Howard’s Divine Comedy: Canto 9 – Of Legs & Lasts

It’s time for the next installment of Howard’s Divine Comedy!

Bob-Weir-shorts (1)Howard: Hey Jerry, remember Bobby [Weir]’s short-shorts phase?

Jerry Garcia: Oh man! [laughs] That’s not exactly something you can ever un-see, Howard, if you know what I mean.

H: Well, at least he had the legs for it.

J: True! And, as silly as he looked, me and the other guys, we were secretly jealous as hell.

H: How do you mean?

J: Oh, you know, summer shows and all, sunny and hot, and like an idiot I’m wearing all black and long pants. [laughs] Plus, Bobby was in such great shape, a total health nut, and I didn’t want to be a junkie, man. 

Jerry-young-finalH: Oh geez, I hadn’t thought of that. And, Bob’s 73 now and still working out!

J: [laughs] Yeah, I never had legs like that, even back in the band’s early days! I mean, look at me here in 1967 … I’m 25 years old there!

H: Damn, Jerr, that outfit is far out! [laughs]

J: Right?! That’s what happens when you’re already tripping as you get dressed for a gig!

H: [laughs] Yeah, I can see why you switched to all black eventually. 

J: Exactly!

H: Say, getting back to the topic of legs…

On One’s Last Legs

English idiom

  1. At the end of one’s strength or resources; ready to collapse, fail, or die.

My Neurologist Is A Leg Man

In the spring of 2018, I had several diagnostic appointments with a doctor in Seattle, in an effort to identify exactly what was causing some scary symptoms I was having, including muscle twitching and weakness in my fingers.

leg-anatomyAfter a VERY uncomfortable test, Electromyography — electrodes in the form of long thin needles, a little thicker than acupuncture needles, are inserted into muscles all over the body, one at a time, electrical current is sent to the muscle via the needle, the patient is asked to contract and then relax the muscle, and readings are taken — I was told that I could have ALS, aka amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease, BUT that it was protocol to refer me to a specialist neurologist at a Seattle hospital’s ALS Clinic for a second opinion and final diagnosis.

“Besides,” the doctor said, “you mentioned that you and your wife are leaving in a few days for a vacation in Portugal, there’s still a chance it’s not ALS, so try to let it go, focus on your trip, enjoy yourselves as best as you can. You deserve it.”

~ ~ ~ 

Fortunately, Portugal was AMAZING, and our trip was so filled with fun and beauty and love that we were able to keep fears of ALS at bay.


Upon our return, on a sunny and warm July day, I was wearing shorts to my first appointment at the ALS Clinic. No, not Bob Weir short-shorts, but when I sat on the examination table the legs of the shorts cinched up above my knee, and when the neurologist went to test my reflexes, he cinched them up higher, revealing my entire thigh, and his reaction and comment amounted to the only good news we’d hear the whole visit:

“Wow! You’ve got REALLY strong muscles in your legs!” he exclaimed.

“That’s from many years of commuting to and from work by bicycle, and lots and lots of hiking,” replied The Mrs.

“Well, with those legs, you should be able to continue walking a lot longer than a lot of ALS patients,” he added.

Sure enough, two and a half years later, I’m still able to walk short distances, most importantly from bed to bathroom, to living room, to kitchen, whereas, after such a length of time, many if not most ALS patients would very likely be entirely wheelchair bound and dependent on assistance transferring to and from bed and toilet.

That said, I currently need help climbing stairs, even with help I can climb no more than 2-3 steps, and help is also needed getting up off chairs, sofas, or toilets that are too low to the ground or that don’t have armrests or other close-by, sturdy structures that I can use to push and pull myself up. Additionally, while on my feet, I’m always acutely aware of just how weak my legs are, how any sudden movement without my full, undivided attention could easily result in a fall.

Santa, NOT A Leg Man

Funny_Santa_in_Chimney_Transparent_PNG_Clip_ArtThinking back to Canto 3 – The Last Time, this was always going to be a tough holiday season, as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve/Day would be added to my List of Lasts. Also, as the Covid pandemic severely restricted gatherings with family and friends, well, Scrooge, pre-haunting, would have LOVED it!

To be fair, and to beat back the gloom, we had some really nice moments. The Mrs. did her usual holiday decoration magic, transforming the home from Haunted House to general autumn earthiness, then from Hanukkah via menorah and dreidels, to Christmas tree, hearth, and miniatures village. The value of this really can’t be overstated: With Covid and my ALS, we spend the vast majority of our time in our house, and so an ambience that celebrates the season compensates for the fact that this year it’s difficult for us to otherwise summon or connect with the holiday spirit.

We also held a small but lovely outdoor and Covid-safe last night of Hanukkah gathering, lighting two full menorahs beside our large firepit. And finally, on Solstice Eve, we got 4-5 inches of snow, not enough to strand us, but plenty to coat everything outside with that beautiful soft wintry goodness.

leg-lamp-removebg-previewAll that said, I gotta be honest, Santa really let me down. Christmas morning, under the tree, that new set of legs I asked for was nowhere to be found.

Instead, on the 25th Christmas in a row with my wife’s family, watching the film A Christmas Story, I had to settle for that fragile (fra-gee-lay!) Major Award: the infamous leg lamp.

On One’s Last Legs

English idiom

  1. At the end of one’s strength or resources; ready to collapse, fail, or die.

The Last Leg

English idiom

  1.  Last part or stage of a journey or race.

And so, it took gradually losing the use of my legs via a terminal illness for me, holder of a degree in English, to notice how odd it is that we should have two idioms in our language, from two different etymological origins, both using the words “last leg(s),” both meaning different things.

Weird, right?

Now, I wouldn’t mind such a late-in-life revelation if it weren’t for the fact that it’s possible for someone on the last leg of a race or journey or, um, life, to also be on their last legs. In other words, just my luck, both idioms currently apply to me literally and figuratively!

Oh to think, I used to have such great legs:


Shadow Self-Portrait, February 2012


7 thoughts on “Howard’s Divine Comedy: Canto 9 – Of Legs & Lasts

  1. Thanks for this, Howard. I was really thinking of you on Hanukkah and wishing I could be there with my tribesman and Laurel. Keep sending the word out. I miss you so much

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am thinking of you and praying for you. I hope the beauty of the world embraces you. Kathi Greger

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Allison June Mitchell January 4, 2021 — 4:02 pm

    I think you of every day. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world. I’m truly grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I fell in love with those legs, first. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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