Tag Archives: lectures and events

The Aftermath: DFW Tap Talks, August 2021

As someone who can’t drink, going to bars and clubs can be problematic. Live music venues means dealing with dolts more worried about recording the whole show than the people whose views are obscured by their phones and tablets. Dance clubs always have that one jerk DJ who responds to patrons attempting to talk by cranking the music to levels that make communication other than semaphore impossible. Most other hooks to attract patrons involve copious purchase and consumption of alcohol, which gives no incentive for those of us who can’t imbibe, and Arioch help the involuntarily sober who turns down drinks from someone who insists “just have ONE.” After a certain age, it’s just easier to skip out than to deal with the aggravation, particularly in areas where blackout drunkenness was a badge of honor. (Thus, why I haven’t lived in northeast Wisconsin in 35 years and have no interest in returning.)

But what if you could mix both groups through a common goal? Like hard science, perhaps?

That’s not to say that mixing science and cocktails is anything new. Just in the Dallas area alone, the now-delayed Social Science exhibitions at the Perot Museum mixed the best of both worlds (pun intended) with open galleries and active cash bars. DFW Tap Talks goes in the opposite direction: instead of encouraging partiers to come out for science, why not encourage science to come out to the partiers?

The DFW Tap Talks formula is easy: invite a series of experts to an easily accessible alcohol establishment to expound on a specific subject for 15 to 20 minutes, followed by as many questions as the audience has, a quick intermission to allow patrons to stock up on both food and drink, This time, for the first Tap Talk since COVID-19 lockdown, the venue was Rahr and Sons in Fort Worth, where the science trivia competition started just before dusk, the conversations with and between physics majors was fast and furious, and the stage was filled with and surrounded by experts with much more robust educational credentials than I. It was the best open non-vending event to which the Triffid Ranch had been invited in YEARS.

For those unable to attend for various reasons, past Tap Talks are also available on YouTube for convenient viewing, with each new one being livestreamed in progress. As for new ones, I’ve already volunteered to put together something more Halloween-oriented in October, involving Nepenthes pitcher plants, and I’m just waiting word on particulars. Based on this one, I’d be honored to get up onstage alongside my presentation colleagues in the future and keep doing this for a while.

The Aftermath: Attack of the Carnivorous Plant Workshop at Curious Garden

Back in the days before quarantine, when we still thought that 2020 was going to be a typical year, the plan was to host a series of carnivorous plant workshops at Curious Garden in Dallas. Jason Cohen, the co-owner, has had to deal with me for 30 years as of this November, when we were neighbors in Exposition Park, and most of our encounters make him regret not killing me when he had the chance, so when he suggested the first workshops two years ago, naturally I jumped at it. Previous events offered the chance for participants to go home with a complete sundew or butterwort enclosure, and it was time to move up into Nepenthes pitcher plants. 17 months after the originally planned workshop, we still made it happen.

Then as now, the concept was simple: getting a group together, lecturing about the basics on carnivorous plants, and then putting together a step-by-step enclosure. Thankfully, practice and a lot of time to rework the concept during quarantine made perfect, so all of the attendees walked in to find a box with components, a cup on top, and a tub nearby full of Nepenthes seedlings. Everything else was negotiable.

While the audience wasn’t quite as big as at previous Curious Garden events, not only was this completely understandable due to Delta variant concerns throughout Dallas, not to mention the beginnings of a typical August heat wave, but everyone who came out was extremely enthusiastic. The greatest compliment an audience can pay a lecturer is to ask really good questions, and the folks at Curious Garden asked some really, really good questions.

As for future events, we’re still deliberating on the next workshop: right now, the tentative plan is for waiting after the temperate carnivore growing season ends in November and running a set of holiday workshops. Details will follow as they come through, but rest assured that Jason isn’t rid of me yet.

State of the Gallery: June 2021

And here’s where it gets interesting. Got a few minutes? Well, let’s compare notes.

To start off, as mentioned a little while back, May 2021 was the busiest month for the gallery since the Triffid Ranch first put down roots back in 2015. June already exceeded that, and we still have a week and change to go. It’s been a blowout month for commissions, the Porch Sales have been a hit, and now that outside shows are starting up again, things are getting intense. Last weekend’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in Austin not only was the biggest one-day show since this little carnivorous plant gallery started up, but it was the first time nearly EVERYTHING sold at a show since the first trip to Texas Frightmare Weekend in 2009. As I joked with fellow Expo vendors in the same situation, a few more enclosures go home with people, and I’d be able to fly back.

Not that June is over: aside from appointments to schedule commissions, we still have the June 27 Porch Sale to consider, taking advantage of unusually (for North Texas in summer) cool and cloudy weather this coming weekend. I can also assure new and established customers that nearly everything you see will be new, because just about everything sold last weekend and it’s time to restock. After that, it’s a matter of getting ready for the July Carnivorous Plant Weekend on July 3 (4:00 pm to 9:00 pm) and July 4 (10:00 am to 3:00 pm).

Not that everything is smooth: the Thursday evening Twitch installments will have to be delayed for a while in order to work out technical issues with the gallery’s Internet connection. (It’s the same situation at home, but here, I suspect that someone’s porn download habit exceeds everyone else’s total wireless consumption by about 5 to 1, especially in the early hours before dawn,) Once the wonderful folks at AT&T figure out why the wireless connection keeps cutting out every ten seconds during a stream, it’ll be back.

Another issue involves the Day Job, that which guarantees both regular income to keep the gallery going through lean times and job benefits. The schedule is up in the air at the moment, but trips to the East Coast might be necessary through July and August, directly affecting gallery events. Because of this, July and August might be a little quiet, but that should be rectified through the rest of the year, especially when things start cooling off.

As for outside events, the sixth anniversary of the gallery’s opening coincides with the revival of DFW Tap Talks, science lectures in a bar environment, and that first event features your humble gallery owner discussing “Insects: They’ve Got What Plants Crave!” at Rohr & Sons in Fort Worth. Naturally, as they expand events into Dallas, we’ll be trying those, too.

