Tag Archives: shows

The Aftermath: The First Porch Sale of 2021

So last week’s Triffid Ranch Porch Sale didn’t work out, mostly due to intense side-effects from receiving my second Moderna vaccination, so it was time to start over. This time, a combination of spectacularly good weather, including unseasonably but much-appreciated cool temperatures, and accompaniment from Caroline Crawford Originals meant that the kickoff for the 2021 Porch Sales went without a hitch.

One of the best things about this Porch Sale was the combination of new and returning attendees, including a set of old friends. The same was true of the plants: the Sarracenia pitcher plants and the Venus flytraps finally emerged after their late start due to the February ice storm, and they’re all determined to make up for lost time.

As far as outdoor Porch Sales are concerned, we’re taking a little break: next week is the Manchester United Flower Show inside the gallery on April 25 (open 10:00 am to 4:00 pm), and May 1 means going out to Frightmare Collectibles in Justin for the Hearse & Shock Rod Show. The Porch Sales WILL return, though: that’s what Mother’s Day is for.

The Aftermath: Frightmare Collectibles Spring Slasher Camp 2021

Forget March’s association with lions and lambs: April in North Texas is permanently attached to caribou, emperor penguins, Mexican free-tailed bats, and Christmas Island crabs. It’s all about the journey and the endurance. This April, after two big shows the previous weekend, the Triffid Ranch pushed for three with last Saturday’s Frightmare Collectibles Spring Slasher Camp outdoor event in Justin, Texas. Seeing as how most of the attendees were regulars for Texas Frightmare Weekend, this combined the best of a (socially distanced) Frightmare gathering with beautiful if slightly windy weather. Either way, nobody was complaining.

This was a test of the Frightmare Event System: the plan is for Frightmare Collectibles to host a much larger event on May 1, on what would have been Texas Frightmare Weekend’s busiest day. Four months before the revised opening of Texas Frightmare Weekend and six months before Halloween: for those craving plant shows with a bit darker feel than the traditional arboretum events, hie thee hence to Justin in a month.

If you can’t wait that long, keep an eye out for other events between now and May 1, as well as the regular video shows on Twitch. Now that the Sarracenia are starting to bloom, it’s time for some real fun with the latter.

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: NARBC Arlington September 2020 – 3

Another shameless plug: in the decade since I first moved to Garland, Texas, every Sunday morning of a Triffid Ranch show involves a trip to Donut Palace, without fail. Not only is it one of the best donut shops in the Dallas area, with exemplary kolaches for those who need something with more protein than sugar, but the crew there makes sure to take care of everybody, no matter how large or small the order. (For those familiar with Texas Frightmare Weekend, I’ve made a point of bringing donuts for the Frightmare staff on Sunday mornings since the first show at DFW Airport in 2012, and Donut Palace is where I get enough donuts to feed that mob.) It may be superstitious, but I’ve never had a bad show after making a stop there on Sunday morning, and any excuse to grab four or five jalapeno bacon kolaches on a September morning is always a good one.

One final image to sum up the weekend: while getting set up on Sunday morning, one of the ball python breeders at the show asked me if I happened to see a loose snake in my booth. (Escapees are very rare, but sometimes it happens.) I answered completely truthfully that I hadn’t seen so much as a cricket, and continued on with my prep. You can imagine my surprise when I finished my breakdown on Sunday afternoon by flipping a table over to fold it up and get it into the truck, and this little character was curled around one of the table leg supports. Well, we were both surprised. A little coaxing to get him off the support, a little reassurance to let him know he was safe, a little help from a fellow vendor in finding his home, and he was safe and secure. Thankfully, that breeder hadn’t left the convention center yet: as much as I love snakes, I don’t have time to care for one now, and in no way would I have taken someone else’s without paying for it. However, holding this beauty was a great way to end the show, and I hope whomever gets him appreciates him as much as I did.

Fin.

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington September 2020 – 2

As an interlude, in the nearly 15 years that I have been attending the NARBC Arlington reptile and amphibian shows, one of the simple pleasures is walking off the convention center parking lot to gaze over the lake separating the convention center from the now-defunct Ballpark. The real draw, of course, are the cormorants that flock here for most of the year, gorging on bluegill and other small fish and then basking on any available human-free area. Half of the fun involves a flood drain at one end, which is a little too small for all of the cormorants who want to bask and dry off. You think penguins are bad about knocking each other into the water for an advantage? Penguins are champions of Marquis of Queensbury sparring rules compared to cormorants.

