Saturday, December 25, 2004

Saturday December 25, 2:56 p.m.

Well, I've reached the halfway point of my trip back home. It's been good being back in T.O....seeing the old friends and family. I certainly haven't shirked on the food; I'll probably mortify the gym staff when I get back with the amount I'll gain. Weatherwise, it's definitely Xmas-like. Earlier in the week, Toronto got smacked with an Extreme Cold Advisory. We smashed a record in the form of a -37-degree wind chill. It's been a long time since I felt that sort of burning cold. Looks like the old homefront back in Japan has been OK. Chipmunk has kept a good eye on the apartment and GC will be headed there soon enough.

I went out with my brother and his wife to attend the Xmas service at their church. The usual sermon and songs. Then we hit a dim sum place; we tried to hold off on having huge amounts since we've got the turkey dinner in a few hours. In the past couple of hours, I've come to a decision about what to do with my future.

Next week is still open for me so I've gotta get started on buying those souvenirs. Hopefully, Boxing Day won't be too nuts. Well, the stuff I'll be getting can be bought at the mall across the street so it won't be too painful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Wednesday December 15th, 11:06 a.m.

Well, let's dependable watch, which had been running smoothly for the past 2 years, decided to die today. And the knob on my door almost falls off. Hmmm...I wonder if these are omens...with my luck, I'll be on a plane targeted by terrorists or faulty engines.

Tuesday December 14, 9:32 p.m.

Well, just about all packed up and ready to head home. I've got people looking over the apartment, bills have been paid and all the presents are in. I'll be lugging three bags home. In a way, I'm happy that it'll be rainy tomorrow. It'll give me that extra incentive to take a taxi to the nearest Keisei station.

My final event today was the party with the Beehive. Everyone was in pretty good spirits with all of their food and drink. Unfortunately, my two contributions came to naught. I half-destroyed the cork of that wine before the students persuaded me to give up; we'll try again next year, and the package of Fujiya cakes were basically distributed at the very end of the party.

The rest of the day was spent just cleaning the bedroom up, followed by dinner and then packing. I still have to leave a message with GC who will be coming shortly to take care of the place and then iron some clothing. UGH!

Paddy reassured me that he's OK with the restaurant as is. I still think his tone yesterday was fairly immature but I'll let the matter go.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Monday December 13, 9:42 p.m.

Well, my day got off to a somewhat of a bad start. Sure enough, the daily horoscope on the telly said that Libra would have the worst day today. I don't believe in horoscopes and I try to avoid them as much as I can, but my eyes unfortunately caught the very moment when the report went up. My reaction was the middle finger rose up faster than the sun.

First off, Paddy threw the e-mail equivalent of a pouting fit when he found out that we wouldn't be going to the Texas Longhorn. He said that he'd been looking forward to trying the 72-oz. steak offer; to be honest, it was possible that he may have mentioned it and my sieve-like memory didn't bother to store the information which is the only thing that prevented me from chewing into him. However, I just couldn't believe how uncharacteristically whiny he was...I mean, this is my advisor who steadily helped me with everything from my physical workout to the interior design of my cubby hole. I owe him so much so it was a bit of a shock to see him act this way. After his last e-mail, I just decided not to respond to it. A year ago, I had the same reaction to The Lawyer's multi-claused reason for refusing to come to the Ballerina's goodbye party and I just vented at the Madame via e-mail. Now, I'll just vent here...I don't want to even bother anyone about it. It's all about nothing. I'll wait til tomorrow to see if Paddy sends any more e-mail.

The Entrepreneur didn't get my bile up but he did mention about some of the crime that's been going on in Toronto. And he even sent me the address for the Metro Police Daily Crime Report. What I read was pretty depressing....muggings, swarmings, home invasions and even a few attempted murders. And I'm going back to that. Sure didn't send me off to work in a happy frame of mind.

Then over the day, I thought about the situation some more. Yes, Toronto isn't really the City of Good (if it ever was), but I remember that even during my days living there permanently that there were very much the same types of crimes going on. And I still think that Toronto is a city with one of the lowest crime rates per capita when compared to New York or Los Angeles. Tokyo and Toronto are just two different cities. Tokyo is probably the world city with the lowest crime rate; due to culture, history and multiethnicity, Toronto and just about every other city will never match Tokyo in that department. However, the reports I read are the concentrated summary of a day's crimes involving (however regrettably) a handful of people in a city of 4 million. I will look over my shoulder sensibly at night in a way that I've never really had to do here in my decade-long residence but I've got friends and family looking out for me. As for Paddy, I'll just sleep on it and then I'll send him a polite and sympathetic response telling him what is going to happen on the 19th. If he wants to come, we'll welcome him with open arms; if not, I'll just let him be.

I had my final lessons with the Class Act, SIL and the Company. I got quite a few goodies from the Lady of the House including a bottle of red wine which should come in quite handy for the Beehive Xmas party tomorrow. And I also got some pretty good-sized pickled plums which should keep Dad of the few times that I'll actually do that. And that wasn't all...the Lady served me lunch again in the form of a very large rice omelette, salad and fruits.

My lesson with SIL was fairly lively. She's gotten into the Korean boom although she's not into any of the major actors. She's actually into a boy band from South Korea...a bit of a revelation considering that she's well into middle age...but hey, anything to remain young at heart.

The Company class was merely OK. The guys slogged through the lesson but basically half of it was nattering in Japanese. I hope the Holidays spruce them up for next year.

After my day was done, I didn't immediately head home but went to Towers to try and complete a request from Egg for some CDs, I was successful in getting two of the three he wanted. I also made a somewhat quixotic attempt to find some Uncle Louis pipe tobacco for The Wild Guy who's been puffing on pipes for the last several years. I tried looking for a tobaccanist in the Hyatt and the Hilton but to no avail. But I'm not really surprised; pipe smoking isn't exactly a big activity here. Most folks are pretty loyal to the usual cigarette.

Got back home in time to see Bill Hemmer at Roppongi Hills. Whaddaya know...he was outside after all. Well, to be honest, I'm kinda glad that I didn't bother heading down. I would've just seen the back of his head. But there was some film footage of him a decade earlier in a hippie head and beard walking throughout the world...revealing considering his current New York preppy style. He strikes me as being the second evolution of John Roberts, heir to the CBS News throne but formerly rock n' roll J.D. Roberts of the New Music. So far, it's been interesting to see him talk about some of his experiences in the Big Sushi so far. He's been focusing on the more traditional parts but I hope he'll also tackle the contemporary aspects as well.

Well, less than 48 hours to go before I take off for home. I'm just gonna enjoy myself at the party tomorrow and then do some final cleaning up.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Sunday December 12, 8:41 p.m.

Coldest day of the year thus far although I think Tuesday may top..or bottom..that. Only reached a grand total of 12 degrees, and it was overcast and slightly damp.

Well, cleaned up everything as best I could except for the bedroom which looks like a closet right now. However, I kept that closed from The Stick's prying eyes and I'll clean that final part up on Tuesday after the party with the Beehive. I picked up The Stick at about 2 and brought her back to my place where we spent 3 hours alternately working on her interview and just chatting. She's an interesting dichotomy...she sometimes come across as this prim n' proper bastion of social conservatism but she often reveals a more rough n' ready tomboyish side to her through her simultaneous talking n' eating and slouching on the sofa.

I have been having a lot of e-mail over the past several hours thanks to those automated replies from the MSN Greeting Card service stating that my e-cards have been picked up by some of the local buddies here, and The Entrepreneur's multiple counterresponses to my own responses. Also, a couple of buddies have been sending me some last-minute requests for stuff. I'll try but I can't promise since I literally don't have time for any more shopping.

Well, I've got my final set of lesson plans for the year done up. All I gotta do now is just whip up some chai powder and that'll be it for me.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Saturday December 11, 9:06 p.m.

Well, I got my pizza delivered by a guy in a Santa suit. He looked rather nonplussed when I reacted to it by asking about it. The kid was pretty lanky so the suit just hung off of him. Talk about paying one's dues.

I got my Giga Meat pizza, a basket of Tater-Tots and a Caesar salad. Since I didn't really have any lunch, I was able to gobble the whole thing down without too much problem. Glad I don't have a bathroom scale, though.

Quite a bit of e-mail traffic including a letter from Egg. I hadn't heard from him for months. He's made a request for a couple of CDs. I'll try and help him out if I can although I don't think I'll have any time to check out the major CD shops in Tokyo before I take off. Then, GC had the strange request for Krispy Kreme donuts. I think that will be in the "Improbable" department.

Will probably hit the hay a bit earlier than usual for a Saturday night considering that I will have to start cleaning stuff early on Sunday. Not that I have all that much to do since I already got the bathroom cleaned up and that tatami vacuumed. Then, I have to pick up The Stick at the station later on in the afternoon. I may ask her about the tax package I got last week. I'm gonna have to pay the bills as well and pick up my contribution for the potluck Xmas party with the Beehive on Tuesday.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Saturday December 11, 1:49 p.m.

Had my final haircut of the year at the usual place. I now look properly presentable for home...aside from the spare tire. And the Chipmunk dropped by for a few minutes to give me the bankbook. I was also able to unload some stuff that I didn't need on her such as the yuzu, the spray-on cheese and one bottle of BBQ sauce. Now, the next delivery should be the air tickets within the next couple of hours.

Got a message from The Salesman just now. He's wondering when we can get together once I get back home. Looks like the social calendar is filling up nicely.

I wonder if I'll have pizza tonight...just one more pie from Dominos before I hit home.
Friday December 10, 9:12 p.m.

Still slightly stuffy but I am getting better. However,the trip for those final presents still took a lot out of me. Sure enough, the delivery guy brought the ticket over just when I was starting to teach The Teacher. However, I'm having the guy bring it over tomorrow when I'm actually home. I may have guests in the form of The Chipmunk and her hubby at the time.

Also, I finally got a response from The Stick whom I had initially contacted as a possible alternate when the juku boss turned me down. She's asked if I could help her out with her upcoming interview at the Tokyo American Club. She asked for help on Sunday, my day to do the big cleanup. Well, I'm certainly not going to cancel that for someone I haven't seen in well over a year as cold as that may sound. I don't have any other day to do it. But I did offer for her to come over my way so that I can help her out here at home. At least, she'll hopefully learn in a much cleaner environment.

"Spirited Away" is showing for the second time within a year on NTV. NTV has always been the go-to station when it comes to showing Hayao Miyazaki films, and always on Friday nights. I'm still not sure, seeing it for the first time in its entirety, that I would have been able to last through the entire thing in a theatre, but in the comfort of home, it's a lot easier to take. It does bear some similarities to "The Wizard of Oz" in terms of the fantastical nature. Hard for anyone to imagine some of the weirdest imagery to ever show in an animated feature.

Well, still gotta clean the dishes and the bathroom before I hit bed. I'm gonna try the vitamin drink treatment again and see if the cold can be totally knocked out before I head out for my haircut.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Friday December 10, 8:26 a.m.

Still feeling a bit of that cold but I'm much better than I was yesterday. Took all 3 sips of that enhanced vitamin drink (that's 136 yen a sip), medicine and then wrapped myself in a couple of layers of blankets with the electric blanket turned on. Sure enough, I started to come out of REM sleep feeling pretty sweaty and my nose was still a bit stuffy. However, the runny nose was almost gone and the stuffiness has subsided a bit. Have the heater on as well and drank down some OJ so I'm starting to come out of it. Hopefully, by midday, I should be almost back to normal. I sure hope so since I'm gonna have to head out for shopping today after my lone lesson with The Teacher.

Happily, the Chipmunk has agreed to keep an eye on the apartment while I'm gone and I will update her bankbook back in Toronto. She'll be popping by tomorrow after my visit for a haircut....which means that I'll be starting that big cleanup when I get back home today. Nothing like a visit to finally kick me into some domestic engineering. Mind you, nothing will get started until that plane ticket gets delivered. The agent told me that it will be arriving sometime this morning. I really hope he means before 10, but with my luck, I doubt it.

Some good news from Canada. It sounds like the NHL may actually reach some sort of deal with the Players Association to end the hockey strike. It'll be great timing if I can get home and watch some good ol' Maple Leaf action.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Thursday December 9, 3:05 p.m.

Well, back here a lot earlier and more empty-handed than I expected. I ended up just chatting with Jazz Buddy which was just as well, since I now have a full-fledged cold. A dose of medicine, a bottle of vitamin drink and tons of tissue couldn't fight this bug so I've had to cancel my lesson with The Carolinan and cancel the latter half of my Xmas shopping. In fact, just got a call from her right now. She sounded somewhat disappointed which doesn't improve my feelings but from previous experience, I would've been even more miserable if I'd gone ahead and tried to teach the lesson tonight. My nose is still dripping like a leaky faucet. I guess the shopping will have to wait til tomorrow at least.

The Chipmunk contacted me to see if I could update her bankbook in Canada. Then, it dawned on me that she lives even closer than my juku boss. The boss had to reject my request of checking on the apartment since she has to take care of her ailing father. If she can do it, I'd be very grateful.

Well, since I'm homebound for the rest of the day, I'll probably hop into the futon and rest up some before dinner. Just hope that I don't have to cancel on The Teacher either.
Wednesday December 8, 10:25 p.m.

I finally got my gym workout in. I was rather relieved that I actually registered the same weight that I did last time...even with that huge ingestion of the ribs at Tony Romas on Sunday. However, after all the stuff I did today, I didn't even lose half a kilo.

After the gym, I went out to KFC for the first time in a while. And I realized why I don't go there much. I paid quite a bit more for their set than I do at McDs or Wendys. Plus, the lunch there probably didn't help the results of my workout since the chicken had enough oil to make OPEC swoon.

Had my final lessons of the year with The Hawaiian and The OL. The former will send me a letter to check over. It's supposed to head for a prospective homestay organization. I kinda told her about the instability in quality control when it came to homestay families since I don't think a lot of governments regulate them. She knew quite well the trials and tribulations of potluck homestay. One family she stayed several years ago gave her just a piece of toast for dinner. Bloody scumbags. Over the years, I've heard my share of wonderful host families and just the opposite via various students and friends.

The OL was almost a half-hour late but I wasn't too miffed since she has earned my trust. And besides, the lesson was quite fun. Looks like her company will be having its 2nd annual etiquette training thanks to the JAL Training Academy.

I had to send my regrets to one of PH's gang who is planning a year-end party. When I saw the cost of going there and thought about the fact that it was going to be one of those huge affairs, I decided to pull out. However, I did get the official invitation from The Quarterback for his wedding in February and I'll be giving him my confirmation. Also, although I did tell PH that I really couldn't help out with her request to transport some stuff for her back to Canada, she was still kinda trying to subtly push the issue with some more goods of her own. Well, I won't be at the party so she'll have to deal with it somehow. I'm gonna be grumbly enough just lugging my own stuff to the airport.

PH did tell me that CNN's Bill Hemmer won't be doing any remote broadcasting from Roppongi Hills from Monday. He'll just be reporting from within the TV-Asahi HQ, so I just relayed the abort order to Arwen. At least, I can save myself the extra time and head home straight after the final class with The Company. That is, if the Prez doesn't decide to invite me out for another dinner. I do hope I can get paid.

The big news tonight is that those ashes of the supposedly late Megumi Yokota, the largest-profile abductee to North Korea 30 almost 30 years ago, turned out to be bogus. You can imagine the rage that seethed out of her parents who have spearheading the effort to get the abductees out of Kimland. The government is now considering economic sanctions although when it comes to North Korea, any sort of belligerent action has to be applied very, very carefully. In related news, Charles Jenkins and the family are now starting their long-awaited life of relative normalcy on Sado Island. All of the members gave some words and I even heard the two daughters speak for the first time in Japanese. To a lot of the people here, this family could be considered to be this country's version of The Incredibles.

Looks like I'm coming down with a cold according to my stuffy nose and slightly phlegmy throat. I was thinking of buying one of those ubiquitious vitamin drinks and imbibing it before bedtime and see if those rumours pan out but couldn't find one so I'll just use the regular medicine and hope for the best. I've got Jazz Buddy and The Carolinan tomorrow. Not sure if the session with JB will be another chatfest but I'll have something ready.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Tuesday December 7, 10:42 p.m.

Visited the neighbourhood massage clinic for the first time in 3 weeks. As usual, the tech mentioned how petrified my shoulders felt although I'm not sure if that's what the staff is supposed to say to a customer. Still, I enjoyed the rubdown although those who are more accustomed to the Swedish style may find the Japanese version akin to torture.

Ended up rearranging my CDs instead of heading out to the gym so I will definitely have to head out tomorrow morning before I have The Hawaiian and the OL for their final classes of the year. The juku classes were OK although I wonder if I committed a social faux pas in front of the Beauty Pair. They had come back from their trek to Cancun and Vegas with a souvenir in the form of a box of Kahlua chocolates. I actually offered to share the box with the ladies since I'd thought that they would enjoy trying them out. I'm not sure but I may have at least surprised them by my "offer"; I remembered too late that souvenirs here are usually meant for the recipient and the recipient only since it is a gift. Their initial reaction was a bit of hesitance but they accepted the offer. On the other hand, Japanese etiquette has been loosening up over the past few years and gift-giving hasn't had quite the gravitas that it had, so it could be another case of paranoia.

I got the fax from my ticket agent so I quickly sent the money over. So hopefully that ticket will be here within the next few days.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Tuesday December 7, 9:11 a.m.

Well, it's 63 years since Pearl Harbour. Not that the anniversary will get much press here. Maybe the right-wing fanatics will celebrate, though. Speaking of those nuts, I wonder how they're feeling about this current love affair with all things Korean. Some of them have got to be steaming.

My day got off to an annoying start. Was doing my laundry when the entire box of detergent fell over. However, I didn't pull a tantrum; I just pulled out the ol' vacuum and sucked the fine powder up and back into the box. However, let's say that there are a few extra strands of hair. Perhaps, it wouldn't pass muster if it were food but since detergent is clean anyways...

PH contacted me to see if I'd be willing to serve as courier for some toys. I first thought NO WAY, but the pesky spirit of Xmas infected me so I told her that I would with a caveat...if the toys are just a couple of figures.
Monday December 6, 8:49 p.m.

My day turned out to be shorter than expected when one of the students at the Company called up this morning to inform me that class had to be cancelled. Apparently, both guys were out on assignments.

And even The Class Act was halved. The woman of the house was out on some sort of errand so I just taught...or chatted, to be more accurate...her partner. Gabbed a lot on the ups and downs of her family. SIL did show up, though.

I was able to develop those photos from the Xmas party and the outing to Namjatown. Some winners in there. I was tempted to get the Shrek 2 and Spidey 2 DVDs but I figured there was a small chance that I might get either or both of them as Xmas presents so I held off. Besides why increase my expenditures unnecessarily? Even if I don't get them for Xmas, I'll grab them once I get back from Canada.

Speaking of...I got the call from the travel agent and everything is pretty much confirmed. I just have to wire the money this week and then the ticket will be in my hands soon after. Also, I made my bimonthly appointment at the hair salon for Saturday. Want to get that out of the way.

Tomorrow will be only the juku classes so I've basically got the whole day free. I had been thinking about finally catching Sky Captain but the movie won't be playing at the neighbourhood theatre until late Tuesday. Plus, when I checked exit polls for the movie at the TokyoWalker site, it didn't look too good. So I think I'll probably wait for the flick to come out on DVD. Well, in any case, I've gotta send out The Iconoclast's package, then get a long-awaited rubdown and perhaps even get some shopping done before one of my last workouts before I take off.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Sunday December 5, 10:21 p.m.

A little more than 12 hours after the last party fest, I was out to meet another bunch. The morning, though, had quite a bit of Sturm und Drang in the weather department. A lot of wind and rain were blowing through my area...I wondered if my laundry pole was gong to fly off at one point. And the early morning subways were canned for a while. However, by the time I left the apartment, it was downright warm at 24 C...kinda Indian summer for a day.

Met up with Skippy, Movie Buddy, The Hawaiian and Frodo at the east gate of JR Shinjuku and bought our tickets at the discount shop before having a bit of lunch at an Italian place just a few dozen metres away from the theatre. Actually, we needn't have worried about any lineups for The Incredibles. Looks like everyone else and his brother were lining up for Howl's Moving Castle, the latest Miyazaki opus. Good for us...I never really could get myself to actually pay up the money for one of his movies; just a bit too esoteric for me.

The Incredibles was simply incredible. It was an amazing marriage of CG and superhero action, and somehow they were able to incorporate likeable characters and humour. Critics on the other side of the Pacific noted that the first hour was the slightly laggy one, while one wag over here thought that the second hour was the one to let down the side with the so-called mindless action (the guy probably just LOVES Ingmar Bergman). For me, it was all good. I never thought I'd start a sentence with "Craig T. Nelson IS..." but he is indeed Bob Parr. I think it will be inevitable that a sequel will be coming around.

I underestimated the length of the movie by about half an hour which actually turned out to be fortunate since I'd been a bit concerned that I made the reservations for Tony Romas a bit too late after the movie. The subway and the walk to the restaurant got us in there right on time. DTE was already there waiting for us. And Arwen, and later Miss 88 with her new beau, and even another old alumnus joined us. I once again showed off my new nickname of Mr. Incredible by devouring the LARGE rack of baby backs along with a salad, Irish Coffee and some good spoonfuls of the brownie. I should be gaining weight even before heading home. Found out that Skippy is the second alumnus to make into the media although unlike our French nudie model, she kept her clothes on. Apparently, she was able to get her pic into an advert for our school. Also, Arwen has got herself a couple of part-time jobs. I told her about that Bill Hemmer, that CNN guy, is coming here next week for that weeklong stint at Roppongi Hills. I've decided to ask PH to see if she could find out from her TV Asahi friend, whose company is a CNN affiliate, if Bill would be broadcasting outside. Apparently, Arwen has a certain amount of like for the man and I'm just interested in the celeb factor of catching him at work, so perhaps the two of us may traipse down to the Hills after work on the 13th.

Still gotta prep for tomorrow's lessons. Would rather hit the sack right now but considering how much I've eaten, I probably shouldn't do so for a couple of hours.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Saturday December 4, 11:42 p.m.

Well, as expected, it was a long day with the kids at school. I was in full Santa gear and my co-hosts were in their reindeer hats as the annual Xmas party got into full gear. There was a smaller turnout this year than in previous parties since this year's crop is smaller to begin with and also since a number of the students just couldn't make it. However, what was lacking in the turnout department was compensated by the enthusiasm from the kids in terms of the games which were wild and woolly. The reindeer thought up of a game of stacking cans within 45 seconds which brought the animal from everyone especially from the Dollface.

Afterwards, it was about an hour just hanging in the school lounge before we headed out for our second party at the nearby izakaya for a few hours. All went pretty well except for a few minutes at the end when Bruno, one of our teachers, got a bit too antsy from too much drink and scared a few of our students. Luckily, somehow, the kids managed to ditch him and we ended up going to another drinking joing just down the street for another couple of hours. By that time, I was pretty exhausted but I still managed to keep a good face on things. The talk was initially on how surprisingly boorish Bruno acted near the end but things calmed down. In the States, his behaviour probably wouldn't have gotten a second glance and if he were Japanese, the same would have been true here but unfortunately since he is not Japanese and he usually doesn't act that way in class, he stood out like a sore thumb. He's a pretty nice guy so I'm hoping that all will be forgotten by the New Year.

Things finally broke up around 10:30, some 10.5 hours after things got started so I'm rather glad to get home. I just cannot do those long nights out that I used to do back home a decade or so ago anymore. Mind you, I have another long day tomorrow with the previous year's group to catch The Incredibles and then Tony Romas. I hope the weather clears up by the time I get to Shinjuku since it's raining steadily now.

There was talk about having a drinking party at one of the teacher's houses, and my place was brought up. I warned that my little hut was pretty cramped and messy, but in truth, I wouldn't mind having some visitors over again. But it'll probably have to wait until the kids graduate since I really can't invite the whole kit and kaboodle; just the ones who remain in contact.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Friday December 3, 8:54 p.m.

Another exhausting day today. I figure that I'm unconsciously so diligent about keeping a good rapport with the customers that I just expend a ton of energy. Well, at least it's nice to know that I'm losing calories even without going to the gym.

My lesson with The Teacher was another laugh-filled one. I got a bit of a surprise when one of the people at the adjoining table called my name. It just happened to be another one of the former students from the school. She dropped out halfway through. However, she's kept in good contact with The Songbird and even asked for my particulars.

Tried to look for some more Xmas presents but nada. So I ended up dropping in at the school where the kids were having their last official day before breaking up for the Holidays. Actually, several of them will be having semi-private lessons over the next couple of weeks. I sent off a message over to the Scheduler to see if I could get in on some of the action, but sure enough, I haven't heard a thing.

SR and I had another long chat at the Tea Room. Looks like she's having the usual gripes at work about her neer-do-well supervisor. It'll be the last time I see her this year since she'll be too busy with the accounts next week.

Got back home and had my dinner. Checked out the current crisis about that Morning Musume who strayed from the straight and narrow. Seems like things are starting to subside as the reality of her new persona non grata status is developing. On the main music show tonight, the group appeared, happy as usual, without the young lady in question. Nobody batted an eye, nobody whispered a word...WA was maintained and so shall it be.

SPIDERMAN is making its TV premiere right now on NTV, ostensibly to commemorate the release of its sequel on DVD today. I may be picking up the 2-pack back home.

Well, tomorrow will be the big Xmas party. My Santa suit is ready to go, but I do have to wash the beard tonight. Could be another long day.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Thursday December 2, 10:06 p.m.

Had that lesson with Jazz Buddy this morning. Instead of our usual Starbucks, she took me to Haiti, a cafe a few hundred metres down the road which also boasts some spicy curry fare. She was yawning a lot thanks to her typical lack of sleep but she did get rather animated again when talking about her sister from Hell. Looks like next week's chatfest will also be "on the road" as well. A bit more quieter, though. We'll just be moving over to the local Tullys for cocoa.

Then I headed back to the school and waited an hour before we launched the 2nd annual trip to Namjatown for the food tour. There were about 7 of us and we first hit the Gyoza Stadium where we picked different restaurants to amass a bunch of gyoza to compare and eat. Once that was done, we went upstairs to the Roll Cake Exhibition. We found some interesting stands over there including one that was hawking a new confection "invented" by current flavour-of-the-year celeb Aya Ueto, a standing roll cake surrounded by sliced strawberries and topped off by a cream-filled shell. Not bad, if I may say so myself. I also decided to get another piece of roll cake in the form of a fruity one. While we were all noshing away, one of our number, The Dollface, started gabbing about one of her classmates who wasn't with us. Our absent member usually comes off as a rather quiet sort but in reality she seems to have quite an active sex life according to what she's blurted out in class. The Dollface was more than happy to relay some of that news to me.

Finally, our last stop was Ice Cream City. The Blue Seal stand was no longer there so we couldn't try the bucket, but we all sampled a lot of other stands. So after 4 hours, we were pretty much done. Now, it's just the big Xmas party that's next up. It'll be nice to have a day to recuperate.

Got home and made the reservations at Tony Romas. Then I did my usual lurking at the J-Pop forum. One facet certainly exploded into a ton of chatter over the past 24 hours. Apparently, one of the founding members of the girl group, Morning Musume, was discovered to have plagiarized some material for her book of poetry. And as a result, she's been officially suspended and ostracized from all activity for at least the next couple of months. It certainly didn't help that she was one of the most popular of the girls. The folks from all over the planet were just nattering away at this major crisis. My take on it is that, yep, the girl screwed up..but she's only in her early twenties and she'll recover easily enough. She's apologized and now she's taking the rap.

Well, it's been a long day and I've got two lessons tomorrow so it's time to pack it in.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Wednesday December 1, 10:04 p.m.

Started the day off with that long trip to the tax office. Gave my new roachkillers a test run. Sure enough, they initially fit quite well but then the blister spots started happening. I think I should have them broken in by the weekend.

Well, what can I say about the visit to the tax office? I'm glad that I got it out of the way. The Ichikawa City Tax Office is located in a non-descript neighbourhood. The square building kinda sticks out like a shiny block in an area of old stores and bars. As I said, I'm glad I got the visit out of the way; that's really all I could say. I got this half-hour spiel by an obviously dedicated officer of the government who plied me with a lot of paperwork. I could only understand 20% of what he said but that was enough for me to get the gist of it. I will try and get further clarification from my students or friends. The overall message is that I probably will have a lot of paperwork to do that will make the usual tax filings in Canada look like a cakewalk. No wonder entrepreneurship is so low in this country. A person would rather stay a cog in a huge company and have its accounting division take care of the gory details than take care of it himself.

I didn't have a whole heck of a lot of time before my lesson with The Aunt so I just went over to the station closest to the teaching site and ended up having another Mac lunch. One thing about eating at McDs. I can have the Big Mac set and within a few seconds of wolfing it down, I can still walk away and go off without getting any sort of tummyache. Not sure if that's necessarily a good thing but when one's in a hurry...

Not sure either if the lesson with the Aunt will continue on after today. Oh, it went better with the structure but she's off on her New Zealand trip next week and so I won't see her again for the remainder of the year. Basically, she was just looking for travel English. However, I still appreciate the referral by The Hawaiian. She was her usual reliable self.

I headed back down to Toranomon for The OL's regular lesson. I was a bit surprised when she gave me a block of kamaboko, or fish cake. She'd gone to a nice hot spring trip over the weekend with 8 of her buddies and it was a souvenir. Looks like that outing to the Chinese place will be postponed til the New Year since Betty Boop won't be available this month.

Got home and I shouldn't have done it but I still got a bit of dinner despite the fact I'd had a sandwich at Starbucks. Some cravings you just can't escape. When I turned on the telly, I found the first of the video signs that the year is nigh. The annual Fuji TV song festival celebrating this year's hits was on live from the Takanawa Prince Hotel. One surprise was seeing Beyonce of Destiny's Child in the dining hall. I can only wonder what she must think of some of the acts. Activate plastic smile. Also, there was quite the heavy Korean influence reflecting how big the Korean boom has been here over the past several months. It's almost as if the Korean singers are part of the regular Japanese talent crop. And the annual Red N' White show will have a few Korean singers on as well. This couldn't have been imagined a few years ago.

I also got a surprise call from Skippy since it was her first one. She was her usual dandy self. Her trip to Paris was very Amelie-like; she even visited Montmartre where the movie had been filmed. She also experience that bugbear of travel...she got pickpocketed on the subway. She put on her sad voice then but quickly rebounded back to happy-go-lucky once more. You could probably run her down with a car, she'll still have the smile on her face. Well, I still like her regardless.

Only have the Jazz Buddy tomorrow morning. We're supposed to head over to a different venue for a change of pace although I'm not sure if that will improve her English any. Then, I start that field trip with the schoolkids to Namjatown. Should make for an interesting report tomorrow night.

That last mass mailing to the gang finally brought out Chip Guy after several months of non-communication. And then the plans for us to head out to my favourite Tex-Mex place back home got him hooked.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Wednesday December 1, 8:48 a.m.

Looks like my occasional missive to the folks here and abroad. Got a few more replies to it than usual when I told everyone about the fact that one of my old students became a centrefold, so to speak. I rather noticed that the women didn't respond, though, heheheheh.

Had my first workout at the gym in well over a week. Not too bad but I did gain a kilo initially. I'm just wondering what the Holidays will mean for me in terms of dieting. What am I saying? Dieting is a four-letter word during Xmas.

And it seems that I've finally things locked down for the group gathering on the 5th for The Incredibles. Now, it's just waiting for everyone to confirm.

Well, I gotta start my day by heading out to the tax office out in the mos inconvenient of places (have to travel to Moto-Yawata Station and then walk 15 minutes to the office) to pick up my personal income tax form. I had put it off twice but I cannot really do it anymore. Then I've got The Aunt and The Hawaiian and the OL.

I see that George Bush is getting a very frosty welcome in The Great White North. Nice to see and hear.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Monday November 29, 10:27 p.m.

Quite a butt-kicking start to my day this morning. I went to the convenience store near my place to do some copying for my lesson when I picked up one of the usual tabloids to wile away the time as the copier was doing its thing. I came across the usual nudies pages when I saw one young lady who seemed rather familiar as she was posing in various pretzel-like posees with very little or no clothing on. Then I came across the name,and my eyes almost fell out! The very bare lass happened to be one of our old students from the school from a number of years ago.

I always had a feeling that something like this would happen but it was more in the way of some student hitting the big time on stage or on TV or on the CD shelves. And actually, one of our former staff members actually did release an album not too long ago, but I digress. Our former student was one of our more vivacious types during her year with us. Half-French, half-Japanese...she was turned out like an Asian Brigitte Bardot. She certainly had a very strong side to her but she was a good student even though her rather raunchy taste in clothing made her look like a BAD student, if you know what I mean. Well, since her days with us, she's managed to pop on the TV a number of times as a model and even had a stint on an NHK program for a while. Well, from that program to this centerfold stint was a pretty drastic change in direction. This is news that I should let the DJ know since he's the only other teacher left who may have known her.

The rest of my day was rather mundane in comparison. I had my lessons and I continued my Xmas shopping between classes. Even my Company class went pretty well today. I did have that dinner at the sushi place tonight but found out that my coupon was only for a couple and I had to spend at least 3000 yen. Well, at least I didn't have to pay too much.

Got my second bereavement notice in as many weeks. The first one came from my uncle who informed me that his mother-in-law had passed away this year. So according to Japanese tradition, I am not to send any New Year's card to his family. And then, the second one was from the husband of that former student of mine who so suddenly passed on recently. I'm starting to feel that I should send some sort of letter to him to let him know how wonderful his wife was.

In any case, I still have a number of things to do before I hit the hay.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Monday November 29, 8:07 a.m.

Well, my night last night was spent making my 7th Xmas compilation tape in the last 14 years. At least you can't say it's a run-of-the-mill hobby. I always combine some of the usual regulars like Bing, Tony and Frank with a lot of the J-Pop singers. Yes, believe it or not, I think every J-Pop singer no matter their length of time in the limelight has put out at least one Xmas song. They can be covers of the traditionals such as "Chestnuts Roasting Over An Open Fire" or "White Christmas"; but a lot of the stuff are original compositions with that heavy hint of Kringle. Of course, being heavily non-Christian over here, the originals are more on the Santa side of things than on the Jesus side.

It's kinds weird how the J-Pop industry has been embracing Xmas all these years. As I said, it takes on the Santa and fun aspect of things since the Yuletide is taken on more like New Years in America, namely it's one of the biggest party nights of the year. The basic themes of the Xmas songs are almost enka-like. They usually deal with having tons of fun or about a couple which has either gotten together or broken up on the 24th. The most famous J-Pop Xmas song, or the equivalent of "White Christmas", is Tatsuro Yamashita's "Christmas Eve". It was made all the way back in 1982 but it would be another several years before it became a huge hit when the song was used as the jingle (no pun intended) for Japan Railways. And then for another several years, it would be the de rigeur song every December. I think the song has kinda faded somewhat since the newer generation is embracing more recent Xmas pop fare from the latest musicians. I took a look through a thread on the JPop forum...the one dealing with winter songs...virtually all of the songs the kids mentioned are within the last few years. No mention at all of ol' Tatsuro.

Well, I got word from GC that he got back from his vacation. Looks like he took Northwest according to his connecting hub and the fact that his plane was grounded for repairs. He's ready to housesit for me. And the juku boss was kind enough to volunteer to look in on the place periodically.

Off to work I go in another hour or so. It'll be a slog for the first half of the week but the latter half should be fun with a couple of those get-togethers.
Sunday November 28, 7:27 p.m.

My Xmas shopping officially began today. I was armed with my gift certificates and headed down to the Ginza. After searching around the various department stores, I could find the calendars down in the B2 of Matsuzakaya. Still, I blew some more money on CDs today at the nearby Yamano Music. Ginza certainly looked to be in the Xmas spirit. A lot of decorations have been put up and the stores were doing volume business.

After my brief but intense outing, I came back home and ended up eating at the Chinese family restaurant, Bamiyan. I was going to go to the kaiten armed with my 10% off coupon but seeing that there was absolutely no one inside, I decided to hold off and went across the street instead. I hadn't been to Bamiyan in a very long time although the place has been up for several years. The big reason was that my ex, being a nutritionist, had a major disdain for anything that smelled of family restaurant. Not having had any lunch, I managed to engorge myself on their fare and even top it all off with a Haagen-Daas Apple Pie Ice Cream. I did forget to buy a new pair of shoes, though. My only other window of opportunity will be on Tuesday between my lesson in Tsudanuma and the gym.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Saturday November 27, 9:00 p.m.

Ended up having my final class with the sisters this morning. Next week, I've got the school Xmas party and the mother had to can the 11th as the final day due to the end-of-year PTA meeting. I was lucky to get a goodly number of gift certificates at any of the old department stores so that could bring down my Xmas shopping expenses by quite a long as calendars are sold there.

Since I had to hang around in the area before my second lesson with the Aunt, I just did lunch at McDonalds. I could've done it at the family restaurant where I would teach her but I think that would've been a bit too much in the guilt category for me. 90 minutes later, she showed up at the cafe. The lesson was OK but seemed a bit haphazard due to her relentless questions and the fact that I didn't really have anything in terms of structured materials aside from a couple of photocopies of menus. We were focusing on ordering in English.

Was feeling understandably tired so I was sleeping a bit on the subway. And by the time I picked up the groceries for dinner, the last of the sun slipped behind the horizon. One thing about this country; we don't need to slip back an hour to lose sunlight early.

Actually was able to clean up the living room lickety-split so it looks almost passable. Should be pretty messy by Monday, though. I saw on the news that Charles Jenkins got out of his little vacation in the stockade. Now, 40 years of desertion have been swept aside so that he can live the rest of his life with his family on Sado Island.He said that he would like to visit America just one more time, but I kinda wonder what his reception would be like over there knowing how much the military is woven into life in the States. I'd think he would be lustily booed at the very least...and I'm sure a lot of the veterans are slapping themselves upside the head at the very light slap on the wrist Jenkins got. However, on this side of the Pacific, he is being welcomed with open arms. A lot of it is due to his wife, Hitomi Soga, one of the former North Korean abductees; another part is the unpopularity of the US military in places like Okinawa.

Well, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" slipped in here under the radar behind the more heavily hyped "The Polar Express". Gwyneth and Jude did come over this past week to do their duty and promote the flick but I'm not quite sure how their latest movie together will play here. I may have to catch it soon if I don't want to miss it. Tomorrow will be my only opportunity to catch it for the next several days. However, I also have my Xmas shopping to launch. I was thinking of just keeping it close to home but I think I'll probably head out to Ginza and see what I can come up with with those gift certificates. I will definitely take my time getting up tomorrow.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Friday November 26, 10:00 p.m.

Aghhh...after the help that Paddy had given me, my computer has gone on the fritz again. I feel like I'm back to my ol' dial-up days.

It was nice getting back to teaching the kids again. Good to get into the banter. Looks like there will be a good number for both the field trip next Thursday and the Xmas party next Saturday.

I met The Bohemian in Suidobashi today. We ended up going to EN in Shibuya since we couldn't really find a decent place in the neighbourhood. We got there early enough so we could get a couple of hours drinking and eating, but by the end, the waiter was getting a bit antsy for us to go. I was happy to hear that The B may finally be getting a romantic interest.

Well, back to prepping for tomorrow's lessons.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Friday November 26, 8:25 a.m.

The heartthrob of Japanese hausfraus everywhere, Paik Yon Joon, touched down at Narita yesterday to the screams of 3500. The media said that it was a new record for a welcoming committee (if you can call a whole bunch of middle-aged women going crazy in front of you a welcoming committee) at the airport, but I'd heard that Joon's last arrival attracted 5000! Or was that just a bit of advertising hyperbole? I can only guess that this year will be known as the Year of Korea in Japan.

Thursday November 25, 10:52 p.m.

Well, a month to go before Christmas, and the lights and trees are up. The Xmas CDs are selling and next week, the end-of-year party season is upon us.

Jazz Buddy had a lot to say today which was good. I found out that she had already been to the New York Grill with her Mom so that pretty much takes out the surprise element of going there. Ah, well. However, I did promise to lend her my DVDs of Chicago and Airplane; one for the ragtime jazz and the other for the wild and comedic aspects.

After her lesson, I walked over to the neighbourhood branch of Maharajah for lunch. As I was tucking into my Tandoori Grill Special, the manager of the restaurant seemed to have been venting in his own language at some folks...couldn't tell if they were just friends or business associates. In any case, it didn't get so heated to ruin my dining pleasure...and yes it was pleasurable.

Then I crossed the bridge where I plopped down my money at Kinokuniya and bought that second book of Peanuts. Still don't regret it. Next, I took the Oedo all the way to Shiodome and spent about a couple of hours on that scavenger hunt for Shard and my brother. Couldn't see hide nor hair of that peach wine my sister-in-law likes, and that Namiki pen at Ito-Ya costs about the same as your usual fairly nice suit.

I didn't go entirely empty-handed, though. I did buy an enka tape for Dad and even splurged to get the latest new J-Pop Xmas song hit by the comedy duo Downtown called "Chicken Rice". Yah, the title does evoke all that is festive, doesn't it? Well, the song sounds nice and Christmas-y; it was written by popmeister Noriyuki Makihara.

I then hopped the train over one stop to Daimon where I searched for that Chinese dumpling restaurant that the Class Act had recommended. It took a few minutes but I found it. Yes, it is small but we can get in there. However, Betty Boop replied to say that she's on overtime all the way deep into December so she's out of the equation. I just wonder if that means The OL is out as well. Well, I'll still go by myself.

I made my final stop at the Tea Room where I had my usual dinner of tuna fish sandwiches and fruit punch before The Carolinan came in. That Carolinan certainly has an interesting angle to her. She not only remarked that I'd gained weight the last time we met, but she gives me a Xmas ornament and a can of spray-on cheese as souvenirs from Hawaii. Go figure. I've gotta find some cheap crackers to match it. Well, the good intentions were there. Her time there was only half-fun. Apparently, she has a pretty weak stomach when it comes to cars and boats.

Well, tomorrow is that trip to the Tax Office to pick up my income tax form and then it's off to the school for the final class of 2004. Finally, I meet up with The Bohemian for dinner. Still, I've got things to finish off before I hit the hay tonight. I'll probably have to at least look at Saturday's classes since I may be with The Bohemian for a while on Friday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thursday November 25, 7:38 a.m.

A bit of activity over the electronic ether since my last entry. First off, The Bohemian gave me a rare contact over the Messenger. Apparently, he's back in town to check a job placement centre in Suidobashi on Friday so he asked if I were free for dinner. Well, I had planned on for my sole outing to the gym for the week. Looks like it'll be a gymless week then. Friends or the gym? The decision was easy.

Plus, this morning, I got word from The Tomboy that she did get my message. Good, now I can find about numbers for this Namjatown trip tomorrow.

I'm currently listening to this Lambert, Hendricks & Ross CD that I got a few days ago at Tower. L, H & R were this jazz group that perfected the art of vocalese almost half a century ago. I've read about them and I have their charmingly warped take on "Deck The Halls". Some wags have taken down groups like The Manhattan Transfer down a few pegs by comparing them to the majesty of this group. L, H & R are certainly virtuosos in their craft, I'll have to admit, but a few of the tracks do sound as if the wordsmiths were pretty desperate in setting the lyrics to music and not that successful. But then again, that's not the real point of vocalese anyways. It's really to marvel how accurately the the trio can match, note by note, the dulcet tones of jazz instruments.
Wednesday November 24, 10:09 p.m.

As I had predicted in my last entry, I'm pretty exhausted. However, the day of four lessons went pretty well. And there were some nice culinary dividends.

Between the Class Act and SIL, the lady of the house was very generous to offer me lunch since I only had an hour between lessons. So she whipped up some yakisoba with a rice ball and some fresh fruits. I got this after the snacks we usually get during the lesson. Plus, the lady gave me a canister of Neiman-Marcus Chocolate Covered Potato Chips. Not as gross as I'd thought. Actually, the chocolate is so overwhelming that I can barely feel the crispiness of the potato chip buried inside. Should make for good show n' tell at the school on Friday.

Mind you, on the way to the Class Act's lesson, I thought I was headed for a rather lousy day. At one of the stations, a young woman collapsed on the platform which delayed things for the subway so I had to transfer to the Oedo Line which meant that I was 5 minutes late for the lesson. Of course, the ladies took it all in stride.

After SIL, I rushed up to see The Hawaiian. I asked her to guess about the canister. She pegged it right away as the chocolate-covered chips since she had been wondering whether to get that exact product or the chocolate-covered macadamia nuts in Hawaii. She chose the latter.

I rushed down to get to the Starbucks for my usual lesson with The OL. Since I was a few minutes late, The OL was actually already there; the first time that she has actually preceded me in our 18 months together. It certainly looks like the staffs at the various cafes where I teach have considered me a regular. They now greet me as an equal and ask me if I'll be having the usual. Ahhh...nice to be appreciated.

During OL's lesson, she told me that she'd spoken with Betty Boop and found out about my offer of taking them for Chinese dumplings at the place that The Class Act had recommended a few weeks ago. At first, I thought it was going to fall through since the weekends from now til my departure are all booked up for the OL. However, I offered to make our last lesson the visit to the Daimon restaurant. She looked much more hopeful then so now I'm hoping that it'll be OK with BB.

So, back home, I found a rare fax sent to me. It was from The Tomboy, the current student at the school who'll be helping me with this trip to Namjatown next Thursday as well as with the Xmas party on the 4th. It looks like there was a glitch in my response to her; it never got to her so she sent her questions again by fax paper this time. I sent another response to her other, hopefully more stable, address with a CC to the Coordinator. Let us hope that she gets it this time.

Also, it looks like I may be on a scavenger hunt for both my brother and Shard. My brother wants me to check out for this special bottle of Peach Wine that his wife had tasted at the Ginza Tobu Hotel some years ago. Plus, Shard was asking about these pens made by a company called Namiki. On a more disturbing note, it's possible that my package to Bro that I'd sent a few weeks earlier may be MIA. SIGH. My only hope is that the post office guy had stated that it would get there somewhat later than usual.3 weeks is starting to press things.

My brother also informed me that a friend of the family had passed away recently. I'd known him since I was a baby and the last time I'd seen him was at my brother's wedding a few years ago. He had kids which we knew back then. It does bring home the fact that our parents are entering that final stage.

Well, being the end of the year, NHK has just announced the lineup for the big Red & White Song Festival. They've got quite a few young acts up although I think the show is really only seen by the older generation or some very lonely, lonely folks. I'll have to check out the J-Pop website to see the reaction. All these guys from all over the world didn't seem too impressed by last year's show.

Tomorrow shouldn't be as hectic as today. I've got Jazz Buddy; I've gotta tell her about my recon to the Park Hyatt on Monday. And then I have the Carolinan. I think we may be gabbing a bit on her trip to Hawaii last week. In between lessons, I may give an advance trip to Namjatown just to make sure everything is OK on that end.

I got word from Skippy after her trip to Paris. She had a great time as expected. And she's also looking forward to the 5th.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Wednesday November 24, 7:45 a.m.

Well, one month to Xmas Eve. Hopefully by this time next month, I'll be back in Canada getting as stuffed as the turkey that will be popping out the next day. Unless there's some sudden notice from them, I don't think there'll be any special guests for Xmas day from among the students this year. Not that my Dad would feel disappointed...the last guy I had over didn't impress him at all. He was a bit of a doofus.

Yesterday being Labour Thanksgiving, I had the entire day off to luxuriate in late sleeping and then going through the whole 6 hours of ENTERPRISE that The Entrepreneur was so kind in taping for me. It's a testament to the improvement of the series that I riffed through the entire tape in a day. Not sure if it's too little, too late although I heard that the Brent Spiner appearances have already spiked the ratings for the show.

Heard from The Iconoclast for the first time in a while. Looks like I may have to send official word pretty soon about my return since he and The Anime King have both asked about it. I just hope that that Osakan travel agent that PH recommended did make the booking.

The police are still on the manhunt for a psycho who murdered a little girl in Nara last week. There didn't even seem to be any attempt at any sexual abuse; he apparently killed her as soon as he kidnapped her from her neighbourhood. What's worse is that he taunted the parents by sending over a picture of her dead body and the message "I've got your daughter!" over her own cellphone. KILL THE BASTARD, I say.

Well, in contrast to yesterday's rest-easy kind of day, I've got a pretty full slate of work today. I've got the Class Act, SIL, The Hawaiian and The OL. I'll be one exhausted teacher again by tonight.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Monday November 22, 10:36 p.m.

Well, I did it. I went off to that Creambath Ebisu place that SR recommended me. It's actually not too far from PH's apartment. I wonder if she knows about it.

I was planning on going there later in the afternoon but my gym trip was suddenly curtailed when I saw a rather large metal curtain where a gym was supposed to be. Then I realized that the gym is usually closed on the 3rd Monday. Bad timing. With tomorrow a national holiday and then Wed. and Thurs. being busy with classes, I now only have Friday as the week's physical workout day. Ah well. In any case, I decided to head down to Ebisu a bit ahead of schedule.

Perhaps a bit too early. Even though the pamphlet said that the Balinese spa was open at 11 and despite the fact that I arrived there at 11:30, I only saw a closed door and some bemused staff people walking in. The manager, with a veneer of politeness, asked me if I had an appointment. When I replied in the negative, she then asked me for my name and then told me to come back at 12. Well, I felt a bit snubbed so I trudged off to the local Wendys for an early lunch before returning.

And as I did so, I was accosted by a world of bamboo, exotic music, heavy incense and pretty Japanese women in Balinese outfits and sandals. And here I was standing in my usual "Will-Teach-For-Food" outfit. I'm pretty sure that a couple of the female staff must've thought that it was INDEED a Monday when they saw me. However, the one who ended up massaging me kindly showed me the course description although I knew what I wanted thanks to SR's description. It cost me 6,825 yen up front for the Quick Course and a 10-minute arm/hand/neck massage option. Boy, I hope this is good, I thought.

The young lady escorted me to a bamboo room and asked me to strip to my voluminous waist (no, the workouts haven't quite licked that yet) and put on a short terrycloth robe. Once I did so, I was once again escorted to the sink area and my treatment began. She started washing my hair like I was at my bimonthly haircut. However, when she engaged in a 10-minute scalp rubdown session, I turned into butter and her hands were the flame. Oooooh, yeah! For a lady who looked like she wasn't even of drinking age, she had hands which could coax blood from a stone.

Step Two was even better. I was taken back to my room where she seated me and then threw on a whole goop of white aloe vera lotion all over my head. I felt like I was a victim of a drive-by yogurting. The stuff was darn cold, too, at first, but once she got kneading, I was hers once again, and it lasted 20 whole minutes.

Step Three was relatively quiet as my wrapped head got a steam treatment for 10 minutes. Then, my masseuse returned to work on my arms, hands, shoulders and neck with some sort of coconut cream. I was feeling no pain, and I was starting to smell pretty good. That was an especially great sensation considering the olfactory pain I went through yesterday.

The penultimate step was the rinsing off of the aloe vera from my hair and then I was blown dry and moussed. Yes, a bit pricey but every yen was worth it. Still, I won't be able to make regular visits but I figure that a New Year's drop-in wouldn't hurt.

My first experience there made me forget the initial awkwardness with the manager whom I didn't see during the treatment. I headed up to Shinjuku to check out Kinokuniya which I haven't been to in a while. As I went along the street, I was fairly astounded to see all that construction for over a year resulted in just a parking lot being built.

Usually I don't buy much at Kinokuniya since their books are pretty expensive when compared to the stuff at Towers or HMV. However, it is the only place that I can buy a Dell's Crossword Puzzle Book, my book of choice. Also, I saw that second annal of Charles Schulz's Peanuts comic strips, something that I've been wanting to get for a long time. However, I held off since there is no point card system, and I know that Tower has one and it has also carried the Peanuts series. Unfortunately, my gamble didn't promise the desired results so there was still just the first volume. But I did buy another jazz CD in the form of a Lambert, Hendricks & Ross album. Apparently, critics have said the Manhattan Transfer have never held a candle to these guys in the art of vocalese. Well, since I'm still an MH fan, I can only look forward to even better results from L, H and R.

Instead of my usual break in the Shinjuku Plaza, I decided to walk over to the Park Hyatt. I was just getting a bit too cold just sitting there and I knew that I had to do a bit of recon if that plan for JB and I to have our final lesson of the year there is to come off. On the way, I saw some nitwit foreigner riding her bike yelling "Baka, Baka" at some crows. Maybe she got splatted on by them in her past.
When I did get to the Park Hyatt, I took a look inside on the 1st floor to find The Delicatessan. It appeared quite fancy from the outside, and quite small on the inside. I was informed from the website that it only had 16 seats. Hmmm...will have to do some thinking about that. Perhaps, JB will just nix the whole idea.

Today's sole lesson with the Company folks was a bit of a slog. I mean I was just teaching "will", and they reacted as if I had suddenly thrown them The Future Perfect. I also found out that that lady who has been quietly working at the table in the outside room for the past few weeks is the wife of one of the students.

Well, tomorrow is a national holiday, so I decided to have dinner at the Dennys near the Company. There was a Chinese family sitting next to me, and then towards the end of dinner, a French pair came by. I gather that with the hotels across the street, Dennys must be a safe haven for the tourists.

I got home and polished off the last of the chocolate macadamias that The Hawaiian had gotten me. I also checked my e-mail. Got into another long talk with Shard and replied to The Hawaiian and Arwen. At this time, I would be getting a little worried about hitting the hay and prepping for lessons but since I've got nothing tomorrow, I will just enjoy a late evening and then a late morning.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Sunday November 21, 10:02 p.m.

Well, back from that odyssey to Chichibu, a city of 60,000 people and a lot of trees. First off, although I'm a bit loathe to say it, when I met the juku boss at the station this morning, I noticed that she had on her Sunday best and makeup which is atypical of her; whenever I teach at the juku, she's usually very down-to-earth. However, I was almost knocked out when my olfactory sense registered a reek from her! Couldn't believe it...she smelled of OLD MAN...if that old man had just woken up in his clothes after a night of coffee, cigarettes and whiskey and used frying oil. I had to resort to rotational breathing (inhale through my mouth and then exhale through my nose) at times and turning discreetly away on the train. Quite a feat I engineered considering I was with her for 12 hours.

Yes, it was a 2-hour trip up to the wilds of Saitama. When we finally got to our destination, our host up there told us that he'd be a half-hour late, so we ended up having lunch at a soba shop just across from the station. On the Red Arrow, the juku boss had told me that Chichibu Soba had quite the al dente texture to it. Much to her dismay, she thought the soba there was quite soggy. I found it quite palatable, actually, although I was a bit more concerned about the slow service. Soba and coffee would be the main culinary theme for the rest of the day, as unlikely as that combination would be.

The boss' cousin eventually picked us up and our first stop was a real estate agency run by his good friend, a very amiable sort. We spent a good hour there discussing about the possibilities of setting up a new school there in terms of what the market, the rent and the competition are like. It was a good discussion and even I put in my 2 yen worth. The boss, knowing her personality, naturally got quite animated.

Afterwards, the cousin took us to the school (and potential rival) which was responsible for educating his child in English. The place was closed and it was located on the 2nd floor over a beauty salon. Back at the agency, he showed us a couple of pretty glossy pamphlets of the school; they resembled invitations for a Queen's concert at The Opera House. Certainly the tuition reflected it. I was rather astonished to hear the 300,000-yen price tag to teach his kid...who incidentally tagged along with us for some of the ride and seemed to be all of three years of age. The juku boss quickly dipped into the beauty salon where she found out that the stylists have frequently had to go upstairs to complain about the racket that the kids were making. Well, definitely, this new school won't be on any floor above ground level, then.

Next, we drove over to his place where he showed us a huge carton of educational materials that the school had given him for the kid. Three years old, and he can't even speak Japanese yet, and he has enough vocab cards and CDs to open up his own school. Our juku is very much bare bones and cut n' paste. The materials from this other school looked like they had been designed by Dentsu.

Our next stop was the Nagatoro River. The boss was surprised at how much of a tourist trap it'd become since her days as a child living there. The shopping street certainly looked like anything in Nikko or Kyoto nowadays. I was impressed with the scenic beauty of the river, though, although the cousin remarked that it has seen better days in terms of cleanliness. As I could see, the river was a telltale murky green...not particularly inviting for a swim. And here I was in a suit (which the boss had asked me to wear) negotiating through some often craggy rock formations. We ended up having another coffee and soba (much better for her) at a restaurant/cafeteria setup run by some old friends. The soba definitely had more bite.

Our final stop as the sky darkened was the pub run by the boss' aunt and uncle. It looked very homey inside and in fact, the kid was sleeping on the tatami. There were a couple of oldtimer regulars just whiling away the time while the uncle and aunt were busy behind the counter. I felt somewhat envious of the boss' close relationship with her extended family. something that I have never been able to get with my own family due to distance and some other unfortunate matters.

Finally, we were back on the train to Ikebukuro. It was almost an uneventful ride until the last leg when we were delayed by a good 15 minutes due to some moronic vandal leaving stuff on the track. And then, the subway ride home was puncutated by an unforecast rainstorm. And I just merely left my laundry hanging on the line. So I was rather broody because of that fact and the unfortunate BO that surrounded the boss; she didn't even blink twice about it. I did send a thank-you e-mail to let her know that I was grateful for the opportunity to head up to Chichibu just in case she may have been a bit put off..doubtful due to her usual high spirits.

I got home and pulled off the wet stuff. Luckily, though, they were indeed wet, they weren't dripping. So there's a 50/50 chance that they may be dry by tomorrow morning. My nostrils are still permeated with the smell of coffee and oil and cigarettes though.

Doing my e-mail housekeeping, I found out that my plan for Namjatown is a go. Misty got back and told me that a lot of her classmates are interested in my proposal for the 2nd so it looks like that's rolling. Plus, I've got DTE's thingy on the 5th. Looks like she wants to do Tony Romas again. That's fine with me since it'll be simpler to plan than doing it at En. Movie Buddy was quite high on Tony Romas himself.

Betty Boop sent a message to me for the first time in a while. She told me that she choked when she tried to help an American find the right subway for Asakusa. Well, when one doesn't practice English all that much... In any case, she's hoping that we can do some lunch before I head back to the home country.

The Dancer sent me another tape a couple of days ago so I took a look-see. Most of it consisted of a sci-fi miniseries called The 4400 which seems to be a mix of X-Men, X-Files, Unbreakable and Taken. Interesting idea but it looked so much as I don't want to denigrate my own country's culture in the arts, I've just never been all that impressed with the national stuff aside from SCTV (which is a Classic). Also, the attempt to generate a Mulder/Scully chemistry between the two main characters ended up being as inert as a lump of lead. I checked the comments about the series on the IMDB...pretty mixed and heated debate...more so than usual. However, most everyone was of the opinion that the ending was not much of one.

Well, such a long entry. I'll be starting my week with a workout at the gym since The Class Act has been re-scheduled to Wednesday and it looks like I won't be getting any other opportunities to work out until Friday, and I may brave the trip to SR's Balinese massage place in Ebisu. If I can get in, I'll be shucking out 6000 Natsume Sosekis for the scalp treatment but I do love a good rubdown on the old pate.

But first I hope the laundry dries out...

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Saturday November 20, 5:09 p.m.

The lessons with the girls went OK. Even the older girl was more on the ball. Decided to get a bit fancy with dinner tonight. I'm making my famous Sweet N' Sour Chicken for the first time in several months. May even take a look through those tapes of US TV although I'm not particularly all that interested in them outside of The Simpsons.

Will have to turn in a bit early since I've got that "business" trip up north to Chichibu, Saitama with the juku boss.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Friday November 19, 7:50 p.m.

The allergies were bothering today so I picked up some medicine along the way. Still, I had to reach for the Kleenex discreetly several times during The Teacher's class. And frankly, they never truly went away, probably due to the clammy weather.

I was able to pick up those books that Shard's wife had asked for. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. There was a distinct section at Maruzen for beadwork.