Otherwise, with things reopening again, it’s time to go back to old friends, which is why the Triffid Ranch returns once again to Austin for Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays 7, as if they could keep me away. Since two years have elapsed since the last one, expect a lot of new surprises, and not just because of the improved venue.

And one last bit. I can’t talk about particulars just yet because it hasn’t been hammered down yet, but something big, on a personal level, is coming up in October. Let’s just say that it involves a road trip from 30 years ago, an opportunity to meet old friends and annoy old aggravations, and introduce a whole new crew to the joys of carnivorous plants. Let’s also say that when I got the offer, the last time I used the phrase “I feel like Anton LaVey getting an invitation to the Pope’s bat mitzvah,” this was during my writing days when I received a critic’s preview invitation to see Star Wars: Episode One in 1999. When I can talk about it further, people who knew me back then will boogie ‘til they puke, and those who only know me as a gentle purveyor of carnivorous plants will get to see a whole new world. Details will follow.

Well, enough of that. Time to get get back to editing the photos from the Oddities & Curiosities Expo, of which there are SO MANY. Talk to you soon.

International Carnivorous Plant Day

Well, it’s finally here. International Carnivorous Plant Day runs all day on May 5, and expect to see Triffid Ranch exclusives later in the evening. With a holiday like this, who needs birthdays?

State of the Gallery: April 2021

Ah, it’s not an April without drastic environmental and social change, usually with multiple situations happening at once. April 2021 keeps on keepin’ on, and it’s only halfway finished.

Before getting into details on the gallery, please note a very important caveat on any plans involving the Triffid Ranch. Caroline’s mother Nancy, an essential part of the gallery’s beginnings (some of you may have met her when she would come to early Triffid Ranch shows before the gallery, and a regular guest at open houses and events after the gallery first opened), has been in hospice for a while, and her condition continues to deteriorate. Her situation and continued comfort is paramount in our lives right now, so please understand if we don’t answer questions right away or can’t schedule appointments at this time.

On that line, because we need to be in close range if she needs additional help, any Triffid Ranch events by necessity will be close and brief. Because of news this morning, we’ve had to cancel attending the Plano Music & Arts Fest this weekend, and will make it up by rescheduling last weekend’s planned Porch Sale for Sunday, April 18. If you can’t make it this Sunday, barring further mishap, the Manchester United Flower Show runs on Sunday, April 25 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm as well.

(As for last Sunday’s last-minute Porch Sale cancellation, chalk that up to complications of being a responsible adult. As of last Saturday, I became a fully vaccinated adult human, and didn’t have any issue for the rest of the day other than a slight ache in my left shoulder. About 18 hours later, though, the oft-noted side effects for COVID-19-susceptible Moderna vaccine recipients kicked in, with severe fever, joint and muscle aches, and generally all of the non-lung side effects of a severe bout of viral pneumonia. As uncomfortable as it was, having as bad a reaction as this signified that my cells were more susceptible than most to a COVID-19 infection, and severe weakness and pain is a lot better than death. Now that those side effects finally wore off, it’s back to outdoor shows, absolutely with masks at all times to make sure.)

Through May, that’s going to be an ongoing situation: weekly events at the gallery and a relative minimum of events away. That’s not an absolute (there’s no way I’d miss the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin in June, for instance), but between weather fluctuations and some truly ridiculous booth fees for local events, staying home and setting up at the gallery makes more sense. In fact, as these take off, it may be time to invite other vendors, just to give others a chance to get back into setup and breakdown practice.

Finally, some other good news. The ongoing contest to give away one of three custom carnivorous plant enclosures to a local business continues until April 21, and participants are finally understanding that it’s not a scam nor a data mining attempt. Final voting starts week after next, where everyone’s encouraged to vote for their favorites, but feel free to let friends and cohorts know before then. Now let’s see about getting those enclosures new homes.

New Triffid Ranch Events – April 2021

Because people are already asking about upcoming events at the gallery, the Eventbrite listings for both next weekend’s Porch Sale and the Manchester United Flower Show on April 25 are now live, so feel free to share them early and often. Right now, everything is starting at 10:00 am and ending at 4:00 pm, but that will likely change after the beginning of May, weather willing. You really don’t want to be outside in Dallas on a late Sunday afternoon in July, do you?

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 3

Want to know how this started? Here’s the beginning.

In all of the strangeness and horror of the last year, the Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in Dallas suggested a possible end, if we’re willing to take it. Yes, Texas Governor Greg Abbott dropped statewide mask and social distancing mandates under pressure from campaign contributors wanting to go “back to normal” (translated: “back to brunch at Cheesecake Factory”), but individual businesses and venues may set up their own guidelines as they see fit. Since it’s a traveling tour, O&CE restarted this year under the proviso that mask discipline would be enforced, and vendors or attendees who violated it would be asked to leave without refund. Even so, we had a few people who acted like wearing their masks as chinstraps was somehow playing hooky (especially the ones who acted as if a mask that dropped below their noses could never be put back into place), and one bigwig who was legitimately shocked that a mere booth proprietor would dare request that he put his mask back on, but the vast majority of attendees? We may not be thrilled with wearing masks a year later, and we struggled with issues with hearing loss and terminal mumbling, but that was all so that, Elvis willing, the 2022 show wouldn’t require any.

When everything finished, one of the organizers came by as the booth was coming down and asked how all of us vendors were doing and if they could do anything differently. I was completely and painfully honest: I don’t make comparisons to Texas Frightmare Weekend lightly, but Oddities & Curiosities is Frightmare’s equal in efficiency, courtesy, and sheer fun. For those who couldn’t make it to Dallas in March, the Triffid Ranch will be in Austin on June 19, and there’s simply no way that I’d skip out on any 2022 shows in Texas. That’s the highest compliment a vendor can pay.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 2

Want to know how this started? Here’s the beginning.

Friends from outside North Texas are always surprised to discover that Dallas has a very deep and very thorough gonzo streak. “You’re talking about Austin, right?”, some ask. Others, whose sole experience with Dallas comes from the 1980s sitcom of the same name (and trust me, that show was a sitcom), scoff “Dallas is a cultural wasteland!” While Dallas can take credit for being the home of so many forms of cultural homogenization (I once lived a literal rock’s throw from the headquarters of Brinker, the restaurant conglomerate behind Chili’s), it’s not all McMansions, bad bleach jobs, and worse cocaine. Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met in my life either lived in Dallas or came from Dallas, and that was partly due to understanding the phrase attributed to the writer Richard Wright of “Put down your bucket where you are.”

