Friday, January 13, 2023

The Red Flame still warms my heart

 In his latest "Interesting though Elementary" blog, Rob Nunn recounts his Sherlock Holmes birthday weekend experiences in New York, and as you can quickly see, it's all about the people. Sure, it's a little about buying books, but since the internet came around, the piles of books and shipments arranged from the Mysterious Bookshop are definitely not as large as they were in the 1980s. Things change, as much as we would hope they don't.

One such thing triggered my old man "You kids just don't know!" reaction, as Rob described his trip to the Red Flame Dinner just off Times Square. "It's a diner," Rob writes, sounding disappointed. Someone apparently tried to organize an eleven person group into the place, whose set-up is really made for four-person groups at max. And he's not wrong. The Red Flame is a diner. A New York diner.

Now that the Algonquin Hotel is no longer the home base of Baker Street Irregulars visiting New York on the birthday weekend, it's a little harder to see what the big deal about the Red Flame is, so I understand Rob's reaction. But back in the day, when the Algonquin's little breakfast facility was overcrowded and a bit over-priced, the Red Flame was the perfect alternative, both for a good breakfast and just to watch notable Sherlockians walk by its windows on their way to Times Square, bookstores, and everywhere else.

I had my first actual New York egg cream at the Red Flame, which is my only memory of any food or drink at the place. But crowding into those booths with Gordon Speck and Bill Cochran, sitting at a table across from Sam Gringras, the man behind Magico publishing . . . those are my real memories of the Red Flame. And after consuming and digesting all of the social media posts from the past weekend, it's easy to remember that is what it's really all about.

McSorley's may be just a pub. The BSI dinner happens in just a banquet room. The venues change throughout the weekend, and while each of us might have a food favorite at a given place, the places aren't the part that make any of it memorable. It's the people who are there with us. Take away the people, and the Mysterious Bookshop and it's gathered treasures becomes the most important part of that whole weekend. But take away the people and you don't have the capital "w" Weekend.

Sometimes our memories build up the reputations of the venues in a way that might disappoint a later arrival, as seems the case with Rob and the Red Flame. Not every place can be the Jekyll and Hyde Club, a silly sort of attraction-restaurant whose details might be better remembered than who you dragged there. Or have the Morley-level historic connections of the Algonquin or McSorley's. And there are so many Sherlockian dinners in so many cities whose restaurants I could never tell you the names of. Because the sites and the food are never the real reason they warm our hearts for years after.

Just like the ol' Red Flame does for some of us, and other sites will do for those who come after.

1 comment:

  1. Greetings from Argentina. Congratulations by all your blogs. I'm an old sherlockian (not many aorund here). I have a blog and a monography about food, drinks and tobacco in the Sherlock saga (in Spanish, of course). I leave you a link
    Congratulations again and keep up the good work.