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.
Enthusiasts of old arcade games may remember the short lifespan of virtual-reality shooter games in the early 1990s. The most common was a contraption where each player stood atop a small platform, wearing a helmet and a chest rig with an attached gun and movement switch. When the game started, the idea was to shoot your opponent: the gun allowed five shots before it attracted a five-polygon “pterodactyl” that was declared to be immune to gunfire. The movement switch was a rocker switch that moved you back and forth, and you physically turned to go another direction. These never really took off due to the limitations of image rendering software and hardware at the time: even slight head movements had a delay between the movement and when the video screens in each helmet replicated it, leading to overcompensation to get a response and a horrible “here we GOOOO!” sensation that scared to death anybody ever afflicted with labyrinthitis or inner ear infections. It was possible to beat this and learn to move at a minimum, but that required both an exceptional level of patience to wait in line for another chance and an exceptional wallet, and most people tried it once, went back to Tetris, and forgot all about it.
For some reason, this sums up the month of March in most years. After all, remember the famed gallery move of 2017?
This year, March started hot and just kept going, and we’re going to keep up the momentum through the rest of the year. 2020 allowed a great opportunity to organize space and time for maximum efficiency in shows and events, so they’re going to happen a lot more often this year. In addition, as existing shows keep rescheduling and venues start to reopen, the events calendar keeps changing.
One of the things that’s changing is an emphasis on events at the actual gallery, starting in April. Between booth fees, truck rentals, and accommodations costs for out-of-Dallas shows, as well as an ever-increasing percentage of show attendees refusing to wear masks, and having more events but at the gallery makes more sense. In addition, the weather for the next two months should be so wonderful, as it usually is, that holding events outdoors makes perfect sense. Right now, the plan is to keep up the regular Sunday 10am-to-4pm schedule because that seems to work for so many folks, and when things get too hot to consider having events outdoors, we’ll just move inside. We might spice this up during holiday weekends, particularly Memorial Day and Labor Day, but expect only the occasional break in the schedule for other events. For April, though, make plans for April 11 and April 25, the latter of which should be a perfect time for the next Manchester United Flower Show.
With the reopening of businesses and venues throughout the greater Dallas area, it’s also time to shake things up and clear out some room needed for new enclosures. For those business owners and office managers wanting a really good excuse to get a Triffid Ranch enclosure but not ready to rent, keep an eye open for an upcoming contest to win a free Triffid Ranch enclosure for your venue, no strings attached. (Well, some strings: people would probably love to see it in its new location.) 2020 was an especially busy year for new enclosures, so it’s definitely time to find new homes: if you’ve had a crush on a specific enclosure but haven’t quite planned to make a commitment, make plans now.
In the meantime, the spring shows continue. March 27 is the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Dallas’s Fair Park, running from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; the next weekend, April 3, it’s time to head out to Justin for the Frightmare Collectibles Spring Slasher Camp outdoor event, running from 11am to 9pm. Naturally, this means lots and lots of time in the gallery in the interim, and for these two, it’ll always be worth it.
And one last thing. For the last several years, the technology side of the Triffid Ranch has been a little, erm, lacking, mostly due to a comparable lack of resources. The Twitch streams particularly suffered: contrary to the official company line, the Twitch app for iPads is great for receiving (the Friday night events by Dallas’s own Panoptikon are proof of this) but terrible for broadcast, causing things to freeze midstream and resetting only possible with a complete hard reboot. This has changed, with both the first new computer for Triffid Ranch work since 2011 (hey, it got the job done) and equipment to facilitate streaming events. Because of that, expect a lot more virtual events, all the way around. Those continue every Thursday at 8:00 pm Central Time, with the videos being available for later viewing at any time. Now time to get back to the linen mines.
This WAS going to be a boring little missive about the state of the Texas Triffid Ranch, with maybe a few comments on getting through the past year unscathed and making plans for the rest of 2021. Sprinkle on a few snide comments about the plants and their inability to even faster, and cover with a sigh that we were probably going to see an early Sarracenia blooming season because of the quiet winter. You know, like last year. Say what you want about 2020, but last winter was as gentle as moleskin sandals and half as cold. Seriously: all through January and February, the only concern? Rain. We barely got to freezing temperatures in the Dallas area, and by the time of the NARBC spring show at the end of February, the winter coats, barely touched, went back into the closet barely used.
For those three people who were trapped in a pocket universe for the last week and were so isolated from outside information that you flipped coins as to entertaining yourselves with readings from The Wit of Gardner Dozois or just jamming burning caltrops into your eyes, last week started out about as well as you’d expect, meteorologically speaking. The upcoming forecast suggested that things could get colder over the weekend, with a chance of snow, but residents know that this could go any number of ways. Yes, we could have seen snow, but we also could have seen sunny skies and jogging shorts temperatures. Even by midweek, we had reason to worry, but this was leavened by the understanding that we were reasonably prepared for what was coming. Yes, a stockup on groceries was prudent, and so was filling up the car’s gas tank. Make sure the pets were inside. Cover the outside faucets and bring in plants that couldn’t handle two days of freezing weather. We did all that. If anything, the ongoing shift to working from home made things easier, because this way everything didn’t stop dead once the roads turned into skating rinks. Bring home the laptop, check the home wifi connection, and plan to stay inside and off the roads until the snow and ice dripped away. If you did have a control freak of a manager who insisted that you had to come into the office, the idea was to stay away from iced-over bridges and follow the lead of the sand trucks that were already making plans to hit the slickest spots in the area.
After all, we’d had major cold waves before. December 1983 was so cold that Galveston Harbor froze over, but we got through that. February 1985 was when police throughout Texas discovered that the state didn’t have a law banning the use of snowmobiles on roads and freeways, an oversight that was quickly rectified by the Texas Legislature. December 1989 had especial significance for me, as we hit our coldest temperature in recorded history on the day I transported a movie poster-sized sheet of glass on foot, sliding on ice down a hill toward my apartment, for a present for my then-girlfriend, only to have it crack inside the apartment from thermal stress. Our greatest snowfall since the Pleistocene in February 2010 was as close to a weather disaster as we’d had in Dallas since the 1909 flood, as trees never before exposed to heavy snowfall disintegrated and exploded under the weight of a foot of the best snowball snow we’d ever seen. We were ready, though, right? Trees were pruned, sand reserves were allocated, and everyone carried around little pocket computers that could give them immediate information on everything from traffic routes to where to call to report power outages. We were good to go, right?
The plan, pre-snow, was to open the gallery for a joint Valentine’s Day/Lunar New Year open house on February 14, and that plan stayed true until the first snow started on the 13th. By midday that Saturday, the temperature dropped enough that the safety of attendees coming in from Fort Worth and Denton was at risk, so the Carnivorous Plant Tour was rescheduled for February 28 and everything else would resume after the snow melted off. The gallery heaters were working and working well, the automation for plant lights and foggers went off without any issue, and everyone had been informed about the change, so the doors closed on Saturday night, with everyone reasonably sure that everything would be up and running by Tuesday at the latest. That was the idea, anyway.