The simple truth is that Dallas’s odd history was always either wallpapered or coopted by proud gatekeepers, so we learned to keep our candles under a bushel basket. Until very recently, VERY recently, any news coverage, either paper or broadcast, on nonconformist events was either spiked or shoved into a template of “Hey, look at the freaks!” The co-option was deadlier: get an enclave of like-minded Nightbreed situated in town, and first the area was swamped by drunken SMU brats wanting a nice slumming session on the weekend, and then the properties were bought up and gentrified all out of recognition. We didn’t have the money or the clout to fight it, so we just always kept at least one bag packed at all times in preparation for the notice that we’d have 30 days to move out before that great record shop or that wonderful band venue was razed and turned into fratbro condos.

And here’s the funny part. As opposed to Austin and Portland, whose reputations as iconoclast havens were dependent upon a constant inflow of people declaring just a little too loudly “I’m expressing my individuality,” Dallas oddballs just waited. We didn’t get a flood of hipsters and attention addicts because the people they were trying to impress didn’t care, and they rapidly flounced off to Brooklyn or Seattle. Instead, Dallas attracted and retained a crowd that wanted to get things done instead of talking endlessly about what they were going to do one of these days when the stars were right and they no longer had to wait for their inheritance. Bit by bit, so many people who really liked the good things about Dallas worked on little bits and chunks, to where we have places like the Kessler and the Texas Theater and Panoptikon and the Oak Cliff Halloween Parade and bike paths that actually go somewhere. Dallas isn’t perfect, but as someone who will celebrate a full 40 years here in December, it’s not the place in which I grew up, and we all salute the places and events that were wilonskyed and then assimilated to death back in the day that helped make this happen.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows in Dallas might have done as well as they are now if they’d started in 1995, or 1985. However, now we have a large enough crowd willing to put our bucket down where we are that its success is so much sweeter.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 1

Want to know where this started? Here’s the beginning.

The traveling Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows are relative newcomers to Texas: the first Dallas show was only in 2019, and the only other city in the state served by the Expos is Austin. Otherwise, they range all across the United States, spread out far enough that attendees aren’t overwhelmed by too many shows close by. The vendors all spread through the outré, from bone collectors to taxidermy restorers to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and each show is carefully curated (a term horribly abused over the last decade but completely appropriate here) to maximize the variety of vendors. At each Expo, attendees have the options of curios, natural history, horror and fantastic art, and exotic clothing, and two shows so far have one goofball carrying carnivorous plants.

Another aspect of why the Expos are so successful has to do with thoughtful and succinct advertising and promotion. Instead of blanketbombing an area with advertising that probably won’t reach the people most likely to attend and annoy the people least likely, the Expos work predominantly with word-of-mouth, augmented but not replaced by social media. One of the more charming aspects of its touring schedule is running new shows within a reasonable distance of a previous show, a few months later, so that those who missed one have the option of waiting a year or making a road trip. The upshot for Dallas vendors is that about a third of the attendees had been waiting since 2019 to come out again, a third were from outside the Dallas area but who wanted to see what was in Dallas that wouldn’t be in their local area, and a third would have come out no matter what.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – Introduction

As of April, the Texas Triffid Ranch has been showing up to events and shows throughout the Dallas area and elsewhere for 13 years. Not all of those shows have been great ones: remind me to tell you the “Friends of Fair Park” stories one of these days. However, after 13 years, it’s easy to list the ones where sales may not have been the greatest, but the crew and attendees were so much fun to be around that sales didn’t matter that much. It’s easy to list the blowouts, and the shows where the van was nearly empty going back home, and the shows where you made friends that will be with you for the rest of your life. Out of all of those, the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows are one of the most exhausting. This isn’t a bad thing.

As with almost every other Triffid Ranch show of 2020, last year’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo was rescheduled and then re-rescheduled, but the O&C crew figured that the drop in COVID-19 cases in Dallas County in the last few months made a cautious opening worthwhile. For the most part, attendees reciprocated (although some responded to “Sir, I have to ask you to pull up your mask” or “please put on a mask” as if asked “Sir, all patrons are required to put on a corset”), and a grand time was had by all.

As for the Triffid Ranch, having an event at the end of March is problematic only because so many famous carnivorous plants are just starting to emerge from their winter dormancy. Last February’s weeklong deep-freeze exacerbated that dormancy: Venus flytraps and threadleaf sundews are just starting to wake up, and Sarracenia pitcher plants that normally would be opening blooms by the end of March are only now starting to extend bloom spikes, and most will probably still have fresh blooms by the beginning of May. This mattered not a bit to the Oddities & Curiosities crowd: they were just glad to be able to see carnivorous plants up close and personal.

To be continued…

Texas Triffid Ranch Show Season 2021: Continuation

Naturally, any discussion on Triffid Ranch events over the next three months is obsolete the moment it’s published, but 2021 is determined. The original plan was to start outdoor events at the beginning of April, and then I got a notice of acceptance for the Boho Market at Dallas’s Klyde Warren Park on March 20. That’s running from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and if the weather holds for this time of the year, it’ll be yet another reason to visit one of Dallas’s most interesting parks and see what’s going on in downtown on a Saturday. (This has personal significance: 25 years ago, I lived in downtown Dallas when the sidewalks rolled up at 5:00 pm every weekday, the last bookstore in downtown shut down the week my ex and I moved in, and you couldn’t even get a newspaper in downtown on a Sunday. A quarter-century later, and the change in downtown Dallas since then is a delightful shock, and I’m proud to assist with helping to make a place to go to and not a place to go from.)

