Have a Great Weekend

And May continues to go out like a lion: everyone is cordially invited to Saturday’s gallery open house, and that’s just preamble for the shows closing out May and starting up June. Meanwhile, a shoutout to everyone working in tech, where we ALL know a Bartleby…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – Finale

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


The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 8

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 7

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

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 6

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

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

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 5

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 4

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

To be continued…

Have a Great Weekend

Out at the Garland Urban Flea this Saturday, weather willing, so I’m trying to count the number of shows and events I’m doing in a row…

EDIT: Thunderstorms are hitting the Dallas area until Saturday afternoon, so I’m having to cancel my participation in the Urban Flea on May 11. I’m going to try again in June, but glassware and high winds generally don’t mix.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 3

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

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 2

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

To be continued…

Enclosures: Z’Ha’Dum (2019)

Description: One of the El Dorados of the carnivorous plant world is the highland Asian pitcher plant Nepenthes hamata. Native to Sulawesi, N. hamata is notoriously difficult to keep in captivity, as it requires both cool daytime temperatures and a significant drop in nighttime temperature. The plant keeps attracting devotees, though, because of its distinctive traps: besides its uniquely hairy lid, the main draw involves the peristomes of its lower and upper traps. The sharp serrations on the lips of the lower pitchers are immediately noticeable, but the real draws are the upper pitchers, which bear hooks.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes hamata

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: $500

Shirt Price: $400

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 – 1

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

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 -Introduction

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

Enclosures: O’Keefe (2019)

Description: The request was for a custom carnivorous plant enclosure that invoked the style of Georgia O’Keefe without plagiarizing it, and the challenge was to synthesize both O’Keefe’s skyscraper period and her New Mexico period in the context of a durable carnivore enclosure.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 36″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 91.44 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes x. ventrata

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: Commission: not for sale.

Shirt Price: Commission: not for sale.

Have a Great Weekend

By the time you read this, the Triffid Ranch will be set up at Texas Frightmare Weekend, where I’ll be bumping elbows with Scott Ian of the band Anthrax. And because online writers posting listicles of songs inspired by comics characters never mention Anthrax’s tribute to the classic British character Judge Dredd, here you go.

State of the Gallery: May 2019

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Aftermath: Social Science “Science Fiction” at the Perot

Texas Triffid Ranch display at the Perot Museum

It’s been four months since the last Social Science presentation at the Perot Museum of Nature & Science, and things ran swimmingly for April 26’s “Science Fiction” event. Temperate carnivores such as Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants were emerging and blooming, outside temperatures weren’t a threat to the tropical carnivores, and the trip down Central Expressway to downtown Dallas was painfully slow but not impossible. Combine that with large and enthusiastic crowds, and everything was perfect.

Carnivorous plant selection at the Perot Museum

Dallas weather always offers a challenge with raising and displaying carnivorous plants, and this time the challenge was when the last of the big cold snaps came through. Since Sarracenia pitcher plants bloom first and then produce traps, since many prey insects are also their pollinators, it’s always a gamble: spring temperatures are too warm, and flowers are spent by the middle of April. One good cold front dropping things to freezing in March, and the plants won’t have fully grown traps by May. This time, everything worked perfectly, with several species and hybrids with blooms and early traps, allowing everyone to see both at once.

Sarracenia pitcher plant blooms at the Perot Museum

Another change from previous Perot presentations was access to both a video camera and a big flatscreen monitor, which allowed hourly Venus flytrap feedings for large crowds. Every hour, I gathered a volunteer to drop a canned cricket leg into a trap, with everyone watching a closeup of the mechanism and the closing action without being crowded around a single plant. This worked so well that investing in a similar arrangement for other Triffid Ranch events and shows might be an option in the future.

Triffid Ranch banner at the Perot Museum

As for next time? That honestly depends upon the event and the opportunity, but I’m glad to have had this chance. I’d like to thank both the staff and the volunteers at the Perot for their assistance, as well as everyone who attended. Next time should run even more smoothly than ever.

Have a Great Weekend

Today is a day for plant presentations at the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in downtown Dallas, and it’s a day for the new Hatebeak single. After all, if a death metal band fronted by a derived theropod dinosaur isn’t science fiction, what is?

