Friday, August 13, 2010

Final Interview With My Left Hip

In June 2003, I interviewed my left hip for the final time, right before it was scheduled for replacement with a high density ceramic impostor at the Hospital for Joint Diseases.

Regretfully, I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to my right hip (removed in 2002), so I made sure I said farewell to my left one. We sat on a bench facing the Great Lawn in Central Park. I tried to maintain full eye contact with my hip during the interview, which must have looked strange to people passing by ~ me talking down towards my ass.


“How do you feel?”

“Not too swift, I’ve had a nice run and know it, but it is time to turn it over to the robot to take this body to the end of the race.”

“When did you know something was wrong?”

“About two years ago, I was coming out of the subway to make a bus connection about a block away. As I reached the top of the subway stairs, I saw the bus crossing the avenue pulling into the bus stop. I began to do what I’ve done all my life, sent a signal to my legs to start running ~ well, the signal was sent but the unexpected response returned, “can’t do it,” I asked, “won’t do it?” “No, can’t do it.”

“There I was, staring at the bus, looking at my legs staring at the bus. Yet the bus was not moving ~ no one was getting on or off. But, it continued to not move. Was it taunting me? I began to pick up my pace, fast walk at best, and still the bus stayed there. I pushed a little more best I could, and still the bus stayed in place ~ now I got it. What was going on was the same as been going on the savanna in for thousands of years. The bus was the zebra who knew I could no longer pounce. Bye, bye, old lion, I’m going to sit here on my big stripped butt and rub it in real good. It’s over. I see you, and the only thing I'm going to do is stick my fat tongue out at you. So that’s that. The bus hung in a little longer to ensure the message was received.”

“What are going to miss?”

“Well I imagine several of things I am going to miss are many of the reasons I have to come out. When I was very young, young Tommy would use me for a landing pad in the middle of the street on concrete and asphalt. During the summer, the hydrants opened when it is hot and we played in the street under the flow. One of the highlights was catching the blast across the street face so that when you threw your body out to slide on it, like going into third base you would hopefully hit a plane of water between your hip and the asphalt surface. Unfortunately, Tommy was not graceful and usually landed outside the water buffer meaning crushing contact with the asphalt usually tearing the dungarees or shorts along that side of his leg. Another event leading to my premature departure was Johnnie on the Pony.

Johnnie on the Pony was a game of immense endurance and stupidity. One side was the Pony the other the Johnnie. Game’s strategy involved one team forming a long bent row like a Chinese New Year’s dragon while the other team lined up to jump onto the sitting target as hard as possible with the only intention to collapse the Pony. The pony formed with one guy against a fence facing everyone else. He was the chain’s anchor. Next fellow would bend over gripping the anchor’s sides butt in the air. All others would follow suit till the line resembled Hannibal’s’ legions stumbling over the Alps. Once the line formed the Johnnies, the other team would begin to strategize….game usually was at least ten to a side so 10 Johnnies got ready to put their weight and flaring elbows on top of the prone ponies. Game ended when the Pony collapsed or all Johnnies rode without falling off for ten one hundredths. As a hip, this game had the same allure as open battlefield surgery without anesthesia. Matthew Brady was often seen setting up his equipment taking photographic stills of our events. The Johnnies always led with the same strategy, you sent your largest first and aimed for the weakest links. Best area to land was no man’s land between the thoracic and lumbar regions. Hopefully catching no soft tissue and driving you straight into the bony matter.

Much attention was spent on developing jumping technique. Since the teams had ten or more the weakest link might be bent over way up front. Therefore you wanted to attain maximum height and distance. Height was an art. You would study many cartoons trying to learn the secret of freezing in the air for a few seconds or longer at the top of your arch. This is critical to allow gravity to pull your body swiftly back to the earth maximizing impact into your opponent’s neck and back. Once landed you would make grapes with your hienie. Making big rocks into little rocks, grinding away at the millstone pushing into the fellow beneath you as if the chance of a single remaining air bubble between you would bring life as we know it to an end. As the pile grew, the moans and groans filled the air like a children’s orchestra at their first ever practice. From the top of the mountain it played in your head like a beautiful siren song. Someone was going towards the rocks. With a particular strong pony the Johnnies went to the Tower of Babel strategy. With less that three jumpers in the shoot all the Johnnies would begin to gather at one location in the chain usually over he who could use the most relief. Once the spot was chosen the Johnnies would begin their assembly assuming classic Greco-Roman moves the tower would begin to rise at the perceived weak point. Unintelligible orders and exclamations flying out of the ball of human braying and swaying like a deranged fire hose while underneath the ponies began acting like a band of rogue elephants readying a stampede on the defenseless village. As a non participant it became a recurring game to try and grab a sound of the pile and convince others it was English…”I understood that one, that was Billy and he said, “Christ got off my foot and stop grabbing my balls.” The tug of war would roll until the levee broke or the group rode the dragon for the required time…it was hard to watch and not play but if you did you were rewarded with a show that combined all the best elements of a tragic ballet with a really fine car accident. A collapse was beautiful…when it happened, so much detail and attention… you have to imagine that Sam Peckinpah would not have developed his keen eye for transfixing violence into a sumptuous slow motion ballet unless he watched a number of Johnnie on the Pony games end with a collapse.

Another thing I m sure contributed to my demise was the swimming pool games. In water you were invincible. As a kid everything worked better in water, you moved faster, you were stronger. Taking three to four people on top of you was all part of the day. "Hey, I bet one more person on top of me would be just fine, no problem at all, exactly what I need to finish this morning’s swim off." And on would jump the fourth person on your shoulders, neck, and head grabbing you hard trying to get you to crumble into the pool. Four people, who that morning had 13 mission sodas, 11 drake cake products, 3 quarts of juice, 2 boxes of cereal a loaf and a half of bread, 3 sticks of butter, 9 sandwiches and three dollars of penny candy between them.

In my ears their stomachs swished and loudly announced their failure to digest their contents and that if I kept moving around would join us in the pool. Something I didn't want for several reasons but primarily because I didn't to get banned from the pool. The entire summer was built off the expectation and assumption you would get to go in water x amount of times. This expectation must be met or the summer was failure. That's all I can think of right now, but let's just say Tommy, you never gave any of your bones much thought.”

“Well, thank you, left hip, it’s been a great 49 years together.”

“No, thank you, Tommy, it was a good run, I’d not do anything differently, we had lots of fun together, now, its time for the scrap heap.”

“It’s been a pleasure, thank you, old friend, sleep tight.”

The 50,000 mile tune up took place on August 6, 2003. Both artificial hips are peachy keen.

My left hip's favorite song "You Keep Me Hanging On," from 1967 by the Vanilla Fudge:

My left hip's second favorite song "Here Comes My Baby," also from 1967 by Cat Stevens:

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