Tag Archives: Joey Box

Joey Box interlude

Apologies for the delay in announcing the winners of the latest Joey Box contest, but real life intruded, as they say. Suffice to say, Debbi Middleton of Aunt Debbi’s Garden and Michael Nolan of The Garden Rockstar will be getting their Joey Boxes shortly. For various reasons, Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm School got one as well, and I can only imagine the look on her face when she opens that beast.

Well, between these, the previous contests, and attrition from people to whom I’ve promised Joey Boxes for months or even years, we’re down to one that’s free and clear. Details on how to win this last one to follow.

A quick heads-up on Joey Boxes

A quick rising from the mire, and it’s time for a quick reminder that the latest Joey Box contest ends on January 25 at midnight Central Standard Time, so get in your votes. At the rate things are going, including getting one to their namesake, they’re going to disappear faster than I thought.

Resurrection of the Joey Box: Week 2

Contents of a Joey Box

Another week, another giveaway of  Joey Boxes are now ready for distribution. This time, we’re going to try something different. Instead of simply going for your base instincts for books and other freebies, it’s a matter of finding and punishing rewarding deserving individuals within the garden writing and garden blogging community. Want to horrify surprise your favorite horticulture writer with an unbidden package full of gardening books, magazines, and other cultural ephemera?

Assembled Joey Boxes

This isn’t implying that this is a completely selfless act, either. In addition to the winners being chosen based on popular vote, I want to know why this person deserves to find a whole mess of pottage in the mailbox. The three respondents with the best responses also get a Joey Box. Just think of it as a flashback to the “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essays your teachers asked you to write back in school, only without fear of the answer leading to poor grades, detention, or deportation.

Once again, the rules. In this competition, you only need to send four things to contest (at) txtriffidranch (dot) com:

Numero Uno: Your name (purely for mailing purposes)
Numero Two-o: Your mailing address (same)
Numero Three-o: Your chosen garden writer, and an explanation as to why this person needs a Joey Box (you can’t nominate yourself, but you can nominate a friend who can in turn nominate you)
Numero Four-o: Said garden writer’s mailing address, if available

That’s the sum of it, and feel free to pass on word to friends, cohorts, and anyone interested in logrolling for fun and profit. Just get in your vote and your recommendation before January 25, 2013, and the results (including links to the victims) will be published then.

As always, feel free to look at the Triffid Ranch privacy policy, and note that this is open to anyone on Earth, no matter where you’re located. (If you’re the sort who bloglurks from Giedi Prime, Zarathustra, Kyben, or Mondas, we’ll work out something.)

The Impending Joey Box Brigade

Back nearly a quarter-century ago, I first made my acquaintance with my friend Joey Shea, already well-known as an illustrator and reviewer back during the desktop publishing era. One day, I received a package from him, and the term “Joey Box” became a regular part of my vernacular. Over the years, we’ve traded assemblages of magazines, weekly newspapers, comics, flyers, buttons, random toys, and even videos, and the term picked up popularity among friends and cohorts who liked the idea of getting free stuff in the mail.

The important consideration with Joey Boxes is that while they’re full of all sorts of interesting items, the whole idea is to spread the wealth. The absolutes were not to send anything that the recipient couldn’t already get, or at least keep that to a minimum. You couldn’t just send junk mail, but junk mail of a particularly bizarre or appropriate bent was all right: if the recipient was into book collecting, for instance, sending antique bookseller catalogues was perfectly all right. Most of all, everyone had to be comfortable with the idea that anything the recipient couldn’t use could also be passed on to friends and cohorts alike. At the height of the zine and weekly newspaper boom of the late Nineties, I was sending out Joey Boxes at the absolute upper weight limit of what UPS would deliver, knowing full well that Joey had a good dozen friends looking forward to putting to use anything he didn’t want.