The problem with being a vendor instead of an attendee at an NARBC show: cormorants don’t bask first thing in the morning. No cormorants this trip: just one particularly determined heron.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington September 2020 – 1

Today’s shameless plug, thanks to NARBC Arlington attendees asking about where I got it: this carnivorous plant rancher is modeling a Dunkleosteus mask from the Alaska paleoartist Scott Elyard, thereby demonstrating that wearing a reconstruction of a Devonian armored predator is still less scary than having passersby see his unmasked smile. This one should be on driver’s licenses, too.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington September 2020 – Introduction

As with everyone else, 2020 has been an interesting year for the Triffid Ranch, in the old sense. The original business plan for 2020 was to expand the previous range and scope of touring shows, even down to the first shows outside of Texas since the first show in 2008. Well, we all know how well that went: after last March’s Nosferatu Festival in Austin, every event, expo, fair, and gathering planned for this year has been rescheduled for 2021, tentatively rescheduled for 2022, or point-blank cancelled. Worse, thanks to COVID-19 resurgences, cities that planned to reopen for large gatherings reconsidered those strategies, and even more shut down in the last couple of months. Last week, the Aquashella Dallas aquarium show announced that it was rescheduling for 2021, leaving one show still on the register: the North American Reptile Breeders Conference Arlington show, running on September 26 and 27.

To give credit to the NARBC staff and the crew at the recently renamed eSports Expo Center (formerly the Arlington Convention Center), the NARBC staff mandated masks and cleanings, hand sanitizer stations were spread throughout the area, and everyone at least tried to encourage social distancing and basic hygiene. Even so, there were just enough attendees who promptly ripped their masks off as soon as they entered, as well as arguing that “masks don’t work,” that things remained more than a little uncomfortable through the weekend. Barring more stringent ordinances in Arlington requiring mask use, this is probably the best that it’s going to get: subsequent NARBC shows, either as a vendor or as an attendee, are going to be contingent upon an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

Even with all of that, the overwhelming majority of NARBC attendees were as usual: unfailingly polite, curious, and friendly, with a lot of really thoughtful questions and suggestions, and I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t miss that interaction. It was obvious that they missed it, too, especially based on the response to news about the Sunday morning porch sales at the gallery through October. And this, friends, is why I do this.

There was one other bright side to all of this: it was a matter of discovering that even with six months between shows, the porch sales kept the organizing juices flowing, so setup and breakdown was much easier than it was with the NARBC spring show last February. Of course, being in the middle of a simply glorious Sarracenia season didn’t hurt, so those who wondered about the lack of pitcher plants and Venus flytraps at the last show were dutifully impressed. Best of all, even with a sudden return of hot and sunny weather that OF COURSE came over the weekend, the weather was cool and clement enough that everything was exploding with new growth. A lot of new people went home with new plants, and this is hopefully a harbinger for the October Porch Sales as well.

And finally, a shoutout to Adeline Robinson, the artist responsible for the new Triffid Ranch poster on display at 2020 events, whom I finally met in real life this weekend. Among other things, I ransacked her selection of herp-themed stickers, so now I could tell my wife Caroline that I was coming home with a crocodile monitor and she couldn’t do anything about it. Adeline was also responsible for the design for the NARBC Tinsley Park shirt, which you should snag at the first available opportunity.

To be continued…

COVID-19 Schedule Changes

The best-laid plans, and all that. The old Chinese curse about living in interesting times definitely applies through this month, and apparently beyond. The news about the Dallas County shelter-in-place order requiring all residents to stay at home unless conducting essential business is now international news, but the subsequent mandatory orders applying specifically to Richardson and Garland are just as big a deal. Right now, the Dallas County order will be up for review on April 3, the Garland order until at least April 7, and Richardson cut to the chase and set its order to run until at least April 29. Any way you look at it, anyone in the greater Dallas area isn’t going anywhere, especially since local police are empowered to ticket and/or arrest anyone running about without good reason.

