Saturday, April 17, 2004

Saturday April 17, 8:47 p.m.

Warm day today. I've got my windows open trying to catch some breeze. Now I really know that Spring is here. Plus, the grunge factor is back.

Had a couple of last minute line shufflings with my kids' classes today. The father replaced the elder sister today. I was grateful for the change in pace to a talkative fellow although he sometimes leaves me hanging with some awkward pauses. The second change was pretty sudden as my best student called off sick due to a fever, so I had her elder sister. For a girl that was under the weather, she was pretty healthy skipping down to the living room. Her face did look pretty sallow, though. In any case, I just gabbed with the more fluent sister; she didn't seem to be too interested in anything structured the last time I'd taught her.

Then, after a brief stop at the Golden Arches just down the street, I walked over to the Tokyo Dome area again. Tons of people as usual. I even went inside the Tokyo Dome Hotel to use the phone. Nothing too special about it...just your regular glass and wood interior decor. However, I did see what looked like a Yakuza sitting near the revolving door with his sunglasses, punch perm and sullen look. I walked a wide berth around him.

Finally, I met up with Moomin and Chihiro for tea at the Tea Room. We hadn't met in several months so we spent most of the 2 hours there just catching up on people and topics related to the school. They expressed some surprise on hearing the news that both The Rapper and The Cop have left and wondered how The Madame felt since she really had the hots for him. Then, the two of them talked about their trials and tribulations with work. Chihiro is still searching for one while Moomin had been struggling with hers over the past few months although she said that things were finally settling down.

Well, the last message from Party Hearty is that all the food and drink have been bought for the big BBQ party tomorrow, so I just have to show up at 2. My work is basically over even though I think I'll probably be manning the grill or working in the kitchen. Before that, I need to give my own place a bit of a quick clean. I haven't done much since just before the Anime King dropped in.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Saturday April 17, 7:52 a.m.

My morning wake-up call came in the form of The Ballerina from London. My "grace" subroutine didn't kick for the first couple of seconds of consciousness so she almost made a quick ending to the call. However, I'm actually grateful that she did call me since I should have had woken up some 45 minutes previously. My real alarm was shut off; I apparently a tendency to shut them off without even being conscious.

Looks like it'll be another good day today.
Friday April 16, 11:51 p.m.

Another long day and night come to a close. Not feeling as grungy as I did on that warm Monday but not really all that cold either.

I had my regular session with The Teacher. It looks like the pattern has been set for her lessons. Basically, it's a mix of chat and her reading her articles while I scan for any major pronunciation or grammar errors. Not a bad way to earn 5000 yen.

I then went back to my station to get some lunch via the conveyor belt sushi place under my station. Pretty good fish today. Then, I paid off some bills. My wallet is definitely feeling a lot lighter now.

Stopped off at Tokyo Station, the main bullet train hub and went to the Hokkaido Plaza of JR. Apparently, enough people like to head up to Japan's northernmost island that its own travel office was warranted. Good for me. I picked up some info about this 4-day tour up there via the much-vaunted Cassiopeia. In absolute terms, it won't be cheap but compared to what I get, it's a pretty good deal. Now, it's just a matter of seeing if I can get a ticket on board. I will have to aim for either mid-May or June. July is just going to be too expensive.

After the stop at Tokyo Station, I walked over to the Ginza and browsed through Yamano Music for a while. I held my tongue and my money and didn't buy any CDs this time around. There wasn't really anything that grabbed my attention anyways. Next, I went across the street to the Mitsukoshi Department Store and headed all the way up to the roof garden where I hung out with some of the old and middle-aged and read my book. It was sunny but a bit too drafty on the outside so I ended up spending the last hour inside the elevator bay.

