Autumn beauty

Yoshiko and Greg at the Kyoto Botanical Gardens
It’s getting cold, so very cold, here. I dug my slippers out of the back of the closet and found my gloves today. Of course, nothing Greg wore last winter is going to fit again, so we’ve been buying new winter clothes, and still have some buying to do. if you are a college student wondering how you can make a fortune in this crowded world, I recommend you get into the baby clothing racket. Parents are suckers. Grandmas are even bigger suckers.

Today I had my first-ever “Ningen Dokku” (human drydock), a full body checkup with a full lab workup, ekg, lung, hearing and vision exams, upper G.I, lower G.I., and even the dreaded side-to-side G.I. in which I chugged half a liter of pencil shavings in dishsoap and was spun in 3 dimensions on a swiveling table.

I found out that I am exactly 195.2 cm tall, that my heart rhythm and blood pressure are “normal”, and in fact every parameter that they could report on the spot (laboratory test results will come later) I fall within the parameters of normal, which somehow seems odd to me.

The only thing that came unexpectedly was when the whole thing was over, the consultation doctor gave me all the good news, but then he was hemming and hawing and I knew there was something else, something awful or ominous. I waited and waited for him to spit it out, but he kept going on about systolic and diastolic and all that.

So I just stopped him and told him to give it to me straight, I could take it. After all, I had a truly awful disease as a child and had always expected more medical calamities.

He scanned over the charts and printouts, drew in a long breath, and the room grew so silent so that I could feel my thoughts reflecting off the walls as he composed his explanation.

And then he just said it, in words so simple it could not be mistaken, but words so chilling that my marrow froze, and I saw it, written in my own blood across the sky:

I’m the real Slim Shady.



  1. Jeffrey Friedl

    Wonderful photo — don’t know how you can get an almost-2-yr-old to look at the camera long enough to take a picture.

    On the other hand, I don’t quite get the punchline to the checkup story. Okay, I admit, I don’t get it at all. What is it supposed to convey?


  2. daniel

    Hello Nils,

    Just wanted to thank you. I’m a young artist moving to Kyoto as a guest of Kyoto Zokei Geijutsu Daigaku and your website has been quite inspiring. Having spent a very lonely and sweaty week in Kyoto this August, I was a little depressed at the prospect of suburban life… but your site and photos and anecdotes have been wonderful reminders of all the little details that make Kyoto so interesting and intimate.

    Thanks for the inspiration!


  3. gumppy

    Two beautiful people in a vivdly colored setting. A clear checkup (overhaul?) How and anyone be so lucky?

  4. nils

    Jeffrey, it’s an example of killer comedy timing coupled with a hipster reference to a pipsqueak white rapper named Eminem, sort of the Weird Al Yankovic of rap music. Not sufficiently humiliated by taking a stage name that calls to mind little chocolate candies favored by schoolgirls, he also refers to himself as Slim Shady. Repeatedly. “I’m the real Slim Shady, I’m the real Slim Shady” ad nauseum.

    So, well, basically nothing interesting happened at the checkup, so I wanted to dramatize or embellish the story a bit, so as I was writing I was trying to think up a good “You have 6 months to live” joke, but instead I decided to go with a so-called “shaggy dog story” that build up to an expected conclusion but then pulls the rug out from under you at the last minute.

    You’re not dying of cancer, it turns out YOU are actualy the stupid alter ego of a white rapper. Absurd.

    There is nothing more to understand.

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