Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Tuesday Dec. 30, 11:19 p.m.

I partially finished Stage 2 of the big cleanup today. This time, it was my bedroom. Nothing as strenuous as yesterday's mopdown of the living room. Basically, all it entailed was some vacuuming and dusting. However, I've got some finishing touches and then I can finish everything off by taking care of the bathroom and kitchen.

Well, I had actually flirted with the thought of heading onemore time to the Farm Grill for its penultimate night for dinner, but considering the work at hand here, I decided to let the idea go. I won't be going anywhere for New Year's Eve so that will be it for my relationship with the Grill. To make up for it, I bought a small roast chicken for dinner with some minestrone as a side dish.

I took a bit of a walk down memory lane tonight watching a special version of an old music program that has been off the air for over a decade. The Best 10 was my very first valued source for J-Pop, and it was interesting seeing these old singers come out one more time. It reflected a somewhat more innocent and perhaps even more quintessentially Japanese time in terms of pop music. The songs back then were cottony-soft puffy examples of formulaic pap but they certainly couldn't be said to resemble anything America had at the time. Nowadays, J-Pop is basically metamorphosing into clones of hip-hop, rap and soul.

Well, tomorrow, I finish off my apartment cleaning and then I will get some food. I should be giving my VCR a good workout since I'll be taping stuff for the parentals. At least, I don't have to tape the annual NHK Red and White Program since they now have a satellite link to the channel from Toronto. I've already started the taping tonight.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Monday Dec. 29, 10:00 p.m.

I started Stage One of the big year-end cleanup today...part of the Japanese ritual to get the home all spic and span so that one can start the New Year on a fresh note. I just worked on wiping down the living room: sweeping away all of the accumulated dust, mopping the tatami and washing the curtains. And I also got rid of a large majority of video tapes: two bags full. My place will never be considered spacious but it currently looks a little less scruffier now. I also managed to find my YOU DON'T KNOW JACK discs after a number of years; they were lingering in a nest of dust under the video tape shelving. Tomorrow, I start on the bathroom and kitchen, and then hopefully everything will end with the bedroom on New Year's Eve.

This is the first day in over a week that I've been able to stay at home all day. It is nice to save a bit of money although I did splurge a bit on making the first minestrone of the season. I'm hoping it will last me a couple of days.

Last night, I visited my friend, Mayflower, who is currently staying with at his sister's house. He seemed to have been in a slightly chippy mood last night. He gave me a slight chastising for slurping my spaghetti; I hadn't even noticed that I did so. Perhaps he was a bit ticked off at me for not bringing a second course (despite the fact that I'd brought a bottle of wine and a box of cake). All we had was spaghetti and meat sauce. Luckily, instinct had told me to grab a hamburger set from McDonalds across from the station. It's also possible...natch, probable...that his mood may have stemmed from his meeting with a couple of former friends of mind earlier that afternoon. Several years earlier, I had decided to break off my friendship with the Joker and his wife and all those around him because I just felt I didn't belong to that group. I had always felt like the odd wheel out in a parking lot of cars, so one day I decided to not accept any more invitations from them. Mayflower showed me some digital pics of the Joker and his now enlarged family. He certainly has expanded a bit in the seven years since I had last seen him; he used to be one cool toothpick in black, but I guess domestication has mellowed him out. The picture I saw had him look several kilos heavier and wearing soft gray, but his Cheshire grin was still as brilliant as ever. I could imagine what the Joker must have told Mayflower about me, but at this point in my life, I don't really care anymore. I mean, pangs of regret hit me from time to time but I figure I'm much more of a loner now.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Sunday Dec. 28, 12:22 a.m.

Well, I've got another party under my belt. The Ballerina's farewell went off without a hitch, although there were still some switches in the cast of characters. Two pulled out so another couple of students came in their place, The Nurse and The Maid. Basically, it was them plus The Ballerina, Movie Buddy and myself plus another former student. I was happy to see that the Ballerina went out of her way to teetotal despite a bit of ribbing from Movie Buddy. The first party took place at a chicken-themed restaurant in the heart of East Shinjuku. We had a hot pot to cook up veggies and chicken, just the perfect dish for a cold day like today.

Then, sure enough, we all headed out afterwards for karaoke a few blocks up north to the SHIDAX chain. MB was quite impressed at how the karaoke discs there used the actual backing tracks from the original songs; he'll definitely be coming back to that place. It was interesting noticing the interpersonal dynamics during our two hours there. There was a bit of chit-chat amongst the students but otherwise it was basically a listening session for everyone. The Nurse, who's just about as genki as Ms. Genki, was oddly subdued for a majority of the session for some reason. At first, I thought it a bit of a problem when I realized that because I am a teacher, I should maintaining some sort of distance in any case.

Aside from the occasional purchases of milk or breakfast juice, I probably won't need to buy any other things for breakfast for the next several days since I've received packages of confectionaries. That ought to help some with the finances, but I think this week will be a total write-off in terms of saving.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Sat. Dec. 27, 1:11 p.m.

Tokyo finally got the frosting on the wacky weather cake for this year. I woke up to see all of the roofs in my neighbourhood...and some of my formerly dry laundry..covered in snow. Not that it's gonna stay there long...it's pretty sunny today. Kinda nice to stay indoors, though I will be taking off for my umpteenth get-together this week in a few hours.

I've just spent the last few hours perusing the new Pet Shop Boys' DVD of videos, and one of them was "Heart". I took a look at the vampire in that video and I thought that guy looked awfully familiar. Well, I made my guess and then had it confirmed on the official website of the boys. It was none other than Magneto himself...Sir Ian McKellen.
Saturday Dec. 27, 12:38 a.m.

Boxing Day was another day out, this time with Movie Buddy and his buddy from Oz. We went to the Farm Grill for...possibly...the last time. I say possibly since I may still try for one more last supper since the lunch is so inferior. Because of the meal from Xmas night, I wasn't too hungry for a second round which surprised MB.

Then, we three went back to my place. Luckily, I was able to clean the place down earlier this morning. There we caught a couple of DVDs, both of which didn't make much of a splash at the box office, but they were at opposite ends of the scale in terms of quality.

The bad one was EQUILIBRIUM (or as it's known here, REBELLION), starring the hard luck actor, Christian Bale. Man, this guy's career is just like his very first role in Spielberg's EMPIRE OF TH E SUN as the WWII POW kid....it manages to survive but it's gone through a lot of hell. The movie is about this future society in which all emotion is banned and Bale plays the best of this SS-like elite corps of "clerics" which eradicates all those guilty of sense crime. However, he misses out on one injection of this mandatory drug which suppresses his emotions and discovers the error of his ways, thus plowing the way for him to become the head of this underground organization devoted to overthrow the totalitarian government. As you can imagine, the movie draws from 1984, Gattaca and, because of this future martial art called GUN-KATA, the Matrix as well. The three of us could see why this movie got quickly shoved to the video shelves; there are tons of plot holes, most notably that Christian Bale and his rival, Taye Diggs, certainly show quite a bit of emotion for a couple of fascists dedicated on maintenance of non-emotion. And the GUN-KATA quickly becomes a laughfest. As MB's buddy put it, there was a kernel of a good idea in the story, but it got overlayered with dross. The real surprise was seeing Sean Bean in yet another cameo as cannon fodder. It would actually be kinda nice to see him live to the end of a picture. The other odd thing is how similar Bale sounds to Keanu Reeves.

Well, after that unintentional laugher, we caught a little spy movie called COMPANY MAN. True to the twists and turns in the plot, the stars refer to the movie as such, but the opening credits say "CYPHER". However, that cute little bit of pretension aside, the movie does play like a quality piece of espionage moviemaking. The usual conventions of cross and double cross, femme fatale, and "nothing is as it seems" apply here but the performances and the overall execution make this a winner. Jeremy Northam is great as the initial nebbish who evolves over the course of the flick, while Lucy Liu, as his mysterious confidante, is refreshing by not playing the usual Dragon Lady from Ally McBeal or Kill Bill or even the kick-butt Angel. However, some of her scenes in COMPANY MAN will make comparisons to the latter character inevitable. An interesting movie worthy of attention.

After our double feature, we spent a half-hour looking at my DVD of Pet Shop Boys videos from the past. Interesting and so 80s.

We went back into town again to meet up with Ms. Genki in Roppongi Hills, really just to look at the illuminated trees. As I was walking up the grand avenue, I was thinking why there was any need for me to come down here since Ms. Genki had already eaten a bit of dinner beforehand and the rest of us were still full from the Grill. However, we did manage to salvage some worth from the trip by doing some extensive browsing through the Aoyama Book Centre and giving MB's buddy a quick tour of the original, seedier Roppongi before the trendy and shiny Roppongi Hills burst onto the scene back in May. Tons of people were lining the streets. Foreign touts were flashing pics of women trying to entice men to come into establishments, and a lot of groups of salarymen were traipsing around finding their venue for drinking. Plus, there were also quite a few ladies in their finery; they could've been gussied-up OLs or "professionals".

In any case, we ended up drinking up at the local Excelsior Cafe. I was getting a bit hungry, so I tucked into a heated pastrami and cheese sandwich with a maple latte. And then, we all went our separate ways.

Looks like my wish will not come true fo r Sunday. My Canadian friend, whom I met on Monday, has invited me to his brother-in-law's house near Shinjuku for spaghetti dinner. Well, at least it's at someone's home and not at another pricey restaurant. I will definitely have to make sure that I stay completely free for the last few days of the year to save on money and just to relax a bit. However, I think that may not quite be possible since yet another old friend contacted me a couple of days ago saying that he'd like to meet up with me when he gets back into Tokyo.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Thurs. Dec. 25, 11:15 p.m.

It's been a rather ho-hum Xmas for me. Xmas may be well entrenched in this country via all the lights, glitter and parties, but the real atmosphere is still missing. It just doesn't compare to home with all the silence and the smells of roasting turkey. It also didn't help that I was still suffering from those cold sores in my mouth and the head & neck aches.

