The anticipation for this convention was more intense than ever before. It was caused by the Cichlid Classic over Memorial Day Weekend, where I had so much fun, I could hardly contain myself for the 6 week wait. The few days before I would fly out, I couldn't sleep at all. Finally, Wednesday, July 7th, had arrived, after work, I ran to the fish house to start bagging up what I would take.
This is where Gary (My husband) and I always have a good fights. First off, he is just dilly dallying around, if he was moving any faster, he would be going backwards. Yes, he had hoses all over the floors, and I kept tripping on them. Then he is catching fish, that I don't really want to take. No one is going to be looking for Aulonocara peterdaviesi, I will spend the entire weekend, just trying to explain what it is. I want to take something exciting like "Lwanda's.!" Then the excuses; that's all I have, I killed the parents, I am saving those.....
Next, I get lectured on what to buy and what not to buy. After coming home from Chicago with a bag of Sciaenochromis fryeri, that turned out to be all males, Gary made that the main theme for tonight. Next, was to be sure and look at the fish before I buy them, and make sure they have gill plates, and no crooked lips. Please!! I begged that he give me a little credit.
It is so hard to know what people are going to be interested in. I wanted to bring a variety of the fish we were working with, mostly Aulonocara, Julidochromis and Neolamprologus. I would love to have taken some Mbuna, but they are just to hard to keep alive in a bag for 5 days. It took several hours, and lots of screaming and yelling, but I had my two fish boxes packed to the gills, so to speak.
Thursday - July 8, 1999
My flight was leaving Thursday morning at 6:30 AM. What was I thinking when I made these reservations? That means leaving our house no later than 4:30 AM. I couldn't get to sleep, I couldn't wait to see everyone. On the way to airport, it was the T-shirt lecture, "If you buy anymore T-shirts I don't know where you are going to put them" he exclaimed. Topped off with, "Don't buy any large fish, only small fry." And then, "Remember, you have enough different kinds of the brichardi complex, we have to keep them all separate, you know." I came back with, "Oh yeah, and working with Peacocks is certainly a way to conserve tank space!"
The line was enormous at the United Airlines ticket counter. When you are checking fish boxes, I have decided that your fate is totally determined by the clerk. Mine was working the First Class line, with no customers, she hailed me down to the end of the counter.
"What is in the boxes?" she asked. "Tropical fish" I replied. "Are you going to check that bag too?" she asked. "Yes, if I can please," I politely replied. "That is excess baggage, there will be a $50.00 surcharge," she calmly stated. "You are kidding, you can't check it as courtesy?" I asked. "No, how do you want to pay for this?" she said. Having no options, I just gave her my credit card. She wouldn't put the fishes boxes on the conveyer, she said they required special handling, I said "Whatever."
Determined not to let anything put a damper on the weekend, I promptly put that surcharge out of my mind. The plane was a direct flight, with a stop in Chicago. When we arrived there, they let us off the plane for about an hour. That is when I realized that Ron Coleman was on my plane. When we got to Detroit, we decided that we would take a cab together to the hotel, since there wasn't a hotel shuttle. (Strike one against the hotel.) We ran into Bing Seto, he was renting a car. He offered Ron and I a ride, but we had to much stuff to fit in his car. We went outside to look for a cab, they had regular cabs and what they called "Metro Cars." Neither was interested in taking us to the hotel. Finally we got a guy to agree to take us, if we packed the car. I actually think we had plenty of room. This guy was not happy and complained that he was upset having to take us? Ron and I couldn't figure it out, the fare was the same if the car was empty or packed.
As I approached the check in counter for the hotel, the first person I saw was my beloved; Kurt Zadnik. I was so excited to see him, that I could not let go of him. I made quite a scene! He looks great, and I was so glad that he had made the trip. I knew it was going to be a special weekend. He was rooming with Ron, so it was perfect timing. I dumped my stuff in the room and headed to the convention check in table. Here is where I found Caroline Estes and Pam Marsh. Let the weekend begin!