And in other developments, the fates of Texas Frightmare Weekend and the Deep Ellum Arts Festival keep intertwining and catching my nose hairs in the loom. Both the Deep Ellum Arts Festival and TFW were cancelled and rescheduled due to COVID-19, and shortly after getting into the reserve list for the Arts Festival, the Arts Festival was rescheduled…for the weekend of September 10, the same weekend as Texas Frightmare Weekend. Since carnivorous plants and the Heisenberg Principle don’t mesh, this means picking one or the other, and the Triffid Ranch booth has been a stalwart at Texas Frightmare Weekend since 2009. The good news is that I’ve asked my application to be considered for the April 2022 Deep Ellum Arts Festival, so now it’s a matter of waiting. At least that gives plenty of time to work out a new tent arrangement for next year: I have IDEAS.

Finally, the post-COVID plan for the next couple of years was to reestablish the plan to take the Triffid Ranch outside of Texas, at least for a few days at a time. Last year, the plan was to crash New Orleans for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo. For 2022? Chicago in September for WorldCon. This may consist solely of bringing enclosures for the art exhibition and volunteering for lectures and presentations, but they’ll be much more welcomed than my presence at a WorldCon 20 years ago. (For most of my long-dead writing career, the general sensation of being invited to speak at a WorldCon was best described as “How Anton LaVey felt the last time he was invited to the Pope’s bat mitzvah.”) It’s either this or the IGS garden center show, and it’s a tough call as to which one would appreciate my dressing up as Freeman Lowell more. After all, we have to keep up appearances.

As always, the current lineup for Triffid Ranch events is up and online: at the rate things are going, the planned Porch Sales may not happen for a while. This isn’t a bad thing, and this Sunday’s Carnivorous Plant Tour is still going. For those who can’t make it, the Thursday evening Twitch feeds are becoming a regular thing (with plans for regular Saturday feeds as well), and they’re going to get very interesting as all of the temperate carnivores start to wake up. Catch you then, whichever one you choose.

Texas Triffid Ranch Show Season 2021: And so it begins

As it turns out, the 2021 season begins the way the 2020 season ended: with a LOT of activity. We’re still seeing reschedulings, rearrangements, and a lot of “do we risk waiting another week in the hopes that the show can run?”, but a combination of mask discipline and ongoing COVID-19 vaccinations gives hope that we’ll see the bare beginnings of an outdoor show season through the rest of this year. That’s about all we can do right now, but at least we can start talking about having events again.

To begin, no matter what else happens, last year’s outdoor Porch Sales were so popular that they’ll start up again in 2021, as soon as the outdoor carnivores such as the Venus flytraps start waking up from their winter dormancy. Whether they’re an every-Sunday thing honestly depends upon the show schedule, but they’ll definitely run every weekend that we’re not at a show, and as things become safer, we’ll also move them inside the gallery if there’s risk of bad weather. During the summer, we’ll probably alternate between holding them inside and outside, just because an indoor show can run much later in the afternoon without everyone bursting into flame. Either way, the outdoor shows will continue until the beginning of November, and then everything HAS to move back indoors.

To start out the season, we’re going to stick to home for the first event: the next Triffid Ranch Carnivorous Plant Show, in conjunction with Caroline Crawford Originals jewelry, greets the beginning of Daylight Savings Time by opening the doors from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on March 14. As always, admission is free, and masks are mandatory.

The first away-from-the-gallery Triffid Ranch event of 2021, though, will be with an old friend: the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo runs in Fair Park on Saturday, March 27 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is $10, and please note that tickets must be purchased in advance, as no tickets will be sold at the door. Also note that the Oddities & Curiosities crew will be VERY vigilant about mask discipline, and both vendors and attendees have to keep them up over the nose or find themselves evicted from the show with no refund.

The week after, it’s time to fire up with another old friend, this time in a new location. If you haven’t heard already, Texas Frightmare Weekend, one of the largest horror conventions on the planet and a Triffid Ranch favorite since 2009, just had to reschedule its 2021 show from the beginning of May to the beginning of September, but founders Loyd and Sue Cryer tested the possibility of outdoor shows at their Frightmare Collectibles location, and we’re on for their first outdoor show on April 3. (Purely coincidentally, that weekend coincides with the 39th anniversary both with my getting the distinctive scar on my forehead, from a sheet of plywood caught in a dust storm, and my watching my first midnight movie, so I choose to look at it as auspicious.) The Frightmare Collectibles show runs from 11:00 am to 9;00 pm: admission is free, masks are mandatory, and bring lots of cash because we’ll be just two of many vendors with items you won’t find anywhere else. (At the very least, for those who appreciate barbecue, the artist at last November’s outdoor event deserves that title, and I know exactly where all of my money is going even if nobody else is hungry.)

International Carnivorous Plant Day logo
Credit: International Carnivorous Plant Society

(Incidentally, May 5 is the first International Carnivorous Plant Day, with events and activities all over the world, and as a proud member of the International Carnivorous Plant Society, naturally the Triffid Ranch plans to join in. We’re tentatively planning another Frightmare Collectibles outdoor event on May 1, the weekend for which Texas Frightmare Weekend was originally scheduled, and we’re planning additional activities for the weekends before and after May 5. As for the 5th itself, it’s time to pivot to video, with details to follow.)

After that, the Porch Sales start back up, with one significant exception. The Plano Art & Music Festival kindly invited the Triffid Ranch as a new artist exhibitor, so the plants get a much larger audience on April 17 and 18, running from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm each day. Admission is $10, parking is free, and masks are mandatory. If this one goes well, the festival repeats in October, so it might become a regular addition to the show schedule.

Finally, various developments make running regular gallery events much easier than in the past, but mostly on Sundays. That said, we’re very tentatively going to try a Saturday event toward the end of April for those unable to attend on Sundays, specifically for a revival of the Manchester United Flower Show. Expect details in April: right now, everything depends upon the weather, whether or not we have another last-minute freeze or snowstorm, and whether the plants plan to cooperate.

Oh, and one last thing for those who can’t make it to the gallery for any number of reasons. Starting this week, the old Triffid Ranch Twitch channel was dusted off and used for live video, with plans to conduct new videos every Thursday evening (around 8:00 Central Time) and additional videos on Saturday afternoons, so feel free to join in whenever it’s live. It’s also time for more YouTube videos, with channels including debuts of new enclosures and plants, so if you can’t watch videos on one, there’s always room on the other. Yeah, it’s going to be a very busy spring.

