Category Archives: Shows

The Aftermath: Repticon Dallas January 2020 – 2

When coming out to a new event, placement may be everything, but that depends upon what you want to accomplish. Being completely unfamiliar with the venue for ReptiCon Dallas, two adjoining tables at one end of the hall seemed like a perfect spot. These two tables were beneath an overhang and next to a big projection screen complete with a big black curtail, and fellow vendors winced “Oh, they stuck you back THERE?” For most of the reptile and reptile supply vendors out there, the location may have been the kiss of death, but for the Triffid Ranch, it was absolute perfection. The curtain meant that I could sit across the aisle from the tables, talking with customers while others filed by, without worrying about bumping into neighbors or clogging access, and the curtain helped baffle noise from the rest of the room. When I return to ReptiCon, I’m asking for these tables, because I couldn’t have found a better locale if I’d intended to do so.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: ReptiCon January 2020

It started as a lark. For the last several years, notices for ReptiCon shows in Dallas would arrive in the mailbox, usually literally seconds after scheduling another event for that same weekend. At the end of December, another notice came for a show right after New Year’s Day, and this time, the schedule was free. Load up the van, galumph out to the town of Grapevine, unload at the Grapevine Convention Center, and spend the next two days talking about carnivorous plants with a very tight and cohesive show full of people with a mission: I’ve spent much worse New Year’s weekends doing much worse things.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 2019 – 4

Ever since the gallery went live, the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show has been a good excuse to go to Austin, a good excuse to see old friends who moved out of Dallas, and a great way to end the year as far as outside events were concerned. Thanks are in order for the Blood Over Texas crew, all of the attendees of the Horror For the Holidays show, and the staff of Green Mesquite BBQ on Barton Springs in downtown Austin, who kept me fed all weekend. I’ll see you all next November.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 2019 – 3

Now, people outside Texas may be a little concerned at the thought of a horror-themed holiday market such as the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays shows, as monsters and nightmares don’t seem to fit the traditional holiday spirit. These are folks who may not be familiar with the history of the German and Czech settlers who moved into Central Texas in the 19th and 20th Centuries, and they brought a lot more than their traditions for beer, sausage, and cheese. (Handy travel tip: Central Texas is full of caves eroded into the underlying limestone, which is one of many reasons why Texas has some of the best cheese caves on the planet. Don’t even get me started on how a breakfast without kolache is like a broken pencil.) Krampus parades are as much a Texas tradition as chili, and the Blood Over Texas crew knows how to throw a good one.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 2019 – 2

A regular comment made around the Triffid Ranch this time of the year: the one unrealistic thing about the Henry Selick film The Nightmare Before Christmas (that famed hyperrealistic portrayal of the time the skeletal avatar of Halloween kidnapped Santa Claus) involved the ending. Out of all of the kids getting new presents from Santa to replace the horrific ones from Jack Skellington, you’re trying to tell me not one child on the planet Earth would be crying and pleading to keep Jack’s presents and decorations? That Santa didn’t come back to Christmastown with at least one set of preteen teeth firmly locked onto his ample posterior and refusing to let go without Santa surrendering that Russian doll with the scorpion inside? Not one kid writing Jack Skellington each year with a list of science toys, begging him to take over for Santa for just one otherwise miserable holiday season?

Judging by the crowd at this year’s Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show, a lot of other people felt the same way, and made accommodations as they got older. Santa tries to take these gifts back, and he’d better have plate-steel Underoos.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 2019 – 1

Three years after the first out-of-Dallas Triffid Ranch show, and the crew at Blood Over Texas in Austin decided to punch up the annual Horror For the Holidays show this year. Having wildly outgrown its old location, both in attendance and in vendors, the plan this year was to relocate to the Travis County Expo Center, which allowed a lot more usable room, more natural light, and a schedule that allowed both Saturday and Sunday operation. They offered the venue, and we vendors took it over.

As far as the last out-of-town Triffid Ranch event of 2019 was concerned, it went out on a great note. Lots of old friends (including three who happened to be out from Dallas that weekend), lots of new faces, and several folks whose assistance will be of great help with future projects. Best of all, many attendees were very helpful with ideas for next year’s shows in both Austin and Houston.

To be continued…

State of the Gallery: November 2019 – Special Edition

Surprisingly, not just a metaphor

A lot has happened in November so far, and more is gearing up for the rest of the month, in what the author Harlan Ellison called “the hour that stretches.” November has always been an, er, interesting month in my life, what with layoffs, moves, new jobs, and more than a few deaths. November 2019 follows in that tradition, and the plan is that the window that opens when the door closes is a greenhouse vent and not an airlock. Yeah, it’s been one of THOSE Novembers.

Anyway, the practical upshot is that appointment availability for Triffid Ranch consultations just became a lot more open. The Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas Saturday night open houses starting on November 30 remain unaffected, but now the gallery will be open a lot more often during the week, too. Just excuse the mess: the events over the last two months (of which no more will be said) interfered with new projects, so the idea now is to rectify that situation. Among other things, this frees up storage space, it gives new homes for older plants to stretch out, and it gives more reasons for all of you lot to come out to multiple Nightmare Weekends to see what’s new THIS time. If you’ve had an eye on a particular enclosure but haven’t made the move to take it home just yet, this may be the perfect opportunity.

And the rest of the year? That’s dedicated both to a wedding anniversary blowout (17 years as of December 28, and people still assume that we’ve been married for weeks) and to getting ready for 2020. This includes a stem-to-stern renovation of the gallery, other essential updates (after all, we’ve been in the space for three years as of February, so we have plans), and scheduling for the largest list of outside events yet. Among other things, a quick perusal of the calendar revealed that next Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday, and between this and Leap Day on a Saturday, it’s time to call some people and plan a multi-venue event. As always, details will follow as they happen: if it doesn’t happen, you’ll never know about it.

Speaking of venues, if you’ve attended an open house and never stepped across the doorway to our neighbor Visions of Venice, consider yourself encouraged to investigate. Besides being the absolute best business neighbor a boy could ever want, the amount of crossover interest between carnivorous plants and Italian glasswork continues to surprise me. Even better, the storefront is open during the week, so don’t be afraid to head out during a lunch break with a whole group of coworkers and peruse the stock of masks and chandeliers. (Yes, they actually go together. Don’t argue with me on this.)

Finally, before loading up the van and heading out to Austin for this weekend’s Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show at the Travis County Exposition Center, a little note: some of you may have noticed that the new URL for this Web site changed to http://www.texastriffidranch.com within the last week. It’s a funny story as the old URL still works, and you’ll have to come out to one of the Triffid Ranch events for an explanation. In the meantime, if you haven’t been exploring through the archives in a while, please indulge your curiosity, as WordPress and Google are fighting over whether or not this is new content. Besides, you don’t have anything better to do the week before American Thanksgiving when you’re trapped at work and everyone else is taking off on early vacations, right?

The Aftermath: Deep Ellum Creative Market – 2

One of the biggest issues with doing Triffid Ranch shows outside involves wind. After all, North Texas is noted for its winds, and both the big windstorm that hit Dallas last June and the tornadoes that hit us in October arrived shortly after I’d broken down after events, either earlier that day or the night before. (With the June show in Garland, not only would the storm have blown everything to Oz or at least Nehwon, but the tree shading my booth also shed the big branch previously hanging directly overhead.)

In the case of the Deep Ellum Creative Market, the tradition continued: subfreezing temperatures and a serious threat of snow, but those only came after everything had been packed up and carted home. Before that, though, for a weekend with an inordinate number of events in the Dallas area, including a major Cowboys football game, the crowd coming through was both numerous and enthusiastic.

For a first-time show, the Creative Market ran very well, and its only issues were due to its youth. If things go well and it runs next year, expect to see the Triffid Ranch out there in a prominent location.

The Aftermath: Deep Ellum Creative Market 2019 – 1

When doing outdoor shows, it’s best to go out on a high note. Rain would have been bad enough, but last Monday came with the sort of subfreezing temperatures and brutal north winds that usually hit Dallas around the beginning of January. The weekend of the Deep Ellum Creative Market, though, was clear, sunny, and warm, and you couldn’t have asked for better weather for the last outdoor show of the year.

