Friday, July 30, 2004

Saturday July 31, 9:36 a.m.

Well, it's another end of the month. A couple of major fireworks festivals on tap tonight:the Sumida River Festival which is one of the largest in Japan up in Asakusa, and there is a neighbourhood one in Urayasu. The juku boss invited me to the latter; I politely declined as usual for the same reasons that I didn't go to the Yokohama Festival. It's one thing to have to head out to work on a crowded subway but to actually volunteer and scrum with thousands of other people in high heat and humidity is another.

Still not certain about the weather today although the typhoon is heading to the west. So, I'll forego doing the laundry and hanging out the mattresses for yet another day. Still have to scrub down the living room and the bedroom. It feels kind of weird having a full weekend without a single class. I don't have the kids for the next couple of weeks so my Saturday is completely free.

I watched the Animatrix a full year after the hoopla of its release. Chip Guy said the first half was worth the money, but I thought all of the nine featurettes added something to the franchise, fault-ridden as it is. The history of the formation of the Matrix was of course the best part, though it didn't skimp on the gore. Now I know what happened in that Blade Runner scene when replicant Rutger Hauer killed his "father".

That lesson with The Teacher took an interesting turn yesterday when I was slightly surprised to see her son at the table. Well, a boy and he's 8...which adds up to major DISTRACTION. And he fulfilled his end of the bargain very well. His mother didn't end up strangling him but he kept us on our toes. Plus, The Teacher decided to once again bring in literature with a lot of unpronounceable words.

My attempts to watch Shrek 2 were thwarted since the local theatre is showing the subtitled version only in the evenings and I wasn't particularly inclined to head back to the area so I'll have to give it a shot some other time.

Not quite sure how my week will shape up. It will be slow though. I've got my full slate on Monday but the rest of the week looks sparse. I'm especially wondering about Thursday. I've got Jazz Buddy in the morning but after that little snafu back on Monday, I'll have to see what happens there. Plus, there's the Quarterback's buddy for his first lesson in the evening. I'm not too sure about that one...his schedule seems perenially busy and I have yet to hear about time and place of lesson.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Friday July 30, 9:21 a.m.

Had another major squall this morning around sunrise. True to the unpredictable nature of a typhoon, the sun was beaming when the skies opened up. There must have been a great rainbow somewhere in the Kanto.

I saw that friend of SR's who's over here for a few weeks in Shibuya last night. It looks like she's been enjoying her life in LA for the past year. She's even gotten one over me in that not only has she developed a taste for jazz but she's even gone to school and trained to become a jazz vocalist among other musical styles. Good for her. So just like talking with the Biologist about science on Wednesday, it was good talking jazz with her. She also kept me updated on a couple of other alumni who have also set up housekeeping in America. When we left the Cheesecake Cafe, the clouds opened up again.

Speaking of making moves to jazz, a former member of one of the late 90s J-idol bands has decided to challenge the challenging world of jazz vocalizing. She's still only all of 20 but HIRO decided to make the leap from synthesizers to bass/piano/drums. From what little I've heard so far, I don't think Diana Krall needs to worry just yet.

I got home and didn't feel much like eating. Looks like lunch did the trick yesterday. So I fired up the DVD player and put in the first SHREK. Since I bought the DVD just yesterday, I opened the case up to find a 300 yen coupon which I can use to catch Shrek 2. If it's playing in the cineplex near where I teach The Teacher today, I will probably catch it. I'm not sure though if the version there will be subtitled or dubbed. I read a review of the movie in one of the free English-language magazines. The reviewer was proudly curmudgeonly as critics usually are when they seem to be the only ones who actually hate a mostly well-received movie. He didn't like the first one, either, which pretty much made the review moot for since I still chuckled at a number of the scenes despite it being my 4th time to watch it.

I got an article via The Doctor about how America is finally waking up to the wonders of sake (at least the urban centers anyways...I really can't see any rednecks parting with their Budweiser or moonshine). The article mentioned the expression, "sake epiphany" a few times. I could just imagine "Sex in the City" making it the "it" expression of the year, if only it had lingered on a bit longer.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Thursday July 29, 1:43 p.m.

Well, we've gotten some brief but intense reminders that Typhoon 10 is nearby. There was a squall between 5 and 6 this morning, and during my rubdown and trip to the supermarket, the heavens opened up again in a big way but just as suddenly closed up as I walked back to the apartment.

I got a rubdown from a middle-aged gabby lady who I saw for the first time. Pretty good at her craft although there were a few wincing moments. At least I know the pressure points to influence the eyes (two points on the back of the neck). We had a running talk on some of the difficulty in handling foreign customers to the massage clinic in terms of the language barrier so I offered to help her, and by association the clinic, with any questions they may have with vocabulary. Hmmm...could point to some possibilities.

I also got the OK from the travel agent to transfer the cash for the hotel room which I'll do posthaste. Then I'll head out to Shibuya to meet my friend for coffee. Before that, perhaps I'll drop by Towers to see if there's any literature on Yokohama. The Japan guide book that I'd bought for Hokkaido surprisingly has zero info on Yokohama. I wonder if there's some sort of grudge match there.

Feeling pretty stuffed after cooking up some cabbage and ginger pork. Hopefully, that'll tide me over way into the evening since I only plan on ingesting salad for dinner as penance for my three-day binge over the weekend.
Wednesday July 28, 7:39 p.m.

Home earlier than usual? Yup, sure am. The reason being that the OL cancelled her class. I'm getting the feeling that the summer holiday is upon us a lot sooner than expected. Tomorrow, I've got no classes and I only have The Teacher on Friday.

My trip to the Embassy today went well. I had all of the material needed in that large Purolator envelope that brought my birth certificate. I had been wondering if I would have to deal with some sort of government dweeb or icicle. I was lucky last time almost 6 years ago when I had an efficient-looking but amiable enough lady taking care of me. This time, it was a chatty youngish woman with a sympathetic ear for my longer-than-deserved plight to get that birth certificate. She seemed genuinely interested about this kerfuffle concerning birth certificates. In any case, Part 1 of the process took about 10 minutes; just making the official declarations, handing over the forms and fee (not cheap...12000 yen), and showing various examples to prove my identity. I had to pass the documents through a sliding tray which went under the thick glass barrier separating us. I rather felt like Hannibal Lecter. It sure was a far cry from the person-to-person experience of 6 years ago. I remember that that lady took me straight into the offices for the declaration. The only tiny snag was when I put down the same two references for both forms. Uh-uh...I had to put another set of names for the one other form, so I had to quickly jot down the information for The Anime King and my other friend back home. I sent the Anime King a heads-up and a meek apology in advance just in case the government decides to give him a call. I ought to be able to pick my passport in 2 weeks, after which I have to travel to the humongous new Immigration Bureau in Shinagawa to transfer all of the visas and re-entry permits into the new passport. That will not be fun.

After the Embassy, I still had a few hours to kill before seeing The Biologist so I had an early lunch in the Aoyama Twin mall. I came across a Chinese restaurant which served a pretty hardy lunch set for 830 yen. I went in...the somewhat fetid smell inside and the "faded glory" decor reminded me of my days back in Asakusa. But what got me was the boiled dumpling (sui gyoza) soup. Everything else was fine but that soup smelled and tasted like the fetid air inside the place. The gyoza itself was fine but the soup was absolutely vile. For that reason alone, I don't think I'll make a second visit.

I had some more time and since I had bought myself a one-day subway pass, I went up to Ginza to check out Yamano Music. Bad move. I went a bit crazy again on the money to buy CDs especially since my point card was close to the 50-point total to get that 3000 yen discount. However, I finally got to see that Michael Buble cover of "Spiderman" there which pretty much doomed me. The CD looks like it was a hastily made affair since it had Buble looking rather more like a NKOTB reject instead of the jazz cat that he is. Plus, after "Spiderman", there are several covers of "Sway" about trying to fill up a CD. I gather that they couldn't get any more versions of the title song out in time. Well, thanks to a few more CD purchases, I hit the 50 mark and I ended up getting "Shrek" and "The Animatrix" for a mere pittance due to the discount.

I met the Biologist. Her first presentation was all over the place stylistically. I was a bit worried that she may have thought I was getting a bit harsh with her but I really wasn't. I tried to tighten her up a bit in her delivery and she was better for it the second time around. I also observed we seem to have a good rapport (not in that way) when it comes to scientific discussions. She's the only one in my long tenure here that I've been able to go into various scientific talks with.

Well, I didn't get that cancellation call from The OL until I got to the Starbucks, but I didn't care that much. At least, I put the one-day pass to good worth. So instead of munching on a cinnamon roll and chai tea latte as I would have usually done, I just headed home. When I got to the station, I pondered about having my dinner at the nearby Subways but the clouds looked pretty ominous and considering that there is a typhoon on the way, I decided to pick up a little something at the supermarket and hightail it back home. Tonight's dinner was eel on rice in continued homage to Eel Day along with another salad. According to the weather report, it looks like we'll be brushed by the storm starting overnight tonight and just keep on going throughout the day.

I do have the day off tomorrow but I'm also supposed to be meeting an old student of mine who's back from California. Hmmm..a typhoon is on its way and I'm meeting this student for just 50 minutes for coffee in Shibuya since she's headed out to her gig in a hostess club in Ginza. Something doesn't quite ring right here... If the weather is forgiving enough, I will go for that biweekly rubdown.

