Saturday, September 13, 2003

Saturday Sept 13, 4:12 p.m.

It's been another sweltering day. Happily, I just had that one class before getting back home and cooling off.

Well, I thought I was going to get paid this weekend, but nothing has shown up in my bankbook. I wonder if there has been a change in the rules. Usually we get paid on the 15th of the month or the closest business day preceding the 15th, and since Monday is a national holiday, I logically assumed that it would be either Friday or Saturday. Well, nothing has shown up yet. I'm not putting up any red flags as of yet but I did send an inquiry to my colleague. And this is the first time that the school has not paid on the expected day. I'm sure that there is more to follow.

Two more celebs bit the dust, I see. One, Johnny Cash, was not a surprise. He'd been looking pretty ill for a long time. I was never a fan of his but I do remember catching his specials when I was a kid when my parents seemed to be on that country kick. The other death was a complete surprise. John "Three's Company" Ritter passed away suddenly due to something called an aortic separation. The way CNN described it, it sounds like an aneurysm. Man, I just remember him as the hapless but lovable Jack Tripper with the two bimbettes.

In one of our last meetings at the Friday night circle, my friend and I talked a lot on 9/11 and where we were, and by extension, all of the other major breaking news stories such as the attempted Reagan assassination, the Challenger disaster and Gulf War I. Very interesting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

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

It's the 2nd anniversary of the WTC attacks, an event that will probably stand as one of the most seminal of this century. And personally, I also had a brush with it. For it was on that day, I had just come back from a summer trip to Toronto which included a brief stay in New York City a couple of weeks before 9/11. It was on that day that my flight originated from New Jersey Airport, 24 hours before one of the hijacked planes started its fateful final flight from the same place. It was on that day that my plane had to make three separate attempts to land at Narita just after a typhoon had plowed through the Kanto before aborting and head to Nagoya for 2 hours...something that left me wondering if we were going to be be victims ourselves. I also remember the plane making one more attempt which was successful which made all of us applaud in relief, not realizing that half a world away, several hundred other people on planes would not be so lucky.

I had been home for a few hours that night. I was exhausted. I didn't even bother to turn on the TV. Then, the phone rang....I didn't answer it; I figured that I would get back to him/her when I was feeling more energized. So the message machine activated, and the messenger just happened to be my friend from Toronto telling me to get onto CNN immediately; something had just happened in NYC.

Sure enough, when I turned it on, I saw one of the Twin Towers smoking, but the far more searing image was that of the second plane, looking almost like a paper equivalent, plow into the second tower. Aaron Brown had just started his first day at the network, and his voice was preternaturally calm but he gave the dreaded news that two planes had just become weapons of terrorism. Die Hard fantasy became hard reality. Then, the news came that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon, and yet another plane had crashed into a Pennsylvania. The US, and by extension, the world would never be quite the same again.

All of my exhaustion just left me as I kept my eyes glued on the TV well into the wee hours of the morning, Tokyo time. I sent a couple of frantic e-mail messages over to my two friends, one of whom lived in Brooklyn, just across the river from where the Twin Towers stood. He later sent me word that he and his girlfriend were OK. My brother and his wife were celebrating their honeymoon in Florida when they had to be evacuated to their hotel. The day after, I reluctantly went back to work and the feeling was somber since a number of the teachers were from America.

On the first anniversary of 9/11, I and two other teachers were doing the second Intensive of the annual series of training sessions for our oil company students. As usual, all of us, teachers and students, occupied the training center lobby lounge like a bunch of sophomores after a whole day of study. It was a bit awkward having the TV set to ABC's satellite service which was televising the solemn ceremony while the students were trying to relax, chat and drink beer while the teachers were looking at the coverage in all seriousness. The students were sometimes at a bit of a loss as to what to do. One of the teachers later on confided that he had been miffed at the usual frivolity in the lounge but he also realized that 9/11 affected people on different levels, one of the factors being that of nationality. Although 9/11 was a horror for almost all people, I couldn't expect the Japanese to share the same level of solemnity that the Americans and even the Canadians had.

And now the 2nd anniversary of 9/11 is here. I will have just one class today, and I don't expect any sort of meeting with a group of people to commiserate with. As I said before, the world has changed in some ways: the US is now fully dedicated to war against terrorism, the world has become a bit more polarized, and two countries have fallen in front of the US military might. And of course, CNN now has that perpetual red news strip at the bottom of its screen. But in some ways, the US didn't change or only had a temporary brief moment of change. The so-called rejection of irony didn't become a permanent part of pop culture: comedies are back to their snarky selves and action movies are once again part of the mainstream. Americans live under a rainbow-hued alert system and yet they have reverted, more or less, to their old lives. New Yorkers have reportedly returned to their in-one's-face, sarcastic selves but now with a subsurface undercurrent of sympathy and caring. All in all, though, I think the attitude toward the most tragic event of the 21st century so far in in line with some of the tragic events of the 20th century: we will never forget it but we will go on and thrive.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Tues Sept 9, 12:02 a.m.