For those outside Dallas, the Deep Ellum area east of downtown started with a reputation for great blues musicians in the 1920s and 1930s, and then fell into decline as an industrial area until 1984, when the famed Russell Hobbs opened the sadly-long-defunct Theater Gallery in 1984. The resultant explosion of clubs and arts galleries led to official city pushback (especially when the sole news coverage for the area came via business interests with money tied up in the Lower Greenville and West End adult amusement parks), leading to a regular series of booms and busts and expansions. The latest boom coincides with the construction of highrise apartment buildings through the area, but there are still plenty of people who remember little outstanding venues such as Club Clearview and Another Roadside Attraction, world-famous murals by local artists Mosquito and Trippy Thompson (both former neighbors of mine when I lived in nearby Exposition Park in the early Nineties), and a young jewelry artist famed for selling necklaces and bracelets out of a guitar case.

(With the last, I first met that jewelry artist in a then-vacant field in 1990 as she sat next to a trio of other vendors. My girlfriend at the time was immediately jealous of her: and so she should have been, seeing as how 29 years later, we’ve been married for the better part of two decades.)

The idea behind the Deep Ellum Creative Market was a celebration of those kind of connections. Unlike the much larger Deep Ellum Art Fest, which begrudgingly gives tent space to local artists from time to time, the main requirement for admission into the Creative Market was an actual connection to the area, or at least more of one than “I threw up in a urinal at Club Dada once.” Since the first-ever Triffid Ranch booth was at the long-forgotten Deep Ellum Sellem in 2006, I had more bona fides than merely marrying a local fixture. Therefore, after much wrangling, about 50 other vendors and I set up tents on a cool Saturday morning and put out our wares to a lively audience of residents and pedestrians.

To be continued…

State of the Gallery: October 2019

And so we come to the end of the 2019 carnivorous plant growing season. (Cue the national anthem.) The cold front that whipped through the Dallas area early Halloween morning saw to that: right now, the Venus flytraps and Sarracenia pitcher plants are already preparing for winter dormancy, and a few days of warmer temperatures in November won’t stop their normal progression thanks to shorter days and longer, cooler nights. Even in the gallery, it’s time to switch to winter hours: all of the timers need to be reset anyway due to the end of Daylight Savings Time, so they’re all being set for about ten hours of light per day so they get a good rest, too. (In March, when the indoor and outdoor photoperiods go back to longer days, we’ll all be glad of it, as the blooming response should be phenomenal, especially with the sundews and bladderworts.) The flytraps and Sarracenia are the big ones to worry about, though: if they don’t get a proper dormancy, they’ll eventually wear out and die, and our freezing temperatures at Halloween just bumped their naptime ahead by about three weeks.

Now, you’d think that with the arrival of dormancy season, everything would shut down over at the gallery. Anything but. The only time this place will be more busy than in November and December will be in January and February. The show schedule definitely doesn’t let up in November: there’s the Deep Ellum Creative Market in Dallas the weekend of November 9 and the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show in Austin on November 23 and 24. The real fun, as it has for the last four years, starts the first Saturday after American Thanksgiving, with the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas gallery open houses starting on November 30 and continuing through December 7, 14, and 21. (November 30 and December 1 are doubly auspicious, as these mark the fortieth anniversary of my first moving to Texas and meeting my best friend Paul Mears for the first time, respectively. For four decades, he’s referred to December as “a day that will live forever in infamy” on a personal level, and, well, he’s not wrong about that assessment.) After that, it’s a matter of spending January and February constructing new enclosures, working out the logistics on new shows, and generally getting everything ready for when the flytraps and Sarracenia wake up again.

And speaking of new shows, news that’s had to be held in confidence since the end of August: the Triffid Ranch has three new shows in 2020 through the Oddities & Curiosities Expo folks. Besides the Dallas show on March 28 and the Austin show on June 20, it’s time to hop state borders and bring the Triffid Ranch to New Orleans on August 29. The New Orleans show is going to be the biggest test of event logistics yet: if this works out and I kill neither myself nor plants, then it’s time to try spreading the wealth to new cities outside of Texas. If it doesn’t, at least I’ll have the opportunity to visit with old and dear friends, including many whom I haven’t seen in person since the late, lamented Exoticons imploded at the end of 2000. Win/win. (The date on the Austin show is particularly auspicious, even if it means heading right back out after returning from the Houston Horror Film Festival the weekend before. 2019’s show was impressive but not as packed as 2018, a factor commonly attributed both to the soul-withering heat of Central Texas in mid-August and to classes at the University of Texas starting up the next week. June is much better: as with Dallas, it might even mean that we get a bit of rain that weekend before the summer blast furnace starts in earnest in July.)

Other than that, it’s back to commissions and new enclosures to replace those sold over the summer: keep checking back for new enclosure details. Among many other things, 2019 is the year that I finally enter enclosure photos for the Spectrum Awards. (I know I have no chance in hell of winning an award, but getting stomped and pantsed by the best artists in the field of fantastic art is also an inducement to keep working toward winning.) In addition, keep an eye open for some extra backstory on new and old enclosures: no more details until it’s done, but those familiar with the works of Harlan Ellison may recognize the concept.

As always, the gallery endures: for those coming in late, it’s open by appointment or at regular open houses. If you have particular demands for custom enclosures intended as holiday gifts, get your appointment in NOW. By the time the Nightmare Weekends start, getting additional commissions may be problematic before the middle of January.

The Aftermath: Spooky Spectacle 2019 – 3

One of the things about big shows like Spooky Spectacle is, no matter how busy vendors may be, we’re already making plans for the next three or four shows during every downtime opportunity. It’s the newbies who sit around at a slow show and sigh loudly: the rest of us are evaluating potential repairs to displays, ordering new inventory, contemplating new signage, and generally making hay. That’s in addition to making contacts and comparing notes about new venues. It’s absolutely amazing how quickly a show like this goes by when you’re already making plans two years in the future.

And so it goes. I honestly have no idea if Spooky Spectacle runs in 2020, and a weekend after the show is too soon to know for sure. Either way, expect a lot more from the Triffid Ranch, including a new open house on October 12 and a return of the carnivorous plant workshops at Curious Garden on October 19. And then things get BUSY.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Spooky Spectacle 2019 – 2

For all of the aggravations with the Will Rogers Memorial Center, one of the joys with last week’s Spooky Spectacle involved an old friend from Tallahassee. Ever since that chance job offer in Tally introduced me to the world of carnivorous plants, the dream was to be able to grow Sarracenia pitcher plants in Dallas that were as robust as those in the Florida panhandle, and the famed white pitcher plant, Sarracenia leucophylla, was a particular challenge. Part of the thrill lay with S. leucophylla being as much of a nightowl as I am: in addition to the secretion of nectar and the UV fluorescence it shares with other species, the distinctive white lace lid and throat of its pitchers also fluoresce under moonlight. Even under a half-moon, the pitchers’ glow makes them stand out among other Sarracenia, but under a full moon, the pitchers are spectacular.

That this is an effective strategy for insectivory is demonstrated by cutting open a dead pitcher and examining the shells and other detritus of its prey. Fully half of the remains in a typical leucophylla pitcher kept outside are of moths, click beetles, and other purely nocturnal insects, and if you go around a stand of leucophylla in the middle of the night with an LED flashlight, you’ll see the cigarette-cherry glow of moth eyes as they fight to drink the nectar on pitcher lids and lids. (That’s not all you’ll see glowing. During the day, many Sarracenia have mantises, ambush bugs, lynx and crab spiders, and even tree frogs and anoles waiting next to or inside pitchers for incoming insect prey. Sarracenia leucophylla, though, also gets wolf spiders and the introduced Mediterranean gecko Hemidactylus turcicus camping out at its pitchers to feed on moths, and the same LED flashlight that reveals moth eyes will also return eyeshine from the wolf spiders as they await their chance.)

Anyway, the first full moon on a Friday the 13th in 19 years was a welcome coincidence the night before Spooky Spectacle, but even more welcome was that the leucophylla in the Triffid Ranch collection simply exploded this September. Sarracenia tend to have two growing seasons in North Texas with a long layover in the worst of the summer heat, with autumn pitchers being much more vibrant in color and size after their summer near-dormancy. The enthusiasm this year’s leucophylla had, though, wasn’t just surprising. It was almost shocking. Apparently others are reporting blowout leucophylla growth all over the Northern Hemisphere, and also with hybrids such as the favorite “Scarlet Belle,” but the only thing better than seeing it was being able to haul in plants to show off. I don’t know exactly what environmental factor is responsible for such growth, but that factor returning next autumn wouldn’t be unwelcome.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Spooky Spectacle 2019 – 1

After a long run of exceptional events in 2019, it was inevitable that a show might not work out as well as others. The crew behind Spooky Spectacle, formerly the Granbury Paranormal Fest, tried their best to put together a great show, and having one that wasn’t outside in last weekend’s heat was very much appreciated. That said, I’m making the formal announcement that after four shows in the venue over the last decade, future shows at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth simply aren’t an option.

