Saturday, March 27, 2004

Saturday March 27, 10:00 p.m.

Nice day although it got a bit chilly in the evening. It was a pretty cut-and-dry Saturday. I just started out by sending a couple of blankets out to the cleaners so that Anime King has something nice to tuck himself into when he comes over on Friday night. My lone kid is starting to warm up to me now that I've been teaching her for about a month. She's starting to chatter off at the mouth in between exercises in Japanese. I can't say it's a bad thing. She's starting to feel more comfortable around me. Hopefully, I can get the basics of English into her before the wall of adolescence comes crashng down between us.

Then I met up with my two monthly regulars at the Tea Room. We ended up talking about booze, Hokkaido and movies and went well over the 2-hour limit. The session did get me thinking, though, about how I was ever able to get through 3 years of WEEKLY sessions with the original Friday night Tea Room crew.

Speaking of them, one of them contacted me about another job opening in her company. Recalling that I helped place another school alumnus with one of her associates, I was kinda wondering if Arwen would be interested. She just got the job with Roppongi Hills but since she related that she wasn't all that thrilled with it, I sent off the message to her.

And speaking of Arwen, she never got back to me about The Anime Fair so I will assume that I will have a goodly amount of time to relax tomorrow until I meet up with Chip Guy.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Saturday March 27, 11:04 a.m.

As expected, that incident at Roppongi Hills was on the wide shows this morning. Apparently, this has been the 5th incident in the one year since the supermall opened but it's the first fatality. My biggest question is why a 6-year-old boy had been allowed to enter one of those revolving doors unaccompanied. I'm sure the parents of the boy will probably be thinking about that for the rest of their lives.

I got a call from the Ballerina. It was one of the few chances that I've had to talk with her on the phone. It's usually been a case of one-way telephone tag or e-mail. She's apparently headed back to the Big Sushi in late April so I've sent out the call to some of her old classmates.

Well, it's actually a very nice day out for once. I can hang out the laundry without fear of it getting moldy on the line. The inside of my apartment, though, looks like a disaster area. I'm still considering whether to bother to do much with it since I face the Big Clean on Friday just before I head over to Narita.
Saturday March 27, 12:02 a.m.

Long day today but not too painful. The lesson with The Teacher went OK. Again, it was just a mix of talking about old times and her homemade text. It ought to be good for me with other students. Then it was off back to my station for a sushi lunch. and then I went off to the Ginza. I just ended up doing some browsing around. I was tempted to get this catchy tune at HMV by a Danish techno duo named Junior Senior. However, I wasn't able to remember the title for the song so I had to wait til tonight to check it out on the Internet. It's called MOVE YOUR FEET.

I had my lesson with SR and then Arwen came in 10 minutes late. I was starting to wonder if she had forgotten about the lesson when she breezed in breathlessly. Apparently, there was some sort of tragedy at Roppongi Hills where she is now working part-time involving a kid and a revolving door. I'm trying to check it out on one of the Japanese news websites. She tried to get here faster but her employers were very jittery about the situation and media so she had to sit tight for a while.

Afterwards, Arwen and I continued our newly-formed habit of having dinner after the lesson and headed out to Shinjuku. This time, our destination was Saboten, a tonkatsu place just down the corridor from Foo Foo. It was pretty cramped inside since it was a Friday but surprisingly our voices could still be heard. I engorged myself on the Saboten Special, a concoction of deep fried pork cutlet and shrimp with rice, miso soup, cabbage and a savory egg custard. Once again, our conversation was surprisingly lively and varied. The one thing that surprised me was that she shared my conviction about having to do something while listening to jazz music. Before we realized it, we had spent a good two hours at the place.

I was kinda wondering about attending that Tokyo Anime Fair. I had thought that the fair would be next weekend. Unfortunately, it turns out that it will be THIS weekend instead. I told Arwen about it; she semi-jokingly said that she'd be interested in taking a look. I think I can still make it for this Sunday morning but I'm not too sure about Arwen's availability at such late notice, but I'll let her know regardless.

Saturday won't be too painful. The two morning sisters are off to Florida so I won't be seeing them for about 2 weeks, and I'll only have the one young kid in the afternoon. After that, I have my monthly meeting with those former night students at the Tea Room. On Sunday afternoon, I'll be meeting up with Chip Guy for one of the last times before he heads back to Canada.

I'm still feeling pretty engorged after that dinner. Luckily, I don't need to head to bed all that quickly.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Thursday March 25, 10:10 p.m.

Thi s has been a day which couldn't quite decide which weather it wanted to throw at us. So I got a bit wet getting home tonight from my class. Speaking of which, the juku class with that long-absent student wasn't too painful at all. He was pretty rarin' to go compared to his last lesson over a month ago in which he was dying of a cold.

Well, my bedroom light is back to normal thanks to the starters...nearly normal anyways. There is still one flourescent tube acting a bit crochety.

I was able to score a lunch with my ex next Wednesday. It will have been a month and a half since my last meeting with her. I figure that since I have no classes on that day, I might as well touch base with her.

Skippy contacted me about getting together with her and her former classmates for a bit of Ohanami on the 4th. Unfortunately, I already have some plans with a couple of those Tuesday night students.

Tomorrow will be my busiest day with The Teacher, SR and Arwen. There shouldn't be too much to prepare, though.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Thursday March 25, 12:11 a.m.

I already know that next week will be a pretty slow one. The Office Lady told me that she would be too busy to come by for her regular session since it is the end of the fiscal year. With the Hawaiian out indefinitely to tend to her ailing father, the Stylist off in Hokkaido and now the Office Lady too busy, I'm gonna have a midweek day off. Well, not only then but I've also got my Friday completely cleared to prep up the apartment and then pick up the Anime King.

As I write this, my TV is on the 9/11 investigation live coverage. Up until now, I'd thought the banter between the CIA Director and the 9/11 Commission was in great danger of devolving into a cordial high school reunion. Thank you, Senator Kerrey for putting back the bite. Oh, wait...Senator Ben-Veniste is doing a kissup to ol' George.

It may be possible that I won't have any class tomorrow if my Thursday night student pulls off another scratch. I have most of the day free anyways.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Wednesday March 24, 3:34 p.m.

Another gray day today but so far, no rain. I went out to the electronics store to see if I could pick up a starter for my kitchen light since the thing keeps strobing for several minutes before it calms down. I found it but now I can't even open up the casing without tearing it apart. On the other hand, I could dismantle the casing for my bedroom lights which have also been wreaking havoc with my eyes but I now have to get those starters.

The Anime King just contacted me. It looks like his stay with me could be a lot shorter than expected since he's got a friend coming over from Hong Kong who'll be staying at the Iconoclast's old apartment. His buddy doesn't know Tokyo too well, so AK may end up nursemaiding him instead.

Well, it looks like that comedian whose death I had mentioned a couple of days ago is getting the royal send off. Two private channels have provided live coverage of his funeral and 3500 people have attended. That doesn't include the many fans who have come to pay respects to the man. I don't think I've seen this much full court press for a celeb's funeral since the funeral for that former member of the rock band X almost a decade ago. However, when I mentioned his name to the lead student of the Tsudanuma group yesterday, she gave a terse opinion that she didn't particularly like him or his old variety show because she thought that it had been a bad influence on kids. And sure enough, the show did get a lot of PTA criticism for its somewhat bawdy humour and Three Stooges-like slapstick.

Just have The Office Lady tonight so it'll be a quick outing. I may or may not have that guy who has cancelled his last three classes on Thursday, but I'll probably head on out to Tokyo tomorrow to get a new pair of UNIQLO chinos.
Tuesday March 23, 11:35 p.m.

Another no-problem day. I got my usual round of chocolates and Japanese crackers from my Tsudanuma ladies. It looks like there will be somewhat of a lull with these folks for the next few weeks after a pretty solid block of classes with them. I got back home for a few hours where I enjoyed a lunch consisting of salad, rice and Spam. Yes, Spam...I actually love the stuff fried up with soy sauce. The juku classes were also pretty smooth.

It looks like I may be facing a bit of a loggerhead with helping out that nephew of the president of the Iconoclast's old company. He's been asking me some pretty minute questions about his upcoming homestay trip in Canada while the homestay guy hasn't been too quick on his replies. The nephew's latest message just had a bit too many kanji for me to handle, so I've asked the Curry Master to help me out in the translation.

The 911 inquests are ready to go. Looks like some pretty interesting testimony will be coming up. Now that Richard Clark has been turning Benedict Arnold against the Bush adminstration, the plot will get pretty thick.

I've been going through the latest episodes of ENTERPRISE that my fellow Trekkie buddy has been sending me from Canada. All I can say is that T'Pol is turning out to be the most un-Vulcan Vulcan that I've ever seen. In the last episode, I've seen her plead, cry and have a shouting match with Trip. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I think she'd be ready for the Vulcan funny farm.