And what does this have to do with the price of eggs? Well, most people spend extended vacations visiting exotic locales or spending time with family. The Czarina and I spent this last week cleaning our offices. Events of the past year intruded upon regular organizing activities, and my office was starting to pass for a life-sized mockup of certain scenes from the novel Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. In the process of excavation and deposition, which filled both garbage cans and recycling bins by last Thursday, I discovered caches of promotional materials and review copies from my old science fiction writing days, a small pile of books I’d purchased more than once (and now I understand the value of those smartphone apps that track your library and its current contents), a large pile of magazine contributor copies, and all sorts of high weirdness. It all went into boxes, and the boxes are waiting to go out.
Front of a Joey Box
Some people may not be interested in participating if they don’t know what they’re getting. I argue that this is half of the fun. The only absolutes are that each Joey Box has at least two books from my gardening library (either copies I accidentally repurchased or paperback copies of books I already owned in hardcover), at least one back issue of Gothic Beauty magazine, and Triffid Ranch buttons. Other than that, I’m not saying.
Interior of a Joey Box

Contents of a Joey Box
As far as getting one of these, keep an eye open for a new contest, and the winners get a Joey Box. Don’t worry about missing out, though: the pile of sealed Joey Boxes in the hallway says a lot about the amount of reading wealth waiting to find a new home.

Assembled Joey Boxes

Upcoming Triffid Ranch shows

Ah, what a weekend. The existing greenhouse suffered quite a bit of damage from two hailstorms, including the big one we had last April, so Sunday was spent hanging out with my best friend as we replaced polycarbonate glazing. Next on the agenda is putting up a new greenhouse, specifically for the Sarracenia. Part of the reason is to build up humidity a bit so they don’t suffer through the summer: we’re already slipping into 20-percent relative humidity territory with the typical stout Dallas south wind, and we’re likely only to get worse. The other reason is to leave the top open to allow insects to come inside but to dissuade squirrels. The blasted treerats are not only back to their old habits of digging up pitcher plants and flytraps in search of magic coins hidden under the rhizomes, but we have one brat of a male treerat, whom the Czarina nicknamed “Big Bad Bob,” who sits outside the bedroom window and chitters at the cats all day. They aren’t threatened by him in the least, so he throws larger and larger tantrums until they deign to acknowledge him. It reminds me a bit of a writer I used to know.

I wouldn’t be bothered by the discovery of a truly giant red-tailed hawk that perches atop the old greenhouse, if she took the time to pick off the treerats. Instead, she joins in with glaring at the cats when they get in the window. I only knew about this because of the truly heroic amounts of bird guano on one side of the greenhouse, but I spooked her last Saturday and watched her take off toward the south. Now all that’s left is the amount of time before my friend Joey suggests naming her either “Shayera Hol” or “Lorraine Reilly”. (It could be worse. After the Harry Potter movies came out, I had regular dealings with a screech owl who would fly out of a big linden tree next to the garden and buzz past my head before disappearing into the night. Somehow, calling him “The Angry Inch” seemed appropriate.)

Once these developments are done, it’s time to get back to shows and events. The next official show is at FenCon IX this coming September, but depending upon the summer heat, a few shows at the Four Seasons Market in Richardson may be in order. After that, well, I haven’t heard anything yet from the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas about another Discovery Days event in November, but I’ll be the first to volunteer once the schedule is nailed down a bit. And so it goes.

“If I paint my turtle black, will it be spooky?”

Thanks to general interests and the urge to accumulate potentially valuable information, I have a very odd horticultural library. The books on carnivorous plants are to be expected, as are the books on succulents, Datura, sharp gardens, scent gardens, bonsai, and Hon Non Bo. Then I have the inspirational guides for miniature gardens and terraria that cause guests’ eyebrows to shoot up so high that they’re latched to the ceiling by an eyelid. C’mon: how many other gardeners keep a copy of Wayne Barlowe’s Expedition in the reference library?

And then it comes down to getting good and dark. Now, Barlowe’s Inferno is a good start, but the trick with a good goth gardening library is to go subtle. At this point, half of the fun is having a fellow goth gardening enthusiasts look at a title on the shelf that doesn’t seem to fit…until they actually open it.