Record cold, we were prepared for. Snow, we were prepared for. Nobody was prepared, though, for these combined with an electrical grid run by incompetents for greedheads, with no plans for winterizing because Texas (lack of) regulations didn’t require them. The power first went out on Monday morning at about 2:30, and at first it was the gentle hope that “okay, the power is out for a bit, but it’ll come back on.” Hours later, we were firsthand playtesters of James Burke’s technology trap warnings, where the power came on for about three hours and then cut out again. Then it stayed off, just in time for the Dallas area to come neck-and-neck with its all-time record low temperature. After that, more snow.
Compared to many in the area, we were lucky: as temperatures inside the house dipped toward freezing, friends who had just reestablished power invited us to stay there and to bring the cats. That worked until about 2:30 Wednesday morning, when the power cut out over there, combined with cell phone towers losing power because their emergency generators were running out of fuel. We all evacuated that house, we took the cats back home, and finally saw power come back late Wednesday evening.
The upshot is that the gallery and the plants are in good health, even after four days without power. Between being sandwiched between two other locales and my weatherproofing the rear exit, everything inside the gallery came through without problems by the time power was restored on Wednesday evening. (Using a generator wasn’t an option because of a lack of exhaust options, and propane heaters have a little problem with carbon monoxide buildup indoors that really isn’t good for anybody checking up on them.) The outdoor plants in winter dormancy, such as the Sarracenia pitcher plants and the Venus flytraps, are going to take a lot longer to come out of dormancy after this, but there’s hope that everything will come through without major problems.
The really funny part about all of this, in classic gallows fashion, is that from a precipitation standpoint, you’ll barely know this happened by next week. Already the people behind the outages that hit almost the entire state are either blaming wind and solar generators or screaming “But what about…”, and they have the advantage of most of the state going back to February-normal temperatures by next Monday and everyone forgetting by Wednesday. The snow has turned into slush, and the slush will eventually melt into the storm drains, and our biggest hope right now is that we get some regular rain to wash all of that road sand off the streets before it turns Dallas into another Dust Bowl. (Trust me: the road dust after our big ice storm in 1996 made people mistake Dallas for Phoenix.) As far as the gallery is concerned, we got through, but I’m definitely looking at potential battery backups to keep lights and heat going, if only for a few additional hours if this happens again. The week-long power outage after the Dallas area was hit by tornadoes in 2018 should have been a sufficient warning.
After this week, any other gallery discussion is best relegated to “Aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy, what do you think of Dallas?” Now it’s time to get back to work.
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It’s hard not to start every State of the Gallery update with “Well,” but “Well.” January, as it has for the last decade, always has surprises. For perspective, it was four years ago that we got the notice that Valley View Center was coming down in a month and we and every other gallery owner and operator had to pack up and move. Four years later, Valley View is still standing, and so is the Texas Triffid Ranch. (Interestingly, we had tentative plans to move from Valley View to the Collin Creek Mall in Plano in 2016, and Collin Creek is in the final stages of demolition in preparation for the same live/shop open mall that Valley View was supposed to become by the beginning of 2019.) Makes you think.
For those who haven’t been indulging in the winter carnivore cleanup season, things may appear nice and quiet, but that’s because of plans for spring. Among many other developments, it’s time to spread word about the Triffid Ranch enclosure rental program, for businesses, medical and dental professionals, teachers, and anybody else wanting short-term commitments for carnivorous plant ambience. This is in addition to getting started for the new commission season, which already promises to slurp up what I laughingly call “discretionary personal time.” We should all have such problems.
As far as events are concerned, we’re going slowly and carefully, especially since efforts at COVID-19 vaccination in most of Texas are best described in British comedy metaphors. Since January’s Carnivorous Plant Tour went swimmingly in both attendance and sanitation protocols, we’re going to try again on Sunday, February 14 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm for a joint Lunar New Year/St. Valentine’s Day plant tour, with plans for showing a whole new collection of carnivore enclosures at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Fair Park on March 27. It’s also time to restart the virtual events, definitely starting in February, for those who don’t have the opportunity to come to Dallas at this time.
And speaking of COVID-19, it’s time to crack out the bleach wipes and the extra masks, as the new day job is requiring a road trip. Specifically, I’ll be in New Jersey, right on the other side of the river from Philadelphia, for the first week in February, so appointments have to be delayed until afterwards. While the usual run of bookstore and curio shop ransacking is decidedly unsafe right now, the idea is to be able to meet folks in the area, with appropriate social distancing, and even talk to a couple of carnivore breeders in the area about new surprises for 2021. At least, that’s the idea: I haven’t been above the Mason-Dixon Line in January since 1997, and I’ve been far enough away from places where the air hurts my face in January that I might spend the whole time looking for a nice bonfire to crawl into. We’ll see what happens.
Finally, a hint on new enclosures: since nobody has said we aren’t having Texas Frightmare Weekend at the end of April/beginning of May, the plan is to have several new enclosures debut there and at the Oddities & Curiosities Expos in Dallas and Austin this year. Keep an eye out for the big one for Frightmare: let’s just say that building it around a Nepenthes diabolica will be particularly appropriate. See you soon.
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Well. Two weeks out before the end of 2020, a year deserving of many descriptions, and a few of those not being profanities. Depending upon who’s asking, this is either the last year of the last decade or the first year of the new; based on hard experience, years in the Gregorian calendar ending with “0” are generally ones of transition, a chronal chrysalis where the old decade is digested in order to set the form for the next. What sort of strange butterfly bursts free is a good question, because we usually don’t get an idea of what escaped until about halfway through the decade, and by then it’s too late to shove it back into the cocoon and let it cook for a while longer or set the cocoon on fire.
As to what the shiny new 2020s is going to bring the gallery, we’re in strange seas. Ten years ago, the gallery didn’t exist, and even five years ago, it was going through its own strange birth pains. Nearly four years ago, the whole shabeen moved to its present location, and it’s still undergoing reorganization and reevaluation to best utilize the space. That continues: this last summer’s massive renovation was just one stage, and those who remember the gallery back when it was still part of the Galleries at Midtown wouldn’t recognize it. This, of course, is a good thing.
One of the biggest changes in the last month, of course, is that your humble gallery operator just started a new day job. This honestly made gallery work much more productive, and the time spent every evening in the gallery gives spice to the next day’s work. As 2021 progresses, that should continue, especially as temperatures warm and the temperate carnivores start waking up.
As far as special gallery events and functions are concerned, everything right now depends both on the current onslaught of COVID-19 and the effectiveness of the currently approved vaccines intended to get it under control. Both the porch sales of last summer and autumn and the recent Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours allowed safe and secure events to be an option, and while we’re not sure exactly when events start again in January, rest assured that the break after December 27’s tour will be short and succinct.
Otherwise, this sounds like broken vinyl considering circumstances over the last few years, but it’s time to gear up for the new year. If — IF — vaccine use breaks the back of COVID-19, the show and event schedule won’t be as packed as the original plan for 2020, but it will definitely be more active than 2019. To that end, besides bringing in a whole new series of beginner Nepenthes hybrids (including the delightful hybrids “St. Gaya” and “Rebecca Soper,” the latter being the absolute purplish Nepenthes since the “Bill Bailey”), it’s time to get back to offering hot pepper bonsai again, as well as expanding gallery space to a new collection of butterwort, bladderwort, and sundew enclosures. The real vaccine we all need is one for sleep, because that’s the one thing getting in the way of new projects.
