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.