Saturday, June 12, 2004

Sunday June 13, 3:23 p.m.

Well, the rain did go away. We're back to warm and sunny. I had that first lesson with Jazz Buddy...or more accurately, a planning session for her future lessons, so I gallantly didn't accept her money. I'm sure the Tea Room staff must be considering charging me rent for the number of times I darken their territory. The session with her took about 3 hours as we gabbed over what we wanted to do and also about that relative snorefest at the DUG jazz bar a couple of months back.

When we finally left the Tea Room, we saw the beginnings of the Ichigaya "chonai matsuri" forming up. "Chonai Matsuri" translates roughly into "block festival". I gather it's a somewhat more decorous version of a block party, but with folks in traditional grab and portable shrines instead of T-shirts, jeans, beer and BBQ.

I got that first batch of photos from Sapporo done up. They didn't come out too badly, although that picture of the jumbo ramen from my first night there turned out a bit blurry. However, it did manage to fill up most of the frame.

Well, since the weather seems to have improved, I guess I'll hang out the mattresses to dry out and get some vacuuming done. I still gotta prep for my Monday classes.
Sunday June 13, 8:15 a.m.

Rain, rain, go away...yup, another major downpour this morning. Actually got up at 7 to have breakfast...on a Sunday, no less. Thank heavens next week, Jazz Buddy is going surfing.

Curry Master has contacted me stating that The Sysop can't make it for his usual lesson this Thursday because of work. So she has coyly asked me if still want to come over for her single lesson. I've left it up to her to make the call. I'm cool either way.

I'll be heading out in a little more than an hour to get some sample copies of potential texts for JB and then leave one of my disposable cameras from Hokkaido to be developed.

Looks like PM Blair has lost big in local elections. Well, when you deal with the Great Satan...
Saturday June 12, 8:46 p.m.

The official week of mourning for Reagan is over. But the funeral was about as Hollywood as one could get for a former movie star-turned-President. You had former colleagues, reformed leaders and one former archenemy in the seats, music on the John Williams/James Horner scale, an ex-President on the verge of tears, and finally a grieving widow who kept a brave front only to finally break down on her husband's coffin at his final resting site in the California sunset.

I had a lesson with SR for the first time in a few weeks. Looks like she had a sudden trip to LA about the same time I was traveling through Sapporo and she met an old friend of ours there. So we both exchanged souvenirs, and I think I got the better end of the deal. I not only got a giant Hershey's bar but I got gravy mix! You just don't know how difficult it is to get even an instant gravy mix in this city. I put it to good use tonight, though. I poured the hot silky mixture on some roast chicken that I'd bought at the supermarket. I even rustled up some mashed potatoes to give my gravy an extra workout. My cholesterol count will probably skyrocket but I am a happy man.

Well, tomorrow I've got that first lesson with Jazz Buddy. Since it's a first one, it'll just be a sounding board to find out what she really wants to do.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Friday June 11, 8:51 a.m.

Well, it looks like another legend has also passed on. Ray Charles, the King Of Soul, died yesterday. I wasn't a huge follower of his music but I, along with everyone else, knew his rendition of "Georgia On My Mind". And though, it has become more known as a treacly bit of 80s pop culture now, Ray Charles' contribution to "We Are The World" is still the highlight of the song. I think Anderson Cooper hit the right spot by ending the show with him playing "America The Beautiful" at Reagan's second inaugural.

Went to the salon for that haircut. Looks like the ladies there weren't as successful with their little trip to Guam as I was with my own to Sapporo. It rained on their parade, literally, for their three days.

Pretty quiet day yesterday. I just had that one class with Arwen and 77. It looks like I'll be having their lessons now on Thursdays instead of Fridays which suits me fine in a way. I can take off for home earlier on Friday. I had dinner at that Mao Chinese restaurant near my apartment. The folks have started merchandising themselves. There is now a Mao painting on the side of the outside wall, and the two waitresses were sporting T-shirts with the restaurant name. I don't think they've quite hit the Hello Kitty heights yet. No Anne Murray this time, though...they settled for just the radio. As usual, the place was deserted.

Looks like I may have yet another student. This one is a referral rather than an old student from the school.PH got me this one. I'll be starting with her on the 7th for the summer.

As for today, I've got The Teacher and SR. I don't have to lug that text of articles. She said that she'd bring a special article on Reagan. I haven't seen SR for a few weeks due to her work schedule. I've got her omiyage from Sapporo. I'll be finished at 5:30. Perhaps pasta for dinner will be in order.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Thursday June 10, 8:25 a.m.