However, there was a bit of Xmas cheer via the annual Charlie Brown Xmas show on the Cartoon Network. From the first plunkings of Vince Guaraldi's wonderful score to the entire cast singing "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!", the show is one of my cherished memories of Xmas past, and probably has more Xmas in it than a whole bunch of department store displays in the Ginza.

I did go to ROTI as scheduled, in my dress blues, no less. I was seated by the bar where I tucked into the various courses of food. Everything was very good, especially the appetizer of Lobster Risotto. However, I had a tough time getting through the salad since the balsamic dressing was searing the cold sores on my tongue. The main course of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes was fine but I thought there had been more salad than there was of the main stuff. Dessert was fine. Financially, it did send me back quite a bit...let's say that from a 10,000 yen bill, I only got some jingles back as change. But it was Xmas, and I'm aiming to get back to Canada next year for Xmas. There's nothing like Mom's cooking after all. Plus, the fact that I was alone also detracted from the dining experience; it sure would have been nice if I'd had some company.

I checked out Roppongi Hills nearby. The place was swarming with people tonight with cameras and lots of money, I'm sure, for the restaruants inside. Then, taking the long way home so that I was ensured of a seat, the other thing that told me that this wasn't really a Xmas Day here was the fact that people were still commuting home from a long day at the office as if it were a regular day. Back home, I'd be surprised if I actually ran into someone after walking a kilometre; heck, I'd be surprised if I actually ventured outside my home on Xmas Day.

Well, I did get a nice bit of rest on the trains, and strangely enough, my pains seem to have gone although I still feel a bit of electricity from my tongue. I still have to get some cleaning done in the apartment since I'll be entertaining Movie Buddy and his friend tomorrow here for a few hours. We'll be heading to the Farm Grill for the final time for lunch beforehand, and then we'll be heading back to Roppongi to join Ms. Genki to check out the illumination at Roppongi Hills. It'll probably be the first time that I have gone to the area on consecutive nights.

And then on Saturday, I'll be officially taking over for the Madam in the Ballerina's farewell party. Certainly, the guest list will be easier to handle since along with the Madam, three people have dropped out. However, a couple of other students have called in to ask if they can join in after the first party. Methinks that we'll be going to karaoke again. I'll have to keep an eye out on the Ballerina so she doesn't imbibe too much again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Thurs. Dec. 25, 1:41 a.m.

Well, Xmas has arrived for us on this side of the Pacific. Last night, we had the various cake shops putting out staff in their Santa Claus outfits hawking their version of Xmas cake. As for me, I did a bit more shopping before heading out to Nakano to partake in the Xmas Eve party partly planned by Movie Buddy and our mutual friend, Ms. Genki. There were about 10 people in the group which included MB's buddy from Oz, and both MB's current and former girlfriends. Everyone had a lot of fun at the party and the food was great. From the gift exchange, I managed to get some Starbucks coffee grounds and some chocolate biscuits which may come in handy when MB and his buddy come over here to watch a DVD on Boxing Day. My dinner companion to the left was certainly very lively after several beers, and then she had the energy to order a whole lot of alcohol just before last call. Fortunately, some of us decided to leave at that point.

Later today, I will have to some major cleanup here for my Boxing Day guests before heading out to my now-solo Xmas dinner in Roppongi. Speaking of which, the Madam contacted me again saying that she will not be able to handle the farewell party for the Ballerina on Saturday because of her grandmother's illness. She's left the onus on me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Wed. Dec. 24, 1:06 a.m.

Well, it's Xmas Eve and I'm still a bit sad about the e-mail events of the night before but the heat is gone. But I have come to some conclusions about my future. In the meantime, though, I've made the adjustments again to the restaurant reservations, and I'll be seated at the bar for dinner. The ROTI owner was the one who called me up to confirm and he says that the bar will be more comfortable for a party of one. I think what he means is that it would be more convenient for larger parties.

It would seem that I've got the medical version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse. I've got that lingering cold, a stiff neck, a sore left foot and two cold sores inside my right cheek and on my tongue which made my dinner with the Iconoclast an unnecessary adventure, especially when the bill of fare was Mexican. Being a national holiday, the current Emperor's birthday meant that the crowds were out in force for shopping or eating. The Iconoclast and I lined up for dinner but the line shrank surprisingly fast so we got our table in rather short order. The ingesting of the food was, as I had mentioned, a bit of an ordeal, but the conversation was stimulating. He even lent me a book, THE DARWIN AWARDS, about some poor idiotic saps making the headlines due to some unquestionably stupid stunts. All of the award winners are given their distinction posthumously.

I've got another package on the way...this time from one of my Monday regulars. I really appreciate that Yamato Delivery toll-free re-delivery setup service.

Well, today, I've got another party to go to out in Nakano which will be handled by Movie Buddy. It won't be a huge thing which will suit me just fine since I hate large affairs. I still have to get the exchange gift.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Tuesday Dec. 23, 1:21 a.m.

Well, I thought I was going to start this entry with the statement that I had a very pleasant day and evening today. And for the most part, it was. My two classes went smoothly, my reunion with my Canadian friend was very good, and introducing the Iconoclast to him was a remarkable success since both are in the engineering field. Plus, I got to meet a few more nice people that my friend knew.

Yes, I thought that this would result in a happy entry into my blog. But true to my luck and true to the luck of Nero and Pastriche from The Dog of Flanders, two separate but connected e-letters blew all that into confetti. I had planned a Xmas dinner with the Madam on the 25th which would've been very stylish. It was to take place at a nice American brasserie in the heart of trendy Roppongi and would've featured good wine along with the usual turkey and all the trimmings. Then, the Madam kinda surprised me by inviting another former student about whom I had doubts whether she really liked me or not. Well, that was fine I thought. I did mention to the Madam that if she wanted to invite someone, she would be free to do so...I just didn't expect THAT student. In any case, I confirmed the reservations for 3 people.

Then, just a few minutes ago, I got broadsided twice. First, the Madam sends me a message stating that she has to pull out because of an illness in her family. And then in the same incoming batch, her buddy sends me an e-mail for the first time telling me that she has to pull out because she has to work until 9 on the 25th (in Japan, Xmas Day is just like Halloween, it's a festival but not a statutory holiday). I'm sorry...I'm fairly sure that the Madam is on the level, but I smell a female rat with her buddy. But what could I do? I just sent some polite responses of understanding to them. I'm still going to the restaurant regardless since I do want my turkey, but boy, life royally sucks! I know that this will probably be an isolated incident, but right now I just feel like such a patsy. I sometimes wonder if I get too close to these students...

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Mon. Dec. 22, 7:55 a.m.

The final day of work for me before I go into the Holidays. I checked out on my Excel about my expenditures for the past week. Not so bad on the food, but I comparatively broke the bank in my miscellaneous stuff. And I have to get a couple of more presents by today. I hope I can somehow ensure some discipline in my spendings this week, although having dinners virtually every night this week will pretty much make that impossible.

I have my first outing of the week tonight with a friend of mine from Toronto who's here on holidays. Why he would come HERE for Xmas is beyond me but I figure it's more for the girlfriend than anything else. Actually, he just called right now. I'll also be meeting him for lunch after my first class, which consists of the two students whose party I had to ditch back on Friday night. I hope the hostess isn't too sore.

I also spoke with GD, an old friend of mine who's living close to Osaka. He used to make a yearly Xmas pilgrimage to Tokyo, but in the last couple of years he's made himself scarce from this neck of the woods. The timing is interesting; he came until just before I hooked with my former girlfriend. He did crash at my place for New Year's last year but I was back in Toronto at the time, and we only managed to cross paths for a grand total of 5 minutes before he had to head back home. However, he'll be keeping it close to his town this year. I can't say that I'm all that disappointed, though. I could use the time to really clean up the apartment. After watching a program last night about how negligent we really are in cleaning, I'm pretty much convinced that my apartment is a haven for mites and ticks.

Speaking of tiny critters, Shelob, my resident Daddy Long Legs is still alive and crawling on the ceiling of my shower. It is the perfect pet; I don't have to feed him or do anything with him, and he only moves when I take a shower. If only more animals were that independent, although cats come close.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Sunday Dec. 21, 12:50 a.m.

Christmas is in the air mostly because there is a good measure of ice in that air. That combined with a good stiff wind made things quite Brrrrr-worthy tonight. I guess it was timely that the Winter Solstice is indeed upon us. And in a weird meterological development, most of Japan has been sprinkled or dumped with snow, except for Tokyo thanks to some well-placed mountains. I never would imagine that a hardened Canadian like myself would actually shiver today here, but I did.

My long day started with one of my last classes before going on Holiday break. It was the one kid (her sister was off doing a Xmas concert). She was OK but her delivery was still as slow as molasses. I had better luck with her mother who took over for her younger daughter. We did a Japan Times article about English and Japanese proverbs which greatly struck her fancy. It really helps when you hit the target once in a while.

Then, it was off to Shinjuku to meet Movie Buddy and his houseguest from his native Australia. We were planning to catch that leather/werewolves/vampires flick, UNDERWORLD, but all of us needed lunch so we first went to a ramen joint in the side streets, called Kumamoto Ramen. We clambered up the tiny stairs just 2 cm away from the customers sitting at the 1st floor counter and then, at Movie Buddy's suggestion, we ordered the TA-RO ramen. It certainly satisfied our hunger...as MB stated, it's a bowl of some tougher-than-usual noodles with some fatty beef and lots of cabbage in what is basically melted pork fat. I think it explained why we really never got hungry for the rest of the day.

Afterwards, we went to the ticket discount shop to get the tickets for Underworld, only to discover that the last performance was last night. Now having two extra hours of nothing, we just hit a coffee shop for an hour before we did another hour of browsing at the nearby Kinokuniya bookstore and then several minutes of going through an adjoining DVD/manga shop. The highlight there was the playing of a hilarious parody CG version of a ski jump competition. The Russian pair did Cossack kicks, the African pair threw their skis into their mouths and waved them around...you get the idea.