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – 9

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on April 12, 2019.

You’d never know it, but garden centers and daily newspapers have a lot in common. 25 years ago, they were effective and ruthless gatekeepers for the general public, arrogant in the knowledge that they were the only game in town and you either paid their rates or went without. Now, with innumerable online resources for information and retail, independent garden centers are hanging on by the skin of their teeth the way daily newspapers are. Some are acknowledging that times have changed and that they need to cultivate new audiences before their old audiences leave forever, and others…well, others figure that if they just hold out a little longer, the calendars will all switch back to 1997, that horrible Interwebs thing will just go away and leave them alone, and all of their old clientele and sponsors will come rushing back to their rightful places. And it will, any day now. Any. Day. Now. Just you watch.
This all tied in with a conversation with friends about the Independent Garden Center show, a big three-day event in Chicago every August. Now, you can make jokes about how the air in Chicago in August is “too thick to breathe, too thin to waterski on,” but I’d made tentative plans to attend one of these days, just to visit Chicago for the first time since I moved from there forty years ago. Admittedly, part of the appeal was the excuse, quite popular with conference and convention regulars, that “I’ll see old friends who live near there” when you know damn well that you’ll be lucky to see the outside of the conference hotel, but I was actually enthused to see what’s going on with garden center distributors and vendors. One of these days, I hope to turn the Triffid Ranch into a full-time venue, and comparing notes with others in the field might impart wisdom that save me a lot of aggravation. And if one of the big draws at the IGC is the annual free concert by a musical act whose playlist shifted from “Classic rock” to “golden oldie” on the terrestrial radio dial in the last ten years, well, I look at that the way I look at chocolate and wine and demur with “More for everybody else.”
Well, that was then. Chicago friends had already related how the IGC was a bear to enter and leave, but the finale for me was the announcement that one of the keynote speakers wasn’t someone with actual horticultural  experience, but a stand-in for Rush Limbaugh whose entire schtick was alleged comedy about millennials. Now never mind the political spectrum: many of my dearest cohorts in the horticultural community are diametrically opposed to my political leanings, and we set rules up front that discussions of politics are only on subjects that directly affect our business. (Discussions on cannabis production and distribution, for instance, go wonderfully awry when everyone realizes that, appearances notwithstanding, I’m a complete teetotaler as far as marijuana is concerned thanks to various respiratory issues. This just makes the conversations about industrial hemp, of which I’m a passionate advocate, that much more interesting.) However, listening to the same people crying about how younger generations won’t get involved in gardening, then attending lectures that come off as parodies of the District Attorneys’ Convention in the book and movie Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, seems, a little, I don’t know, counterproductive. It’s like listening to the old guard in science fiction literature kvetching about how to attract new readers while mocking them at the same time: considering the costs of air travel and hotels, if I wanted to listen to a herd of seventysomething xenophobes cry impotently about how the universe dared change without their express written permission, I’d go to Armadillocon.
Because of this, it might be time for a new garden center conference, for those who want to blast into the middle of the 21st Century instead of pining for the 20th. The interest is there, especially with garden center employees desperately trying to convince their bosses that maybe buying a half-page ad in the local daily newspaper isn’t the best expenditure of their advertising budget. The vendors are out there, especially the ones who’d like to move from Etsy to a proper distributor. Certainly, the musicians are there. What I wasn’t expecting was the enthusiastic response from garden center managers and employees looking for something Different. This may be easier than I thought.
As anybody who has spent any time on Facebook will tell you, enthusiasm without commitment is worthless, so the next big hurdle is creating programming that speaks to the newer generations of garden center owners and employees. A few minutes of brainstorming came up with a few ideas for panels and workshops:
“Smartphones and Dumbasses”: With the expansion of custom phone apps to help identify garden plants and bugs, creating phone apps to handle other vital garden center functions is both easy and inexpensive. In this two-hour workshop, learn how to use machine learning technology to identify customers screaming “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?’, prove that your garden center has never offered unlimited free landscaping services, demonstrate what happens when you try to plant tomato plants outdoors in Chicago in February, and confirm or deny that the owner automatically gives a 70 percent discount to his/her elementary school teachers. Spend a little money now and save innumerable hours on arguments with idiots and grifters!
