for the rest of the year, and if this holds true again this year, 2022 should be wild. The first and most obvious point about this year’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo was the huge and wildly enthusiastic crowd, especially considering all of the other events going on in Dallas at the same exact time, which once again blows Dallas’s undeserved reputation for being boring and conservative out of the water. (If anything, the upcoming Texas Frightmare Weekend a month from now should be even bigger and more intense, seeing as how all three days are very nearly sold out as of this writing.) That, though, wasn’t a surprise. The surprise? The amount of cash being used.

Let me explain. For the last decade since cheap and effective credit card readers became available to small sellers, the shift has obviously been going toward plastic. Credit cards take up little room, they’re replaceable if lost or misplaced, they don’t require lots of change, either in bills or in coin, and they still work even when saturated in boob or crotch sweat. (And yes, WE VENDORS KNOW THESE THINGS. WE FERVENTLY WISH WE DID NOT KNOW THESE THINGS, BUT WE KNOW.) The nearly universal consensus is that most attendees of events like these born after 1980 go through weeks and months without every encountering paper or metal money, and they don’t really miss it. They will, though, ask “Do you take cards?” because of the number of vendors who will only accept cash, to which I give my standard response, “Where the hell do you think you are: the Twentieth Century?”

That was the surprising part: you still have people using cash at events such as these, as it’s easy to track and even easier to set yourself up with a spending limit. However, not only do you have fewer vendors who only take cash, but even fewer who complain about it. At the rate things are going, give the small vendor arena five years, and the only people taking cash will those deliberately refusing to leave 1999. It’ll be very interesting to see how many customers will go to the effort of carrying cash just to buy from them, or if they’ll just buy from someone else.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 4

For those lamenting having to miss out on the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo this year (to be fair, there was a lot of interesting things happening in Dallas this last weekend, and the beginning of spring is when we all start budgeting our weekend time because we know the heat will be upon us soon enough), take solace in two bits of knowledge. Firstly, the Oddities & Curiosities Expos are traveling shows, spread all over the United States, so odds are fairly good that they’ll show up to a major city near you eventually. For instance, your humble chronicler makes the first of two trips to Austin in 2022 on June 18, where the Triffid Ranch returns for its third appearance at the Expo at Palmer Event Center in downtown Austin. The fervent hope is to spend at least a couple of shows in 2023 outside of Texas entirely, and the Expo crew is one that is worth joining in that endeavor. Details will follow as they come along.