Saturday, August 17, 2019

The man who stands outside of time

Last evening, after a certain movie failed to hold the attention of the good Carter and I, we slid down to the next thing on Amazon Prime and starting watching an early episode of The Carol Burnett Show from 1967. The they-are-so young stars, the dated mini-skirts, the clunky pop tunes sung by the show's host, the insanely sexist acceptable-at-the-time bits ("Are there any questions from the audience?" "What are your measurements?") might have provoked nostalgia in someone else. In me, they just spawned the thought, "How am I this old without being dead?"

Carol Burnett and her peers seemed an eternity away in that captured hour of entertainment. Her show was a thing of the moment, now a curiosity where some bits of the show have held up over time, but so much had not. And I could not help but compare it to the one entertainment that has been with me since those days and actually remained the same: Sherlock Holmes.

Jonny Lee Miller and Elementary just ended, things of their time like Carol Burnett's show, as much as a fan might like to think of them otherwise. Brett, Rathbone, Gillette were the same. But Sherlock Holmes, the man from Conan Doyle's sixty tales, stands apart from all those incarnations of him, just as he always has.

He's a man who stands outside of time.

When we visit Sherlock Holmes and John Watson at Baker Street in "The Speckled Band" or some other of those original tales, we are looking in at the same folks Sherlockians have looked in of for generation after generation. Those men, that sitting room . . . it's like Doctor Who's TARDIS, a place that lets time flow around it while the passengers inside remain unaffected. When we join Sherlock there, we can even be his companions for a while, as the Doctor would take for a brief time, and travel with him to Victorian England, Basil Rathbone's Hollywood, Christopher Morley's New York, or Speedy's Cafe in London. That Baker Street sitting room connects us to places and time periods that we'd never visit without Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock is taking me to Portland in October, a place I've never been before, and might not have ever considered going to, without him. New York, Santa Fe . . . I am not, by nature, a traveler, but Sherlock Holmes actually got me to those places. Books don't just transport us mentally, sometimes they inspire physical transportation as well. And while they can't actually move us through time, they can get us to look hard at other eras with our handy deerstalkered guide pointing the way.

Like the Doctor, Sherlock Holmes can appear in so many forms. But that special place he holds, just outside of time itself, connects them all, just as it connects us all . . . and you know what else? Makes us feel young as a result if we let him, with all of his new stories and new incarnations.

It is a grand thing to follow a man who lives outside of time, which is probably why so many of us have.

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