Friday, March 19, 2004

Saturday March 20, 8:04 a.m.

Let's see...Pakistani forces pounding an Al Qaeda enclave which may have the No. 2 man, an attempted assassination on the top two people in Taiwan, and bomb threats against D.C area schools. Just another day on 21st-century Earth.

Yup, I woke up early with all the grogginess and creakiness of a guy who hasn't gotten enough sleep. Over breakfast, I was able to get 4 lesson plans done. Luckily, the e-mail traffic has been minimal so that I can get off and clean up a bit more before heading out.

Gray and overcast outside. Probable rain. Still cold. Kinda like my mood right now.
Saturday March 20, 12:30 a.m.

I hope I can get this entry done quickly since I need to get some sleep. And I only have the bare bones of lesson plans for the kids. Damn!

The two classes with the afternoon SR and then Arwen went refreshingly quickly thanks to some good sidetracking. Plus, I got a souvenir from SR's trip to Univesal Studios Japan in Osaka; it's some sort of Spiderman chocolates. Earlier I had gotten a golden Peanuts necktie from The Teacher.

I met up with Arwen in front of Foo Foo at 6 tonight. However, Ms. 77, who had suggested having the class in Shinjuku, ironically had to pull out due to a cold. So, Arwen and I just went over to the neasby Andersen bakery cafe across from City Hall for our lesson. We had a good class there; a lot of school gossip mixed in the actual text stuff. And we continued on with it afterwards when we had a bit of dinner a level up at the Royal Host. At first, I felt slightly queasy, probably due to fatigue and coffee, but luckily my good rapport and conversation with Arwen helped perk me up. It's been quite amazing how the two of us have managed to click. We got into some fairly deep topics such as love and marriage. Once again, I felt a bit of regret. However, I do have to remember that we probably could click like this since our relationship is platonic, and one of us is already married; I'm not sure if we would be this cordial in a romantic strange as that may sound.

Ms 77's absence this week and next week made me wonder aloud if she were enjoying the lessons. This may have caught Arwen off-guard a bit, so I explained my view that students could decide to "fire" me by telling a little white lie to save face, an unsurprising but annoying cultural tic here. Arwen also agreed that she's not too thrilled by that approach to telling a teacher that his services are no longer wanted, and she reassured me that Ms. 77 was happy with the lessons but just can't make it out due to extenuating circumstances. That explanation by Arwen meant a lot to me.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Friday March 19, 12:42 p.m.

I had The Teacher for her first lesson today. She's one of those students whom I would consider to be an "automatic pilot" of sorts. She needs no prompting...she can just speak herself into a tizzy. She even gave me her own homemade text of articles for us to use.

I just have a short respite here before I head off to see my regular Friday afternoon student (or my semi-regular as she cancels quite a bit), and then meet up with Arwen and Ms. 77 in Shinjuku. The last matchup will probably be quite temporary in nature as 77 is planning to head over to the Great White North on some sort of visa. Chip Guy asked whether I would be available for tonight for a possible steak dinner out at the Outback. I said that I'd be available after the last class ends at 7, but since I haven't heard any response from him for the past day and a half, I assume that the idea didn't hold any water. With an 8-month-old baby, it rarely does.

Well, I managed to clean and vacuum things a bit for Movie Buddy's arrival tomorrow. I will endeavour to get the bare banes planning done for the kids' lessons.

I see that the Pakistani forces may have the No. 2 guy in Al Qaeda trapped. I think the media had said something similar about Bin Laden early in the Afghanistan adventure but he escaped. So, I'll only believe it when I see the good doctor in Allied hands.
Thursday March 18, 9:52 p.m.

"Hey, Tokyo...Toronto called. It wants its winter back." Yes, after a brief dalliance with summer yesterday, winter decided to return with a vengeance today. It was just rainy, cold and windy although the winds were not as gale-force as they were yesterday. The only thing missing was snow but I'm not exhaling just quite yet.

Luckily, today's schedule only involved going out to buy groceries for dinner and then the brief jaunt to teach The Curry Master and The Analyst. On the way back home, I just had that chocolate itch that I needed to scratch, so I bought some Kit Kat at the low, low price of 99 yen.

I got a message from Movie Buddy asking if he could come over to the apartment on Saturday night since he had some DVDs. Gotta clean the apartment tomorrow morning since I will have absolutely no time after that.

Happy day in Tokyo as the Japanese team won its game against the UAE. I got a slightly drunk Jazz Veteran sending me e-mail on that fact.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Wednesday March 17, 11:49 p.m.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Not that anyone really knows about this holiday over here aside from the ex-pats (no pun intended) and the groupies who love them. I haven't even mentioned it to any of my students.

Well, today was a downright warm day. It hit 22 C in the Big Sushi but the day also came with some pretty heavy-duty winds which wrought the parked bicycles-as-falling dominoes effect again. The subway systems had to set out a wind warning for trains on the outside which delayed things a bit. The Office Lady excitedly pointed out one paltry cherry blossom on a tree. The effect wasn't all that awe-inspiring to me but the point was made. It looks like Cherry Blossom Season may be here earlier than expected. Time to spread out the blue tarp, beer bottles and fried chicken again.

As for my rare Wednesday afternoon matinee at home today, I watched ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO on DVD thanks to Arwen's loaner while the movie is actually being played at the theaters as we speak (please don't tell anyone). I'm kinda glad that I didn't shuck out the 1800 yen for this one. It was very enjoyable to watch on the tube but I don't think it would've made much impact on me at the theater. Plus, I got the good extra on the DVD on how to make that pork dish that Johnny Depp's character loves in the movie. The only problem is that I don't think I can get the vital ingredient here, and I don't have a coffee grinder.

I see that the foreign celeb endorsements are back. Currently, there is a poster of Charlie's Angel Lucy Liu draped on the floor in a sexy silky shimmery slip hawking diet beer of all things. And I recently caught THE David Bowie on TV doing an ad for some Japanese company while parading himself in his various personae such as Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke.

I still haven't heard any fallout from my school concerning the sudden loss of teachers. I'm just wondering if this is going to be the equivalent of Geraldo's opening of Al Capone's Secret Vault.

The winds are still wailing away out there. We'll be hitting reality again as of tomorrow in terms of temps. And a bit of rain might fall on our parade as well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Tuesday March 16, 11:39 p.m.

Well, Arwen and I met at the National Theater in Hanzomon to catch a Kabuki performance. We saw a beautifully-designed stage with cherry trees, performers draped in gorgeous kimonos and acting that was on the truly epic.

We both fell asleep within 15 minutes.

It was a pity, but I had half-expected it to happen. Perhaps it was a bit of a self-realizing prophecy, but there's something about watching Kabuki that brings out the urge to nod off better than warm milk with nutmeg. It certainly didn't help that I had rented the wrong earphone guide (Japanese instead of English translation) for the first act. I think Kabuki is just a bit too archly performed for me, and the fact that it lasts 4 hours brought Mr. Sandman all the sooner. As for Arwen, I was a bit surprised that she dropped out, too, since her understanding of Old Japanese is probably a whole lot better than mine.

Well, after that first act (an entire hour), we ran out of the theater to get some cool air into our systems to wake us up. Then, we gave it another shot...this time, I got the right guide. And the second act was just half an hour. Still, though, I was on the verge of heading back into narcolepsy. I'm not sure how my partner felt at that time. However, by the second intermission, we had to make a big decision since the intermission only lasted 10 minutes. I was definitely ready to head on out, but I did try to give Arwen every opportunity to give her opinion. In true Japanese fashion, she merely replied that she was OK either way; but she did leave a couple of signs that tipped the balance: 1) she was doing a lot of stretching, and 2) she stated that she would probably end up snoozing through the third act which was to last 100 minutes. After that comment, we decided to throw in the towel and scurried off to a Tully's. I still felt bad since I had invited her to the performance, and the performance was indeed visually stunning, but considering that she was little better than I was, and that the other audience members probably wouldn't have appreciated a couple of dozers, I think it was the inevitable thing to do.

We laughed our way to the neighbourhood Tully's where we spent the next 2.5 hours gabbying about everything from the OTAKU phenomenon to my poor excuse for a love life. I think that fact in itself reflected how I felt about Kabuki. Also, I kinda got a bit wistful over lost opportunities talking with Arwen. For a bit, I wondered about how it would have been if Arwen hadn't already married. However, the moment passed into oblivion as it should have.

Afterwards, I headed over to the juku, but on the way, I stopped in at McDonalds. I realize that I had been to the Big M yesterday and that having their fare twice in a week was not a good way to a healthy state, but I just had to try the newest thing on the menu, FISH MCDIPPERS. Now, I'm not sure if this is a Japan-only thing, but it's basically the Piscean equivalent of Chicken McNuggets with tartar sauce. The McDippers passed muster with me. Not too bad...and the campaign for it has been pretty hard-sell. They've got posters plastered all over the restaurant with no less than a supermodel, a comedian and an acapella group all shilling the item.

The classes tonight were slightly limp. The first class came with one of the regular pair off with a cold. The other ended up just engaging me in free conversation which was basically a mix of Japanese and English due to her low level. However, we did set a date for our rendezvous with that secret restaurant in Tsudanuma that the Tuesday morning ladies had taken me to last week. The Anime King is at my place at that time, though, so I hope he doesn't mind foraging for himself on that day.

Well, I'm a bit wiser now in my preferences for Japanese culture. And I've also gleaned some new insight in my burgeoning hobby as a jazz enthusiast. I listened to the first disc of Django. It's amazing that his best stuff was recorded back in the 1930s but a lot of what he did has been emulated a lot in the present age on TV. I also recall hearing something similar to Django Swing in the movie "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" with Steve Martin and Michael Caine.

