Category Archives: Things to Do in Dallas When You’re Dead

The Triffid Ranch Schedule…So Far

Three weeks until the big Triffid Ranch 3.0 gallery reboot, and time tends to get away from me, hence the relative lack of updates. As always, everything runs on Riddell’s Law of Artistic Expression (“All art forms derive from painting, because every artist has to find something else to do while waiting for the paint to dry”), but it’s all coming together, along with new enclosures to go with the new front area. It’s the getting there that’s the aggravating part, but that can’t be helped.

Both before and after the gallery reopening, the fun just keeps coming. To start off, the summer Porch Sales continue through June, but taking note of our impending record afternoon temperatures by starting at 8:00 am and ending at 1:00 pm before the day gets too bad. (After the gallery reopens, these will switch between Saturday outdoor sales and Sunday indoor events, both to give opportunities to attend from visitors with prior Saturday commitments and just to give folks a break from the constant lead-smelter heat.) Right now, the next Porch Sales are scheduled for June 11 and 25, but they’ll keep going until Halloween and move inside for rain, snow, asteroid strikes and random volcanic eruptions.

Why nothing on June 18, you ask? Well, that’s because as mentioned in the past, the Triffid Ranch hits the road to go to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Event Center that Saturday. This will be the last Oddities & Curiosities Expo show for the Triffid Ranch in 2022, as well as the last one in Texas for the year, so until the new O&C schedule comes out around Halloween, get your tickets now. If the crowds are anything like they were in 2021, the Austin show may well be sold out by midday, and you won’t want to miss this.

This won’t be the last Triffid Ranch show outside of the gallery, either: word just got back about the final Aquashella Dallas floor layout for August 6 and 7, and the Triffid Ranch is near the front door at Dallas Market Hall. In addition, the Triffid Ranch returns to the Palmer Event Center for its seventh year and sixth Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays dark bazaar on November 27 and 27: I purchased the booth as soon as the word came out, because there’s no way I’ll miss it this year.

Oh, and it isn’t on the official calendar just yet, but the Triffid Ranch finally breaks through to the Dallas Arboretum this year, for a lecture on carnivorous plants at the Arboretum on October 28 starting at 11:00 am. This should be perfect timing, as all of the Sarracenia and flytraps should be at their best autumn color before going dormant in November, and there’s no better time for outdoor events in Dallas than the end of October. As usual, details will follow as I get them.

Is this it? That’s a really good question, as a lot of other possibilities are only now coming together. A demonstration of cartoonist Sam Hurt’s adage “it’s not a small world: it’s a big world that’s folded over so many times” involves a return of Triffid Ranch carnivorous plant workshops at the newly reconstituted Curiosities near the Dallas Arboretum (the old Lakewood location is shutting down and everything moved to the space next to the current Curious Garden) is that Curiosities owner and old Exposition Park neighbor Jason Cohen went to high school and college with the Triffid Ranch 3.0 designer Susan Duval. It’s with that in mind that I note that regular carnivore workshops return to Curiosities this year after the move is complete. There’s even a discussion on the Triffid Ranch hosting a Dallas Carbaret outdoor drive-in showing this summer, running either the best documentary about life in 1980s Dallas ever made or the best documentary about Dallas goth culture ever made, complete with a barbecue truck.

That’s it for the moment: now it’s time to get back to plant repotting. See you soon.

2022 Porch Sales: May 21

Many people get excited on the approach of major holidays, particularly Christmas and Halloween, and others on the approach of the official date for a particular season. It’s been decades since grade and high school, but there’s also the electricity of the calendar approaching the end of the school year. Even after years of the monotony of the day job schedule, there’s still that smell in the air that sets off the anticipation: “Summer vacation is ALMOST HERE.” It’s all about the promise that things will be different, and that everything you accomplish for the rest of the year depends upon what you do in the next few weeks, that makes this time of the year my favorite.

Of course, the first big explosions of growth among the carnivores doesn’t hurt, either. By this point in North Texas, all of the temperate carnivores are awake and active, taking advantage of the corresponding insect bounty. The recent torrential rains certainly helped, so everything is awake, stretching, and wondering what summer is going to bring. Summer could go any number of directions (this IS Texas, after all), but both plants and overgrown kids are rising to the challenge.

For those who haven’t had a chance before now, the last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale for May starts at 10:00 on May 28 and runs until 3:00: if the current weather forecasts are accurate, it’ll end right about the time Dallas gets into its traditional Memorial Day heatwave. If you can’t make it Saturday, the Porch Sales are going to take a short break for June 4 for restocking and regenerating, and then they start again on June 11 and 25. (Wondering about June 18? Look to the Palmer Event Center in downtown Austin for the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo.) Either way, see you then.