I met up with Arwen at the Tea Room. Ms. 77 had a soccer match to play so she was absent. Once again, we went out for dinner afterwards. This time, it was back to Yoyogi, the second time this week I went there after the dinner with the Prez on Monday. However, with Arwen, we didn't end up in a down-home izakaya. Instead, she took me to a raucous Cambodian restaurant. The staff were, I assume, all Cambodian and the attitudes certainly were non-Japanese. The owner was an amiably gruff sort who tried to push the set course on us. However, Arwen stood her ground and ordered a la carte. Lots of noise amongst the staff. The food was good, however, as was the conversation. Once again, we gabbed about marriage and babies. She told me that one of her old classmates has been learning everything a potential good wife needs to land her a husband. I had to shake my head bemusedly. The peer pressure that some women are under...

It looks like that trip for strawberry picking on the 25th is a go. It'll be myself, Arwen, DTE and 77 in Kanagawa.

The ride home was suitably crowded for a Friday night but no particular problems of stepping into street monja or drunken salarymen.

I noticed when I got home that there was no fax from my school about any scheduled classes next week. Well, I guess I may be taking that as a hint of things to come...or not to come, as it were. I think if anyone had asked me earlier, I would've said that I was disappointed, but now as I think about it, I feel a bit more liberated. If they need me, they'll call me.

I sent in the final numbers for Party Hearty's big BBQ bash on Sunday. A couple of late cancellations but otherwise we've got a good number coming. I also got word from the mother of my two Saturday morning students. The older kid is off at school tomorrow so I'll probably have the mother in her stead. Whew! That'll save me some extra weight in books and the usual frustration of getting her to talk in more than a monotone. The mother is a much more outgoing sort.

Once I finish up with my kids, I'll be meeting up with Moomin and Chihiro at 5 for that tea. Looks like my weekend is set.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Thursday April 15, 11:18 p.m.

There is joy in this country tonight after the news that the 3 hostages have been released in Iraq. NHK and one other channel are providing live coverage. And the troops are still in Iraq. Whether this will bode well or ill remains to be seen.

My lessons at the Curry Master's place tonight went pretty well. From what was a pretty simple article for her, we were able to jump into a wide-ranging conversation going over terrible homestay experiences to crime in big cities to her phobia about cockroaches. The lesson with the SE also went ahead without a hitch but we could've used a tape with the book conversation which got me thinking about creating our own tape for him since it seems that the tape for the text doesn't exist anymore. And that led us to her long-defunct AIWA stereo system in which both her CD and tape recorder can't open. So the three of us set about seeing if we could rectify the situation. At first, we had assumed that the tape stuck in there was the cause of the problem but after wrenching open the casing, it turned out that it was a mechanical problem. SE was able to pull the tape out with some difficulty but it hadn't gummed up the capstans after all. SE pointed out in hindsight that the AIWA had a history of breaking down fairly soon.

The plans for the two parties upcoming are coming along. The party for Chip Guy has been slowly gaining attendees, and now I've been recruited for food duty early on Sunday. As for the party for the Ballerina, it looks like one of the ten has pulled out due to work.

I got word from SR that she has reconsidered about joining that class after I made some points to her. I'm certainly grateful but it did get me thinking about how long I should keep a class going. Some of my longer-living classes such as with the Tsudanuma ladies and the Monday morning folks have gone on for years since the ladies consider the classes as social events as well as venues to pick up their English. Therefore for them, I'm not too worried about how much longer I can take them. However, with some of the school alumni and the other privates I've picked up over the past year, those students are just there for the education. Once they get it, what then? I could imagine that the end could be pretty awkward, so I'm now thinking if I ever do pick up any more students I'll consider offering to tell them that I'll either give them 6 months to a year or some other sort of criteria to structure their lessons and then they can consider whether or not they want to continue or just cut things off. No awkwardness or hurt feelings. And I can then pick up those students who couldn't get into my time slots.

Well, just finish this blog and then write up the report for the classes tonight. Off to bed. Meanwhile on TV, most of the stations are now focusing full bore on the release of the hostages. The families of the 3 were shown celebrating. There i s joy in Mudville tonight.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Thursday April 15, 8:26 a.m.