(I want to apologize to people who tried to come out and couldn’t find parking, so they had no choice but to turn around and leave. Will Rogers is already lacking in parking for events as it is, but between blocking off vendor parking and forcing vendors to take up potential attendee spaces, a walkathon that took up one entire lot, and remaining parking going to a “Party on the Patio” event at the Kimbell Art Museum during the evening, I’m glad that anybody could show up at all. I won’t get into the rampant incompetence of the company handling the parking in the first place: dealing with contradictory directions from yahoos who got off on the chaos made Saturday morning load-in an absolute joy, and I understand that things only got worse as the day went on. Combine that with “Party on the Patio” drunks driving the wrong way down one-way streets as we left and the main thoroughfare connecting the center to the highway undergoing its perpetual repair and subsequent narrowing to one lane each way, and I was surprised to see only one fistfight between frustrated attendees just wanting to park for the day.)

Anyway, barring the parking situation, the show gave a great opportunity to hang out with Triffid Ranch stalwarts and newcomers, and this is definitely a show I’ll show up for again…so long as it’s not at Will Rogers.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 5

Well, that’s about it as far as this year’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo season is concerned: check back after Halloween to find out alongside me as to dates and locations for 2020 events. And because the managers there deserve a special shoutout, many thanks to the Extended Stay America in downtown Austin next to the Palmer Event Center: I literally couldn’t have done this without you. Selah.

And so it goes.

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 4

As promised, this year is the start of events outside of the Dallas area: this hasn’t been deliberate, but a side effect of setting up the old gallery and then having to move to the current location just as the old space was under control. Now that the current gallery is reasonably under control (but as Matt Howarth used to say, “It stops, but it never ends”), it’s time to start exploring.

As far as explorations with the Oddities & Curiosities Expo crew is concerned, that’s a funny story. Both August’s Austin show and last March’s Dallas show were absolute joys, both with attendees and staff, and my only problem lies with people asking “So are you going to be at next year’s shows?” The problem is that as of right now, nobody outside of Expo staff knows a thing about 2020’s show schedule, either dates or locations. I know that a lot of attendees are clamoring for Houston and San Antonio shows to go with Dallas and Austin, but we’ll all discover the 2020 plans on Halloween. Until then, rest assured that the Triffid Ranch will show up at Expo events for as long as they’ll put up with me, and 2020 might also feature two magical words on the Triffid Ranch show and event schedule: “New Orleans.”

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo – 3

After looking at results over the last few years, I’ve noticed a major sea change in outré events such as the Oddities & Curiosities Expos, and I’m still processing the implications. Widely anticipated events that only occur once per year are increasingly packed, if only from the number of people who heard about the previous event and buy tickets very early so as not to miss out. Biannual two-day shows for a very specialized crowd can work, but generalized gatherings for a wide range of enthusiasts come up short. For one-shot events, touring shows, or revived or rebooted events, one-day shows work well, but two days just spreads out the crowd without getting new attendees. It’s easy to blame social media for this (and I’ve watched some event organizers do so, to the point of one personally contacting everyone who expressed interest in his event to nag them about why they weren’t at the show), but I suspect the shift away from three-day and four-day events just signals a change in available free time. One-day first-time events require a commitment to getting out to it on that day: two days means it’s far too easy to kick the football to Sunday, only to have something else get in the way.

Whatever the situation, one-day events are becoming quite the thing this year, and I heartily endorse them in the future. Yes, they require more preparation beforehand, but they also attract people who really want to be there. That sort of enthusiasm is infectious.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 2

For those who have never been to Texas, a primer in humidity. As can be expected with a state with such a wide range of climates and biomes, each big city has a completely different atmosphere. Being very close to the Gulf of Mexico shore, Houston is soupy: incessant winds off the Gulf bow moisture inland. Austin is semidesert, where competing south winds strip the essential moisture from your skin and leave a crackle of salt on your skin that used to be sweat. Dallas is the worst of both worlds, where the morning air is best described as “too thick to breathe, too thin to waterski on,” but afternoon humidity in August can drop to as low as 7 percent just before the sun goes down.

This led to some interesting conversations at last weekend’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin, as about a quarter of the attendees and vendors hailed from Houston and New Orleans and another quarter from Dallas and Tulsa. No matter how often they visit, the Houstonians still can’t get used to their scalps bunching up and their lips dessicating as the day goes by. The Dallasites, though, revel in salt crystals growing between their shoulder blades like Godzilla fins and leaving lumps of uric acid in the toilet, because it beats the slow poaching of Houston. Listening to all of this are people from more amenable climes, who can now count their kidney stones by listening to the rattle while they walk, who break the monotony by screaming “What the hell is WRONG with you people?” when they aren’t screaming about their eyeballs collapsing in on themselves.

It’s a fair question, especially when wandering the streets of Austin looking for food that won’t require two hours’ wait for a seat. That’s why you stay away from anyone over the age of 50 in Texas when complaining about the weather: the odds are pretty good we’ve lived through the record highs and lows, and as soon as you hear the sigh of “If you think this is bad, you should have been here in 1980,” it’s already too late to escape.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention – 3

One final mention about the DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention: in a year of truly outstanding shows, it’s the little ones that keep surprising me. The organizers tentatively plan for a followup show in November: if it doesn’t conflict with Austin trip, I’ll be the first one handing over the booth fee.

The Aftermath: DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention – 2

One of the more interesting aspects of the recent DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention was watching the culmination of a sea change I’ve observed with shows of this sort for the last decade. The old perceptions of flea markets and thrift fairs are falling apart: why would anyone with access to a smartphone put up with a surly vendor with a pile of broken or heavily worn items at “you won’t find it anywhere else” prices? (I submit that this is a major factor in the ongoing implosion of literary science fiction conventions, too, but that’s a different dangerous vision.) Successful vendors in this new world are engaging vendors, and attendees notice and respond to naked enthusiasm. At this show, a small subset complained loudly about how the word “thrift” was misleading, as there weren’t any spectacular discounts they could steal away and sell on eBay. They were overwhelmed by a very large crowd that was willing to pay an admission fee for an experience, and boy howdy did they get one. The venue itself was a little small, but a lot of intriguing vendors, carrying items that attendees didn’t know they wanted until they saw them, didn’t mind in the slightest.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention -1

I won’t lie: every vendor at any show, despite the evidence, has a little voice running in the background whispering “You KNOW, you could just go back, put everything up, and go back to bed.” That voice picks up on every minor aggravation and misgiving, from the torrential rain and literally flooded-out streets on the way to a venue to the one fellow vendor who blocks off the only ramp from the parking lit to the venue sidewalk with his car and refuses to move, and pushes that one last nerve. One of the biggest secrets to selling at shows, conventions, and events is to grab that voice by the throat, shove it head-first into a 55-gallon drum, pour concrete into the drum, and then shove that drum into the nearest lake. That won’t kill it, but it’ll slow it down for a while.


For instance, the morning of the DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention, sponsored and run by Thrifty Pirate Vintage Retro, the whole of the Dallas area was inundated by a seemingly never-ending wave of thunderstorms. With most shows, morning thunderstorms, especially in summer, are a moodkiller, and combining that with it being a first-time show, the odds weren’t good. Some people, vendors and customers both, would turn around and go back home, grumbling all the way. The professional response, though, is to try to make things work: the fact that almost everyone else felt the same way was why the Thrift Convention had the most enthusiastic response to a first-time one-day show that I’ve seen in years.

Among other joys: the very enthusiastic response to the Larry Carey Triffid Ranch poster almost made me regret Larry wanting to update it, but only just. (As a reminder, even though the poster and shirt design are changing, the Shirt Price discount still applies to the old shirts, for as long as they’re wearable. In fact, if you have designs on making old shirts into more fashion-forward attire, run with it. The discount still applies.)