After that, we took a little tour of the notorious Kabukicho, the area that has often frightened a lot of Tokyoites with its red-light shops and underworld activity. Well, we did a quick jaunt, nothing too deep, mind you, and certainly the red light shops were there. I also saw one large black car with tinted windows which I'm sure was the property of a yakuza, but we all came to the conclusion that Kabukicho, at least at 6 p.m., is nothing compared to Sydney's Kings Crossing or even the Jane-Finch intersection in Toronto, let alone some of the dangerous neighbourhoods in New York or LA.

Then, after a short pit stop playing target shooting games in a game centre on the edge of Kabukicho, we decided it was time to start the drinking portion of our odyssey through Shinjuku. It was dark, and the neon lights were out. The cold also made it rather imperative that we find a bar. We went first to the Hub, a generic pub chain. It had the decor and the ambience of CHEERS but also with the Shinjuku Station traffic jam crowds. We asked if we could get a table but the young lad told us that we would have to go to the counter and hope that we could get a seat. Well, after one round of drinks, it was pretty evident that we weren't going to get our wish, so we left.

We then proceeded to the CLUBHOUSE, southeast of the HUB. It is an Aussie pub and sure enough, the final game of the Rugby World Cup was playing on multiple screens. We faced the same dilemma that we did at the Hub...that there were no seats available. However, the waitress was more apologetic and promised us that when a table opened up, we would get priority. I felt a bit badly for the waitress since I kinda gave her a resigned look after the treatment we got at the Hub, especially since she eventually fulfilledher promise an hour and a half later. During that time, we just sipped our drinks and chatted while catching some of the England/Australia game.

Finally, we got our table after the large party of young folks left. And after 6 hours of not eating due to the ramen, we were still not all that hungry but we felt that it was time to put something into our bellies. So we went for fish n' chips, buffalo wings, squid rings and popcorn shrimp. Yes, I do realize that this was a lot but we were not going to waste an opportunity to try some of the excellent fare. Certainly, though, we were risking the Ring of Fire with the spiciness of the food. However, what affected us more was the actual heat of the dishes themselves. My two Aussie companions were doing some major huffing and puffing after throwing a few fries in their mouths, but since mymouth seems to be lined with asbestos, I was fine.

During our conversation at the table, one topic came up which could define my time here thus far and my time for the rest of my life. Movie Buddy pointed out that being an English teacher in this country was a dead-end job: no hopes for promotion or big money. And once the teacher returned to the home country, he would be starting from ground zero. As reluctant as I was to hear this news, he did have a point and I now wonder if I have sealed my fate here after nearly a decade in Tokyo. I think I could certainly eke out a living back in Toronto as a teacher but I'm not sure if I would ever have the same level of satisfaction.

Well, at 10:30, it was time to head home. My clothes had an olfactory record of everything we did today. But I was glad that I had the extra sweater on as it was very cold. I had to do the usual wading through the Shinjuku Station masses to get my ticket. But I did manage to get onto the packed Yamanote Line to head for Takadanobaba Station and the Tozai Line for home. I also had a stiff neck. It was ironic that I was reading a massage book at Kinokuniya so I can try to knead out the kinks.

Sure enough, the Yamanote Line was announcing several delays on the JR lines due to various accidents and snow. And on the Tozai line, there were the usual exhausted travelers and two young punks with a drunk female companion. First, they sidled her up next to my seat by the door which worried me a bit since the female companion could potentially spew at any minute. Then, to add insult to injury, they were able to get seats right beside me. Luckily, everything went peacefully. In fact, I was able to get a well-needed nap before I got off.

Well, now my entire week is filled with events, since Movie Buddy will be coming over on Boxing Day to watch some DVDs with me at my home. We may even have the first nabe of the season. As for tomorrow, or later today, I've got some oranges coming in from my friend in Shizuoka, perfect for my cold. And finally, I'm gonna take a shower to get rid of the smells of the city.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Thurs. Dec. 18, 11:19 p.m.

I got my New Year's cards done today. Over here, I have to write both Xmas cards for the folks back at home and the New Year's cards for the folks here, including relatives I now never see. It's always a bit more difficult writing the latter since my kanji ability is so limited, and I can't seem to write straight up and down. My script always seems to take a diagonal direction which annoys me and probably my relatives. Also I have to write down some pithy statement of good wishes for the new year. Luckily, I've got a book which gives some sample statements that I can readily u se.

I had my buffet with The Iconoclast at the Hilton today. For some reason, the cake buffet didn't hit me as well as it had the first two times I went. The cakes seemed a bit too sweet, which is really saying something from a guy who has a sweet tooth.

It looks like I'll be pulling out of the party tomorrow at my student's place. I'm not feeling all that well, and besides, I'd just end up looking goofy by myself. I cannot schmooze to save my life, and since I don't have anyone to come as my date, there really is no one to talk to. One other student and her daughter will be coming, but I remember the first time I went there. One former student and her daughter were there, and although I could talk with them for a little bit, both they and I kinda just sat there for 2 hours feeling uncomfortable. As much as I don't want to disappoint the hostess, to just be a cigar store Indian in the middle of a house for a few hours is something I want even less.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Thurs. Dec. 18, 8:28 a.m.

I'd thought about hitting the hay a bit early last night since I was feeling somewhat under the weather. However, I ended up going to bed a couple of hours later than scheduled since an old friend of mine had an emergency request for some proofreading. As it is, I'm not doing so bad right now, and I managed to get some Xmas wrapping done as well.

Looks like the "Be Kind to English Teachers Week" is continuing. I received a Starbucks card from my Wednesday night. I seem to be spending my days in Starbucks.

Today, I have to head on out to get a number of things done, notably add to my wardrobe. I need a pair of black shoes and a trenc hcoat, possibly for the big Xmas party tomorrow, most definitely for the Xmas dinner next week. Then, I'll be meeting my friend for a bit of that cake buffet at the Hilton. Now, that the Farm Grill will soon be a fond memory, the Hilton may have to become my default place for tons of food.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Tues. Dec. 16, 11:49 p.m.

The days leading up to the Holidays can be very rewarding ones for an English teacher like myself. Today, I got treated to a nice lunch at a fairly swanky Japanese restaurant in the Makuhari Messe convention area, thanks to my Tuesday morning regulars. I had myself some of that great Hakkaisan sake. My ears were glowing but the sake is so smooth but that was about the extent of my inebriation.

After a few hours of respite, I went off for my final round of classes at the juku before the Holidays. They all went pretty well, and I got surprised when my first two students presented me with a bottle of...Hakkaisan. It isn't as big as the huge magnum of the stuff that I got from the president of a major printing company over a year ago, but I'm still not complaining.

Mind you, I felt rather out of it physically tonight. I may be coming down with a cold. Unfortunately, the very chilly air outside didn't help matters. Well, I have to catch up on those New Year's cards as well as get back on track with sending out the calendars to the folks back at home.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Mon. Dec. 15, 11:24 p.m.

The world's most famous imprisoned dictator is playing true to form and being a "wiseass" in front of his captors. And CNN will be there!

It was a good enough day for me. My rich students spoke a bit about the big Xmas party on Friday. I'm still not sure whether I'll go or not though one of the students told me that her daughter was looking forward to meeting me. If I do go, I'll have to pick up a new pair of shoes and a good trench coat.

I met up with the friend who had stood me up at Shibuya Station on Friday after my class. He apologized and admitted it was a boneheaded move to keep me hanging there. That was good enough for me. I took him out to VOLKS, Tokyo's premier steakhouse chain in Shibuya, at least until the OUTBACK arrived here a couple of years ago. After lunch, I just showed him the RAMEN YOKOCHO in Dogenzaka since he may try to go there with his girlfriend and other friend later on this week. When we parted at Shibuya Station, I offered in a further move to show that the events of Friday night were forgotten to show them around, but I got the impression that that would be the last time I would see him in Japan. Fine with me.

Being payday, I was still surprised that I made a s much as I did. That certainly prompted me to splurge a bit more on a Pet Shop Boys CD and even the Dummies Guide to Jazz. Now that I've been interested in the genre for the past few years, I decided to delve further into the written history. Certainly the title is rather befitting for me.

I had my regular class with the folks at my friend's company. Looks like things are starting to gel a bit more, though the president wasn't there due to other matters, and it looks like he won't be attending class for the rest of the year. Afterwards, my friend and I went to another decent Chinese restaurant nearby the company. My friend seems to have the greatest knowledge of Chinese eateries in the Shinjuku area of anyone that I've ever met. We also had a good talk on philosophy, something I rarely do.

Checking my e-mail, I actually received a rare message from my former full-time bosses asking me if I would be willing to teach a JICA class on Fridays. Hearing about the curriculum for the students and the fact that the students have had a reputation of being somewhat holier-than-thou made the decision quite eary for me.

I also received a message from Dory, one of my students. I had invited her to the Xmas dinner on the 25th. She politely declined due to lack of funds, but that got me thinking about something. I had initially invited The Madam for dinner in a gesture of perhaps a semi-date. Now it was my fault that I left the caveat with her that she could invite anyone she would like to bring. It was also my fault to make the reservations for two before finding out that she had invited one other friend of hers, another former student whom I'm not sure about. I think that perhaps we don't get along, and the paranoid part of me wonders if The Madam had invited her because of some mistrust of me. If that is indeed the case, I will feel hurt..no matter how much the rational side of me understands her reasons for doing so.

Well, tomorrow I have another Xmas party, this time with my Tuesday morning folks. We're going in a bit of style by going to a hotel for a nice lunch. Then, it'll be my last class with the juku folks for 2003.


Sunday, December 14, 2003

Sunday Dec. 14, 11:09 p.m.

Well, it looks like the US just got an early Xmas present and a huge boost to the forces since President Bush pulled off his surprise Thanksgiving visit. Hussein has finally been nabbed. I'm sure there is much rejoicing in the streets of Iraq and America, but this will probably won't stem the flow of attacks. In fact, I think there will be an increase in retaliation. But it's a big surprise that the big guy got caught alive if bedraggled.