I'm wondering how the school is doing right now. For a few weeks, I had been aware that a couple of teachers were planning to fly the coop secretly. One was the Cop who took off today for Taiwan. And the Songbird had legitimately put in her 1-month notice with the staff. DTE and the Cop predicted that I might get a frantic call from the scheduler about coming in to teach someclasses, but there was nothing on my message machine tonight. However, I figured that since the staff has long been inured to these escapes so they probably had some teachers on standby to fill in the gaps.

Tomorrow, I just have The Office Lady for an atypical morning class. Then, I'll just be looking for material for Thursday's student.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Monday March 15, 11:56 p.m.

Another long day is over. I had a couple of surprises this morning at my morning class. First off, the student that I had expected to be away today actually came, and then my afternoon student cancelled. The conclusion for all that was that I did a bit of roaming around Tower and HMV. I bought CDs by a couple of jazz legends, Django Reinhardt and Bill Evans. I knew that the 3-disc set of Django for just 1390 yen was just a bit too good to be true. There was only a flimsy cover for each of the CDs, but then again what could I expect for that price? Well, I've gotten all the info on the man in my JAZZ FOR DUMMIES.

My traipse through the Shibuya HMV revealed a better jazz section. In the DVD area, there were a bunch of guys guffawing at the big screen showing a Mr. Bean sketch. I also took a look through UNIQLO, a very American-looking Japanese clothing store which has boasted low, low prices for pretty good quality. I found a pair of chinos that could actually fit me for just 2900 yen. I didn't buy them but I'll eventually get them.

Since I had some extra time, I ended up sitting in an open-air plaza in the Shinjuku hotel district near the Iconoclast's company. It was still a bit chilly to sit there but I managed to do so for 40 minutes. I wanted to prove my willingness to cut back on spending by not going into the cafe that I used to frequent, so I just bought a vending machine milk tea.

The night class was a slog. One guy who had been away for 2 weeks was struggling to get through the book, while the low guy on the totem pole has the mind of a sieve. However, I got my money from the president. We also had another one of our chats about the foibles of the Iconoclast. However, that was only a 10-minute session so, lucky me, he took me to one of his favorite sushi bars in Shinjuku. Again, the staff was really nice and the food was just resplendent: melt-in-your-mouth fatty tuna, tender sea eel and velvety chopped tuna wrapped in rice and seaweed. The conversation between me and the President was very cordial. We went through the gamut of topics from the Iconoclast through the musical genre of chanson to the terrorist attacks in Spain. Of course, he treated me so that really helped out my new budget.

Checking my e-mail, I got a message from Arwen stating that she would be willing to meet me for the Kabuki performance tomorrow. That will be nice. She just has to call me tomorrow to find out where and when to meet. In the meantime, I do have to prep for my juku lessons later that night. The students will be scratching their heads as to why I'm in a full suit.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Monday March 15, 8:04 a.m.

Well, the Russian and Spanish general elections are now history. Guess which one got the bigger coverage by the world media? The Election of Inevitability got swept aside by the dramatic win by Spain's Socialist Party over the ironically named Popular Party.

From the mountain to the molehill. The local entertainment wags were clucking today over the hospitalization of one of the more popular members of the ubiquitious Morning Musume. I couldn't read the kanji clearly but the poor girl has some sort of intestinal disorder. Perhaps she ate too much of her own publicity.

I'm still stinging over that monthly budget assessment from last night. I'm thinking that it may have been better if I'd just not started that financial habit last year. Ignorance is bliss!

I did a bit of late-night middlemanning over phone and e-mail for the nephew of the president of the Iconoclast's former company. After a couple of failed tries to get through to the lad, he finally called me so we went over his flight schedule on the 29th to Toronto to start his new homestay life in the Great White North. Then, I sent off the info from him as well as his queries to the Iconoclast and the nephew's host.

Well, off to the salt mines.

Sunday March 14, 8:23 p.m.

As expected, it's been a quiet day here. Just stepped out to get the usual fixins for dinner. But I have gotten messages. Chip Guy sent me one concerning getting together on the 24th for some Korean BBQ (why midweek?), and Jazz Buddy sent me an e-mail further progressing next week's visit to that jazz bar in Shinjuku. We've decided to go for the more storied DUG since it's in an area with a lot more culinary possibilities before the performance.

I did the finances. Not surprisingly, I made another loss. Although I did make quite a bit of dough this month, that lease renewal fee took a chunk out of me. However, if I subtract that from the expenditures, then I only really lost just a few bills. But the bottom line is that I'm gonna have to make a concerted effort to rein in my spending. Well, thankfully, I've increased my number of students. The Hawaiian, though, has cancelled her class for this Wednesday due to a family matter.

Gotta get some domestic stuff out of the way before I hit the hay including writing up a letter to VISA to not have the bills come over to Japan. The last couple of statements arrived here probably because I either made that Amazon purchase back in February or I reactivated my Toronto account. In any case, I gotta get that done.