And one last note: this installment is dedicated to the memory of my uncle Charles “Corky” Graham, a huge influence on my sordid youth and a quiet reminder of humility and peace in adulthood. If you want to respect his memory, get any kid in your life a Spirograph: my memories of practicing with one, with his help, are memories I’ll cherish for the rest of my days. Hail and farewell.
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One of the only issues I’ve ever had with the Henry Selick film The Nightmare Before Christmas involves the ending. For all of the celebration of Santa Claus traveling the world and replacing all of Jack Skellington’s creepy toys with traditional Christmas gifts, not one kid – not one protogoth kid – was screaming and crying and begging Santa to leave a Jack gift behind. I just picture that kid watching the Russian dolls loaded with scorpions being hauled off, swearing right then and there that when s/he grows up, there’s going to be one little part of the world where Halloween never ends, and then finding that a lot of other kids feel the same way, so they start an enclave, and that starts a movement…
Anyway. Where were we? Oh, yes, Triffid Ranch plans for November. Absolutely no connection to the previous paragraph. None at all.
Well, now that Halloween is over, it’s time to switch gears slightly as far as the gallery is concerned. No more Porch Sales until at least the end of March, both because of variable weather and because all of the Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants need their winter dormancy. Right now, the emphasis is on introducing new Nepenthes, Cephalotus, and Mexican butterwort enclosures through the winter, as well as giving opportunities for everyone to see them. To that end, the first of the November indoor plant tours starts on November 15, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and those plant tours will continue on selected Sundays until spring. (By various necessities, these won’t be running every Sunday, owing to starting a new day job in December and ongoing events with Caroline Crawford Originals at the beginning of the month, but details will be posted as they become available.)
Concerning shows outside of the gallery, everything is still in the air, in some cases quite literally. The latest news concerning a potential COVID-19 vaccine has already started a race with various venues to schedule indoor shows for 2021, and it’s the view of this proprietor that it’s far too early to discuss returning to a regular event schedule when Texas just crossed, as of today, one million known cases. Unfortunately, the combination of live plants and heavy glassware means that shipping isn’t an option, which means that online events such as the Blood Over Texas Blood Bazaar also aren’t an option at this time.
On the subject of the Blood Bazaar, one of the only bits of good news in the last eight months is the solidarity between friends and cohorts in the online community, and it’s time to return a whole slew of favors. It’s been a very long time since the last Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions cavalcade of purchasing opportunities, and that starts up again as of Thursday. Expect lots of recommendations on everything from masks to toy dinosaurs, with a lot of tips on carnivorous plants and carnivorous plant accessories.
Finally, 2020 was intended to start with a serious expansion in both additional Triffid Ranch shows and local business opportunities, and the pandemic put paid to both before things got too involved for the year. Now that businesses are reopening, it’s time to announce the next phase of the Triffid Ranch business empire: the opportunity to rent enclosures. Keep an eye open for the details very soon, but for companies and individuals who would like the uniqueness and prestige of a carnivorous plant enclosure without the maintenance, or who want to switch things out on a regular basis, you now have an option. Again, details will follow very soon.
Other than that, back to the linen mines: new enclosures won’t build themselves. And if you think this is exciting, wait until December.
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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.
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Well, it’s been interesting. Six months into a pandemic, and we’re not all dead yet. Pining for the fijords, maybe, but at least we aren’t at the “have a drink and walk around, I’ve got a lot to think about” stage yet. At least we haven’t hit the “Aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy, what do you think of Dallas?” stage of denial, for which we should all be exceedingly thankful. It’s all about the little things.
To start, it’s been really rough for carnivorous plant growers and sellers over the last two years, so please offer solidarity and respect to Sarracenia Northwest, which had to evacuate the wildfires tearing up Oregon east of Portland. Both Jacob and Jeff are fine, and they’re trying to get caught up on back orders, so please feel free to show them more love. (Both of them were very patient and considerate with me when I was first getting into carnivores, so I owe them a debt I simply cannot repay. Seriously: they’re good folks.
On the gallery side, the renovation continues, if only as a demonstration that Tetris games are much more fun on the other side of the screen. For those who missed the previous update, the current final liquidation sale of the Pier 1 chain gave an opportunity to revamp and update the shelving in the gallery, as the Lundia modular shelving used by Pier 1 was both easier to modify and adjust and more tolerant of the, erm, impressive weight of some of the larger enclosures. This, of course, meant clearing off the existing shelf units, finding places for everything in the interim, sealing and finishing the new shelves, putting the shelves together (much more difficult than originally thought), and moving plant enclosures back onto the new arrangements. Even small changes led to massive cascades as far as improvements in storage and rearrangement of assets, so what was intended to be a quick one-week switchout turned into something that should be complete and ready to be viewed by the middle of October. I now have nothing but respect for museums needing to reorganize their stored collections, because it just grows.
On the subject of shows and outside events, after the weekend of September 26, we’ve got nothing. We just got word today that the aquarium trade show Aquashella cancelled all of its events for 2020 due to COVID-19 safety concerns, including the planned Halloween Weekend show in Dallas, and pretty much everything scheduled for November and December has been delayed until 2021. To date, the only remaining show for 2020 is the NARBC Arlington reptile and amphibian show on September 26 and 27, and that one is only continuing because of a recent upgrade of the Arlington Convention Center’s air filtration system, limits on the number of people in the convention center at any given time, and mandatory mask compliance. If there’s any good out of this, it’s that a lot of 2021 events are already prepaid, with the presumption that this won’t be ongoing through then, too. (And boy howdy, am I glad that the Triffid Ranch was considered too small-potatoes for the Dallas Art Fair, because to be caught in that mess…)
(As an aside, the official schedule for the Oddities & Curiosities Expos, including Dallas’s and Austin’s shows, comes out on Halloween. 2021 probably won’t be the year the Triffid Ranch appears at shows outside of Texas, but the intent is there.)
With the implosion of the local and out-of-town show community, the focus for the rest of the year will be on gallery events, both inside and outside. What makes October particularly bittersweet is that our neighbor, Visions of Venice, is moving out on Halloween weekend for a larger, more accessible locale in Dallas’s Design District, and it wouldn’t be right not to have one final sendoff before Stefano sets up in his new location. Details will follow, not just for a limited-engagement indoor event in mid-October, but for a freshly available outdoor event on Halloween Day thanks to the Aquashella cancellation. As always, the Sunday Morning Porch Sales run through the whole of October: we currently have tentative plans for similar events in November, but that also is up in the air.
Other than that, things go well, and with impending weather weather, expect a lot of new enclosures and enclosure concepts. See you around.
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Welp, we’re a fair portion of the way through the kidney stone of a year known as 2020, and we haven’t even hit autumn yet. Whether you look at this year as the end of the 2010s or the beginning of the 2020s, and I’d argue that every year in the Gregorian calendar ending with “0” is one of transition and painful birthing pains, times are only going to get more interesting until New Year’s Day, and not just in the classic Chinese curse sense. Worse, if 2021 follows the same trajectory as 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2011 (1971 was the year I started kindergarten, so I’m a touch biased about it), we’re going to need a week off after New Year’s Day just to get ready.
