Friday, September 2, 2016

STUD walk, Day Three: Big Lab, Big Work!

Path of the day -- continuing A Study in Scarlet: Part 1, Chapter 1: Mr. Sherlock Holmes

Ah, here we are, the laboratory of the Mind Palace of Sherlockitude. Sherlock Holmes's lab.

Yes, we did dally overlong at the Holborn, but one must dally a bit when food is concerned. But here it is, the lab where Sherlock Holmes did some of his best work. That tiny one that will come at Baker Street is cute and all, but this! This is a lab.

What do you think are in some of these bottles lining this lovely large and lofty chamber of St. Bart's Hospital?

I bet if we'd start opening them randomly, we could do some damage . . . mainly to ourselves, as there are surely things in here no facility a century later would just leave out in the open like this. And this great hall is perfect for what we get to see happen here, a place where two distinct agents can be mixed to produce marvelous effects.

Today, the greatest scientist in this lab is a man named Stamford, as he is mixing two of the most potent elements in the room, preparing to place them in an enclosed space for a certain amount of time . . . and then, never return to see the effects?

Okay, maybe Stamford isn't such a great scientist. Or maybe he just never published his work.

Have a seat on one of these tall three-legged stools and let's discuss Elsie the bull pup's former owner. She's certainly enjoying seeing her former master as we watch this scene play out, and Watson being oblivious to her presence seems normal to her. Aw, she wants you to pet her.

There is a thing Watson says here in the St. Bartholomew's Hospital lab that just doesn't sound "Watson" as we come to know him later. It actually sounds more "Sherlock." Here it comes, give it a listen:

"Oh, a mystery is it?" Watson is actually rubbing his palms together with glee. "This is very piquant. I am much obliged to you for bringing us together. 'The proper study of mankind is man,' you know."

I mean, come on, doesn't that sound like Sherlock? Watson, as he narrates his case chronicles to come, will be a very laid-back guy about the whole detective thing. But here he sounds like Sherlock Holmes.

And Stamford . . . Stamford's last bit is priceless.

"You must study him, then. You'll find him a knotty problem, though. I'll wager he learns more about you than you about him. Goodbye."

It sounds very much like Stamford has put these two mystery-loving kooks together and is doing an "Exit, stage right!" zoom away from them as fast as possible. And the fact we never hear from him or about him again does make one wonder what his true thoughts were on Watson and Holmes.

But sometimes, when mixing two volatile chemicals in the lab, one does want to get as far away from the scene of the crime as possible . . . .

Sunday, August 28, 2016

STUD Walk, Day Two: A friendly libation and lunch.

Path of the day -- still A Study in Scarlet: Part 1, Chapter 1: Mr. Sherlock Holmes

The marvelous thing about a mind palace built from the Holmes Canon is the immediate access to a quality drinking establishment like the Criterion Bar . . . well, if you're into that sort of thing. One never knows what beverages a particular person's mind palace is apt to serve up, especially mine. This Criterion might have butterbeer here. You never know.

The long bar, running the length of the establishment, is a classic. A familiar place in a way, no matter where you are. Something about a great big back bar that looks like the building was practically built around it . . . solid and secure.

The Criterion Bar, located right in Piccadilly Circus, however, is probably not the sort of place "where everybody knows your name." Hardly the little local bar where the drinks are cheap, either. Having a drink in the Criterion, it's easy to see how John H. Watson was a.) a lonely soul in a crowded metropolis, and b.) needing to go on a budget. He was living like a tourist.

And why not? I hate to bring this up, but given his lack of "kith and kin" in England and his familiarity with Australian gold-fields, John Watson was probably not from this country. And where else would he be drawn to then but the heart of London? Sure, he'd been here for studies, etc., but London wasn't home.

The real thing had all kinds of other parts, dining rooms, a ballroom, a theater, etc., but here in the Mind Palace of Sherlockitude, the Criterion's long bar is all that exists. And why not? It's only here for John H. Watson and one other patron . . . the one guy who does know his name.

Stamford. "A friendly face in the great wilderness of London." A guy that is so happy to see you that you immediately invite him to lunch. Immediately. This is the person you want to meet in a bar, be Stamford a he, a she, or another pronoun of choice.

Of course, Watson's immediate hansom for the Holborn Restaurant upon seeing Stamford, even if he describes him as "not a particular crony of mine," tells us something . . . these two had been at the Holborn together before. Whether it was nostalgia or simply picking the first place he knew Stamford would enjoy, there was no need to waste time discussing where they were dining. The Holborn was the obvious choice. Lunch buffet or grilled steaks? No idea. But there would be wine with it.

So on, off in our virtual hansom to the Holborn dining room of the Mind Palace of Sherlockitude, to listen to Watson and Stamford talk of lodgings, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and "other channels" of conversation.