To be continued…

State of the Gallery: August 2019

Seven months of 2019 down and dead, and five to go. We just might get to the end of the Twenty-Teens in one piece after all. Of course, I also said that at the beginning of August 1989, and we saw how THAT turned out. (Don’t even bring up August 2009: there’s nothing quite like having to go in for a CT scan of a lung “anomaly” on your birthday, that turned out $900 after deductible later to be pneumonia scarring that had been on record since 1982.)  As is our wont, it’s time to discuss the gallery and how things are progressing, and pass on interesting news that might come in handy to others.

To begin, those who haven’t been by to visit the Event Calendar in a while are going to be extremely surprised, as 2019 is the Triffid Ranch’s busiest year yet. This includes signing up for a lot of new shows, such as the Massacre on Division Street Dark Art Festival in Arlington on Halloween weekend and the Deep Ellum Creative Market at the beginning of November. (Yet another reason for staying in Texas: the first real cold day usually hits by the end of November: the beginning of November might be exceedingly windy, but it’s usually really nice, especially for those cooped up inside all summer long.) The big news, though, is that the promised expansion of Triffid Ranch shows outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton triangle worked out better than expected, with multiple shows in Austin and now the Houston Horror Film Festival next June. I’m not quite ready for Brownsville or Corpus Christi because of the drive (Brownsville is nearly eight hours away from Dallas on a good day), and the Texas Panhandle is still terra incognita, but it’s a start. This is in addition to showings in other galleries throughout the state, but that’s also something that’s on the agenda.

August is another reason for celebration other than the Halloween decorations and displays in the local Michael’s stores: it’s hard to believe that we’re coming up on the second anniversary of the soft opening of the current gallery and the fourth anniversary of the original opening at Valley View Center. Naturally, that means having another open house on August 24, right after coming back from the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin on August 17. The plan is to debut several new enclosures on the 24th, which is a bit necessary: between purchases of existing enclosures and commissions, it’s getting a touch bare out here. We should all have such issues.

Anyway, it’s back to the linen mines: tomorrow’s DFW First Thrift Convention in North Richland Hills starts off the month, and there’s still a lot to do before the doors open at 10:00. See you then.

State of the Gallery: July 2019

 39 years ago this month, what was later known as the Heat Wave of 1980 kicked into overdrive across Texas, and kept going until the end of September. Considering that was my first summer significantly below the 45th Parallel (and having just survived the Chicago Blizzard of 1979 18 months earlier), that was the first and last year I could complain about not knowing about the heat. Longtime residents have three ways to deal with July and August in Dallas. The sanest is to find a very deep and thick-walled shelter and sleep in the dark until the rains return. If you don’t feel like impersonating a Gila monster, you have two choices: gather with others who are shocked at torrid Texas summers and whine “It’s HOT” over and over, or make plans to be productive while the Gila monsters are sleeping. The first just means that every public venue sounds like a pterosaur rookery after a while, with people who would complain even more if we got a meter of snow. The latter isn’t always easy, as I learned 39 years ago when delivering copies of the long-dead and much-missed Dallas Times Herald right at the peak of the heat, but it offers at least the promise of fun.

First, though, the preamble. Things got very interesting at the beginning of July, thanks to both a listing for the Triffid Ranch in Atlas Obscura and a slideshow from Samantha Lopez at the Houston Chronicle. The last time this much news coverage hit was at the beginning of the decade, five years before the gallery was even an option, so expect a lot of late nights getting new enclosures ready for the next open house.

Oh, yeah: about that. Because of a surplus of shows and events in August, the next Triffid Ranch open house, celebrating the gallery’s fourth anniversary, is scheduled for Saturday, August 24, from 6:00 pm until whenever everyone goes home. This not only gives time for multiple shows, but maybe enough time for a stem-to-stern revamp and reorg of the gallery space, as it’s about time.

And on the subject of outside shows, We’ve got quite a few lined up over the next few months. The first and most obvious is this weekend’s carnivorous plant workshop at Curious Garden in Dallas on July 20. The response to last year’s open house was so overwhelming that it had to be expanded this year to two classes: the noon to 2:00 class is now full, so everyone agreed that we needed a second one from 2:00 to 4:00 that afternoon. Check with Curious Garden about availability: due to space constraints, we’re limited to 20 participants, so don’t come in without setting up reservations in the hopes of getting a seat.

After that, it’s a weekend off to focus on commissions and renovations, and then we’re heading to the wilds of Hurst for the DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention on August 3. This is predominately a vintage event, but with an indoor venue so people and plants don’t cook, running from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. As to what will be there…that’s a good question, as this is the first show of its sort. With luck, I’ll have an answer for everyone by August 4, so we can all make plans for the 2020 show.

As promised last year, 2019 and 2020 are years intending to move Triffid Ranch shows outside of the Dallas area, and August 17 is the date for one of the big ones. Based on last March’s response to the Dallas show, and the sheer number of friends and customers in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who don’t want to have to haul themselves up to Dallas to say hello, it’s time to hit the Travis County Expo Center for the latest Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin. It’s only a one-day show, but considering the crowds that wrapped around the building at the Dallas show, make sure to show up early and stay hydrated.

Finally, it’s been a long while since the last time a Triffid Ranch show was in Fort Worth, and the good news is that the first show in September will be indoors and away from the last of the summer heat. Even better, for those of us who survive the end of August and beginning of September by viewing Halloween decorations for sale at the local Michael’s store, this is for the Spooky Spectacle horror convention at the Will Rogers Center the weekend of September 14.(Sadly, this coincides with the NARBC reptile show in Arlington, but that’s why the NARBC runs twice per year. Right now, it’s very possible that the first Triffid Ranch show of 2020 will be at the February NARBC, because it’s been entirely too long since the last time.)

Well, enough of this. Time to get back to the linen mines: the only way these shows and events are going to happen is if the hard work is complete by the time they start. See you then.

The Aftermath: Triffid Ranch Open House -June 2019

Three shows in three weeks, a weekend off for gallery maintenance, and then an open house to celebrate the end of June. Never mind that the “weekend off” combined a dead air conditioner in the house with a particularly pernicious bout of summer bronchitis, making any work that weekend other than slow suffocation impossible. It all still worked out, with even larger and more diverse crowds at the June open house than ever before. Combine this with the debut of two new commissioned enclosures and a whole load of very happy Cape sundews and Nepenthes ventrata pitcher plants, and everyone went home happy. Even the now-expected cloudburst was reasonably light and brief.

As for plans for July, this is a month to concentrate on getting through August, focusing mostly on a new commission that should be finished around the time of the Curious Garden carnivorous plant workshop on July 20. After that. It’s shows on August 3 and August 17, and then our fourth anniversary open house on August 24. We have a lot to celebrate then, so schedule your time accordingly.

The Aftermath: Swizzle’s Waipuna Tiki Flea 2019

Hot, humid, and sticky. All three apply over most of Texas all year around, but it’s particularly relevant in Dallas in June. This changes rapidly in July, when humidity drops like a rock after the sun comes up and the south wind starts up, but we’re not yet to July. Combine that with an impending storm front that concentrated that heat and humidity, and Dallas on June 15 was, if you squinted hard, an analogue for Honolulu. What this meant was that it was an absolutely perfect day for the Swizzle’s Waipuna Tiki Flea show at the Industry Alley Bar just south of downtown, and nobody involved was going to let a little thing like geography get in the way of the fun.

As part of Dallas Tiki Week, the Tiki Flea is now a regular and much-anticipated event, and dragging out plants to next year’s show is a given. In the interim, Swizzle’s hosts an annual holiday gift show in December, and that’s where I expect things are going to get good and weird.

The Aftermath: Garland Urban Flea – June

 The plan for the last year was to set up a tent at the first-ever outdoor Triffid Ranch show, and that plan also involved setting up at the Garland Urban Flea in downtown Garland, Texas. Part of the reason was because it was just down the road from the gallery, and part was because the Garland downtown with which I had been familiar in the early 1990s had changed beyond recognition. The roads were paved, the shops revived, and the central park had just finished a much-needed and very much appreciated renovation. Combine that with decent rents for vintage stores and unique restaurants, and every event in the park found an enthusiastic audience. The Garland Urban Flea was just one event, scheduled on the second Saturday of every month, but it seemed to be a perfect one with which to try conducting an outdoor show.

