Saturday, May 15, 2004

Saturday May 15, 9:14 p.m.

Pretty much a run-of-the-mill day. My three kids were their normal selves although the mother of the first two was on a rampage today, but not with either kid but the family dog.

Quiet evening for me. No calls from anyone and since Chip Guy is no longer around and Movie Buddy seems to have made himself scarce, I don't think I'll be getting many social calls. However, I do have Automan's arrival next week and then the semi-regular movie outing for TROY on the 23rd.

Speaking of Automan, I'm pretty glad that I let Party Hearty in on the act. She's already gotten some sort of wingding for him on the 25th. However, I'll be at work that night.

I just gotta get some ironing done and then I have to get the place cleaned up for that visit tomorrow from the Persian's friend. I'm still wondering about her coming here.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Friday May 14, 11:41 p.m.

Back to my privates today. It was pretty much the same ol' same ol' which suited me just fine after the newness of the new classes at the school. On the way to the Tea Room, I stopped in at Towers and picked up a retrospective on PEANUTS, Charles "Sparky" Schulz's opus. I guess that trip down memory lane with Vince Guaraldi got me looking at some of my old strips with Charlie Brown and the gang.

After our lesson, Arwen, 77 and I headed just up the street instead of heading over to Shinjuku. We had dinner at an Indian place called Ajanta. For a Friday, it wasn't all that busy but then again the area isn't exactly an entertainment hub. Believe me, on a night when one would be lucky to even get a table within an hour, I wasn't complaining. I ended up getting a Thali Platter for a somewhat heftily priced 4200 yen. Once again, I ordered something that was too much for extra piece of garlic naan that I ended up not finishing, even with two helpful ladies at my side.

It looks like the school still wants me to help out, so I've got another couple of classes next week. No problems there.

Well, I've got hit the hay pretty soon since I have to still plan for my kids tomorrow. I really don't have the gumption to do so right now. Plus, I need to take a shower to get that garlic out again.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Thursday May 13, 10:08 p.m.

My class with the so-called lowest class at the school was pretty uneven. I had to dodge a bullet when my exercises were just a little too easy for the kids. However, I managed to bat .500 Of course, though, I was kicking myself all the way to the Curry Master's place.

Well, at least, I've got my regular Friday folks tomorrow. I believe that Arwen, 77 and I will be heading out for dinner after the lesson.

Since I'm a bit low on news today, I guess I'll take this time to talk more about my music. My interest in jazz is getting further cultivated. I've always centered my interest around the pianists. Bill Evans is still my favorite but I also have a soft spot for Vince Gurualdi. Who he, you ask? Well, he's probably most famous for his contributions to the early Charlie Brown specials, notably the classic Christmas special. In fact, I'd say that it wouldn't be a Charlie Brown special without his delicate touch.This probably explains why I've never really gotten into the later, more banal outings by the Peanuts gang. With all due respect to Charles Schulz, the televised history of Charlie Brown will probably be restricted to the ten years in the 60s and 70s for me. I can equate this with the Japanese tendency only to view Audrey Hepburn in her 50s period up to "Breakfast at Tiffany's".

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Thursday May 13, 7:34 a.m.

My second class this week at the school was more of a triple than the homer of the first class. There was a hint of slog by the end of the class. I've got one more there today; it's the lowest level one so I'm gonna have to plan it in more detail. Some of my old compadres, such as DJ and DTE, were surprised to see me come in from the cold.

Afterwards, I went to my regular Wednesday night venue at the Starbucks to get a coffee and crossword before The Office Lady came in. I was just falling asleep despite the influx of caffeine. So I had to step out and guzzle down a Coke as an added boost. The lesson came off quite well, but I did hit the hay relatively early.

Automan has given me more detail on his upcoming itinerary and asked me to get in touch with some of the old gang here. I'm not sure if I can see him as much but perhaps some of the others can.

My contact at Japan Tours has gotten everything booked and confirmed for my trip to Hokkaido. Once the written info gets in, I'll let the necessary people know.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Wednesday May 12, 12:29 a.m.

My first real busy day lived up to expectations. It tuckered me out by the end but I think I had a pretty good time with everyone. My first class with my school's in-house program for the first time in almost 3 months went quite well. The new students were spearheading the talking which was quite unusual. I was a bit surprised by the arrival of the Jazz Buddy since she was to have graduated back in February. But she had some makeup classes to finish. She was also quite surprised to see me there.

My night classes were OK although my first class was a bit of a slog. Also, my juku owner has a memory like a torn sieve. After I've told her more than twice that I could only teach the Thursday guy on the 20th, she was still asking what my schedule was like for him on the other days in May. But my annoyance is tempered by the fact that she has a very kind heart and she rescued me from catching pneumonia on that horrible day 2 weeks ago.

It's past midnight and I still have to write up the reports for the students and prep for the lesson with The Office Lady later tonight. Plus, I've got to take a shower. When I wake up, I have to dub a tape for The Systems Engineer in time for his lesson on Thursday. It doesn't rain but it pours...