This August has particular pith and moment: five years ago last month, leases were signed, keys were exchanged, and the first piles of random supplies were left in a former men’s clothing store in the now-defunct Valley View Center in Dallas. Six weeks after that, on August 20, the soft opening of Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery coincided with the Midtown ArtWalk event held at the mall every third Saturday, and the rest was history. A half-decade later, the Texas Triffid Ranch is still going, albeit in fits and starts, and we have PLANS.
Starting off on the gallery side, the whole of Dallas has gone beyond hunkering in shelter and waiting for some suggestion of future normality, and some of us are making plans with stolen War Rigs and tankers of guzzoline. This starts with virtual and live events, made as safe as we can manage, starting this month. For those outside of the Dallas area, and those within Dallas who feel safer in a virtual environment, the Triffid Ranch goes back to Twitch for a virtual open house on Thursday, August 20. This one is open to everyone with an Internet connection, and feel free to pass on word. Likewise, we’re going to try for our first live indoor event in six months on Saturday, August 22 with a live and in-person gallery open house. Please note that with the latter, no more than five people at a time will be allowed to enter, hand sanitizer is encouraged, and masks are mandatory as per Dallas County regulations.
If evening events don’t work, the Triffid Ranch Sunday Porch Sales continue through the end of August and into September, running from 7:00 am to noon. (Right now, the schedule for September is tentative, depending upon whether or not the NARBC reptile show in Arlington on September 26 and 27 is cancelled. If it is, the Porch Sales run through the whole month.) Since recent experiments with setting up a tent and opening up considerably more space were so successful, this will probably be the standard for Porch Sales until the weather gets too cold for outdoor events. This being Texas, that might run until December, and we’ll figure it out after that.
In other news, the original plan for 2020 was to expand into more shows outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, including road trips to Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and even New Orleans. All of those shows are either defunct or rescheduled for 2021 (sadly, the New Orleans and Houston shows are now scheduled for the same weekend next June, so I had to opt out of both), and the rest of the 2021 schedule is still in limbo. However, for 2022, I may be doing a very, very, very bad thing and scheduled a longer road trip than I’ve ever done before. One word: Chicago.
And as a final interlude, a story from the depths of 1990, I’ve spent the last week trying to hunt down a link to a story from early 1990: it’s apparently unavailable online, and I can’t request a copy from the newspaper in which I first encountered it because the late great Dallas Times Herald has been dead for working on 29 years. Even many diehard fans of the writer Hunter S. Thompson don’t know about how Thompson received an invitation from an aide to then-US Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) to join Gramm at a Senate Republican prayer breakfast. The aide sent invitations through a general list of press contacts, and had no knowledge of the author of Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72 until word got out. When word got out, Gramm’s office tried to repeal the invitation, and was relieved when Thompson decided not to bring his preferred breakfast menu to Washington DC. I think about that story a lot these days.
Posted onJuly 16, 2020|Comments Off on State of the Gallery: July 2020
What about that June, huh? Go to bed with the place looking as if Hunter S. Thompson had been camped on your couch for the last month, and wake up to July. Most people would just look at the waves of dumpster fires rolling by and say “Well, that’s the last time I freebase Preparation H.” Around here, we say “Well, until Jimi Hendrix and Joey Ramone ride up on tyrannosaurs and ask about using the place as background for a music video, it’s time to get back to work.” Good thing, too: I don’t have time to put in a watering trough in this heat, much less make sure that the parking lot is shoveled clean after they leave.
Welp, to start, those looking forward to Triffid Ranch shows and events in 2020 are going to face more disappointment. Because Texas Governor Greg Abbott continues to plagiarize state policy on COVID-19 from a 1974 teleplay, we’re looking at state cases exploding to the point where most events for 2020 are preemptively cancelled through Texas and elsewhere. The big news came last week, when both the Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in New Orleans and the Houston Horror Film Festival had to reschedule for 2021. Unfortunately, they’re running on the same exact weekend, and that’s a week after the Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in Austin, and since being in multiple places simultaneously isn’t an option at the moment, attendance at both depends upon what happens in 2022. The situation stinks (the plan was that New Orleans was going to be the first Triffid Ranch event outside of Texas, as well as being an opportunity to show off work to New Orleans friends whom I haven’t seen since 2000), but safety is utmost, and Nola and Houston folks should look to both of those shows next June as great opportunities by great people.
And other shows? Right now, the only still-scheduled 2020 shows on the itinerary are Texas Frightmare Weekend and NARBC Arlington in September and AquaShella Dallas on Halloween, and everything is contingent upon whether shows like these are safe by then. As always, keep checking back: because everyone else will know as I do.
As for events at the gallery, now here’s where things get interesting. The porchside Flash Sales continue through July and probably through the end of October, or as long as weather allows, and appointments for larger enclosure viewings and commission consultations are still available. The big acid test is going to be the currently very tentative plan to open up for an open house for the gallery’s fifth anniversary on August 20: besides masks and gloves, watching as other galleries and museums are opening with individuals and small groups coming through in 15-to-30-minute blocks is probably going to be the way to go. It won’t allow people to hang out all night and talk, and food and drink definitely won’t be an option, but so long as city, county, and state regulations continue to allow operation with reasonable precautions, it’s better than nothing at all. Again, as details work themselves out, they’ll be shared. (If you can’t make it, or if you have additional reasons to self-isolate, well, that’s what video is for: aside from lots of new video on the YouTube channel, it’s time to dust off the Twitch channel and hold some more streaming events. It’s just that other things got in the way.)
And as a final note, as aggravating, irritating, and terrifying as the last four months have been, there’s one good iridium lining, other than having plenty of time to study further developments in museum and zoo design. A lot of the plans set in place at the end of 2019 were dependent upon a lot of big shows between March and July clearing out space for new projects, and those plans turning back into pumpkins and mice means that now is a perfect time to conduct a stem-to-stern renovation of the gallery space. The recent renovation and removal of the old AC unit and replacement with a vastly improved unit makes this considerably easier, as well as making a future opening considerably safer. If everything works out, expect a seriously changed look to the gallery in time for its fifth anniversary: it’s about time for a change, and it’s not as if either a day job or a failing AC are getting in the way of that happening.
Posted onMay 14, 2020|Comments Off on State of the Gallery: May 2020
The first third of 2020 has been quite the decade, hasn’t it? We should be thankful: it hasn’t gone full Mad Max: Fury Road (or even the Canadian version), and the current federal plan to open up everything was named “Operation Warp Speed” instead of the obvious “Operation Impending Doom 1”. Things are opening up slightly, and so many of us have gone from “hunkering down and waiting for instructions” to “taking care of each other because nobody else will.” Of course, we haven’t hit Memorial Day Weekend yet: as I learned 40 years ago this June, all bets are off when things start to get hot outside.
As for the gallery, both the need to care for plants and the need to reorganize continues, and the last two months led to a lot of cleaning and reorganizing, the likes of which haven’t happened since we first moved in three years ago. The reorganizing of supplies and accessories meant rediscovering all sorts of things buried in odd places, and their rediscovery means being able to use them all up. To that end, expect to see a lot of new enclosures, both originals and commissions (the latest commission is going to be a special surprise, so keep an eye open for updates), if and when things stabilize.
As far as activities at the gallery are concerned, for obvious reasons, the open houses aren’t going to be an option for a while, but the Flash Sales on the gallery front porch continue through the whole month of May. They may continue in the mornings through the summer: everything depends upon the weather, and trying to conduct anything in the afternoon and evening between the middle of June and the beginning of October in North Texas is just folly. In the meantime, they’ll run every Sunday in May from noon to 6:00 pm, always with a mask and a smile for car-side pickup.