 Anybody regularly attending or vending at outdoor shows will tell you that the weather can go sideways very quickly, especially in Texas, and that was getting to be an ongoing joke with previous attempts to set up at the Garland Urban Flea. First time: pouring rain. The next time, the previous day’s temperatures promised a beautiful event, and then a cold front dropped temperatures to the edge of freezing, making too much of a risk to the plants. The next show that didn’t conflict with other events was in May, where the rain started up around 2 in the morning and didn’t let up until about the time the Urban Flea was expected to pack up. Oh, and the makeup rain day? Memorial Day Weekend, right after I’d scheduled another show. And so it goes.

 As it turned out, everything worked out. The next Garland Urban Flea ran on June 8, and the weather was GLORIOUS. Slight breezes, sunny but cool enough that everyone wanted to get out and do something before the summer heat hit, and the tent location was directly under two live oak trees, which gave extra shade all day. Combine that with cool neighbors and curious and excited attendees, and it was a great debut at the Urban Flea. Even breakdown was easy. It may be a few months until the next time the tent goes up (the Garland Urban Flea doesn’t run in August because of the heat, and July and September are just a little too warm for the plants), but October and November are perfectly reasonable if the weather holds.

 And why the emphasis on the weather? Well, despite having a tent with sides, there’s only so much rain that a typical pop-up tent can deflect, and that’s not counting winds that tend to turn show tents into parachutes. The very next day, the Dallas area was hit with a massive rainstorm with 70mph winds, which tore trees apart, ripped off roofs, and cut power for most of the city and surrounding suburbs for days. Had that storm hit 24 hours earlier, everything would have been a total loss: what the rain and wind wouldn’t have destroyed directly would have been smashed when a branch from one of those shading live oaks came down. And now you know why most Triffid Ranch shows are indoors.

State of the Gallery: June 2019

 It’s hard to believe what’s changed with the Triffid Ranch since 2015: it was four years ago this month that wandering through an ArtWalk at Valley View Center meant coming across a freshly vacated space at the dying mall that looked like a perfect place to start a carnivorous plant gallery, and everything snowballed from there. Four years of late nights, early mornings, mad dashes to the space after the Day Job was done, road trips for plants or gear, massive remodelings and rearrangings, and it’s all been worth the effort. The gallery isn’t absolutely perfect (I certainly wouldn’t complain about another 1000 square feet for growing area and a loading dock), but compared to where it started, it’s getting there.

The irony of the situation is that getting word out about the gallery requires leaving it. For all of the noises about online promotion and publicity, people have had nearly a quarter-century to get used to ignoring online ads, and nothing beats getting out for shows and events and letting them see what makes the Triffid Ranch unique. The plan all along was for the gallery to act as a base for shows throughout the area and the state, but who had any idea that things were going to get so busy this year?

As for those shows, things go fast and furious in June. The last Garland Urban Flea in downtown Garland, Texas was flooded out, and the makeup day was held at the same time we were already scheduled for an event in Denton. (Let us not talk about the event in Denton: there’s a big difference between an actual music festival and a gaggle of hipsters who decide “Let’s put on a show!”) The Urban Flea is getting back onto its normal schedule, though, with this month’s event on June 8 from 9:00 to 4:30, right in the middle of downtown Garland. And speaking as a proud resident for the last near-decade, if your sole impressions of Garland come either from passing through in the 1980s or that quip in the movie Zombieland, I think you’ll be nicely surprised. (As always, with any outdoor show, serious weather may delay or shut down the whole thing. The good news is that as of June 4, the Dallas area gets a lot of rain before and after, but Saturday should be absolutely beautiful. As always, though, we’ll see.)

In unorthodox events, right after packing up everything at the Garland Urban Flea, it’s time to head back to old stomping grounds in Dallas’s Exposition Park. The 500x Gallery on Exposition Avenue, on the approach to the north entrance to Fair Park, just celebrated its 40th anniversary, and its Hot & Sweaty show every year is famous for its opening to anybody willing to drag art through the front door at the scheduled times. While the show runs every day from 12 noon to 5:00 until June 24, the opening on June 8 runs from 7:00 to 10:00, meaning that it’s a perfect opportunity to come by and view two sample enclosures for those who haven’t had the opportunity to come by the gallery. Besides, speaking as a resident of Exposition Park in the early 1990s, it’s always good to get back to the neighborhood.

(And the work keeps coming, by the way: after the 500x opening, it’s back to the gallery to finish up a slew of commissioned works, and to allow official Triffid Ranch photographer Allison David to get good photos of the current enclosures for a portfolio going out for the official fourth anniversary in September. To steal from the famed comics artist Matt Howarth, it may stop, but it never ends.)

The weekend after this gets even more interesting, as it’s time to go back to the Swizzle’s Tiki Lounge in Industry Alley Bar just south of downtown Dallas for the Swizzle’s Waipuna Tiki Flea on June 15. Last year’s show was unexpectedly show by comparison, as I was told by organizers and attendees alike, probably due to the cold drizzle running all day and most of the night. This year, there’s  no excuse, weather-wise.

After that, it’s time to take a break for one weekend, if only to mow the lawn and brush the cats. That breath-catching is in order to finish up everything for the next Triffid Ranch open house on June 29 from 6:00 to whenever we kick out the last people. If you’ve been out already, you already know the drill, but for those popping into Dallas for work or fun before the heat really kicks in, this is the time to see the plants in air-conditioned comfort among fellow carnivorous plant enthusiasts.

Oh, and before I forget, one extra bit of good news. One of the many pleasures of this last May’s Texas Frightmare Weekend (and we’re already gearing up for the 2020 show) was running into Bunny Voodoo of Blood Over Texas in Austin, and Bunny had the particulars on this coming November’s Horror For the Holidays show. It’s still running the weekend before Thanksgiving, but because of its increasing number of vendors and attendees, it’s moving from Come and Take It Live to the Travis County Expo Center. That means that Horror for the Holidays runs for both Saturday and Sunday, this year, meaning both that attendees have more flexibility with their schedules and we vendors don’t have to set up and tear down just in one day. This means that you can expect a lot more surprises this November, but you’ll have to wait until then to find out what they are. This also means that the Triffid Ranch is moving further out of Dallas proper: between this and the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in August, this marks two shows per year in Austin, with plans to move to Houston and San Antonio as soon as venues and opportunities allow.

And on the subject of August, the Triffid Ranch will go a little quiet in July, partly because of the heat and partly because of the need for new enclosures after this sort of June. However, it’s going to be busy from the beginning of August all the way to the end of the year, so keep checking the event calendar. It’s going to fill up: mark my words.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – Finale

With special shows, it’s all about the preparation. Oh, and the time for the preparation, which is never, ever enough with shows that keep growing every year. At the end of Texas Frightmare Weekend, there’s always a bittersweet tang of not wanting the party to end versus figuring that another two days of this intensity would probably kill us all. Well, Frightmare 2019 is over, done, swept up, and put away, and now it’s time to start getting ready for 2020. Approximately 350 days to go: that just might be enough time, if someone will kindly provide me with a vaccine for sleep. See all of you next year.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 8

Some people brag on the cast and crew at Texas Frightmare Weekend. Others want to join. Me, I just do my best to spoil everyone by bringing donuts for everyone on Sunday morning, when the end is in sight and they just need a little boost. It’s the least I can do.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 7

The second question I’m regularly asked, after “So why are you selling plants at a horror convention?”, is “So when is Texas Frightmare Weekend moving to a new venue?” I’m not privy to any discussions as to the future for Frightmare, nor would I presume to have any knowledge one way or another, but what I can share is that the host hotel is undergoing a massive renovation that should be complete in time for the 2020 show. This thrills me for multiple reasons, as I have history with this hotel that goes back a full 30 years this month. Besides being a guest at several conventions at this hotel during my pro writing days in the 1990s, a show in 1989 was where I first met the individual who later introduced me to my wife. To blatantly steal from the comic artist Sam Hurt, it’s not so much a small world that’s folded over a lot.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 6

Ever since the beginning, there’s always something new at the Triffid Ranch booth Texas Frightmare Weekend, and that’s very deliberate. Frightmare will always have a large selection of good beginner carnivores: as I keep pointing out, it’s not fair to you and it’s not fair to the plant to sell you a plant that requires more maintenance than you’re capable of handling. Increasingly, as regular attendees master the beginner plants, more exotic species and hybrids enter the mix: that’s the reason why two tables are necessary to show everything.