My weekend was a fairly eventful one. I met up with my brother at the hotel for some breakfast on Saturday morning. I was OK with it, but he was far less impressed with it considering the price and the variety. I can't say that I blame him since the Canadian variety is probably a lot huger.

Then, it was off back to my neck of the woods to attend my juku's Xmas party which was basically for the kids. I met the one other veteran teacher who was responsible for all of the kids, and at one point, she was asking (pleading?) if I would take a few of them off her hands. I of course, mentioned that I was busy with other classes. There is NO way that I'll take any more kids. Just wearing the Santa suit and playing Bingo and cards with them were enough to wear me out.

I headed back to Shinagawa and met up with my brother once more at the hotel for a short while to rest up before we took off for the Ginza area. He asked a few questions about the area and took some snaps with his digital camera. Our timing was good since things went dark and the lights of the Ginza were on full power. We also searched for puff pastries in a forlorn hope for him to take some back to the home country. But one woman at the hotel bakery informed us that they wouldn't last the plane ride back.

For dinner, we ended up at the Farm Grill where I was given a huge bombshell. The buffet place that I had been haunting for the past 8 years, the place where I had to get my roast chicken and waffles, the place where I would get my students to attend for welcome parties, is closing its doors for the last time on New Year's Eve. To be honest, I couldn't be that surprised to see it go. In this city, where 90% of restaurants just struggle to make it through the first half-decade, the Farm Grill was a minor miracle. With the stuff they offered, it was a miracle that they could stay afloat for a s long as they have. And to be blunt, their best stuff started faltering over the past couple of years. However, it will be a shame to see it go. I enjoyed the privilege of being able to lounge around the Grill sipping coffee with friends, and perhaps I may get one more shot at it before the end of the year. Long live the Farm Grill!

After the dinner, the two of us just took a look around the Shiodome complex before we headed back to the hotel. I crashed there for the night and then had one more breakfast with him at Anna Miller's (notorious for their short-skirted waitresses, but Hooter's it ain't) in the morning before I took off for Shinjuku. I hope he was able to carry all those presents for the family.

I met up with The Madam and the Ballerina at the movie theater. Our numbers were unexpectedly smaller due to a cold which knocked out three other of our movie buddies. The movie of choice today was FINDING NEMO which had just started on the 6th. I must admit that I found NEMO a bit overrated. I didn't think the writing was all that sharp except ina few parts, and as one critic put it, the neurotic Marlin schtick wore out its welcome pretty quickly. Once again, the usual Japanese viewing experience of muteness was at hand which possibly influenced my opinion of the film. However, the visual effects were truly amazing in that I didn't even notice them; they were that advanced.

Afterwards, the three of us went to a nice little izakaya for a couple of hours of chat and eat. Then, the Ballerina had to take off for home, but since The Madam always likes a post-dinner coffee, the two of us searched for a cafe. Starbucks was not surprisingly packed to the gills, but we did find a smoke-infused little hole-in-the-wall on the 2nd floor of the MY CITY complex in Shinjuku Station. Among the stuff we talked about was the Ballerina's behaviour at last week's Xmas party. Her second farewell party is slated for the 27th, and the Madam is the organizer for that one. I decided to let her know about being careful with the Ballerina in terms of her love of drink since I just want to make sure that things go smoothly at the party and that perhaps some sort of backup will be in place if things don't.

Well, back to work tomorrow. However, I am meeting that friend who stood me up for 2.5 hours on Friday to give him his tickets. I'm willing to forget about what happened since he is sorry about it, but geez, I'm gonna hate those first few minutes of discomfort.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Friday Dec. 12, 11:28 p.m.

Well, I guess I'm supposed to deserve one annoyance a week. Last week, it was that drunken student. Now this week, it was a friend of mine who came over from Canada tonight. He basically stood me up at Shibuya Station for 2.5 hours thus ruining my evening which would have consisted of meeting Chip Guy for a nice steak dinner at the Outback. Instead, after my long wait at the ticket gates, I just stomped on home and had a half-can of Pringles Sour Cream & Onion...perfect for my mood. I realize that his plane was probably delayed or that he got stuck going through Immigration and Customs because of the heightened security at the airports this week, but checking my phone messages, he just asked me to stay there, and that he would get to the gates by 9 p.m. at the latest. Well, I ended up staying until 9:35...no sign of him. I got home and found out that there was an additional message from him stating that he felt that it was too late to come down and that I should call him for a re-meet. All I will do is let him sweat. I have his concert tickets for which he owes me 22,500 yen. If he really wants them, he'll have to be on his hands and knees.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I have to hit the hay within the next thirty minutes because I'll be heading out the door in 8 hours to meet my brother for breakfast in Shinagawa, and then I have to head over to a Xmas party in Urayasu which I really don't want to attend, and then I'm back with my brother fo r dinner. I'll get a chance to crash in his suite before I head on out on Sunday for another round of Movie Buddy-ism.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Thursday Dec. 11, 11:29 a.m.

I received a call from Movie Buddy. We haven't talked in a few weeks due to various things: he was off in Okinawa for a week, I've hardly been at the school, etc. So we had a good talk while I was lounging in my futon. Up until a few weeks ago, I had been out of the house at the crack of dawn to take care of the oil company class but since it's all over, I can actually sleep until whenever I want to get up. We just did the usual chat on movies and analyzed MATRIX REVOLUTIONS to death. We both agreed that there won't or shouldn't be a 4th one.

We also had a talk on the upcoming Xmas party he's holding on the 24th. It looks like things are further gelling on the social calendar. In that week, I've got three outings, the Xmas Eve do, the Xmas date with The Madam and then a farewell part y for the Ballerina planned by The Madam on the 27th. Considering that I've put myself on holidays for the last two weeks, it'll be a good drain on my account, but I figure if I'm going to spend my hard-easrned yen on something, it might as well be with good friends.

Not that week is going to be a social desert either. I'll be meeting with Chip Guy and another friend from Canada tomorrow night for dinner. In fact, Friday will be a very full day. I've got to get my hair cut in the morning, then meet Movie Buddy for lunch and have my regular Friday lesson before I head out for dinner. Then, the next day will be busy with my brother for breakfast and dinner. Plus, I've got a wedge of time in which I have to attend my juku's Xmas party with me as Kris Kringle once again. And then Sunday will be the final Movie Buddy outing of the year with me catching NEMO with The Madam and a few others.

However, one thing did get knocked off my schedule. I was supposed to have met The Iconoclast for a cake buffet today at the Hilton but it looks like there will be a party at the Marble Lounge, so we've agreed to put it off until the 18th. Which means that I'm here at the homestead today. Not a bad thing considering tomorrow's full schedule. However, there's a slight chance that my brother may call up with the opportunity for dinner. Most likely, his minders will be taking him out for dinner. Might as well just enjoy the day and catch up on some crosswords and DS9 DVDs.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Wed. Dec. 10, 12:06 a.m.

Sure feels like a Toronto winter night out there. Threw on the full scarf, sweater and jacket fos the walk to the juku.

Looks like my services for restaurants have come into play once more. The Madam is having some trouble looking for a venue for a farewell party for one of her old classmates. Could be a bit tough finding a place during peak party time on the 27th. We may have to use all of our resources: the Net, friends and magazines.

My brother called to say that he probably won't be available for the weeknights since some of the local brass here wants to take him out for dinner. Ah, well. It is a business trip after all. However, Saturday is still open. And in any case, I still plan to meet up with Chip Guy and one other on Friday.

Looks like Koizumi has pulled the trigger and decided to send the troops to Iraq. Although the mission is a humanitarian one, there are the twin points that Iraq is a maelstrom of violence and the Constitution's Article 7. There was a full court press with all of the major TV stations giving live coverage of the press conference. There will be a maelstrom of debate in the coming days. And that isn't all. As soon as the announcement was made, the government went on high terrorist alert by throwing a huge security blanket over Narita and Haneda airports. I can only hope that nothing comes out of this. Bin Laden has already pinpointed Japan as an enemy state.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Monday Dec. 8, 11:48 p.m.

Whew! Just got through an unusually high amount of useful mail. Instead of the usual paltry 10% of the good stuff, my ratio was up to 25% tonight.

Much of the mail dealt with filling up the month's social calendar. I have another dinner tacked on for the 27th, my Xmas dinner with the Madam has been confirmed, and it looks like I'll be meeting my brother at least once later this week. He arrived in Japan for the first time in 21 years on a business trip. So after work, I raced down to the rejuvenated hotel district of Shinagawa and picked him up from the Pacific Meridian and took him out for some tonkatsu. He looked appropriately bleary-eyed since like me, he can never sleep on planes. And he had a 13-hour flight. We did the usual talk about home, family and friends. It's ironic that he's staying in Shinagawa since on his last trip as a kid a couple of decades previously, he just stayed at the Takanawa Prince Hotel, just up the street. If everything goes well, I'll meet up with him again later in the week with Chip Guy for dinner and perhaps a little tour of the town. I've also got another friend coming in on Friday so we could all be linking up on the weekend.

The day consisted of two lessons. My rich students were fine as usual. I was even introduced to the newest member of the family for one of them...a large Golden Retriever puppy. In between lessons, I did some more shopping...calendars of course. Then, I went to my friend's company for their class. Unfortunately, I got snogged into another tense interpretation session between my friend and his president. This was absolutely not what I wanted before a class. Basically, my friend has decided to chuck his life and job in Japan since he's basically had enough of the system here. Hey, if one is miserable, why continue the misery? His boss was still trying to convince him otherwise til the bitter end, but it looks like it's a done deal.

Thankfully, tomorrow will be a virtually free day outside of the regular Tuesday night stint at the juku, so at least I can relax a bit after an all-day session today.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Saturday Dec. 6, 11:41 p.m.

The annual Xmas party was pretty much a carbon copy of last year's fest in terms of structure: we had the main party, karaoke, dinner (or some semblance of it) at an izakaya, followed by coffee. Also, as usual, the party venue was once again the atypically classy joint across from the school, and the party itself had the games, music and me in my Santa outfit. And to top it all off, once again, myclothes smell of a tobacco fire.