By way of example, I’ve mentioned the Joey Boxes in the past. Joey Shea and his lovely wife Cheryl LeBeau have been sending these to me for half my life as of this month, and there’s no telling what you can find in a given Joey Box. Naturally, I try to reciprocate without actually mailing anything alive. Yet. I think Cheryl needs a crocodile monitor about as badly as I do.

Anyway, I recently sent off a 20-kilo Joey Box out to Connecticut, and Joey retaliated with the ultimate in goth gardening volumes. We’re not talking about mere “if I paint my turtle black, will it be spooky?” gardening tips. We’re not talking vulgar, or obvious, or even well-documented. For me, the last time I received a compliment of this magnitude was when Harlan Ellison, one of my childhood role models, looked at me and said “Riddell, I like your writing, but DAMN you’re weird!” (I’d shaved my head the night before, so maybe he was biased. Either way, I took it in the spirit in which it was intended.) This may not be the Necronomicon of dark gardening, but it’s definitely on the level of The Pnakotic Manuscripts.

To start, this is what greeted me when I opened Joey’s package. No clues as to its history or heritage on the front cover.

The mysterious book

Nor anything on the spine.

The mysterious book's spine

Same with the frontspage. Obscure author, smaller publishing house, and publication from a year before I was born.

Book frontspage

The book is a good basic guide to gardening throughout the year, going day by day. The only thing that distinguishes it from other books on the same subject are these little drawings on chapter headings.

Twenty-Second Day

Twenty-Seventh Day

Sixteenth Day

May

Okay, so there has to be some deep, dark secret, right? This can’t be all there is to it, could it? Let’s take a quick peek at the copyright page, to see if any hint is available as to why Joey would have sent it.

Designed by Edward Gorey

No, you’re not imagining things. Take a closer look.

Designed by Edward Gorey closeup

That’s right: THAT Edward Gorey. Suddenly, those cheery little drawings have a whole new context, don’t they?

As can be expected, I’ll have to do some digging to find more backstory on this book and exactly what Gorey’s involvement was with the book and its illustrations. I don’t know for sure, for instance, if Gorey drew these wry little figures, or if all he did was the design of the book while using another artist’s work. The editor, Ralph Bailey, is equally obscure in today’s Web coverage, although he was apparently a talented enough photographer for House & Garden that Conde Nast sells a 1963 print of his fuchsia photo to this day. You can expect, though, that I’m going to have a lot of fun with the research. And knowing Joey, this is about the time he discovers a guide to Ford auto repair written and illustrated by Clark Ashton Smith.

I’m living in my own private Tanelorn

Radio silence over the last week, mostly due to having a surfeit of vacation time at the Day Job that needed to be burned off or lost. This meant that, like the protagonist in too many really downbeat novels, I had to face my deepest darkness. Instead of, say, traveling up the Mekong to stop Colonel Kurtz or prevent Tyler Durden from setting off the last bit of Project Mayhem, I went waaaaaaaay deeper. I cleaned out my office.

The basic aspect of sweeping clean the Augean Workspace was relatively painless compared to the sifting. I didn’t realize how many boxes I had that were full of correspondence from the late Eighties and early Nineties, check stubs from companies dead a full 15 years, and holiday cards from people who meant a lot to me half my life ago. That’s not counting newspaper cuttings on subjects that must have had some significance in 1992, but that were completely clue-free today. The local paper recycler loves me, and not just because I’d been dragging around boxes full of obsolete catalogs because “I’ll get around to sorting it one day.” That went double for my once-voluminous magazine collection: when the Czarina and I got married in 2002, I had a full 25 legal boxes full of archived magazines, not counting my separate archive of magazines for which I’ve written. Now, I’m down to two, and one of those is solely a collection of Bonsai Today back issues that are nearly impossible to replace.