And how does this affect the Triffid Ranch? Quite honestly, it stops everything for the next month, and directly affects the rest of the year. Unlike the twerp at the mail drop last Monday who wanted to argue that the Dallas County order didn’t apply to him because of one tiny issue that he assumed invalidated the whole order, the orders aren’t up for debate over here. As anybody in US Army Basic Training learns on the first day of Nuclear/Biological/Chemical training, you do NOT take off your mask until someone with the proper authority gives the proper “ALL CLEAR” signal. You may be melting in the heat, and you may want the freedom to take it off and relax, but it’s there for a reason.

So what this means is that every Triffid Ranch event scheduled for March, April, and May has been rescheduled, delayed, or otherwise put on hold. The planned April 18 Manchester United Flower Show open house is delayed. This also means that all appointments will have to wait until Richardson’s order is lifted, although remote consultations are still open. (If anything, if you’re looking for a custom enclosure, the delay should give it plenty of time to get established by the time you’re able to pick it up.) Among the important events:

As always, keep an eye on the Shows, Lectures, and Other Events page for changes to the schedule: everything depends right now on how well the COVID-19 situation flattens out, and what gets scheduled against what. Until then, stay safe, stay distant, and we’ll see you when we see you.

The Aftermath: Nosferatu Festival 2020 – 2

Nosferatu Festival in Austin had a lot going for it, but one of the best was the screenings on Saturday and Sunday of the classic 1922 film. Modernized soundtracks for silent films aren’t new (after all, it’s been 35 years since the rerelease of Metropolis with a soundtrack highlighted with new music from Freddy Mercury and Bonnie Raitt, among others), but Nosferatu seems to bring out the best from original electronica composers, and attendees of Nosferatu Festival got two live performances for their efforts. After that, the number of people chuckling and pointing back at my booth at the scene showing off carnivorous plants was just gravy.

All said, thanks to everyone involved with Nosferatu Festival, from the venue to the attendees to the interested bystanders, for putting up with me over two days, and I for one would love to see more events like this at Come and Take It Live. The venue has an excellent feel that’s perfect for darker events such as this, and combine that with a very horror-friendly staff, even having a tire blow out on my cart while packing up on Saturday night wasn’t the bummer it could have been. (Said tire ruptured with no warning on my second-to-last load, loudly and explosively enough that I thought I’d been shot at, and much better that it blew out at the end of Sunday night than when I started setting up on Saturday. THIS, kids, is why any vendor at any show should have at least one spare cart, rack, or other contrivance to convey inventory, just so you’re not dependent upon borrowing someone else’s cart that might not exist.) Let’s see what next year brings, shall we?

Fin.

The Aftermath: Nosferatu Festival 2020 – 1

Well, there’s Austin. Despite arriving in town just in time to learn that the famed SXSW Festival was being cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, everyone else involved with this year’s Nosferatu Festival was ready to go, and so was the Triffid Ranch. It shouldn’t be any surprise that a three-day festival dedicated to the first movie vampire would attract people with an appreciation for impending plagues, so even with the rest of Austin crashing around us, we made the best of it. (A little tip: George Romero taught us all that apocalypses are easier to bear if there’s a sufficient supply of barbecue on hand, and I make it a point to stock up at Green Mesquite on Barton Springs every time I’m in town. Considering how late we all got out of the festivities each night, having a nice stockpile waiting for you at the hotel makes being in a strange town a bit better.)

It’s been a while since the last time I set up a booth at Come and Take It Live (some may remember it as the site for the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays shows until it switched venues in 2019), but it’s like riding a bike. The staff and support crew was on the ball, the weather was exemplary, and an enthusiastic crowd waited outside for the 4:00 opening on the two main days. Even with the threat of coronavirus, we were determined.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington Spring 2020 – 4

The spring 2020 NARBC Arlington reptile show is over, but the application for the September 2020 show just went out. Expect a much wider range of plants in September, as the Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants were still in winter dormancy in February, and expect a whole new range of enclosures as well. Thanks to everyone who came by the booth this time, and I look forward to seeing all of you in seven months.

Fin.

