Saturday, May 01, 2004

Sunday May 2, 9:49 a.m.

Well, it was another bipolar day yesterday in terms of weather. Nice and warm up to mid-afternoon and then the temps fell out the bottom in the evening. If it hadn't been for my Canadian constitution, I would've frozen in my short sleeves. I'm sure that I got a lot of looks myway. Mind you, it also probably helped that I'm not exactly the thinnest guy around.

Caught KILL BILL Vol. 2 with Movie Buddy and his buddy, Sam, in Shinjuku last night after my classes. It's definitely quite different in tone from the first one, and I liked it better. In retrospect, Quentin was right to split his latest into two parts. It war more talky, had more of that famous QT dialogue and certainly demanded more of both Uma and her character. MB wonders if the Oscar guys will do the same thing with it that they did with The Lord of the Rings, just wait until all the parts are out to consider giving it the gold. I just wonder if the movie is just a bit too violent or iconoclastic to get anything.

Afterwards, we went out to SAMRAT, a local Indian restaurant. We were quite surprised and delighted to see that it was actually open until 5 in the morning. The food is great so I could imagine some of the late-nighters headed there. We spent a little over an hour there chatting over tandoori and naan before I had to take off to catch my last train. And I did do that...I was lucky to catch the last train for my area.

I received a couple of messages last night. One was from The Engineer, who had come over on a little vacation with the missus from Canada. He's currently in Nagoya but he'll be coming over to the Big Sushi tomorrow for a visit. He also asked whether it's possible for him to stay over a night at my place. Looks like I'm gonna have to do another whirlwind cleanup.

The other message was from The Bohemian. He's back from studying during Golden Week, so he was asking about getting together for dinner. I initially thought I could meet him tonight after my class with The Office Lady but now I'm gonna check to see if he'll be hanging around unti Wednesday. I would rather have some time to salvage my apartment.

Anyways, I gotta have some breakfast and then do some quick planning for my lesson.
Sunday May 2, 1:19 a.m.

Another long Saturday, another meterologically bipolar day. It was warm up to mid-afternoon and then the bottom fell out of the temps. It was just 11 C when I got home at midnight, and I was just in my short sleeves with a sleeveless undershirt. Thank heavens for my Canadian constitution of surviving winter. I didn't feel too badly considering the chill, but I'm sure I did get my fair share of looks from people.

My class and then my monthly chat fest at the Tea Room went well enough. And then I met up with Movie Buddy and his good friend, Frodo. Frodo had first come over on a visit during the New Years holidays. Apparently, he enjoyed his time here so much that he has returned for a much longer stay. But with his talents in the computer field, he would be way overqualified for a typical teaching position at some English language school.

Anyways, the three of us went to see KILL BILL VOL. 2. Much was made about the splitting of this movie into 2 parts, some saying that it was a moneygrubbing move on the part of Tarentino and the producers. After having seen it, though, I can now understand the move. The second movie has the same characters and story arc but the feel is quite different. There aren't the gobs of over-the-top violence or The Bride's nearly mute rampage of revenge. The second part has much more dialogue and more feeling coming from The Bride, now known as Beatrix, and even Bill. I noted when I reviewed the first part last year that I was quite uncomfortable about Vol. 1 because of the somewhat inaccurate portrayals of Japanese language and the audience's scornful reaction. I like the second part better and I think this audience was a bit more accepting. However, that enka song came back during the end credits, but at least it didn't come on during the film itself.

After the movie, the three of us went to SAMRAT, an Indian restaurant just across from Shinjuku Station. We were surprised that the place was open until 5 a.m. That's a godsend for those late-nighters who need some good hearty fare. I spent about an hour or so with them mostly listening to MB and Frodo talk about their mutual friends from years past over tandoori chicken, freshly-baked naan and curries.

I had to take off a bit early to catch the train for home. It was the usual scrum at Shinjuku Station for the trip home. I was lucky...I caught the last train passing through my station. When I got back home, I received two messages from a couple of old friends. The Engineer has come over from Toronto for a short stint. And The Bohemian called me up for dinner later on Sunday. He's back from studying up north. I may be able to kill two birds with one stone. But before that, I do have the OL's class in Nihombashi.

Time to sleep.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Friday April 30, 7:03 p.m.

Well, looks like my detachment from my hobby was a temporary one. I got the correct user name from my provider. For some reason, they mentioned that the password was wrong but it still worked for me. In any case, I'm back online.

Some interesting news over the past couple of days that I've been offline. One was the fact that several ministers and other top politicians had not been making their regular pension payments. Some very red-faced mandarins considering that a lot of them were pooh-poohing an actress who had also been caught not paying her premiums despite her appearance in a commercial telling people to pay up.

Then, there was a bizarro incident involving some clearly deranged nut who crashed through a flimsy barrier at Haneda Airport with his car, commandeered a few more vehicles and drove around the runways for 40 minutes while the local police and airport security acted like Keystone Kops. As the coup de grace, he then crashed his final car and jumped off into the ocean before dying at hospital.

Two of the three former hostages in Iraq held their first news conference sincecoming back to a hostile reception last week. They looked rather relaxed although the tale that they had to tell was harrowing, to say the least. The one woman who had been part of the group decided to stay away since she's suffering from depression and nightmares. My feeling is that they've been made scapegoats of sensationalistic rags and right-wing cranks.

Japanese Trekkies with satellite TV are probably rejoicing in their armchairs. Super Channel is currently holding its 70-hour Star Trek marathon. I caught The Wrath of Khan this morning as the first entry, and First Contact is currently playing but since it was already more than halfway through, I've decided to skip it and wait for the episodes of Enterprise to come on. As far as I'm concerned, The Wrath of Khan is still the best of the entire movie series. Too bad that it's been 22 years since anything that good has come up in the Trek canon, although First Contact comes close.

The rush out of the city has begun with the onset of Golden Week. It's amazing how people will put up with crowded highways, airports and train stations just for a few days of rest and relaxation. As for me, I'm very happy to stay within the borders of the city.
Friday April 30, 4:53 p.m.

Well, my e-mail system went out of whack a couple of days ago so I'm doing this from a KINKOS in the Microsoft Bldg across from Shinjuku Station. Losing my access at home is a drag but at least I can find out how it feels doing e-mail from an outside source.

Had 2 classes today. One was with The Teacher. No problems there. And the class with Arwen and 77 went swimmingly as usual. I was on a holding pattern concerning Movie Buddy to catch Kill Bill Vol. 2 but it looks like he has to teach tonight so we're holding off it until tomorrow at 6:30.

Just gotta do some prep work before meeting up with the kids on Saturday. Hopefully, my e-mail woes will be sorted out by then.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Wednesday April 28, 11:53 a.m.

Went to sleep last night listening to my new Bill Evans CD. I ended up dozing off at about 2:30 a.m. in the soft glow of my lamp and while doing my crosswords. How's that for domesticated? It's always nice being able to do that knowing that you can wake up much later the next day. I got my first 8-hour hibernation for the first time in a number of days. I hope to do the same tomorrow as well. I may actually feel healthy by Friday.

The image would have been perfect if I'd had the opportunity to continue to do my crosswords while slowly sipping my coffee but unfortunately, myapartment looks as if last night's typhoon did a break and enter. So I'll have to get to work on cleaning the place up. It's one of the small graces that I have that my place is tiny enough so the chore won't take too long. Plus, I got the wash to do as well.

I got the final message from The Iconoclast this morning before his final departure from Japan. He's left another box of stuff for me to claim including yet another pan. He's given my regrets about declining the invitation for that uncomfortable matchmaking session.

I'm still not quite sure about what's gonna happen with Movie Buddy at the end of the week. It may just end up that the only excitement I'll have is just my one or two classes on Friday.
Tuesday April 27, 11:44 p.m.

Between the times of 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. today, there was a mini-typhoon of enormous strength through the Tokyo area. Guess where I was during that time? I was literally mugged by this force of nature on the way to my juku. My first casualty was my trusty umbrella which collapsed from the mighty gusts. I tried to revive it a couple of times before I considered it a write-off. Before the half-hour was up, there would be many more umbrellas on the scrap heap.

However, the main event took place on my 10-minute walk from Urayasu Station. The wind and the rain joined forces to create sheets of precipitation which thoroughly drenched my front side as well as my head. I was breathing through my mouth since it felt like I was swimming in the ocean. By the time I finally got to the juku, I was a gigantic used dishrag. The owner looked at me with some alarm; being the proverbial Japanese woman, she immediately told me to take off my clothes and she then grabbed a small shirt and gray trainer pants for me to wear. I must admit that I felt a bit self-conscious about wearing Sunday lounge wear in class but it was much better than risking pnewmonia. The lady is one class act, though. She hung out my clothes to dry and even ironed them during my final class. I had to leave my jacket at the juku though since it was going to need longer than 3 hours to dry out, so she gave me a loaner in the form of one of those translucent anoraks. As it happened, I didn't need it since the rain had disappeared long ago. However, the winds were still biting. But those I could handle.

I'm back home...still feeling a bit damp especially in the feet, but overall I'm feeling a whole lot better than I did 6 hours ago. Plus, I got paid. Tomorrow, we shouldn't be getting anymore Noah-level floods but the gusts are supposed to be continuing.

My contact at Japan Tour got back to me after an absence of a few days. It looks like the computers at the agency have been under siege by viruses, something that I know all too well since the bugs seem to be trying to invade my computer....luckily, I've got the filter taking them out. I had to resend the pertinent information but at least I know that she hasn't abandoned me.

Sure enough, one of the guys at the Iconoclast's company tried to contact me to confirm me for this little dinner party tomorrow night that the Prez's buddies were persuading me to attend. I sent the Iconoclast my regrets. Just not interested in this matchmaking stuff.

I finally read through the epic HYPERION series. Great sci-fi story although all that time-shifting revealed a very bittersweet ending for the protagonists. The story liberally adapted its structure from The Canterbury Tales, Huck Finn and finally the Passion of Christ apparently. It could be made into a movie someday although there is a subplot woven in there which resembles the plot from T3 a bit too much.

Twice in as many days, I've had students telling me how much I seem to be enjoying my life according to my adventures over the past weekend. To be honest, I think I have been quite lucky over the years with my social interaction. But I know that it can all go sour so I've tried to maintain contact as best as and as long as I can.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Tuesday April 27, 12:07 a.m.

Went into my 80s mode again. I bought a couple of CDs at HMV today: Queen and Supertramp. Shades of AM radio again!

That dreaded mediation between the Prez and the Iconoclast turned out to be just an outing to their favorite yakitori restaurant with a couple of other colleagues in East Shinjuku. We all let our hair down pretty well thanks to the libations that came with the chicken sticks. The Prez's rantings this time were more jovial; he even had the Iconoclast in a full nelson at one point. One of the colleagues gave me a rather hazy invitiation for some sort of party where he was going to introduce me to a young lady. I was pretty noncommittal in my answer. Most likely, I'll just stay firmly at home or give some sort of excuse. I'm not in any particular mood to meet women that way for now.

Looks like the Stylist didn't take the bait for Tuesday afternoon, so I have my usual hole in the schedule. The way it's looking, I've got nothing on Wednesday. Movie Buddy suggested Friday for Kill Bill, but I'm not quite sure what my schedule will be like on that day. The Teacher is still slated for her 11 o'clock, and Arwen is considering a lesson. The Office Lady has asked for Sunday afternoon.

I got messages from a couple of ol' buddies back from Toronto. Looks like the two of them will be here next week on business but not at the same time. Ironic, since the two of them are bosom buddies.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Sunday April 25, 11:34 p.m.

I currently smell like an okonomiyaki house...for obvious reasons, since I did have dinner in one tonight. But I'm getting too far ahead of myself.

I stepped out of my place and had a quick MacBreakfast near my station before heading back to Shinjuku some 10 hours after I had left it to meet up with Arwen and DTE for a much more laid-back experience than the one I had on Saturday night.

The three of us headed out to Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture on a "Romance Car" which took about 45 minutes. I'm not quite sure where the romance was derived since the train itself is really just a level above an express train, plus the windows are larger and seat pairings can be swiveled around to face the one behind for those quartet trips. Since it was just the three of us, though, one woman came to fill up the final seat. She seemed rather discomfited at our group which kinda irked me. I thought she was one of those old-fashioned tupes who freaked out at seeing foreigners and hearing English spoken. And then, she asked Arwen and myself if we could swivel back our chairs so that she could have breakfast on the seating English. I wasn't quite sure what to make of that but we politely complied, especially since she just asked for only 5-10 minutes of eating time. To be honest, I thought this was just a ruse on her part to make sure we would never be able to swivel our seats back before we arrived at Hon-Atsugi.

Surprisingly enough, though, the lady did invite us to swing our seats back. Even more surprising was that she engaged us in English conversation for the rest of our time to our destination. She's an employee of a pharmaceuticals company who had spent 4 years in Denver studying behavioral psychology before returning to Japan. She was actually on her way to Fuji to have her hair done despite the fact that her home is in Tokyo. She explained that away by stating that she had used to live in the Fuji area and that she just couldn't part with her excellent hairdresser. Now that's loyalty!

At the station, we were picked up by Ms. 77 who then drove us over to the strawberry patch where I once again started to munch on strawberries for the second time in as many years. It was the same old deal as my time in Tateyama last year: pay 800 yen for 30 minutes of all-you-can-eat berries with a plastic dish of condensed milk and the bushes at chest level. All of us were pretty stuffed after just 10 minutes of noshing.

After that, we drove in the car for the better part of an hour heading for a highland to observe the area and the ocean from above. We made a quick pitstop at 77's pink apartment building where we made a drive-thru introduction to her mother on the second floor. Once we reached the highland, 77 took the car up the hillside and parked it. We then walked up a few flights of stairs to reach the top. We climbed a couple of towers. One looked like a miniature version of Tokyo Tower. I was impressed by its claim to fame. Couples often came up to the higher levels of the tower to snap on locks as an illustration of their love. Each lock had either the lovebirds' names or a brief message of their committment to each other. The other tower was a somewhat more eclectically shaped structure in stone. The view from the top was breathtaking: we could see Mt. Fuji off in the distance as well as the towns of Hiratsuka and Atsugi and then the Pacific to the south.

Another several minutes of driving brought us back to the station district of Atsugi where we would stay for the rest of our journey. We looked for a place to have lunch. We found it in a basement Chinese restaurant. We ended up being the final customers there before they shut down for a couple of hours before the dinner service, so we got our food in pretty short order.

DTE had to take off at around 4 so we saw her off at the station. We were musing about what to do before we decided to have coffee at the nearby Tully's. We ended up staying there for about 2.5 hours. In that time, we persuaded 77 to invite her new boyfriend to come over to the cafe so that Arwen and I could check him out as 77's surrogate parents. It took some cajoling but after half an hour, he dropped in on his way to an eye doctor appointment. He's a pretty button-down fellow, the type of person I can get along with very well. I'm always suspicious of those overly cheerful Romper Room types.

After he took off, we hung out there a bit longer before we had to think about dinner. 77 tried to reach him to invite him for dinner as well, but by the time that he finally picked up the phone, he had already arrived home so he was a scratch. So once again, it was the three of us who went down the street to an okonomiyaki house. It was constructed inside to resemble a mockup of old Tokyo circa 1950, just like the Ramen Museum in Yokohama. We were placed right inside the door, right in front of a fake old-fashioned house. Because of our position, there was a draft coming in every few minutes whenever customers arrived or left, but I didn't mind. It was feeling pretty stuffy inside and an okonomiyaki house always had that smell of cooking oil so the drafts helped to clear the air, if temporarily. We went through a number of oily dishes so we were grateful for the dessert of sesame seed ice cream to cleanse our palates if not our clothes.

Finally, 77 escorted us back with a couple of minutes to spare to catch our Romance Car back to Tokyo. Nice day in the great outdoors with some good friends. Hopefully, I can be ready to face the onslaught of the finality of the tragic business relationship between the Iconoclast and the Prez tomorrow night. Not something I'm looking forward to.