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Sherlocking in Boston
On Wednesday I woke up with the birds and headed to DFW International Airport, my home-away-from-home. However, this day was different. Instead of heading off to some work-related location, I boarded flight AA645 for Boston. This was my first trip to Boston proper. I have flown into and out of Logan International Airport and skirted around Bean Town but never before spent time there.
The reason for my trip was to attend a symposium. Arthur Conan Doyle: A Sesquicentennial Assessment was hosted by The Houghton Library at Harvard University. I also attended the Speckled Band dinner held at The Tavern Club (that’s the Boston part).
The flight was a yawner and after arriving and picking up my bags, I caught a shuttle to my hotel. As I am walking in, Peter Crupe, BSI, is walking out. He is heading to Fenway Park to catch the Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians that night. I decide I will do the same. This being my first time in Boston, I hopped on a Green train at Lechmere station and head off for the game. Fenway is also near the Green Train line. Well after I am on the train, I notice that there were a bunch of Red Sox fans on the platform that did not board my train. Being 100% man, I did not ask anyone if was on the correct train for Fenway Park. I simply got off the train at the first stop and waited for the next train, fully expecting to see the Red Sox fans aboard. They were not. I rode it anyway.
After several stops, I quickly learned the Green Train line splits at several points and not all go to the Kenmore stop, the one closet to Fenway. I ended up changing trains once more, only to see the original Red Sox fans I had seen at Lechmere station. I found the office where I picked up my ticket and entered the blocked-off street entrance to Fenway. I bought a healthy choice dinner- a ballpark frank, peanuts and a draft beer then headed to a nearby stand-up table. Strangely enough, the couple from the Lechmere station showed up at the same table. Luckily, when I found my right field grandstand seat, they were nowhere near.
Friday morning was drab and threatening rain. Registration started at 9:00 and I arrived about an hour past. Each attendee was given a nice black tote bag emblazoned with a bright yellow square. Inside this box is an orange circle with Holmes’ silhouette inside the circle. The package included a catalogue of the plethora of items on display inside The Houghton Library. Also on display upstairs was the manuscript for “The Adventure of the Three Students” displayed beside the 1905 edition of Collier’s that ran the story. The first speaker was at 1:30, which gave me plenty of time to visit the numerous bookstores in Cambridge near Harvard.
At the anointed time the welcoming remarks began. I am sure there will be more erudite reviews of the symposium in far more prestigious publications so I won’t dwell on the play-by-play. It will suffice to say the opening session was mediated by Constantine Rossakis and the speakers included Daniel Stashower and Thomas J. Francis which ain’t too shabby. With these eminent Sherlockians setting the pace, the rest of the symposium filled each in attendance with a delightful, wide range of talks. We were delighted to hear the relation and effect of Homer’s Iliad on the works of Doyle; we heard actual excerpts from correspondence between Doyle and Dr. Watson even though the speaker’s tongue was planted firmly in his cheek. Every speaker brought something fresh and new to the symposium. The staff of Houghton Library, Harvard University, the Speckled Band of Boston and the Baker Street Irregulars as a combined force put on an excellent affair.
At the Speckled Band dinner, I was seated next to an astronaut who logged more than 21.5 million miles in space! This was a wonderful traditional gathering. It was like stepping back into time, both the rituals and surroundings oozed history. This is an all male dinner in the oldest tradition. The menu of steak and kidney pie never changes, nor should it. The venue is the Tavern Club, an old dark wooded retreat surrounded by the ultra-modern building, and appropriately number “4”.
The Great Whimsical Sherlockian Tour of Oklahoma and Texas, my little documentary commented on many times previous, bubbled up again. The Boot Makers of Toronto invited me to show it during their September 26 meeting. Russell Merritt, BSI, was sitting at lunch one day and heard mention of the GWSTOT and inquired further. Russell is an expert on silent film, author of more than 20 books, and a film critic. He offered to “review” the film after hearing Donald Zaldin invite me to show the film on September 26 at the meeting of the Bootmakers of Toronto.
I have wondered why the Baker Street Irregulars chose Harvard University as the site of their archives but after attending this event and seeing all that Harvard has to offer, I now understand completely. I am sure that all who attended will agree with me, this was the best and most scholarly Sherlockian event in decades. There was still one more treat in store. Dan Posnansky has been collecting Sherlockian related sheet music for more than fifty years. During Saturday night's dinner at the Sheraton Commander Hotel, Henry Boote played a wide selection from Dan's Collection. Betsy Rosenblatt, David Bottom, and Scott Monty accompanied him on vocals. As Dan later told the crowd, it was the first time he had ever heard them played.
Finally, the dishes were all cleared, good-byes were said for one last time and then the doors were closed behind us. And it was over. I hope that one day there will be another symposium at Harvard University. This one was perfect.
Past 2009 Columns