After dinner in the hotel, it was time to unveil the 5th Anniversary T-shirt for; "The Babes in The Cichlid Hobby" (B.I.T.C.H.). The proceeds would go to the Guy D. Jordan Endowment Fund, we were hoping to raise $500.00. We had no idea how they would go over, but Pam Marsh, once again, designed a winner. It displays a Gymnogeophagus balzanii (Wayne Leibel's favorite fish!), Along with our slogan; "Excellence Through Experience," and a couple of questions that refer to the physical and behavioral traits of the G. balzanii.
We were confident that the girls would buy it, but to our surprise the guys were buying them right and left, and then asked if we would sign them. We had a blast with that! The hospitality room opened at 10:30 PM and was out of beer by 11:OO PM. It was a disappointment, the room was small, with small tables and no munchies, bottom line it was boring. It was happening out in hallway where one end led to the fish room, and the other ended into the hotel lobby. Rumor has it, that the hotel was forcing the MCA to buy beer from them only, and I heard several outrageous prices they were charging them for it; $475.00 a keg, to $400 for a half keg. Second strike against the hotel.
There were lots of people there for a Thursday night. All my guys from Portland were there; Doogie, Roland, Norm, Joe, and my favorite; Eric. New Jersey had Chris, and a new guy that I had heard about from Caroline and Pam; Rick Gies, along with his girlfriend Christine. Ad Konings, Wayne Leibel, Mike Schadle, Kurt Zadnik, Keith Shepherd, Gary Wagner, and many others, it was a good crowd.
Fortunately, most of the boys brought beer down from their rooms. The hotel was really loving that! Here is where Ricky Gies, introduced to me to the famous Cape Cod (vodka and cranberry juice) that Caroline and Pam could not quit talking about in Chicago. Rick told me he was going to run for the ACA Board of Trustees, I encouraged him to go for it. He waited on us, hand and foot for the rest of the night, so he has my vote! Party, party, party, I made it to bed after 3:30 AM.
Friday - July 9, 1999
They split the group of people going on the Belle Island Aquarium tour in to AM and PM. I had a PM ticket, which gratefully meant I didn't have to get on the bus until 11:30 AM. I slept until about 9:30 and had time to do a water change on the fish. I entered the bus and found a seat with my good friend Jim Herman from Southern California, Kurt in his San Francisco 49'er cap (get over it Kurt!), Doogie, Ad, Kathy Stearns and Ron Coleman were not far behind. They took us downtown Detroit for lunch with the AM group in a Greek Restaurant. There had to have been over 100 of us, where we dined on Gyros and chugged Uzo, while we all talked fish and exchanged name tags.
The Belle Island Aquarium was built in 1904, and is the oldest public aquarium in the United States. The architecture was impressive, and the curved ceilings and walls where covered with a beautiful green tile. It was not very large, but I would guess about 30 - 40 display tanks. I went on the behind the scenes tour first, it was quite interesting as they led us behind the displays and down to the basement were other fish and equipment were stored. I viewed every tank, where there was quite of variety of different fish. To my disappointment there was not a gift shop, I had really wanted to get a Belle Isle Aquarium T-Shirt.
I wandered around the grounds, the gardens were very nice. We were actually on an island in the middle of the Detroit River, one side is Canada, and the other side was U. S. I was accosted by Rusty Wessel and Eric Hanneman and the next thing I knew I was heading back to the hotel, in a shuttle van that was for the small overflow that didn't fit on the bus. Our driver was a Detroit native and quite the character, he was even kind enough to stop and allow the boys to buy some beer. He gave us narration of every building that we passed. It was great!
Back at the hotel, I decided to freshen up and check on my fish. I had several people come by to visit and look at the fish I had brought. I sold several bags, so I was thrilled, and didn't to have to feel to guilty about buying the Julidochromis regani "Kipili" from Ron Hansen the night before. Down in the fish room I ran into a Scott Arney who had some interest in the Hap "Fulu Swamp" that I had brought. I remember seeing that he had some Neolamprologus brichardi "Kiku Green Face," so a trade was made. I was thrilled and so was Scott.
