Dennis Hinkamp 2020

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I’m not sure there is a good way to age, but it’s better than the alternative. That joke itself has aged well because I can’t think of an alternative.

I try to joke my way through the necessary indignities of life because it too is better than the alternative. Being serious never got me anywhere. I’d like to be serious and remind you to get all your vaccinations and routine screenings, but I know that won’t work. I’ll just write about me.

For those checkups in the sensitive generally private body regions I often quip “Did you find my keys?” Or, “As one photographer to another, what aperture are you using for this colonoscopy?” Medical mirth ensues. I think the doctors and technicians enjoy the break from the complaining or more anatomically specific off-color jokes.

If you want to try this yourself, there are some all-purpose standards that go back to Vaudeville. They are so old that some people might think they are new.

Start with the musical instrument standard. “Hey doc, will I be able to play the piano after this elbow surgery?” you ask. If they doctor says “of course.” You quip back, “Great! because I never could before.” Rolling in the isles should follow.

I flipped this one when I was getting a tooth pulled in preparation for an implant earlier this year. “Hey will I be able to play the flute after this?” A confused look from the dental assistants followed. “Great, because I always wanted to.” It was not my best, but to be fair, they were giving me nitrous oxide.

Comedy works much better if the audience is getting gassed and you are sober rather than this awkward vice versa.

The sun and the high life at high altitude has been gradually nibbling away at me for the 41 years I have been in Utah. I have had lots of blasts of liquid nitrogen to freeze spots off and some other kind of topical burning stuff that peels pre-cancers off in a week or two. This week was a more substantial cancer chunk living angrily on the top of my head. Not immediately life threatening if attended to, but the biopsy came back bad, so surgical eviction was in order this week. Tragedy plus time equals humor. That time is getting shorter.

Just four days ago I had three people with knives and gauze compresses working on the top of me head cutting out Squamous cancer cells. One of the techs was asked if she needed a foot stool to get a better vantage. I said, “Yeah, just take a little off the top.”

Even though we like to use the term “fat head,” there really isn’t much fat on top of anyone’s head no matter their girth. I was anesthetized, but not with mirthful gas or even the pleasant lucid dream stuff they use for colonoscopies. So, cutting bad stuff off the top of my head faintly felt like tiny construction workers shoveling gravel off the top of my excavation site noggin. I’m sure if these tiny shovelers had broken through to my brain, horrible things would have escaped and filled the room with smoke like a Stephen King movie. The world is safe from my real thoughts being released.

What I am left with is what it must be like trying to stitch a baseball cover on a softball. There isn’t much loose skin on top of your head, and I could feel a lot of tugging and frustration. Five days later, my head feels very tight, though I can still blink my eyes. I am thankful that I have high/low (I always get that mixed up) pain threshold. I’m not brave, it just doesn’t hurt that much that I would ask for anything stronger than Shiraz and ibuprofen. No opiates were consumed.

Be well, get your checkups, hug your people. If Scyphus had asked for help he could have stopped on top of the mountain and enjoyed the view with his new friends.

Dennis Hinkamp says, “No seriously, get vaccinated so we can all be stuck (get it?) here together for a while longer.”

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