An Important Note About COVID-19 Safety

By now, most of the world knows about Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement about ending the current COVID-19 lockdown and relaxing mandates on both mask use and social distancing in indoor spaces. In response, many businesses through the state have announced that they are continuing to follow Center for Disease Control guidelines on both, and the Texas Triffid Ranch stands with them. Until the CDC recommends that enough individuals have been vaccinated that masks and social distancing are no longer necessary, both will continue at Triffid Ranch events for the foreseeable future. Both indoor and outdoor events will require mandatory masks over both nose and mouth, and anyone refusing to respect this will be asked to leave.

With care and consideration, this won’t be an issue soon, especially based on current reports of vaccine production and distribution. However, both as someone who has lost several dear friends to COVID-19, and someone whose track record of past respiratory distress makes him a prime candidate for demonstrating “anybody can cough up blood, but coughing up urine takes TALENT,” the current mask requirement for Triffid Ranch events is not negotiable, so please don’t. On the brighter side, it’s possible to be both safe and stylish, as demonstrated with the examples above, and we enthusiastically welcome mask wearers at future events. Thank you very much for your assistance and consideration in this matter, and here’s hoping that masks and disinfection won’t be necessary before the year is out.

Sunday Carnivorous Plant Tour: November 15, 2020

After a very long hiatus, regular events in the gallery, as opposed to out on the front porch, started up again on November 15, with full mask and cleaning protocols in place. It’s been a long strange trip, but the Triffid Ranch is back and open for business.

As for the future, we’re taking a cue from our friends at Frightmare Collectibles and planning a much more regular schedule for Sunday events. Keep an eye on the schedule for the rest of November and all of December: the gallery will be closed on December 6 for a private event, but we’re also planning post-Christmas events for those who need a touch of green after the winter solstice.

Anyway, the next Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour (that’ll work for a name) starts at 10:00 am on November 22, and runs until 5:00 pm that evening. If you can’t make it then, we’re shifting the schedule slightly for Small Business Saturday on November 28, and will be open on November 27 by appointment. See you then.

State of the Gallery: October 2020

We’re finally coming upon the end of the growing season here in Dallas, aggravated by the surprisingly cold temperatures of the last week in OCTOBER. One more Porch Sale on October 31, and then the tents go into storage, the Sarracenia pitcher plants and Venus flytraps go into winter dormancy, and we shift gears until next spring. (For those unfamiliar with Dallas autumns and winters, you’ll be glad we did, too.) That doesn’t mean that the Triffid Ranch shuts down with it. It just means that we’re going a drastically different route than what had been planned back in January.

To begin, it’s time for a short break, and everyone is going to be worrying about larger things around Election Day than one carnivorous plant gallery. Therefore, the first week of November is one of rest and recharging, as well as the opportunity to get the gallery into winter order. In previous years, the weeks until American Thanksgiving would go into multiple shows at the end of the month, but with half cancelled until next year at best and the other half simply not happening at all, it’s time to, as the old saying goes, put your bucket down where you are.

The first big change is that as opposed to the regular Saturday night Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas shows that have been going since 2017, the gallery will be open on Sundays in November and December, exact times to be announced soon. As always, a maximum of 10 people will be allowed inside the gallery at any time, or as at a time when Dallas County drops its current lockdown restrictions, and masks are mandatory. No messing around with this, either: anyone trying to enter without a mask will be asked to wear one or leave.

The other big change is one planned for the middle of March, but understandably curtailed due to conditions. Before the big office lockdown, we were getting ready to announce the availability of enclosure rentals, for those who wanted a carnivorous plant enclosure for offices, classrooms, bars and restaurants , or popup events, but who didn’t necessarily want to buy one. Again, details will follow very soon, but as restaurants and offices start reopening, it’s time to guarantee a little bit of green over the winter.

Finally, it’s time to expand the knowledge base a bit and get back into virtual lectures. Another aspect of the current COVID-19 collapse is that the museum, school, and arboretum lectures and presentations that used to be a staple through the year aren’t happening, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to do one anyway. This means that it’s time to get a lot more use out of the new iPad and put together more videos on plant history, behavior, and husbandry, including more than a few new tools and techniques for those working in much colder climes than these.

One last thing. This November will also see the return of the regular Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions posts that have been on hiatus since the gallery opened: I have a lot of neat friends with a lot of neat and inexpensive items that they’re offering this season, and it’s time to boost the signal as much as possible. Now let’s see how well we get through November.

Sunday Morning Porch Sale: October 25, 2020. It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for.

And so, almost exactly six months after they started, the Sunday morning Triffid Ranch carnivorous plant porch sales come to an end. What started out as an experiment to fill time newly opened due to the implosion of 2020 scheduled shows turned into a regular event, full of people both local and just passing through, but even the enthusiasm of crowds can’t fend off Dallas weather. Besides, the Venus flytraps, North American pitcher plants, and temperate sundews all need to go dormant for the winter, and while freezing or subfreezing temperatures in Dallas are extremely unlikely for at least the next month, the plants don’t know this, and they need their sleep.

Don’t think that this is the end of Triffid Ranch events for the year: anything but. Yes, Venus flytrap season is almost over (sooner rather than later, thanks to the cold front coming through most of North America this week), but this just means that we’re moving things indoors. The current plan is to take one weekend off after Halloween (after all, this has been six months of weekly Sunday events, and it would be so nice to sleep in for one Sunday in 2020), and then move to opening the gallery, both the Triffid Ranch and Caroline Crawford Jewelry, almost every Sunday after that. Details will follow, because everything right now is dependent upon events over the next two weeks, and things might change drastically before American Thanksgiving. In the meantime, keep an eye open for announcements.

For those needing one last bit of outdoor plant therapy this season, or for those who missed out on all of the previous Porch Sales and want one last chance to come by and see what the big deal is about, The Last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale of the Season comes this Saturday, October 31 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, and we might stay a little later if people keep coming, but we won’t be out all night. (That night is reserved for viewing the last Halloween full moon until 2039.) For those who can’t, thank you very much for coming out through 2020, and expect that we’ll start doing this again in 2021. This was entirely too much fun.

