My San Francisco adventures with Sherlock Holmes started when I stumbled across a mysterious invitation. That’s not a line – it really happened. I was searching for geeky things to do in San Francisco, and link after link after link eventually landed me on a PDF (with no website attachment) that was an invitation for January 10th, 2016 – a luncheon to celebrate the birthday of one, Sherlock Holmes.
I, being the naturally curious person that I am, looked into the matter. And after searching around (or should I say, sniffing, since my favorite book IS The Hound Of The Baskervilles – *gafaw*) I found an email address for the organizer of the event. I didn’t think I should send any correspondence, but then I realized it was such a once in a lifetime opportunity, that I had to. So I did, and as I waited for a reply, I looked up other Sherlock Holmes related things to do in the city.
It turns out that San Francisco has quite an obsession with Sherlock. Perhaps it’s because Arthur Conan Doyle once visited the city, or perhaps it’s because the city has hosted so many events such as the premier of the Ian McKellen film, Mr. Holmes and the restored 1916 masterpiece, staring the iconic William Gillette (who, by the way, is responsible for most of the iconic Sherlock Holmes imagery we associate with him, to this day). Whatever the reason, the obsession is there.
The way I discovered this obsession wasn’t so difficult.
Right about the time that I walked into the San Francisco Public Library and was faced with an entire wall of 1st editions, manuscripts and other collectables by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I had an inkling. Another guess came when I was walking down the street and happened to walk by a bakery named, “Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.” I figured it must be good, since the line was stretching down the street. And as if fate needed to prove the point, when I walked back up the street I was met with a “SOLD OUT” sign. (Never worry, I woke up first thing the next morning and received a completely mouthwatering apple danish that was well worth the 20 minute wait to get.)
But back to the invitation!
The invitation was from a Sherlock Holmes society chapter called The Scowrers and Molly Maguires of San Francisco and looked all the right types of mysterious and intriguing. Finally I got an email back that the woman in charge had asked that I could join the otherwise closed event (only 25 people were allowed in attendance and the RSVP cutoff date had been a week before I had emailed her). I waited for an update, and several hours after the first reply I got another one saying that someone had cancelled, and I would be welcome at the birthday celebration of Sherlock Holmes (who, in fact, turned 162 years old on January 6th – huzzah!).
I made my way to the event the next day and was welcomed by a room full of smiling elderly faces – I knew I had hit the jackpot. Why? Because, let’s be honest. The only people who wouldn’t be getting together to talk strictly about how hot Benedict Cumberbatch is, at a Sherlock Holmes meeting, would be the elderly. It was time for some real, down and geeky conversations. And I couldn’t wait.
Despite the fact that the next youngest person was twice my age, and the average of the room was three times, I found myself situated next to a man in green tweed pants who whispered to me, “Don’t be afraid to leave whenever you want. These old people talk for ages.” I appreciated that he excluded himself from said “old people.” I jumped right into conversations with those around me, and soon realized that the combined knowledge was astounding! My main conversationalist was a film professor at Berkley, and others sitting around me had been part of this society for 30+ years (it was originally founded in 1944, but none of the founders are still living, to my understanding).
One of my favorite parts, though, was when I was met by the woman who I had initially emailed. She was quick and fox like in her movements. You could tell that she was a woman in charge, and she knew it. Her glasses were perched perfectly on her nose, and her sweater draped just-so. The moment she saw me she said, “Oh! It’s so good to have a young person at one of these, again! Everybody keeps moving away and dying.” I appreciated the honestly, and tried not to burst out laughing.
After dinner, a series of canonical toasts, a lecture on the different cinematic versions of The Hounds Of The Baskervilles and a 30+ question quiz about the book, a ‘Happy Birthday, Sherlock’ cake (as well as a special presentation about all of the best of 2015 Sherlock Holmes related materials), I felt very validated in my decision to crash the party. I also learned that I have a lot in common with 70 year olds – such as a love for Dick Tracy and Abbott and Costello. I’m sure they all had some questions for how a 25 year old knew so much about entertainment two generations ahead of her (#homeschooled), but we had some great conversations, nonetheless.
Overall the weekend was lovely, and having spent an hour previous to the party, pouring over the library’s collection, I felt like I had truly experienced Sherlock Holmes on a whole new level. Naturally, I finished out the night by watching The Abominable Bride.
P.s. Here’s a video about the restoration project that I think is awesome!
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