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington Spring 2020 – 3

Astute readers might notice that the enclosures at the gallery and at shows through 2020 so far have nameplates with both basic information on the enclosure and a QR code. Triffid Ranch displays already started phasing out individual business cards as of last year and using QR codes for the main Web site, with overwhelmingly enthusiastic results. The QR codes on the nameplates was based on extensive study of museum display design: the overwhelming number of smartphones today read the QR code with the camera and ask “Would you like to go to (Web site)?” as soon as it’s detected. Among many other things, the individual nameplates are for those who want to take a further look when the booth is overcrowded: take a quick shot and read the enclosure listing at your leisure.

The biggest surprise upon implementing QR codes was with younger attendees: they know about the codes, but overwhelmingly they only see it used for advertising, and advertising for products where they have absolutely no interest, in an attempt to be “edgy”. When they discover someone who uses QR codes that actually impart information, instead of trying to get their email addresses in exchange for a discount coupon, they practically squeal with joy. When I get back to technical writing, this is going to be part of an ongoing discussion on usability that needs to be elaborated further. As Vincent Flanders has been noting for the last two decades, people are willing to use new technology if it actually does something for them, and not because some marketing rep is looking to pad his/her resume with yet more buzzwords. Suffice to say, expect the Triffid Ranch to expand in their use, particularly with more elaborate plant care guides in the near future.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington Spring 2020 – 2

One of the best things about attending the NARBC Arlington reptile show for the last decade is watching the evolution of the venue and the attendees. While Texas had excellent reptile shows on its own in the past, the real conversations involved big shows on either coast of the US, and we were left on the sidelines. The last time I was a vendor at NARBC, back in 2013, one of the regular questions asked by attendees was “Are you going to be at (big East Coast show)?” This time, all focus was on Arlington, with a remarkable number of attendees coming in from outside the state, and some coming from outside the US.

(This leads to an apology in advance: this show and Texas Frightmare Weekend are the two Triffid Ranch shows with a significant number of attemdees who fly in from elsewhere, so a lot of patrons point to a bottle or jar and ask “Could I take this on the plane?” That’s a question I honestly cannot answer, because it depends upon the airline, the baggage handler, and whether or not the TCA rep inspecting your carry-on luggage has issues with you having a flask full of sundews among your lacy unmentionables. The best thing I can recommend is to check two sources before flying out to an event like this: the first is to check with the airline in advance as to its policies about glassware in carry-ons, and GET IT IN WRITING in case someone has an issue during boarding. The second is to check with the state or country to which you will be returning about any necessary inspections or permits needed to bring live plants back home: the last thing any of us want is for you to have your new plant confiscated and/or destroyed because of a regulation or ordinance of which you were unaware.)

This in itself led to interesting conversations with regulars from the NARBC Tinley Park show in Illinois, many of whom hoped that the Triffid Ranch might go transcontinental. Sadly, as much as I would love to attend any show in the Chicago area (I haven’t been in Chicago in 40 years, and a lot of online friends have been nuhdzing about making a trip north for a while), the thought of a trip of that duration depends upon how well the New Orleans Oddities & Curiosities Expo show goes this August. If New Orleans works out, well, it’s high time to head up to Chicago.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington Spring 2020 – 1

It’s been a while since the last time a Triffid Ranch booth appeared at the North American Reptile Breeders Conference show in Arlington: it wasn’t for a lack of interest, but a lack of opportunity. This year, though, it was time to return, both to a new date (the first time since moving to the new gallery space that it was practical or sane to attempt a February show) and to an extensively expanded space at the Arlington Convention Center. Taking over the adjoining hall meant both room for new vendors and much wider aisles between rows than in previous years, both of which were greatly appreciated by new and returning attendees. This meant the largest crowds I’ve ever seen at an NARBC event, and the crowds kept coming all day Saturday and to the close of business on Sunday. Reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, enclosures and accessories: NARBC had it all, and now it included carnivorous plants.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: ReptiCon Dallas January 2020 – 3