I'll be hitting the bed soon after a shower. I've basically got nothing tomorrow aside from my regular class with The Office Lady. So I plan to head out to the nearest electronics store and see if I can buy a decent lamp for my bedroom. With the Anime King coming around the end of next week, I think I ought to get some home improvements in.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Tuesday March 23, 7:34 a.m.

Well, no snow but it still looks pretty gray out there. However, it's good enough to finally get my laundry out there. My washer was starting to get a bit too stuffed. It'll be another usual Tuesday for me; my Tsudanuma ladies in the morning and then my juku classes at night with a big hole of nothing in between. It'll probably stay that way for at least another month since the new guys at the school won't be starting up until April 19th. Hurts me in the money department, but I can't complain about the relaxation at home.

I heard from Jazz Veteran about how much she enjoyed the outing on Sunday. I've yet to hear from Jazz Buddy, though. I did catch JB sleeping a bit at DUG, so I'm not sure if she did enjoy it. I hope she's not holding it against me. As for me, I kinda fall in between this potential spectrum. I must admit that I was getting a bit bleary-eyed at times despite the frenetic activity that was taking place down in front. Although I didn't get a whole lot of sleep the previous night before, I think my somewhat ambivalent feelings probably stem from my attitudes toward jazz.

I rather came up with a theory while I was listening to a jazz CD that JV had lent me on Sunday. It was a very good performance to listen to but I was also checking my e-mail at the same time. In fact, I realized that while I'm listening to jazz, I'm always doing something else at the same time, whether it be cooking or doing my crosswords. I've never listened to jazz by itself the way that I can listen to a recognizable pop song. This observation can reflect in any way that you can interpret it the complexity of jazz and the simple-mindedness of pop. As I read in my jazz book, one of the integral parts of the genre is improvisation so that even a cover of a famous standard can, or even has to, greatly diverge from its original melody. I guess for me that fact will be the main obstacle for me to truly appreciate the music and probably for me to last through a jazz concert. I recollect that I couldn't watch the Diana Krall DVD without starting to nod off a bit. I need some sort of pyrotechnics to get me through.

Speaking of music, I see that the Southern All Stars are getting to release a new single here. Who be they, you ask? They're the great dinosaurs of J-Pop who've been around since the late 70s. No, not exactly the Stones, perhaps, but in the very ephermal world of Japanese pop music, the SAS are legends. Basically, they're a band that sings a brand of summery pop/rock, and a lot of the natives my age are probably the greatest fans of the group. I've never been a huge fan of them myself; I just find them a bit too repetitive but I must admit that some of the tunes are distinctive enough to be enjoyed. If I ever do decide to permanently pull up stakes, I may get a compilation of their best stuff for posterity.

A talking head from Goldman-Sachs has just said that the current Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, may just not have the ability to pull off any economic recovery. Heck, all of us had that figured out 2 years ago.
Monday March 22, 10:39 p.m.

It was pretty much a cut-and-dry trip into Tokyo to teach at the company. It went pretty smoothly despite the slow-as-molasses performance of one of the pair of students. There are just some people who will never make it through languages.

No snow as of yet, but the forecasters are still saying that we're due for 1 to 3 cm of the white stuff overnight. I'm still not quite sure about that since it actually felt warmer heading home than it did heading over to Tokyo. But then, I overcompensated as usual in my winter wear. I threw on my big black bulky sweater underneath my winter coat, and I had on my longjohns. I was of course perfectly fine walking outside but I was doing a slow broil in the subway.

A mighty shoe dropped today in the Middle East with Israel's assassination (there's no other way to put it) of the spiritual leader of Hamas. The world is just waiting for that second volatile shoe to fall.

I've been enjoying reading the second of an epic sci-fi series called HYPERION. I'm currently on the second book, and it's been a pageturner so far as was the first book.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Monday March 22, 12:11 p.m.

Woke up after my exhausting night of jazz feeling semi-refreshed. It's been looking cold out there, and we still may get some snow on the way. So much for the arrival of Spring. Well, if it happens, it's gonna happen at around 6.

The networks have been blazing today about the death of one of TV's most recognizable and best-loved faces, Chosuke Ikariya. His fame came pretty early in the 60s when he led four other singer/comics to form a country band. However, their comedy acts overshadowed their songs so they redesigned themselves to become the comedy group, The Drifters. The group's claim to fame came in the late 60s with their legendary variety show which ruled the airwaves for 15 years and at one point, had half of Japan's population watching weekly. Ikariya as the leader had the role of being the eternal curmudgeon, berating his fellow members for their stupidity. As a kid, I used to watch the show via the embryonic technology of VHS when VCRs were the size of coffee tables. After the show ended its run, Ikariya turned to acting, and became known for his roles as either the unassuming wise elder statesman or as the crusty countryside father. However, his best post-Drifters character will probably be as the retired police detective from a series which is known outisde of Japan as The Bayside Shakedown. He was even seen and referred to as the Morgan Freeman of Japanese cinema for his hangdog look and laconic way.

