When I checked the audio books out for my trip last night, the library's due date printed out as 2/21. That's the sort of thing a fan notices. Fan, of course, is short for "fanatic" and "fanatic" definitely has tinges of "crazy" to it. Whether you're a Twihard, a Trekkie, or a Cumberbunny, you know that fact well. It's the reason some apparently too-sensitive Sherlock Holmes fans consider themselves "elite devotees" and try to salve their egos with a different term.
But I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and let me explain to you exactly where my fanaticism comes from. Just by reading this blog, you'd probably define me as an Elementary-hating psycho, driven by some unnknown psychological twist in childhood to obsess over my mental image of the Sherlock Holmes archetype. We all have favorite stories, whether in book or movie form, that imprinted upon us in our early teen years. At that age, quality doesn't even matter that much -- our emotions are running high, and what gives us the strongest feelings are those things we'll love forever. But even that sort of well-imprinted fondness isn't what makes a fan.
What makes a fan is what made me drive four hours to eat dinner last night and then drive four hours home again. You might say it was Sherlock Holmes. But I can experience Sherlock any time I care to, here in my safe and snug home. Books, DVDs, audio CDs . . . Sherlock is not hard to find.
No, what I drove a total of eight hours in one evening (Fanatic behavior if ever there was such!) was not Sherlock Holmes himself, but the connections he has brought into my life. Lifelong connections with good friends. And sometimes those connections even go past life-long, as they did last night.
When my friend Bob Burr, "the Rascally Lascar" in BSI and other venues, died last month, he had never been to a single meeting of the Occupants of the Empty House, a Sherlock Holmes society that has amazingly held court in the wilds of Southern Illinois, without a major city as a hub, for thirty five years. Occupants had been to our Peoria club meetings and knew Bob well. And I had tried to drag him along on my occasional trips to see the Occupants. But Bob was a serious homebody and resisted every time.
Until last night. Last night, I decided to drag Bob's ghost to Southern Illinois to a meeting of the Occupants of the Empty House. For some odd reason, Bob left me his Buick LeSabre in his will along with his Sherlock Holmes collection. The car had never been driven on the four hour trip to Du Quoin, or much of anywhere else -- it was twelve years old and had under seventeen thousand miles on it. And since the Occupants were having their two hundredth meeting at Alongi's restaurant in Du Quoin, it seemed just the occasion for the big beast of a car to make the trip.
Driving a ghost to a Sherlock Holmes club meeting four hours away . . . more crazy fan behavior, right?
Well, you could say that, but here's the thing. It wasn't Sherlock Holmes who made me the fan I am today. It isn't Sherlock Holmes who has kept the Occupants of the Empty House meeting every month for thirty five years. And it wasn't Sherlock Holmes who I was driving to Southern Illinois last night.
It was Bob Burr that I drove. And it was Bill Cochran and Gordon Speck, Stan and Debbie Tinsley, Jack Crelling, and Joe Eckrich (along with other old and new members along the way) who have kept the Occupants of the Empty House a place where I have found a friendly welcome for decades.
The real truth about fanatical fans is this: we may come to a fandom like that of Sherlock Holmes due to some quirk in our personality or tween-age fetish. But we stay because of the friendships, the connections, the bonds that it gives us to other human beings.
And if you want to call that crazy, feel free. Because I'm just as nutty as Sonny the Cocoa Puffs cuckoo that way, and so happy to be so. My friends, both inside the Sherlockian world and outside of it, are the ones I'm truly a fan of, and will always be. They are some amazing people.
To me, Sherlock Holmes and his eternal friendship with Dr. Watson, is the perfect symbol of what I call friendship . . . getting to spend time with someone you admire the heck out of. And am I fanatical about that?
Yes, I am.
And that is the truth about fans. Geek us up all you like, but in the end, we're here for the people, which is healthy, human, and quite wonderful.
(More details on last night will be coming soon, but I just had to get this part blogged. I'm a fanatic, remember?)