Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The New Normal

Home tree.
Yesterday morning, I think it was yesterday, I was sitting on the couch in my home, in my bathrobe, in front of the fire. It was five-thirty in the morning, the tree was lit, also the faux-antique bulbs surrounding my wife’s collection of nutcrackers on the mantle.

I was drinking good coffee from a ceramic mug, writing pad in my lap. The children still asleep, not to wake for an hour before rising and getting ready for me to drive them to school. It was a familiar atmosphere, to time I create for myself to sit and think and write.

And it felt like a dream. This was the fantasy, the peace, the comfort, the home-ness of it all. The normalcy. It wasn’t normal.

Because normal, these nights, is lying on an uncomfortable hospital recliner. Mornings are spent in half-darkness, with not-great coffee in a foam cup, writing for a few moments before being interrupted by a nurse, another doctor, or having to go to my mother to get her to stop pedaling her leg in bed, anxiously kneading at the sheets, to encourage her to breathe, relax, and go back to sleep.

Sunday night my wife took the shift for me, affording me a night at home. And so I had a morning to myself. And it felt surreal. And wrong.

As I type, I am seated at a hospital-issue table trying to piece together thoughts as mom dozes in and out of afternoon rest. She may suddenly decide she needs to sit up and go someplace, though not being able to successfully negotiate bipedal locomotion is what got us into this place.

The wife passed off a flask as I checked in last night, I am day drinking bourbon and Cherry Coke Zero. Not my favorite cocktail but I am glad for the comfort and joy.

Atrium tree.
Speaking of the holidays, this afternoon, a table for one at Deagan's. After days of fast food I desperately wanted lettuce and so enjoyed a Caesar Salad ... and a holiday ale and peach cheesecake. I am eating my Christmas. I am drinking my Christmas.

Mom’s frustrated. Confined to an uncomfortable bed, fretting all the tasks which are beyond her present capability, bored with the selection of room service we have already exhausted. And she cannot adequately express what she thinks, and she knows it.

The laughs are further between. There are few reasons for a smile. It gets quieter and quieter.

We await the results of a test. It’s not a pass/fail test. The days are tedious and trying. I am grateful that she has a partner who loves her and joins us and affords me the chance to slip away and take a shower and a nap and return to the room where nothing ever happens.

Tonight will again be restless. Tomorrow evening my wife will return to take a shift. Thursday morning I will rise from my own bed, put on my robe and sit before the fire with my coffee. And it will feel wrong.

The short play "Magic" is available for reading at New Play Exchange.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Lestrade's Lads

Steve Lewis (left) and Henrik Hansen
This photo was staged.
(Chronicle-Telegram)
When my brother was in middle school, he and eight of his colleagues formed a local chapter of the Baker Street Irregulars. Theirs was an officially recognized “scion society” of BSI, an international organization of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts that has in its time included such notable members as Harry Truman, Neil Gaiman and Curtis “Booger” Armstrong.

This youthful Bay Village society called itself Lestrade's Lads, after the Scotland Yard inspector who often took credit for Holmes's achievements.

The BSI celebrates the birthday of “the Master” each January 6 with a gala in New York City. In 1978 the Lads were in eighth grade, and they were content to sit together at our house, listening to vinyl records of 1940s radio adaptations starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, sharing trivia, and hoping Big Chuck and Lil’ John might play one of the films.

One of the more notable things about members of the BSI is their engagement in the game, or the belief that Holmes and Watson were not fictitious and that Arthur Conan Doyle was merely a literary agent for Dr. Watson. The “fun” part of this game is creating a realistic timeline and character biographies from Doyle’s fifty-six short stories and four canonical Holmes novels which can be wildly contradictory.

These mental exercises are beyond my ken, as I have never been a great follower of the character of Sherlock Holmes in any medium, beyond the recent incarnation as performed by Benedict Cumberbatch. Even then I only watched two seasons.

But having been assigned the responsibility of writing a new mystery for the character, I did not wish to stumble blindly into a chronology so richly mined. I hoped to create a pastiche, and not merely fanfic. A possible, brief adventure that could fit into the established narrative, and because I wanted him to have a young female companion, I needed Watson to be absent.

In 1962, William S. Baring-Gould published what has come to be regarded as the definitive “biography” of the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. He writes:
Watson, in the winter of 1900-01 and the following spring, was much too busy writing his narrative of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" to share many cases with Holmes, but his narrative was in the hands of the publishers by May of 1901, and he was able to take part in a case destined to become a classic in the annals of criminology -- that of the Priory School.
And so, the adventure of Sherlock Holmes Meets the Bully of Baker Street takes place over the course of a couple of days in early spring, 1901. For good measure, I even sent Watson out of the country for a fortnight on a family matter.

Each of my brothers were in town for Thanksgiving. Henrik, a life-long Anglophile, has been living in England for over a quarter-century. Shortly before he departed this afternoon, we went through the few childhood belongings that remain in the attic of my mother’s home.

These include a massive, two-volume set The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, The Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook, magazines, photographs, paperbacks, and newspaper clippings, and the three-album set of radio dramas Lestrade’s Lads listened to more than forty years ago.


To be continued.

Sources:
Bay’s Baker Street Irregulars: Sherlock Holmes ‘never said all that’ by Cynthia Roberts, The Chronicle Telegram (1/1/1978)
The Baker Street Journal: An Index to an Irregular Quarterly of Sherlockiana (Vol. 20:1 - Vol. 43:4)
Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, A Life of the World’s First Consulting Detective by William S. Baring-Gould (Bramhall House, 1962)