Ended up talking with SR for three hours today on such cheerful topics as the next terrorist attack and the inevitable Great Tokyo Earthquake. The Tea Room was uncharacteristically hopping today due to some sort of event nearby, but by the end of our chat, it was back to just us two.

The coordinator sent me a message asking if I could teach next Thursday. That day would probably be better for me, content-wise, since it's just a regular conversation class. However, I do have Jazz Buddy until 1:30 so that's impossible. I assume I still have the Friday assignment which is Speech class. Unforunately the topic is the wonderful world of Capital Punishment. I can only shudder if I have to take care of the lowest class.

Well, dunno if it's raining tomorrow too but I've got the kids in the morning. I'll have the elder sister for the first time in a month so I can only imagine what Miss Sullen will be like.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Thursday November 18, 9:38 p.m.

Well, Jazz Buddy was better today. I used another source of material which seemed to have worked better. I also found out that my e-mail just isn't getting through to her cellphone so I can only rely on phone or when I meet her. Then, I suggested to her that our last meeting before my vacation could be held at a deli in the Park Hyatt.

I kinda followed a hunch and went back to the school to have lunch. I was just wondering if the Coordinator had even relayed my proposal for a trip over to the Gyoza Museum tonight. Sure enough, she didn't say anything but my visit did give me the chance to start the ball rolling for that visit. It'll just be put to the 2nd instead. Looks I may have a couple of goers. I also heard from the coordinator that a newbie teacher had a major shouting match with one of the higher students due to some misinterpreted slight. Needless to say, he is no longer teaching the kids. Mind you, I think I was probably the same way when I first started teaching. At the same time, it was nice to see the kids and teachers such as Movie Buddy, The Jester, The DJ and The Veteran.

I did make it to the gym today. I even upped the weight for my machine training so I'm sure that I'll be in even more pain tomorrow. I'll have to let The Teacher know that I won't be able to teach her next week since I may be filling in at the school then.

The top story on the news today was the murder of a young girl by a sociopath-at-large. The nut even sent a message to the dead girl's mother via the girl's own cellphone stating that he had her. Hope the police hunt him down like a rabid fox.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Wednesday November 17, 8:11 p.m.

Well, in a feeble restaurant critic's attempt to be punny, LAST wasn't quite first. I got there around 11:30 just when it opened. It's a much smaller place than the Farm Grill and the variety and amounts of dishes were appropriately similar. The owners are gonna to have work a bit on their selection. The usual buffet favorites were out there such as Spaghetti Pepperoncino and Rice Curry, stuff that will fill you up fast and make you want to get that extra drink. However, the Chinese soup was laughingly just chicken consomme with green specks, and the fried chicken tasted fried but that's about it. Still, for a thousand yen, it was OK but I could imagine the food critics fainting in disgust. The decor was all in American Diner and the music was country and 70s music. Yup, definitely Californian. I'll probably tell Movie Buddy about it but I won't plan a group outing around it.

I met The Hawaiian and her aunt today. At first, I was a bit apprehensive when the Aunt came off as a bit quite and immediately leaned on her niece for translation but once she got more used to me, I realized that she's quite the enthusiast for English. Her listening was surprisingly high but her responses lacked any sort of proper syntax so I do have my work cut out for me. Still, she'd be a welcome asset at the school. The Hawaiian is starting to get a bit itchy about heading over to Oz for a few months at least next year, so I'll probably lose her again pretty soon. Still, I can't really teach her much since she's so high a student.

When I got back to the neighbourhood, I shopped for a fresh supply of undergarments since some of the stuff I have now is starting to resemble some of Brando's wardrobe in "A Streetcar Named Desire". Plus, I got a stack of cheap audio rare as they are now in this age of prep that pronounciation exercise for Jazz Buddy. Man, I wonder if I'm gonna have another round of psychoanalysis with her tomorrow.

And I actually picked a little something for dinner tonight despite my lunch at the buffet. But in fact, I didn't really eat all that much.

The top story on NHK News tonight was the various scenarios about if a Shindo 7 earthquake were to hit Tokyo straight on. The way it looked, I'm pretty much dead in my neighbourhood. I just hope that I'm not anywhere in the metropolis at all when it hits. Let's say that it doesn't bode well for the 12 million there.

Since it doesn't look like I'll be getting any takers for this immimently-to-be-aborted trip to the food cities in Ikebukuro tomorrow, I'll probably load up on lunch after JB before hitting the gym again. It's a step in the right direction anyways...loading up on gyoza and ice cream or loading up on the exercise.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Wednesday November 17, 8:53 a.m.

I think I am pretty achy this morning which has got me started in a bad mood. I got a bit snippy with The Hawaiian when she sent me a letter stating that there was a bit of confusion over today's meeting time. In retrospect, the language was pretty mild so I don't think she'll take offense but still, I know the intent was there on my part, so I still sent a second missive apologizing.

Well, I'm achy. So no trip to the gym today. Instead, I'll follow the Devil today and try out LAST for lunch just before heading out to see The Hawaiian and her aunt. I hope they have some very strong coffee there.

Plus, Shard gave me a request to find a book for his wife. Should be easy enough to do.

CNN has started showing teasers for Bill Hemmer coming over here to do his American Morning show next month. Interesting timing...I'll be leaving for home the same week.
Wednesday November 17, 12:01 a.m.

Had my lunch at the kaiten sushi today. There still wasn't too much running on the conveyor belt so I did order some of the stuff from the chef. I had my first workout at the gym for the first time in 8 days. Surprisingly, I was half a kilogram down from what I posted last time. I'm thinking about whether to go there tomorrow morning before I meet up with The Hawaiian. It'll depend on how achy I feel when I wake up. I've got a new student in the form of the Hawaiian's aunt so I'll have to be on my best behaviour.

Had quite a few letters in the inbox tonight. Had my usual long "chat" with Shard over the minutiae of popular culture. Always enjoy that.

The classes at the juku went well. The Beauty Pair came back after convalescing from their cold last week. I even got a present from Mr. Eccentric via them. They'll be heading off for Las Vegas from this weekend so they're pretty pumped about hitting the slots. Just hope that the slots don't pump them out of too much money. My boss was OK if a bit more scatterbrained than usual.

Listened to that Tom Jones CD. Yup, it was pretty good but I can't help but feel that he brings a certain sameness to everything he does, no matter all the accolades that have been written up about him in the liner notes. Then again, I've yet to hear all the tracks. It's also unbelievable that I can remember seeing his old ABC show when I was a mere baby back in the 60s.

The Hawaiian has taken up my invitation to catch The Incredibles on the 5th. So that's probably a 6th member now.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Monday November 15, 9:52 p.m.

Ready to kill my computer right now. Crashed 3 times last night and it did the same thing tonight. Not only that, but it managed to somehow screw up everything with my resume so spent the last 20 minutes fixing that.

Looks like I'm officially in charge of this party for DTE. She made my job easy and hard for me simultaneously when she told me that she had no preferences for restaurant. Well, I can always check out that LAST place in Shiodome although some of the group may ask why I'm picking out a distinctly American place for an American's goodbye dinner. Well, I figure that I can just always go DOMA DOMA, that upscale izakaya chain. Problem is that those places always require a set dinner for large numbers. In a way, I hope we don't make it too big although at this point, it looks like it'll be DTE, myself, MB, Skippy and Arwen. JB has yet to respond but she never does which irks me.

The rain came down pretty heavily this morning but by the afternoon, there was some sun filtering through. It amazes me that just a couple of months ago, we had been going through the Summer of Hell. Today, I wrapped myself up in my jacket and scarf. Tomorrow, blizzard? During the break between lessons, I hit HMV for three CDs. I couldn't find anything in the jazz category. But I did buy, believe it or not, the Best of Tom Jones. Well, I bought it for two tracks being that collaborative cover of Prince's KISS (is he still going by that sign?) with The Art of Noise.

The other two were J-Pop. One is an interesting choice for me: a rap/pop/R&B song by a female duo called Bennie K. The single is known as Sunrise, which sounds something that the B-52s would sing. It's very catchy in a ROAM type of way. The girls themselves have taken on the mantle of J-Pop hit female duo which has been worn by pairs like Pink Lady and Wink. The two girls, though, like a mix of Stepford Wives and Shibuya gals. And my final purchase was the second single of new band Tokyo Jihen with formerly solo Shiina Ringo as the lead singer.

My lesson at The Company was pretty smooth. I just had the one best student of the class, and not surprisingly, he managed to catch up from his absence last week. In fact, he even exceeded his fellows by a page or so.

Well, I'm a month away from heading back home so I gather that it's time to throw on the Xmas music. Yee-hah!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Monday November 15, 7:52 a.m.

Gonna need an umbrella for most of the day. Drag. Kinda feel considerably older than 39 right now. Bring on the Geritol and Metamucil. I'm sending off the video of Japanaese TV shows and Seirogan. What's Seirogan? It's the local equivalent of the worst-smelling medicine you can think of...but it works. I think there was a cough syrup that had the same boast.

Last night, I caught a movie on Pay called Flowers and Snakes. Lest one assumes that it's a nature movie, it is an S&M flick. Now, let me say right from the start, I'm not a purveyor of whips-and-cream cinema. However, what got me to watch this was that it had been released last year to rather lurid fanfare in the magazines and talk shows. Not that S&M is a new deviant activity in the porn industry; I'd say that it's had much of a place in the underground as it's had in American porn. No, the reason that Flower and Snakes garnered such "acclaim" is the lead star/victim (I think I may have mentioned about this very briefly in an entry last year...not that I expect you to remember). Aya Sugimoto started out as a sports car model and then came out with a few songs on CD (virtually anyone who becomes a regular on TV here apparently has a clause in his/her contract that demands an attempt at singing despite the obvious lack of talent) with frequent appearances on variety shows. In other words, she was the run-of-the-millTV personality, albeit a gorgeous one. But somewhere down the line she got married, disappeared for several years, before popping out again after a divorce.

