Saturday, June 30, 2018

Missions from Sherlock Holmes

We hear much of Sherlockians as readers and writers, as our center-point is one marvelous piece of literature. But Sherlockians have always taken their love of Sherlock Holmes with them wherever and whatever they're doing, so the great detective can wind up in some very unusual places. And sometimes, like a pre-cell-phone, pre-Pokemon-Go, pre-geo-caching motivator to get out of the house, Sherlock Holmes sends us on missions we would never otherwise go on.

Most of the traveling I've done in my life has been to Holmes-related destinations. Sherlockian weekends, events, visits with far-off friends. Great places that I never would have thought to seek out, if not for that lure of something Sherlock. But there's another level of Sherlockian destination-setting that some of us wind up on, and it came up today as I had a very inspiring lunch with my friend John Holliday, one of those great Sherlockians whom no one really knows is out there.

John had come up with a marvelous idea for sending himself on Sherlockian missions to cities and towns that were named the same as characters in the Sherlockian Canon. Now, that by itself is not a new concept. John Bennett Shaw lead pilgrimages to Moriarty, New Mexico before most of us were even in the cult. And Don Hobbs's decision to lead a merry band on his "Great Whimsical Sherlockian Tour of Oklahoma and Texas" led us to Watson, Oklahoma and Holmes Peak among other choice destinations in its 1,895 mile range. But as John Holliday laid out his new plan for Sherlockian missions, I realized that he had taken that notion to a whole new level.

He laid out his mission packet for a trip to the little town of Adair, Illinois -- a very non-obvious choice -- and I was happily entranced. I love small town Illinois, having gone on a few quests for historical data in them myself, and there is much to be gained from any one of them, with a little research, a few questions, and the general attitude of following whatever slim leads one might come across.

Adair, for example, might just have a Moran in its graveyard. And a fellow with a name that traces to the Von Herder clan. Would the local bar have a brandy on hand, the one alcoholic beverage mentioned in "The Adventure of the Empty House," the tale Ronald Adair is mentioned in? Do the street names hold any significant ties to that tale in particular or the Canon in general? With the aid of internet resources, one can find a lot out about a place before ever reaching it, but once all that data is collected and some goals decided, there is only one bit of research left to do . . . .

And that's go to the place in question.

It might seem an arbitrary sort of adventure to those without the imagination to find joy in the random new experiences life can bring, but to me, the whole thing fairly explodes as a mental exercise and a lesson in playing detective and exploring the world around you, as Sherlock Holmes was always glad to do. A Mycroft Holmes might be content with sitting in his rooms and letting others bring back bits of data, but a Sherlock . . . a true Sherlock . . . loves to get out in the midst of it. Local pubs, area botany, all of it.

I haven't gone too deep into John Holliday's methodology here, as that's his own set of missions from Sherlock Holmes. Hearing what he was looking into, however, caused me to start thinking of my own potential goals for making a Sherlockian Saturday mission when the weather is not as beastly hot as is is today. And these things are best shared, as well . . . whether it's heading out with a travelling companion or picking a spot midway between you and your Sherlockian friends and setting a rendezvous there for a group mission. Letting your creativity flow in just how you do it is a big part of the whole business of such little missions for Sherlock Holmes.

And these days, with blogs, YouTube, and social media, you can easily share such adventures with the rest of us.

Stay tuned.

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