And also to repeat one other bit of unpleasantness that could have been avoided, one of our students, now graduated, imbibed a bit too much and ended up having a major hangover which resulted in three students having to come to her assistance. Once again, she started wailing away wondering how this could happen to her again. I dunno, I thought while she was splayed on the floor covered in coats to battle the decrease in temperature due to alcohol. I might be seen here as being very callous, but I'm reminded of the "Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you" proverb, and the ingrained cultural trait here of not being a burden on other people. This was the third time she's gone off the deep end, though. And I'm thinking why she can't control herself. She's an intelligent and ambitious lady with a bright future ahead of her, but she can't control her alcohol. While she wailing away like a banshee, I felt like chastising her for all the little good it would have done. However, her three classmates kept comforting her, so I really couldn't do anything. On the other hand, I didn't really pick up a finger to help her out...she made her bed, she should lie in it.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Friday Dec. 5, 10:54 p.m.

Well, I stupidly broke my own rule of ensuring that I'm in good shape to teach class today. I had a major case of the sniffles, but instead of picking up some medicine along the way to my lesson, I decided to skip it, thinking that I was running late. As it happened, I got there several minutes before my student showed up, and my nose was running like a faucet all class. I really have to smarten up one of these days.

My attack was bad enough that I decided to skip my little jaunt to the conveyor belt sushi place at my station. I thought it wouldn't be too good to be among people dripping nasal fluid all over the counter, so instead I picked up that cold medicine and just called in a pizza while catching up on 24.

Should be pleasant tomorrow with that first Xmas party. It'll be another long day of carousing. And it looks like I have a date with the Madam on Xmas Day for a turkey dinner somewhere in Tokyo. I just have to find the place. That should be the easy part; the difficult part will be ensuring a reservation. There'll probably be a ton of depressed North Americans looking for comfort food on the 25th.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Thursday Dec. 4, 11:24 a.m.

I've been doing a bit of savoring. Back in the summer at a wedding for one of our graduates, I came across a former colleague who along with one other veteran teacher had jumped ship a few months earlier to teach at a boys' high school. He spoke of how much better the money and the schedule were over there and encouraged me to do the same. Knowing my feelings for the upper echelons of my school's staff, I entertained the thought for just a few seconds; I don't particularly like kids, especially most teens but I did wonder about how one would be treated and the money that could be made.

Well, the other day I spoke with one of our current teachers who is also assigned to this school; apparently, the high school continues to maintain a contract with us despite two former teachers permanently assigned there. She informed me that she had to endure interview tests with verbally abusive boys. She also told me that that one other teacher who had jumped ship with the former colleague at the wedding was now considering his options about other work. And as for that colleague...well, apparently, he's just going through the motions at the school. He just lets the junior chinpira run amok in the blackboard jungle while he makes the money. After hearing this little account, I'm just thinking I'm glad that I stuck to my guns.

It's a good day today...bright if cool. I'll get some Xmas stuff out of the way. write up some cards and then get them out to Canada and Stateside by tomorrow. And see how many of those DVDs I can race through in a day.

Wed. Dec. 3, 9:17 p.m.

Just one class today but I was out for most of the day. The daylong sojourn was sparked by my need to pay off some bills at the UFJ at the next station. Then, I went over to the Farm Grill for my monthly lunch there. On the buffet table, there were the remains...and I do mean remains...of that inexcerable stuffing that's served on Thanksgiving and Xmas. Almost like a warning label, there was a sign in Japanese which read that the stuff was made from turkey livers and hearts. Geez, I wonder if it is a Scottish recipe...the only thing that platter was missing was the sheep's stomach to complete the haggis.

After my usual 90-minute lunch there, I went out to do a bit of window shopping at the nearest CD stores before trying to get some gift calendars at ITO-YA, the big stationery shop in the Ginza, notable for the big red paper clip which stands over the awning. When it comes to gifts for friends and family, I go practical and cheap...give the gift of calendars, the gift that keeps on giving for 12 months. Unfortunately, when I saw a lineup rivaling that for a blockbuster movie just to get into the elevator, I decided to put my Xmas shopping on hold.

I did my walk around the Hibiya area via the Imperial Hotel before hitting the Starbucks where I usually teach my student somewhat early. The seasonal songs were playing there; I must have heard three different versions of Chestnuts Roasting Over An Open Fire over the 3 hours I was there, and none of them were the Nat King Cole version which was somewhat surprising. I'm just glad that the place was willing to play Xmas jazz. At the CD shops, I listened briefly to techno versions of the Yuletide faves before my eyes rolled into the back of my head.

Getting home, I also got another sign that the end of the year is nigh. Fuji-TV was showing its annual FNS music festival...basically a lineup of all of the big singers over the past year. When I came in, the show was replaying the big singers of the 80s festivals. Watching these idol singers, I had to knock myself in the head and wonder what I was thinking when I first fell for J-Pop.

I also wonder if I'm beginning to show signs of becoming a bitter grump. I think I was a bit snippy to Chip Guy and Movie Buddy about a couple of questions, and frankly, I don't regret it. I'm afraid I might be ending up like one of our past teachers at the main school. He was this burnt out tall tale teller (otherwise known as a sociopathic liar) who had finally had enough of a decade of Japan and shambled home.

Well, anyways, tomorrow is an off day so I will try to catch up on those DVDs and tapes, and just try to keep my sanity until the annual Xmas party rolls around on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Wednesday Dec. 3, 12:17 a.m.

A nice long day thanks to my Tsudanuma ladies in the morning, my lone class at the main school in the afternoon and then my series of classes at the juku this evening...all of them replete with their own characteristics and atmosphere.

Speaking of mynight classes, I have picked a new one up at the juku starting from January with a very low student. It took a bit of negotiation with the boss, but everything turned out OK.

Looks like my social calendar has been filling up nicely. I may have as many as 8 parties to go to before the year is up. So much for being lonely at Xmas time.

My recent musical acquisition is a CD by a domestic artist by the name of Sheena Ringo, a young lady who has in her brief time on the stage become well known as a very untypical singer in a world of prefab pretty boys, pretty girls and very little talent spread among them. Sheena is quite pretty but she has talent and range. One of the reasons that I like her stuff is that has dove into genres as far ranging as jazz, swing, rock and Latin. Also her voice is pretty distinctive, swooping from aerie-high nasal shrieks to more dulcet tones, and she has a tendency to trill her R's on a par with the most Scottish of Scotsmen. What I was surprised about is that it seems her fame has gone beyond the borders of Japan, and into countries such as Germany. Her videos are also quite catchy in that she takes on a different persona in each one...the most notorious being that of a lesbian nurse with slutty red lipstick. Her latest video features her in all of her past personae almost as if she's giving a retrospective of her career. Hopefully, that doesn't mean that she's hanging up her guitar although I do know that she now has a kid of her own.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Monday Dec. 1, 10:34 p.m.

It was a dreary beginning to the month. For the first time in recent memory, it just steadily rained all day and night. At least on some days, there was a bit of a respite but not this time. I had to put my umbrella every time I went outside. I rather wondered if Ridley Scott had jumped forward in time from the late 80s over to now to get his vision for Dark Rain. The work wasn't too rigorous today; just my regular Monday morning class with my Shoto students and then it was the company class later on.

In between , I started getting some of my Xmas shopping done, almost all o f which involved getting Xmas cards and New Year's cards. The Xmas cards I'll have to get out within a week if I'm to get them over to North America in time. The New Year's cards should be ready to get out by the 15th. I've had to write some pithy sentiments in past years for the New Year's cards but luckily I bought the ones that have been pre-written. Still, the kanji for those addresses will be challenging enough.

After my class with the company folks, I had dinner with the guy who had first introduced me to the president and got me the gig. It looks like, as I had thought, he's gonna pull the trigger on his departure although he hasn't told the president yet. I feel sorry for both of them, but I think my friend shouldn't have to remain in an untenable situation no matter who's in the wrong here. I just wonder what my status will be once he leaves. Luckily, I may have avoided another stint in the crossfire since I have to see my brother right after class next week, and there's no way I'm gonna mediate things before class.

Well, tomorrow should be a bit fuller with my Tuesday morning class in Tsudanuma and then one last stint with the main school kids for the year followed by my regular Tuesday night classes at the juku.

Looks like I've inherited a new house guest outside of the usual mosquitoes of summer and the odd cockroach. My new roommate is a daddy long legs spider which has set up residence in the ceiling corner above the bathtub. It's a bit disconcerting having it hang around while I take a shower even though I know that DLLs aren't poisonous. I guess fragments of my former arachnophobia as a kid still remain within me.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Monday Dec. 1, 7:27 a.m.

It's a very typically Vancouver-ish December morning. It's overcast and slightly wet outside. That typhoon is just brushing past outside. I don't think we'll be getting any direct effects from it but there should be some intense bursts of rain this morning.

Apparently, all of the main TV channels will be going onto terrestrial digital broadcasting as of 11 a.m. today to link up with its satellite broadcasting. It just adds one more step to media interactivity. It's supposed to be hitting just the three major cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya for now. The NHK website didn't mention if every TV set will be getting this new service but I don't really see how any of my remote controls will be able to access it at this point.

It should be another quiet week and probably quiet month. I'm relatively busy today and Tuesday but I've got only singles on Wednesday and Friday with an empty day on Thursday. However, I believe my social calendar is starting to fill up with all sorts of outings or parties. Just another December in the big city.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Sunday Nov. 30, 1:04 p.m.

It looks like the downpours have ceased for now, although during the early morning, I had half expected Noah to come rowing by for a pickup.

Well, the first shoe has dropped. Two Japanese diplomats were shot dead by Iraqis near Hussein's hometown. Full court press has been given to the story. The government was already very skittish about sending SDF troops; this incident may have finally put the last nail into the coffin of that idea. Koizumi has always wanted Japan to play a larger role on the world stage, and the deployment of the SDF was his big audition. However, the Japanese public have remained adamantly pacifistic and they have a pretty big shield in front of them: Article 9 of the postwar (American-made) Constitution which officially limits the soldiers from any sort of combat outside of immediate defense of the homeland.