The real fun, though, is watching someone fall head-over-heels in love with a long shot. Terrestrial bladderworts are a tough sell for beginners: without a microscope or at least a good magnifier, you’ll never see bladderwort traps, even after washing the soil away, and you’ll never see the traps in operation. However, watching someone go absolutely goopy over bladderwort blooms is worth all of the effort: I brought one Utricularia calycifida “Asenath Waite” purely to show what it looked like, and had no idea as to the response. Next year, available room willing, it’s time to expand the bladderwort section.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 5

The ongoing normalization of fandom in all of its forms is a bit of a mixed blessing. For the most part, it’s thrilling: being seen at a science fiction or horror convention is no longer a career or social liability. (In tech, that could be a liability on multiple levels: I once had a supervisor who nagged me about my not being at a local big-media show, and got angry when I told him I was having breakfast with Harlan Ellison at the time.) The only issue, especially as a vendor, is when you try your utmost to separate Day Job and show time, especially when a cheerily drunk coworker walks up and says “You look like someone in my department, but I know you’re not him!”

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 4

Texas Frightmare Weekend offers a lot of reasons to attend, but one of the best is the effortless community it engenders. There’s literally no telling who is going to show up, where they’re from, and what they’re looking for. Over and over, I’ve watched two complete strangers meet while discussing the plants, hit it off right then, and get into animated conversations about their other shared interests. In many cases, they’ll show up years later, still the best of friends, and I’ve even been introduced to longtime couples showing off their first children. And yet I’m still asked by people unfamiliar with the Frightmare family, “WHY would you want to sell plants at a HORROR CONVENTION?”

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 3

Every once in a while, I’m asked “so why do you take pictures of your customers at Triffid Ranch shows?” Well, it’s for three reasons. The first is because all of you are the best customers a boy could ever want, and I know plenty of you who are just tickled to see your photos posted every year. The second because it’s even more fun to watch everyone grow up, change hair and makeup, and generally hop down the timestream. For me, as I’m on the downward slide toward 60, these are also a handy memory device. I’m not being rude when I don’t remember someone from five years earlier: it’s just I’ve probably met a few dozen thousand people and slept once or twice since 2014. With a photo archive, I can go back and exclaim “So THAT’s who you are!”

And the third? It’s funny how many people, especially at Texas Frightmare Weekend, recognize each other from the photo archives and make a point of introducing themselves at the next show. That’s me: responsible for a multistate rampage of lifetime friendships, relationships, and the occasional child. We all should be this lucky to see this happen over a decade.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 2

Half of the fun in coming out to Texas Frightmare Weekend every year is being able to debut new projects at every one. This year’s Frightmare debut was the Nepenthes hamata enclosure “Z’Ha’Dum” (2019) , and bringing out this one had multiple layers of significance. The first is the most obvious: a sympathetic and very dark audience that stares inside and chuckles “Where the hell did you come up with that?” instead of backing away slowly. The second was that I’ve described the famous upper traps of N. hamata as “resembling a condom designed by Clive Barker,” and everyone at Frightmare gets it even without my having to show pictures. The third and most important reason, though? The third and most important, though, is that longtime attendees have heard me talk about constructing a new enclosure specifically to house a hamata for years, and they weren’t shocked when they came by the booth and discovered that I’d followed through. They were surprised at the backdrop, but mostly they were just thrilled to see one of the great legendary carnivorous plants of the world in close up and in person.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 1

A quick discussion about “water weight.” Anyone working with plants at any given time will relate that water weighs more than most people expect: carrying around 18-liter (5-gallon) jugs full of rainwater is a great way to build up biceps and triceps without benefit of a gym. Combine lugging tubs of carnivorous plants with severely low humidity, both in and out of air conditioning, and it’s possible to lose nearly five kilos just from sweat. At the very least, now you know why they’re called “sweatshirts.”

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 -Introduction

Ten years. A solid decade ago, a hobbyist carnivorous plant grower with delusions of expansion signed up as a vendor for a fledgeling horror convention, then located just outside of DFW Airport, on the idea that “horror film and literature enthusiasts might like carnivorous plants, right?” Based on previous shows and crowds, a decent selection of beginner plants, all crammed into the back of a PT Cruiser, should get the job done, right? And at the end of three days, when packing up the literal handful of plant containers that didn’t sell, I sighed and figured “Next year, I’ll be more prepared. It can’t get any larger than this.”

That’s the story every year: coming out with my $150,000 in jelly beans to drop them at the feet of what is easily the best and most enthusiastic audience a carnivorous plant rancher could ever want. Every year, I start earlier and earlier to prepare for the crowds, and every year I run out of time when facing even larger audiences. It’s a matter of watching people who casually walked by and wondered “Who’s the weirdo with all of the terrariums?” five years ago who now run to the back of the hall first thing on Friday evening to see what’s available at this show. It’s a matter of teenagers at that first Frightmare show who come by to introduce their own kids. One of the reasons Texas Frightmare Weekend is so ridiculously successful is because of its sustained efforts to encourage a gigantic virtual family, and most of that family stops by the Triffid Ranch booth to catch up.

This year’s show…this year’s show was HUGE. At a time when national and local conventions continue to implode, Frightmare continues to grow, mostly because its founder and staff continue to push the limits of what they were told the could and couldn’t do. Most three-day shows of this sort start to wind down by noon on Sunday, as everyone checks out of the host hotel and prepares for the long car or plane trip back home. A tremendous number of Frightmare attendees, though, stay until Monday just to recuperate and commiserate, leading to jokes of how many of us would die of exhaustion if the show ran for four days. We all laugh, both because many of us know we have to go home and because most of us want the party to continue for just a little longer.

For anyone who had any questions, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Triffid Ranch will be back in 2020. Approximately 360 days until the next show…I can be ready, even if I’m already running behind.

To be continued…

State of the Gallery: May 2019

So there’s no State of the Gallery report for April 2019. This is completely my fault, mostly due to my addiction to gas station sushi, but I have an excuse. After a little over ten years of trying to turn the Texas Triffid Ranch into a viable and sustainable business, the last month is where things got busy. VERY busy. The show and open house calendar is now so packed that there might be a break around Canada Day.

(And as a note, you may notice that the photos in this posting are much better than average. This is deliberate: after years of doing for carnivorous plant photography what Jeffrey Dahmer did for vegan cuisine, it was time to hire a professional who could capture the look of Triffid Ranch enclosures. Allison David not only is a consummate professional, but she and I ran in many of the same circles with the same people that make Dallas so interesting and yet never ran into each other before now. Expect to see a lit of her photos in upcoming Triffid Ranch promotional material, particularly press releases and portfolios, and feel free to contact her for your own photographic needs.)

 

To start, most activities for the past two months have gravitated around getting everything ready for the Triffid Ranch’s tenth year at Texas Frightmare Weekend, running the weekend of May 3 at the Hyatt Regency DFW Airport. I think the only person more shocked than I at the incredible growth of Frightmare is Loyd Cryer, the founder and grand poobah, and he has every reason to be proud of this monstrous baby of his. As I write this, the plants are potted and awaiting loading, and now all I’m doing is waiting for the inevitable potential disaster to start off what turns into a spectacular show. In 2016, it was having the truck struck by lightning as I was arriving: so what happens in 2019?

Most years, the weekend after Frightmare is dedicated to quiet introspection. Well, if lying on the floor and twitching all day Saturday is introspection, I’ll take it. However, it’s time to take a lead from the title of my most-missed 1990s-era glossy magazine and plan for the next weekend. This time, it’s a matter of putting down roots in my home town, as the Garland Urban Flea opens its may event in downtown Garland, Texas on May 11. Previously, work schedules and weather conspired against setting up a tent at Garland Urban Flea (when the National Weather Service describes the day’s weather by running clips of the Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine,” odds are pretty good that nobody is coming to the show unless they own a bathyscaphe, as I’ve learned to my sorrow in the past), so here’s hoping that the weather that Saturday is clement and calm. And stop laughing: Texas weather isn’t THAT bad.

The next weekend is a quiet one, right? Noooope. Because June promises to be even busier, we’re holding the next Triffid Ranch open house on Saturday, May 18 from 6:00 to closing, with the opportunity for those previously unfamiliar with the gallery to view new plant enclosures and arrangements. No theme this time: it’s all about being glad that you’re coming out to take a look.