It was early evening when Doogie brought down his T-shirts to sell, he neatly displayed them on the couch outside the entrance to the fish room. Then, here came security, no one is allowed to sell anything in the public areas of the hotel. (Strike three) I mean geez, people expect to see Steve with his T-shirts and Club Snail in tow, parked in the middle of the best traffic area. It was obvious that the hotel was not thrilled with the fish people, they kept trying to keep us out of the common areas. I thought this was a bit bazaar. We were thankful that we didn't get busted the night before when we were selling B.I.T.C.H. T-shirts in the same location.
The Ford Fairlane Club of America was also holding a convention in the hotel, as well as a group of people belonging to another car club. The name fails me now, but they were big black type cars, say 1920's or 1930's. They were all quite nice, and a bit amused by us. Every time we saw them in the elevators, we had a drink in one hand and bag of fish in the other.
Doogie whispered to me that, he had been asked to judge the fish show at the last minute, and he asked if I would help him. Of course I said yes. After all, Steve and I had judged many times together, we are quite the judging duo! We picked a few African Cichlid classes, that we felt comfortable with and completed them without any major problems. We had to wait around though for the other judges to complete their classes and help with best in categories and best of show. This was about a three hour process. Along with some interesting arguments.
Meanwhile Caroline was taking a survey that we would use for a game of Family Fish Feud, that we would be playing tomorrow night. Rick was serving Cape Cods again, we just visited and partied with everyone, and before I realized it, it was 3:00 AM. Time to hit the hay.
Saturday - July 10, 1999
Morning came quickly, with phone calls of people wanting to come up and look at the fish. I had no choice but to get up, all the time cursing Rick and the Cape Cods! I made it down to the fish room by noon. I hung out with Pam and her T-shirts, it was the perfect place to talk with everyone as they came by.
The Guy Jordan Silent Auction was over in a tight corner of the fish room. These are fish that are primarily donated from the fish farms, with all the proceeds going to the Guy Jordan Endowment Fund. I have watched this silent auction develop over the past few years, and I am not sure that I like it. In this case, with the fish being displayed in a narrow row, off the beaten path, I wonder how many knew about it. There were fewer fish than I think I have ever seen, and no one from the club to answer questions. Since only certain fish are auctioned at certain times, you have to keep going back there at least every hour to see what is going on. I think it would be better to just leave the tab up there during the whole weekend, and who ever is successful can pick up their fish on Sunday Morning. I think the fish would go for more money. This is just my opinion, I don't know the facts, whether this is more lucrative, then selling the fish as the first part of the auction, which is how it was done a few years ago.
This years speaker line up was chalked full of great speakers. From Laif DeMason, Rusty Wessel, Frank Warzel, Wayne Leibel, and my idol; Ad Konings to name a few. Discus people were represented by Julia Mann and Bing Seto. Charley Grimes on live foods, need I say more. These talks were sprinkled throughout the weekend. The speakers hung out with everyone all weekend too, so it was easy to get some one on one, if you wanted to.
I spent some quality time with Kurt, found out that he is now a wood working maniac. He has all his aquarium equipment up for sale, it breaks my heart, but he promised to come to Cleveland next year. Pam Marsh and I went through all of his slides, about 3 huge binders. Steve added his T-shirts to Pam's table, and we all visited the rest of the afternoon. At 5:00 PM the Vendor room was closed for tear down, and we all went to get ready for this evenings banquet.
The secret to a great banquet are your table mates! And, did I ever luck out. I had the pleasure of sharing a table with; Zadnik, Hanneman, Middleton, Estes, Lundblad, Rapps, Juan Miguel, and Konings. We had a such a good time. First, they thank everyone for something. Ad gave a very clever and delightful program on his latest dilemma of keeping his 300+ gallon tank cool in Texas. I have known about Ad's sense of humor for quite awhile, most think of him as a quiet man, but he really cut loose for this talk, it was good for everyone to see his funny side and it was a big hit. Ken Davis then gave the State of the ACA; although membership is down, the financial problems have stabilized, and two BB's are in the mail.
