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My BSI Weekend - Part Seven (of Seven)

Well, this is it. My final post about the BSI Weekend, after which I will go back to either ignoring this blog or using it to whine about my sorrows, unless another cool event comes up to distract me. Here's hoping! (Umm, hoping for a distracting event, that is, provided it's a fun one and not a crisis.)

Meanwhile, here's what happened on the Saturday and Sunday which concluded my 2013 Baker Street Irregulars Weekend.

Saturday morning
Saturday morning included three activities, all held in the meeting rooms of the Roosevelt Hotel.

  • Dealers Room: Things commenced at a very early-seeming 9 a.m. (comments *were* made about the circles under my eyes) with the opening of the Dealers Room, which was exactly what it sounds like -- a big room filled with vendors selling all kinds of Sherlockiana. There were craft items, used books, new books, rare books, comic books, memorabilia, CDs, DVDs, and pretty much anything else you might have wanted to spend your money on.

    Dealers' Room

    Best wide shot of the Dealers' Room that I could manage.

    "They" (you know, *they*) tell you to figure out in advance the amount you're willing to part with, and then bring along twice that much, just in case. I, of course, hadn't wanted to spend anything, but first I let myself be tempted by the dollar table... then saw some gently used Rathbone DVDs (the nice remastered ones) at the table next door... then noticed a few shiny souvenir pins (which, it turns out, are a Sherlockian "thing")... and then spotted an interesting BSI history CD... Let's just say I failed in my resolve to spend nothing, though I assure you that I was still pretty restrained compared to many I observed. :-)

nice old books cheaper old books crafts and such

Left: Higher-class secondhand books. Center: Mass-market-y used books. Right: Hand-made pendants, blank books, framed silhouettes, etc. This vendor donated the item I won at the Gaslight Gala.

Holmesian tat

Note the vintage Sherlock baby doll.

  • The Beacon Society: At 10:00 in a nearby room was the annual meeting of The Beacon Society, a group dedicated to promoting the use of the Holmes stories in classrooms. Though not a member, I went to learn what it was about (as well as to hide myself from the dealers' room!), and was pleased to see some kids from a local high school also in attendance (covering the event for their school paper?). They represent exactly the audience that the Beacon Soc. is committed to reaching, and it's nice to be able to hope that the interest might be mutual. (Between you and me, though, I fear that the uber-WASP perspective of the Canon is going to make it an increasingly harder sell to public school classrooms in today's multi-culti society. But as someone who has derived much joy from reading the stories, of course I'm all for trying.)
  • The Junior Bloodstain: The morning's activities were rounded out at 11 a.m. with the annual "Junior Bloodstain" of The Clients of Adrian Mulliner, a scion for people who love P.G. Wodehouse *and* Holmes enough to enjoy seeing them mashed up (genius, no?). The group put on a play by Gayle Lange Puhl called "The Riddle of the Starving Swine" (can Holmes figure out why the Empress of Blandings is off her feed?) using beautiful handmade puppets; and the resolutely low-rent production values -- puppeteers sitting in chairs, (sight?-)reading from scripts, and simply holding up their avatars -- contributed to the fun. My new friend Stu shared the role of Dr. Watson, and a couple of Baltimore-area folks were also among the players. Don't want to give away the plot (indeed, I probably don't remember enough for that), but -- spoiler alert! -- I will tell you that my urge to hear Sherlock Holmes display his hog-calling ability has been forever satisfied.

some of the puppeteers

Some of the puppeteers pose.

two of the Watson puppets more of the puppeteers

Left: Two of the three Dr. Watson puppets used. Right: More of the puppeteers pose.

The BSI Reception
There was little time to spare between the end of the puppet show and the 1:30 p.m. start of the annual BSI Reception at Delmonico's Kitchen. By my reckoning, however, that wouldn't be a problem, since all BSIW events start with a throwaway hour of drinking and talking... right?

Delmonico's Kitchen

The restaurant's dining room looks pretty spacious when empty.

Well, *almost* all of them do. But, as I learned, the BSI Reception, though supposedly a cocktail party, is the lone exception to that rule. Things started within a half hour of the time on the official schedule, which meant that my slightly late arrival actually *was* late. It wouldn't have been so bad had the place not been so over-crowded. Daunted by the crush, I was half tempted to give it up as a lost cause -- and I might have done so, if not for the persistent door-prize-ticket seller who almost immediately cornered my tardy self and persuaded me to purchase some chances. Then, a BSI member from my home scion also came in late and, after squeezing through the crowd with aplomb, waved me to a seat I'd've been too timid to take otherwise. The platform introductions and toasts were in progress as all this happened, and by the time I was settled, the annual "Year in Review" poem had begun.