The next weekend is Memorial Day weekend. That’ll be a weekend to relax and recuperate, right? Well, maybe on Monday, but Saturday, May 25 is dedicated to the Triffid Ranch’s first-ever show in Denton, Texas for Punk Palooza.  This is going to be a return for a lot of reasons, the least of which being in a very disturbing alternate reality, I’d be returning to the University of North Texas to celebrate the fruits of either my journalism or my Radio/Television/Film degree from UNT. Yeah, that’s an alternate reality that keeps me awake at night, too.

And after that? June 1 and 8 are reserved for private events at the gallery, but then it’s back on the road for Swizzle’s Waipuna Tiki Flea in Dallas on June 15. Those who may remember last year’s Swizzle event may remember how much fun it was even with rain and a cold front coming through, and June in Dallas is generally noted for “warm and sunny.” Besides, having several friends in the tiki bar culture gives then excuses to visit Dallas, so everybody wins.

Well, that’s about it for the next six weeks: after that, it all depends upon the weather and whether we have a reasonably mild summer or another repeat of 2011 or 1980. If the former, lots of long-range travel is in the forecast. If the latter, guess who’s getting additional air conditioning units for the gallery and stocking up on frozen blueberries?

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – Finale

 

And so it ends. Many thanks to the Oddities and Curiosities Expo staff for putting up with me, many thanks to the staff of Fair Park for putting up with me, and even more thanks to the attendees for making this one of the most pleasurable and memorable one-day events I’ve ever attended. For those with means to get to Austin this summer, the Triffid Ranch sets up at the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo on August 17, and coming back out for the Dallas 2020 Expo isn’t even a question. Between these, the Spooky Spectacle in Fort Worth in September, and the next Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show in Austin in November, it’s going to be a good year for road trips.

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 9

One of the funnier questions of which I’m asked is one that doesn’t seem funny: “Do you take cards?” It’s funny in context of the last half-century. 50 years ago, ATMs were science fiction. 40 years ago, temporary venues could run credit card machines, but only if they could get a telephone line over which to transmit transactions. 30 years ago, mobile ATMs were a standard, but individual vendors generally stuck with cash unless they had access to a dedicated credit card processor, which was ridiculously expensive for small and medium-sized vendors. 20 years ago, card readers were cheaper, to the point of anybody registering a business license for any sort of retail was flooded with spam calls offering “reasonable” prices for card transactions. Ten years ago, small vendors could do the occasional card transaction, but that was dependent upon specialized readers that only worked with certain PDAs and phones, and everything was dependent upon cellular phone networks that didn’t like each other or buildings with walls thicker than toilet paper. Now? Now, when I’m asked “do you take cards?”, I just laugh and ask “What do you think this is: the Twentieth Century?” Watching the incredible changes of the last half-century, can you blame me for being fond of the phrase “I love living in the future”?

(Seriously, for both vendors and attendees of events, try to keep your payment options diversified. For vendors, this means having a good card reader through a phone or tablet AND having plenty of change for those still paying with cash. For attendees, this means having a couple of options as far as cards are concerned: many banks will shut down transactions on a card that appears to be used across multiple states or countries, even though you physically moved only a few meters. As for cash, be kind and try to diversify: the only thing that will make a vendor hate you more than trying to buy a $2 item with a $100 bill is buying an expensive item with rolls of coins. One is a surprising prevention for the other: I give change for cash in dollar coins, partly because kids love them, and partly because the person facing getting back a kilo of change suddenly either finds a smaller bill or finds a card.)

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 8

Having been selling plants at shows and events for a decade, many beginning vendors ask for advice on which shows and events they should attend. Never you mind that asking my advice about shows and events is like asking for vegan recipes from Jeffrey Dahmer. Unlike so much of the advice requested by beginning writers and musicians, the question isn’t “how can I skip to the front of the line?” The question is, essentially, “How do I minimize my losses and my pain?” And that’s a really good question. It’s just a shame that nobody has a good answer for it. 

Part of the problem with answering that question is that every show is different. EVERY show. Even if you’ve been vending at the same show every year for a decade, all you need is a change of location or even a good impending storm to throw off everything. Competing shows deliberately scheduling opposite your show, a glitch in advertising, an accident on the highway that slows or stops incoming traffic for a few hours, a hotel name change…any of these can throw off attendance of an event, and I’ve come across all of these and a few more. Don’t even get me started on events with management changes between the last and the next show, where the only thing in common between the two shows is the title. (For that reason, one bit of advice I can give is to be really leery of events using the name of a once-beloved event that’s been dead for a while. The name was purchased for name recognition, but the odds of the new show having even the remote possibility of the audience of the old one are extremely remote.)

 The other part? It’s all about the intended audience. Some shows thrive on vendor variety, where attendees look forward to something new in each and every booth or tent. Others…well, not so much. My wife once slogged through a long weekend at an Oktoberfest show where the only potential customers she saw over three days were drunken fratbros looking for a traditional Oktoberfest “chicken hat“: they weren’t willing to pay more than $3 for one, and they had no interest in purchasing anything else but beer. On the other, her first big show was at a convention for mystery writers, where she and a friend were the only vendors carrying anything other than books. Until just a couple of years ago, this was her biggest grossing weekend ever, because family members and friends of the main attendees saw jewelry and exclaimed “Finally! Something other than books!” (Sadly, this show didn’t lead to future success at subsequent shows: one of the convention organizers was one of the book dealers, and since he felt that any sales going to anybody else were sales that weren’t going to him, he made sure that non-book dealers weren’t allowed back.) It’s Schrödinger’s Show: until you put the money down for a booth fee, take the time from your day job, arrive at the venue, and get set up, you have no idea how it’s going to go. That can even apply on individual days during a three- or four-day show: everyone who has been traveling to events for more than a few months will have stories about Friday and Saturday audiences being dead, only for Sunday’s crowd to converge and strip out everything before closing.

 And this advice for vendors applies to attendees, too. I can tell you about fellow vendors whose inventory may be enticing, but the only way you’ll find out which events would be worth your time is by hitting a lot of them and finding what works the best for you. Yes, that might cost money, but would you rather stay home and spend the rest of your life wondering on what you missed out?

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 7

And for this installment, a discussion of alcohol. Increasingly, as Texas’s and particularly Dallas’s alcohol sales and distribution laws start to enter the 18th Century, more local events with vendor spaces are allowing and encouraging beer and wine sales. Contrary to the panicked liturgies of Those With Authoritah, removing the patchwork of “wet” versus “dry” areas in Dallas and allowing every grocery store in town to sell beer and wine didn’t cause the city to become a booze-fueled Mad Max horrorscape. Well, that still happens every year with the Lower Greenville St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March and Texas/OU Weekend in October, but sane and tasteful people avoid those mass midlife crises anyway. Everywhere else, with events that aren’t already associated with projectile vomiting competitions, it’s nice and mellow. Yes, people will drink, and they’d probably smoke as well once Texas finally legalizes recreational cannabis. I can’t do either, so I figure “More for everyone else.”

That’s probably one of the best things about various events in the last decade: the easy access to well-controlled and well-monitored beer and wine as anxiety and shyness self-medication. Occasionally vendors get accidental spills, but not often, and the whole purpose behind drinking is to relax, not to get messed up. Even better, there’s no pressure to indulge, so those of us who can’t or don’t aren’t ostracized or needled into participating “because everyone else is doing it.” Dallas’s Fair Park held two events for two completely different audiences last weekend: the Oddities & Curiosities Expo and a “bier garden” beer tasting event. Want to guess which one had a crowd of socially lubricated and extremely pleasant attendees who knew better than to drink and drive, and which one was responsible for the dolt in a Lexus (but I repeat myself) driving the wrong way on a busy street who nearly hit me and three other people as I was leaving the Expo? The choice is simple: when your alcohol consumption makes the shade of Hunter S. Thompson yell “GET TREATMENT, NOW” in your ear, heed the advice. You’re harshing it for the rest of us.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 6

From a vendor’s perspective, one of the biggest regrets on being on that side of the cash register involves getting to visit with other vendors in a particular venue. Oh, YOU may be done and ready to go an hour before the door opens, but not everyone is that lucky, and interrupting fellow vendors while they’re trying to get the last touches in place is really bad form. The real irony is that the only chance most vendors get to talk to their neighbors after the venue opens to the public is if the show is horrible and the public doesn’t show up. At a good show, if you’re very lucky, you might get the chance to wave at neighbors once or twice in momentary slowdowns (and I really mean “momentary”) before the rush hits again and you start playing the game “What Character From The Walking Dead Are You?” (For the record, I’m Glenn. I’m always Glenn.)

