Saturday, February 08, 2014

Winter Meeting Report

Braving an afternoon winter storm on February 1, 2014, 44 stalwart Sherlockians journeyed to the posh suburb of Birmingham, Michigan for the annual winter meeting of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit. The reserved-room surroundings of the clubby Big Rock Chophouse provided the setting as the group gathered to celebrate the 160th birthday of the Master himself, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

The meeting was called to order at 1:07 p.m. by the society’s Gasogene, John Kramb, who introduced Mendicant board members and welcomed eight newcomers to the proceedings. Among them was Martha Thierry, who produced the artwork for the 160th birthday bookmarks given to each attendee. Ironically, Thierry had also produced the bookmarks for Sherlock’s 150th birthday bash, held 10 years ago at Meadow Brook Hall during an even worse snowstorm.                                          

After running through miscellaneous club business, Kramb announced that the board, meeting in plenipotentiary and supernumerary session, had adjusted its annual dues, changing from its longtime annual fee of $12. Forthwith and henceforth, dues will be $15 for new members and only $5 a year after that. The $15 initial fee will cover the cost of a club pin, membership badge and the society’s extremely occasional newsletter.

The Gasogene did a fine job of explaining these benefits in spite of the drumming of rain on the roof overhead and the roar of a snowblower being used to clear the patio right outside the meeting room, presumably for the imagined throngs someone thought would soon be fighting for outdoor seating in the middle of the blizzard.

These minor annoyances quickly faded away as the multitude tucked into their pre-selected luncheon of either flank steak with portobello mushrooms and bordelaise sauce; grilled salmon in a chimichurri herb sauce or chicken piccata in a lemon-garlic sauce. Topping off the repast was raspberry sorbet with the addition of slices of a specially-created buttercream-frosted cake, emblazoned with Sherlock’s silhouette, a cake so fine that Mrs. Hudson would have been proud to serve it to her tenants.

At times during these gustatory delights, chosen members rose to offer the society’s standard toasts with Gloria Longueil saluting The Woman; Mike Smith toasting Watson’s Second Wife; Rob Musial raising a glass to the afore-mentioned Mrs. Hudson and Regina Stinson saluting Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older, smarter brother. Longtime Mendicant Jerry Alvin also served up his own toast, weaving F. Scott Fitzgerald into a salute to the man who arranged for the propagation of the Red-Head League, the late millionaire from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, one Ezekiah Hopkins.

A silent auction was also held for a rare artifact, a bottle of “Study In Scarlet” red wine, a limited-edition vintage grown in Sonoma, California. Generously donated by members Ray and Pat Mandziuk, the wine (number 20 of only 200 bottled), brought spirited bidding and was finally acquired by oenophile Michael Clyne, whose munificent bid of $90 helped enrich the society’s coffers.

With the luncheon concluded, it was time for the annual Beggar’s Cup ceremony, in which a specially-engraved tin cup is awarded for the best presentation made at a Mendicants’ meeting during the preceding year. Second only to the Oscars, the cup competition is handled under tight security by the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse. Opening the sealed envelope in front of the hushed room, Rob Musial paused and then announced, with obvious pleasure, that the secret balloting had produced a tie. Winning the 2013 cups were Jerry Alvin, for his presentation on “The 1970s Resurrection of the Amateur Mendicant Society,” and Regina Stinson, for her excellently-researched monograph on “The Legend of the Deerstalker,” which reviewed the two dozen illustrators of the Canon in its early days, complete with profuse examples of their work.

Continuing with the agenda, society Lascar Richard Jeryan next illuminated the finer points of February’s assigned story, “The Adventure of the Crooked Man,” which saw Holmes and Watson unravel a case of a locked room, a love triangle and a mongoose.

That was the perfect lead-in to the afternoon’s formal presentation, “A Holmesian Menagerie,” offered by Chris Jeryan. Using PowerPoint photos and wit honed from years of rigorous study, she took the audience through the Canon’s alphabetical bestiary, starting with “adder” and “bee,” winding through “jellyfish,” “kipper,” “leech” and others and on to “petrel,” “venomous lizard” and “whale” – with correct citations for where these various critters appeared in the stories.

Throughout the afternoon, attendees also took part in the All-Canon Quiz, visiting a table festooned with a collection of 20 small tokens, figurines or drawings, each representing something from one of the 60 Holmes stories. Chris Jeryan correctly identified 18 of the articles, earning a medallioned plaque for her scholarship while Regina Stinson scored 17 and took home the beribboned medallion of scholarship. Earning the consolation prize – a box of Union Jack “Keep Calm and Carry On” tea – was member Fritzi Roth.

With the meeting winding down, the free door prize drawing was held and Lois Krawczyk was awarded the small Sherlock Holmes pub sign. Gasogene Kramb also told the multitude that the next Mendicant meeting would likely be May 17 at the British Commonwealth Club in Warren.

Anne Musial and David Mohan then led the group in the standard singing of “God Save the Queen” and, with the traditional reading of the poem “221B” by Lascar Jeryan, the meeting concluded at 4:02 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Musial
AMS Tantalus


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