I don't know what's gonna happen in the last month of 2003, but my cynical mind thinks that there will still be a few unpleasant memories in store.
Sunday Nov. 30, 12:26 a.m.

The end of the penultimate month of the year, and true to this wacky weather year, we're getting another typhoon coming our way a full month after the last one should've made its way through. This weekend has been pretty wet already.

The kids were a bit better although I'm happy that I don't have them next Saturday because of the Xmas party next week. Then it was off fo r my monthly chat session at the old tea room before meeting up with Chip Guy and the family for dinner. Through it all, I was feeling pretty tired. I figure that I'm just getting older; now I often just close my eyes on the subway. Resistance is futile.

Speaking of the subway, I was sitting next to an old fart who was lying all over 3 passengers' worth of seating clearly sleeping off a boozefest. It's an interesting thing in this country. Throughout the half hour commute home, noone bothered to shake him from his stupor, even though the train got pretty filled up. Back in T.O., a lush like that would've been either nudged or slapped awake. In NYC, he probably would've ended up the latest murder victim. Here in Tokyo, the only person who would dare wake him up would be one of the subway staff and only when the train reached the last stop. For me, a non-confrontational guy, if he isn't bothering me, I won't bother him.

Another thing about life in Japan. I'm currently watching a late-night variety show where the guest of honour is a flaming homosexual TV personality. Once again, another paradox rears its head in Japanese culture. Japan is probably one of the last countries which will grant any sort of rights to homosexuals, and yet on the TV, clearly gay "talents" or transvestites often reach the heights of stardom. Heck, even some straight comedians act gay as part of their schtick. However, I'm not sure if these folks are truly being celebrated or they're being treated like particularly talented monkeys in a petting zoo.

My time with Chip Guy made me realize that his time in Japan is indeed numbered. Within a few months, he and the family will be moving back to Canada. Now with my ex gone to greener pastures and then my best buddy heading back to the Great White North, I guess I will truly be alone from March.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thurs. Nov. 27, 10:36 p.m.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those Stateside. Turkey will probably be infesting most of the households across the Pacific. I had a feast of my own tonight but it didn't involve the big fowl. Actually, the mundaneness of my long 4-day weekend was broken by a little outing with some of my students to the Ikebukuro area to the Sunshine 60 Building, one of the first skyscrapers to go up in Tokyo.

There, we went to an exhibit called Namjatown, which is a kiddy play zone, but in recent years, the powers-that-be have wisely decided to put in some interesting areas for the older ones. One is the Gyoza (dumpling) Museum. Patterned after the first of the culinary museums, the Ramen Museum in Yokohama, the Gyoza Museum consists of a mini-Tokyo circa 1950 with various outlets of different gyoza. The six of us dove into fried, boiled, spicy, flaky pie-type gyoza, etc. It was all very tasty.

But we didn't stop there. To add to our torture, there was also an Ice Cream City just down the hall. The different types there were highlighted by the Turkish ice cream, which is a lot more elastic than the usual stuff. Everyone of course chose their favorite scoops, but since I've always had the showman within me, I went to the Okinawan ice cream stand and ordered the Adventure which entailed a scoop of just about every type of ice cream in their inventory, topped with corn flakes (a staple in sundaes over here), banana wedges, butterfingers, whipped cream, peach slices, cherries and candy sprinkles. All for a relatively measly 1500 yen. It took us a little over 10 minutes for all of us to devour the stuff down, but we got the job done.

Even that wasn't enough. We had the temerity, if not the good sense, to go upstairs and take a look at the custard pudding exhibit. Yes, perhaps that doesn't have quite the delicious ring of ice cream or gyoza, but at least one of my students was still slavering away. However, the rest of us were too busy digesting to display any more excitement. Still, we managed to share one jar of the stuff.

With each of our purchases in the different food courts, we received raffle tickets which enabled us to engage in a raffle. Usually, the average customer gets one shot at it, but since we were a party of 8 hungry people. we got 10 cracks at the wheel, and ended up getting a number of small prizes which could be of good use as bingo prizes at the annual school Xmas party next Saturday.

I'm feeling pretty good right now but I'm glad that I have the day off tomorrow. I'll keep it close to home.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Wed. Nov. 26, 11:48 p.m.

Well, my work week was very short. I've got nothing for the next 2 days and then we're back into the weekend again. And my work week wasn't all that demanding in the first place. Three classes yesterday and just two today.

It's hard to believe but we're now less than a month away from Xmas. And yet another sign that this is indeed the case is that NHK just announced the lineup for the annual Red and White Song Festival. Twenty years ago, my family and a lot of the other Japanese-Canadian families got really excited about getting one of the network's crown jewels to broadcast in Toronto. Nowadays, it's just kinda considered to be that distant sorta square uncle who pops in for a visit annually. Pretty much everyone either heads out for more appealing events on New Year's Eve or they get the New Year's food all ready while the Festival acts as sonic wallpaper. Seeing that I'll probably be having nothing to do on the 31st, I will probably be cozying up to it myself.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Saturday Nov. 22, 10:59 p.m.

It was one of those classes with my kids. The older kid was pretty much useless. But I did manage to get some apples from the mother.

I felt really tired after the class. I ended up sleeping on the subway once again and I just slept for the two hours I was home before moving onto my friends' place for dinner. Once again, the five of us were treated to a gorgeous feast of seafood and wine. Unfortunately, it looks like the house cats also brought out a case of allergy attacks amongst most of us. Luckily, I had the luxury of having some medicine.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Fri. Nov. 21, 11:26 p.m.

Well, speak of the devil. After mentioning my ex in my last entry, she gave me a call after 3 months of no contact. It was a typically emotional call, all of it on her side. I'm not sure if she had been drunk or not, but she was gushing forth the waterworks initially asking whether I was doing OK. When I assured her I was, she settled down. With the balm of time, I can now wonder how I was able to hold a relationship for as long as I did with her. After communicating with her for several minutes, I do realize that ultimately she wasn't the one for me. She has a new man in her life; I am very happy for her since it is someone who's in her company and shares the same age. Perhaps now we can finally get on with our lives.
Friday Nov. 21, 10:09 p.m.

My day was spent, as predicted, just lazing around watching CNN. It was nice but I also had a hazy flashback of my lengthy period of unemployment back in 1997. It wasn't all that bad but still I watched my income peter out. Sure enough, the scheduler called to inform me that I will not have any classes at the main school next week because there are no day classes due to the tests. Well, I figure that we're slowly entering the dry period with Xmas and New Year's coming up.

At least tomorrow, I will be meeting up with friends nearby for dinner. I actually haven't visited their place in several months. My ex and I were still going out at that point although things had pretty much cooled off between us by then. The hubby will be off fishing for our dinner; since he's an expert, I'm pretty confident that we'll have a bountiful seafood feast by this time tomorrow night.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Friday Nov. 21, 11:09 a.m.

Nice end to a steady work week and nice beginning of a long weekend. In this country, getting a full 3-day long weekend is still a relative rarity since a lot of the employed have to devote at least one weekend day to work, so you imagine my glee at getting the full four days off. Since my oil class is off at their last intensive, and myregular Friday afternoon student is off on vacation, I've got this nice sunny Friday off to veg out. Still, I have my kids on Saturday but that's just for 2 hours.

I was actually able to get a bit of cooking done last night. Tried my hand at gratin for the first time. This country seems to have a love affair with the cheese and white sauce dish. They've got recipes for just about every type of gratin imaginable: potatoes, macaroni, and even tofu which is the one I tried out. Worked out pretty well.

Being the big (breaking) news junkie, last night was a pretty banner one with the bombings in Istanbul and then the Michael Jackson arrest. Even the local stations here made it one of their top stories, though I think most people know the man more as the eccentric freak than as the King of Pop nowadays. My 2 cents? Jacko is a peculiar man, no doubts on that score. In fact, I would peg him as the extreme form of celeb excess; however, one isn't arrested for being an eccentric. Let's see if the man is indeed guilty of molestation, then I'll know.

Kinda interesting at my school today. Fridays are always speech days with our regular students, and today's topic is on capital punishment. And sure enough, right now in the States, a jury will be deciding on that very point for sniper John Muhammad.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Wed. Nov. 19, 9:55 a.m.

It is getting quite cold in Tokyo. I had to bring out the electric blanket for the first time this season. Just waiting for those first few snowflakes to come on down. Unsurprisingly, I've gotten a few sniffles, so I've taken the old medicine. Thankfully, the stuff works quickly; not so good is that prolonged use can damage one's liver.

It'll be pretty quiet today. Just my two afternoon and evening classes. The rest of the week should be similarly slow. Just have one class on Thursday and then Friday will be free and easy.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Monday Nov. 17, 11:26 p.m.

I was feeling rather tense with this first corporate class today and then that rather bittersweet trip to Hakone yesterday, so I went in for that massage nearby. Boy, did I need that rubdown. Like any good service, the staff there recognized who I was and what I usually wanted.

As for the corporate class, my tension quickly dissipated as the students, which included the president, were all pretty low and eager to learn....a very good combination. It was the first time that I've been to the company without having to get involved in another firefight between my friend and the president which was a nice change. And as a nice bonus, he took us out again, this time to a swanky sushi bar in East Shinjuku. I really felt like I was in a truly down-home Japanese setting. There were just six of us at the counter with our group making up 50% of the customers. The staff was very chatty and accomodating, even to my friend's insistence at using dilapidated Osaka dialect, much to his boss' bemusement. At one point, everyone in the bar got into a nice little conversation. It almost felt like being in a Japanese equivalent of CHEERS. I was almost thinking about coming here with a few of the students, when my friend took a peek at the check, which again the president paid for, and told me afterwards that it came to a grand total of 35000 yen. I realized that sushi was just too good to be true.