 The particularly good news at last weekend’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo was that I’ve known my across-the-aisle neighbor for nearly 30 years, back from when he and I were neighbors in Exposition Park in the early 1990s. Jason Cohen of Curious Garden has been a fellow Dallas troublemaker for longer than I have, and I’m proud to announce that he’s hosting a repeat of last year’s carnivorous plant workshop sometime later this year.  The exact details are still open: right now, we’re both trying to get through the spring season rush with all of our tendons and ligaments still attached, but we’re trying to wrangle a time in the schedule, probably in mid-May. Details will follow as I get them.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 5

Another business proposal to fill my voluminous free time: unique enclosure decorations for smaller containers. Just as how a vast untapped market for darker garden decorations exists that isn’t being serviced by standard garden centers, and how so many of us have to hope that Halloween decorations from Target will survive an entire summer of sun and rain, the decorative options for those making indoor gardens from converted fishtanks and sushi trays is generally limited to the twee. Not that there’s anything wrong with fairies and forest animals if that’s your kink, but it may be time to consider a line of gonzo terrarium ornaments, both UV-resistant and leach-resistant, for the more discerning customer. It may be time to discuss licensing deals with a few artists or their estates, particularly Wayne Barlowe, H.R. Giger, and Charles R. Knight.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 4

A side venture inspired by a lack of a certain behavior at the Oddities & Curiosities Expo: I’m going to move into the carnivorous plant fertilizer business. In the last few years, several safe and effective foliar fertilizers for most carnivores have hit the market (whatever you do, never EVER try to fertilize sundews or butterworts, no matter what), but I’m looking at an effective name. After doing a bit of research into existing and lapsed copyrights (among other things, I discovered that the copyrights on several magazines and a weekly newspaper for which I worked in the 1990s were allowed to lapse, and I could buy them up with petty cash if I wanted to waste money and sanity trying to revive them), I’ve found a perfect one: a tie-in with a 20th Century Fox movie of the last decade. With the recent purchase of the vast majority of the former Fox empire by Disney, that property is now managed by a team very much willing to work with vendors willing to pay for limited product licenses. I don’t expect to make a lot of money off the fertilizer itself, but at shows where half of the attendees see carnivorous plants and start yelling “Feed me, Seymour!” at the tops of their lungs, I can hold up a big bottle of branded carnivorous plant fertilizer and yell back “Brawndo’s got what plants crave!

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 3

A minor observation based on years of anecdotal data: Dallas may have considerably more esoterics and nonconformists than what the city’s promotional bureau may want to advertise, but Texas’s real freak capitol is Houston. Oh, Austin has a reputation that precedes the 1960s, but when it comes to any gonzo event, Houstonites outnumber Austinites by about 30 to one. Even better, Houston folk see nothing wrong with hopping in the car or heading to the airport and taking a trip to get their esoterica fixes. In the last ten years since the Triffid Ranch started, some of my most enthusiastic and energetic customers, as well as some of my best and dearest friends, were Houstonites who came tearing up I-45 to see what Dallas had going on. Starting this year, I no longer have any excuse not to return the favor: Dallas isn’t the city everyone thought it was 25 years ago, and neither is Houston, and if the Oddities & Curiosities Expo sets up shop in Houston in 2020, I’ll be one of the first vendors applying for a booth.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 2

One of the more surprising aspects about last weekend’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo wasn’t the gigantic crowd. The surprise is that in spite of huge turnouts, events such as this are downplayed in Dallas under the idea that “Dallas is a really conservative city, so there’s not much of an interest in weird stuff.” Loyd Cryer, the founder of Texas Frightmare Weekend, heard the same thing over and over when he was first trying to get Frightmare off the ground. Today, if Frightmare isn’t the biggest horror convention in the country, it’s definitely in the top three, and easily most of its core audience hails from the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Considering the number of events intended for that perceived traditional Dallas audience that crash and burn, it may be time to acknowledge that my home town is a bastion of nontraditionals, and let our freak flag fly high and proud.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 1

Ah, to describe the general attendance at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo…well, everyone understood why the aisles between vendor rows were so wide, because otherwise whole sections would have been impassable. According to those who had been waiting in the cold and rain to get in, the line for tickets stretched around the Centennial Hall as late as 3:00 in the afternoon, and both the parking lots at Fair Park and the DART Green Line trains stopping at the Fair Park station were packed. Not that it was possible to see this, because Every vendor in the place was lucky to leave his/her booth until Fair Park security started shooing attendees toward the door at closing. In my own case, I came out with what I thought was a reasonable collection of plants, with a booth arrangement that could handle a reasonable crowd. When the crowds formed lines to get through booths, and customers were reaching across booth walls to view other vendors’ goods because they simply couldn’t get in, it wasn’t hard to make allusions to George Romero movies. Considering the general vibe of the show, and considering the crowd attending, those allusions were GOOD things.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – Introduction

To say that encountering the Oddities & Curiosities Expo was a surprise understates the case. This time last year, nobody within a wide circle of fellow Texas vendors had even heard of this traveling show: the first I personally had heard about it was an announcement of a show in Austin in November 2018. Considering that it was a week after the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show, I regretfully skipped on it: one round-trip drive to and from Austin is rough enough, but two within five days for two one-day shows would be pushing limits of endurance, and I had another show scheduled for the same weekend. Besides, after a punishing run of underwhelming first-time shows over the last few years, what were the chances of a first-year show in Austin, especially a traveling show, being worth the trip?

 That munching sound you hear is the sound of your humble proprietor eating crow. It’s not just that the show for which I skipped the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo was an unmitigated disaster: pulling off a big crow drumstick with 11 herbs and spices had to wait until the Expo came to Dallas at the end of March. I’ve made some spectacularly dumb mistakes in my life: assuming that Make magazine was going to be a failure, passing on buying $10,000 in Apple stock at the end of 1997, and attending my sister’s wedding, among many others. Missing an Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Texas will rate at least on the level of the wedding, based on what happened in Dallas.

 The show started easily enough: easy access for loading in plants on the Friday before, with cloudy but warm skies and an enthusiastic show staff to manage things. At first, especially with a venue as big as Centennial Hall in Fair Park, it seemed a little sparse, with lots of aisle space compared to the vendor booths, and about half of the booths were still empty. No big deal, I thought: lots of folks would arrive on Saturday morning before the show opened, and that’s precisely what happened. Even then, setup was easy, and when it was time to clear the area on Friday afternoon, everything went smashingly. A few things still had to be done, such as completing new signs and notices, so Friday night was spent working on organizing everything that would be out there at opening. 

(Incidentally, a major addition to the Triffid Ranch booth is an entry into the 21st Century: QR codes and more URLs in place of postcards and business cards. Part of this was due to comparing notes with fellow vendors about “card collectors,” who grab up cards and anything else that’s free and never return. The biggest reason, though, is that by the end of this decade, a phone that can take pictures isn’t a luxury: it’s an essential accessory, and someone visiting the booth is much less likely to lose a business card than to lose a phone. This is part of a general experiment, and it seemed to work remarkably well over the run of the show, especially for those who wanted to get more information but didn’t necessarily want to come in too close.)

 Saturday, though, started out rough. The National Weather Service warned about the cold front passing through that morning, but nobody was expecting the rainstorms that came with it. With shows of this sort, vendors worry about rain, especially cold rain, because a good stout storm is enough to convince most potential attendees to stay home. The Expo opened at 10:00 for advance VIP ticket holders who paid extra to get first dibs, and we vendors noted that the crowd appeared to be friendly and enthusiastic but a little sparse. There was a little time to get something to eat and drink or hit the restroom, and boy oh boy were we all glad to do so, because when the doors opened for general attendees at 11:00…

To be continued…

“Overture, Turn the Lights…”

There’s always plenty of time for preparation, until there isn’t. This weekend’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Dallas’s Fair Park kicks off the Texas Triffid Ranch show season, and that season will be going full-bore until November this year. Come out Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm for the Expo, or come out to the gallery for next weekend’s Manchester United Flower Show on April 6. After that, hang on, because it’s time to get busy.

No Sleep Til Perot

Perot Museum's glowing frogs

For those attending tonight’s Social Science night at the Perot Museum, see you there. For everyone who can’t, that’s why the gallery is hosting a Groundhog Day open house on February 2. Either way, it’s time to hit the road.