The Great Lakes Cichlid Society gave us a run down on next years convention to be held in Cleveland, Ohio. They had quite a video, with cut outs of fishing jamming on guitars. It was high tech, we have never had such a motivating invitation to attend. I was ready to go next week, I don't know if I will be able to wait a whole year! This is going to definitely be a happening ACA convention, by the look of the previews. This club is already organized and passed out pre-convention booklets throughout the weekend. It included a tentative schedule as well as a registration form. Ron Georgeone, is to be commended for a great job, on publicity. I don't think we have had this much information about the following years convention, ever.
The Fish Show Awards were next, and they are always fun. Best of Show went to an Apistogramma, it is always neat to see a little fish beat out the big Cichlasoma types. Then it was on to the Fish Room to see the winners.
It was time for a few last minute sales and trades. Eric had bought or traded for a bag of Neolamprologus mustax, one of my favorites. I love this fish, I think I only spawned it once, many years ago. These were the little yellows ones, and I had consistently killed them at least 3 or 4 times. I had not had any for a couple of years, he knew that I wanted them and was holding them over my head. I convinced him that what he really needed was a bag of Julidochromis sp. "Pink", after all, I didn't know of anyone else who was working with this fish. I told him how they had been traditionally passed around at ACA conventions for the last 10 years. It worked and I got the mustax, and he got the "Julies."
My job was to get people to assemble their teams together, so we could play Family Fish Feud. We had surveys from all over the country, including the one Caroline had taken the night before. We fast talked Mike Schadle into being the Master of Ceremonies, and we were ready to roll. The Hotel had decided that we would have to move to the Pool Room, and it was quite a chore herding the people into there, where it was at least 20 degrees warmer and reeked of chlorine. But we managed!!
Unfortunately, I lost all my paperwork, notes, questions, and team members, so we are going off my memory, which is clouded with Cape Cods. I think we had 6 teams, I only remember the following: The Old ACA Farts, The Portland Perverts, Robin and the Hoods, The Texas Wannabees, and Naomi's Boys.
Questions included but not limited to:
- Name David Herlong's favorite fish?
- How many fish has Charley Grimes killed to date?
- What year will Paul Loiselle's wardrobe come back in to style?
- What time does Doogie pass out at an ACA Convention?
- When will Kurt Zadnik get back into fish?
- How many Pam's are at this years ACA convention?
- Where will the convention be held in 2001?
- What 3rd world country is Rusty's favorite to collect fish?
- What is Gary Wagner's favorite sport to play?
The Portland boys; Eric, Steve, Joe, Roland and Norm were winning like crazy, they were my favorite team!! *grin* However, Robin Jendrian had a great team, I remember Ad, and Jeff Cardwell, and Portland wasn't pleased, when they knocked them off the table. They were renamed the Portland Poor Losers, and demanded a playoff with Robin and her crew.
By the 4th round, the Portland boys were loosing, the next question was: Name a fish food that you do not buy from a store. And then, when Jeff Cardwell, said "worms," everyone knew that he meant earth worms...... which was a correct answer. Devastated, the Portland Poor Losers, walked off the stage and began to pout. It was a riot!! I hope that everyone had as much fun as I did. The acoustics were horrible, and Schadle had lost his voice before the night was over. Sorry Mike.....
It was around 2:00 AM, by the time we finished. Lots of people were still around, not wanting to leave yet. I didn't have too many fish to bag in the morning. The party just went on and on, I finally packed it in about 3:30 AM
Sunday - July 12, 1999
I am not sure how, but I had my fish bagged and down to the auction by 10:00 AM. I staked my area out, in the back of the room and waited for my favorite event, to begin! I surveyed the room for my auction buddies; Wanda Jacobson and Jim Herman. Jim missed last year and it was so wonderful to have him here this year. You just tell Jim what you are looking for, and he pays attention, while I bounce around the room, gabbing!!
I had a hard time getting into the auction, since a lot of people were leaving, and saying good bye. By noon at 1:00 the party animals were coming back to life and were checking out the auction. I predicted it would last until about 8:00 and Caroline started to make plans for dinner later tonight. This has really become a tradition lately, where we all go to dinner afterwards, for one last meal together!!
