The meme is so new it hasn't even hit Know Your Meme: "Describe yourself in three fictional characters." I agonized over this rather longer than I'd intended to, mostly because some of the characters on my first list were there, not so much because they reminded me of me, but because I was overly fond of them. Eventually I pared that list, and these three individuals are left.

Asa Hearthrug was the protagonist of Max Shulman's 1943 college-life satire Barefoot Boy with Cheek, a country boy so overwhelmed by the University of Minnesota — by coincidence, Shulman's alma mater — that he managed to get deeply involved in almost everything other than his actual studies. It did not help that he seemed to be surrounded by complete and utter poltroons, such as freshman advisor Mr. Ingelbretsvold:

"You see, my boy, a great many people go to college to learn how to do something. They study medicine or law or engineering, and when they are through they know how to trepan a skull or where to get a writ of estoppel or how to find the torque of a radial engine. But just come up to them and ask how many caliphs succeeded Mohammed or who wrote Baby Duncan's Whistling Lung and they stare at you blankly."

Asa, horrified that he might not know the answer to a random question, quickly agreed to Mr. Ingelbretsvold's recommended course of study, which began with "Races and Cultures of Arabia, Egypt, and North Africa" and ended with "Canoe Paddling." Believe me, I know Asa's horror.

Oh, and A. J. Cronin wrote Baby Duncan's Whistling Lung; it was part of Cronin's newspaper series in 1934, including Adventures of a Black Bag.

Twilight Sparkle, a unicorn of more or less noble birth, was one of the primary characters of the fourth generation of My Little Pony, as conceived by writer-animator Lauren Faust. She was, in some ways, the inverse of Asa Hearthrug; she knew bazillions of seemingly random facts, and was able to combine seemingly unrelated items from the list — with Twi, there's always a list — into sensible, or at least sensible-sounding, conclusions. Princess Celestia, perhaps sensing that she could teach Twi no more, dispatched the young unicorn to Ponyville (Old Equestrian for "Podunk"):

"My dear Twilight, there is more to a young pony's life than studying, so I'm sending you to supervise the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration in this year's location: Ponyville. And, I have an even more essential task for you to complete: make some friends!"

"The fate of Equestria does not rest on me making friends," Twi grumbled. She was, of course, wrong, the same way I've so often been wrong.

Character Number Three has no name, but his credentials are impeccable; his story, after all, is told by Elvis Presley. In 1970, Elvis recorded a song called "Kentucky Rain," written by Eddie Rabbitt and Dick Heard, which peaked at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is a straight narrative, and a sad one at that:

Seven lonely days
And a dozen towns ago
I reached out one night and you were gone
Don't know why you'd run
What you're running to or from
All I know is I want to bring you home

And there he goes, trudging along the side of the road, part bluegrass and part mud, hoping to find the answers to his questions.

Finally got a ride
With a preacher man who asked
"Where you bound on such a cold dark afternoon?"
As we drove on through the rain
As he listened, I explained
And he left me with a prayer
That I'd find you

There's only time for one more chorus before the record ends, its mysteries unsolved — but sometimes all you have going for you is a prayer. It's a situation you don't have to be Elvis to appreciate. And whatever else I may be, I am not Elvis.

The Vent

  25 September 2016

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 Copyright © 2016 by Charles G. Hill
"Kentucky Rain" lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Imagem Music Inc.