Saturday, April 03, 2004

Sunday April 4, 12:15 a.m.

I went down to Shibuya again to meet up with Chip Guy. He was to meet me in front of the gigantic Starbucks across from Shibuya Station, so I just hung around in the neighbouring Tsutaya, the Japanese equivalent to Blockbuster Video in the States. The tunes of HIkaru Utada were playing everywhere like a ghostly presence since the young lady hasn't released anything new for over a eternity in the J-Pop business. Her album of all of her singles was released about 10 days ago, and unsurprisingly, is a best seller. I'm kinda wondering if I should pick it up myself but I think I've got all of her best stuff in her first two albums and one really good single. Also, Matrix Revolutions was playing on the screens. For some reason, the movie has been released a few days here before its release Stateside.

I met up with Chip Guy and our destination this time was the restaurant Toriyoshi just up the street in Dogenzaka. It's theme is chicken but is a few grades above the KFC variety. It was the just of two of us so we gabbed on Star Wars, superhero movies and all of the other manly stuff. I figure that I might be meeting CG quite a few more times in the next few weeks since his departure from Tokyo is fast approaching. It'll be several months at least before I see him again, I gather.

We picked up some dessert at the local Cozy Corner and then went back to his place. His wife was busy puttering about on the laptop while CG and I watched Matrix Reloaded. After my diatribe from last year, my opinion still hasn't changed. However, I am slowly starting to comprehend The Architect's lecture to Neo.

The long ride home on the subway was fairly uneventful although on the Tozai Line, I was seated next to an old fogey who had obviously been drinking according to his stinky cigarette-and-booze breath. He was muttering garbage. Although I won't ever touch the cancer sticks, I still kinda wonder if I'll end up like that if I stay here way too long. I was telling Chip Guy tonight that I'd never retire from teaching. I'd probably end up dead soon after. You can ask the late Alistair Cooke.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Saturday April 3, 12:13 p.m.

Another grand day in the Big Sushi! The temps are perfect and the sky is cleas. There should be tons of people in the city parks getting soused and generally making asses of themselves tonight. Hail Cherry Blossom Viewing.

Well, I went off to pick up the Anime King at Narita yesterday after a major clean sweep of the apartment. His plane actually arrived well ahead of schedule but I still waited for 45 minutes until he popped through the custom gates. It looks like he had a very interesting experience with one comely Customs officer. He was carrying some vacuum-packed packages which were teabags of high quality. Not taking chances, the officer had it X-rayed by a colleague, and then she asked AK politely with a hint of trepidation if he would submit to a body search (no cavities, though). He didn't need to think twice about that one!

On getting back home, we just crashed for about an hour before we hit the neighbourhood ramen shop. The place was absolutely empty...not a good sign for a Friday night, although one other couple entered later. However, with the taste of the food and the Anne Murray tribute playing in the background, I wondered if I were back in a Toronto Chinese eatery. There was no doubt where the Chinese management's layalties lied....there were pictures of Chairman Mao everywhere.

Afterwards, we bought some desserts and breakfast stuff at the AM/PM nearby and just chatted for a few hours before we hit bed. The Anime King took off this morning to traipse through Ueno Park and then meet up with an old associate of his in Nakano...most likely to mull through the huge MANDARAKE manga/anime emporium there. With the whole place taking up 4 stories, they should be there for a while. However, he also has to meet up with another buddy of his who'll be arriving at the Hilton tonight. The two of them will be staying at the Iconoclast's place for the next few days until the other guy takes off for home on Tuesday. Then, AK is back here.

Just when I was getting out of the shower, the mother for that kid I teach on Saturday afternoons called up to cancel the lesson for today. No complaints here. So instead of riding the train and getting some games ready, I am just enjoying blogging, e-mailing and doing some more domestic stuff.

CNN's Anderson Cooper, cable's equivalent of David Letterman, is obsessing about that Japanese Naval Self-Defense recruitment commercial where young thin sailors are prancing about on the bow of a destroyer yelling SEAMANSHIP. It's apparently become a regular Friday rite of celebration on his show. My thoughts about it? It's plain gay...the Village People should be getting royalties.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Friday April 2, 9:15 a.m.

It rained steadily throughout the night but it's stopped now. Still overcast, though. However, things should improve by afternoon.

I finally got the name of the airline. The weird flight number belongs to Japan Air Systems. The Anime King comes in on schedule at Terminal 2. But I've gotta get the place all cleaned up beforehand. We'll probably grab some ramen but I'm afraid he'll be on his own for the weekend since I've got those events to deal with. Perhaps on Monday after my company class, I can meet up with him for dinner.