(Okay, I'm only surmising that the poem is an annual thing, but it's the sort of thing that *would* be.) A clever, rhyming doggerel epic, it covered both national headlines *and* BSI-related happenings from the twelve months since the previous year's Reception, right up to and including highlights from *this* year's BSI Dinner (as in, the one that had just been held the night before). Obviously, those stanzas meant more to some than to others in the room. Please don't get me wrong: I do understand that the BSIW, being a public event held virtually outside the door of a private one, will inevitably feature mildly awkward insider-outsider juxtapositions, a fact that smart attendees on both sides of the divide will take into account. And I think I did that, for the most part... but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that, between one thing and another, the BSI Reception was the one event of the weekend where I felt like I had crashed someone else's party.

BSI Reception

My lone attempt at a photo of the crush. At least I caught a deerstalker.

That said, I didn't have a bad time. For one thing, I let myself drink wine. :-) For another, as I've already suggested, Sherlockians are a very friendly crowd. People made overtures, and my "how I found Holmes" and "what I've liked best about the Weekend" spiels got plenty of use. And then there were distractions in the form of an Italian buffet, door prize drawings (alas, I was not as lucky as I had been at the Gaslight Gala), and a charity auction for the benefit of a BSIW scholarship fund. Where the last was concerned, there were some serious bidders who'd come prepared to spend, and amounts got very high (by my standards) very fast (though the awkward room configuration and big crowd made it difficult for some of us to follow as closely as we might have liked). Curious? I can tell you that some signed Holmesian comics and some extremely micro micro-brewed bottles of ale (?) were among the items contested for.

Lost in NY with a Bunch of Sherlockians
By the time I left Delmonico's it had to be after 4 p.m. I was pretty tired, partly because the Reception was a somewhat challenging event, and partly from the cumulative effects of the weekend. However, I'd signed up for another activity, so I resisted the urge to nap for more than a half-hour in my hotel room, and for this I'm very glad. Saturday night's Lost in NY with a Bunch of Sherlockians turned out to be a super-laid-back, very fun evening of -- what else? -- eating, talking, and quizzing with fellow die-hards who, like me, simply refused to end their weekend early.

Pete's Tavern

Pete's Tavern, site of the Saturday night fun, is yet another claimant to the title of "oldest tavern" and/or "oldest Irish tavern" still operating in NYC.

Held in the upper room of Pete's Tavern, LINYWABOS is put on by The Curious Collectors of Baker Street, aka The Sherlock Holmes Society of Los Angeles (people who you'd think *would* be catching flights home on Saturday rather than waiting till Sunday!). Despite knowing that they were following all the other events and thus catering to folks likely to be tired and in a "who-cares-whatever" mood, the organizers clearly put a lot of effort into the evening. There were toasts and door prizes, souvenir booklets at every place setting, and a challenging (but not cruelly impossible) quiz on women in the Canon. But mostly the night was a chance to chill and talk to new acquaintances. Oh, and to enjoy the Tavern's excellent party menu, despite initially thinking that one couldn't possibly be hungry enough for another meal. (As a bonus, while I socialized, my home town's football team was winning its playoff game on the TV behind my head -- a result I ascertained from watching the Baltimoreans facing me across the room.)

Lost in NY with a Bunch of Sherlockians at Pete's Tavern

My attempt to get a picture of the room without standing up from my table. Lots of backs of heads, except for the clear shot of Maryland bookseller Kathy Harig.

more Sherlockians at Pete's

Pardon the poor composition of this photo of the lovely people seated across from me. They're Ashley & Paul from Georgia, plus the left arm and shoulder of Michael Quigley from D.C. All were terribly interesting to talk to, whether defending Nigel Bruce's Watson (Ashley), panning Johnny Lee Miller's Holmes (Michael), or discussing Florida's role in the Confederacy (oh, wait; *that* was David McCallister, seated to my left and thus not pictured, regaling me & Paul with re-enactor's anecdotes).

me & a little friend Sherlock puppet

Left: A rare photo of me (because, well, I hate to be photographed). I believe it was snapped by P.J. Doyle, who was seated to my right and with whom I rode the subway that night. Right: The Sherlock puppet I bought at the Strand bookstore on Thursday's Morley Walk, and then took with me to all subsequent events.

ASH Informal Brunch
And that brings us to Sunday.

