Wednesday, February 21, 2018

On Being a Hippy

Photo credit: Wikiwatcher1 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Back when I was a kid, hippies were a social phenomenon. Much of what the mid-sixties to mid-seventies are remembered for revolved around hippies. A hippy was easily identified way back when by their long hair, unconventional dress and counterculture beliefs. All too frequently they could be identified by simply standing downwind. The scents ranged from patchouli oil, to burning hemp, to well-worn and unwashed laundry.

Back then, most of us weren’t hippies. Sure, there were many wannabes for various reasons – most having to do with myopic perception of what was cool rather than reality – but actual hippy percentages were low. And the number of original hippies began to dwindle as the years moved on. While the hippy era may have come to an end, hippies have not disappeared. In fact, there are now fully three kinds of hippies. 

The first is the old guard hippy. You’ve seen them. They’re the old men with bald scalps surrounded by shoulder length hair, or little old ladies with flowers punctuating their gray hair. Both still wear tie-dyed clothing and are prone to saying, “Far out!” (Some may even utter the word “groovy,” but only if they have moved on to the early stages of dementia.) The second kind of hippy is the New Age variety. These are the young people that have picked up the banner their grandparents dropped, or perhaps mislaid while trying to remember the word “groovy.” Like their predecessors, theirs is all about being counterculture. The third kind of hippy is an involuntary, albeit increasing, condition.

I fall into that third category. I am an involuntary hippy. Like several people I know, becoming a hippy was a transitional process for me. 

John Wayne swaggering in Rio Bravo

The hippy transformation started out over five years ago. After riding my four-wheeler or snowmachine for any extended length of time getting off the contraption became increasingly difficult. The first few steps off the machines were punctuated with a “kink” in my right hip. Fast forward three years and the “kink” had worked itself into a “glitch” that showed up intermittently for no reason and resulted in a kind of unsteady stride. A good portion of the time spent walking made me look as though I was trying to do a poor imitation of a John Wayne swagger. Fast forward another year and the John Wayne swagger morphed into a very credible Grandpa McCoy gimp, complete with cranky disposition. (If you’re not familiar with Grandpa Amos McCoy, played by Walter Brennan, click here.)

Only difference between Amos and me was the chicken

In a few more months gimping about became my normal gait and standing for more than a few minutes painful. As was climbing stairs, sitting in a car, sleeping… well everything. In a phone call with Alaskan friends they casually mentioned a mutual friend who had just recently had his hip replaced.

“Oh, yeah. Blake couldn’t walk, or even stand for very long,” my friend, Dave, explained. 

“Getting out of his car was a laborious and painful process,” Dave’s wife added. “Heck, he hurt so bad he couldn’t sleep some nights.”

“Wow,” I replied as the light went on, “that sounds like what I’ve got going.” 

After hanging up from our friends I asked my wife if she thought I might have a bum hip. Her blank stare was easily and quickly translated into, “Yes,STUPID. That’s what I’ve been telling you for months. Why don’t you ever listen to me?”

Slice, pop, chop, grind, press. Viola!

A visit to my doc, a referral to an orthopedic surgeon, some x-rays and it was confirmed: no cartilage in right hip. The great thing about the place I was referred to, Tucson Orthopedic Institute, is that they are to orthopedic surgery what Jiffy Lube is to car maintenance. Get ‘em in, get ‘em out, and do it right.

During the pre-op meeting the physician’s assistant that would be helping the surgeon was very informative.

“You know, there are many videos of this procedure on the web.” 

“Oh. I hadn’t thought of that,” I replied just before being interrupted. 

“Do NOT watch any of them. I’ll give you a brief description of what will occur.” 

His “brief” description included graphic explanations about the ten-inch incision, prying open the muscle, dislocating the hip, cutting off the ball of the femur, grinding out the socket of the pelvis and screwing in a cup, grinding out the top of the femur and pressing in a spike with a ball on the end, relocating the new joint and then stapling everything closed again. He wrapped up with, “Do you have any questions?” 

“Yes. And you didn’t want me to watch the videos because…” 

I’ve been a hippy for a year as of today, and I can honestly say things couldn’t be any more groovy.