Outside events continue to get interesting. As of May 15, the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo is still scheduled for the end of June, but everything depends upon both the city of Dallas and the state of Texas as to whether it gets rescheduled. That already happened with the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo: all convention events in Austin have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, so this year’s show was rescheduled for June 2021. The same applies for shows rescheduled for August and September: things may stabilize enough to allow big events to go on, and they may not, and all we can do is wait for word.
Because of that uncertainty, expect a lot of virtual events, especially now that a lot of the initial technical issues with the Twitch TV channel have been rectified. Well, kinda: Twitch still has issues with its tablet app freezing up at the end of a stream and not saving the preceding stream for later viewing, so it was time to join the early 2000s and start a YouTube channel as well. There’s not much there yet, as it just started, but expect a lot of strangeness in the very near future, especially with demonstrations of fluorescence in North American and Asian pitcher plants, as well as fluorescence in blooms you wouldn’t expect. (Most Americans have never seen an aloe bloom, so just wait to see what one looks like to a hawkmoth or hummingbird. It’s high time to crack out the fluorescent mineral lights that were just unearthed during the storeroom cleanup. (It’s also time to give the crew at Glasstire their five-minute virtual tour, so there’s that, too.)
Other than that, the main focus is getting everything ready for something resembling normal operation, and now that the shelter-in-place order over Dallas County has been lifted, the Triffid Ranch reopens by appointment. It’s time to get back to work.
(And before you ask, the cat at the top of the page is Benji, the greenhouse cat. No, I don’t know his real name. No, he isn’t mine: he has a collar and a tag, so he belongs to someone else. All I know is that most mornings, I find him camped out in the greenhouse, and he has a thing about perching on one of the benches and giving me the perfect Japanese cat print smile. I just can’t take a picture of it, because the moment he sees a camera or phone, he demands attention and ruins the shot. He and my cat Alexandria also apparently have a relationship: she has no interest in going outside, but she loves to camp out in the closed garage and talk to him through the garage door. Things could always be worse.)
Posted onApril 24, 2020|Comments Off on State of the Gallery: April 2020
A solid month after the COVID-19 lockdown started, and everyone understands my hometown’s unofficial motto: “So…aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy, what do you think of Dallas?” For those having issues with shelter-in-place orders, I sincerely sympathize and empathize with your plight, and here’s hoping that the Triffid Ranch can help take the edge off. For those suddenly finding ourselves with the opportunity to live our preferred hours, “If I’m not back in my coffin by sunrise, I turn back into a pumpkin,” there’s a lot to do. Hang on.
To start off, the virtual Manchester United Flower Show on April 18 was an experiment in terror, but it also worked. Yeah, the video froze at the beginning (a glitch in its iPad app means that everything freezes if texts or other notices come through, requiring a hard restart to get everything going again), but it was a grand start. This, of course, was the beginning: the archives are up on Twitch, and expect new installments every Sunday evening. (During the duration of the lockdown, don’t expect any Saturday evening virtual open houses for one very important reason. I refuse to make anyone choose between Triffid Ranch streams and those of Panoptikon Dallas, myself included. Dallas’s best goth club is having issues with the lockdown as well, the DJs and crew are friends, and the Friday and Saturday night playlists are a great comfort in the gallery late at night.)
And on the subject of virtual events, it only gets better next week. Until March, the biggest Triffid Ranch show of the year was the planned Texas Frightmare Weekend horror convention that traditionally runs the first weekend of May. Frightmare has been moved to September, and we’re all awaiting word as to whether it’ll be safe for the show to run then (and whether we’ll all be wearing masks and not just for costuming), but Grand Poobah Loyd Cryer decided that if we couldn’t have the show in May, we at least needed something. That’s why, starting on April 25, the new Frightmare HQ streaming show promises to give everyone a taste of what makes TFW such an event. The first broadcast runs on April 25 and runs through the weekend of May 2, and those who missed out on the last virtual open house get a good look at the inside of the gallery starting at 2:00 pm Central Time. And yes, if you can’t watch live, the archives will be available on YouTube and Twitch.
In other developments, it’s official as of today: the governor of Texas signed an executive order today that allows non-essential business to conduct pick-up and delivery business, which means that the Triffid Ranch is back to limited operation. Because (a) customers cannot enter the premises, (b) only curbside delivery is allowed, and (c) the gallery is currently full of plants that had been potted in anticipation of the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo show scheduled for March, we’re going to try something different. All enclosures listed in the Enclosures Past & Present section are available for purchase at any time (just schedule an appointment for pickup or delivery), but most of the sales at shows such as Oddities & Curiosities and Texas Frightmare Weekend were for smaller, individual plants and containers. Because setting up tables and letting customers go through a complete inventory isn’t an option, it’s time for a Sunday Flash Sale. For the foreseeable future, from 12 noon until we’re out of plants, the Triffid Ranch front porch will have one specific species or group available, all generally identical, and all for the same price. Check back each Saturday to find out what the Flash Sale special is going to be, and call or write to reserve a plant once the special is announced. For those who want to drive by first, we accept drive-up visitors, but everyone will HAVE to stay in the car while doing so. (On my side, it’s masks and gloves all the way around, with containers cleaned before the sale starts.) For obvious reasons, the sale starts with tropical carnivores, but expect to see Sarracenia and other outdoor carnivores in the next few weeks once growing season gets going.
Well, it’s not the same as normal operations for an April, but things could be a lot worse. After all, three years ago, the gallery was a packed-up mess after its relocation, and it took six months of work to get it ready for its official reopening. If we survived that, we can survive anything.
Posted onMarch 15, 2020|Comments Off on State of the Gallery: March 2020
Well. Skip out on one update in February, and look at what happens. All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi…er, I mean, all of those years of mental preparation for the collapse of human civilization, and here’s what it comes down to. No zombies, no Daleks, no mutants, no dinosaurs, no asteroid impacts, all of the rampaging highway raiders in Mohawks and bondage pants are riding mopeds…there’s a very good reason to stay home until this is all over.
Very seriously, for all of the “Love In the Time of COVID-19” jokes, March just got very interesting around the Triffid Ranch. Being open solely by appointment, social distancing was already enforced before everything went down, and a lot of those appointments may now be run virtually. (Yes, that means finally getting my Skype account up and going.) I was literally in Austin for 15 minutes last weekend when the City of Austin announced that it was shutting down the SXSW art and music festival, and cancellations rapidly spread through Texas, especially after Dallas County set up a ban on gatherings for more than 500 people on March 13. I was last-minute scheduled for a one-night presentation via the Corpsepaint Show at Gas Monkey Live on March 13, so there was that. All-Con was on its second day when Dallas County ordered its shutdown, with all of the vendors having to pack up and go home at about 11:30 Friday morning. Then came the list of events that were being rescheduled because there was no guarantee that COVID-19 would abate by the planned date. The Deep Ellum Art Festival. Fan Expo Dallas. When the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo shuts down, you know people are taking this seriously.
