upper waypoint

Jesse Alejandro Cottrell: Larry, My Gouty Toe

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

Jesse Alejandro Cottrell

After discovering he has the same health condition as his father, Jesse Alejandro Cottrell grapples with aging and other ways he’s similar — or dissimilar — to his dad. 

I hate to admit it, but it’s true. I’m becoming my father. Or at least a piece of me is.

I’m not talking about my hair. Sure, I have a few more greys on my head than I used to. But my dad is pure silver up there. With a bald spot that looks like Half Dome peekin’ out above the fog.

When I say I’m becoming my father, I’m also NOT talking about how much I sleep. I mean, okay, I nap more than I used to…Maybe sometimes I even snore and drool a little in the middle of the day. But my dad, he spends hours every afternoon knocked out in his recliner. Mouth agape, like he’s in the middle of singing the longest, quietest song you never heard.

My naps are 15, 20 minutes tops. Then I get up and I’m ready to run with the bulls. Or ghost ride the whip. Or do the Dougie.

Which I think is still cool?

I might be 40 years old now, but I’m getting older on my own terms. I’m STAYING COOL.

Or at least that’s what I was saying ’til last spring when my right big toe started to hurt. I went to see a doctor about it, and after poking at my foot a little, the doctor said to me, “Mr. Cottrell, I think you have gout.”

Of course, I corrected the doctor and said, “Mr. Cottrell is my father.” Then I said, “What are you talking about? I’m young (ish) and in shape. I thought gout was for older folks with like, health issues?”

Well, it turns out that gout can also be hereditary. And sure enough, the next time I talked to my dad and told him about my toe, he said to me, “Oh crap. I’ve had gout in my big right toe for decades. Ever since I was young, younger than you.”

Gout is such an ugly word. I looked it up and in German, gout means “elderly father.” In Spanish, gout means “definitely not cool anymore.”

I’m naming my big, gouty right toe “Larry.” That’s my dad’s name. Fine, I will cede part of my foot to you, dad. But I’m keeping the rest of me. The rest of me is still Jesse. For now, anyway.

With a Perspective, I’m Jesse Alejandro Cottrell.

Jesse Alejandro Cottrell is an audio journalist and senior producer at VICE News. He was born and raised in San Francisco. 


lower waypoint
next waypoint