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August 21, 2005

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Sherlock, Texas -- The Most Sherlockian Place On Earth

I've never been to the Baker Street that you find in modern London. Everyone says I should go there, but I can't seem to bring myself to do it. Is it the place where Sherlock Holmes once lived, at address 221B? Is it the location that an author named Conan Doyle used to set a choice bit of prose to take place? Is it the most Sherlockian place on Earth?

Last week I chronicled the wacky adventures of a group of Sherlockian pilgrims on a mission to Sherlock, Texas. The action-filled account stopped just short of what we found when we got there -- unlike my friend Hobbs's account, from which you may have learned a few technical details. But our expedition leader left out what I found there, which is what I'm going to tell you about this week.

I found the most Sherlockian place on Earth.

Consider the competition for the title of "Most Sherlockian Place on Earth":

1. Modern Baker Street, in London, England. As I mentioned in the beginning, I've never been there. Why? Well, while others may have tried to shoehorn the Baker Street of Sherlock Holmes into the Baker Street of our history's Victorian London, I've always been satisfied taking Holmes's history as a parallel to our own. Oh, Sherlock Holmes was real all right -- just real somewhere else. And aside from shoehorning Holmes's Baker Street into our own Baker Street, a trip to modern London would involve all sorts of other modern British distractions that could actually distract from one feeling the spirit of Sherlock, while walking past the auto traffic and all.

2. The Baker Street Irregulars Dinner, in New York, New York. Another bustling urban capital, just like London. Distractions everywhere, and when you get to the grand dinner of Sherlockiana, there are a lot of grand personalities that, while making the occasion very memorable, can also distract from feeling the true spirit of Sherlock.

3. Your favorite comfy reading chair back home. This is probably the place where you've spent the most time enjoying Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes lives for you while you're sitting in that spot, and it could, very well, be argued to be the most Sherlockian place on Earth. But then again, let's consider . . . .

4. Sherlock, Texas. It's the crossing of a dirt road and a place where the railroad tracks temporarily split into two tracks: a railway switching point. It's mostly unused and overgrown with kudzu and weeds of the Texas panhandle variety. There are cows mooing off in a nearby pasture, and maybe every now and then a dump truck will leave the driveway of a ranch about a half mile up the road carrying manure by the truckload. It's dust and sun and a few bugs flying around, and that's it. There's nothing there. Nothing comfortable, or British, or reknowned in Sherlockian circles. Nothing.

Nothing but what you brought there with you.

I really wasn't expecting to be too impressed by Sherlock, Texas. Not at all. It was a fun excuse to get out and ride into the distance and see what was there, talking to some Sherlockians along the way, but when we actually got there? We could bob our heads a few times like Chevy Chase at the Grand Canyon in National Lampoon's Vacation, then jump back in the van and move on. But, boy, was I wrong. We were there for an hour and a half, and I might have even stayed a little longer.

It actually was the most Sherlockian place on Earth, this place named Sherlock that we had discovered. Because when you strip away all of the books and the societies and the Victoriana and the websites and the actors and the other Sherlockians . . . you can find that the real spirit of Sherlock Holmes is within you all along. How Disney-ending cute is that?

Of course, if you don't like that simple warm fuzzy, you can get into a more intellectual rumination upon our we overlay our own meanings upon reality, and that Sherlock, Texas showed that one can invest a place with that meaning just as deeply in one arbitrary location as another less arbitrary one . . . but then, why not just settle for the warm fuzzy, pop a Dove dark chocolate into your mouth, and enjoy the moment. There was a definite Zen thing going on in Sherlock, Texas, and while I don't know if it has changed my life forever (guess we'll have to wait and see, huh?), it definitely gave me a nice moment of clarity on this silly little hobby of ours and the fact that I just plain love it, even now.

Because I found the most Sherlockian place on Earth.

Your humble correspondent,
Brad Keefauver