The BSI Birthday Weekend has come and gone. I'm a few days past it and hoping to catch up on my sleep some time soon. A ton of events took place over those days, many of which I was able to attend and enjoy, but some I had to miss. So here is a recap of one Sherlockian's weekend in New York:
When I first booked my flight, a 6:30 am departure time seemed like a good idea. But waking up at 4 am that morning made me question my decision-making skills. I did learn that I can sleep sitting up and in a mask, so the flight went smoothly.
I arrived at the Westin Hotel and dropped my luggage off. Rusty Mason and I headed to Times Square to get tickets to a Broadway show for that night. I don't know why, but I was fascinated by the knockoff costumed characters walking around. I'm pretty sure I was in better shape than Captain America that day.
One place I've always wanted to see in New York was McSorley's. It has a great tie to Christopher Morley, and the more I read from him, the stronger the pull has gotten. So I was delighted to be able to meet up with plenty of folks in the back room for lunch that day.
After nodding off in my room, I almost missed my first weekend event, the Wessex Press cocktail hour! I made it to the Algonquin Hotel only a little late and was able to connect with some great people. Then it was dinner with Chris Zordan, Crystal Noll, Heather Holloway, and Michael Stallings, and finally off to the bright lights of Broadway.
We got amazing seats to see Kimberly Akimbo. Even though Tiffany Knight recommended it, the description didn't really grab my attention. So I was expecting a Comedy Central style show with some songs throughout. You guys. Let me tell you, that I was cracking up for the first half of the show and the second act made my heart so full it could've burst. A fantastic show.
As is the wont of Sherlockians, everyone made it to a bar from their various locations. The old hangout, O'Lunney's, was a casualty of Covid, but a great pub two blocks from the Westin filled the space very nicely. Rosie Dunn's was taken over every night by our group, and it was clear that the bartenders appreciated us.
Friday was a day full of eating. The morning kicked off with a class reunion for my investiture class at the Red Flame Diner. People have gone on and on about this place for years but I've never been. So I was interested to see what the big deal was. I think there's a lot of nostalgia in all of the descriptions I've heard. It's a diner. Our 11 classmates were spread out over three booths, so while I was able to reconnect with Tim Johnson, Laurence Delosian, and David Humphrey at my table, it wasn't set up for a large group.
It was then time for the William Gillette Luncheon, hosted seamlessly by Shana Carter. This was a tabled event, and I'm always excited to see who I get to sit by at this. I was lucky enough to sit with Pj Doyle, Beth Gallego, and Michael Stallings. Lee Shackleford and Tiffany Knight staged Gillette's "The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes." While not the play that made Gillette synonymous with Sherlock Holmes, this one was perfect for the venue and handled by great performers.
A few brave souls decided to walk down almost to the Hudson River to see a plaque commemorating Nero Wolfe's brownstone from the entertaining mystery series written by Rex Stout. Mike McSwiggin, Max Magee, David Marcum and I hoofed across town. I've become a huge Nero Wolfe fan over the past few years and was excited to see the neighborhood, but man did my feet hate me by the end of that walk!
And then it was time for the BSI Dinner. The men were in black tie and the women in their best dresses for a formal evening together. A recap of all of the night's toasts and talks will be in an upcoming issue of the Baker Street Journal, so I will save you from my ramblings. This is the night when everyone enjoys the cocktail hour beforehand and a great dinner follows.
Of course, everyone is waiting for the investitures to be announced that night and this year's class included some great people. I was so excited to see Cindy Brown and David Harnois finally get their investiture shillings. Another overdue name was Dore Nash, a New York Sherlockian who hadn't been invited to a dinner in over twenty years. But her first year back? A shilling for her as well! A lot of folks over the weekend had good things to say about Michael Kean's tenure as Wiggins of the BSI, and his investiture choices continue to make many people happy.
Jacqueline Morris sat next to me and wrote down all of the names called and their investitures, which I promptly texted to Brad Keefauver as soon as the dinner was over so he could share the announcements with everyone at the virtual event happening that night. Lots of folks were celebrating for their friends that night!
And the celebrating continued in a big way back at Rosie Dunn's after the dinner. The bar was filled with folks who were genuinely happy for everyone who was recognized and we were even happier to be in the company of our friends that night. The group got so big that we had to spill over into their upstairs room! So many stories and toasts were shared that it would take a book to capture them all. I could tell you about the older Sherlockian who decided to strip his shirt off outside on a January night, or about the sober Sherlockian who woke up Saturday morning to find that his bathtub had been puked in by his roommate, but those are tales for another time...
The Dealers' Room on Saturday morning is always a highlight. New releases from BSI Press and Wessex Press are the big news, but other publishers such as Belanger Books and MX Publishing are on hand as well. And you can count on plenty of second-hand books and custom-made items for sale. If you can walk out of the Dealers' Room without spending over a hundred dollars on books, you have more self-control than I do!
Saturday's only official event is the BSI Luncheon. It's amazing how two events held in the same room just a few hours apart can have such different vibes. The BSI Dinner on Friday night is a formal and elegant affair. The next afternoon is full of everyone floating around from table to table to visit with friends and enjoy a great buffet lunch.
Greg Ruby coordinated a small happy hour at a bar after the luncheon. All kinds of folks visited for a little or a lot during the afternoon, all in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. In fact it was so relaxed, that two separate people actually fell asleep hanging out on those couches. This weekend will really take a lot out of you!
Saturday night is full of small get-togethers at restaurants around the city and Lost in New York with a Bunch of Sherlockians for everyone else who is looking for a crowd. David and I didn't have it in us to do any of those things so when we left the happy hour, we grabbed Subway and ate back at the hotel room. I was actually able to eat dinner in Manhattan for ten dollars!
A few hours of rest and a few drinks in the Westin bar preceded another night at Rosie Dunn's. While a smaller crowd than Friday's overflowing group, Saturday still offered plenty of time for drinks with friends until closing time.
My favorite part of the BSI Weekend has always been the ASH Brunch on Sunday. Completely relaxed and full of good breakfast foods, this final event is like the last day of summer camp. Everyone who didn't make an early exit from the city gets together one last time for catching up and talking about the year ahead. In all of my previous trips to New York, I've had to leave about halfway through to catch my flight. This year I was lucky enough to have an evening flight so I was able to be one of the last ones at the party. When it's just you, the locals, and the stalwarts staying until Monday, you can really feel like you've made it to the end of the weekend.
Even the walk back to the hotel after the ASH Brunch feels different. It's Sunday afternoon in NYC. The crowds on the sidewalk seem to move at a more relaxed pace. No one is hustling to the office or an appointment. And that final walk always takes me past the New York Public Library, a piece of gorgeous architecture that makes me smile just thinking about it.
After an Uber to the airport and enjoying the hustle and bustle of life swirling around me one last time, I was happy to board my flight back to St. Louis where my family and real life await. The BSI Weekend is four days of excitement and exhaustion, and I'm already looking forward to the 2024 Weekend.