Along that line, going through all of that correspondence from my writing days, I’ve made a resolution for 2012. I spent a good four years trying to warn writer and publisher friends about the inevitable implosion of Borders Books, and took nothing but grief for doing so. After about the eighth missive whining about how I was a really negative vibe merchant who was bringing down the entire world for suggesting that Borders employees should get out while they had the chance, I stopped responding “What: like your trousers?” Likewise, going through that two-decade-old mail made me realize that publishing itself, particularly science fiction publishing, hasn’t changed at all since then, other than the names of the big players. You have some new names, and a lot of older names that are now greyer and fatter than they were back then, and a few who became trivia questions about fifteen minutes after their funerals. Because of that, I’m just going to smile and nod concerning publishing in 2012, mostly so I can laugh and point at some of the bigger casualties after the fact. Me, vindictive? Naah. I promise that when I celebrate the demises of several smaller publishers based on their current output, I’ll keep the music down and only pull out the cheap champagne.

On brighter subjects, yesterday marked nine years of marital bliss between myself and the Czarina, and we were promptly informed by a good friend that this was our pottery anniversary. Considering that our day was spent poking through antique stores poring over old pots, planters, and Wardian cases, it fits. Discovering that our next anniversary is “tin” brought forth actual screams from the Czarina, by the way, as I’ve already mentioned that I’m planning to have a party to celebrate the occasion. Costumes for the waitstaff, perhaps?

Anyway, back to the linen mines. Four boxes of old papers remain, and I may actually be finished with cleaning, dusting, sorting, and pitching by next Monday. By Tuesday morning, it’ll be time to get back to gardening preparation, as 2012 is probably going to be as intense in that aspect as 2011. I hope not, but I’m trying to be realistic. In the meantime, get ready for another Joey Box contest: I just sent off Joey and Cheryl’s box for the year (nearly 20 kilos’ worth), and I have a lot of other items that just wait for new homes.

I’m living in my own private Tanelorn

In the incessant kvetching about Dallas weather, I should bring up that we have a phrase for it: “If you don’t like it, hang around for ten minutes and it’ll change.” Last week? Subfreezing temperatures. This week? Rain and highs more suitable for Miami. I don’t recommend North Texas for anyone with respiratory issues such as a proclivity toward pneumonia, because if the pollen doesn’t kill you, the wild fluctuations in ambient temperatures will shiv you in the bathtub and watch you die.

That’s what hit Friday morning: sore throat, voice like a five-pack-a-day cigar smoker, and just enough of a fever to bring on some particularly interesting auditory hallucinations. Either that, or the cats really did learn how to talk. All I can say for sure is that I woke up late on Friday afternoon, fever burned out, and I did what any sane person would do. I started to clean the house.

Before I start into the details, consider the warring factions in my psyche that I inherited from both sides of my family. As mentioned previously, my father’s Scot heritage generally manifests itself as a thriftiness and frugality that comes dangerously close to packrat tendencies. Oh, who am I kidding? My sister constantly and bitterly complains about the two-seat hovercraft my dad bought at a police auction in the Nineties, and I refuse to get involved, partly because it’s none of my business and partly because I would have done the same thing. My mother, though, manifests her Irish/German/Cherokee heritage through control of her surroundings that pushes minimalism. The worst fight I ever saw them get into involved her donating his high school prom tuxedo to Goodwill, only some quarter-century later. What this means is that all of their kids collect…and collate…and make plans only to get delayed…and then BOOM!

(I’d like to note for the record that if I thought there was a market for it, I’d market a proposal for a comic book miniseries involving a nice Dunwich boy who married a nice Innsmouth girl, and the exploits of their adult children. It would be a combination of horror and comedy, and completely autobiographical.)

Anyway, one of the sore points in the house as of late was the office. When we moved in the spring of 2010, we were already horribly behind on getting ready for the move for various reasons, and I horribly underestimated exactly how many books I had in the library. Ever get that sick feeling when starting what should be a ten-minute chore that stretches into hours and days? By the end of May, that was my basic state of being. Get up, go to the Day Job, go home, pack, haul another truckload over to the new house, go to sleep, get up another four hours later…and all of this on top of getting ready for our big show of the year. After a while, you stop worrying about deciding where everything is supposed to go, and you focus on just getting it into boxes. Those then go into a back corner of a room somewhere until you can deal with them, which you never do because you’re too busy dealing with everything else that needs to be done during a normal workweek and weekend. I’d plan vacation time after Christmas to dig into it, and the Czarina would have her post-Christmas meltdown and decree that we were leaving town for our anniversary. Combine that with our mutual book addictions and the number of friends and bystanders who’d send odd plant- or dinosaur-related items that would go atop the pile, and it’s no surprise that witnesses would ask “Are you SURE that Hunter S. Thompson is dead? It looks like he’s been camping out here for the last month.”