To the deep-reading Sherlockian, the phrase "the conversation drifted away into other channels" is as alluring as a tin dispatch-box full of Watsonian manuscript. Watson has already given Stamford a run-through of his adventures since they last saw each other back in the cab. Watson doesn't have anyone in England to talk about. Shared former associates at Bart's? Something to do with the fact Holborn was a casino in addition to having a restaurant? Stamford's love life? Whatever the channel, they had the better part of the meal to converse there.

Lunch at the Holborn, and after that . . . the return of John H. Watson to St. Bartholomew's Hospital. They say the past is prologue, and that saying is never so fitting as in Watson's time with young Stamford.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

STUD Walk, Day One: Watson's best friend gets a treat.

Path of the day -- A Study in Scarlet: Part 1, Chapter 1: Mr. Sherlock Holmes

Upon entering the Mind Palace of Sherlockitude, the first thing I always see is the long hallway to the left, which leads to a single door. Upon that door is a fine brass plaque which reads:

"The Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D."
"The Second Afghan War"

I have known those who, if their mind palace contains a similar hallway with a similar door, have gone down it, opened it, and explored what lies beyond. If you are possessed of eyesight keen enough, you might observe that the carpet in this particular hallway has only been trod upon twice. One trip down the hallway to read what is on the door, and one trip back with curiosity satisfied.

I don't go down this hallway, or open that door. War and wounds, packhorses and Peshawar hospitals . . . none of what lies behind that door is anything I want to know is in there. Think me faint of heart if you will, but I prefer to save my sterner stuff for my own life's troubles. I will leave John Watson's to him, and give him all the more respect for having made it through them.

Better to visit him in that private hotel room in the Strand, where he lives without comfort or meaning to his life, budgeted to four pounds sixpence a week. And that's the true antechamber of this mind palace.

While four pounds sixpence a week is surely enough to survive on, John Watson's lifestyle in the greatest metropolis on Earth is plainly curtailed by it, and this room shows it. The two luxuries he allows himself, when he's not just idling about his hotel room or making some attempt at his never-to-be-finished "Reminiscences," seem to be a dog and the occasional trip to the Criterion Bar for a drink . . . though those are practically prescribed medications to a man whose nerves were shaken by his war experience.

While I am not the biggest fan of dogs in my daily routine, they are fabulous creatures to see in a mind palace, which can be as lonely a place at times as London for a returning serviceman without family or friends in the city. Like so many of the denizens of a mind palace, both animal and human, dogs neither defecate or smell like wet dog here, and can be excellent companions.

Watson's room in this private hotel is pretty plain, as you can see, and this lovely young bulldog is perhaps the most interesting thing in it . . . well, outside of that tin dispatch box which doesn't have the good stuff in it yet. We'll probably want to wait a few decades before trying to open that.

But here's the thing about walking through a world like that recorded in A Study in Scarlet when it's rebuilt in one's mind palace: You can have some fun with things that don't affect the narrative. 

So, you see this leash I brought with me? I'm taking Watson's dog. I'm naming her "Elsie," and she's going to accompany me on this stroll. I also brought this treat from PetSmart to encourage her complicity. And that's perfectly fine, because half of Sherlockians don't believe in Elsie and Watson himself never has anything to do with her once he's left for the Criterion Bar on the day he meets Sherlock Holmes.

SPOILER ALERT! John Watson is going to meet Sherlock Holmes. Duh!

Watson probably won't even recognize Elsie if we take her into the Criterion Bar to listen to him tell his troubles to Stamford. You know how unobservant he can be. Holmes wasn't lying.

Have you seen the Criterion Bar? 

The Mind Palace of Sherlockitude

Somewhere between the pages, between the light reflector and the light receptor, between eye and the mind, and between all the bits that come after . . . there lies the Mind Palace of Sherlockitude.

We all have places without GPS coordinates, places we can go when we want to be alone with our thoughts, and places that we never have time to fully explore. Places we'd like to have a reason to spend a little more time in. Hence, this blog.

This blog is my excuse to take a meandering walk through a place I always enjoy spending time in, the world of Sherlock Holmes . . . as evoked by a certain set of words that were spread across the globe, thanks to Mr. Arthur Conan Doyle. Words penned by John H. Watson, M.D., Sherlock Holmes, and an anonymous hand or two, collected into a single, double, or multiple volume set on many occasions, and published in magazines and newspapers on many others. Words that have created a million worlds in a million minds . . . and made a comfy and familiar place for some of us.

What follows is my comfy and familiar place evoked by those same words. It may not look like what got built in your mind palace, but that's why we visit other people's homes -- to see what they've done with the place that is different from our own.

Welcome to the Mind Palace of Sherlockitude. I hope you make it all the way to the exit door with me.