Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson have traveled through space and time for reasons yet to be fully determined. One of their hosts has said that bringing Dr Watson to the future was the primary objective of the mission. Watson suspects they really need Holmes, but have yet to realize it.
Below the Orange antimacassar, is a continuation of the story. There is some hi-fi and music talk in this chapter. And Dr Watson learns about the Civil Rights movement in the US. While Holmes will have his memories of the future erased, the situational problem that Dr Watson faces is that, unlike Holmes, he will be allowed to return to his original time with his memories of the future. And he must not alter the time line.
Sherlock Holmes in Space -- The Knower -- Chapter #15
a story by jabney based on (the now public domain) characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
An eventful day was already a given. A new mode of transportation had been mastered. At least sufficiently, in the eyes of the state to receive its impremanture in the form of a license. This, I am told, is referred to as a, "Driver's license" even though one is said to, "Ride" a motorcycle rather than to drive it. I also learned that it is something of a rite of passage to believe that one's photograph on such a document is singularly unflattering. And that The Beatles would have broken up even if Yoko Ono hadn't come along. Whomever the Beatles were.
These opinions, stated cheerily as fact, came from Jerome and Evan. Holmes had suggested that Otis and I take the pair on a motorcycle ride and, "Just happen" to stop at Number One Baseline Road. Once there, I was to attempt to steer the conversation to the subject of music and its storage and retrieval. "Doxy said something about the superiority of mid-twentieth century high fidelity music playback systems. What if, in some respects, Doxy has a point? Perhaps the inability to differentiate one session of The Scream from another is due to unforseen losses caused by progress."
"I don't see how Sherlock Holmes could call the losses, "Unforseen,"" Jerome said when I told him what Holmes had said. "Audiophiles since the earliest days of digital have been aware of that."
Otis said, "And other audiophiles have said just the opposite. Besides, I doubt that Mr Holmes has spent even the slightest fraction of the time you have in reading old audio journals."
"And Jerome even manages to get in some listening now and then," said Evan, good naturedly.
"Watch it, white boy," said Jerome in a similarly jocular tone, "Or I'll tell these men who it was that insisted Donald "Duck" Dunn, spent his time away from the Stax/Volt Studios doing voice-overs for Disney cartoons."
"Did Yvonne also tell you we were in fourth grade, and that she and her girlfriends started that rumor in the firs place?"
"Nope. She just said the first time you and she heard, "I've Been Loving You Too Long," that you said, "Hard to believe that smooth solid bass line supporting Otis Redding comes from the same guy that did the voice of Donald Duck." Wouldn't have been a bad pick-up line for a fourth-grader. If you hadn't been totally wrong."
Evan said, "Rest assured that I've learned quite about the man since then. Including some of the Panthers wanting Stax to fire him because he was white."
"That was stupid, I'll agree with you there. But to change the topic slightly, why is Evan coming along? Not that your company isn't welcome, Evan," said Jerome.
"Because Evan's a, "Tape loader," I said. "Holmes thought some expertise in archaic archiving techniques might prove useful."
Otis said, "I hope Mr Holmes realizes that is a minor sub-set of Evan's primary talent."
"Really?" said Jerome, "I'd like to hear more about this, "Primary talent" of Evan's."
"So would I," said Evan, "Especially if it were something that might get me above a level five."
"Your choice, Evan," said Otis, "An increase in level and a compulsory re-test, using methods which weren't in place when you were last tested, or to glide along as a five. The latter, I might remind you, automatically allows you to obtain a genetic moderation license to have a child with a person with a level of up to two ranks higher. That category currently includes Yvonne, I believe."
"You believe, ha!" said Jerome. "You know the level, sexual orientation and genetic moderation status of everybody in Systems. You're a regular Dolly Levi, for everybody else."
"Remind me to show you, "The Matchmaker," with Shirley Booth, sometime, Dr Watson," said Otis. "And Jerome, the widowed Mrs Levi did find a match for herself, eventually. These things take time."
"As seems to be our departure," I said. "Holmes said this may be important so we should be going. Oh, and you three are to bring along an assortment of media that might have been used in the mid-twentieth century."
Three sets of eyes brightened with interest and their bearers went off in separate directions. They each returned lugging crates and cases. Evan said, "Should we take a van or a truck?"
"Holmes wants this treated as a casual visit. He said quite specifically that we should use two motorcycles. You'll need to pick out a small selection of each type. And Jerome and Evan will need to choose the person with whom to ride."
Otis pulled a coin from his pocket and said, "Jerome, you have seniority, call it, heads or tails? Winner gets to ride with the person of their choice on the way there. And we'll switch off on the way back."