A very ominous sign from Baghdad. One of the Italian hostages has been reported killed. I'm not sure of the circumstances leading up to his death, but this will really terrify the families of the kidnapped 3 here. I haven't seen any news of it on NHK; I'm just kinda wondering if it may be holding back the news in deference to the families. The station has "shaped" its programming in the past; when the abductees from North Korea returned to Japan 18 months ago, the station made sure its Tuesday night enka show featured all of the top stars from the early and mid 70s for the abductees to watch. In a nation in which doctors have often withheld terminal cancer diagnoses from their patients, I wouldn't be surprised if NHK decided to use the same tactic.

Well, it looks like Koizumi is actually putting the nation's money to work...finally. CNN just announced that the Japanese government will be investing the equivalent of 11.3 billion US dollars into foreign stocks starting from next April. That is, if Koizumi still has a job at that time.

I've got another cancellation. SR called in to say that she won't be able to make it for Friday because of work. It looks like her job in Hell got a lot worse during her trip to Hawaii. But, interestingly enough, she also asked this question about this school that she may be interested in signing up for English lessons. They would be daily and would involve some easy conversation stuff and they would be inexpensive. Being my usual paranoid self, I was just wondering if this were a very subtle sign in telling me that I'm no longer needed. I don't think I'm particularly high-priced myself, but if she could get these lessons for far less and far more frequently, I wouldn't be surprised if she did decide to fly the coop, as it were. Just like some of those doctors and NHK, she may state a translucent white lie like she's too busy to get out of my lessons. I hope she doesn't. I don't appreciate that tactic...I prefer her to just tell me openly. I'll certainly be disappointed but at least I would feel a lot better than if I were lied to. It may be the Japanese way, but it sure isn't mine, and the "When in Rome..." proverb can only go so far with me. My first two privates of my bohemian career pulled the same stunt with me, although I let that go since I wasn't too crazy about the circusmtances surrounding that class. However, I'm kinda wondering about the Hawaiian.

Well, now that I've gotten my rant across....another old student of mine, the Princess sent over a message asking if I would like to join her and Chihiro for tea on Saturday. Nothing too expensive since Chihiro is looking for a job. I gather that it'll be the Tea Room then.

Gotta get the wash up...make sure I don't have the lighter stuff on the outer line so as not to bother my downstairs neighbour again with falling shirts, and then I head out for my haircut.
Wednesday April 14, 10:34 p.m.

WOOWEE! Just calculated the budget for the past month. After seeing losses for the first couple of months this year, I actually made a good profit this month. Maybe I'll treat myself to something tomorrow.

The Office Lady called up at about noon to say that she had to cancel out of tonight's lesson due to a cold. So I ended up a with a midweek day off. I may have lost a chance to make 3000 yen but I'm glad that I didn't have to go (although the OL is a good student) since it would've meant a 90-minute round trip down to Toranomon for a 1-hour class in which I'm not even paid for transportation. I actually got a nap before heading out into the cold spritzing air to get some grub at the corner convenience store. With the extra time, I was able to get all that ironing done and even complete a very mundane action of filling out my address book.

With the 3 kidnapped Japanese people as yet to be released, the families of the 3 came out in front of the cameras once again....but this time to apologize. It was a very Japanese thing to do....the families told the press that they were sorry that their loved ones created so much worry among the population and then they bowed very deeply.

So far, the reviews on President Bush's press conference have been largely mixed. A lot of people did agree with me that G. W. hemmed and hawed and did more evading than Leona Helmsley and her tax returns. There were apparently those yahoos who sided wholeheartedly with the President and chastised those who were against him as unpatriotic. I kinda wonder if some of those folks have a large poster of Senator McCarthy in their living rooms.

