The View from Sherlock Peoria (95)
March 28, 2004
The Accidental Torist
If I say that Don Hobbs and I spent the weekend as a Torists in Chicagoland, you first have to understand that I am, indeed, spelling the word right. If you're at all familiar with the Sherlock Holmes societies of that great urban sprawl, then you started reading this from the first with no doubts to my spelling abilities. As for the rest of you, a brief explanation is in order.
Torists International S.S. was the fifth Sherlock Holmes society founded in the general vicinity of Chicago, Illinois. It was founded by some merry fellows named Izban, Citera, and Levin in 1987 as a general reaction to the more serious ways of some of the previous four Chicago societies, and named for "the man on the Tor" in The Hound of the Baskervilles. I'm still not sure what a Torist really is or does, even knowing what a Tor is. I suppose we stand on the Tor, which beats standing on the terrace, a totally different Sherlockian tradition.
Forgive me if I ramble, but train-of-thought is about the only way this week's column is going to get written in time. You see, my friend and fellow columnist Don Hobbs was doing a little work up in Chicagoland this week, and was all set to come down for a visit (as long as I drove up to get him) when the current leader of the Torists, Paul Smedegaard called Don and invited him to the Torists' dinner. And as Hobbs is a polite enough fellow not to ditch an old friend at the chance to go to a fine banquet with notable Sherlockians, I got invited along as well.
We spent most of Saturday wandering the suburbs looking for books. We saw a very expensive first edition or two and a Doyle autograph in Bookman's Alley in Evanston, we caught up on recent Sherlockiana in Scotland Yard Books in Winnetka, and found some neat little odds and ends (including a copy of Books and Bipeds inscribed by Chicago's own Vincent Starrett) in an antique mall basement.
The Torists were meeting at a good steak-and-seafood place, and Don and I made it just in time to put on ties and jackets in the parking lot. (Well, some of us changed a lot more clothes than that, but I won't embarrass anyone with stories of exactly who was standing half-naked in a parking lot -- we're Sherlockians, darn it, we're all about the dignity!)
After a very pleasant cocktail hour and running into several familiar names and faces over shrimp cocktail and veggies. (I could list names, you could be impressed, but it's late and I'm very tired, so just be impressed. Thanks.) When we all sat down for dinner, Paul Smedegaard began announcing the new soubriquets among the Torists, as members of that group get to choose a Canonical title after being inducted, and before long, Don and I found that we ourselves were being inducted and given terrific little Torist pins and the the ability to put "T.D." after our names. Announcements were made, toasts were raised (and some mighty fine toasts at that!), and eventually the Torists were split in half for a team trivia game on eating in the Canon that was run by that Chicago Sherlockian legend, "the Donald." And when Mr. Izban is running a game, you know it'll move along, it'll have some exciting twists, and some really nice prizes. As our side of the room won and Hobbs and I got some of those prizes, they were especially nice.
The evening wound down with a reading of 221B, and some more pleasant Sherlockian talk before we wandered out into the night and back to our hotel in Lisle (city of a great Shaw workshop once upon a time).
There was a bit more, but the hour is late after such travels, and I must get some rest. Being a Torist can take a lot out of you.
Your humble correspondent,