Currently watching the Reagan funeral on CNN. Appropriately subdued; very little commentary accompanying the visuals which is rather surprising.

A bit of a bittersweet day yesterday on two fronts. I met up with my ex for lunch. She was pretty tired so she wasn't her usually chipper self. In fact, during lunch at one point, we got a bit snippy toward each other although I think I may be exaggerating a bit. It may have been more of a joint chiding more than anything else. She said that her life has come to a certain happy balance which of course I'm happy about. I rather wish I could say the same for my own life.

Later that night, I went down to The Maple Leaf for the second time to meet up with some of the folks from the Sunday BBQ to catch the Japan-India soccer match. The match was more target practice for the Japanese team than an actual game. Japan demolished the Indians 7-0. At one point, we had betting pools on the 2nd and 3rd goals; true to form, I lost both times. Nothing major in the money...just 1,000 yen each.

The bittersweet part at that event, though, was the stark reminder that I'm just not comfortable at social outings with a whole bunch of people I don't know. The Big Guy tried to engage me in conversation with some of his buddies...he even tried to recommend me as an English teacher for them. It was very kind of him, and I did have short bursts of talk with each of them. But simply speaking, I'll never be as comfortable in that situation as I am with other words, a setting in which I have some sort of control or need to help people. Even with my outings with the alumni of my school, we may be friends now but the relationship is still of teacher-student. I guess I'll always be better in that sort of relationship.

Well, at least, the hamburger plate at The Maple Leaf was good.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Tuesday June 8, 12:53 p.m.

Just back for a respite for a few hours between classes. It's the first time in about a month since I've had one of these since getting back to the school classes, so it's rather nice to hang out in air-conditioned comfort. Pretty hot and humid right now and those clouds are threatening to burst.

This morning, one of my students related to me about her daughter who counsels kids in an orphanage. Before I go on, though, I have to give a bit of background infor here. Last week, while I was up in Sapporo, the big news nationwide was about this elementary school kid in Nagasaki who had stabbed a classmate to death with a cardboard cutter in an empty room at school during lunch hour. Apparently, the kid lost it when she found out on the Net that the classmate had made some disparaging remarks in a chat room, and she got her revenge.

Getting back to my student's daughter: the counselor was rather chilled when she asked her young charges about their thoughts on the incident. They all answered that they fully supported the murder as the right thing to do. My student was also very dismayed.

Yes, the murder and the kids' cold reactions to it are sad, to say the least. But I can't say that I'm very surprised by them. For the former, there have been these heinous acts committed by kids for the last several years, the worst of which was the Jun Hase decapitation in 1995 in the Kansai area. Also, several boys kidanpped, murdered, immolated and then dumped a girl into an oil drum a number of years ago. I can't really explain why these acts occurred except bleat out the usual increase in temptations for youth and the decrease in good guidance. As for the latter, well, they are kids. Kids by nature are immature (let's not got into the stereotypical precocious sitcom kids, shall we?) and they will say and do stupid things because of lack of knowledge and wisdom. Not to say that adults are incapable of those things...believe me, there are plenty of those everywhere, and even the smart ones screw up from time to time. In addition, those kids were at an orphanage, and I can't really say for sure if some or any of them have been raised to understand that murder is simply wrong for any reason. Again, my last sentence will have its caveats as well. However, I can only hope that most of them will come to the right realization.

A couple of other students chimed in then with that notorious film, "BATTLE ROYALE" as a possible influence for kids to do such things. I cannot say with perfect confidence that the Kinji Fukusaku production wouldn't cue a kid to go on a murder rampage in a school but I think the film and the original novel are more of a reflection or interpretation of today's youth more than anything else.

In any case, the investigation goes on.
Monday June 7, 9:12 p.m.

Well, Santa made another delivery today of packages of Shiroi Koibito on the good boy and girl students. Luckily, I was able to stuff all the boxes in one bag since I got burdened with a very inexpensive yogurt maker thanks to one of my students. I thought I was going to get some of that yogurt culture from the other student but it looks she forgot so the maker will have to wait a bit. So I had that yogurt maker, my bag and an umbrella since the rainy season has descended upon us in earnest.

My middle student canned out again so I could have a leisurely lunch at the Shibuya branch of VOLKS, the most famous Tokyo steakhouse chain until the OUTBACK invaded the Big Sushi.I just had the hamburg steak and steak cubes lunch with the multiple visits to the soup and salad bar.