Happily, tomorrow I'll be able to start later than usual since my regular Tuesday morning folks canceled the class. Not that I'm tired of seeing them, but it is nice to get that extra time to sleep in once in a while.

I bought the DVD of CHICAGO. It and X-MEN 2 are the only movies that I've enjoyed this year, which just emphasizes what a disappointment the blockbusters have been in 2003. Yet, even with the DVD, I was somewhat disappointed at its sneaky technique of "padding". They put in too many trailers which resembled each other and a lot of the cast interviews pop up in bits and pieces in all of the other extras. There's the usual backpatting and gladhanding which I can only take in small amounts, even for a worthy vehicle like this one.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Sun. Nov. 16, 9:38 p.m.

We had our trip to Hakone today with me and 4 other students and a teacher. It included lunch and dinner at the local spots, a trip on elevated railways, an atmospheric experience in a tea house, a walk through a lovely garden of fall colours and a tour through a museum. The chat was lively and engaging, and everybody got along well. And yet, I feel somewhat guilty about the day. I was the one who set up the plan and organized the meeting spot, but then after that, it was all the students' efforts to get the train tickets, notably one student in particular, and to keep all of us together. I realize that they handled the ticket purchases much better than I would have, but still I had the responsibility to do it, and I just ended up standing around like a lord over his vasssals. I did thank them profusely for their help, but I just don't think it's enough.

Tomorrow, I start that first corporate class in my new bohemian career. I really have no idea how things are going to go and what their expectations of me are going to be, but I'll be working on the plan for most of the day before I head on out.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Friday Nov. 14, 8:36 p.m.

Another week over without much incident. With another payday and therefore budget sorting, I just managed to save a miniscule amount. I'm not complaining too much, though; as long as I'm saving something, I'm satisfied. Heck, even before I started budgeting on my Excel, I think I probably went minus a few times.

I officially announced that I would be spending my Holidays here in Japan due to my passport situation. Well, I figure that alternating between cities year by year isn't a bad thing. I may be able to save a bit more money when I do go back home. Plus, I've got people visiting in December anyways so it won't be too lonely.

The usual bureaucratic annoyance has come to my door. My rental company sent me an official letter stating tha t my due date for this month's rent is the 25th. It came in a soberly gray envelope with terseness. I've been faithfully sending in my rent every month for nearly 10 years and I get treated like a blip.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Monday Nov. 10, 9:59 p.m.

Nice quiet day today as I just had only one lesson. Afterwards, I came home and tried out the new kaiten sushi place at last. There was less variety in terms of the price levels of plates, but at least a lot of my favorites were scaled at one of the lower prices. So I just paid over 500 yen less than what I would have paid at its predecessor. Mind you, I did have to sit next to a boorish middle-aged Japanese guy.

Speaking of geriatrics, it looks like I've finally found out what that newly remodeled dormitory is going to end up as. It will become an old folks' home. Well, in my neighbourhood of international families and younger folks, this ought to shake up the demographics somewhat.

Tomorrow should be another busy day: 9 hours of classes!
Monday Nov. 10, 9:45 p.m.

Nice quiet Monday for a change. I just had my Monday morning students and that's all she wrote. Just came home and tried out the new kaiten sushi place for the first time. The price gradations are fewer but almost all of the sushi that I enjoy are grouped in one of the cheaper plates, so I actually paid over 500 yen less than I did with its predecessor. I had to sit next to one of those typically boorish middle aged piece of crust, though.

Basically, the rest of the day was just finishing off the last of the B5 DVDs that I had borrowed from Chip Guy. A good way to spend a chilly and rainy day.

Apparently, the British Royal Family has been trying to stave off another scandal which has all the signs of being on the level of Diana's death. The coverage has been intriguing. All this media scrum about something that will not be revealed. Well, according to my students today, the big scandal is that Prince Charles may be playing for the other team, if you know what I mean, which would of course cause a rather embarrassing problem when it came to succession.

One of the staff left a message on the machine asking me for a possible teaching gig at an Intensive for METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry). Well, I don't do useless Intensives anymore, and if the fisrt METI earlier this year was any indication, then I won't do it. Besides, I've got my private classes now, so I couldn't do it even if I wanted to.

Well, the election results for Koizumi weren't nearly as bad for him. Still, he lost some power so now probably, there will be even more consternation in the Diet. Not great for us.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Sunday Nov. 9, 11:48 p.m.

Just came home to find out that Koizumi's showing wasn't all that good in the Lower House elections. It looks like that the elections have elicited enough attention to merit an English track coverage on NHK.

I spent about 7 hours with The Madame today. I met her outside of Yurakucho Mullion, and then we went out to an Italian cafe, La Vita Belle Pace, for an hour. The whole purpose of the meet was to discuss about teaching methodology since she's been training to become a teacher of Japanese, and then it would be off to listen to some jazz. Well, true to my form, things ended up rather the opposite. We spent a mere fraction of the time on academic talk and the jazz place that she was talking about was closed since it was located in City Hall. In fact, the entire hotel district was dead. So we ended up going to the Century Hyatt for dinner.
Most of our conversation, in fact, just dealt with the usual gossip surrounding our group of friends. It was interesting that we could just gab on this for almost a third of a day, but it may signify how close we've become in our friendship. I'm still not quite sure what our future is together...will we stay good friends or will we jump into something closer? We did a bit of skirting around the issue by issuing a joint statement that neither of us are particularly all that eager to get married at all. And in all honesty, I rather enjoy our relationship as it is right now. We're in no hurry. In any case, the next Sunday will be one of a more rural nature as we head out to Hakone for a little walkabout.

It looks increasingly more likely that I'll probably be sticking around here for the Holidays. I'm appraoching mid-November and there hasn't been any progress on my passport thing, and I would think that air tickets home for the Holidays are now pretty scarce. I've warned my family about this, and they seem to be taking it in stride. I'll probably head home in the Spring. In any case, it looks like I'll be busy with visitations from friends and even perhaps my brother in December. I've even asked The Madame if she would accompany me to the annual Xmas party at my rich student's house.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Saturday Nov. 8, 10:46 p.m.

Well, I caught the third, and perhaps final, chapter in the MATRIX saga tonight at Roppongi Hills. There won't be any major harangue here as in my entry for MATRIX RELOADED; there's no need. Suffice it to say, the effects were mind-blowing but the story far less so. And one could say that the story decided to unravel a bit at the very end. I think that the MATRIX should be best remembered by its first and best entry.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Thurs. Nov. 6, 11:10 p.m.

Wining and dining....for years, I've been hearing this very literal idiom from the business world. It certainly was its own industry during the Bubble Years in Japan over a decade ago, but has since diminished due to the bubble bursting. Well, I finally became the object of that Japanese tradition.
It all started when I went for my second mediation between my friend and his boss. The session was officially to iron out some further details for upcoming English lessons with their company. However, once again, it became another 2-hour marriage counseling session. It was a bit easier to take since I now had the experience from earlier.
Anyways, when all was over, the three of us went out for dinner. I had no idea where we were heading until we went up to the 26th floor of one of the Shinjuku skyscrapers and saw us approaching a pair of large wooden doors emblazoned with the sign, "The Esquire Club". I've heard of the place before as a high-class executive lounge in the Ginza, and now I saw myself going into one of the branches.
I realized how swanky it was when the president had to take out a key card and slip it into an electronic slot to gain entry. Immediately, we were greeted by a bunny girl. The Esquire Club was the Japanese equivalent of Hef's organization. My heart certainly skipped a beat, always a risky thing considering my probable cholesterol levels.
We had a very nice dinner which included cubes of marinated Yonezawa beef and very tender pork cutlet sandwiches. The interior was what one would ezpect of a tony exec louoge...all brown leather and mahogany wood decor suffused in incandescent light. Of course, there was a pianist singing jazz standards. However, I remarked that the place was three-quarters empty and asked the president whether this was the case for a Thursday night. The president sadly shook his head and answered that it was the sign of the times for the past several years. Goodbye bubble, goodbye expense account customers. And I also did notice that there were a lot of more informally dressed customers and foreigners to boot, entities that I couldn't envision in someplace as exclusive as this place.
The service was provided by aforementioned bunny girls. They were very polite, very polished and served us individual plates as well as light the president's cigarette. Good golly. I thought I'd never set foot in such a place.

The surprising night out compensated for that marriage counseling session earlier and also another so-so class (at least to me) with the top class in my school. That was my third time with them recently, and it just seemed so flat. Basically, my philosophy after 3 flat classes is that I'm just not going to mesh with those folks. I'm certainly not going to do what I used to do in these situations and ask to be not put with the class anymore. I think that would put the coordinator in a bit of a snag, and also if the students found out, they would probably feel alternately insulted and just plain bad. Really, it's their call....if they really don't like my lessons, they have the right and responsibility to ask the coordinator to ensure my omission. Until then, I'll just have to slog away and do my best.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Wed. Nov. 5, 8:55 a.m.

For the past few weeks, I've been doing my Pilates. Yes, that Pilates, that exercise regimen that all of the beautiful people (I use the adjective facetiously, of course) in Hollywood use to carve out their abs. Of course for me I'm using the "Dummy's Guide". I'm just in the middle of the first level of exercises after a week of Pre-Pilates prep. So far, so good. Everything seems to be centered on the Core, and involves a lot of stretching. Terms like Abdominal Scoop and Coccyx Curls have become part of my bedtime vocab. I haven't really seen any six-pack yet (I confess to having more of a beer cask, actually) and I don't ever expect to, but I have felt the burn, so there is hope.

Tues. Nov. 4, 11:17 p.m.

My teaching route today was one of those pendulums. I taught at one end of the metropolis, go to the other side for the second class, and then come back to my neighbourhood for another series of classes. Not that I'm complaining too much; all of them are good. My second one was especially revealing since it was the one with my fairly wealthy students. Apparently, the new skipper of the Chiba Lotte Marines, Bobby Valentine, ex of the New York Mets came by the house a few days ago to give his respects to my student's son-in-law since his dad is the team's president. The one humourous anecdote is that the family dog decided to straddle his leg in greeting. Not to worry, though, the Valentines have 6 huge dogs of their own.

