Putting the “Hip” in Hippie

Pity the poor flower child who, in August, 1969, decided to take a little jaunt up to Bethel, New York, to join in something called the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival.  After loading a few friends in his car he set out, fully expecting a leisurely drive to Yasgur’s Farm, where he would pull into a parking lot next to the concert stage.  Instead, when our worthy young friend took the exit onto Route 17b, in Monticello, New York, he came face-to-face with a world-class traffic jam … everything headed toward Woodstock was completely stopped, with abandoned cars as far as the eye could see.  

Very quickly, two things became clear.  First, if this fellow was going to partake of any peace, love  and music over the next few days, he was going to have to walk.  Second, the distance from Monticello, New York, to Yasgur’s Farm is eleven miles.  And, if you are keeping score, that is eleven “country miles.”

For those in attendance at the original Woodstock Festival, having to trudge long distances amidst hordes of unwashed strangers likely qualifies as part of the experience … the “charm” … of the event.  And when you are young and caught up in the moment, well, the prospect of walking eleven miles was not a big deal.  But that was fifty years ago … how many of us would be up for that sort of a forced march today?

Let’s face it … the body of an aging hippie has endured a lot over the years.  Remember those long rides crammed in the back seat of somebody’s VW Beetle with three other folks?  Or those afternoons sitting in the lotus position while absorbing cosmic truths from Moonbeam and Zephyr?  Some of those memories may have faded (marijuana is reported to have that effect), but your hips and knees remember what you put them through and, lately, they have been demanding attention.

In the process of getting older, a number of those who sat for three days in the mud at Woodstock have likely already sought relief through the installation of a new hip.  If so, it may be time to form an organization called HIGH (Hips In Geriatric Hippies) to let others know how much that surgery improves quality of life.  Like, for example, being able to walk – pain free – round that meditation labyrinth in the backyard.  And for that dyed-in-the-wool hippie who has kept a list of the myriad of substances he put in his body over the years, a new hip provides one more … titanium!

As an aside, many of us likely remember the good old days when the words “joint replacement” had nothing to do with hips and knees.  Back then, that term simply meant you had to light up another doobie because the one you passed to your left around the campfire never made it back.

In 1985, the Bellamy Brothers released their classic work “Old Hippie,” in which they sing of a fellow clinging to his 60’s lifestyle as he cultivates “a little garden in the backyard by the fence.”  The good news is that a hip replacement frees us up to get back to tending that private crop we have so carefully nurtured over the years.

Because, goodness knows, these days we all need something to help take the edge off.

(Baseball) Diamonds Are Not Forever

When it comes to showing off new baseball stadiums, the Texas Rangers can’t catch a break.

In 1994, Globe Life Park (cost $191 Million) opened for business in Arlington, Texas.  Sadly, after only 113 games, the players went on strike, and the remainder of the season (including the World Series) was cancelled.  

As luck would have it, the Texas Rangers were preparing to open their brand-spanking-new Globe Life Field (cost $1.1 Billion) to kick off the 2020 season when the Coronavirus brought everything to a halt.  

Talk about bad luck!

The abrupt ending of the 1994 season was accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth from team owners, television broadcasters and advertisers.  But there was one other less-well-known bit of fallout … I stopped going to Major League Baseball (MLB) games once and for all.  The way I look at it is simple … when MLB gave up on me by cancelling the World Series, I gave up on them.

I know my decision did not cause panic in board rooms across the MLB community, but it is a position that I have held to … pretty much.  Yes, I have fallen off the wagon a time or two over the years …for example, I simply could not resist a first-time visit to historic Wrigley Field on a trip to Chicago.  But if pressed about other MLB games I might have attended during my boycott, my defense would be simple … I was there only for the purposes of research and, as a former President once argued, I didn’t inhale.

Full disclosure, I have not entirely forsworn professional baseball … far from it.  Every winter, my wife and I count the days until we can begin our annual ritual of travel to minor league games across the United States.  The quality of play by the aspiring major leaguers we watch is always high, and the memories we collect are vivid.  For example, we won’t soon forget attending a game called in the fifth inning because of snow while watching the Casper (WY) Ghosts.  And we learned that if you arrive early enough at a Roswell (NM) Invaders game, you can watch the home team raking the infield and chalking the baselines.

For us, minor league parks always provide a delightful experience at a reasonable price.  In Pensacola, Florida, for example, the ridiculously low cost of a seat directly behind home plate provides an up-close look at the game as well as a lovely view of the Gulf of Mexico just over the center field wall.  An added bonus, of course, is the opportunity to pose for a picture with Kazoo, the team mascot.  And for a genuine “bucket list” experience, I had the good fortune in 2019, to throw out the first pitch at a Hyannis Harbor Hawks game in the fabled Cape Cod League.

Kokernot Field in Alpine, Texas

If you are a true baseball enthusiast, though, few experiences can compare with a ball game at Kokernot Field in Alpine, Texas.  Constructed in 1947 by Big Bend rancher Herb Kokernot, this beautiful park was built from native stone quarried on the Kokernot Ranch, with red clay for the infield brought in by boxcar from Georgia.  With a seating capacity of 1,400, fans in this idyllic setting are often treated to the sight of a homerun ball disappearing over the outfield wall in the general direction of the majestic Chisos Mountains just beyond.  Called the “Yankee Stadium of Texas,” Kokernot field is home to the Sul Ross University Lobos, and the Alpine Cowboys of the Pecos League.  

In 2020, Covid-19 has affected broad swaths of life and, no surprise, discussions about any possible start to the MLB season remain deadlocked.  What this means, of course, is that this year, instead of heading to the ballpark for an evening of Crackerjack, cold beer and yelling at umpires, we are left to contemplate the sorry spectacle of billionaires feuding with millionaires over the fate of an enterprise we used to know as “The American Pastime.”  

While disappointing, there is one distinct “up” side to this debacle … my 1994 decision to avoid MLB games has been renewed and strengthened.  The unbridled avarice of owners and players alike has reminded me, once again, of how completely out of touch these folks are with the world of the ordinary citizen and baseball fan.

During his tenure as manager of the New York Yankees, Casey Stengel became known for his sage witticisms.  One of his observations about baseball seems especially appropriate today: “There are three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain.”

There is not much doubt … the 2020 season has been postponed because of rain.