On TV, the noon hour on TV Tokyo is served by The Adventures of Lois and Clark. I've watched snippets of it here and there as background noise or visual wallpaper; I think you can figure out what I think of it. The acting, the effects and the music just makes it look like a cheapo version of the movie series...or at least the first two movies since the last two movies with Christopher Reeve were pathetic. I actually went searching on the net for the website for the series. There doesn't seem to be any official site (not too surprising since the series ended almost 8 years ago), so I ended up going to Jump The It was an entertaining read, to say the least. Apparently, the majority of the folks have stated that the show jumped the shark after the first season, so perhaps I feel vindicated by watching the 4th season episode that I caught today.

The coordinator of the year-classes at my school sent me a message asking whether she should change the time of this welcome party on the 24th to meet my convenience. I told her that my dance card was full with my kids' classes and then the dinner for the Ballerina that night. In retrospect, I think the 24th would be a good day after all for the party since it will occur after the first week of classes. I'm not sure why the coordinator feels that she needs me that badly that she would break all convention and change the party time to the dinner hour. An old head teacher who never liked her once posited the theory that with an obliging Haruhiko at the party, she can avoid having to show up at the parties. That's not true at all since she had been present at previous welcome parties. Well, in any case, I hope she can scrounge up the teachers to show up for the party. It's not as if I don't want to go, and certainly, I can think of more enjoyable things than teachng one of those kids but I made a business commitment and I intend to stick to it. Perhaps with so many veteran teachers like the Rapper and the Songbird flying the coop recently, she's a bit desperate for some old hands to be present. Well, there's always the Movie Buddy.

As for tomorrow, I've got my bimonthly appointment with the hair salon. Yeah, yeah, I know...I said salon. My ex introduced it to me early in our erstwhile relationship since her scuba diving buddy was running it so I abandoned my old barber shop of 7 years to satsify my girl's wishes. Having said that, the salon has been very good to me for the past 2.5 years. A hair salon, unlike my old barber shop, has a policy of not giving shaves. However, I do enjoy the scalp massages and shampoos.

Then, I'll probably head over to Maruzen to see if I can get some tapes for the SE for tomorrow night's class. I could stay here at home again for most of the day, but I figure I should get out for some exercise.

Just saw Senator "Mauler" Kerrey gouge into CIA Director Tenet about 9/11. At certain times, Tenet looked like he was gonna explode and at others, he looked bewildered at this "Good Cop, Bad Cop" approach writ large the commisssion is susing thanks to the very bipartisan makeup. After Kerrey the Democrat finished up, Lehman the Republican has now just given the most wonderful platitudes to him. Whatever one thinks of American politics, it's never boring.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Wednesday April 14, 10:13 a.m.

Currently watching one of President Bush's rare press conferences. It' s been a pretty mixed bag, so far. He has been doing his usual hemming and hawing along with the occasional slip-up that the "Bushisms" book people thank god for (Rumsfeld is a co-secretary of state? Who knew? ...."I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied?" Huh?).

He also seems to be falling back on adages that have been used in the media in the past few weeks. The press has been striking at him fairly hard for what's been happening in Iraq recently, especially in the last couple of weeks, and for good reason. His 18-minute opening statement has given no particularly specific plan about how the States will bring things under fact, he didn't even concede that things have been spiraling out of control.

Having said that, he has shone in all-too-brief moments when he's gotten angry or passionate about the answer for that question. But those could be explained away since he's briefed about possible or probable questions beforehand anyways. John Dickerson of TIME threw him a curve ball just now for which the Prez looked distinctly peeved. However, that journalistic grenade did reveal a bit about how Bush reacts...not too well; he even just conceded that he's not too quick on his feet in such situations. It wasn't quite cringe-inducing but I'm sure he wasn't too comfortable. And I'm kinda wondering if the Press Secretary will give Dickerson a red card for his transgression.

