By Ed McClanahan
(With a special tip of the McClanahat to the Doctors D. - Dudee and Derderian)

Not all that long ago, as the Twentieth Century was taking its final tokes, a certain superannuated but unreconstructed old hippie - namely me - could be heard to boast that I alone had stood steadfast against the ravages of time, I alone of all my motley tribe was still in the Woodstock of my youth. In support of this dubious assertation, I offered the unassailable argument that I hadn't had a physical in eighteen years, and I was feeling great.

Feeling great, that is, with two small exceptions: I couldn't see, and I couldn't walk.

Now for many years, optometrists had been warning me that "one of these days" I was going to need cataract surgery – an advisement to which I paid no attention whatsoever, on the grounds that I would never be old enough for cataracts. Not, you understand, that I envisioned (as it were) a pre-emptive departure from this value of tears; rather, I just guaranteed myself that even if I lived to be a hundred, as a perennial flower child I still wouldn't be old enough for cataracts. But that was before I almost ran over the cow.

"Hey, that cow was camouflaged!" I defended myself plaintitively to The Madam. (Well dammit, it was camouflaged: A Holstein, black and white and big as a buffalo, the clever scamp was disguised as a Gateway computer box.) But of course The Madam, who doesn't appreciate Nature even when it almost comes crashing through her windshield, was in no mood to listen to reason. Next thing I knew, she'd collared me and dragged me off to the nearest opthamologist. "One of these days" had suddenly transmorgified into the first day of the rest of my life; cataract surgery, said the opthamologist, was in order.

Meanwhile, on another front, my right knee was killing me. "Merely an old baseketball injury," I assured the neighbor octegenarians (I'm a youthful 69, myself) as they trooped past me on my daily constitutional hobble. (In Kentucky it's always to one's advantage to claim credentials on the hardwood.) Once again, my demurrers fell on deaf ears; this time, The Madam and one of my pesky daughters ganged up on me and bullied me into seeing an orthopedist, who told me that my knee was perfectly fine. What I was experiencing was a phenomenon called "referred pain" (I had a few less polite names for it, you may be sure), which seemed to mean, essentially, that my hip was sending distress signals to my knee, hollering that it needed to be replaced at the earliest opportunity.

Even so, I figured, I'd probably walk better if I could see where the hell I was going. First then, I'd better take care of That Darn Cataract.

Anyone who's had successful cataract surgery will forever after regard his or her surgeon as a genius, a prodigy, a Svengali, a perfect avatar of all that's good and true and holy. I am no exception. I was wide awake for the whole trip, which took about forty-five minutes and was virtually painless, like a very delicate laying on of hands. The rest of the day was sort of blurry and headachy, but the following morning I awoke to a whole new world, a Peter Max wonderland I hadn't seen the likes of since about 1969. Trees have leaves! Grass has blades! People have faces! Oh Wow! Far Out! If my opthamologist were ever to set himself up as a sike-o-deelic guru, I'd tune in, turn on, drop out, and follow him into the wilderness in a California minute.

Except if I was planning on walking anywhere, I'd certainly be needing that hip replacement. (You know you're getting old, goes the joke, when you bend over to tie your shoes, and you catch yourself thinking, "Now is there anything else I can accomplish while I'm down here?") Once the doc had identified my hip as the real culprit, that rascal began to hurt like billy hell - worse, even, than my knee. Every movement was by now an ordeal, every step an excrutiating act of will; uninterrupted sleep was but a distant memory, going to the bathroom was a major expedition, taking a letter down to the corner mailbox was like the Bataan Death March. I'd rather have been drawn and quartered than face a flight of stairs - up or down. Driving wasn't all that bad as long as I didn't have to put on the brakes - Heads up, cows! - but I'd never dance flamenco again, that was fer sher.

As of this writing my hip surgery is eight months behind me - or, to put it another way, eight months ago I had this really hip surgery. Invasive orthopedic surgery is so cool! True, the immediate post-op wasn't exactly a day at the beach - although the first forty-eight hours did have something in common with a night at the Fillmore, thanks to one of those nifty little push-button morphine machines - but that was followed by a week at Cardinal Hill, that splendid Lexington rehab center which is staffed exclusively by celestial beings, angels and cherubim and seraphim and such, indeed the nicest, sweetest, most caring, most professional bunch of folks I've encountered anywhere.

And when I came home, The Madam (speaking of celestial beings) took over where the other angels had left off, waiting on me hand and foot while relentlessly reminding me to do my goddamn exercises. The next month or so was painful and difficult on the one hand, and ecstatic on the other: My nether person hurt, at first, as if I really had been drawn and quartered, but at the same time I was feeling better and better every day - which has to be the ultimate good trip.

I was right, probably, about having to give up the flamenco, but I don't think I'll miss it much. Nowadays I ride a stationary bike twelve miles a day (how's that for an oxymoron?), and yesterday I walked three miles around the neighborhood, do-si-do-in' past the other geezers with nary a hitch in my git-along. And of course I'm back behind the wheel, too.

Heads up, Cows!