To their eternal credit, the organizers of the Oddities & Curiosities Expo touring shows and Texas Frightmare Weekend have been on the case. Not within an hour of the Dallas County announcement, the Oddities & Curiosities crew were up and rescheduling shows, with the Dallas show moving from March 28 to June 27. Texas Frightmare Weekend is still starting on May 1 until further notice, but Loyd Cryer and his faithful crew were already running contingency plans and reassuring attendees and vendors that if anything changed, they’d know as soon as humanly possible. To their greater credit, both shows understood that a lot of us vendors were going to be hit badly due to the number of March shows shutting down, so they both posted lists of vendors so interested bystanders could buy from them directly until the situation was under control. In the interests of solidarity with cohorts and friends, go check them out and buy mass quantities, or at least let friends know that they’re out here:
With all of this, it’s hard not to bring up my home town’s unofficial motto: “Aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy, what do you think about Dallas?” All I can say is that while we’re all staying home, with good reason, keep an eye open for interesting updates: since the gallery is reasonably isolated and I have plenty of time that was previously taken up with show preparation, it’s time to write up all of the plant care guides and other ephemera that had been put off for months and sometimes years. At least, that’s the idea. We’ll see how it goes from here. Until then, stay inside, stay safe, and rest assured that if you get a newsletter from me, it’ll include more content than far too many of the ones flooding your email box right now. And so it goes.
UPDATE (3/16/2020): I just got word from Jason at Curious Garden about Saturday’s carnivorous plant workshop, and it’s being rescheduled for a date after all of our current self-quarantine. This news wasn’t unexpected, but it came just as the City of Dallas ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, and gyms within city limits. It’s getting strange out there, folks, so take care.
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.
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.
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Posted onNovember 21, 2019|Comments Off on State of the Gallery: November 2019 – Special Edition
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?
Comments Off on State of the Gallery: November 2019 – Special Edition
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.
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Posted onAugust 2, 2019|Comments Off on 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.
Anniversary time at the Triffid Ranch. As of next week, it’s been two years since we packed up the last of the stuff in the old gallery, swept out the floors, handed in the keys, and drove the moving truck one last time to the new location. Oh, there was sadness that last day, as sheetrock barriers went up and all of us departing artists shook hands and wished each other the best. Two years later, the last of the stuff frantically put on shelves and in closets to make room is FINALLY getting put in proper locations. That’s perfect, considering the number of new commissions and projects that need to go out the door in 2019: the best thing for any artist isn’t about finding room to show off the latest project, but in working on new projects to replace the projects that just sold. Between a superior location and less commute time from the Day Job to the new gallery every day, this simply wouldn’t have been possible if we’d stayed at the old Valley View spot. And should I mention the new airbrush station?
(And as an aside, I thank everyone who keeps forwarding Dallas Morning News columns about the ongoing non-demolition of Valley View Center, but it’s time to let it go. I say this not only because, as is Dallas’s fashion, the current spate of lawsuits involving the property pretty much guarantee that nothing’s going to happen to the mall for years and possibly decades, until the cases are resolved or the grandchildren of everyone involved decide it’s time to get a real job and move on. It’s also because the only person who really cares any more is the James Lipton of Fandom over at the Morning News, because he had so much pinned on being able to get into the promised Midtown mall before anybody else. The mall that, based on his ecstatic front-page press release transcriptions in 2016, was supposed to be finished with initial construction and moving in tenants by now. I understand his attachment to memories of Valley View: his first swirly, the first time he pitched a fit about getting freebies he claimed he was going to review, the first time high school classmates told him to wait for them at Valley View so they could go to Prestonwood or the Galleria in peace without his obsessively yapping about Star Trek and comic books…I understand. I know the feeling all too well, and I got a life because that vague nostalgia for something that wasn’t all that great doesn’t accomplish a thing. However, considering that every column on Valley View still has the same underlying theme of “Do you know who I am? I used to have my own CABLE SHOW!”, reading any more goes contrary to my favorite Bible passage, Proverbs 26:11. If he’d had any concern for the artists and retailers being forced out of Valley View before last month, instead of crowing about its demolition, I might feel a bit differently, but that change was only because of his butthurt over the mall’s owner not returning his phone calls, and not because he gave a damn about Dallas artists and retailers. End rant.)
Anyway, the rest of February and the beginning of March are going to be a bit quiet, but only in the way setting the right seismic charges deep within the Earth’s crust is quieter than the resultant eruption of a significant portion of that crust into orbit as our newest moon. In addition to several commissions, this time of the year is vital for getting everything ready for spring. Cleaning out the Sarracenia pools, checking the rainwater caches, getting seeds for carnivores and peppers stratified before temperatures rise…it may stop, but it never ends. That affects the upcoming show schedule, too: as mentioned last month, we made the hard decision to pull out as vendors at March’s All-Con, mostly due to Day Job commitments that made appearing at a four-day convention impossible. Right now, the first Triffid Ranch show of the year will be at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo inFair Parkon March 30, and we’re awaiting word about the standby list for a big show shortly after that. As we hear more, we’ll pass it on.
I’ll also add that things get even more interesting on those commissions, because sometimes having to sit on something for a while yields unexpected benefits. Nearly a decade ago, what started as a vague suggestion from a cohort turned into a major project to convert an old first-generation iMac into a working and useable plant enclosure. The resultant iTerrarium led to a bit of coverage and a lot of smartaleck comments (including one Cat Piss Man who sat in front of my booth at the 2012 All-Con repeatedly snarking “That’s the one good use for a Mac” until I got up to confront him: I wonder what happened to him?), and other projects got in the way. Well, never underestimate late 1990s nostalgia, because I was just commissioned to do several more. Best of all, because of serious changes in in both lighting and painting technology, it’s possible to do these with higher light levels, lower heat buildup, and less general maintenance. Expect details within the next month, as I make the developers of white-light LEDs just a little bit richer.
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Coming up on the new gallery’s second anniversary, the main theme around the Triffid Ranch this month is…cleaning. Lots of cleaning, shifting, moving, sorting, cataloguing, and launching into the sun. Pots and containers that almost made sense when they were originally purchased three years ago but simply can’t cut the mustard today. Glues and other adhesives that didn’t age well. Electrical fixtures purchased years before the gallery originally opened that are now desperately obsolete based on today’s technology. Equipment and supplies purchased for big projects that fell through, usually when the client only wanted to pay in exposure. Items that fell literally between the cracks in those frantic days during and after the move fromValley View Center. Combine this with a renovation of the actual toolspace, and the gallery is as close to ergonomic as it’s been since the beginning of 2017. You know, when the space was empty.
(Seriously, folks, take it from a professional: DO NOT STOCKPILE GLUES. Buy what you need when you need it, or what you reasonably think you can use within a month. Most of your cyanoacrylate superglues will last longer, but there’s nothing quite like desperately needing silicone sealer for a project, slapping a presumably fresh cartridge into the caulking gun, cranking it up to put down a bead of fresh silicone, and getting instead a bead of what looks and feels like transparent cottage cheese with no adhesive properties whatsoever. Don’t even get me started on wood glues: old wood glue looks like snot, it smells like snot, and it has a third of the holding power of snot. Not only will your projects fall apart, but then everyone visiting will assume that your workspace does double duty as a preschool.)