Long Monday but it'll be the last one. First off, my Monday morning students too k me to the Oregon Bar and Grill up on the 42nd floor of the Shiodome City Centre. The social and financial gaps between me and them were quite evident according to some of the remarks that one of them said about the restaurant. She thought it was rather casual; however, I found it fancy if comfortable. I mean, it isn't everyday that I see true maitre d's in well-tailored suits and wait staff in crisp white uniforms. Also, she played the role of a food critic to a slight extent, stating that the Caesar salad was good but a bit too salty. I also agreed but I didn't mind it all.

The rest of the course, which cost just 3000 yen by the way (a real bargain in a place that regularly charges 6400 yen for the dinner courses), included warm bread and butter, minestrone and dessert with coffee. And of course, the piece de resistance, the steak. It certainly didn't match the size of my usual steak at the Outback, but the taste was certainly more refined and tastier. Plus, the view over Tokyo couldn't be beaten. I would definitely recommend the place to the Movie Buddies.

It looks like that bike victim from the previous night in Hiroo wasn't the only recent accident close to me. That same student had suffered one herself just last Tuesday when a car smashed into her BMW. Surprisingly, she came out of it relatively unscathed with just a sore head. However, the BMW will have to be sold.

After I had given my goodbyes to the ladies, I ended up splurging a bit on CDs. In rather disparate purchases, I bought the Best of Henry Mancini, the man who was responsible for a lot of the movie themes before John Williams took over. And then after an hour or so in my usual hangout on the roof of the Mitsukoshi Department Store, I ended up going to HMV, and bought Peter Gabriel's SO album from 1985.

I then popped down to my regular Monday night haunt all the way in western Tokyo before I had my class with the real estate students. One of them told me that he would like to move the class over to Wednesday afternoons instead of Monday nights, a shift that elates me no end. I do realize it's a bit of a sacrifice for them since Wednesday is their only day off, but to be honest, I was hoping that the late Monday nights would come to an end. And I think that in the long run, it will be much better for all of us if we were in higher energy mode for class. So no more of those midnight home arrivals. I can have pleasant Monday nights at home. However, I'll have to level with my juku employer since she was hoping to extend my hours into Wednesday afternoon.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Sun September 7, 10:59 p.m.

A very long day, and also a very revealing one. I had that get-together with the Movie Buddies for that breakfast outing at ROTI this morning. It turned out to be a very nice time for all of us. It just so happened the Madame sat right in front of me, but she didn't give any particular inclination about our e-mail messages to each other except for the somewhat jokey references to us as husband and wife, plus some of my own embarrassing French gaffes. I was also happy to see one of my Tea Room bunch mesh in very well with the new alumni. I managed to ingest a lot of food.

The da y saw a gradual attrition of our ranks. We lost a couple of them after breakfast. The remainder did some looking around Roppongi Hills since the Madame hadn't visited the supermall. I found that she has a good interest in interior design shops and jewelry stores. Those two types were perfectly up Roppongi Hills' alley.

Then we lost two more people so the four remaining people: myself, the Madame, my Tea Room buddy and one other teacher decided to take a view from the 20th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel which is meshed in with Roppongi Hills before heading for a quiet tropical bar just a few hundred meters away from the complex. I certainly go t to know the Madame even more at that event, as well as get some more insight from the teacher about his travels through Europe and Africa.

Finally, the Madame and I were by luck or by design, I'm not sure. However, we ended up going to a favorite Chinese restaurant of mine, BEMI, in the Hiroo section of town, just one subway station away. Hiroo is known as a more casual hangout for the ex-patriate population than Roppongi. However, the two of us received a rather exciting greeting when we reached street level. We actually witnessed a motorcycle get majorly clipped by a van in the main intersection. Although the bike rider was injured in the crash, it was still heartening to see some of the people help out the situation by directing traffic and calling up on their cell phones for an ambulance. The ambulance came within a few minutes although the one cop on a regular bicycle took his sweet time arriving on the scene.

When it looked like everything was under control, the Madame and I headed for BEMI down the road and ordered more food. There, we spent the next 2.5 hours just talking about our lives and ourselves. We unburdened a lot about our pasts and our philosophies on life, but it still felt a bit like a cautious dance between the two of us; there is a mutual attraction between us but the fact is that neither of us is willing to whole hog into a relationship at the moment although we never said so directly; we were throwing so many 3rd-person tangential statements at each other. But the two of us had shared one thing in that individually, we had been in relationships that just took off at warp speed. We agreed that we wanted to see how our friendship went for the next few months before we make any moves into a deeper connection. Certainly, from our conversation tonight and our e-mails over the past few weeks, we have started a very close friendly relationship. And I think at this time, I would prefer to take it one word, one gesture, one day at a time.

Well, I managed to blow away close to 8000 yen and ingest several hundred calories today. And yet, I still have an engagement with my two rich students tomorrow at the Oregon Bar and Grill on the top of the Shiodome City Center.