So it was with some shock and titillation that she came out with some nude pictorials and then this S&M flick. Think of Vanna White turning on a spit instead of turning letters herself, and that was the feeling going around here in its initial release. Mind you, the shock was tempered by the fact that Sugimoto has always had that Amazonian sex appeal so most people weren't downright scandalized in a way that they could have been if someone like, say, veteran pop idol Seiko Matsuda had starred in it. Still, the shock came from how far Sugimoto was willing to go to play the victim. Basically nothing was left to the imagination although certain "key" scenes were obviously simulated and of course, her private parts were pixillated as is the law in Japan.

According to some of the Net reports from the ordinary people that had seen it, they were frankly left cold by the experience. Nothing particularly arousing about it aside from the fact that a famous celeb was willing to be strung up. In fact, to me, it seemed like that the entire enterprise was a summer stock-like beginner's exercise in S&M film for trendy drama actors. Along with Sugimoto, there was a former idol singer playing her husband and an actor playing a very dirty, very old man (I swore it's the same actor who plays the lovably tetchy boss in those iced coffee commercials). Well, I can actually say that I saw it and for a good deal less than if I'd seen it at the theaters or paid the money for the DVD. As for Sugimoto, she can be seen occasionally on a celeb cooking show. I gather that she knows her way around pointed utensils...

Well, off to work I go...
Sunday November 14, 5:20 p.m.

Just came back from dinner. Thought I was going to tuck myself into some sushi. But as it turned out, there was hardly anyone in the place and the conveyor belt had very little of the stuff rotating. Since I don't particularly enjoy having to order dishes up every minute, I gave the restaurant a pass and did some window shopping of sorts before I settled on that new ramen restaurant just down the mall. I had a bowl of ramen loaded for bear with BBQ pork, garlic and miso. I also threw in an extra 200 yen for some garlic rice which had enough power to knock down a T-Rex. My pullover definitely smelled like I had a ton of garlic. That's why Febreeze is such a hit in Japan.

Earlier in the day, MB got back to me via chat. It looks like he and his girlfriend enjoyed themselves at Phantom last night.

Luckily, it didn't rain today although things were kept pretty overcast and cool.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Sunday November 14, 12:55 p.m.

Cool and overcast...typical weather. But I still threw out my futon on the ledge to air out, if only for a short while.

Finished taping for the parents; I was lucky enough to find a couple of enka shows to throw on. And I even had enough space to tape a mystery drama.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his new capacity as governor of California, made his 20-somethingth trip to Japan to promote the joys and wonders of the Golden State. Instead of his old leather-and-sunglasses getup, he was sporting some major shiny suits. But his hoary trademark line was still spouting from his lips. Now that he has political clout along with the Hollywood one, he got to meet with the government boys including the PM.

The big news today is that Princess Nori is engaged. I always wondered if she were going to fulfill her spinster status but that can finally be pitched out. The way the news announcer is putting it, it sounds like she's leaving the Imperial Family and becoming a commoner, though. It'd be a perfect premise for a reality show back in the States. How does a princess cope with mundane life?

And speaking of my life, I'll be doing some cleanup and ironing today along with the usual prep work for my lessons tomorrow. However, I intend to take advantage of the 20% off special at the sushi restaurant.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Saturday November 13, 1:56 p.m.

Lazy, lazy Saturday. Still, I managed to get up at around 8 this morning. I find out that Scott Peterson finally got his comeuppance. Nancy Grace was snarling like a banshee on Larry King. What else is new?

Had a long chat with Movie Buddy this morning. He's still nagging me to get that microphone for the computer. I still say that we have a telephone, and he doesn't know that I get pretty intractable when someone tries to push me into anything. Apparently, he and his girl are off to see "The Phantom of the Opera". Nothing says marriage is closer when a couple heads off to see a musical.

Just got a message from Arwen. Looks like she's also good to go for DTE's second farewell. I guess DTE isn't thinking of putting up stakes here after all.

Thought I was going to stay all weekend at home but I have to make one outing tomorrow to check books out for a new student, The Hawaiian's aunt, since I won't have any time between then and Wednesday.
Friday November 12, 10:48 p.m.

Man, was that some funeral for Arafat in Ramallah! Reminds me of the chaos that surrounded Ayatollah Khomeini's funeral years ago. Well, he got the sendoff he would've loved.

The day came off as expected with the students. Pretty rainy and chilly, though. It should be better tomorrow so I can do the wash. I find myself with two full days off so I hope to get a lot of relaxation in.

I got my first message from Shard for the first time in several weeks. I've always looked forward to his messages since our missives to each other are in the form of long pop cultural exchanges. And this one was no different. I think I spent a good 30-40 minutes responding to his one message.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Thursday November 11, 10:39 p.m.

Well, I gotta backtrack on my opinion about that mystery sub which infiltrated Japanese waters yesterday. Apparently, it could be a Chinese sub not a North Korean one. My bad.

It was another stint as counselor with Jazz Buddy this morning. She looked even more hangdog than last week. She's been getting down for various reasons such as work and her sister from Hell. But notably, she's just frustrated from her dinner with a friend and some Indonesian acquaintances since she had some trouble keeping up with the English side of the talk. I tried to reassure her that if she just keeps up with her practicing, there will be dividends. I'm just worried about how much she's been working; she has always looked somewhat, she just looks plain exhausted.

I had those several hours to kill between JB and The Carolinan so I used the first of those hours to have my occasional ramen lunch at Foo Foo. The spicy soup worked well today considering the coolness of the weather. Then, I headed down to the Ginza area for the first time in a few weeks via Shiodome. I'm pretty glad I did so. However, I saw that where the late lamented Farm Grill used to be, now stood a Don Quixote discount shop...oh, the sadness. But at the same time, I discovered a possible new replacement for the good ol' Grill. Out of curiosity, I went up to the third floor of the Shiodome City Center, that big green tower which also houses the Oregon Bar and Grill steakhouse all the way up on the 42nd floor. On that third floor, I saw a sign for a "Calfornian cuisine" restaurant called LAST. In this country, a "Californian cuisine" restaurant usually translates as all-you-can-eat buffet. So I just went down the corridor and saw the entrance to this place. There was also a large placard with photos of what they served. Hey, looks good to me. I'll have to do a recon trip sometime next week...maybe next Wednesday since my schedule will be pretty sparse. I obviously couldn't go today since I was still digesting my ramen. Then, up in Yurakucho where that large Fujiya tower is, I found out that a new dessert buffet restaurant has opened up. Gotta let the gang know.

I had some time to check out Yamano Music and HMV. I let go of my disicpline a bit and bought a couple of CDs there. Yamano Music seems to be the only major CD store to sell re-issues of J-Pop albums from the 70s and 80s, so I bought a Junko Yagami disc. Yagami was one of those artists who didn't fit into the bubblepop idol; instead, she fused in some Latin, disco, R&B and jazz influences into her pop. She now goes by the name of June Stanley and lives in the US and releases the odd album. The second album I got was from HMV in Yurakucho and it was that swing jazz disc I had mentioned a few days ago.

I checked out the nearby Bic Camera, ostensibly to find the new location of the Coca restaurant, that eatery which was well known for its dim sum and Thai hot pot options just behind the Mullion complex in a non-descript building. It doesn't seem to be a move, though; the original restaurant seems to be still up and running. The new place, though, looks rather sleek and urbane unlike the rather old Chinatown look to the original.

Finally, I made my way up to the Tea Room. It started raining a bit then but it wasn't enough for me to bring out the umbrella although every other sentient being did so but then again over here, if a drop even appears on a sleeve, the brolleys open up. I spent a good 2 hours there before The Carolinan showed up. It was a pleasant lesson and we had a brief chat with the owner about some of the celebs who've passed through the cafe over the years. She also remarked about how worried she gets when those big patches of no business hit the place. It would be a great pity if the place had to close down.

Well, tomorrow will be my usual lessons with The Teacher and SR. Then, it'll be trip to the gym. It'll be needed. I looked rather bloated in the mirror today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Wednesday November 10, 9:06 p.m.

Looks like we had a little taste of invasion today. Some unknown sub entered Japanese territorial waters which put the SDF on full alert. Nice to know some country is considerate enough to test our defenses. We'll have to send Kim some extra rice in return.

Had an extra treat at the house where I usually teach The Class Act this morning. Since there wasn't too much time between their lesson and the one for SIL, the lady of the house was kind enough to have lunch made for me in the form of a bowl of hot soba. The lesson itself was notable for the fact that one of the two got a bit frustrated at the large amount of indecipherable slang in the article. I wasn't too depressed since she was the one who had supplied the material in any event. However, I defused things a bit by introducing the wonderful game of Solitaire with my deck of cards. Can't believe that neither of them had ever heard of the game before. Then when I mentioned about how my old junior high school kids back in my JET days used to play card games during field trips on the bus, they pointed out that those days are long gone. The kids nowadays are too involved with Game Boys and their cellphones. I remarked that I still had my Solitaire. The same lady told me about her family's dinner outing at the New York Grill in the Park Hyatt (that hotel where "Lost In Translation" was filmed). It seems as if they were all thrilled by the jazz trio playing dinner music there. She offered to put in a reservation if I were ever to go there. Very kind of her but I'd probably only go if I had a date and I think that's very unlikely considering my romantic disinclinations right now.

After SIL, I did my usual jaunt to Tower Records. I once again held off on my CD purchases though I did buy TIME and EW. TIME went into its post-election analysis about what happened with Kerry. I'm sure a lot of people worldwide are still thinking about that as well. I did take a listen to a bit of that soundtrack for The Polar Express. The first track had Tom Hanks doing his best Rawhide impression along side a bunch of kids. The CNN critics didn't seem too hot on the movie saying that the animation looks creepy; well, it is different but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Since I had that coupon for The Maple Leaf, I went there for dinner. I basically risked undoing any benefit that I got from my gym outings by ordering a Sloppy Joes and poutine, otherwise known as the Cholesterol Couple. However, I enjoyed every messy bite, heheheh.

Shibuya is already into Holiday mode. All of the Xmas trees are up and the displays are showing that festive spirit. Just like in the US.

Getting to the Starbucks where I teach the OL, I found the place initially packed for some reason. Quite a few gaijin in there as well. However, by the time I got back from the washroom, there was a major exodus of customers thankfully.

I've got the Jazz Buddy and the Carolinan tomorrow. Just hope that JB is in better form. Not quite sure what I'll do in the intervening 6 hours. Almost feels like an old full-timers day at the school.