On the verge of January, the thoughts of a Sherlockian of my generation naturally turn to the upcoming Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend in New York. In earlier times, we'd call it "the BSI weekend," but as it has grown and expanded, and a new generation of Sherlockians has come along, not so invested in the old ways, "Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend" seems so much more appropriate.
Whilst the elder country club of the Sherlockian world might still hold dominance, deciding the weekend, inviting whom they please to their prom, it's all of those folks who quietly put together events outside of that institution that one has to have a great fondness for. They're just doing it for their fellow Sherlockians, and often go over and above in entertaining their guests. When I think back to my trips to New York in January, the more memorable moments seem to have occurred at those other events, where folks were a little more relaxed and not mainly waiting to see who the gatekeeper let in that year.
T'was the gatekeeping that first started those other events, when the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes former in the male-only sixties and started holding their own alternate dinner, which quickly gained a reputation as "the fun dinner." One of my great regrets in Sherlockian life is never having made it to a proper ASH dinner before it gave way to "The Baskerville Bash" in 1997, once the discriminatory reason for its existence disappeared. After nearly a decade, the Baskerville Bash gave way to that Gaslight Gala, and the tradition of welcoming Sherlockians to the Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend continued. Other events rose up to fill the week, and still do. When you get that many Sherlockians in one city at one time, spontaneous gathering are always going to occur -- if you could find an excuse to lure a hundred or two Sherlockians to any one locale with no program at all, chances are they'll start putting events together.
Last year was the final year for the Daintiest Thing Charity Ball put on by the Baker Street Babes, and that definitely makes the 2020 birthday weekend shine a little less brightly. It was a bold and beautiful event that actually looked outside the Sherlockian bubble to give an amazing amount of money to wounded veterans, all the while shining a light on the diversity and expanse that Sherlockiana of the 2010s has become. But NYC events are no easy thing to put on, and six years was a very good run, with so much to be proud of.
2020 should be an interesting year for the Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend. A lot of the official institutional business went out very late, and this year the autocracy changes leaders. Most of the business-as-usual will be business-as-usual, I'm sure. The bookstores will be frequented, certain bars will get a few more patrons than usual. But we're actually moving into a decade that few of us ever thought we'd arrive at back in the 1980s. The future awaits.
All that said, I don't know if NYC in January is a place a settled, small-town-raised fellow like myself is going to ever wind up in again. Like Chicago, it's not a place I find comfortable even among friends, and was always glad to feel that jet home leaving the ground, unlike other Sherlockian weekends that I'd happily never leave. Still, come January, one tends to look in that direction, to see what's going on there.
And still thinking that some other city in some warmer season might not just be a little more choice.