by Kathy England
It was time once again for the Fish Gypsies to make their appearance…time for the annual American Cichlid Association convention, this year in Parsippany, New Jersey. This year we rode with Jim and Sue Lancaster in their beautiful new Toyota Sienna van. They drove over to Texarkana on Monday evening, and Jim and Marvin packed everything but necessities that night, even the fish. Marvin had devised a circulating system that ran on a car battery if electricity was unavailable. We plugged everything in, tried to get some sleep, and left Texas at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 17th. We drove approximately 15 hours and spent the night in a small Virginia town just northeast of Roanoke that had “trout” in its name. How fitting for us fish people.

We arrived at the convention hotel after another eight hours of driving and managed to get everything unloaded with no problems. Except for the sodas we hauled with us–they kept falling out each time we opened the back door of the van. Unfortunately we had to wait several hours before unloading the fish into the show and rental tanks as the water was too cold. The air conditioners were finally shut off and the situation eventually improved. But that water was still cold.

Thursday everyone got up to catch the 8 a.m. buses for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tours but, alas, we had to wait until 9:15 for the buses to arrive. We were rushed the remainder of the day, but did manage to see some things that I didn¹t think I would ever seen in person. Just the Statue of Liberty itself was worth the trip, although Ellis Island was nothing to sneeze at. It was awe-inspiring to see the exhibit containing the trunks, baskets, etc. that immigrants used to bring all their worldly possessions with them to their new home. I don’t think I would have had the courage to leave everything behind. However, if you were in fear for your life, or the lives of your family, I guess that would be encouragement enough to sail off into the unknown with only hope accompanying you.

Friday¹s tour was to the New York Aquarium and the South Street Seaport. After about a couple of hours of the aquarium and strolling along the beach and the board walk at Coney Island, several folks began a revolt: we are not staying here–we want to go to the South Street Seaport NOW. Our tour director told us that if we could get a bus full, we could do that. It didn’t take long until we were on our way to that renovated historical area.

The South Street Seaport is an old seaport (thus the smell of dead fish) which has been converted into a tourist area. Although there was the standard shopping mall inside, there were several smaller shops around the outer edge. One contained numerous beautiful items made from all types of seashells. It was extremely hard to make up ours minds as to exactly what to purchase. Everyone enjoyed walking around observing all the things the street vendors were hawking. We even saw a few people selling watches and gold chains out of briefcases. I didn’t want to go there!

We arrived back at the hotel in time to sell a few more fish out of the rental tanks and then check out the items in the silent auction being run by the Babes In The Cichlid Hobby. All proceeds from their auction goes to either the Guy Jordan Fund or the Paul Loiselle Conservation Fund. Donations ranged from fish-shaped jewelry to well-worn t shirts from other ACA conventions and numerous clubs. There were many bargains to be had. Prices were very reasonable on most things, but a few things, like a discus t shirt, went pretty high.

Saturday morning I worked the ACA Sales Table while Marvin worked the rental tanks, and we missed the big excitement. For no apparent reason, one of the racks of show tanks buckled, dumped shattered tanks, water and fish everywhere. Of course it had to be the tanks containing the discus. There were a couple of fatalities, but most were okay. Ken Davis picked his entry up and threw her back in a tank. He was concerned, but I told him not to worry–Julia Mann had won Best of Show in TCA’s spring show with a black calvus that had hit the floor that evening. It turned out that my words were prophetic–he took first place in the discus class with that particular entry.

While the show room was closed for judgment, everyone circulated around the Babes’ silent auction, which all day Saturday and closed at midnight. I managed to pick up a few Christmas gifts but tried not to get anything that was too bulky. Marvin was still having a grand time talking, trading and selling fish, among other things. I think he ended up with some dry goods at dirt-cheap prices.

Chuck Davis was the emcee for the banquet, thus no long, boring banquet speaker to listen to. He really kept the crowd going with his one-liners about his time in a “federal country club”. TCA did well during the show. Alan Young won a first and third in the tropheus class. Marvin and I won a first in one of the South American classes and the natural habitat tank that Marvin constructed one first place. He really felt vindicated, especially after last year, when everyone but the judges felt our shelldweller tank should have won.

Sunday morning we finished disposing of our fish to Liz at Waterlife Imports (for future consideration, of course) and decided to head home instead of staying for part of the auction. Suited me just fine, as I was ready to see my cats and sleep in my own bed. Not to mention checking on all the fry from the fish who spawned right before we left. We packed the van and headed southwest. The only serious stop we made on the return trip was in Bucksnort, Tennessee, where Jim and Marvin posed so Sue could take a picture.

We arrived home Monday afternoon around 5:30. We were glad to be home, but Jim and Sue had another couple of hours to go. We unloaded all our stuff, replaced theirs in the back of the van, thanked them for letting us ride up with them, put fish up, and then collapsed in our respective chairs. What a trip!

All told, there were at least 26 TCA members in attendance at the convention. This was probably more than any other club except the host club. Pretty good considering the distance everyone had to go to get there. We all had such a good time, until we can¹t wait to see Atlanta in 2002. EEEEE-HHHHAAAAA!

This convention will be especially memorable to the TCA members who attended, especially those whose pictures were taken with the World Trade Center as a backdrop. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those whose lives were forever altered by the events of September 11, 2001.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *