Saturday, June 26, 2004

Saturday June 26, 11:27 p.m.

Got The Little Owl an ideal text for her. It was one of those I SPY puzzle books which has a bit of reading practice for her and those find-it games that she loves so much. Too bad I won't be seeing her for at least a month since the family will be rather busy with other pursuits. Well, it wouldn't be too bad having some free Saturday afternoons.

After her class, I went off to Shinjuku to catch Movie Buddy. We went off to Dubliners as scheduled. I tucked myself into a fish n' chips while MB had a sandwich. Strangely enough, neither of us bothered to have anything alcoholic since MB was nursing a cold and I really wasn't all that much into the stuff in any event. We had a loudmouth equivalent of Japanese white trash sitting beside us just cursing all over the place and arguing as much as they were chatting.

After about an hour there, the two of us headed off to the Curry Master's for her B-day party. True to my age, I nodded off on the 45-minute trip there. We still arrived at the station with plenty of time to spare so we just crashed at a cafe to get some coffee to wake up on. Of course, we talked on our current situations, agreed that we were in a good enough place for now and then we touched a bit on perhaps catching Harry Potter 3 because of the good reviews and perhaps mixing Spidey 2 with the Outback thing on the 11th.

While we were picking up supplies at the supermarket including the birthday cake, the rest of the partygoers showed up including CM herself. MB's girl came by and then another friend popped by. When we all got to CM's pad, the three ladies started cooking up the night's supper which included some avocado salad, wrap sandwiches and Shepherd's Pie. All delicious and surprisingly filling. Then for some reason, the ladies started talking about the latest commercial for the Yuri Takano esthetic salon chain in which a model/actress is swimming au naturel with Gackt, that androgynous rock singer, looking on in approval. I even went on the Net and Yahoo'ed her name. She also happened to be that innocent young girl several years ago hawking plum wine. Woof! What success can do to some people.

While we were tucking ourselves into some cake, CM threw in the DVD of the movie GATTACA with Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. I'd heard all of the arguments for and against this flick. The first hour was interesting enough with all of the sci-fi and stuff, and the film noir elements were appealing but the film slowly lost its ability to compel. And Ethan Hawke is not one of those actors with charisma to spare. So it wasn't too difficult for me when I had to leave for home without catching the conclusion.

Well, I gotta catch some sleep and then get ready for Jazz Buddy and possibly Arwen. She still hasn't responded to my query whether she will really be coming tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Saturday June 26, 12:05 a.m.

Well, 6 more months before Boxing Day. Can hardly wait.

The latest Harry Potter movie hits these shores today, a full three weeks after its premiere Stateside. One of the Japanese TV stations celebrated this fact by showing the very first Harry Potter movie on the tube tonight. It was the first time that I got to watch HP. I never got into the books and when I'd heard of the lacklustre reviews for the first film, I decided to wait for a night like tonight to finally catch it.

Now that I have, I can say that I'm happy I saved my money. Not that it was as bad as I had feared, but then again my expectations were quite low. The characters and the sets were great. My problem was with the director, Chris Columbus. Unlike his more celebrated namesake, he didn't really explore. I'd heard that Columbus was just a very mediocre director; now I had the proof. As I mentioned, I had never read the books but after watching the movie, I can believe that Columbus just followed the written tale verbatim. No interesting twists or marks of distinctiveness. It just seemed rather flat. So I guess it will be a breath of fresh air to see another guy at the helm. I'm undecided whether I'll still catch the third entry.

My lesson with The Teacher was quite good today although she seemed to have more memory lapses than usual. Also there was a lot more reading aloud today on her part. The topic was celebrated Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. Actually, her biography was quite interesting to read and we had a good discussion about her. The Teacher also threw in a few of her anecdotes so the result was a nice combination of strict reading and guided conversation.

Then, I had my lessons with Arwen/77 and SR. Both were also pretty cut-and-dry. No real problems. Arwen has requested seeing me on Sunday as well so I've slotted her in after Jazz Buddy.

Got home and ended up making another one of those gooey and greasy fried pork sandwiches for dinner tonight. Another excuse to use up some more of that shredded cheese.

The weather was uniformly wet throughout the day unlike what the forecasters had predicted. I shouldn't be too tough on them, though. Meterologists are only correct 70% of the time and we are in a rather volatile period right now.

Luckily I don't have the morning kids today so I can sleep in a bit. I just The Little Owl and then I meet up with Movie Buddy in Shinjuku for a bit of a pint at Dubliners before heading over to the Curry Master's for her b-day party.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Friday June 25, 7:53 a.m.

As expected, yesterday was a nice slow one. No classes to teach, no lessons to plan. I just got some reprints done up, got a rubdown and made another Taco Rice for dinner. Well, things are back to normal today. I have my regular three classes, but I do finish at a decent hour.

The reputation of the foreign population possibly got another black eye. After that robbery in Shibuya Station on Wednesday, apparently there was another attack by a Korean pickpocketing ring on the Toyoko Line. Thanks to a knife and mace, they made their getaway through the tony neighbourhood of Den'en-Chofu. Well, everyone except one fellow. He got spotted and shot by the cops. In a country where guns are extremely rare, the media will put the number of shots fired front and centre. Also, a 16-year-old girl was strangled to death by her former Sri Lankan boyfriend of 36. Gahhh..

The election campaign for the Upper House is in full swing. The usual pols wearing their ironic white gloves spouting their usual rhetoric and lies.

Currently watching a Michael Buble DVD. He's the next coming of Sinatra and Darin...and he's Canadian! One more proud thing for the Maple Leaf.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Thursday June 24, 8:01 a.m.

Last year, it was the random stabbings there. Now, it's armed robbery. Shibuya once again showed why it's scaring a lot of people when a middle-aged man shot a subway station employee carrying the revenue from commuter pass purchases yesterday. The robber then took the bag and ran causing a bit of a panic. The man is still at large. Hopefully, the cops will get their man. The employee is alive but seriously hurt.

I met Jazz Buddy again for her first official lesson, but once again, it didn't exactly turn out as expected. For one thing, she had forgotten that we were to meet at 11 instead of the 11:30 that she turned up at. Also, she walked me for about 10 minutes to one of the tall Shinjuku skyscrapers...all the way up to the 50th floor where we entered this rather elegant restaurant serving elegant bentos. This place, Uonoya, is following the example of a lot of usually expensive dinner venues and serving reasonably-priced lunches. JB may be soft-spoken but she can wrest what she wants; when the waitress offered to seat us at the counter, JB quietly but firmly asked for the alcove by the window. It didn't really matter, though, where we were seated. There was no way we could do a lesson there with the hustle and bustle of the lunch time office folks.

Then, when we got out of the place, we tried to find some spot to park ourselves for the lesson only to find that all the seats and tables were occupied, so we ended up just sitting on a stone ledge in front of a hedge in the hot sun. Not exactly a conducive environment for learning. Well, I wasn't about to charge her for 2 hours when the first hour was spent walking and eating.

I may have been guilty of misdirection myself, though. After JB's lesson, I was to meet Arwen at the south gate of Shinjuku Station. However, I was left waiting at the station for an extra 10 minutes before she came. Not that I was least, not emotionally. She apologized for being late. However, when I checked my messages last night, I received an e-mail from her which came in too late for me to read before taking off stating that according to my reply to her she wasn't too sure about where to meet. I realized that she may have gone to the other venue before rushing to return to the station. And when I checked my reply, I also realized that it was rather ambigious. Well, not that it would really much at this point, I sent a letter of apology. Considering my little run-in with the Scheduler earlier this week, I think I was hoist on my own petard.

I tried making that Taco Rice that Curry Master had served me last night. I wouldn't say that it was incredibly cheap to get the ingredients but I do have leftover stuff to make another batch tonight. It's another notch on my repertoire. Speaking of CM, it looks like her party will be at 7 on Saturday in her neck of the woods.

Well, because I was finally to drop the deadweight student from my Thursday schedule and the school hasn't scheduled me in for any classes today, I find myself with a rare day off. It's another hot one out there. I've gotten the mattresses out on the balcony railing to air out and hopefully, I'll be able to do a bit of light cleaning. Meanwhile, I'll get some reprints and then get that rubdown.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Wednesday June 23, 7:01 a.m.

Although I couldn't tell from the sky last night, it was just one of those full moon type of days. My Tuesday started well enough with my first class. However, things started when I checked my messages and the only one that I had was the one from the Scheduler telling me that I had a class from 1. Well she was definitely wrong there so when I called her up in some dismay, we had a short tense round. She'd only sent me an e-mail on Saturday asking when I would be available to teach this week. I gave her an answer that I'd be able to teach on such-and-such a day, and that was it. She took it as gospel apparently but never got back to me so I thought that those days weren't available. In all fairness, I have to share a bit of the blame since I didn't check with her on Monday to make sure whether I did have a class or not. However, I'm glad that I called in an hour before class began so that the Scheduler at least had a chance to find someone else. I'd already had plans made and plus, I was not in regulation dress. Fortunately, last night, I got a somewhat surprising e-mail of reconciliation from her since she had a bitter reputation in her first tour of duty with the school. In fact, one of the first things that the head teacher told me when I started there was not to cross the Scheduler. Perhaps, she's finally mellowing out.

Unfortunately, when any of these types of situations happen, my mind goes into automatic "dwell" mode and starts to analyze everything in detail. Where did I go wrong? Did I screw up somewhere? I don't let it distract me from my work and by the next day, the self-flagellation largely disappears but, boy, for much of yesterday, I had to contend with that. So I was especially relieved that the Scheduler had sent that letter of apology. I responded with equal grace and then advised her about when to confirm with me.

That was just the beginning of the full-moon events. The other didn't affect me directly but it did affect several thousand commuters. It looks like my line was the victim of a couple of errant flying tarps which conveniently landed across the tracks, thereby stopping traffic for a few hours. The students at the juku all called in to say that they would be coming in late. And sure enough, each class came in 20 minutes late.

I actually had the fort all to myself for most of my time at the juku last night. The boss had to head to a funeral so I could actually enjoy a solitary existence for a couple of hours before my first class. The boss also had to make a couple of calls and find out what the subway situation was like as well. The other main route was also clogged because of some sort of accident.

Well, this morning, I got started on that latest attempt at homemade yogurt. I sterilized that setup that one of my Monday students had given me and the I scooped in four spoonfuls of that Caspian Sea yogurt starter along with 1 L of milk. The whole thing is now sitting in my bedroom in the hopes that it'll evolve into a solid batch of yogurt by tonight. This has got to be a's far easier just to buy the thing from the supermarket.

Not only do I have Jazz Buddy for her first official class in Shinjuku today but I've got Arwen as well. She quit her job after a brief and somewhat contentious time there. I'd forgotten that she said that she'd like to have my lessons as much as possible. As it is, I find myself with a rare Thursday off; however, I'll probably keep that as such and see if I can schedule her in for Sunday afternoon or Saturday morning.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Monday June 21, 9:45 p.m.

Let's see...when I got home tonight, my room smelled and felt like a sauna, I smelled and I felt like a sauna. I guess it's officially summer.

Well, Typhoon No. 6 made all the news this morning. NHK set aside a half-hour on the hour for the latest superstorm. GD's town, arguably the rainiest zone in all of Japan, certainly looked the part when it showed up on TV getting waterblasted. As for here, we got hipchecked this afternoon by No. 6. A lot of Sturm und Drang in the form of high winds and downpours. No real damage to anyone here although my umbrella suffered a dislocated rib. Even now the winds are blowing all over. However, the summer heat will be hitting us just as bad tomorrow. It's gonna hit 32 big degrees in the Big Sushi. It's gonna be hell.