That’s the situation at the moment: with everyone still recovering from holiday stress, the best thing to do is get everything around for the rest of the year, and that’s very nearly literally complete. I can’t say that previous visitors won’t recognize the new gallery, but it definitely has a lot less of the Doctor Who/The Red Green Show mashup feel than in previous months. Well, I SAY that, but you should see some of the odd Halloween pots picked up when a Pier One distributor shut down their local showcase office two years ago. And this applies until it’s time to restock glassware after selling everything during the spring show season.
As far as events are concerned, we had to make a tough decision earlier this week, and the Triffid Ranch won’t be at All-Con in the middle of March. This wasn’t done lightly, and it mostly involved schedule conflicts with the day job, which is why we really had no choice. The schedule is going to be filled with more one-day events through the rest of the year, but four-day events aren’t going to be an option for the foreseeable future. The Oddities and Curiosities Expo at Dallas’s Fair Parkon March 30is still on, though, as well as other events to be announced very shortly.
Oh, and another benefit of the final gallery cleanup: besides freeing up room for new projects, this also allows the opportunity to restart a program put on hiatus after the Valley View exodus. Some of you may remember Sid, the Nepenthes bicalcarata pet at the long-defunct and much-missed Role2Play gaming store in Coppell, and it’s time to expand the rental program that allowed Sid to make such an impression. Bookstores, dentist offices, classrooms, business lobbies: Triffid Ranch enclosure rentals offer the opportunity to show off unique carnivorous plant displays without having to deal with maintenance and upkeep. Keep checking back, because the details will be available very soon, or feel free to drop a line to become an early implementer.
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It’s midway through the month already. We’re now a little over a week away from the official autumnal equinox, and just over six weeks until Halloween. Next thing you know, the calendar will have switched over, we’ll be looking over New Year’s Eve 2631, preparing for the Gorash Annexation to set up outposts and the occasional clearance outlet on the other side of our galaxy, and wondering if it really was such a great idea to de-extinct the moa and let them go feral in the Canadian Rockies…but perhaps I’ve said too much.
Over here at the Triffid Ranch, frantic work for the next open house is the order of the day, especially with the number of outside shows and events between now and the end of the year. After a lot of deliberation, particularly with input from people unable to get free on Saturdays to attend previous open houses, the next open house is scheduled for October 26 from 6:00 to 11:00 CST. Yes, a Friday night. Depending upon the success of this open house, we may try a few mid-week open houses as well, especially as football season gets going and Dallas traffic goes from “typically abysmal” to “blow up every highway in the state and require everyone to ride a bike for a month to learn some humility.”
Related news: partly to improve opportunities for people to see the latest Triffid Ranch enclosures outside of open houses and appointments, and partly to help fill a niche with the best damn reptile and amphibian shop in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the Texas Triffid Ranch is now partnering with DFW Reptarium in Plano to offer new carnivore enclosures at the Reptarium. For those who haven’t visited it already, the Reptarium is a herpetophile’s joy, starting with the store’s mascot: an absolutely stunning crocodile monitor named “Whisper” who lives in the front window. In addition to the store’s assemblage of panther chameleons, arrow-poison frogs, emerald tree boas, and the world’s most mellow frilled dragon, the Reptarium now has the Nepenthes bicalcarata enclosure “Hans-Ruedi,” and more will be available based on customer response. In other words, this holiday season is going to be VERY busy.
In the interim, October also features an outdoor show on October 13, thanks to the Garland Urban Flea in, unsurprisingly, Garland, Texas. This marks the first Triffid Ranch show ever held in Garland, and the weather should be absolutely stunning. The October Urban Flea runs from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, so feel free to stop by for the last of the season’s Venus flytraps and threadleaf sundews.
And for those who might be coming across these missives via Facebook, be warned that a Triffid Ranch Facebook presence is shrinking and will continue to do so. The constant push to boost FB page posts was already becoming annoying, as they still weren’t reaching the people who chose to receive page updates. Now, new posts disappear immediately after entering them, only to pop back up days or weeks later. And then there’s Facebook’s page messaging system, which penalizes page owners if they don’t respond to any message sent to the page within minutes. This means either hiring someone to manage a social media presence (which I suspect is the hope), or get dinged for getting a message minutes after going to bed for the night and answering it only after waking up. Either way, it’s once again time to note that no such problems exist with the Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale, of which a new installment will be out very shortly. Go forth with the clicky to get newsletter-exclusive news and commentary, and occasional cool and educational prizes.
Well, back to the linen mines. Expect a few new enclosure premieres before the end of September, including a fun little commission: it’s either ramping up the enclosure releases or having a really slow holiday season. And on the holiday season, expect some extra surprises with this year’s Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas events. It’s absolutely amazing how much you can get done when you’re not unpacking from an unscheduled move…
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The days end the way they begin: covered with glue, paint, epoxy putty, and random bits of styrofoam. First comes the watering, and you don’t want to know how much water moves through the gallery on a weekly basis. The floor of the gallery is a concrete slab, and yet you’d swear that it listed back and forth like a sailing ship deck. Either the sundews have evolved speaking apparatus or the sleep deprivation has reached the point of no return, because their conversations are so BORING. And then there are the people wanting to come by at 3 in the morning, and I have to explain “I don’t care if you’re from D magazine! I don’t have any coca plants here! No, wait, I don’t have any at all! No flowers in this town: only carnivorous plants.” And that’s when I start screaming “The floor is LAVA!”, because I’ve wandered outside into the parking lot and lava isn’t anywhere near as hot. At what point will the heat break and my brain stop impersonating a toasted marshmallow?
Oh, hi. Um, never mind me. Just getting things ready for the next gallery open house. Just do me a favor and look behind you. Do you see my dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife in her teeth? Cool: so it’s not just me.
A bit more seriously, the best analogy for August in Dallas comes from what the late author Harlan Ellison described as “the hour that stretches.” Apparently space-time is as bent and warped by overstressed air conditioners as by gravitic anomalies, because you wake up one morning and figure “Oh, I have five weeks to get everything done, and I’m not going to slack off, so I’m going to start now.” Look down for a second and then back to the clock, and everything has to be finished in an hour before everyone arrives. You KNOW you’re working, and you KNOW you’re making better progress than ever before, and it’s still not fast enough to deal with that hour that stretches. Hence, after this gets published, it’s back to the workspace, because carnivorous plant enclosures don’t make themselves. I know this from experience.
The biggest news, of course, is that the Triffid Ranch celebrates three years as a gallery this month, which means it’s time for another open house. Specifically, the Texas Triffid Ranch Third Anniversary Open House starts at 6:00 on Saturday, August 18, and ends pretty much when everyone goes home. Besides the novelty of the event itself (I look at pictures of the first ArtWalk at the old Valley View location and jawdrop as to how far everything has come since 2015), this open house includes the premieres of new enclosures, a custom cake designed and baked by the one and only Angela Nelson, and samples of that horsecrippler cactus ice cream mentioned last month. This is, of course, in addition to the opportunity to take home your own carnivorous plant enclosure or talk about commissioning a custom enclosure. As always, Triffid Ranch open houses are family-friendly events, too, so don’t feel obligated to leave kids at home.