The one thing I've never really worried about over the past 6 months of my bohemian teaching lifestyle is food. I've noticed that I seem to get freebies from my students. This morning, my class with the middle-aged ladies gave me a bunch of apples and sweet potatoes to munch on. The roughage was much appreciated. They usually get some sort of traditional goodies for me, whereas at my second class, I usually get something in the form of a fancy cake, and then at the juku tonight, I received some Hawaiian beef jerky from my first class after their trip to the islands last week, and some stew from the juku president. Plus, coffee is always complementary there.

After 9 years in this country, I thought I would have heard everything. Well, I am wrong. At my second class, the ladies told me that even at memorial ceremonies celebrating the anniversary of a departed loved one, it is customary to give alms AND then receive a present which is usually half the value of the alms. One of the students got a yogurt maker out of the deal. Can you imagine this quote: "I come for the tribute for the dearly departed, but I stay for the yogurt maker."

Mr. Matrix, Keanu Reeves is back in town to open Matrix Revolutions in Shinjuku at 2300 hours on Wednesday night. Considering how often he pops by Tokyo in his capacity as movie star and also as the bassist for Dogstar, he ought to think about getting landed immigrant status here.

Well, the shoe finally dropped in the terrorism front. According to TIME, Bin Laden finally made his threat against Japan for supporting the US in its war against terrorism. I'm just surprised that he hadn't done it earlier when Koizumi loudly proclaimed his support behind Bush. TIME reassured that with the tight immigration policies at the airports and the stress on anti-terrorist training of its security forces, it's pretty unlikely that Tokyo will see a 9/11. Hmm...being the fatalist, I will believe it when I don't see it.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Tues. Nov. 4, 7:27 a.m.

Well, I celebrate my 9th anniversary since my arrival in Japan. Hm...perhaps not "celebrate"; the word implies achieving a great goal or commemorating a great event, and my time in this country doesn't really signify either. My near-decade has had plenty of ups and downs, thankfully leading in the ups category, but I can't really say that there is anything particular celebrate about. In fact, I probably won't even say anything to my students or fellow teachers unless they broach the subject. However, perhaps to a lot of English teachers, my long stint could be a source of impressiveness or aghast

Culture Day turned out to be a quieter day than I had expected. I had been expecting to meet up with Chip Guy and the family for a small dinner, but the phone call never came. I later learned that he went through the long weekend incommunicado with a cold. Luckily, he's on the mend now just in time for a shortened work week. Instead, I just took care of some household chores, and then true to the meaning of the day, Super Channel in its wisdom presented the American contribution to culture. And I'm not being facetious here...the station presented several hours of the American Film Institute's Top 100 Movie Stars. As Hollywood embraces CG and pretty boy/girl looks, it's nice to remember the Golden Age.

Today ought to be another fairly busy one as I've got 5 classes. It would seem that Tuesday will be considered my Day of Hell. Well, that's not fair to the students. All of the classes are very good...knock on wood.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Sunday Nov. 2, 1:24 p.m.

Well, I got further vindication at my students' house yesterday why I'm grateful for my single status. This was my kids' class. Just before the older sister came into the dining room where we usually have the lesson, she and Mom got into a brief but lively row about something. The fact that the daughter is just 12 means that the two of them will probably be facing a lot of those spats over the next decade. Can you imagine the father having to deal with that?

Otherwise, it's been a pretty calm weekend. The weather has been cooperating for the most part. I'll probably just head out and do a bit of grocery shopping. Chip Guy sent over an e-mail to see if I were up for dinner tomorrow night. He also threw in the fact that he'd like to treat me for my 38th B-day. I don't think in our over-decade long friendship, he's ever offered that; I'm wondering if this is some sort of peace offering after our own little argument on the Web concerning "Kill Bill".

It seems as if the two main types of crimes getting attention on the news here have been the frequent pedal-by slashings of female students by psychotic men, and the rice rustlings in the rural areas. Only in Japan.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Fri. Oct. 31, 9:04 p.m.

It's been a long day thi s Halloween but it all went well. Got into my "costume" of sorts: filled in a dark suit and an eye mask to complete my disguise as one of the Crazy 88 of "Kill Bill". Not particularly elaborate but it was cheap and still made anough of an impression. I just had the morning oil class and then it was all gravy after that.

The annual Halloween party at my school was probably the most successful yet. Not everyone brought a costume; it was pretty easy to know who would and who wouldn't according to temperament. For the ones who came, their costumes were imaginative enough to fulfill the entire quota. The Rapper went against type and dressed up like a high school girl with makeup no less. Another of the male students went the transvestite route as well. We had two nurses, a devil, a bunny and even the course coordinator dressed up like a sumo wrestler. I helped her out do the "Trick Or Treat" round of the classes before settling for a couple of hours of downtime.

Then some of us who had some time before the official party went downstairs to the karaoke box for a couple of hours. Then the festivities began in earnest as the whole bunch of us tackled the various pumpkins fairly chaotically before things settled down into a more coordinated rhythm. Then came the pizza and then the apple bobbing. Of course, we had the official Trick or Treat bags of candy ready as well. It just took 2.5 hours. Afterwards, some of the folks were to meet up with a former teacher down in Shibuya for some further partying. I would've liked to have gone but with my kids' classes tomorrow, I don't think there would've been any way that I could've pulled it off.

I'm tired after all of the events and hijinks but it's a "good" tired, the one that I don't nearly get enough of anymore. I just hope that the Xmas party is just as happy. It was nice to see students getting interested in something that they hadn't experienced before. It made for a good change of pace from the usual classes.

Last night, I met up with the boys from last year's old oil class for dinner. We went over to ta another restaurant in the Shiodome City Center, a place which bases itself on chicken. I listened to a lot of confidential information about the company...none of which would really concern me anyways. For once, one of them became almost wistful about fate when he described his trips to an expensive hostess club to discover that some of these women who talk to people for a living are often university grads from home who couldn't find a more appropriate job.

It looks like that volatile interpreting session last week was merely a bandage, but a bandage that is holding for now. According to my friend, both sides are pretty much entrenched. However, it looks like I'll be getting my first corporate job as a private teacher from the middle of November.

The weekend will be fairly quiet. I don't have anything after my kids so I'll be able to relax a bit. I might meet up with a couple of old friends on Sunday, and then I have nothing on the holiday Monday.

I would prepare for my kids' classes but I'm tired. It can wait.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Tues. Oct. 28, 11:29 p.m.

Finished another long day. I was just starting to putter out on my last class. Luckily, the guy is pretty laid back.

Hmm...I may have set off some sparks when I sent out my reasons for not enjoying Kill Bill so much. Both Chip Guy and another friend pointed out that Americans and other Westerners get just as singled out for ridicule by the Japanese, so why should the Japanese get their shorts in a knot? Simple...for the same reason that the Westerners get their shorts in a knot. Two wrongs don't make a right. Well, if any more flames come my way, I'll just do my best to extinguish them.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Sun. Oct 26, 10:58 p.m.

Well, I saw "Kill Bill" today, and all I can say is this: it won't be getting the praise here that it's getting anywhere else. It was an interesting dichotomy: the Westerners who saw it with me gave it thumbs up while my Japanese friends gave it a thumbs down, and judging from the audience reaction, not too many of them would have disagreed with the Japanese friends.

In a society that's: 1) not known for ironic humour and 2)always looking for what the outside world thinks of Japan, "Kill Bill" is probably not going to win many fans. Being a person who straddles both the Japanese and Western worlds, I could see that I would've appreciated the flick far more back in Canada, but I still would have cringed at some of the dialogue and the scenes, especially in the Battle of the Tea Room which I did today. For the final battle between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii, it was almost jaw-dropping how these so-called warriors bantered about the Japanese language as if they were just two high school kids showing each other the latest Game Boy software. There was a lot of unintentional laughter there. And then, the battle ends with an enka song that could have just been at home for a sake commercial.

Now before you folks quote me the fact that QT had intended the movie to reflect every bit of non-reality in hi s homage to grindhouse cinema, the sad fact of the matter is that the Japanese like their stories straight up: no lavish spackling of irony and accurate depictions of what Japanese life is like. The very sharp differences in reaction left a slightly awkward feeling among us afterwards which forced all of us to temper our reactions.

As it were, some of us headed out for a Russian place for dinner. I had never had Russian food before, but for a place that was buried in a sub-basement, it had a lot of good food and it was filled to capacity. However, I think the food was more reflective of Eastern European cooking overall than of Russia proper, although the usual borscht and peroshiki were available.

Then, the remaining three of us went off to the Living Bar, a reasonable but trendy looking establishment, just around the corner for 3 hours of lively banter.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Sat. Oct. 25, 9:30 p.m.

Another bizarrely fun outing with the students today. This time, the mission was to get the Halloween shopping done for the upcoming Friday's festivities. But before that, we all had some lunch at this Hawaiian burger joint just across the street. It was the first time there for me. One of the students who came along swore by it, and we weren't disappointed. The burgers were quite juicy, but the fries could've been more plentiful and meatier.

Then, our squad went into Kinokuniya International Supermarket and picked up three pumpkins along with some goodies for Trick Or Treat before heading down the main Omotesando Avenue to Kiddyland for some decorations for the lounge. And finally, we all went up to this dessert place called Cafe Comme Ca. It really ought to have been called Cafe Decadence. There was a huge showcase displaying all of these unbelievably loaded pies and cakes. For one peach concoction, I wondered how many trees were sacrificed to provide the fruit for this pie. It was all so trendy. And certainly the kept company kept entertaining us with a lot of their non sequiturish English. Some great unintentional double entendres which would've made the producers of Three's Company salivate.

Finally, we took all of our purchases back to the school and took a small break before heading home.

Tomorrow, we may have another large group to catch Kill Bill. Should break my futility record for mediocre flicks.