It was surely sometime in the 1990s when I last attended a meeting of the Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn, the Sherlockian society of St. Charles, Missouri. St. Charles might be called a suburb of St. Louis, but it's also a picturesque river town all its own, so it was a great place for the good Carter and I to make a weekend getaway back when my first visit occurred.
Tonight was my second Harpooners meeting, and you know why: Zoom connectivity. Some of the same faces we saw in the nineties were still there, their "Blue Whale" Michael Bragg among them. J. Andrew Basford ran a good meeting, and it reminded me very much of the local meetings we used to have in Peoria: Toasts, some current news, a presentation on the story of the evening and some discussion of it. Probably similar to many a Sherlockian society, but being back to doing in on a Friday night at 7 PM Central Time, the time when Peoria's own Hansoms of John Clayton would meet on the third Friday of every month . . . it really brought a very familiar vibe that hadn't hit me on Zoom meetings just yet.
A good many go for the middle of the day on weekends, to expand their time zone reach, if they weren't doing that already. The evening meeting definitely cuts down on faraway attendees. But even though the Harpooners did get one Canadian this time, and the two fellows you see everywhere these days, Steve Mason and Rich Krisciunas (not complaining, guys, you are enriching things wherever you go), there was still a distinctly local feel to it. Maybe because almost everybody was familiar to me, being just a few hours away, maybe due to their familiarity with each other.
It made me start to wonder if this might be the time to revitalize Peoria's old group, in this time when a few ringers can add to the local crowd via our new practice. But would a new version of our old local group add anything new to the mix we're seeing now? There are already an embarrassment of riches for the Zoom-happy Sherlockian, and most of us can't keep up as it is.
But I seem to learn something new from every group I visit, and the fourteen who gathered for tonight's Harpooners meeting were no exception. And such meetings always make me wonder where we're going in the future as Sherlockians. The Harpooners still have hopes to go back to in-person soon. But this "new normal" probably won't disappear when that day does come for many a function. And we may start to have groups with a "local" feel that are composed of people who are from all over the world.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of time," the famous first line goes, and I'm starting to see how that might work.