Jerome said, "Shouldn't the winner get to drive?"
"Jerome where is your bike?"
"I thought I told you yesterday Otis, it's still in the body shop."
"The question is answered then: No way. Heads or tails, dude."
"Heads, to symbolically protest being sent to the back of the bus."
Otis flipped the coin, "Heads it is, Jerome. So who gets your company on the way to Number One House?"
"Dr Watson. I'll use the opportunity to tell him about Sister Rosa Parks. He might appreciate the story of her struggle."
Evan said, "Do you think he'll be able to hear you all the way from the back of that two seat bus?"
All three of my companions were laughing as we pulled out of the lot at The Sir Alec Guinness.
"So who was Sister Rosa Parks? Did she show great mercies in hospital?"
"That's right, you Brits call nurses, "Sister" don't you," said Jerome. "We black folks, and this was done even more in those days, use the term, "Brother" and, "Sister" when speaking of the ones we feel close to. Even when it's somebody we may have never met."
"Sort of the way Control spoke of her, "Brother in Christ" when speaking of a patron in the Smiley Grill?"
"Different. Once you see, "Tinker, Tailor" you'll appreciate how un-Christ-like some of the actions of the original agents were."
"Ironic usage, eh? I'll have to view this, "Tinker, Tailor." What is the title in reference to, the childrens' rhyme?"
"Sort of, it's full title is, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."
"Clever," I said.
"And long. The version starring Alec Guinness was a multi-part series done by the BBC. Some people say it represents the peak of story telling on television."
"And what do you say, Jerome?"
"It's very well done. Awfully white, but worth watching just the same."
"So were there television shows with an equivalent preponderance of black performers?" I said.
"Some," said Jerome, "But you'll notice I didn't include any in the first doggy-bag list of essential TV. I couldn't locate any good clips from the Nat King Cole Show. Besides, he was forced to have lots of white guests and even with that, the show was canceled because the white sponsors didn't want their white audience to associate their white products with a black singer. And get this, a few years later, some of those same sponsors would wind up using black spokespeople in their advertising. Why? Because target groups determined that white audiences found a black spokesperson to be more credible."
"I suppose that was progress, right?"
Jerome said, "Yeah, but put that same focus group on a jury with a black defendant and a white cop and see who they think is the more credible."
"Naturally, Jerome. You don't expect the police to lie."
"You are definitely a white man, Dr Watson." I didn't need to look back to imagine Jerome shaking his head from side to side and wearing a slightly bewildered, slightly bemused expression.
As we rode on, Jerome told me stories of Sister Rosa Parks, the Montgomery bus boycott, Dr King, civil rights marches, Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela and Biko in South Africa, and then back to the United States eventually electing a black man as its President. The pride this young men conveyed in his voice was tempered by a tone of anguish. I thought of the exposure I had to black people in my time. It was clear to me now that minstrel shows and such were an obvious and cruel distortion. "When you get back, Dr Watson," Jerome said, "I don't envy you. Knowing you could speak up, and..." His voice trailed off.
I shook my head sadly. I could not, would not, alter the time-line. Would my determination have been as steadfast if my skin had been black? "So Jerome, what would you do if you were in my position? Back in London?"
"Try to be as honest in your writing as you can, Doctor. And maybe put some flowers on Wilberforce's grave."
We pulled up to Number One Baseline Road and Evan said, "So Jerome, eventful ride?"
Jerome said, "For his first day, he did fine. I didn't even ask him to use auto-ride."
"Auto-ride?" I said.
"It's there, but you should try to avoid using it while you're getting used to riding. Of course, we may want it on the way back. Depends on how agreeable the docent is to our blandishments," Otis said, raising up his saddle-bag of archaic media and more. The outline of the vaporizer stick was clearly visible.
The ROADMASTER pulled into the drive, "Spot" the unspotted mechanical dog applied his tongue to his mechanical master's face which then proceeded to partially shed its nose. Evan said, "Yvonne nailed that one, I've gotta admit, I’m a little envious."
Jerome said, "Otis, didn't you tell me that Yvonne was almost going to fix that error when the docent told her to stop. So, Evan, the only thing of Yvonne's to envy from that day was her good luck."
Our luck here didn't seem all that good on this day. Instead of Doxy, another docent was reading the script. And though this one also went off script, the rapport which Doxy so easily established on the occasion of our introduction was missing. Perhaps the tone was set when we tried to carry the various bags containing the archaic media in with us. "Can't you read," said the docent, "Please leave bags and large purses on the porch."
