The View from Sherlock Peoria (259)
May 27, 2007
The BSI Earring
This Monday is the holiday here in America where we remember past wars and those who served in them. We call it “Memorial Day,” but to most of us the day just serves as free play-day, a holiday from work for cook-outs and parties, for movies and celebrating the coming of summer – probably because so many have lost our family ties to the military and its wars. Wars between countries no longer define each generation of young people, save those hardy few who volunteer. Yet we’ve all had out little personal wars.
Memorials are something that helps us lay the past to rest, and even if our own personal wars may seem trivial and even silly to the rest of the world, they are our own, and Memorial Day is a good day for laying the past to rest. So bear with me as I lapse into the standard self-involved digression into my Sherlockian past.
Yesterday, I spent the day with my old Sherlockian friend John Holliday. John’s as great a Sherlockian as you can imagine, though you’ve never met the man. Few have, as he avoids the main highways and byways of Sherlockian life. I’d almost think he was imaginary, if his life didn’t have a few mundane details to give it realism. We were looking over the artifacts he’d gathered in his lifetime of collecting and considering matters of “what if?”. When we came back to my lodgings to pick up a camera, he had to see a few of my own trinkets, and at one point, I pulled out a unique piece of Sherlockian history that few have ever seen . . . the BSI earring.
The BSI earring is simply that, three solid gold letters custom formed to dangle from one’s earlobe. It was the smallest of protest signs, a shining and tacky flying of pirate colors. It was my mid-life crisis, come early at age thirty. It was a silent F-U to certain members of the Baker Street Irregulars, It was an act of youth, stupidity, and self-righteousness . . . and something I can’t help but look back on with fondness.
In January of 1989, Tom Stix, Jr., then head of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York, decided that I was ripe for membership and handed me a certificate and shilling pronouncing that membership at the annual ceremonies. Within a month’s time, as a result, I had my ear pierced and had commissioned a jeweler to make me an earring commemorating that membership. Why? Because the Baker Street Irregulars didn’t allow the folks who most commonly wore earrings to become members back then. And with no women present, being one of the few (if any, at that time) members to wear an earring, it seemed like the perfect little protest: a BSI earring.
Getting membership in the BSI usually results in getting those three letters stapled to the end of your name in correspondence and on name badges (whether you put it there yourself or not), so why not staple those three letters to one’s body as well? That even added a touch of performance art to it. It just seemed like the perfect thing to wear to the next dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars that I attended, in any case.
Of course, as soon as I expressed my disapproval of the Irregulars’ “no women” policy in print, a few key members gave me the distinct impression that I was no longer welcome at said gathering, and so that little trinket never got used on just that occasion. By the time enough water had washed over that particular dam to even have me considering a return, the little piercing place where the earring once hung had grown completely closed. This is not to say, however, that it did not get some use.
In August of 1990, a much ballyhooed “internation Sherlock Holmes convention” called “Holmes on the Range” was held in Kansas City, Missouri. My old Sherlockian partner-in-crime, Bob Burr, and I were both headed that way, originally planning to team up with the good Carter in competing in the Pshaw Quiz Bowl, perhaps the grandest competition between scion societies ever held. My nephew had been kidnapped the week before in a domestic dispute (those were strange times, indeed), and I wound up flying in at the last minute without the good Carter in tow. What I did have, however, was my BSI earring and just enough attitude to wear the thing in public.
Of course, the past is always full of wonderful things to embarrass us, and at that time I seemed to like wearing things that fashion-wise were vaguely like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” period. And it was in one such outfit that I, BSI earring in place, wound up sharing an elevator with the head of the Baker Street Irregulars. I said “hello,” and he said “hello,” giving a cursory once-over to the ridiculous fellow in distinctly informal attire. Then his eyes lit upon my convention name badge and, I swear, widened just a bit in horror.
The rest of the elevator ride passed in silence, and we went our separate ways.
I will spare you the tale of the equally unremembered Pshaw Bowl protest (an unwritten chapter in Norwegian Explorers history) that followed, and any other Sherlockian militant actions that may have occurred in those days, and just say that the elevator ride with Tom Stix was probably the last outing for the BSI earring. I doubt he even noticed it at the time, given its small size and the silliness of the rest of my attire. But I won’t soon forget that moment.
But like untended piercings, the causes and effects of our old effronteries tend to heal with time. But every now and then, on some day of memorial or during the visit of an old friend, we have to drag them out and look at them, just to see how far we’ve come. And on those occasions, I’m glad I still have a B.S.I. earring . . . though I really should get another one made and give them to someone who can wear them.
Your humble correspondent,