“Gravestones In the Garden”: The under-50 gardening crowd is looking for unorthodox garden decorations, and your standard distributors offer the usual endless line of twee. More importantly, YOU’RE sick of carrying the same mediocre birdbaths and wall hangings, and want to spice things up a bit. Find out where to get the best concrete dinosaurs, Daleks, kaiju, and gargoyles, how to shut down complaints about how “these are COMPLETELY inappropriate” from fussbudgets, and how to brace the customer who wants 
Dom Perignon-quality black granite tombstones but only has a Dr. Pepper budget.
“Electronics and Your Uncle Who Lives In A Tree”: You spend thousands of dollars on a digital signage solution to display specials, calendar events, and plant information, only to have it regularly damaged by occasional customers trying to switch the feed to Fox News. Learn how to use parental locks on remotes to stop Fox News Grandpa hijackings during busy periods, strategic mounting brackets to prevent their reaching the monitors or signage servers, and cattle prods to move them out the door after the inevitable temper tantrums. Discussions also include restroom paint that resists Infowars stickers and methods to recycle Jack Chick pamphlets.
“Mommy Will Be Right Back”: with Toys ‘R’ Us and Borders gone and shopping mall pet shops as obsolete as daily newspaper delivery, more and more soccer moms are looking for free babysitting and petting zoo options for their toddlers and preteens, and your garden center is a tempting target. With signs reading “Unescorted children will be given six shots of espresso and a free puppy” making less of an impression, our panelists and the audience discuss methods to keep your garden center child-friendly while preventing non-customers from draining your liability insurance policy. ($25 workshop fee, $75 for optional wood chipper.)
“Fan or Smartaleck”: With the current boom in science fiction/fantasy/horror fandom and fannish interests, it’s increasingly difficult to tell the difference between actual plant species and cultivars and ones created for books, comics, movies, and television. Do YOU know how to tell the difference between the bladderworts “Asenath Waite” and “Mrs. Marsh”, or the traits that define a “Violet Carson” rose? More importantly, can you tell the difference between a wiseacre asking about purchasing Whomping Willows and Pink Bunkadoos and the individual who honestly thinks Day of the Triffids is a documentary? Learn what to watch for, and be able to laugh politely when asked “Do you carry Slaver sunflowers?” (Guest lecturers: Dr. Dr. Pamela Iseley and Dr. Alec Holland.)
“But It Looked Different In the Video”: Sick of explaining to customers that those rainbow rose or blue Venus flytrap seeds offered for sale on eBay aren’t real? Tired of people arguing that they shouldn’t have to pay your prices for rare plants when Some Guy on the Internet is offering legitimate, guaranteed seeds directly from China for a pittance? Soulhurt from trying to explain the vast difference between fruit trees with multiple varieties grafted on and that “Magical Fruit Salad Plant” seed they saw advertised on Facebook? Nearly homicidal from having 1300 customers pointing to the same Pinterest post that not at all saw any Photoshop manipulation, no sir, we wouldn’t lie? Bring your phone, because we bought one of everything, and you’ll want to take photos of every last weed you’ll see when that customer comes in and asks “So what are WE going to do to get my money back?”
“Stand-Up Up Fight or Bug Hunt”: Apply the power of artificial intelligence to solving your customers’ greatest question: whether that blurry phone photo really shows a dangerous, venomous, or invasive insect that’s going to eat the neighborhood. Finally: the one tool to prove to skeptical customers that not every spider is a brown recluse, not every flying insect is an emerald tree borer, and that the scratchings in the new garden bed are from cats and not armadillos.
“Every Day is 4/20“: Whether or not your state allows recreational use of marijuana, your workweek will be filled every April 20 with stoners looking for their next distraction, and most guides to psychoactive plants are at least 40 years old. Learn the difference between garden plants that actually have some of psychotropic effect, ones which stretch the meaning of the term “placebo,” and ones with an effect but will make the user regret the day they were conceived.
Musical Guests: After a long day talking with vendors and fellow garden center owners/staffers, you’re going to want a break. Please join us all for a musical maelstrom that sums up the new generation of gardeners, with One Eyed Doll and Ministry opening for headliners Gwar and Rob Zombie. No Winstar Casino leftovers for THIS crowd.
So…Dallas in 2020? We’ll even try to schedule it for spring, so nobody melts in the heat. What say?

