Monday, February 01, 2010

Winter Meeting Report

The Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit returned to familiar surroundings, the British Commonwealth Club in Warren, for its January 30, 2010 meeting.

The society’s esteemed Gasogene John Kramb called the gathering to order at 7:07 p.m. and welcomed AMS members, various dignitaries and invited guests.

Due perhaps to the publicity surrounding the recent “Sherlock Holmes” movie starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, this dinner meeting drew the highest attendance ever for an AMS meeting – a total of 65 stalwart souls who braved frigid temperatures to share the Sherlockian fellowship.

Among the 10 first-time attendees were the father and son team of Denny and Brad Schwartz, who made the trip down from East Lansing, Mich.

After brief announcements and the introduction of AMS officers and the planning committee, Gasogene Kramb presented a Lifetime Achievement Award for salutary service to Walter Young, the society’s Tidewaiter and arranger of toasts, who helped reanimate the society in the late 1990s after a long hiatus. The framed award, which is the society’s highest honor, includes an authentic English tuppence as a nod to the society’s origins as a band of non-professional beggars.

A tasty repast was then served buffet-style, consisting of mashed or scalloped potatoes, vegetables, roast beef and chicken cordon bleu and the usual accompaniments, including a specially-prepared birthday cake in honor of Mr. Holmes.

During the meal, the first toast was offered to Sherlock Holmes himself, to mark the January 6 anniversary of his birth. The toast, by Tantalus Robert Musial, explained at some length how scholars determined that date to be the Master’s birthday and concluded with a limerick by Isaac Asimov.

Throughout the rest of the meal, glasses were raised and the standard toasts were offered to The Woman (by Commissionaire Chris Music), Watson’s Second Wife (by John LaFond), Mycroft Holmes (Bev Sobolewski) and Mrs. Hudson (Gloria Longueuil).

Next, longtime Mendicant Jerry Alvin rose to propose a toast. He recalled the fateful meeting between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, which led Jung to enter his thoughts, dreams and fears in his long-suppressed so-called “Red Book,” which has only been recently published, apparently with the help of the benefactor of the Red-Headed League, the late Ezekiah Hopkins, the American millionaire from Lebanon, Penn.

During such a celebratory evening, it seemed only natural that the society’s other highest award, the annual Beggar’s Cup (which honors the best Sherlockian monograph presented at a meeting during the preceding year) was presented to Richard Jeryan, who is both the Club Lascar and the co-editor of the society’s long-awaited newsletter. Jeryan’s paper, which narrowly edged out the other contenders, concerned the history of the real lascars, which had nothing to do with newsletters.

Following that, Gasogene Kramb ignored some good-natured heckling to briefly elucidate the discussion points in the evening’s story, “The Missing Three-Quarter,” which concerns the mysterious disappearance of a rugby star. That fact alone cleared up the mystery about why the AMS officers and several audience members had donned rugby shirts for the evening.

Baker Street Irregular members Regina Stinson and Scott Monty, along with Mendicant Michael Ellis, briefly recapped the festivities at the recent annual BSI weekend in New York, all of which seemed to involve good food, fine company and modest amounts of alcohol.

In a break from tradition, the evening did not include the presentation of a learned paper by one of the club’s many scholars. Instead, members participated in an “open mic” night, offering jokes, poems and limericks about Holmes, Watson and their adventures.

Several Mendicants and guests came forward to read their selections but Michael Jones took top honors for a spirited rendition, complete with several quick changes of hats, of an incident involving our dynamic duo, a car crash, an English bobby and a monkey.

The evening’s raffle, of a rare umbrella imprinted with scenes of Victorian London, was won by member Jim Conway.

Throughout the evening, Mendicants and guests also visited the swap meet table, buying and selling a wide assortment of excess Sherlockiana, from the usual books, pamphlets and DVDs to a rare brick purported to be from the actual site of 221-B Baker Street.

As the meeting drew to a close, Commissionaire Chris Music asked all to save the date of the society’s next meeting, set for May 23 at the Grosse Pointe Hunt Club.

With that, Anne Musial and Dr. David Mohan led the traditional singing of “God Save the Queen,” Lascar Jeryan offered the benediction with a spirited recitation of the poem, “221B” and the meeting adjourned at 9:37 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Musial,