Sometimes you just wind up with six people in a car that seats five.
Ain't none of us teenagers any more, but when you need to get from point A to point B in a town that's notoriously short on parking, you do what you have to do. Which was why my car wound up filled past capacity with out-of-towners for the Saturday night banquet at "Holmes in the Heartland."
It was a little like driving a cocktail party around St. Louis, with multiple conversations, one of which always having to be "What's my next turn?" Eventually we wound up on "the Hill" and at Favazza's, where our cocktail party on wheels found the very last possible parking space in the very last possible parking area. Apparently this restaurant is quite popular on a Saturday night, we immediately acknowledged. The door to the banquet room, however, was the first door we came to, so we didn't get to view just how popular, going inside to see the familiar faces we'd seen all day.
Four kinds of appetizers brought 'round on trays and an open wine bar set the meal off to a good start, and the entrees were in enormous portions. The lasagna choice was about the size of two bricks laid side by side, but I tried to be a little bit healthier and went with the eggplant parm and cavatini (the latter of which I had already dived into when the pic below got taken. (Yes, it's the internet, so we must have food pics, for some reason.)
And, no, the salad course didn't come second, I just threw that in after the main for no good reason, other than it was a nice salad. Dinner was followed by a lemon Italian ice and an exotic cookie assortment, which was about right since we were already stuffed. And then the game was afoot!
Literally. We just started playing games. Sherlockian games. The success of this venture, I think, depended upon having at least one game enthusiast at your table, to guide and introduce the play a bit. Our table started with a Sherlockian adaptation of "One Night Werewolf" using cards I made up just that morning.
After a little initial unforeseen confusion (for the purposes of the game, Moriarty and Baron Gruner are not criminals . . . as they weren't, to the general public, when Holmes first encounters them), night fell upon London, nefarious things happened while the players had their eyes closed, and then deductions had to be made when everyone was "awake" once more. After trying to root out criminals who hadn't done their crimes at Moriarty's behest as yet, we converted to classic "Werewolf" or "Mafia" play and started letting the criminals kill a victim each night, and things didn't go so well for Holmes, Watson, Lestrade, or Mrs. Hudson after that.
Next we tried out "Moriarty's Web" for those who have never had that pleasure, and it was literally the shortest and most remarkable game I had ever seen. When we came to our Sherlock Holmes, he was actually about to connect all of the crimes to the clues, then Mrs. Hudson connected Moriarty to the crime/clue chain and GAME OVER!! It was amazing, and also, a happy result, as Don Hobbs was already trying to pickpocket my car keys to get himself back to the hotel at that point.
Some people just aren't gamers, but a lot were, and if Holmes at the Heartland is in a central hotel next year, rather than scattered options like this year, perhaps a Saturday night pizza and games night for those who are into those things, while the rest head out to a restaurant, might be a fun option. (Personally, I think the old banquet idea is a little played out. More on the "whys" of that in a future blog.)
But it was a fine evening over all, and I was happy when my mobile cocktail party was back in the hotel district and squeezing my car into the last tiny parking space there. Parking was the one constant issue during this whole event, and caused an ironic end to it all for this weekender.
When it came time to sign up for the tour of the Becker Medical Library and afternoon tea, the Sunday portion of the program, I took one look and went "A tour that starts at 9 A.M. on a Sunday? With me enjoying a leisurely hotel morning? No way!" But the parking issues at the Hotel Majestic were so vexing that I was in my car and leaving shortly after 6 AM, just to get my car out of parking purgatory. I wound up hitting Peoria at 9 AM . . . so maybe I could have made it up in time for that tour.
And then, I walked in the front door to find a full-grown bat flying circles in my living room.
Holmes in the Heartland Postscript:
Okay, I really want to end on that cliffhanger, but it's not really fair. The good Carter was upstairs and blissfully unaware there was a bat in the house, so instead of a Ricky Ricardo "Honey, I'm home!" she got "THERE'S A BAT IN THE LIVING ROOM!" Her reaction? Dive back in the bedroom and close the door. After some initial failed attempts at netting the creature, just to get my blood pumping, I retreated back out to the car to don my beekeeper's suit and get serious about dealing with Count Dracula. Upon my return, however, he had fortuitously flown into the sun porch, which I quickly shut him it, then slipped in from an outside door, opened up all the outside doors, and waited for him to leave. Which it took him a while to do, as bats are just not smart. But he did, Carter emerged, the cat remained uninvolved . . . by sheerest chance . . . and all is now well.
All in all, a very memorable weekend. More words to come.