Thursday April 1, 10:01 p.m.

Second consecutive good weather day...saints preserve us!

I aired out the mattresses this morning just in case a third day of good weather is too good to hope for. The new lamp is working out's really nice to have that soft warm glow of an incandescent bulb. Before I hit the hay, I have to set up the bedroom to look half-decent for my guest. I'll probably be sleeping on the sofa from tonight. My back will be yelling revenge.

The hay fever got me good today. Up to this point, I thought it was giving me a break this year but the pollen must've been out in full force because I was sneezing up a storm during the walk from home to the subway station. I had to buy some medicine at the drug store across from the subway entrance. Of course, I did the idiotic thing when I took some of it on the platform. I had the medicine bottle cap to hold the three pills while I had the open bottle in my other hand. When I proceeded to swallow the pills by upending the cap into my mouth, my right hand decided to follow suit, and with gravity being its usual dependable self, all of the pills fell onto the platform. To add insult to injury, the train was just coming into the station. I had to hustle while using every profanity in the English book to pick up every last pill. But thanks to some superhuman speed, I managed to pick up all but five or 1.333 doses.

Of course, the pills took their sweet time to kick in, so for the first half hour of my lesson with Arwen and Ms. 77, I had to keep a pretty ragged tissue nearby . Not very conducive to good teaching. However, the students were very maganimous to my suffering. It was the first time in a few weeks to have both women together. We ended up going a full 90 minutes over time.

Then it was off to Myoden to teach the Curry Master and the SE. I had a full hour before the class started so I spent part of my time at the Golden Arches. No, not a healthy way to go but it wasn't as if I had much choice in the matter. The station mall has a lack of good places to eat. Mind you, it looked like a new place opened up since there was a CHINDOYA band there playing. A Chindoya band is a trio consisting of a bass drummer, a saxophonist and an announcer which loudly proclaims the opening of a new store or restaurant. It harks back about a century. And the folks dress up in a mix of kimonos and some clown-like clothing, anything to get attention.

Speaking of new, the Eidan Subway System ceased to be (at least in name) after 50 years of operation. From today, it became Tokyo Metro. The changes are purely cosmetic; aside from the name change, the signs and staff uniforms changed colour scheme. But the weird innovation was this letter-number code that's being applied to each station. I guess all this is for the foreigners coming into Tokyo to make it easier to ride the subway.

Well, tomorrow, it'll be another day off but it won't be a quiet day. I have to clean up the rest of the apartment for the Anime King. I'm still awaiting word from him via The Iconoclast about where he'll be coming out at Narita. I absolutely refuse to run around there looking for his arrival gate.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Thursday April 1, 1:03 a.m.

Another long, long day. And I feel properly prepared for bed. I was in full UNIQLO garb to tackle the lovely weather out there. First I met up with my ex for lunch in Shimbashi. Once again, we went to that "secret" tonkatsu place near her workplace. We got there at 11:55 a.m., just five minutes before the lunch crowd tried to rush into the few seats that were available. The pork is of excellent fatty deposits in the entire piece which is a big weak spot for some of the supermarket variety of breaded pork cutlet.

After lunch, we had about 20 minutes left in her lunch break so we just chatted quietly outside her company. It looks like she has come to a time of stability in her life, something that I wasn't too certain about when the two of us were an item. Part of it was me. I have never been an optimistic person, and some of my more dour periods affected even her natural exuberance. She was still thinking I was in one of my dour states today which I wasn't. I guess it was good that we broke up.

For about several hours after that, I was in shopping mode. First off, it was to the bookstore Maruzen in Nihombashi where I got some stuff for a couple of students. And then, I bought some shower curtains and a lamp as part of my home improvements. I tried to keep things low in the money department, but this week's budget tally will be considerably larger.

Then, after a long browse through Shibuya HMV, I met up with Chip Guy and a couple of his former MBA classmates at the Maple Leaf, that Canadian pub I had mentioned several weeks ago. There was a mural with tree sections, snowshoes and skates draped on it but aside from the Canadian owners, it didn't really strike me as a particularly Canadian pub. It just struck me as your usual sports bar. There was plenty of space, and the hamburgers and fries were surprisingly good; the burgers were especially juicy. I was especially surprised by the spiciness of the chicken wings. I don't think I've tasted wings that fiery since my Toronto days at the Madison Ave. Pub. The service was competent but a bit overattentive on the part of one guy. I wasn't ever sure if he were a waiter or one of the owners. He seemed more host-like. It was nice that he was concerned about our welfare but he could have spaced out his checks on us a bit wider. Still, I think the place merits a visit by me and some of the students someday. I do have one suggestion, though. Get some NHL games! We weren't particularly interested in watching the Japan vs. Singapore qualifying soccer game.

