Friday, January 02, 2004

Saturday Jan. 3, 12:51 a.m.

I made my way down to Shibuya to meet up with my friend from Sendai. Even on the 2nd of January, Shibuya was still fully packed with was more like a regular Sunday than a New Year's holiday. It was even more strange considering that a good number of stores were still closed. After a short visit to Towers we first checked out our first choice of Uoza no Itcho but it looks like they had decided to stay closed. So after a short respite at a Doutor coffee shop for 30 minutes, we were able to get into our second choice of En. We just spent the next five hours gabbing and eating fine food. As usual, we got into a couple of debates involving East Asian politics and the like but all in all, it went quite well

Well, I'm going to return to my cocooning for the weekend until I'm back on duty as of Monday.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Thurs. January 1, 2004, 11:14 p.m.

A Happy New Year! Although I think for me, it'll be an uncertain one.
The past 48 hours have been spent in my apartment. I only stepped out just to go down to the first floor to pick up my New Year's Cards today. Quite a difference from the nightly outings last week.

New Year's Eve was just spent at home watching the countdown to midnight and, of course, being in Japan, catching the Red and White Song Festival on NHK. I think it's the first time in a few years since I've seen the festival from beginning to end. As it was, it wasn't too bad although it was still a little grating listening to some of the contrived dialogue, especially since many of the younger acts talk very frankly usually. Then, just before the stroke of midnight, GC gave me a surprise phone call while I was making the toshikoshi noodles to commemorate the passing of the year. I should be getting a phone call from the parentals sometime tomorrow morning.

For today, it was another first for me. It was the first time in several years I didn't even bother to set one metre outside of my apartment building. I would have even stayed within the confines of my apartment itself if I hadn't decided to step out to pick up the cards. I just fed myself on the remaining noodles and leftovers from last night's dinner. Most families on New Year's Day feast on OSECHI which consists of lacquered platters filled with special New Year's foods. It's OK to eat but I don't particularly miss not having it. Basically, my day was spent just taping specials for the parents.

However, the streak of cocooning will be broken tomorrow since I'll be meeting up with a friend of mine for dinner. Well, at least, I did save money over these past three days.

The past year wasn't exactly an Annus Horribilis as certain members of royalty are prone to have but I can't really say that it's been a banner one for me either. I can say that it was one of transition and sobriety. I went from being a full-time teacher for a management that I couldn't really trust to a freer part-time teacher. I can't believe it's almost a year since I made the decision to cut most of my ties with my school. The new situation for me has had its ups and downs but generally it's been a good move for me since I've had to be more diligent on the finances. The big test will come in a couple of weeks when I go into City Hall to declare my income taxes. Also, I lost my girlfriend of 18 months; now that probably won't mean too much to the lot of you but for a guy my age who had never had a girlfriend before, it has a bit more significance for me. I've also seen my circle of friends grow smaller. Someone said that as one ages one's circle shrinks but gets tighter. That may be so, but I am going to lose a very good friend, Chip Man, and his family back to Canada. Plus, I'm rather wondering about how close I should be with my current and future students; frankly, from the events of this past year, I have pondered about the merits of showing too much of myself to clients. I might become more solitary this year but perhaps that might be more my style anyways.

I haven't made any New Year's Resolutions this year and I think I will stop that rather useless habit of navel-gazing since I really don't have faith in much of anything anymore. I'm just going to take things one day at a time. Perhaps this will reveal me as somewhat of a grumpy cynic but, hey, as I commemorate my 10th year in this country, I gotta be me.

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.