On a lighter and more wistful note, it was a revelation to see John Roberts of CBS News popping up and soberly throwing Bush a question. I remember him as J.D. Roberts, rock n' roll reporter of The New Music, a then-cutting-edge TV documentary show from then-cutting-edge CITY-TV in Toronto. His fashion back then was suitably a leather jacket, jeans, a near-mullet and a smirk. Now, he stands up at the press conference in a full Congressional suit and anchorman-gray hair. Man, how fast a quarter-century can fly by.
Tuesday April 13, 10:24 p.m. felt like early summer yesterday but it feels like early winter tonight. I'm sure that there are a lot of immune systems crying "Uncle!" right now. We're supposed to get rained on as well for most of tomorrow.

Well, my message to my downstairs neighbour got a prompt and neat reply...just the one I like. When I got back home tonight from the juku, there was the bag with my UNIQLO shirt right by my door. I just wonder if I should get him a little reward, but then again, it is just a shirt, and it's not as if any of us in the building are particularly neighbourly to each other. I don't think any of us have any contact with the others.

The classes tonight were cut-and-dry as usual. The one student in my second class was griping again about using the textbook that is supposedly too easy for her. And I once again proved her in the lesson that she has yet to master some of the grammar that we did today. I figured that she just gets that way whenever a lesson bored her (like last week).

The coordinator from my school finally sent me a response about this welcome party. She gave a fairly surprising response that the program attracted the lowest number of new recruits ever...just 26 new faces, as compared to 40-45 new students in previous years. I can't say that I'm totally surprised, though. With the number of English conversation schools littering Tokyo and the high prices, it's going to be tough to get students. Also, a part of the success of such a school is word-of-mouth, and frankly speaking, I can't say that my school would have a great reputation. Not to slag on most of the teachers, though; a lot of them are decent folks who really try to put through an education to them. However, I think the aftercare and the peripherals such as textbooks have been pretty substandard for as long as I remember. I mean, the main text for the students have simple drawings of folks in bell-bottoms and afros...that's how old it is. The low turnout will also hurt me. Fewer students will mean fewer classes for teachers to teach. I may actually have to fill up my Tuesdays and Thursdays if I don't get any more classes from them.

As for the welcome party, I found it rather bizarre that the coordinator decided to make it for the next Saturday. She had usually set it far into May just in case new stragglers came into the school. In any case, I told her that I couldn't make it because of my kids and the fact that I have that dinner for the Ballerina that night. Well, no use crying over spilt milk.

That new Pet Shop Boys video looks rather intriguing with its Japanese pop culture theme. In fact, I think the Boys make a pretty humourous stab at the commercial industry here with its silly images and funky kanji. I never expected the song "Flamboyant", though, to actually cover how a lowly salaryman goes from a zero to a hero by entering this contest that actually exists on Japanese TV.

While I was blogging, I ended up chatting for an hour with Movie Buddy. It had been a few weeks since I spoke with him last. Both he and I were commiserating about the state of our school after I had told him about the low recruitment rate. He also believes that I probably won't be seeing too much of the school anymore. If that's indeed the case, I will really then consider opening those last two weekly slots for new students. It's a pity in a way, though. I really did enjoy teaching those classes for the past 5 years. But life is transition. At the same time, MB told me that The Rapper has also pulled out of things. Again, I can't say that I'm surprised. MB himself almost ended up on the streets when contract negotiations broke down at one point a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Tuesday April 13, 10:43 p.m.

Back to cold windy weather again. Those winds are just blowing like gales out there. In fact, my UNIQLO shirt was a casualty. It got blown down to the second floor balcony, so I had to exercise my Kanji writing muscles and pen a memo for the fellow downstairs. I tried to make it easy for him and myself by just asking him to put the shirt ina bag provided for him and just place it in my mailbox. No muss, no fuss and no contact.

Party Hearty finally got back into the e-mail swing of things in a most timely way since she's providing the pad for Chip Guy's farewell this Sunday. Not surprisingly, there'll be tons of food. I'm good with that.