August Events and Activities

We may not be 30 million years past the last live Triffid Ranch event, but it’s sure feeling that way. Between the initial Dallas County COVID-19 shutdowns and the subsequent shutdowns because certain people can’t play well with others, it’s been capital-R Rough for art venues across the DFW Metroplex. Exhibitions have gone virtual (some may recognize a few of the entries in the Texas Now Online Showcase being hosted by Artspace One Eleven in Fort Worth), galleries are on severely curtailed hours, and the days of dozens or hundreds of people jammed into gallery open houses are now about as quaint as the thought of Dallas beachside houses along the Western Interior Seaway. It’s still possible to do things outside, but it requires care, consideration, and a stout stick for those who don’t want to play by the rules.

With that in consideration, it’s time to open things up a bit in August 2020. To start:

Numero Uno: what was intended to be a few quick flash sales to get through April have turned into a regular event, so it’s time to rename the Sunday Flash Sales. Starting August 2, they’re now Carnivorous Plant Porch Sales, and they run every Sunday morning in August from 7:00 to noon. Other than the name and the time, nothing changes: they’re still selections of beginner carnivorous plants available for perusal and sale on the gallery front porch, and they’re open to everyone. (The link above is mostly to get an idea of how many people are coming on a given day, as well as the opportunity for new people to discover them through the EventBrite app, but we won’t shoo you off if you don’t have a ticket.) As always, at the end of the month, we’ll reevaluate days and hours, but they’ll probably keep going through October or until cold weather make them impossible, whichever comes first.

Numero Two-o: Since the fifth anniversary of that original soft opening at Valley View Center hit this year, the plan at the beginning of the year was to host the biggest gallery open house we could possibly pull off on or around August 20, celebrating beating the odds on gallery survival and generally using it as an excuse for a big birthday party for Caroline. And so Napoleon went to Moscow. The plan is still going to happen: it’s just we’re going to do it in two stages. The first is a virtual open house via streaming on Twitch, set on a Thursday evening so it doesn’t interfere with friends’ streaming events, running from 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm Central Time. Obviously, this means that those who had to work during normal open houses, those who can’t get out of the house, and those who oh-so-conveniently live on another continent can join in, ask questions, heckle the host without mercy, and otherwise get a chance to see what’s been going on over here since the last show.

Numero Three-o: Remember my stating that the anniversary party was a two-stage plan? The third stage is an attempt to have a real-live open house on the evening of August 22. Because of Dallas County restrictions on events and crowds, no more than five attendees are allowed into the gallery at any time, and functional masks are required. That said, if you like what you see during the virtual open house on Thursday, or if you’ve had an eye on a particular enclosure since before all this came down, feel free to come out and browse, quickly, so others can peruse as well.

Other than that, it’s back to the usual: the last of the Flash Sales runs on July 26, and appointments for private viewings are available through the week. And now to get back to work to make all of this happen.

Flash Sale: June 28, 2020

After a solid month, it’s safe to say that even with current events and considerations, the Triffid Ranch Flash Sales are a hit. It’s now a mix of old friends, new people wanting to get into carnivorous plants for the first time, and regular and occasional attendees of the (sadly delayed) gallery open houses. Combine that with expanding the available plant selection, and the bigger issue is with folks who want to research their options first before purchasing a plant. This is a very laudable attitude and one that’s encouraged as much as possible, and that’s why the Flash Sales are held every Sunday.

As for July? The Flash Sales continue through every Sunday in July, from 6:00 am to noon. (They’ll be moved to 7:00 am in August due to shortening days.) Make your plans now, because there’s no guarantee that a particular plant you’re seeking will be available in subsequent weeks. And so it goes.

The Incredibly Strange Sundays That Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Flash Sales

In all of the hustle and bustle of multiple commissions and gallery appointments, it’s time to bring up that the front porch Flash Sales are back up for June. Obviously, because of the summer heat, they won’t be running in the afternoon: every Sunday in June, they’ll start at 6:00 am and run until noon or when we run out of plants. Feel free to come out to browse (masks are required), or to schedule a gallery appointment for later in the week. (If you don’t mind that the gallery looks as if Hunter S. Thompson is crashing in the break room, that is: a lot of work is going on, and it’s all coming to a crescendo at the end of the month.)

Speaking of the end of the month, keep an eye out for the next virtual open house on Saturday, June 27: details will follow soon. A lot of the bugs involving Twitch have been ironed out, and the Triffid Ranch YouTube channel is now live, so it’s time to try again. It’s still far too early to talk about a return to in-person open houses right now, especially considering the gallery’s tight quarters, but we’re doing what we can. And so it goes.

Welcome To Your Career In The Arts

For the last several years, I freely admit that I blatantly stole a beautiful concept from the artist and musician Steven Archer, famed for his involvement with Ego Likeness, Hopeful Machines, and Stoneburner. In addition to his other endeavors, any of which make us mere mortals want to eat his brain so we can steal his powers, Steven also shares particularly disturbing failure videos and gifs, usually involving faceplants and setting idiots’ knees afire, all of which beg for one specific soundtrack, for his followers and interested passersby. The punchline is the same with each video or animated gif: “Welcome to your career in the arts.”

Part of the reason why so many of these are so funny isn’t just in being glad that we aren’t as unlucky, unskilled, or foolish as the individuals in said videos. It’s that for anybody with an actual career in the arts, we watch the videos, wipe our brows, and sigh “So it’s not just me.” So often, no matter how hard we prepare and what we try, it’s Faceplant City, and most of us just brush the concrete dust off our noses, spit out the broken teeth, and get up to do it again. Compulsion is a wonderful thing.

And so it goes. Since before the beginning of this foul Year of Our Lord 2020, the original plan for the Triffid Ranch was to jump up the number of Triffid Ranch shows, lectures, and open houses, including an expansion outside of the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area. Well, you can call COVID-19 “The Rona” or “Captain Trumps,” but every artist, musician, and writer in town saw the implosion of venues and events and called it “The Devil Vomits In My Face Once More.” You wipe off your eyes, reach for a towel and an eyewash station, and start again.