Among many other things, the ReptiCon Dallas show marks the beginning of a new decade for the Texas Triffid Ranch: we’re now a fifth of the way through the Twenty-First Century, so it’s time to act like it. For the previous decade, the Triffid Ranch got its start at science fiction and horror conventions, and a very selective spread of shows at these will continue. (Anyone who tells you that I’m phasing out Texas Frightmare Weekend shows, for instance, is trying to start something, because so many of the staff and attendees are family in all but DNA, and even then I have suspicions.) This year, though, that expands to a much more aggressive push toward art gallery shows, reptile and amphibian shows (particularly the upcoming NARBC show at the Arlington Convention Center on Valentine’s Day weekend), and museum events. Expect to see a lot more carnivorous plants all over the place, because 2020 is going to get a bit wild.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Repticon Dallas January 2020 – 2

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: ReptiCon January 2020

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

To be continued…

State of the Gallery: December 2019

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And so we come to the end of yet another year and another decade. (And please don’t start with how officially the Twenty-Teens end on December 31, 2020. You’re probably the sort who begged teachers for homework over holiday break, too.)  It’s been a very interesting time, and as Harlan Ellison put it, this is the hour that stretches. Now we make plans for the next decade.

Hovering over all of this is that November was a particularly cruel month, particularly with the death of my father-in-law. I’m still composing a proper memorial for him, but without his business advice, the Triffid Ranch would be nowhere near where it is today. Considering how thrilled he was to come out to open houses and shows, I’m already missing sharing new projects and ideas, and while he thought he was being rough, I’ll never forget how he picked apart business proposals, scattered the pieces on the floor, and watched intently to see what I’d pick up off the floor and what I’d do with it. He often bragged about me to his friends with “He isn’t much, but he’s better than the last one,” and I always grinned and responded “Yeah, but I could be eating raw human flesh and still be better than the last one.”

Another factor in November is discovering that after 4 1/2 years, the day job that supported the gallery in its early days ended with little warning. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t go running through the halls shrieking “Dobby is FREE!”, nor did I go on a madcap firefight while the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” played in the background. (I’m not saying the place was run by explorers in the further regions of solipsism: it was just less an organization and more of a bet as to how toxic a workplace could get before the Environmental Protection Agency had to get involved.) What happened, though, is that now there’s a LOT more time to focus on Triffid Ranch activities and projects that had to be put by the wayside. You should be seeing a lot more in the next few months, and never mind the Ron Grainer soundtrack.

And now a word about shows. If you’re late to the conversation, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas continue through 2019, with the next one on December 14 and the final one on December 21, both at the gallery starting at 6:00. This, of course, is in addition to remaining open by appointment until the evening of December 24. After that, the Triffid Ranch show season starts very early, beginning with Repticon Dallas in Grapevine on the weekend of January 4, and a joyous return to the North American Reptile Breeders Conference in Arlington the weekend of February 15. As for other events, that’s pretty much on a case-by-case basis, so keep checking back.

In other news, it’s taken a while, but Facebook has finally become intolerable as a platform for small businesses, so expect the Triffid Ranch Facebook page to shut down as of January 1. (Essentially, it’s a combination of increased pressure to boost postings in order for Page followers to get notices, combined with new FB algorithms intended to crowd out posts from companies in favor of “family and friends.” no matter how many times users chose otherwise.) That doesn’t mean I want people to lose touch: that’s what the newsletter is for, and expect a new one very soon.

Anyway, it’s time to get back to the linen mines, so stay in touch, and have a great set of holidays of whatever holiday you celebrate. Me, I’m going to be ten years old all over again.

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

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

Fin.

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

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

To be continued…

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

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

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

To be continued…

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

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

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

To be continued…

State of the Gallery: November 2019 – Special Edition

Surprisingly, not just a metaphor

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

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

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

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

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

The Aftermath: Deep Ellum Creative Market – 2

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

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

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

The Aftermath: Deep Ellum Creative Market 2019 – 1

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

State of the Gallery: October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

The Aftermath: Spooky Spectacle 2019 – 3

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

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

Fin.

The Aftermath: Spooky Spectacle 2019 – 2

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

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

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Spooky Spectacle 2019 – 1

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

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

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 5

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

And so it goes.

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 4

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

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo – 3

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

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2019 – 2

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

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

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention – 3

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

The Aftermath: DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention – 2

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention -1

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


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

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

To be continued…

State of the Gallery: August 2019

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

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

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

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

State of the Gallery: July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Aftermath: Swizzle’s Waipuna Tiki Flea 2019

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

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

The Aftermath: Garland Urban Flea – June

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

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

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

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

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…