As far as outside events and shows are concerned, one of the best things about living in North Texas is that autumn lasts until the end of the year, and as soon as the heat starts letting up in September, everyone rushes outside to breathe fresh air. (Every vendor familiar with outdoor Dallas shows can appreciate the Ray Bradbury novella Frost & Fire, because it hits all of the notes on show setup and teardown.) This means that everyone waits until the middle of August to get word on acceptance into big shows in late October. Since we’re not quite there yet, the wait for word from several local shows in October is almost painful. In the interim, though, the next three big shows in which you can expect to see the Triffid Ranch booth include:
Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 5: November 11 in Austin. It may be a one-day show, but the Horror For the Holidays events have three things going for them: the people running them, the people attending them, and Central Texas when the heat breaks. Not only is this a chance to say hello to a lot of Triffid Ranch regulars who can’t always get up to Dallas for every event, but it’s a perfect time to get out of town for a road trip without worrying about the plants cooking on the way down. (It also revives good memories of when the litcon Armadillocon used to run opposite Texas/OU Weekend, instead of just before fall classes started at UT-Austin, back when the convention actually encouraged attendees under the age of 60.) Of course, that’s not the only reason to come out: if you’d told most anybody of the untapped potential for dark and dire gifts before the release of The Nightmare Before Christmas 25 years ago, they’d have laughed and pointed. Horror For the Holidays just screams back “WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?”
Dallas Fantasy Fair: November 24 and 25 in Irving. A quarter-century ago, the autumn Dallas Fantasy Fairs served a very specific purpose for those of a certain bent: when the house was full of distant relations, the television full of either Christmas specials or football, and most public venues full of Dawn of the Dead cosplayers, it was a chance to get away from the house, talk to people who wanted to talk about something other than work or raising kids. Things have changed a lot since then, as the internet was just getting going when the last Fantasy Fair ran in April 1996. Sometimes you have to let something go fallow for a while in order for it to come back stronger and better, and nearly 23 years should be plenty of time.
Texas Frightmare Weekend: May 3 through 5 at DFW Airport. Every year, I look at the lineup of guests and events and figure “There is NO WAY that the Frightmare crew will be able to top what they’ve accomplished here. NO WAY.” Every year, the Frightmare crew comes by my table and laughs and points over my assumptions. That’s fair, because at the rate Frightmare exceeds the previous year, we may get a panel with special guest speakers Lon Chaney Sr., Mary Shelley, Clark Ashton Smith, and Lemmy in 2020. In the meantime, the 2019 Frightmare gets Tim Curry as its headliner guest, which means I have even more to accomplish over the next nine months than ever before. (For those unfamiliar with Tim Curry’s horticultural accomplishments, his hacienda garden in Los Angeles is world-famous, and he’s also a leading authority on agave cultivation and propagation, so I will NOT be caught flatfooted in 2019 if he decides to come by the Triffid Ranch booth to look around.) And this is just the first guest announcement after opening up ticket sales: the next nine months are going to be interesting.
In other developments, expect a much more enthusiastic schedule for the poor neglected newsletter, partly because of the ongoing Port-O-John fire that is Facebook. The other reason is that I’ve missed email newsletters, and I’ve missed the community that invariably sprouts up with them. Because of that, it’s time to do a proper relaunch, and that includes free surprises for randomly selected subscribers. Expect details within a few days, but trust me: it’ll be worth it.
Finally, for those in the Dallas area or those sympathetic to the area, it’s time to vote in the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Awards. This isn’t a plea to enter the Triffid Ranch for any number of categories. I won an award last year, which was more of a surprise to me than anyone else, and that’s good enough. Instead, it’s a matter of letting everyone outside of Dallas know what we have going for us, and that the cliché of big hair and shopping malls is one we’re killing one inch at a time. Besides, the last five years drastically changed my view of the Observer: it’s not the smarmy entitlement farm that it was back at the turn of the century, and I bow to no one in my admiration for dining critic Beth Rankin‘s articles and essays. (As far as I’m concerned, the biggest and best example of the paper’s change was with her recent essay on why she wouldn’t and couldn’t take publicity freebies sent her by various restaurants for ethical reasons: those who remember the paper around 2000, especially with the film and music sections, can understand why this was such a big deal.) Now go vote.
Posted onMay 11, 2018|Comments Off on State of the Gallery: May 2018
Well. With Texas Frightmare Weekend recently ended (and photos and discussions on same will be online shortly), it’s time to shift gears, relax, and take a couple of weeks off to recover. And if you believe that, I have some great converted shopping mall live/work spaces at the bottom of the Trinity River that I’ll regretfully let go to someone who will appreciate them, too. Right now, the clock starts for preparation for the next Frightmare, and the real trick is to get everything else done over the next year as well.
Because of preparation and arrangement time, May and the first part of June will be relatively quiet as far as gallery events, but that’s because the Triffid Ranch goes mobile over the next two months. The fun starts with a showing at the Deep Ellum Art Company on Sunday, May 20, focusing on larger enclosures, from 2:00 to 6:00 that afternoon. Three weeks later, the Triffid Ranch gets much more hands-on with a workshop on carnivorous plants at Curious Garden and Natural History in Lakewood, including leaving with your own hand-planted sundew or butterwort enclosure. For the latter, contact Curious Garden to reserve your space in the workshop: the fee for registration and supplies is $30 per person.
This doesn’t mean that the gallery is abandoned: the next big gallery event is scheduled for Saturday, June 30 as a very slightly early Canada Day celebration. This includes a celebration of the famed French doctor and naturalist Michel Sarrazin, for whom the genus Sarracenia is named. Yes, that means lots of North American pitcher plants, as well as some other surprises. As always, admission is free, with lots of plants available to take home.
On the convention circuit, things will be quiet for the rest of the year, with one possible exception. After founder Larry Lankford’s death in 2013, an absolute on Dallas conventions with the older crowd was reminiscing about the long-defunct Dallas Fantasy Fairs, which ran three times a year from the mid-Eighties until their demise in 1996. A few members of that old crowd would make noises about reviving the shows every once in a while, but those noises remained such until about two weeks ago. That’s when the first formal announcements of headliner guests announced the 2018 Dallas Fantasy Fair, scheduled for the weekend of November 23-25 at the Irving Convention Center. It’s still early days yet, so the convention has little more than a Facebook page for further information, but the con organizer is already taking vendor requests for more information. If nothing else, a convention the weekend after Thanksgiving is a good way to get started with regular weekend openings at the gallery all through December. Details will follow as they arrive.
And on longterm trips, it’s official: the 2018 International Carnivorous Plant Society Conference is running the weekend of August 3-5, and the Triffid Ranch is heading to California to hear what the real experts have to say. This is purely a factfinding expedition: no plants, no displays, nothing but notebooks and lots of business cards, just in case. That works out the best: I haven’t been in the Bay Area since the beginning of the dotcom boom in 1996, so it’ll be nice to see it without prior job interview commitments or any other commitments.
Finally, the just-concluded Frightmare show marked a solid decade since the first Triffid Ranch show, and the size of the crowds and their needs confirmed that it’s time for a revamp of the show table look. Among other things, it’s time to enter the Twenty-First Century as far as information and organization is concerned. As before, details will follow as they arrive, but let’s just say that attendees at Texas Frightmare Weekend 2018 will have the opportunity to get questions about plants answered so long as they have a smartphone. Considering that the crowds were four and five rows thick through most of the last show, a change is essential before the next one. This doesn’t even start with a project inspired by Demetria at The Curiositeer, which should go live soon. Oh, this one will be entirely too much fun.