And to follow the old adage “when God closes a door, He also opens a window,” it’s time to see if if the next few weeks constitute defenestration or flying. The original plan was to hold a major open house, the Manchester United Flower Show, on April 18, if the current shelter-in-place order for Dallas County would allow it. Since that order runs until at least the beginning of May, this wouldn’t happen anyway, and a lot of folks understandably don’t want to risk crowds even after the order is lifted. We can’t have a traditional open house, and a lot of people outside of Dallas regularly mope (but mope in a cute way) about not being able to get to an open house anyway, so it’s time to make things virtual.

With the recommendation and inspiration of Christopher Doll of Breaking Fitt’s Law and Pete Freedman of Central Track, both essential reading, the Triffid Ranch is going to Twitch. The Eventbrite invitations will go out soon, but we’re going to try a video open house starting at 6:00 pm Central Standard Time on Saturday, April 18. Just as with the in-person open houses, this will run until about 11:00, thus allowing folks in varying time zones a chance to jump in. If this works out well and it doesn’t lead to a terminal curbstomping, we may have more in our current time of crisis, and probably way beyond. Not only will this give friends and interested bystanders a chance to see the inner workings of carnivorous plant blooms, but it gives a chance to confirm that the sole proprietor has far too much in common with the late Rik Mayall’s most famous character. See you then.

EDIT: And the official invitation is now live on Eventbrite. Feel free to share early and often.

The Return of the Manchester United Flower Show 2020

Sometime back in the mists of the Late Cretaceous, the plan was to host a special gallery open house in April that took advantage of blooming season. With one known exception, carnivorous plants bloom like any other angiosperm, with the height of the spectacle hitting in Dallas in the latter half of April. Sometimes the blooms last into May, and some species just never stop blooming through the growing season (yes, Stylidium debile, I’m looking at you). The last few years have been particularly rough on this idea, with last year’s flower show cancelled due to illness, but this year it was going to happen. Absolutely. Sure of it.

Well, as you may have noticed, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and the gallery is just a little too small to allow easy social distancing: at least, allowing social distancing and access to the restroom. With the current lockdown and shelter-in-place order for the entirety of Dallas County, currently extended to April 30, large gatherings are not just discouraged but open to fines and arrest, so the original open house was regretfully cancelled. Heck, when the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is cancelled for 2020 because of COVID-19, there’s no reason to risk life and health even if the shelter-in-place order wasn’t an issue. We can still have one in 2021, but a live show isn’t an option right now, and probably not until well after all of the blooms are gone for the year.

Into this comes a possible solution. Between the crew at Glasstire calling for short videos of Texas art exhibitions in lieu of personal appearances and Pete Freedman of the Dallas news site Central Track hosting regular video conferences on Twitter with readers, it may be time to take the Manchester United Flower Show online. Among other things, so many friends and cohorts regret not being able to get to Dallas to view an open house, so this is an opportunity to include them with no obligation and no plane tickets. For everyone else sick to death of online conferences for work and otherwise, it’s an opportunity to sit back and let someone else drive. We’re still working out the details, but we’re going back to the original date and time of Saturday, April 18 at 6:00 pm Central Time, with a repeat later in the evening for those on the other side of the International Date Line. Keep an eye on the site for more details, but the idea is to have an opportunity for as many people as possible to watch, so it probably won’t be attached to a particular platform. We’ll burn those bridges as we come to them.

To reiterate, the Manchester United Flower Show is back in place on April 18, barring life imitating art, and without issues with parking. See you then.

Leap Day Event Update

February and March are already going to be packed with events, but for those wanting to come out to the gallery, please take note that we’re hosting a special Leap Day open house on February 29. Art, jewelry, carnivorous plants, and the opportunity to get in an early celebration of my birthday on February 30. Get your tickets now.

The Aftermath: Oak Cliff Gardeners Halloween Party at the Texas Theatre 2019

For all of my efforts to encourage friends and cohorts to come to Dallas for entertainment options (and something other than the greatest documentary about 1980s-era Dallas ever made), I am ashamed to admit that until two weeks ago, I had never been to the famed Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff. Long a focus for JFK assassination buffs, the Texas is also a perfect venue for all sorts of gonzo film, as I discovered when Caroline , our friend Jon Feldman, and I drove out to see Memory: The Origins of Alien about two weeks ago. The theater is almost exactly on the opposite side of Dallas from the gallery, but you know what? When the much-hyped alternative hasn’t played an alternative film in a decade, and seems to think that a healthy midnight movie selection consists of incessant repeat showings of The Goonies, the drive is worth it.

Being invited to a movie theater to show plants isn’t new, but doing so for the Oak Cliff Gardeners Group was definitely a first, particularly since the group was combining an afternoon showing of Little Shop of Horrors (musical with happy ending) with a Halloween costume competition. Oh, and did I mention that the theater has an exceptional bar offering a show special of grasshoppers? And did I mention that one of the costume competition prizes was offered by Byron and Jiri, the two owners of the outstanding goth club Panoptikon? Yeah, it was that much fun.

Combine all of this with the Texas Theatre being the one movie theater in Dallas selling copies of the newly revived Horror magazine Fangoria, and this little albino duck is a fan for life. There WILL be other events over here if I have any say in the matter.

The Aftermath: Carnivorous Plant Workshop 2019(2) at Curious Garden

Some people ask why I do so many carnivorous plant workshops at Curious Garden near White Rock Lake in Dallas. A lot of reasons present themselves: Curious Garden is the sort of store I’d want to run myself if the carnivores didn’t rule my life. Its clientele consists of the same sort of people I welcome with open arms at the gallery. It’s a short distance from the gallery. I have a lot of fun reassuring participants that many carnivores are easy to raise, and they shouldn’t be afraid to delve into carnivore culture just because that half-dead Venus flytrap purchased for them when they were five didn’t make it. All of these are valid, but that’s not the real reason.