We piled the bags in the one shady spot we could find and went back in. This docent was in the middle of pronouncing Doxy's favorite spot for youthful mischief as, "Veeaduck." And the allusion to mid-twentieth century audio quality was singularly lacking in conviction. The docent's reference to, "Hee Fee" systems didn't help.
Otis signaled that we should leave, and I was about to suggest a visit to the Remodeling Mistakes, when a sharp oath came from the porch. "What kind of damn fool leaves vinyl LPs on the porch when the sun is beating down." Doxy came in carrying the vinyl and I said, "Sorry Doxy, your substitute said we should leave the bags on the porch."
"Back so soon, Doctor? And by the way, that's Howard, the floating relief. He doesn't have the fanatical dedication to the mission of any one pavilion that we specialized docents have. He is good at getting people to wear floor protection, though."
I introduced everyone and Doxy paused when I said, "Evan." "I remember you, young man. You almost had that young woman in tears over Spot and the nose thing."
"But I was trying extra hard to be nice to her," said Evan.
"And that was the problem. She told me that you had been passed over for a level increase, which she had gotten, and that had you been lead tech, the nose would still be attached. Then she started crying and saying, "Evan is being so nice about all this." That's when I told her I liked the nose becoming detached. I said it only to make her feel better. I had every intention of calling systems in a day or two telling them to fix it after all. But the public ate it up. Such public as we get, that is."
"I would have thought the fire yesterday would have heightened public interest," said Otis.
"The only thing it seems to have heightened is Director Parrish's attachment to that siren in the Crown Victoria. He's presiding at some sort of virtual re-enactment this afternoon, or we'd be hearing it right now." I saw no need to mention that Sherlock Holmes would be attending that same event.
The relief docent walked in and Doxy said, "Howard, I was told to tell you that you need to relieve at the Remodeling Mistakes pavilion. Dixie's the only docent left that hasn't provided a video statement about yesterday."
Thoughts of Howard going through the motions of Dixie's presentation squelched any lingering fantasy of a visit to her pavilion today. Besides, a party of four was three people too many for that sort of mission. But not too many for the mission that Holmes had sent us to do. Play records and talk about old time audio. Old time at least for Doxy and my three companions. For me it was new. Though not entirely.
"So Dr Watson, do you and your friends often travel with record albums and what. two or is that three DJ's? I think I've spotted you three from time to time in the DJ booth at the Lucas Lounge. Let's see what you have. "Revolver" and, "Rubber Soul." Both, eh. Who can't make up his mind as to which is the best Beatles album?"
"That would be me," said Evan "But I didn't bring those. I always figure someone else will bring the Beatles. In the realm of vinyl I brought Pink Floyd. "Dark Side," "Animals," and, object if you will, but I like it, "The Wall,"
"Nice," said Jerome. "I brought the Stax/Volt singles collection on CD and "Don't Crush That Dwarf" by the Firesign Theater on vinyl.
Otis said, "OK I'm the one that brought the two Beatles albums in question. And I still don't know which I'd say is, "Best," except to narrow it to those two,"
Doxy said, "Amen to that. An unfair question. We could listen to a side from each on the system here, if you don't mind a 15 minute wait while the tubes warm up. I prefer two hours for a warm-up but I'm pretty picky."
"Is the public liable to wander in? If not, we can go into the backyard while the equipment gets settled in," Otis said and held up the vaporizer, "Will you join us Doxy?"
"Thanks, I'm officially on duty for another hour but if you're still here then, I'd be delighted. Not that anybody will show up this late today. But tomorrow... Dr Watson are you and Mr Holmes still planning on coming? You three should come too," said the docent, "You may each bring a guest if you'd like. Nothing fancy, charcoal grilled chicken thighs and fixin's. Tastes good though, if I say so myself."
Before we began to use the vaporizer, I asked Otis to show me how to engage the auto-ride function. "Here's all you do, speak only your last name when I give the cue," he said raising his tri-fold to speak into, "Rider Name equals..."
"Current Location equals Number One Baseline; Home equals Alien Quarantine V.I.P. quarters; SAG equals SIR Alec Guinness, Add: If destination equals SAG, Print to audio out, "Chalfont requests that no salty snacks be fed to him."
"Chalfont tastes the salt?"
"No," said Otis, "But Control says the salt build-up over time causes corrosion. I think her real objection is the pigeons the snacks attract. You'd think a detached mechanical head would require less care than your average dog. Speaking of dogs, Evan as far as I'm concerned I didn't hear any of Doxy's story about how Spot came to acquire his nose-dislodging ability."