The Start of the 2022 Porch Sales

The intention was to take things easy with the first of the Triffid Ranch Porch Sales in 2022, but the universe had other ideas. Between horrendous windstorms in the Dallas area on the previous Friday night and record high temperatures on that Saturday, I wouldn’t have blamed anybody for clutching the air conditioner like a teddy bear and staying as far away from the yellow hurty thing in the sky as possible. The fact that so many people were willing to ignore potential cremation is greatly appreciated, and I thank you all.

As it was, as hot as it was, things should be getting interesting over the next week. The forecast is still tentative, but there’s a likelihood of storms this next Friday, leading to considerably cooler temperatures on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, many more plants are emerging from winter dormancy, so the rest of May should be much more auspicious.

For everyone who either had other commitments or couldn’t bear to let go of Coolant Mother, the Porch Sales continue through the year, at least until after Halloween, with the next two on May 21 and 28. See you then, and with luck, the weather will be much more comfortable.

Have a Safe Weekend

Well, that was a good recovery weekend, but now it’s time to get back to work. The first of the 2022 Porch Sales starts on Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm (all the better to avoid the afternoon heat), and that’s just the stuff you’ll be able to see. Just wait until the gallery renovation is done.

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 – 3

While this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend was the first-ever event of its sort for a significant percentage of its attendees, the long-timers are reasons to come out to a show in their own right. By way of example, let me introduce everyone to Diane Tran, a fixture in Dallas’s cosplay community and a powerhouse within the Dallas Paleontological Society. With the exception of the year where she spent the weekend in the hospital, Diane comes out to celebrate her birthday, and it’s not a Frightmare without her (in the photo above, in her Kay Lawrence swimsuit) causing trouble. She’s always welcome at the Triffid Ranch table and everywhere else, and she’s enough of a regular at Triffid Ranch open houses that I don’t know whether to pay her or start charging her rent. Life without her is like a broken pencil.

Diane wasn’t the only regular coming by, either. For many of us, we hadn’t seen hide nor hair of each other since May of 2019, so much of the show was dedicated to catching up. A few of us didn’t make it, and those who didn’t know were soon appraised and updated by everyone else. Compared to the dealer’s rooms at other conventions, Frightmare prides itself on its dealers being not so much family but an extended class reunion, and some of us go back long before Frightmare was ever even a dream. Speaking of which, go give some love and business to Drink With the Living Dead: Robert Whitus, its proprietor, is getting ready to go in for surgery, and he’s enough of an independent cuss that he’d much prefer to pay for the surgery by everyone getting a collection of hand-etched pint and shot glasses.

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…

Upcoming Events: 2022 Porch Sales

Now that Texas Frightmare Weekend is over and the weather is getting stable, by North Texas standards, it’s time to start up the third year of Triffid Ranch Porch Sales while the gallery undergoes renovation and renewal. The first Porch Sale of 2022 starts on Saturday, May 14 at 10:00 am, ending at 3:00 pm, with redux on May 21 and 28 and possibly one Memorial Day Weekend encore on May 29. Feel free to spread the word.

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.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 3

If there was any downside to this first Oddities & Curiosities Expo, it was that just like everyone else, an increase in prices was inevitable this year. The last time fuel prices went this high, back when the Triffid Ranch was a tiny operation, fuel costs for shipping was enough to move so many businesses to using plastic instead of glass for storage (take a look at a typical grocery store and note that about the only things in the condiments section in glass are ones incorporating lots of vinegar if you don’t believe me). For a lot of reasons, this really isn’t an option as far as the plants are concerned (he said, once again rueful about the effects of Texas sun on most plastics), so everything had to jump in price a bit.

The upside was having a conglomerate of customers who not only understood, but still commented on how low prices were. Well, I’m trying my utmost: as I’m constantly trying to explain to MBAs who want to argue about the viability of a carnivorous plant gallery (most of whom have problems spelling “MBA” without at least a spotter and a coach), making a profit is important, but it’s not the only reason for doing this. Yeah, the look on kids’ faces when they see a carnivorous plant up close for the first time isn’t something that pays the rent, but if profit was the sole criterion for doing this, I’d start a hedge fund.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 2

For all of the praise you’ll see coming from this direction about the Oddities & Curiosities Expos, one thing I can’t recommend is any particular vendor to recommend. It’s not that I can’t think of any, or that each Expo hall isn’t packed solid with intriguing and fascinating vendors carrying items of all sorts. The problem is that I’m lucky to be able to get out of the Triffid Ranch booth space the whole day long, so seeing anybody else except in passing just isn’t an option. Apologies to my cohorts and colleagues in this: all I can tell everybody else is “go buy lots of great stuff from everybody else, too.”

