“Metaphors was as rare for me as things I can’t find anywhere.”—Pop Hinks.
Pop was describing a time when he was stretching, reaching, striving for an easy analogy, yet it eluded his thinking brain like a bird that had flown away from his grasp. It was a moment and a bird and Pop. Just those three things and they were themselves complete and entirely themselves.
The bird alighted and then flew away just past his gripping fingers, but it was still close enough for him to catch a thought about a moment in which he could envision, or so he said, a time when he caught that bird. A starling, he said it was.
Metaphors, analogies, similes could be similarly elusive but in a literal sense. “Slippy eels,” Pop Hinks took to calling them.
He was a blues player, one of the greatest slide guitarists on the north side of Kansas City, but the Kansas side, where there were no blues players. It was long a source of frustration for him that he regularly was ranked the third-greatest slide player even though he was the only one. He did not play with a slide, which may have presented most of his trouble.
Pop Hinks also played professional baseball in that far-long-ago era of the 1930s. He starred in a semipro league that was an imitation of the Negro Leagues, but one that starred white players only.
His baseball days were filled with long nights of transcendent sadness spent daydreaming on the bench about playing baseball, and sometimes his daydreams coincided with the game he was watching and not participating in. His blues nights were spent waiting in the backrooms of the seedless bars he did not play in, waiting eagerly to hear the one name he most wanted to hear called to the stage: his own. He never heard it and it was even more rarely called.
He could never find, not till his dying day, which has not yet come, he could never find the analogy that would match his baseball love with his blues love. One song, “A Grand-Slam,” he never played. Another, “The Walk Off,” was never requested. Yet another, “The One-Four-Five,” describing a little-seen play in which a pitcher fields a hit and inexplicably throws to an out-of-position second baseman who throws to third to catch a confused runner off base, was never written, although we debut it below.
It is difficult, Pop Hinks would say, to find a metaphor that covers all analogies, communicates something about real-life situations like love and baseball and the blues to fit most listeners. There are few walk-off homers in life or art or the blues. But if you asked him about those long-ago nights in Kansas City, he would shake his head and say, “I can take you there. But I’ll have to charge.”
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The Magnificent Glass Pelican (MGP) is a live half-hour radio comedy show that my friends and I have written, produced, and acted in for over two decades. Lately, it has been an improvised half-hour, produced by us and scripted live on-air. The current season is our 23rd consecutive or so.
Each Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. (tomorrow), the MGP half-hour is broadcast on 88.7 FM WFNP (“The Edge”) in the Rosendale-New Paltz, New York, area or is streaming live here: The MGP on WFNP. This is at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, and the broadcasts are not archived, so if you can check us out live tomorrow, thank you.
“Pop Hinks” was a monologue I wrote 15-20 years or so ago, when I had not yet started thinking. Sean Marrinan plays Pop Hinks, and that is Sean with the impressive beard on his face. John Burdick plays the guitar. I wrote the words.
“The One Four Five,” written by John Burdick:
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[Historical note: Before the Brooklyn Dodgers brought Jackie Robinson to the major leagues, white team owners maintained a ban on playing black baseball players, so the black community built a professional baseball league for itself. It was called the Negro Leagues and it existed from the late 1800s till the 1950s, when Major League baseball started integrating. I hate explaining jokes, but there might be readers who may not know this, who might think something called the Negro Leagues was a weird joke. In reality, it was not a joke, which is a sad fact for America. In the joke, which I have now killed utterly dead, I am picturing a world in which white America, upon seeing the success of the Negro Leagues, would create a baseball league to steal black America’s thunder, even while professional baseball was in fact all-white.]
The WordPress Daily Prompt for October 21 asks, “The World Series starts tonight! In your own life, what would be the equivalent of a walk-off home run? (For the baseball-averse, that’s a last-minute, back-against-the-wall play that guarantees a dramatic victory.)”
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