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Skiing in Wyoming. New Hip.

Sylvia and I were in Pinedale, Wyoming, for four nights, visiting our daughter Isabel.

You fly into Jackson Hole, and wham, you’re in the Tetons.

Isabel has a jewelry store in Pinedale. I love looking at all the stuff in her shop.

Nothing more fascinating than the studio of a working artist.

For me the high point of the trip was when I went cross-country skiing on virgin snow on a high mountain ridge above Fremont Lake with Isabel and her husband Gus. Such a feel of being on another planet.

On the trip I was reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 all the while. Alternating between feeling despair and hope about my own novel. He has lot of so-called terraria and aquaria, which are little worlds made from hollowed-out asteroids, in some ways like the basin worlds my characters will drive through. I like his focus on the different kinds of biomes, like alpine, rain forest, taiga, arctic, forest.

KSR excels at nature writing—staggering scenes on Mercury, Saturn, and Earth. And he gets into deep stuff about social history, quite serious and enlightening…when I do that, it’s more in a satirical Sheckley-style way.

It’s always fun walking around Pinedale. I like how this one guy has an old 1930s car in his front yard. Very R. Crumb, I think of the cover of Zap Comix #0 .

Another shot of me high up on the peak. I wear these things called gaiters around my ankles and my shins when I ski—they keep the snow from getting into your low-cut ski shoes. A tricky thing about my old gaiters is that, in order to fasten the snaps on their outer sides, I kind of need to push my knees in towards the center and twist my body.

But this is a bad thing to do if you have artificial hips, you can pop your hip out this way. I have two artificial hips: one (less good) from 2011, and one (slightly better model) from 2012.

On my last afternoon in Pinedale, I popped out the old artificial hip on my left side by twisting, squatting, and turning my knee to fasten that button my ski gaiter. I was pitifully excited about taking another ski, this one was to be on the surface of the frozen lake.

A slow crunch and slide and it’s out. It’s the third time a pop has happened on that truly crappy left hip. The previous two times I went to a clinic and the people there sedated me, pulled really hard on my leg, and popped the hip back in.

But the medics in the Pinedale clinic were somehow unable to do this, although at first we didn’t realize that they’d failed. Long story short, I underwent a grinding level-eight-out-of-ten pain haze on a very long and much delayed air trip back to my regular hip doctor in Los Gatos. I was taking a pain pill every two or three hours, which leveled it out for me. Flatness of affect.

I did see one pain + meds hallucination, a guy at a table near us in a terminal during our endless airplane trip, the guy was wearing a dark beige parka, and for a moment the wrinkled hood shape looked like a creased face containing a single large eye. Everything’s of value if you’re an SF writer.

I’d hoped my Los Gatos doctor could just pop the hip back in, but he felt it would be better to do a full re-install—with a new fake hip. An “amendment” as they call it. Went to the hospital and pre-registered, which took a really long time, with lots of redundant filling out of very nearly identical forms.

As I was riding the pain pills, the very prolonged form-filling-out process didn’t bother me. Calm acceptance. At ease in the moment. Able to stare at a talking face without caring what it’s saying. But, it’s not like being high—it’s not satisfying. It’s more like being tired. I can use this mental quality for the state of mind of one of my aliens.

Driving back from the pre-registration, with the operation slated for the next morning, we stopped by the supermarket and I wondered if I might be about to die. I used a trick I like to do when in this situation, I looked for the beauty in the world around me. Fluorescent lights and reflected trees.

The next morning I went under the knife for three hours, with spinal tap anaesthetic for my lower body, and they dosed me with Michael Jackson propofol for my head. Eventually I awoke in fits and starts in a large room with at least a dozen or maybe twenty patients coming to. Like deep-sleeper starship troopers being resuscitated. Everyone is completely out of it. Like, “Huh?” and “Wha?” The surgery recovery room. No family members allowed in here, just nurses and aides, fully unintelligible.

Conversations around me, and I imagine the conversations are important and that they include remarks directed towards me, or instructions I’m supposed to follow, or opportunities I need to pick up on. I have the feeling that the conversations relate to surfing. I try to say something in response, but I’m not sure I really do. I keep nodding off, sinking back into deep inattention.

I spent a day in the hospital, and the doctor let me go home early. Lots of pills. On the nod. He scraped my bone away from the old socket like a diver using his knife to free an anchor fluke from fans of overgrown coral. And sliced and sewed my flesh.

These two pushy physical-therapy-counselor women kept coming by my hospital room right before I left. They wanted to lecture me about the importance of exercise and careful motion, and even though at some level I knew they were right, they seemed bossy, impatient, condescending. One of the women was threatening to block my release.

It was handy to be fully loaded on meds—so I that could vacantly and insolently stare at this talking face that annoyed me, tuning it out.

Back home now, with a solid new hip, recuperating pretty fast, already able to walk, and doing an hour of therapy exercise every day. With a fresh bundle of useful SF material. And none of the pain takes away the joy of skiing that high ridge. And the joy of seeing the Isabel Jewelry world headquarters.

4 Responses to “Skiing in Wyoming. New Hip.”

  1. Rudy Ch. Garcia Says:

    Hi, Rudy el viejo,
    Eileen turned me on to your site. Will keep checkin’ in on you.

  2. failrate Says:

    Oh, man, those forms! Maybe the worst part about hospitals?
    I’m so glad that things turned out better for you than they could have.
    Get well soon!

  3. Tom Fool Says:

    The bedside manner of those therapy nurses needs a lot of improvement but their message is true – it will save your life. I had a shoulder injury that eventually made my entire arm both useless and excruciatingly painful. Doc sent skeptical me to the therapist and a few weeks later, perfectly good again. Therapy works! Glad to hear you are healing quickly.

  4. Steve H Says:

    I had surgery to repair my failing hips and then couldn’t walk without a walker for six weeks for each hip. My friend had hers replaced and was walking again in days. I told her I wanted my money back.
    I hate to hear this, because I know that along with the nifty SF ideas and images there had to be a big scratchy ball of The Fear. At our age that is never welcome, and never easy to scrape off afterwards. But we’ve made it to Spring again, and everything is blooming like mad down here in Georgia, and right now Winter’s never coming back. The new book sounds great, the in-progress book sounds like a Large Time, and that is some gnarly and organic jewelry! Live long and prosper.


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