Friday, March 28, 2008

From the Gasogene

Greetings Amateur Mendicants. As I write this brief message, I have just returned from a live telecast of the 6 Nations Cup rugby matches. The England national team thoroughly beat Ireland, 33 – 10, and finished second overall in the cup standings this year to undefeated Wales.

Now, some of you may be wondering if Holmes and Watson ever conducted a case in Wales. Most of you have read The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarter (a player position in rugby). This case, of course, reminds us that Cyril Overton played rugby for England against Wales. But, as for cases in Wales, there is no published account of any conducted there. But I digress.

We are about to enter the 62nd year since the formation of the Amateur Mendicant Society. Last year, we held four dinner meetings at various Detroit area venues. All the meetings were well attended, and I speculate that most everyone enjoyed themselves. You might wonder why we do the things we do. Let me explain.

For all our meetings, we attempt to select a venue (i.e., a club or a restaurant) with some ambiance, decent food, a well-stocked bar, and an affordable price. You may recall that last year, we had meetings at the British Commonwealth Club, at the (late, great) Fox and Hounds Restaurant, and at the Rochester Mills Brewing Company. Our plans for this year include the Commonwealth Club, the Detroit Yacht Club, and another as-yet underdetermined venue.

The agendas for our meetings have a familiar pattern to them. We make introductions and announcements, we have several toasts to famous characters in the Canon, we eat, we discuss a story, and we have a presenter offer a ‘scholarly paper’. On occasion, we impose a ‘quiz’ on the membership. We award prizes and auction items of Sherlockian provenance, we hail The Queen in song, we read a poem, and we adjourn.

The formula seems to work as we have been able to find the proper balance between scholarship and irreverence, between tradition and ad hoc happenings, and between general social interaction and focus on Holmes and Watson. You should expect more of the same, perhaps with a few twists, in 2008, not because we are lazy planners or unwilling to try new ideas. We just have a certain comfort level with the program format, and based on the attendance at meetings, so do you.

I was asked not long ago, why we always make the same four toasts at our meetings. Toasts are part of our tradition, and out or respect for our traditions, we always toast The Women, Mrs. Hudson, Watson’s Second Wife, and Mycroft Holmes.

Why? Because these toasts were offered at the AMS Resurrection Dinner on 15 Dec 1975 at The Sixpence Restaurant in Warren, MI. We have made the same toasts ever since. On occasion, other toasts have made the program as well. Bob Harris always made a toast to “The Queen” and Jerry “Red” Alvin usually offers a toast to Ezekiah Hopkins (said to have made his fortune in America and founded the Red Headed League). We have toasted the Hound, young Stamford, Murray, Holmes’ birthday, and some of our deceased AMS members. Apparently, we are not restricted by our traditions, we merely embrace them.

So, I welcome you to another year with your friends, with Holmes and Watson, to frivolous entertainment, to Sherlockian scholarship, and to camaraderie. Although we have much to look forward to in 2008, when we gather three of four times a year to celebrate the cases of Holmes and Watson, a respectful glance at our traditions might remind us, in the words of Vincent Starrett:

“Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always 1895.”

John Kramb, Gasogene.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Redford Theatre

Just wanted to make you aware that the Redford Theatre will be showing the 1944 Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce film "The Scarlet Claw" the weekend of August 22/23.

For those of you who have never been, the Redford Theatre is a classic, neighborhood movie theatre originally opened in 1928. Definately worth the trip!

- Chris