Wait -- could I really be ready to bring my account of the 2013 BSI Weekend to a conclusion? Well, yes, but first I'll slip in a mention of the non-BSIW event I added to my final day's schedule: church. See, back when I first saw Trinity Episcopal (Wall Street) with my boys in, umm, 2009 (?), I'd thought it would be cool to visit a service there, so before I left home this time, I copied down the worship schedule and some subway directions. Good thing I did, too, because if I hadn't formally planned on it (to the extent of even telling a few friends in advance), I probably wouldn't have held myself accountable to get up early on Sunday and check out from the Yale Club (who again graciously agreed to look after my baggage) in time to attend.

Trinity Wall Street

There seemed to be more regulars than tourists in the sparse, multi-ethnic congregation at the 9 a.m. service. Music was led by three members of the choir (the full group sings at 11:00), and they -- esp. the woman singing lead -- were wonderful. But I don't remember much about the sermon after a month, which must mean it was less impressive.

After the service, I had time for a last stop at Rockefeller Center. Alas, La Maison du Chocolat was not open, but Jacques Torres' confectionery shop -- not as nice, for my money -- was, so I grabbed a quick coffee and a teeny tiny treat before making my way to the former Irish Rogue pub (would you say there was a theme to the weekend's restaurant choices?) for the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes' Informal Brunch.

Harley's Smokeshack, aka The Irish Rogue

When our event was originally booked, this Hell's Kitchen pub was known as The Irish Rogue, but by the time we got there it had been made over into a BBQ restaurant called Harley's Smokeshack (awfully less Sherlockian-sounding, IMO). We had the party room on the upper floor.

This last-hurrah event of the BSIW was surprisingly well attended, I thought, and I was pleased to recognize a lot of faces (though some of my best Weekend pals were conspicuous by their absence, having left the day before). I can't say that the menu (an eggs and bacon buffet) was anything special, nor did the management seem quite prepared for us (I mean, they ran out of coffee cups -- at a brunch! -- and were hand-washing them right in front of us at the bar). But none of that really mattered, as anyone who was still seriously jonesing for a lovingly-served, hearty, and delicious meal at that moment had clearly been attending a different BSI Weekend than most of the rest of us!

The ASH Brunch

Decent shot of the room, though not of any individual in it. I see a couple of ladies from my scion, but as they're barely recognizable, I won't identify them by name.

It was at this event that I finally sat down with the other people from my Baltimore scion (Watson's Tin Box) who'd come up for the Weekend. Fittingly, I learned some more BSI lore. Then, being the only BSIW virgin (as was) of the bunch, I was duly, er, debriefed regarding my own experiences... and pretty much told them everything I've told you here in these last four posts (minus the explanatory and context-setting material). And I've gotta say, folks, that as I spoke, I was almost feeling melancholy. In fact, I'll describe the feeling with an overwrought analogy, if you'll indulge me: it was like the last day of camp. You know what I mean, right? The feeling you have at the conclusion of an intense, concentrated, utterly self-contained period of earnest, deliberate fun with a bunch of like-minded former strangers, when you've arrived at the time to disperse, and it occurs to you that you probably won't see some of them ever again, and that even if you do, it won't ever be quite the same (because, if nothing else, *you'll* be different). *That* feeling.

(And yes, I know that that isn't only a camp feeling. It's high school, it's college; hell, it's life. But my thought at the time was "camp.")

Andy and the girls

Back view of a chap from my scion, schmoozing with some young Sherlockians.

Andy again

Same fellow in profile -- since he *is* recognizable here, I'll ID him as Andy Solberg -- talking to two other friends.

I was not, for once, among the very last to leave. But at least I didn't depart alone. Kathy the bookseller and I walked back to the Yale Club together, after which, for me, it was back to Penn Station (I was cleverer about my luggage this time and didn't get caught in any subway turnstiles) to catch the train home.

  • So, am I glad I went? Yes! I had a great time, proved to myself in the process that I'm still fairly intrepid(-ish), and, as a bonus, collected a few anecdotes that may help me find my niche in my local scion a little more quickly than I might otherwise have done. All good things.
  • Would I do it again? I'd say whenever funds are available! And I'd love to take my boys.
  • Do I see myself ever becoming a Sherlockian insider? No, though I'm pretty sure I'd've aspired to it had I latched onto this world in my 30s rather than my 50s.
  • Does it bother me that I won't? I don't think so. I mean, when else would I notice that I wasn't one, except at another BSI Weekend -- and didn't I prove this year that one can have a marvellous time at the BSIW even as the most rank of outsiders?
  • Ah, but seeing as how it *was* so marvelous, am I a not little afraid that no future Weekend could live up to this one? Well, I've already said that I know it wouldn't ever be quite the same. But there are other types of good times besides the wide-eyed, freshman, isn't-everything-shiny kind, and I think I could be content with having one of those other sorts.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 17th, 2013 05:11 pm (UTC)
Sounds like it was a marvellous weekend!
Feb. 17th, 2013 10:26 pm (UTC)
Wow! That's amazing - both the event itself and your retelling of your experience of the event are very substantial items.

I would never have dreamed that such a thing would exist, but I guess that reflects my limited experience of the world. I suppose there are similar (even larger) happenings for lovers of Jane Austen, Stephen King, William Shakespeare etc.
Feb. 18th, 2013 02:36 pm (UTC)
Of course I had to search, and ... yep, Austen and Shakespeare devotees do have their respective conventions, though the things I saw tended to be more through-planned and on the academic conference model (that said, the Austen-ites dress up, and seem to regard tea the way Sherlockians look at alcohol). Dunno about King's legion of fans.

One thing about the BSI Weekend is that it is as much a self-conscious celebration of Sherlockianism as it is of the Sherlock Holmes stories, a level of meta that seems to have been a part of the event from its beginning.

Amirite, Sherlockian friends who've come here via my Facebook link? Or would you say that this is no more true of the BSIW than it is of other fan cons?
Kenneth Regan
Feb. 20th, 2013 03:06 am (UTC)
This was fun to read again. I hope you are able to take one or more of your children. Next time maybe the "Elementary" series will furnish new discussions---will they air "The Case of the Super Bowl Darkness"?

In the photo at right of your puppet, the hair behind its left ear is straighter than yours, and the bottle is not in the bag. I deduce that someone other than you is holding that bottle, and also that the puppet and top of the bag are at nearly eye level, since it is unusual for a sitting person to be holding a bottle. I infer from the adjoining photo of you (really nice one, by the way), that you are right-handed---whereas if you were holding the bag it would be with your left hand. Thus the bag is resting on something, which is logical anyway to improve the photo's quality. Judging the dimensions of the bag, and using the inference of a standing person in the photo, what it is resting on is higher than a standard table. The bar in the background of the big photo above is of a plausible height, but the right-hand corner of the bar with the TV above as shown in the photo does not allow room for a shot with depth. I conjecture therefore that the bar in Pete's Tavern does not extend all the way to the streetward wall on the left, but rather has a corner with an ingress, and that the photographer stood in this ingress section to take the photo with patrons in the background. (Oh Watson's Tin Box, am I on the right track?:-)
Feb. 20th, 2013 03:28 am (UTC)
Wow, this made my head spin!

The hair behind Puppet Sherlock's left ear is long, straight-ish, & blonde, and it was attached to the head of the lovely woman seated across the table from me (shown in the photo above the ones of me & Sherlock), Ashley from Georgia. The bag in which I posed the puppet for the picture was actually a rather small one from the Maison du Chocolat that I'd been using as a mini-purse (the finger puppet makes it look bigger in the pic.). I had the bag sitting on the dinner table, to the left of my plate, and I snapped the photo from my seated position (may have backed up my chair a little, but it's a fairly close close-up).

The bottles in the background are also sitting on the table, I don't think they are drink bottles, though -- they're kinda short and thin, and the white caps look like the sort of combination screw-on/flip-tops you see on condiment bottles (ketchup? malt vinegar? I forget what the people around me were eating).

So in fact we were nowhere near the bar -- the room was too crowded for gratuitous moving about. :-)
Kenneth Regan
Feb. 20th, 2013 04:49 am (UTC)
Ah---I thought the angle of the bottle ruled out that it was resting, while the cap indicated its not being in use. How singular! I shall hence have to revise my thinking also on the case of the Milanese mayor with reflecting glasses, as there may be factors with light angles I'm not considering. Thank you---also for the fun reply in general :-)

John Sebastian Moran
Feb. 27th, 2013 09:33 pm (UTC)
"like last day of camp". Yeah, I know that feeling. So right.
This year unfortunately the BSI cocktail was hampered by the location. Way too small. last year we were at the NYC Bar Association, and there was a lot of space to walk around, chat, or sit down (also, the buffet was much better!)
The Brunch is a nice, relaxed event and a good place to talk.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


"It's not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It's the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff." (Fred Rogers)

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