It didn't help that my computer once again had trouble connecting me with my e-mail and the blog. I checked it for viruses to no avail. But then I tried out the Ad-Aware program and found that one of the cookies was responsible for screwing me over. Once I deleted that, I was back in business.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Monday May 10, 11:03 p.m.

Woof! New BLOGGER...nice place you got here.

I went off to see Old Sam and his wife at the Day Nice Hotel in Kiba (the hotel so nice they named it "Nice"?). For some reason, there was some sort of delay on the line so my train was packed to rush-hour capacity. And it was just my luck that I got off on the wrong end of the platform. By the time I reached the escalator, the other train came by and it was pretty empty. I was ready to kick the thing in its aluminum.

It was 250 m of walking in rainy, humid weather before I reached Day Nice. It was a small but quaint hotel. There was only one woman sitting in the lobby when I decided to call up Sam's cell phone to let him know that I had arrived. I got his wife, who told me that she was already in the lobby. It turned out to be that woman sitting on the couch. After making our introductions, we conducted a conversation totally in Japanese for about half an hour while we waited for Old Sam. Apparently, he got lost in the mess known as Shinjuku.

I've known Old Sam for years since we were kids in Japanese Language School. He was a bit of a rabblerouser in those days although he has since mellowed considerably, but I was rather interested in what his wife was like. She's very calm and patient...perfect for him. In a way, she reminded me of Chip Guy's wife.

Old Sam finally showed up. It was just as well that he got to the hotel at 1:30 since we were also to wait for one other fellow. Fuji's a bit of my antithesis in terms of geography. Whilst I've been here for a decade, he had been living in Montreal and Toronto for 10 years. Very outgoing sort. When he got there, we took a walk up to the neighbourhood family restaurant, Jonathans, for a bit of lunch. Old Sam updated us on what was what in Toronto. It looks like Motormouth Mel is finally out; T.O. has got some sort of beefcake as the new Mayor.

Fuji had to take off a half-hour before we did because of an impending job interview but we did the exchange of phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Then we headed back to the hotel so that Sam and the missus could pick up their voluminous luggage. It was a bit of a climb down to the Kiba platform. I was worried that we would have to face the idiocy of my trip to the hotel, but the train was somewhat more spacious. Old Sam marveled at how I could stand living here for so many years; I guess I should pat myself on the back for my stamina. Anyways, the pair got off the train at Otemachi to head for Tokyo Station and then I just went straight ahead to my job at the company.

The class tonight went quite well. Even my lowest student was on all thrusters today although his fluency is still not all that high. And we even got into some sidetracking in Japanese about the wonders of Kiefer's opus, 24. The Iconoclast left a big box of stuff for me to take home. I decided to go on the instalment plan and take things home piecemeal. Once again after class, the Prez invited me out for dinner. This time the theme was yakiniku, otherwise known as Korean BBQ.

We took another taxi up to the Shin-Okubo area. This is the second time this year that I've been up there...the second of only two times that I've been up there in my decade in Tokyo. I've come to the conclusion that I was a bit too harsh in my assessment of the area as a den of iniquity. The main street at least comes off more as Dundas St. in downtown Chinatown. The place that the Prez took me to was called KOSHUEN, a very pricy and good BBQ place run by Koreans. According to the menu, the place has had some good exposure through the media. I could understand why...the food and service were excellent. The waitress brought the beer lickety-split and she even helped out cut up and cook the kalbi ribs. The Prez ordered a plate full of different cuts of beef which we proceeded to cook up and then wrap in individual leaves of lettuce with Korean miso and marinated onions. It couldn't be beat. However, I may have overindulged a bit by having him order a bibimbap, that concoction of rice, raw egg and many other ingredients all mixed up. With everything else, I was close to bursting. And since I had a bit of a headache, I was worried that I was going to end up laying some street pizza outside so I quickly reached for the Tylenol. But there wasn't anything to worry about.

The end result of going to Korean BBQ is that everyone on the train knows where one has been. My entire body was permeated with the smell of garlic, sauce and cooking beef. But I didn't care and neither should they. I got on the train and ended up sleeping off my headache for the 35-minute trip home. When my internal alarm clock alerted me one station before mine, I was feeling pretty refreshed inside with no more headache although I still smelled like dinner. Today was a truly rare day in that I didn't have to put anything down on my Excel expenditures under the Food category. Old Sam treated me at Jonathans and the Prez, of course, paid for my dinner. I did my token attempt at resisting his treat just to be polite, but I knew what the result would be. The bill was fairly hefty, too. 12,000 yen for two. Koshuen was a great place for dinner but if I were to take any of the students there, I would need a fairly sizable group.

