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Striking the Tent
Wednesday February 14th - The weather was partly cloudy today with a high of 68 degrees.

As soon as the Show was officially over, the great weather that Tucson reliably supplied for most of it went south, and as my friend Cathy put it, Tucson cried for several days after the Show ended.

I began this Show feature with a visit to this tent, so it seems appropriate to finish it there as well. The Show doesn't end for many of the dealers and workers until the rocks are all packed up and the tents are taken down. The rain we've had for the last several days may have delayed the tent striking process, as they probably don't store well when they're wet. Today it dried out a bit, and workers were busy striking this tent when I stopped by after work. My boss was relieved to have me back to work full time after taking most of the last two weeks off for the Show, and I was glad to be back so I could get some much needed rest...

You'll often hear seasoned and jaded rockhounds lamenting how there wasn't really all that much new at the Show this year. You'll hear this every year. Well, what do you expect? After all, the rocks are all pretty old, and they don't change much in the course of a year. ;)

Personally, I saw 10 times more new stuff this year than I ever have before, and I haven't missed a Tucson Show for over 10 years in a row. How this happened had to do with how I saw it, as opposed to what I was seeing. Prior to the 1996 show I had been working out a very efficient technique for browsing the Show that involved a light day pack, running shoes, and a packed lunch. I have developed this technique into a near art form, and with it I can browse very aggressively. While using it, it would not be uncommon for me to enter up to half a dozen motel rooms in a row with nothing more exchanged between me and the dealer than a cursory "hello" when I entered a room and a "thank-you" when I left.

This year, I had to abandon that technique in order to collect information and video tape what I was seeing for Bob's Rock Shop. One of the goals I had set for my coverage of the Show was to present a cross-section of the Show that would illustrate the enormity and diversity of it, and try to give some sense of it as an event. I despaired at first when I realized how slowly I was moving this year compared to years past. Laden down with the video camera, tripod and a shoulder bag crammed full with spare battery packs and batteries, spare video tape, tape recorder, spare audio tape, clipboard, specimen info/interview forms, brochures, cards, give-away screen saver disks, pens, spare pens, ad infinitum, I was literally moving slower.

What was really consuming time in huge gulps though, was stopping and talking to the dealers and other rockhounds in the course of introducing myself, asking for permission to tape them and/or their rocks, explaining what I was up to, reassuring them that no, I wasn't trying to sell them them advertising on the internet (there was, unfortunately, at least one outfit going around doing just that, and greatly distorting the general perception of the net held by a lot of the dealers they tried to hustle in the process), and then asking them for information or anecdotes regarding their specimens or objects I found to be of interest. This process inevitably lead to further digressing and time consuming discussions.

I only visited about half the shows this year and toured only perhaps a fifth or a sixth of the motel rooms I am accustomed to viewing. But somehow by slowing down, viewing less, and conversing a lot, I saw and learned considerably more than I ever had before. You'll often hear the remark that the Tucson Show is so big it's impossible to see all of it, and after this year I am especially inclined to agree. It would also seem that the harder you do try to take in all of it, the less you actually wind up seeing. That's a lesson that hasn't been wasted on this rockhound, and henceforth I am going to aggressively pursue a practice of just taking it easy, yakking and visiting with more of my fellow rockhounds, and seeing, learning and enjoying the Show even more in the process.

I have also thoroughly convinced myself that since it's impossible to see all of the Show, it's impossible to report on all of it as well! I hoped you've enjoyed the potpourri of 1996 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show snapshots and coverage that I have managed to present. Hope to see you there next year!

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