I got back home to find out via e-mail that the kid I was helping for his working-holiday odyssey in Canada has arrived safely and is now living with his host family in Acton, Ontario. Of course, the language barrier is a bit formidable for him right now, but I assured him that the wall will come down gradually.

Well, tomorrow....sorry, today...I have three classes to teach. But I have to pick up my blankets first and then air out the mattresses in the first stage of preparation for welcoming the Anime King. I'm still waiting for him to inform me about which terminal he'll be arriving at.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Tuesday March 30, 10:28 p.m.

The rains burst forth about 6 p.m. and they've been doing a pretty good recreation of the Noah's Ark controversy. My feet are still wet under my socks so I'm risking athlete's foot here but I'll try and get this blog ging done first.

The juku classes went smoothly. As usual, during the 45 minutes before the first class, the juku owner engaged me in conversation for all of that time. She remarked that I had the voice for radio and wondered why I hadn't gone that route. I told her that I had always harboured a miniscule thought about what it would be like to be behind a mike. She encouraged me to try out for NHK; I was polite about it but I had to think about how remote that opportunity would be. Plus, at this point, I simply don't have the time.

My first class with the ladies was another laughfest. Half of it was spent planning for that dinner on Sunday. I'm just wondering how we're gonna try to get to this place which is hidden in a neighbourhood; the map sure doesn't help.

The second class went well enough. However, there was a bit of an incident outside the juku involving another one of those hothead boor drivers honking and then yelling at a driver of a blue van which was blocking half of the street. At first, I thought the van was the one owned by one of my students since I remember being driven by him once in a similar vehicle. Luckily, it turned out to be a different person. My student isn't exactly one of the more intimidating types. By the time, I left though all the tension and the two cars had gone.

That tragic accident involving that kid at Roppongi Hills on Friday has grown into a full media incident. Policemen filed into the Sanwa Tajima Corporation, the manufacturer of the revolving door which killed the boy, and brought out boxes of information as if they were raiding the company for tax evasion. It may be getting a bit ugly, too. Sanwa Tajima and one other company involved in the door's production have started pointed fingers at each other. Also, the mass media have done the usual dogpile on the story by suddenly coming up with previous incidents involving revolving doors all the way back to 1997, and there were quite a few. I can't be sure if any other station had actually tried to expose the dangers of revolving doors before since I don't watch all that much Japanese TV anymore, but it galls me a bit that it takes a death of a young boy to start these folks talking about a problem which should've been easily fixed yeass ago. But I figure it's just part of the culture here....don't make waves unless absolutely necessary.

Well, in other news, the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays started their season at Tokyo Dome tonight. Of course, since Hideki Matsui is a Yankee, the crowd treated his team as the home team. Too bad that the Rays handed the Yanks' asses back to them.

It looks like the sun will be back tomorrow according to NHK. Thank heavens for that, although my sneakers will need to dry out for a considerably longer time. Maybe some of those company folks will be heading out for cherry blossom viewing.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Tuesday March 30, 12:11 p.m.

It didn't feels more like a Sunday than a Tuesday. I'm still in my PJs doing e-mail and blogging. It looks overcast but I have yet to see any of the rain that the weatherguys have been threatening. Perhaps within an hour, I'll head on over to the store and see what I can find for a lamp and an extra CD rack. I had gone over to the LOFT in Shibuya, a fairly upscale household goods store. Upscale in price as well. Then, I've got either 2 or 3 hours worth of classes at the juku tonight.

I think with the possible exception of Thursday, the rest of the week ought to be called Sunday. I've got nothing slated for tomorrow or Friday and Saturday ought to be just that one kid again. I'm not sure about any dinner plans with the Anime King as yet.

The Iconoclast called up from Hong Kong just now asking me about his friend who's some sort of education consultant. Apparently, he wants to talk to me about some business opportunities. Enh...the Iconclast has given him my number so he'll probably be calling me up sometime tonight, but I'll probably be just polite and hear him out. I'm not much for business. I did relay a message to him to get to the Anime King in Taiwan about my need to find out his airline. It'd be a pain to have to run between two terminals just to find out where he'll be exiting customs from.
Monday March 29, 9:38 p.m.

It was another nice day in the big city. We got up to about 22 C. However, we'll probably be getting showers tomorrow...still pretty balmy, though.