"The back-alley ambiance was so foul, so incredibly rotten."

That last comment particularly hurts when your 11-year-old niece says it. Just saying.

I’d already planned to take the week after Christmas off and do nothing but focus on the mess. This included threatening the Czarina that if we went anywhere between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, I’d tell the investigating detective “I didn’t defenestrate her, sir. I just threw her out a window.” Well, that’s what I told myself: one view of her rapier-sharp elbows and the word “please” was used quite often, and not just as part of the phrase “please don’t kill me”. However, something about reaching the terminal stage of Dutch Elm Blight made my mother’s heritage grab my father’s in a rather rude place and scream “Shove off,” and I started pulling stacked books off the shelves and alphabetizing them where they belonged. And filling boxes full of obsolte gardening catalogs for recycling. And tearing through an already-impressive magazine collection and deciding what I’d keep and what was going to Half Price Books.

One of the nice things about having a very comfortable relationship with the Czarina is that I can drop all sorts of worrisome comments and she doesn’t kill me where I stand. For instance, last week, I finally admitted to her that after book tour events in 2009 and 2010, I slept with a fan immediately afterwards, and she beat me to saying “And you were already married to her, weren’t you?” This way, when she came home on Friday evening and the first words out of my mouth were “It’s not what it looks like,” she just blinked at the piles of boxes and magazines and blinked instead of preparing to show me my own gall bladder. Then she looked at the office and screamed. Even better, it was a good scream.

And so it continues. The gardening magazine sale at Half Price brought in enough money that I could get her another Christmas present. I’ve cracked open and discarded boxes that I’ve been dragging around, still sealed in packing tape, since 1996. I now understand why so many dedicated bibliophiles now have PDAs or smartphone apps that track all of their books, because I discovered a good two dozen that I’d repurchased at least once because I couldn’t remember if I already had it. (These will be up for an upcoming Joey Box giveaway after the holidays. I promise.) The Czarina dances through the house, giggling about how she expected to find me dead in a crapalanche by now, and I just tell her that with the change in my pockets, I’m still worth more dead than alive. Best of all, remember my mentioning the odd dinosaur-related stuff received from friends and cohorts? We found a home for one of the biggest pieces.

First, a bit of preamble. The Czarina and I have been friends of Mel Hynes, the writer of the classic Webcomic Two Lumps, for nearly a decade, and Mel has a habit of surprising friends with really odd acquisitions that she finds via eBay. One day, she called and asked us to meet her at her apartment, because she’d found “the absolute perfect Christmas present for Paul.” I loved it, but the Czarina just looked sick and asked Mel “And what did I do to you?”

Part of the Czarina’s concern was that we really didn’t have a place to display it. It couldn’t go over the mantelpiece because of a beautiful glass display given to her by a mutual friend, and she was insistent that it didn’t need to go up in the living room. It then sat in my old office for the next five years, and it went into the back closet of the new office when we moved in. The Czarina kept making noises about putting it in the garage, but that required risking massive catastrophic crapalanches to get to it. Now, with the extensive bulldozing and palaeoarchaeological expedition going on, one path leading to bedrock gave me strength, and it came out. And when you see where it went, blame the Czarina for it.

Damocles the Nanotyrannus

Yes, this is a life-sized Nanotyrannus bust. Yes, this is in my bathroom. Directly over the toilet, in fact. I call him “Damocles”. This is a friendly warning: if I could do this much with a bout of Dutch Elm Blight, you’d best pray I never get smallpox.

Revenge of the Joey Box

While everyone else whimpers and whines about whether the US Post Office can remain solvent, some of us use it. Last month, I sent out several Joey Boxes to interested bystanders. One was eaten by individuals unknown, but the others arrived without incident. Even better, one of the winners, Lisa Holmes, sent one back.

