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'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 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.