Before school started this week, I finished my little tower of book boxes. I found this idea down in L.A. at Skylight Books where there is a wall of boxes carved to look like a tree with all sorts of book related words and images around it. Skylight has a big skylight in the center of the store with a real tree growing underneath it.
The adults who have seen it all love it, but none of the students have mentioned it yet. Oh, well.
Before school started, C.J. and I took an overnight trip up to Sonora which is a small town in California’s gold country foothills. It’s a very cute town, on the large side for a Gold Rush town these days. We had been considering it as a retirement destination, but at this point Grass Valley, another gold country town, has won the competition.
Still, we had a very good time up in Sonora, visited Columbia State Park which is a largely preserved Gold Rush era town donated to the State of California by the woman who owned it all last. That’s happened quite a few times in the American West–the last resident/owner, usually a woman, donates the whole place, lock stock and barrel, to the state on the condition that it be made into a park. If you’re ever touring the gold country, Columbia is a must see.
We were in Sonora for their art walk, which was fun. We bought two small paintings from the same artist, Sherie Drake, who was not really expecting to sell these two. We sort of found them while nosing around her studio space and asked if they were for sale.
We liked the artwork we saw in Sonora, but it’s not exactly edgy. It all tends towards the plein air school of pretty pictures, which is fine, we both like plein air paintings. But I thought this little piece, a portrait largely painted out, was the strongest thing we saw. It was certainly the edgiest painting in Sonora as of last Saturday night.
The main attraction this time around, and the one thing all bookish people must see when they visit California’s gold country is the Sherlock Holmes wonderland at Hein & Co. Books in Jackson.
While the bookstore is largely gone, confined to just the main floor now, the upstairs has been converted into a Sherlock Holmes theme park called Baker Street West that is a wonder. There’s a large dining room which you can rent out for meetings and parties surrounded by mock-ups of little shops each one mentioned in a Sherlock Holmes story. You can buy beeswax candles and bee-keeping supplies; get your fix of exotic teas; visit the pub; stop in and see the latest late Victorian era inventions.
But be sure to get the guided tour of 221B Baker Street, a wonderful recreation of Sherlock Holmes apartment. C.J. is a big fan of Sherlock Holmes from his childhood when his father read the stories to the family. Our tour guide was thrilled to have someone who knew all the references. The room has lots of things even non-fans like me will recognize, in addition to all sorts of clues and bits of evidence gathered from Holmes many cases.
The library portion of the apartment.
The library has a secret door, of course. There are plans to add Holmes’ bedroom behind the bookcase door.
Holmes’ desk. There is a large pile of Strand magazines on the floor to the right. The Sherlock Holmes stories first appeared in The Strand Magazine. The conceit was that Dr. Watson was sending factual accounts of Sherlock Holmes’ cases to The Strand. Note the organization of the papers on the desk. Looks like my own system.
On the desk is a small try with five seeds in it. Apparently, these are a major clue in one of the stories. C.J. knew the reference right away. He was very excited to see them. I guess they are a big deal if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan.
Even I knew what this was. But I didn’t know that Holmes smoked a small clay pipe in the stories. The big pipe you see here was added when the stories were adapted for the stage. The director felt a small pipe wouldn’t be visible throughout the theatre so something larger was called for.
On the mantle above the fireplace you’ll find a Persian slipper filled with pipe tobacco, a key element of Holmes’ apartment and one of his more well-known eccentricities.
Our guide told us that they have a Sherlock Holmes society with over 90 members from throughout Northern California who travel up to Jackson to see productions of period plays along with original work all performed in the shops around the dining room in a sort of reverse theatre-in-the-round where the audience is in the middle and the actors go around them.
They are currently planning a Christmas fair, Christmas at 221 Baker Street I guess, which I have a feeling we’ll be going to later this year.