The View from Sherlock Peoria (73)
October 26 , 2003
Its only a couple of months from the annual celebration of Sherlock Holmess birthday in New York City. For those of us who dont live in the great city itself, this means its decision time. And while it might be a knee-jerk reaction to some, to others of us, the choice doesnt come nearly so easy.
For some, its a matter of finances. New York City is not a cheap place to visit, nor one that a person wants to be encumbered with a car in. Its easy to spend a thousand or two on the weekend, although with some friends and some bargain shopping, it can be done for a lot cheaper. But when the birthday dinners themselves cost around a hundred dollars, you know things can only get so cheap. The biggest indicator of this has long been the fact that the Baker Street Irregulars primary charity is the "Dr. Watson Fund," which is solely there to aid members and guests financially in getting to the dinner.
The Baker Street Irregulars really want members and invited guests to attend their dinner, which is why the Dr. Watson Fund exists. Perfect attendance is not only a badge of honor to hard-core Irregulars, its been used by some to argue their status in the organization. They could very well be right when the whole focus of an organization is a single dinner once a year, showing up at that dinner is a pretty key membership activity.
Ironically, if every single living member of the Baker Street Irregulars decided to attend their annual dinner during a given year, there wouldnt be any room for the invited guests or possibly even all the members themselves. While BSI head Mike Whelan would probably enjoy trying to deal with this problem at least once, the fact remains that the Irregulars depend upon a fair rate of absenteeism just to be able to congregate in a decent venue like the Union Club and not a giant convention center.
A limited attendance is a key part of the Baker Street Irregulars dinner, as is evidenced by that phrase you might have noticed earlier, "invited guests." Opening the BSI dinner up to anyone who wanted to attend would cause a population explosion that would make an all-member dinner look tame. Mildly interested locals, non-Sherlockian spouses, tourists, Jeremy Brett fans, members doctors, children, over-pampered pets, men without jackets, women of ill fame . . . who knows what manner of unwanted pests might show up?
Of course, the only reason that so many people want to attend the BSI dinner is that they havent been able to in the past. Look at any other Sherlockian function anywhere. No matter what guest speakers you bring in, no matter how well you advertise it, do we ever see attendance at a Sherlockian gathering rise much above two hundred? Its hard to believe that, once the initial fuss wore off, a BSI dinner with open attendance would hold attendance levels much above that point. The attendance rate of actual BSI members should demonstrate this as well as anything. For so many, its something to be experienced once in a while, but not every single year.
Which brings me back to my present decision . . . am I going to go this year or not? With me, the question has always been one of time as much as anything. Retirees and those who have been at a single job so long that they have massive vacation time built up find no problem squeezing out a few extra days off to head for the Big Doings. And those who make the Holmes birthday weekend a number one priority also have no problem committing those days every year. But with in-laws four states away, key friends in the far corners of this big country, and other important Sherlockian events coming up this year (Minneapolis, to name one), the few days required to make New York City involve sacrificing a few days that might be long overdue elsewhere. I do the math, balance priorities, consult the significant other. As I write this, the process is still under way, so I cant really say yet.
And once the decision to go to New York is made, theres always a second question: go to the BSI dinner or give the Baskerville Bash a turn? And past that: Broadway show or Thursday night socializing? Gillette luncheon or book shopping? Four days or five?
But Im not complaining. Life must be pretty good when your hard choices are choices like this.
Your humble correspondent,