Other News

In separate developments, many thanks to everyone’s celebration of my late cat Leiber, and because Alexandria was mourning harder than we were, we adopted a new cat to keep her company. Considering how badly she wanted to play with Leiber toward the end, it was a matter of finding another cat as enthusiastic about tearing through the house at Mach 4 as she is. This is how we got Simon, a kitten found abandoned near the University of Texas at Dallas campus. He’s almost as quiet as Alexandria: he chirps and murmurs, but he has yet to make a single meow. The best adjective we can use for him is “goofy”: he’s sweet and definitely intelligent, but he remembers to forget that he can’t run through furniture and up walls, to spectacular effect. As of this morning, though, he picked up on Alexandria’s wonderful habit of bushwhacking me in the dark first thing in the morning, so now I have two cats who love my Bill Paxton impersonation screaming “I’m telling ya, there’s something moving and it ain’t us!” Oh, when the days start getting shorter in August, getting ready for work is going to suck.

Recommended Reading

Not that it hasn’t received justifiably rave reviews from much better reviewers than I, but go out and snag Mallory O’Meara’s The Lady From The Black Lagoon, on Millicent Patrick, the actual creator and designer of the monster suit from The Creature From the Black Lagoon. It’s not just a matter of recognizing that an exceptional talent was cut off early due to managerial jealousy (this hit a chord, as I watched a lot of this same behavior in weekly newspaper and magazine publishing), but it’s also a matter of noting that an obscure talent can become an inspiration to a whole new generation of artists given half a chance. As someone studying prop and set design in the hopes of finding new techniques and references that apply to enclosure construction, this matters more than you can know.


The Texas comedian Bill Hicks once described his annual trips to dance clubs as “filling my hump of hate,” and I share that sentiment about going to most music venues. I love catching up with friends and thoroughly enjoy the music, but can’t get past the behavior of the typical showgoer, especially the dolts who feel compelled to capture whole performances on their phones and tablets…held up so that nobody behind them can see a thing. (This is right up there with getting a good location early with an unobstructed view of the stage, only to have last-minute dolts climbing up into my armpit and insisting “we should all share, right?”) Only the right band can convince me that my hump of hate is sufficiently depleted to deal with that, and the news that the band Doll Skin is on tour this year as a headliner, with a stop in Dallas, means that my hump capacity grew four sizes that day. I was lucky enough to catch the band opening for One Eyed Doll two years ago, and a dear friend practically uses the song “Furious Fixation” as a daily soundtrack, so seeing what the band is doing as a followup to the album Manic Pixie Dream Girl is worth a few attacks from the armpit trolls.

Introducing “Simon”

Apologies for things going a bit quiet, and for once, impending shows only take half of the blame. The other half is due to our adopting a new chew toy for our cat Alexandria: with Leiber gone, she was threatening to resemble a Thylacosmilus if her teeth didn’t get worn down regularly. Say hello to “Simon.”

Simon continues a 30-year run of adopting homeless cats: he apparently was found as a kitten abandoned at the University of Texas at Dallas campus. Although he appears to have some Abyssinian or Siamese heritage, he doesn’t express it: aside from the occasional chirp, he’s as silent as Alexandria. He also has the thinnest drybrush of white fur at his chest, which is about the only way to tell the two apart without picking them up. He also loathes being picked up: the biggest difference is that he’s as muscular as the typical brisket, and just as easy to put down without dropping when he’s determined to move.

As can be expected at this stage, we’re still assessing each others’ idiosyncrasies, but he’s already earned a nickname because of his habit of looking up soulfully and stage-falling to the ground. Those familiar with the Clifford Simak short story “Drop Dead” can appreciate why his now-permanent nickname is “Critter”.

Anyway, the real fun will be watching him react to the constant packing and unpacking of show season: if he decides he likes riding in the car, we may be in trouble.