I did my usual Monday visit to Tower Records, ostensibly to head up to the 7th floor to check out if TIME had sent a special commemorative issue on Reagan. But it was too soon so I just picked up the D-Day issue of the magazine. I haven't really picked up any CDs in the last month or so but I may pick up a few once we pass the middle of the month. Then, I headed up to Shinjuku and just had some coffee at bakery cafe near the company. My class there went pretty smoothly. I thought the Prez would be there since I hadn't seen him in about a couple of weeks. In a way, it was good that he was off at the factory again since I really wasn't much in the mood for having dinner out. I just wanted to get home and try to recover from the humidity.

I got some more packages to deliver tomorrow: to the morning Tsudanuma ladies and then the juku classes. Luckily, I won't be having a school class so I can have some down time during the afternoon.

The Big Guy sent out the invitation to catch Japan vs. India soccer on Wednesday night at the Maple Leaf Bar in Shibuya. I'll probably head out after my class with the Office Lady since I've only got my haircut on Thursday morning. Plus, since I'll be in the neighbourhood anyways.

Also, I'll be having my usual occasional lunch with the ex earlier in the day.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Monday June 7, 7:36 a.m.

The Reagan love-in continues. My memories of the man are the first ones that I ever had of a sitting president. I had been alive for four previous presidents but my memories of them when they were in office were all through their impressions by Rich Little or Dan Ackroyd or Chevy Chase. My first memory of Reagan came when he first took office and then proudly announced and welcomed the return of the American hostages from Iran. Then, there was the attempted assassination in 1981. I just remember seeing, in an age where 24-hour news was non-existent, wall-to-wall coverage of that moment when Reagan was waving at the folks before the camera suddenly shifted to a quickly developing scrum a few metres away. Then, I caught ABC's obviously agitated Frank Reynolds barely holding it together as he tried to keep the news going. Of course, after that famous scene, I remember him delivering the eulogy for the doomed Challenger crew and then of course, his famous "Tear Down This Wall" speech.

A former colleague of mine once told me that the only things needed to become a decent English conversation teacher in Japan were a sense of humour and charm. As a professional teacher, I wasn't particularly offended by that statement at all since I do believe it to some degree. Students won't remember me for my razor-sharp structure in presenting a grammar tense but they will remember the joke that was attached to that tense. I think Reagan used the same tactics to, whether the label is well-deserved or not, become one of the most popular presidents in the 20th century. Here was a guy who had to deal with Iran-Contra, tripled the national debt and wasn't loathe to kill a union. And yet, with his death, he's become this historical icon not only because of his fight against Communism but because he struck the average American as the ideal American: down-home, folksy, and humourous. Anyone who can crack two jokes immediately after an attempted assassination will probably merit everyone's admiration.

I received a response from Jazz Buddy about her first lesson. Looks like it'll be a go for this Sunday. She also mentioned that she didn't care about the rest of the other guys such as Skippy. Ouch! I'm not sure if it were a misphrasing of sorts but then again, I know that Skippy wasn't universally loved and that JB herself has been cited as having a pretty dark side. In any case, I now see myself working at least once every day. Now, usually I would be pretty depressed about that fact but it seems like JB has things she wants to do along with me on her Sundays, so I figure that we won't be getting together constantly every Sunday. I'll think I'll make that point clear to her when we meet on the 13th.

Well, it's rainy and in fact, a half-hour earlier, I heard some thunder rolling off in the distance. But I'll have to be carrying two bags today. One with my usual books and the other with my omiyage.
Sunday June 6, 11:30 p.m.

Currently watching the D-Day commemmorations in Arromanches, France. It's nice to see those oldtimers finally get their due from the President of France.

Well, the rains did come as I picked up my friend at Ebisu Station. But the BBQ was still on. The two of us arrived there as the Big Guy and his fiancee got the fire started on the grill. Luckily, the balcony of the upstairs apartment was large enough so that the grill was spared from the rain although the grillmaster and I got a bit wet.

My new friend managed to get quite comfortable with her acquaintances much to my satisfaction. Party Hearty once again put out quite a spread of BBQ meat, jerk pork, salad, marinated shishkebabed veggies among other things and then finally dessert. My new friend had to leave a bit early since she lives all the way up in Tokorozawa, Saitama. but she and the others exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses. There is a possibility that there may be another outing on Wednesday night at the Maple Leaf Pub in Shibuya. I may partake in it if I don't feel too tired. Mind you, the way it's looking right now, I'll just have one class that night...with the OL, and that's at 6:45.