I got home and immediately took a hot shower to sweat out that garlic oil. While I was doing my e-mail, I received a call from the Persian's friend. I had thought that she lost interest in contacting me after a few weeks went by. But she called up so she'll be coming over to my neck of the woods to see where the Persian used to live. Another incentive for me to clean up.

Tomorrow will be a busy day, the first truly busy day in several weeks. I've got my regular Tueday morning class, then I've got my class back at the school. It's been 2 months since I've taught a class there. And finally, I've got my juku classes in the evening.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Sunday May 9, 8:49 p.m.

I was doing some of that prep work for the Curry Master. It involved me taking an article from The Daily Yomiuri and then clipping out key words for her as vocabulary to re-insert in the blank spots. The article I chose was on the gentrification of ramen, as it were, which reminded me of something that the Engineer and I saw at Shiodome last Monday.

There was a humoungus lineup at the NTV Plaza. That lineup led to a ramen store apparently manned by Japan's best ramen cook. I say apparently since when it comes to cuisine, I don't believe that the term "best" can be conceptualized in such a highly subjective field. One man's pate is another one's rotten liver. But I digress. Anyways, there was that huge lineup for this shop. Chip Guy once saw a similar situation at a very cheap kaiten sushi place in Shibuya. He just thought it and the people there ludicrous. He felt that noone should have to be that eager for food.

I would agree but the Japanese have that in-built sense of "gaman" or endurance. Also, the cooks of the various types of Japanese cuisine take their craft very seriously. For one thing, a lot of the restaurants serving Japanese cuisine only focus on one particular dish, whether it be tempura, sushi or sashimi. Why be a jack of all trades and a master of none when one could be a master of one? Perhaps back in the West, that joke of the fly in the soup is one of those recognizable foibles of restaurants but a restauranteur here would probably end up cutting his own belly at any hint of that in his place. So when a certain cook is given his due at being the best at something, that perks up a lot of ears and eyes which probably explains the lineups. However, since I don't have nearly that much patience just to wait for food and since I'm not a fussy eater, you'll never catch me doing that.

Now on a totally different topic, with all of my CDs stuffed into my shelving. it's pretty rare now for me to give a lot of repeat listenings to stuff. However, one of the few discs that I would be very willing to hear over and over again is THE NIGHTFLY by Donald Fagen. The DJ lent me his copy of it a few years back and I'd heard the first track, I.G.Y., often enough on radio in my youth. Not having heard it in several years, my ears were reminded of it when I.G.Y. was used as the commercial jingle for the Japanese ad for the IBM Thinkpad. Listening to the entire album was also quite a revelation. I realized that I'd always been more of a mellow sort when it came to music, so AOR was more my style. Well, The Nightfly is definitely an archetype of that genre. Not so gooey like some other AOR entries to make it unpalatable, the album still has that bit of variety swinging from the light reggae and optimism of that first track to jazz to latin to funk. And the album is not too long at 38 minutes, so I can listen to it in my futon before turning off the lights.
Sunday May 9, 5:03 p.m.

Came back after another huge brunch at Fujimamas with The Office Lady and Boop. As I suspected, the biscuits and gravy weren't the hit of the Plate. However, I think the ladies enjoyed the meal and the ambiance enough to warrant a future visit. All of us were pretty stuffed but we stopped by La Maison Du Chocolat on the main Omotesando strip. My Monday morning student introduced me to some delicious macaroons which came from there one lesson, so I decided to splurge the 2000 yen for 8 of them. The ladies liked them, but they only had room in their bellies for one each.

After a bit of walking around the Omotesando area for a few minutes and showing them some other potential future venues for food such as the Ku'Aina hamburger joint and the Comma Ca Cafe, we decided to take a respite at the Canadian version of Starbucks, BLENZ, just down from Kinokuniya Supermarket. Well, what was once the supermarket is now a huge hole in the ground since it's undergoing some major renovations. We gabbed there for well over 90 minutes about, among other things, the dishonesty of the school staff (what else is new?). Finally, we just walked down Omotesando again where we made our farewells at the crowded Harajuku Station. Sundays are usually packed there with all of the costumed teens milling about on Takeshita Avenue.

After getting back to my station, I decided I needed more walking to fully digest the meal so I went to the local Yamada electronics shop where I picked up a tape head cleaner. Yes, I gather that I'm probably the only one left in the country who would need such a thing in these days of DVDs, MDs and even the increasingly prehistoric CDs. But I'm still very much dealing with audio tapes. I was kinda thinking of investing in a cheap tape recorder but I figured that since I'll be heading for the school this week, I'll probably borrow one of the master tapes for the text over there and dub it onto another tape.

I got back home to find out that the Movie Buddy seems to have recovered fully from his cold to invite me out for something somewhere but since I am indeed home, I don't think I'll be taking him up on his offer. I've still not emptied out my stomach since the events of over 6 hours ago but I did buy a bit of dinner for later tonight. I'll probably be prepping for tomorrow's class and think about doing some work for the Curry Master's lesson on Thursday.