Sunday, February 4, 2018

The time 221B Baker Street suddenly appeared

It's been thirty years since one of the strangest moments in my Sherlockian life.

In February of 1988, my first book, The Elementary Methods of Sherlock Holmes, was fresh off the presses and a local bookstore called "Mainly Books" was holding a little release party in the town where I lived at the time, Morton, Illinois. Morton had about 15,000 people in it, being basically thought of as a "bedroom community" suburb of Peoria. The town's sole attempt at a bookstore didn't last more than a few years, so I was lucky my book came out when it did.

As you can imagine,  a book release party for a book on Sherlock Holmes in a town that small brought mostly family and friends in. Among the familiar faces, however, was a lanky blond guy with drummer's forearms named Greg, whom I had never met before. Greg lived in Morton as well, probably less than a mile away, in an apartment over a hardware store. He was very interested in Sherlock Holmes and invited me to come see his collection, as Sherlockians do.

His collection, however, wasn't a library full of books, but objects.

Greg had been putting together his own 221B Baker Street sitting room in the heart of this little midwestern town I called home. It was almost like all the Sherlockian mental energy I had expended putting together my book had leaked across town and created a new Sherlockian who was not a part of the Sherlock Holmes community at large. Greg didn't belong to any of the nearby Sherlock Holmes societies, didn't subscribe to any journals, didn't correspond with any other Sherlockians. He was just a guy who loved Sherlock Holmes, enjoyed smoking a pipe, and had determined to surround himself with Holmes's possessions to smoke his pipe amidst.

The 1980s were the pre-eBay years of booming antique malls, so shopping for Victorian-era artifacts was something you could just do, and that's what Greg had done. More impressive was his work at shooting "a patriotic V.R." in the wall, especially since he was renting an apartment and couldn't go crazy on the wall itself. He owned a few guns from the era and made the attempt on various materials. Thanks to him, I later got the chance to shoot an "Eley's number 2" as Watson called it.

Somewhere in the bowels of the Sherlock Peoria H.Q., I have photos of Greg's sitting room, but initial attempts to dig through the warehouse down there and find said photos have failed. Perhaps one day they will surface and I can post them here. As for the sitting room itself, it moved to Colorado, Greg changed his name (not knowing that "Greg" would eventually become very Sherlockian with BBC Sherlock), and dispersed his treasures during one of life's big change-periods. Nothing lasts forever.

But for one amazing, magical moment, 221B Baker Street suddenly appeared in the middle of Illinois. Without warning, and . . . as I was a bit flush with "new author" self-involvement . . . surely not as well appreciated as it should have been. Greg is back in the area again, under a different name, and we still have some great Saturday lunch conversations now and then. You just never know how Mr. Sherlock Holmes is going to surprise you, though, just as he did John Watson, time after time.

Even in places you least expect it.

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