Well, just some lunch for me and then I have to head on off for my lone class at the company. It could be a pretty light week for me since my Monday morning folks have cancelled out, along with the Hawaiian and half my kids on Saturday.
Monday March 22, 1:36 a.m.

Well, it's been a couple of days since my last entry due to the fact that I had been entertaining Movie Buddy on Saturday and Sunday.

Man, I am officially ready to proclaim this winter as one of the weirdest in recent memory. From a Wednesday that had 22 C temps and summer-like aspirations, we ended up getting wet snow falling on us and major chills on Saturday. I had been teaching at my kids' place when the elder sister and I noticed the fluffy wet flakes wafting down from the overcast sky. Things haven't improved much since then although we did get a sunny day today.

I met up with Movie Buddy at the station on Saturday afternoon. It ended up that he stayed at the Hotel Moi since we made it a marathon of flicks over pizza. I managed to devour an entire Dominos medium pizza called Giga Meat; MB was a bit more sedate in his approach. We caught a grand total of 4 movies over the next several hours. THE ROCKETEER was one of those underrated flicks that just fell through the cracks when it was first released in the early 90s. And there was a young ravishing Jennifer Connelly who looked a whole lot more fetching than her older self in that other, more recent superhero movie, THE HULK.

The second feature was THE MUMMY RETURNS. It wasn't a bad flick at all, though I'm happy I kept my 1800 yen. Then we saw that other sequel, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO. I'd already seen it a few days ago, but MB hadn't. The two of us agreed that this was more Johnny Depp's movie than it was Antonio Bandera's. By the end of that movie, we were getting pretty tuckered out, so we crashed a few hours until Sunday morning in which we caught "highlights" of Star Wars: Episode 2. After having gone through the scenes, my feeling is that George Lucas may be a visionary but he's also the richest hack this side of Hollywood.

The two of us got dressed up to head over to Curry Master's place for pancakes. So I brought my bottle of syrup as a contribution. The three of us plus MB's girlfriend just slogged down a bunch of savory and sweet concoctions. And then we also tackled eating through this monstrous citrus fruit only found in southern Japan and known as the King of Fruits. I stayed there a couple of hours before I was off to Shinjuku.

There I met Jazz Buddy and Jazz Veteran. We first went into the seedy area of Kabukicho to try out JB's recommended Chinese restaruant. It was small and had that ambience that a lot of those formica-and-tile Chinese eateries back in Toronto have. The food was excellent which pleased JB. Then, it was off to our main destination of DUG, a jazz bar on the main drag. The bar was typical for a jazz joint. It was tucked away in the sub-basement and had that small, dark and intimate look about it which typifies the usual joint. We got there almost a full hour before the trio started playing. It was a piano/bass/drums combo. Most of the songs were original compositions although there were a few standards thrown in for good measure. When they started their first session, it was just the three of us and one very appreciative couple at the front, but it gradually filled up by the end.

Overall, I feared that I was getting that Kabuki Narcolepsy Syndrome that I had suffered back on Tuesday. It is hard work concentrating on understanding the music being blasted at you, and since I was trying to interpret a previously unheard composition, at times, I was risking embarrassment by nodding off. It was difficult but I did manage to keep both eyes open. However, Jazz Buddy fell straight asleep in the second set. I was never quite sure how she took to the live performance. But Jazz Veteran ate it all up.

There was also a middle-aged drunk guy who kept acting up like Ed McMahon at a Jerry Lewis telethon and kept giving his very vocal appreciation for the trio's workmanship. He must have been a pretty bigwig, though, since he was approached by the guys later on for a drink. I have to admit that I was also greatly impressed by the bass player's virtuoso performance slicing through the strings like a knife through butter. At the end, Jazz Veteran at least openly suggested that we do another jazz outing in the near future. I'd be game but I think I should take in a bit more coffee beforehand.

Well, I'm back home ready to fall over. Luckily, I've got nothing until my company class later in the early evening since the others had to cancel their classes. Speaking of cancellations, The Hawaiian just contacted me saying that she wouldn't be able to make this Wednesday's class because of her father's illness.