Caroline and I said good-bye to Claudia Dickinson from Long Island. Claudia is running for the ACA Board of Trustees and we wanted to wish her luck. I admire any woman who is willing to take this on, and assured her that she had our backing. Claudia may not be as loud and boisterous as Caroline or I, but I am confident that she can hold her own against the male dominated board. She wrote a fabulous letter to convention attendees of why she wanted to run; it is her love of Cichlids, the ACA and her vision to see it continued. So, vote for Claudia! And vote for Rick Gies too.
I sat in the back of the room with Caroline, Pam and T-shirts, Danny Martin, Alan Rollings from England, and the Portland Boys were drifting in and out. The auction fish were easily viewed on large tables behind the podium. I cruised the tables hourly, hoping to find something I couldn't live with out. The prices were very reasonable for an ACA convention. Feather fins and Tropheus were cheap! I considered getting some, but I knew I would only kill them, even though it would be at half the price! Peacocks, Discus, and Angels were going for good money.
It was late afternoon, and it appeared the auction was going to go longer, than initially predicted. I still hadn't bought a bag yet. Wanda and Jim both had a pile going. I had my eye on Neolamprologus olivaceous, it is in the brichardi complex, Konings calls it N. pulcher. When the first bag went up, I held my card high, but I noticed that Robin was also going for it. We seem to always want the same fish. I knew there was another bag, so I backed off. There was also several bags of Neolamprologus sp. "Red Dot," I had no idea what this fish was, but I love the Brichardi complex, so I kept my eye open for them.
More and more people were leaving, and I thought that by 8:00 there were going to be some good deals happening. Caroline and crew was leaving to go to dinner, but I couldn't tear myself away. I had to wait and see what was going to happen with the prices, and I still hadn't bought any fish yet. People were beginning to think something was wrong with me, since I usually go bananas at these auctions. Soon the next bag of olivaceous came up and I was the successful bidder. Then came a bag of Lamprologus ocellatus "Gold", and no one was paying attention, and I nabbed them. I also got a bag of black calvus, and the Neolamprologus sp. "Red Dot." The auction was over at 10:30 PM.
There were around 50 Cichlidiots that refused to leave until Monday morning. We met in what was the fish room. The chairs were set in a large circle and we gathered around to talk fish, one last time. I always get sad on this last night, I hate saying good bye to everyone. Rick kept pouring the Cape Cods and we kept drinking them. I kept telling everyone I should get going, since I had not packed yet. They kept telling me to relax, after all you can always sleep on the plane, and this was the last time I was going to see some of these people, for a year.
Caroline, Pam and I vowed not to say good-bye, we liked; "See you in New Jersey, in October!" I made it to my room, after 4:00 AM. It took me at least two hours to rebag my precious fish that I had acquired over the weekend, pack my clothes and all my new T-shirts. I took a short nap and was downstairs waiting for a cab at 8:45 AM. When I arrived at the Airport I found out that my flight had been delayed for two hours, I could have used the sleep. Worse, this meant I would miss my connecting flight in Denver. Ron Coleman who was on an earlier flight than mine, suddenly appeared in the growing long line. His plane had broke down, they were already on it, ready to go, when they took them all off. Nearly two hours later, I left Ron, who was still in line.
When I arrived in Denver, I was on a couple of stand by flights, but didn't make it on. Finally after 8 hours, I made it on a flight. I arrived in Sacramento, around 9:00 PM, it had been a very long day. I was so glad to see Gary, and I started in right away, telling him about the wonderful time I had, and I didn't shut up until well after midnight!
The MCA was not the best organized convention that I have been to, and there have been larger ACA events held. However, it was the quality of the people that generated one of the best ACA conventions I have been too. These people are fun to be with, they know how to talk fish, and they know how to have a good time. I have made such good friends, and I don't know how I will be able to wait an entire year before I see them again.
Bottom line: If you didn't make it, you missed a good one. Thanks Michigan!! I had a blast!
I'll see you there!.