Oh, my. I knew there was a lot going on in Los Angeles and San Diego for those of a dark bent, but I had no idea. Compared to the interesting items Lisa included, I feel that my best efforts to promote Dallas events are a bit like bragging about how we actually have indoor outhouses and dinner that ain’t roadkill. (Considering that most of my high school class reunions end badly when everyone tries to sing the school fight song and forgets the lyrics, that may not be too far from the truth.)

Anyway, among many other goodies (including the program for Re-Animator: the Musical), the package included a postcard for the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, California this weekend. After the ICPS 2012 conference next August, it may be time to make a road trip and keep going until I run out of west. Thank you very much for the package, Lisa, and I can only hope to pay you back. Time to search for gardening conferences out that way, I think.

Contest: Anyone want a free FenCon three-day pass?

Okay, so FenCon VIII is only 16 days away, and the Triffid Ranch booth in the dealer’s room should be quite full. At least, that’s the idea, and the variety of plants available depends upon whether or not our relative humidity (currently running about 15 percent) ever goes up. When the humidity is this low, the Sarracenia can photosynthesize or they can grow, but they generally can’t do both.

Anyway. One of the issues with holding a plant show at a science fiction convention lies with people either unfamiliar or uninterested in the rest of the festivities. Either potential Triffid Ranch visitors are understandably unsure as to whether they’d have the time or the inclination to get their money’s worth out of a day pass, or they’d prefer to put the money for a badge into plants. At the same time, the crew at FenCon has been very good to the Triffid Ranch crew for the last three years, and I’d like to return the favor and make sure that the convention continues to run for a very long time. (I’ve let loose so many mea culpas over my initial suspicions about the viability of the convention that I went hoarse in 2008, and I’m very glad to see it finishing up its first decade.)

So here’s the deal. I currently have one three-day regular membership at FenCon VIII, a $40 value, reserved for one lucky individual. In order to sweeten the pot, four other participants will win Joey Boxes. All you need to do is:

  • Numero Uno: Come up with a plausible story as to why you could best use this membership. You’ve never been to a convention in your life, but would be willing to give it a shot. You’re normally a regular, but finances got in the way. You’re going to be in Dallas that weekend anyway, and you want to do something more entertaining than wandering around Dealey Plaza all Saturday. You’ve been wanting to see carnivorous plants for your entire life, and your head will explode if you can’t see a Nepenthes for yourself. You don’t believe the stories about the Czarina’s elbows, and want to witness them sliding from their sheathes and drooling venom on the carpet all for yourself. If you don’t have a plausible story, lie, but be entertaining about it.
  • Numero Two-o: No matter the story, get it under 500 words.
  • Numero Three-o: Send it in to contest @ txtriffidranch dot com before midnight on September 12, 2011.
  • Numero Four-o: Before sending it in, include a name and contact address, so that a custom admission badge will be ready for you at the convention.

In return, here are the restrictions:

  • Only one entry per person and/or E-mail address. If you want to stuff the box, knock yourself out, but you’re going to need more than one story.
  • This membership may not be exchanged for cash or for any other item in the Triffid Ranch inventory. The membership is non-transferrable, except at the sole discretion of FenCon management. If you can’t make it to the convention, you have the option of asking for a Joey Box instead, and the membership will be offered to the runner-up.
  • The judges’ decision will be final. One grand prize of one (1) FenCon VIII regular membership and four (4) Joey Box packages will be given during this contest, based on the judges’ decisions.
  • The winner will be responsible for the cost of travel to and from the convention, as well as for accomodations. Any requests or demands for the Texas Triffid Ranch to cover hotel reservations, food, transport, or any other costs, other than any agreed to by both parties in writing, will both be denied and openly and publicly mocked.
  • The Texas Triffid Ranch will not be held liable for any damages or liabilities, including injury or financial loss, incurred by the winner at the convention. In other words, should you do something really, um, interesting, don’t call us for bail money.
  • All entries become the sole property of the Texas Triffid Ranch, and they may be shared on the main Web site or on this blog at any time. In fact, bet on it. (If you don’t want to share your name with the general public, just say so with your entry.)

And so it begins. If you can’t make it, please feel free to pass on word to friends and cohorts. If you can, get in your entry by midnight next Monday morning, and pull your 300-pound Samoan attorney out of storage. For this weekend, you’re going to need him.

Thursday is Resource Day

Well, lots of good news around the Triffid Ranch this week, starting with the fact that we have an official photographer. Her name’s Jenny, and you’ll be seeing lots of her work over the next year. Her specialty is macrophotography, and since I have the same aptitude for photography that a humpback whale has for ballet, it was time to call in a professional. Details will follow.

In other developments, Friday marks exactly three weekends until the next big Triffid Ranch show at FenCon VIII, so this is the time where I cast off all connections to family and friends and turn myself into a carnivorous plant hermit until September 26. The phone gets turned off, the doorbell disconnected, and a sign goes in the front yard reading “All Interlopers Will Be Fed To The Plants.” I just draw the line at putting the cats into uniforms for guard duty, although Leiber would make quite the fetching Dex-Starr. He certainly has the vomiting down pat.

And on the subject of shows, apparently the All-Texas Garden Show in February is no more, replaced with the First Annual Texas Home and Garden Show in Las Colinas. Not only will this be a welcome time for a garden show, right when what we jokingly call winter around here is at its gloomiest height, but it means a lack of conflict with the big North American Reptile Breeders Conference in Arlington.

Anyway, time to go digging through the mailbag. One of the many joys was getting a Joey Box from Joey himself. He and Cheryl are having as much fun with horticulture as I am, so the Joey Boxes are even more interesting than they used to be two decades ago. Lots of horticulture-related reading, as well as the spring 2011 Logee’s Greenhouses catalog. I truly pray I’m never given carte blanche to shop at Logee’s, because this would be like giving William S. Burroughs his own key to a smack factory.

Otherwise, I became a premium member of the International Brugmansia and Datura Society in order to get its magazine Trumpeter, and I am very glad I’m already up to my eyeballs in carnivores. Very glad, because Brugmansia hybrids and cultivars could very easily take over my life. The new issue of Trumpeter proved this just with an article by Veronica Dykes on the decimation and recovery of her Brugmansia collection in last February’s horrible freezes here in Texas. Having nearly lost citrus and cactus collections and definitely losing some much-beloved Nepenthes in that week-long freeze, I had a lot of sympathy for her plight.

And before I forget, the Czarina has been making quite a few noises about getting her own Japanese lantern. (And go ahead and joke about what color she’d pick. I’m sure she’d be glad to sic Leiber on you and let him puke you to death.) The biggest problem with this was that most of the lanterns we’d found in the area were concrete, and honestly looked rather cheesy. That was when a friend at the day job let me know about Noble House and Garden in Flower Mound, with a very impressive collection of granite lanterns. Well, I know what she’s getting for our wedding anniversary this year.

Finally, one exception to the moratorium on weekend festivities may be to take a look at the 28th Annual Dallas Home & Garden Show on September 10. It’s time to consider the future of the garden show, and an evaluation of what this show is doing should give some ideas. And so it goes.

Contest: Last call on the Joey Boxes

Just a friendly note: the Joey Box contest ends tomorrow, and there’s still technically time to get one in. You like to receive odd things in the mail, don’t you?

A VERY good question

Between the Day Job and getting ready for the big plant show at FenCon in September, it’s been a bit crazy around here. (Trust me: you do NOT want to get acrylic polish in certain places, if you know what I mean and I think you do.) That’s why it’s a big deal to note that one Lisa H. of Los Angeles gave me a really, really good idea for a contest. Specifically, she sent a note to me that brought up this question:

My question is “What exactly is the correct term for someone who studies and grows carnivorous plants as an occupation?” I’m thinking it must be something fancier than “horticulturalist”.

Congratulations, Lisa. You just got yourself a Joey Box. Now I’m going to have to come up with a really good, and not at all smartaleck answer. Who’s next?

