The View from Sherlock Peoria (77)
November 23, 2003
You dont find many Sherlockian two-year-olds. Unless theyve just imprinted upon the deerstalker and calabash icons somehow, the entire concept of Sherlock Holmes is just a little too much for their minds to grasp. Yet once our minds develop, once weve reached an age where weve imprinted on the more complex concepts of mystery, friendship, and scientific detection, there still remains an inner two-year-old whos not only along for the ride he keeps trying to run the show.
My inner two-year-old kept popping up a lot this week.
If youve ever spent much time entertaining a tot, you know exactly what it is that the little kiddies like best: repetition. Cover your face with your hands, open them up, and go, "Peek-a-boo!" and they laugh like crazy. But not because that silly action is so funny all by itself its because once you start doing it again and again, they know whats coming. And once a kid learns words, "Again!" can be one of their favorites. If something was fun once, itll be fun six more times, right? Well, at the tender age of two, it certainly is.
Back in August, I had a great time putting together a faux-Victorian issue of The Holmes & Watson Report that included articles by different Canonical personalities (penned by not-so-Canonical friends, of course). As I finished it up, I thought, "Why dont I do another one, a Dark Lantern League Christmas Annual, for the birthday dinner packets?" (Or in two-year-old parlance, "Again!")
Of course, my inner two-year-old never considers that I dont have all the time in the universe, or that my own creative juices definitely have some ebbing and flowing going on. It just wants to do it all again. And so I wind up with a week like this one, where Im actually struggling to do something that was a joyride the first time I did it.
It happens a lot in Sherlockiana, as in the rest of the world. Take that marvelous symposium presented by Steve Doyle and Mark Gagen that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. How soon do you think it will be before the peekaboo question starts hitting them? Having done the great thing and jumped through the hoop of fire, they now get to enjoy the compliment and burden of our inner two-year-olds looking at them with big eyes and going, "Again?" Their guests of honor, Edward Hardwicke and Nicholas Meyer, are definite targets of the big "Again?" Both men captured Sherlockian lightning in a bottle once, and wed all love to see them do a repeat performance.
From the Baker Street Irregulars dinner (now in its 70 th repetition!) to movie adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles, we all want to see the Good Things happen again . . . and again . . . and again. But were only partly two-year-olds. The older parts of us get very tired with the same thing over and over again. Later iterations never seem to be as much fun as the Good Thing was the first time, but that doesnt stop us from still demanding the attempt. Why else is there a market for the much-maligned pastiche?
Some things can be repeated with no loss of quality, and they tend to be the simpler things. A favorite recipe, followed faithfully, can produce an almost exact reproduction of a favorite food. Good chocolate will always be good chocolate. And at Friday nights meeting of our local Holmes club, the Hansoms of John Clayton, when current Cabmaster Leslie Thom called upon our longtime leader Bob Burr to deliver the one line of welcome with which he started every meeting for more than two decades, it was pure gold. Simply because it was just one line, said by Bob in a way that he couldnt help but say it. Which is all that a two-year-old wants: a simple peekaboo, done over and over again.
We make things hard on ourselves when we try to repeat anything much more complex than that. Trying to get a symposium, a motion picture, or a publication to spawn the same feelings as a previous one did is tricky business. So many people involved. So many variables. Just as brides inevitably run into crises as they try to create the perfect wedding, so too does a grand Sherlockian event have its own troubles. We can envision such marvelous things in our heads, especially when we have memories of a grand event in the past to build from. But getting those things from our heads to the real world is tough stuff. One of the reasons that Ive probably been so critical of the Baker Street Irregulars over the years is undoubtedly because I expected them to be as much fun as a really good scion society, combined with a really good symposium or two, that Id encountered before ever getting to NYC.
That inner two-year-old can be quite the troublemaker, especially when your own inner forty-something-year-old has to try and keep the little bugger (and his friend, the inner grumpy old geezer) happy.
Your humble correspondent,