My first class with the ladies was chatty as usual. We went over one of the ladies' trip to New Orleans in May, so I threw in some dishes to try out like Blackened Catfish and Jambalaya, Plus, I mentioned a couple of chefs' names such as Paul Prudhomme and the ubiquitious Emeril Lagasse. I'm not a huge fan of the latter just because he's just a bit too over the top for my liking. The lady also had two complementary tickets for a game between the Mets and the Cubs. I would've loved to have gone if she had just thrown in the airfare and hotel costs in New York.

Well, my miscellaneous expenditures will definitely be showing a bit more of a spike this week. I purchased a couple of slacks which actually fit me for a bargain price at the UNIQLO. I used to have pay more than twice as much at Eddie Bauer. Plus, I also indulged myself and got the latest PREMIERE issue and that Junior Senior CD.

After my company class, I decided to hit Foo Foo after a couple of weeks' absence. It wasn't very busy tonight. I think at one point it was just myself and one other salaryman. The ramen was a bit spicier than usual but I managed to refrain from sweating all over the counter.

Chip Guy and his wife were persuading me about the speedy wonders of ASDL last night on the way back from The Monsoon Cafe. I checked out my provider after I'd gotten back home. It seems that I need to get a LAN board. However, CG surprised me with the news that I should actually upgrade from my hoary desktop to a notebook; the latter is actually getting cheaper than the former. Exqueeze me?! Still, it would be another big dent in the miscellaneous column so I'll have to think about that one.

Speaking of the Monsoon, I mentioned to the ladies today that I had gone there the night before. The richer of the two got that pained expression on her face whenever she hears of a place that didn't meet her standards of culinary excellence. No offense taken, of course. However, I had to wonder if living the life of Riley so long has ironically put her into a culinary siege mentality. I mean, it's fine that she has developed a palate for the finer things in life but I think sometimes being so choosy tends to restrict one's enjoyment of food. Certainly most restaurants will not or cannot strive to achieve such levels and keep the largest customer base.

I've yet to hear from Party Hearty's friend about those people I have to contact for the housewarming party on the 18th. However, it looks like that get-together for the Ballerina on the weekend of the 24th is starting to gain some steam. I've gotten a few responses from people.

Still gotta do some domestic chores before I hit bed. Luckily, I'm pretty much off tomorrow aside from two hours at the juku.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Monday March 29, 12:20 a.m.

It was probably the most gorgeous day on Sunday. The weather was somewhere between warm and cool with plenty of sun. Perhaps Spring has finally arrived after a tumultuous end to Winter. I will still take a wait-and-see attitude for the rest of this week.

In the afternoon, I went off to see Chip Guy and the family. His little daughter is starting to stand on her tiptoes with the help of the coffee table. She's also grabbing her leg and stretching it. The two of us believe that she may have a future in ballet. We spent an hour or so looking at the DVD of "Freddy vs. Jason". My, how the mighty have fallen. The movie doesn't even pretend to be a horror movie anymore. Just bad acting and unconvincing gore before the main event. The war casualties in Iraq are far more gruesome than what transpired in this movie.

After getting through that unintentional laughfest, Chip Guy, his daughter and I went off to The Monsoon Cafe near his home where we spent several hours on the patio having Asian cuisine and coladas. His wife joined us about an hour later, and then we were joined by an old friend, Party Hearty, and a couple of others. PH recently moved into the tonier district of Ebisu from her old place in the suburbs of Edogawa Ward near my home, so she's now planning to have a joint housewarming and farewell party for the Chip Guy later next month. It would seem that I have been put into the position of harbinger for the party since PH currently doesn't have any e-mail capability. She apparently doesn't realize that I'm not exactly one of the core members of her august group of friends. Ah well, anything to help out a friend.

CG's girl was starting to get a bit cranky so we finally broke it up,a nd the family and I went back to his place for another hour of coffee and the baseball game between the Yankees and the Tokyo Giants. It was a no-brainer....the Yankees handily defeated the Giants. As if either the Yankees or the Giants are going to risk injuring anyone in a cross-cultural game.

Because of the impending move back to the homeland, Chip Guy's living room has started to look a bit less lived-in. He gave me a ton of Playstation 1 games...not as if I really play them anymore but if I do end up with a whole lot of time on my hands... His wife also gave me three bottles of Alberto Styling Mousse since they have the rather annoying tendency to blow up on planes.

I'll be meeting the Chip Guy again midweek at the new Canadian pub in Shibuya. He stands by the hamburgers there although he concedes that the place needs some more seasoning. I'll be happy with that.

Well, not too bad on the weekly expenditures for the past week, although I know that I'll be getting a couple of pairs of pants at UNIQLO tomorrow after my first Monday class.