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 1

Now that things are going back to something approximating “normal” (although I wonder who decided the baseline), it’s quite nice to get back to taking the Triffid Ranch on the road. The Oddities & Curiosities Expo remains one of the best shows of its type for road trips: it runs in multiple cities through the year, each Expo has a good mix of local vendors and vendors who follow most if not all of the annual tour, and each Expo runs in a locale with excellent parking and an easy-to-access venue. In a way, it also doesn’t hurt that each Expo is only a one-day affair: with both Dallas and Austin shows, we vendors are nearly stripped clean by the close of business, and a second day might just kill us all. At the same time, the number of interesting people, both newcomers and old friends, at each show makes it that much harder to break down and go home on Saturday, because there’s a part that wishes that greeting everyone on a Sunday was an option.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – Introduction

It’s a little hard to believe that the first Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo was only three years ago, and not just because everything before March 2020 feels like the Ordovician. The crew, the attendees, the venue…everything and everybody was running on all cylinders in 2022, leading to one of the largest and most intense shows this humble chronicler has ever experienced. In 14 years of Triffid Ranch shows, not only is the Oddities & Curiosities Expo the Euclidean ideal of how events of this type should be run, but it’s the one traveling show that would get me to plan an out-of-state event without hesitation.

Oh, there were issues, but those were completely unavoidable. The ice storms that hit Dallas in February and early March assured that Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants were just starting to wake up from their winter dormancy, so the variety of carnivores for attendees to view was a little limited. That didn’t bother anybody at all, and the only real issue was having enough room for everyone to get a good look at the plants without having to crawl on each other. Considering the size of the crowd, the crawling part was a challenge.

To be continued…

Boosting the Signal: Lunar New Year Open House

It may be a bit premature, but it’s been two years since the gallery has seen a Lunar New Year open house, predating the current nightmare by a month, and it’s time to bring it back. The next Triffid Ranch open house is scheduled for Saturday, February 5 from noon to 5:00 pm, and Arioch willing, I’ll be finished moving by then.

“Hands up: who likes me?”

Far be it for me to steal a byline from the local writer best known as “The James Lipton of Fandom,” but the 2021 Best in DFW Reader’s Choice Awards were announced today, and the Triffid Ranch won Bronze in “Best Art Gallery.” Many thanks to everyone who voted, and I promise not to let this honor go to my head.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2021 – 5

While Texas Frightmare Weekend always starts off with the hope that it could go on longer, like for a week, the absolute reality is that by the time things close down on Sunday evening, we’re kaput. The staff has been running on pure adrenaline and doughnuts for the previous week, and that’s not talking about all of the prep necessary to get things organized in the first place. Some of the attendees stay for an extra day or so at the hotel, taking in the luxury and the company of fellow late-travelers, but the overwhelming majority have work, school, or other obligations on Monday, and they need a week to recuperate. The vendors…well, many of us have day jobs as well, others have to get going to get to their next show, and still others have to go back to workspaces to make more items for the rest of the season, as Frightmare patrons have cleared us out. With the Triffid Ranch, there’s the additional aspect of having to get remaining plants under lights, so Sunday evening after the vendors’ rooms close is a matter of packing up glass, plants, and water as best as possible, getting it loaded into the truck that brought everything out there, getting on the road east toward the gallery, and hoping that no idiot on the highway decides to check his brakes for no reason. The excitement doesn’t stop when the show’s over, and it’s only time to relax after the plants are loaded at the gallery, the truck gets returned, and the only vital activity remaining is to brush teeth and go to bed. Oh, and dream about plans for the next year.

The official announcement on the 2022 Texas Frightmare Weekend hasn’t been made yet, but all of us vendors are awaiting word to reserve our tables, and everyone else is making plans for accommodations and travel. Since TFW won’t be facing anywhere near so much competition for time next May, as so many other horror conventions will be spread out over the year instead of concentrated in September and October, expect a lot of old and new faces, and expect vendors pushing themselves to the limit to bring out the best they can get. At this end, this of course means lots of new plants (I’m waiting to see how Genlisea and Roridula seedlings turn out, and if we don’t get another massive freeze in February, expect a sideline of hot peppers), lots of new concepts, and a serious need to both wear myself out and recharge over those three days in April and May.

