Saturday, April 23, 2016
A Sense of Community
Scott D Parker
Yesterday, the family and I went to the fine gem and minerals show here in Houston. My wife is a silversmith/jewelry artist, and this is one of the regular events that we attend together. She gets to pick up some new material for her jewelry making and we get to see some really spectacular fossils — which is my favorite thing. But what makes this a fun event even for a non-rock hound like myself the sense of community.
The event is held in the Embassy suites. This is one of those hotels where the interior is a huge atrium and all the hotel rooms are on the perimeter. The show takes up the entire second floor. The dealers each have a room. In the front of the suite is where they set up all of their wares. Some, but not all, have additional items on display in the bedroom area. Every door is open, which makes the shopping process simple and inviting. Every vendor has a sign that sticks out from the open door frame to identify each shop my name.
Like every small community, everyone who attends this show wants to be there and knows what they’re talking about. There’s a friendly atmosphere. Everyone says “hi.” The dealers, like dealers everywhere in the world, are standing around waiting to make sales or answer questions. What makes this group a little different, at least in my mind, is the willingness to discuss rocks, gems, minerals, and fossils. Gems and minerals and fossils are nowhere near my expertise. So that means I ask lots of questions. Every person I talked with was more than pleased to answer all my questions. How does one determine that an object is from a meteorite? Why is heliodor such an expensive mineral? Do the rocks actually form this way are you cut them to make them prettier? Is that really woolly mammoth fur? Can you just imagine the size of the woolly mammoth based on just this part of the foot and lower leg? (Hint: no, not really, it’s just too big.)
I’ve experienced this sense of community in other environments, primarily at comic book and science fiction conventions. Murder by the Book bookstore, down here in Houston, is another place where you get that palpable sense of community. I suspect that Bouchercon and other mystery conventions are much the same way.
But maybe it was the size, the smaller size, which really made the minerals show such a fun experience yesterday. It made me think back to the late 70s and early 80s when I first began to go to comic book conventions. They weren’t the large, expansive conventions that are housed in giant convention centers of today. Those conventions back then were small affairs, barely contained inside a banquet hall or an event room of the hotel like the Embassy Suites. For a moment yesterday, I actually longed for the smaller environment and wished that there was an event that featured my wheelhouse that I could attend.
I plan to attend Bouchercon this year so I’ll get to see what it’s really like. Are there is still small conventions around the country that still have that small town feel to them? Or have they all grown to such a size that you’re merely one of a large number of people and you could never be noticed?