Contest: The Saga of the Joey Box Continues

Just as a friendly reminder, the Joey Box contest is still open, and you still have 14 days to enter. Look at it as getting an item in the mail that isn’t accumulations of school supplies.

Contest: The Saga of the Joey Box

The addiction started half my life ago, when I was a beginning film critic for a long-forgotten science fiction magazine at the end of the Eighties. I started up a friendship with one Joey Shea, better known as “Joey Zone,” a fellow contributor and general troublemaker, and he and his lovely wife Cheryl LeBeau rapidly became People To Talk To. Shortly after we first made our acquaintance, I received a big package from Joey. It was full of band fliers, old horror magazines, toys, and other New England exotica, with a little note reading “The best thing about moving is that you can give away crap and people think you’re such a generous bastard.” I still have that note in my files somewhere, along with most of the items in that big envelope. I promptly put together a comparable box of Dallas ephemera and dropped it off in the mail.

Unbeknownst to me, I’d received my first Joey Box. I’d also sent my first one, and the tradition stuck.

I don’t want to get into a “when I was your age” tirade, but there was a weird fire to the world during the zine period between 1984 and 1999. Any number of people discovered that publishing their own magazines was a lot easier than they’d been led to believe, and they further discovered that a market existed for their publications. The end result was a lot of bush-league rivalries, drama, tears, screaming, and attempted homicide. It was a wonderful time to be alive, especially when you’d meet people via one zine or another and they’d send you a huge box of stuff in the hopes of convincing you their home town was the best in the world. You’d then reciprocate with a huge box, and your friends and their friends would fight like Romero zombies over who got the best stuff left over.

Now, Joey and Cheryl are up in Connecticut, so they had access to club schedules, movie promos, and demo tapes from all over New England. I couldn’t match the variety, but I could match the volume. Dallas was a great place at that time for all sorts of promo materials, and the Joey Boxes only got bigger once I started working for a local weekly called The Met in 1994. By 2000, they were getting a bit ridiculous, as one had to be split into three separate boxes because the one was too heavy for UPS. I kept waiting for the notice that Joey had broken both of his femurs trying to pick up the latest box, or that Cheryl would call in tears because Joey was dead from zine poisoning.

In recent years, I’ve had to cut back on the size of Joey Boxes, mostly because so much promo material is online instead. Nobody puts three weeks of effort into a band poster any more when they can just start up a new page on Facebook. It’s the same situation with Joey, and not just because he quit zine illustration for a library science degree a few years back. We still keep up the tradition, though, and we try our best to keep it going.

So now it’s time to expand the Joey Box concept. I can’t guarantee you’ll need a forklift to get it inside the house, but it should make things interesting.

So here’s the contest. I have five separate packages awaiting the winners. Each one contains Triffid Ranch stickers and buttons. Each one also contains at least one issue of Gothic Beauty magazine, containing my gardening column, or the May 2011 issue of Reptiles with my article on carnivorous plants in herp vivaria. Each one will contain a gardening book out of my collection (I’m phasing out the book selection I used to carry at Triffid Ranch shows, so this is your gain). Other than that, each one will be different in its contents. Best of all, all are sealed up beforehand and selected randomly, so I won’t know which one is going where.

Now here’s your shot. Send an old-fashioned postcard or envelope to the contact address for the Triffid Ranch, with your name and mailing address. Out of the postcards received by July 30, 2011, five participants will each receive a randomly selected Joey Box. This is open to everyone on the planet, so don’t worry about not being able to play because you don’t live in the States. (In fact, I’m reserving an additional Joey Box for the person with the most interesting mailing address, so if you know someone at an Antarctic research base, send the addy.) Many may enter, and all will receive Triffid Ranch buttons and stickers for their efforts. And for those worried about their addresses used for spurious purposes, here’s the privacy policy.

As always, feel free to pass this on to friends and neighbors. Half of the fun of something like this is the sharing.

EDIT: For those on Facebook, you have the option of another contest entirely for a Joey Box via the Triffid Ranch page. Look at it as Christmas in July, with Jack Skellington driving the sleigh.