I got word back from the Anime King. It looks like the poor guy suffered the flight from Hell with delays and rebookings. However, he is now back in one piece in Toronto. I hear the gang back home will be taking him out for a nice juicy steak dinner. He deserves it.

Well, gotta get working on those lesson plans, although I only have 2 hours tonight. Then, I gotta get some lunch, and then maybe I can actually get some ironing done. I've got a good pile of wrinkled clothing on one sofa.
Monday April 12, 11:45 p.m.

It felt more like early summer today. The mercury went up to 26 C. But my best personal barometer was the fact that I was feeling pretty grungy by the time I got home tonight. I went straight into the shower. Luckily, things will be a good deal cooler tomorrow.

It was a good day for walking though. Certainly, a lot of the fashion freaks were out in Shibuya today. I saw a few unnaturally tanned young folk in day-glo colours and bleached blonde hair. We had a tragic fashion trend a couple of years ago called GANGURO and YAMAMBA which these folks were emulating today. The latter especially looked like photo negatives. I hope that today's sightings were more of a woeful aberration than a return to turn-of-the-century form.

My classes went pretty smoothly. Afterwards, the Prez once again treated me to yet another one of his local haunts. This time, he took me a bit further out into Yoyogi to an izakaya called Uogashi. Great food....I stuffed myself almost to the point of attaining first victim status in SEVEN. The place also got a write up in the Washington Post for its home cooking. The owner said that since the article's release, there have been a few foreign guests coming into the izakaya. A bit hard to imagine since the place seems so Japanese, but the article did say that the ownership was friendly, and they were indeed that tonight.

No news about the 3 hostages. I just don't know about that.

A Waseda University professor got nailed in Shinagawa Station for trying to peek up a high school student's skirt using a well-placed hand mirror. Gah! A once-popular celeb was caught doing the same thing. He and his career plummeted into oblivion.

I was thinking about doing some ironing before I hit the hay but I've decided to just jump into bed immediately after my blog. I'll probably have more energy next morning. As for right now, it seems to be devoted to digestion.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Monday April 12, 7:13 a.m.

UGH! I went through pollen hell yesterday with my nose and eyes running like a river during Spring Thaw. Neither the air cleaner nor the medicine helped out since I decided to wait too long before relinquishing to the pills. I took another batch this morning and it feels like it's kicking in.

I was able to enjoy...between grabs of Kleenex, that is...the DVD of "Intolerable Cruelty". It was another Arwen loaner thereby bypassing the much more expensive theater route. The Coen Bros. once again pulled off another fine homage to screwball comedies. The banter amongst the cast was quick and witty...a challenge for even advanced English students. And George Clooney couldn't have looked suaver...even in Ocean's Eleven. It's rather interesting that he and Cary Grant have the same initials...reversed...cue the Twilight Zone theme.

The big news has been the fate of those 3 kidnapped Japanese in Iraq. Spirits were considerably buoyed yesterday at the news that the three would be released. However, it's now been more than 24 hours since that announcement and there has been no further news. I cannot imagine what the families must be going through. A couple of representatives from those families looked on the verge of emotional and physical collapse at a news conference.

There was some non-baseball sporting news on the tube with the national judo championships yesterday. Japan's own homely darling, Ryoko Tani (nee Tamura), alias Yawara-chan, clinched her berth at the Olympics. I think everyone still remembers the moment when she won the gold in Sydney 4 years ago. Not a dry house in the country. However, my respect for her fell a few points with that ludricously cheesy televised wedding reception she had with her baseball beau. Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair, though, since major sports celebs HAVE TO have their weddings made public.

Well, I'm still waiting for my birth certificate to come in from Thunder Bay. With 70,000 applications clogging up the works there, it's not surprisng that I've been waiting more than 4 months. Having said that, I'm gonna be sending a letter today to see if my application even got there. As I was telling Mom yesterday, there's nothing to do but wait.

It looks like it'll be another fairly quiet week. I'll be loaded today and Friday but the middle section will be sparse in classes.