Finally, this proprietor wishes to thank everyone involved with Texas Frightmare Weekend and the Hyatt Regency DFW, particularly the security and support crew. You lot work harder than anyone else, and I’d bring steaks instead of doughnuts on Sunday morning if I thought any of you would take the time to eat. Take care, and we’ll see you next year.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2021 – 4

Two stories to explain why Texas Frightmare Weekend works as well as it does, and one involves doughnuts. The other, more important story involved a remembrance. With Frightmare running for 15 years, it’s inevitable that attendees, guests, and staff would have died in that time, and Frightmare took the time to remember them. It wasn’t just about remembering big stars who died in the last decade, such as Angus Scrimm and George Romero, but everybody who was touched by Frightmare and in turn remain in our memories.

One of the most touching involved the first security chief Jeb Bartlett: Jeb was such an integral part of what made Frightmare work that when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, we all came running to help. The last time I saw him was at the 2019 Frightmare, still giving grief to those of us who deserved it (and he was one of those guys who ribbed the people he liked the most, and we all loved him because he kept us honest), but he would have wanted to have been involved with the proceedings in 2021. In a way, he was: some of his ashes were scattered around a tree outside the hotel where he could be found during his breaks, because it just isn’t a Frightmare without Jeb in it.

The other story is much more minor, but one in which I’m involved. The second year that Frightmare ran at the current hotel in DFW Airport, Caroline and I were picking up a few items in a grocery store on Sunday morning before heading out for the convention’s final push, and I noticed a big box of doughnuts lying next to the checkout where someone had discarded them. Instead of simply cursing out someone’s laziness in not returning them, I figured “I wonder if anybody at Frightmare needs breakfast” and bought them. As it turned out, several of our fellow vendors hadn’t had the chance to get breakfast, but the security crew really needed a boost, and that empty box was left spinning like something out of a Chuck Jones cartoon. From then on, the message was clear: “Bring doughnuts on Sunday, no matter what.”

2021’s last day started the way I had hoped 2020’s last day would have: an early trip to our favorite doughnut shop in Garland, picking up six dozen random doughnuts for the staff and a dozen for fellow vendors, and dragging them down to the lower level of the hotel to pass them out. You have no idea how much both newbies and experienced staffers looked forward to a bit of extra energy to get them through the day, and those doughnuts didn’t go to waste. Even at the end of the show, when everyone else went home and only we vendors working with glass or heavy gear or both were still breaking down, the support crew that came in to break down the pipe and drape cleared out what was left.

That’s what makes Texas Frightmare Weekend unique among Texas and particularly Dallas conventions: the sense of community. In nearly 40 years of Texas science fiction/fantasy/comic/horror conventions, I couldn’t think of another that would have gotten together for a tribute to absent friends, or at least a tribute without drama. So many of the attendees and vendors had been going long enough that we knew each other by first names, and legitimately worried if someone was all right if they didn’t show. Fall 2021 is full of horror conventions and shows in Texas and elsewhere trying to make up for lost time, but you didn’t hear complaints about vendors and guests having to cancel because they had other obligations elsewhere. (Or, if complaints were made, they weren’t made in public.) Instead, the general attitude was “Well, we’ll see them next time,” with a firm understanding that they were coming back at the first available opportunity. The overwhelming emotion at Texas Frightmare Weekend 2021 was of a big and scattered family that was just glad to be able to get together again, and hoping that this would be one of many.

As it turns out, while it’s not announced on the Web site yet, expect 2022’s Frightmare at its usual date of the first week of May. All of us are making plans, and there’s always room for new folks.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2021 – 3

At my age, it’s always a little scary when something you love celebrates an anniversary in the double digits, because you’re always afraid that this might be the last one. That’s happened a lot in the last few years, especially in the last year. The very good news is that this isn’t happening with Texas Frightmare Weekend, either right away or in the foreseeable future. As someone with nearly 40 years of conventions and events under his belt, and someone who plans to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary in November of the one of the worst convention experiences I’ve ever endured, Frightmare is how you do it, folks. This is how you balance the needs of attendees, vendors, guests, staff, security, and hotel employees so everyone is happy, and any convention chair whose excuse for failure is “Well, at least we TRIED!” needs to talk to the Frightmare crew, at all levels, to rectify that or else have everyone assume that they like things broken and dysfunctional.

A discussion on why Frightmare works so well is upcoming, but the proof is in the pudding. At a time when many conventions, big or small, are lucky to celebrate three anniversaries, Frightmare reached 15 in 2021. Sure, it was a little late due to extenuating circumstances, but even during the worst of the lockdown, this was a convention that organized virtual events and outdoor events to keep up a lively and diverse community. When your weekly Twitch streams are so much more lively, friendly, and respectful than the 2020 Hugo Awards presentation, that’s a sign that you’re doing things right, and if conventions were run this well back in 1990, I would have spent my twenties being considerably less angry.