No, the real reason I drop everything when co-owner Jason Cohen asks “Do you want to do another workshop?” is because of a decades-long debt. Nearly 30 years ago, Jason was my neighbor when we both lived in Exposition Park near Dallas’s Fair Park, and he also had to deal with me when he started a coffeeshop/bookstore in Expo Park in 1992. Since I was considerably less cultured and sedate than I am today, the current efforts are to thank him for not drowning me in the gutter out front when he had the chance. (Let’s put it this way: back then, I was chugging ginseng soda in order to mellow out and focus. You’d contemplate suffocation via gutter slime, too. I extend the same considerations to three ex-girlfriends for the same reasons.)

This time around, the emphasis was on extra-easy, so everyone went through step-by-step in learning how to set up a spoonleaf sundew (Datura spatulata) enclosure and the whys of each component. Right now, Jason and I are making plans, probably in January, for a more advanced class involving Nepenthes hybrids, and details will be available soon. After all, I still have a longstanding debt to repay.

The Aftermath: 2019 Autumn Extravaganza and Open House

Four years since the original gallery opened at Valley View Center and two years since the current gallery opened for business, and we’ve reached a wonderful equilibrium between shows, lectures, and open houses. Four years ago, the thought of holding an open house the day after a big out-of-town presentation would have started a few hours of panic screaming. Now, it’s just a matter of sweeping up, putting the construction materials and the airbrush away and unlocking the door. Holding October’s open house during Texas/OU Weekend worked out perfectly: not only did it give an opportunity for those who wanted to avoid the drunken nightmare of downtown Dallas, but between cooler temperatures and the full moon, the timing was exquisite. As always, thanks to everyone who came out: at the rate things are going, this will become a fulltime venture before you know it.

Because of next month’s show schedule, the next open house is tentatively scheduled for November 30. The good news is that November 30 marks the beginning of the annual Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas, where the Triffid Ranch is open every Saturday after American Thanksgiving until December 21. See you then.

The Aftermath: Spooky Science on Tap 2019 at the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History

Remember my mentioning earlier in the year that 2019 was going to be the big year for the Triffid Ranch stretching its legs? Well, an opportunity presented itself at almost the literal last minute, as with the Perot Museum in Dallas, the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History hosts regular after-hours adults-only events, and its Spooky Science on Tap costume event had room for a certain carnivorous plant rancher to show off representative genera all night. Before you knew it, I had a space on the second floor next to a model of Sputnik, and the rest of the night belonged to patrons wanting to know more about the differing pit traps with each pitcher plant genus and explanations on how flytrap traps reopen after capturing prey.

All told, the whole show was a resounding hit, and after quick talks with the FWMSH crew, I’m keeping the calendar open for their events. I’m particularly hopeful for events in mid-April, as the Manchester United Flower Show could always use a larger audience.And the only problem? The FWMSH has featured a life-sized Acrocanthosaurus model out front for decades, just begging for it to participate in the pre-Halloween shenanigans. Why some enterprising museum volunteer didn’t fit it with a speaker playing “This Is Halloween” is beyond me.(And one advantage to firing blind with a phone camera after everyone else went home and I was preparing for the long drive back to Dallas. Even in daylight, most people wouldn’t have noticed the dragonfly sleeping on the model’s nose. Since it was beyond dark that night until the moon rose, it was just one more surprise discovered after I got home.)

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.

The Aftermath: Curious Garden Carnivorous Plant Workshop – July 2019

The location: Curious Garden, run by Jason Cohen, a former neighbor when we both lived in Exposition Park in Dallas in the early 1990s.

The project: A carnivorous plant workshop, dedicated both to sharing information on carnivorous plants and to walking everyone through the construction and planting of their personal spoonleaf sundew (Drosera spatulata) enclosure.

The turnout: This was the workshop that kept growing, from one workshop of about 15 participants to two workshops of 20 each, and we very easily could have filled a third if we’d had the resources.

The response: Sometimes the best way to learn is to get hands-on experience instead of just taking notes at a lecture, so the whole enclosure process was set up to explain not just the how but the why of every layer and addition. Several attendees admitted that they had been too worried about getting into carnivorous plants before the workshop, so I now look forward to seeing their own contributions to carnivorous plant horticulture. (It may be time to talk to friends about setting up meetups for a local branch of the International Carnivorous Plant Society, because the number of Dallas and Fort Worth enthusiasts is hitting critical mass.)

The aftermath: After the second workshop, we still had more people stopping by to ask about the next one, so Jason and I are working out the details right now. Right now, we’re shooting for either August 31 or sometime in October. Look for details in the very near future.

The Aftermath: 500x Gallery Hot & Sweaty 2019

All is said and done. The Hot & Sweaty 2019 open show at the 500x Gallery was a success on two levels. Firstly, the very enthusiastic response to the two enclosures put on display, particularly during the show opening, suggests that a deep dive into research on science art shows and exhibitions is something that needs to be done this summer. At the very least, the Hot & Sweaty proved that carnivore enclosures on display need two cards: one on the construction, and one on the natural history of the plant on display. I’m not ready to manage or curate a separate exhibition of science and engineering art, but it may be time to track down somebody who is.

And the other level? Something about the 500x was very encouraging to both of the plants on display. I’m used to Nepenthes ampullaria going through sudden growth spurts with little to no warning, but the Cephalotus pitchers on display in Antarctica in Decline just exploded. I don’t know if it was due to additional light in the new gallery, increased carbon dioxide, or the simple fact that Cephalotus are attention hounds and simply got their fill, but I’m going to have to try this again.

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: 500x Gallery Hot & Sweaty 2019 Open Show

After years of little weekend shows and events, the Texas Triffid Ranch has arrived: enclosures exhibiting in an established gallery. The 500x Hot & Sweaty open show, at one of Dallas’s most famous galleries, had a wide variety of submitted art in different media and formats, but I was confident at the beginning that it probably wouldn’t have any science art or science-inspired art. At the Hot & Sweaty opening on June 8, not only did that make the two submitted enclosures unique, but the response suggests a combination of art show and museum exhibition, with either interactive displays or live provosts to explain the science side of displays for those unfamiliar with the background.

Hot & Sweaty 2019 ends on June 23, but don’t let that stop you from coming out during the week and weekend. The 500x is open on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5:00, and open during the week by appointment. If you’ve wanted to view a Triffid Ranch enclosure but haven’t been able to make an open house, here’s your chance.

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…