"I don't recall hearing anything either," said Jerome.
"Nor will I, at least when Yvonne is around," I said. "That is the sort of detail I'll save for the written record when I'm back in London. And back in my own time."
"Thanks everybody. I never think of Yvonne as being level-conscious, unlike some people I know," here Evan flashed a grin at Jerome who may have started to protest but Otis asked Evan to input his address since he would be riding back with me.
"Evan Home equals..." and he spoke his address. "Now Dr Watson, you try it."
Otis said, "Yes, weren't you talking about re-visiting the Remodeling Mistakes pavilion?"
After a couple of attempts I got the knack of it and Otis said, "When you're ready, then all you need is to address the bike by saying the words that I say after I say the word spelled E S C A P E. Escape, engage Auto-ride, go to Home. Enter. The bike will say, "You have chosen to Auto-ride Home. Is that correct? And then you answer and if it's yes, the bike will take off as long as somebody is sitting on it."
"Should I write that down?" I said.
"No need," said Evan, "I'll be there if you have any questions. There aren't that many options, for speed you've got Fast, Slow, and Old-man-in-hat. Oh, and then there's the Stop at the nearest open coffee shop."
Jerome said, "That's more useful in the morning, on your way to work."
Otis said, ""Morning" and "Work" are two words I tend not to link to you and Evan."
"You're just envious, too old to sleep past noon any more," said Jerome.
Doxy came out on the porch before any more could be said in that particular exchange, though I was beginning to get used to the ease and lack of stuffiness with which they seemed to regard their peers, and said, "In honor of Dr Watson, I have, "Dark Side of the Moon" cued up first. Is that OK?"
My three companions agreed that the selection was, indeed, appropriate and we all went back inside. One chair was placed at the steep apex of what I presumed to be a triangle. The other two points being defined by the two edges of a wide walnut-finished credenza with no doors and a convex front in the center, convex, that is, as would be a large section of an evan larger diameter cylinder.
"The trustees specified a console as being approriate for the era and social class, and I was able to convice them that this JBL Paragon was essentially the same as a console."
I said, "I take it that is not quite the case?"
Jerome said, "Hardly. The woofers in the Paragon are some of the same model of drivers that were used at Woodstock!"
Evan and Otis seemed to be impressed. Doxy smiled and, I swear I saw this, patted the Paragon as if it were a sleeping housecat. He walked toward another piece of furniture, this one vertical, and said, "We'll start you out seated in the sweet spot, Doctor, but first," he said as he beckoned me over and opened its doors, "Do you recognize the name?"
"Garrard. The British crown jewelers?"
"The same," said Doxy. "The name became associated with mass-market record changers in the US, but a few of their single-play turntables managed to make it across the pond."
"The Atlantic Ocean. Anyway, this is the Garrard model 301 turntable. It has a reproduction of an SME arm and a surprisingly inexpensive Grado cartridge."
"Moving coil, right?" said Jerome.
"Interestingly no. Even though Joe Grado had early patents on the moving coil technology, for some reason I keep returning to listen to this moving magnet phono cartridge. And the Fisher 1000 pre-amp likes it too. No step-up device required."
Evan said, "Wow! How many hundreds of watts per channel?
"Very seldom in the hundreds. Usually it's just double digits. Right now the amp is a Marantz 8b wired in triode mode and that's about 17 watts per, using push-pull. I'm building a single-ended triode amp based on an early Western Electic design, but the model 300b output tubes still need to get a hard-vacuum pulled. Of course we don't really pull a vacuum, since we're in space. It's just seal the envelope to the base outside and then standard stray-molecule clean-up by flashing the getter when they're back inside. But tube assembly is low priority for a space walk, so we wait."
Otis leaned over to me and in a low voice said, "I'm good at dealing with priorities. Sherlock Holmes feels this whole vintage hi-fi thing may have some use, right?" I assured him that was the case, although I was starting to suspect that Holmes also may have wanted a way to keep me out of trouble while he was off on business that I would not be privy to. It was a very pleasant way to keep out of trouble.
I took my seat in the 'sweet spot' chair. In my exprerience one side of a record lasts about three minutes, so I didn't try to get too comfortable, determined to give up my seat when the end of the side was reached. Instead of the rushing noise that I was used to when the needle, make that, "The cartridge," was lowered into the groove, there was a low volume, but very solid "Thunk" that seemed to claim the sound-space of the room; to expand the perceived physical space beyond the boundary of the walls. It suggested that a much louder volume was to come. Instead, there was the sound of a heartbeat. Then the volume got louder.