I kinda figured that the loss of that stingy student last week would spark something. Well, not only did I lose her and the angst-ridden Stylist, but I also got rid of two students. My Monday student told me that her sister-in-law would be away for a while since her father hasn't been doing too well and the sister-in-law is his primary caregiver. And now, my juku boss told me that the oft-absent Salaryman would be giving up his lessons due to his work. To be honest, with the exception of the Sister-in-Law, I think they are all deadweight and as such, deserve to be jettisoned. Plus, I won't take too much of a hit in terms of salary. I am starting to think, though, about being a bit more aware of who I take on as students.

Speaking of my Monday morning students, one of them, someone who's really into yogurt making, got the other student and I some 100-yen plastic yogurt jars with markings showing how much yogurt starter and milk to put. All I have to do is just stir and leave outside in a warm place. My place should make a lot of amazing yogurt this summer.

I went a bit nuts on the money again. I picked up a DVD of Bjork videos. I'm not a huge fan of her music but her videos have always been intriguing. The final straw was seeing her Austin Powers-like show tune number last night at Arwen's.

I never got any word from the school about any classes this week. So it's entirely possible that I may have a completely free Thursday. Not too, too bad.

The NHK news is on right now. Looks like JR has been tied up in knots as usual which means the subways are as well. My line was getting bunched up so when I just missed the first one, the second one came in within 2 minutes. It almost looked empty since everyone frontloaded onto the first one.

I was definitely not in any mood to cook tonight. So I tried out the new ramen place below my station. They specialize in a very garlicky soup. I had the one with the roasted pork. Pretty good. It's already gotten the salarymen coming in.

Well, let's see Bjork!

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Sunday June 20, 9:47 p.m.

Took off early this morning to Arwen's place in Asagaya for DTE's farewell. It was a crosstown ride in every sense of the word; it took me one-and-a-third hours to arrive at the station. When I did, I waited about 20 minutes since I got there well ahead of the scheduled meeting time. Arwen biked up and then we went off to have some lunch at the Village Vanguard. Not quite the true namesake of the legendary jazz joint in NYC, it still had that 1950s sensibility though the music was reggae-tinged. Arwen and I shared an interesting twist on a Caesar Salad: same sauce, same bacon but there were chunks of toast and boiled Japanese pumpkin. I also indulged in a rather large hamburger and fries.

77 arrived an hour later. We went to the arcade mall to get our shopping done since we all planned to cook up something for the potluck. I was going to contribute my Sweet N' Sour Chicken, while 77 cooked mabo dofu and Arwen created her tuna gazpacho.

Arwen and her hubby live in a nice apartment next to a sumo stable. There was a rather rotund trainee sweeping outside the stable when we passed by. Arwen's apartment is a 1LDK; certainly her kitchen space dwarfed mine by a factor of 3:1. All of us got started on our respective projects before the ladies took off to pick up DTE from the station. When they got back, it wasn't too long before everything was completed and we all dug in for a feast. By the time we were finished, we felt a lot like our neighbours. Plus, when we entered the un-air-conditioned tatami room, we all felt like hibernating. 77 actually did so for several minutes. All this time, Arwen's husband, Aragorn, was busy working at his project so he could only tackle the leftovers.

After a while, Aragorn and I thankfully returned to the cool comfort of the kitchen area and spoke on movies and DVD players before we took a look at his disc of Spike Jonze videos. Some very interesting ones including the much-heralded ode to middle age hoofin' by Chris Walken in Weapon of Choice. However, I also did see a pre-director Sofia Coppola in her turn as a rhythmic gymnast and Weezer's hilarious Zelig appearance on Happy Days. But the "What the--?" monent had to be the final video with Bjork doing her own kicksteps and showtune. Still, it didn't quite match her au naturel appearance in a later video.

The sun was heading south so DTE and I decided to make our way home. The others accompanied us to the station to meet up with a latecomer to head over for some drinking. Arwen asked if I would be available for something on Wednesday afternoon. Her timing is pretty good since The Office Lady has cancelled her regular lesson for this week and I'll just be finishing off with Jazz Buddy in Shinjuku on that day.

The winds have started to pick up and the clouds are flying by at mach speed as that typhoon is approaching.