Well, my travel agent contacted me to say that I've got the room at the Pan-Pacific. More money down the drain but I'm glad that I pulled the trigger to go for that mini-vacation in Yokohama. The money is going to a good cause: me and my sanity.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Tuesday July 27, 11:30 p.m.

Yup, it's official. I'm having one of those weeks. Well, my morning class was OK. The ladies will be going off on their usual summer hiatus starting from next week although this one will be longer than usual. I'll be facing nearly 2 months without their company or income; in fact, I won't be seeing them until the first day of Autumn. Hopefully, the temps actually conform to the seasonal change.

Nah, the off classes started with my juku. I'm forming an impression that one of the Beauty Pair is starting to get a bit jaded with the lessons. She started class looking glum and not too chatty. If it hadn't been for her still-engaged classmate, it could have gotten quite ugly. My second class was OK though the wife responded that the lesson was so-so; I think I know what she meant...she was referring to her own ability instead of mine. Still, I always get a little nervous when I hear comments like those. Then, my final class with my top student didn't seem to impress him all that much, but then again, he looked rather tired. It won't matter all that much anyways since he will be taking off for the States within a month. In fact, he may no longer show up for classes if his schedule gets any busier.I will get to go home an hour earlier but I will be getting 12000 yen less a month. On the other hand, the juku boss had asked me earlier in the day if I would start teaching her from September since it looks like the Curry Master will no longer be available for her lessons. Her English is badly fractured...she does need the work.

Another hint that I'm having a bad week is when I got my reply from my travel agent. I apparently misread the information about the hotels. I checked the last message and sure enough, I screwed up. Well, I made sure this time so hopefully by tomorrow night, that room will be duly booked.

Skippy got that date in lickety-split for Gabby's farewell party. She's slated the 8th. Lucky I've decided to just stay in Yokohama for one night only. Plus, I'm sure I will have some stories for the gang from Yokohama.

Well, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my bad luck will not permeate my trip to the Embassy tomorrow, but who knows? I may just get a hardcase there who will not accept the photos. I'm also hoping that the lesson with the Biologist will go as well as it did last week. No problems from her as of yet but I think she is a quietly demanding student.

I'm feeling pretty hungry right now but I'm gonna let my stomach suffer for another 6 or 7 hours. After the weekend of binge, I have to be a bit hard on myself this week and/or next week. Aside from a generous supermarket bento for lunch, I've been pretty good so far. Only had a salad and zero-calorie oolong tea for dinner. Mind you, the juku boss always gives me two sweet iced coffees during my lessons.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Monday July 26, 10:00 p.m.

SERENITY NOW! Looks like it could be one of those weeks. I went up to the Shinjuku Andersen for Jazz Buddy's lesson. I figured something was up after she didn't show up for half an hour. It shouldn't have bothered me since I did have the company class just around the corner, but I was still doing a slow broil at being stood up. After 90 minutes, I considered her a loss and was thinking of some nasty message to send her by e-mail when I got home. I ended up sitting outside in the main plaza doing some puzzles when she finally showed up. Surprisingly, I held my tongue and luckily I did, since after profusely apologizing, she told me that she'd mistaken the time of our meeting for a few hours earlier and ended up waiting for me for half an hour while going through a summer cold. Well, I'm not about to kick anyone when she's down so we kept it civil. However, I just wish she could be a bit more with it.

Basically that was the only wrinkle for today. I met up with my Monday morning regulars after a 2-week absence. We spent a good portion of the lesson on the fact that I plumped up some after that 3-day food binge. The more prominent of the two went into mother mode and good-naturedly told me to ease off on the food. I will acquiesce to her order since I agree with her. I also got a bit of a treat in the form of a free ticket to watch "Fahrenheit 911" and a souvenir Galilean Thermometer. It's a pretty intriguing gadget. Based on Galileo's principles of rising temperature lowering the density of liquid, the thermometer is a half-meter tall tube filled with water and small carefully weighted glass balls of differently-coloured liquids with tags denoting different temps. When the temps rise, a ball rises to the top as well. The only problem is that the balls only register temps between 18 to 26 degrees which pretty much limits it as a particularly useful device. Ah, least it'll make for a conversation piece if anyone ever decides to visit the homestead again.
Certainly it fulfilled that role at the company class.

Well, that rain that was threatening this morning never Chiba, at least. But according to my morning students, Shibuya got majorly rained upon for a few minutes while in the other student's neighbourhood, it merely sprinkled. There's supposed to be that typhoon coming along but as yet, I don't see anything happening in the weather department.

I got a predictably quick response from my travel agent about that hotel in Yokohama. Her quote for the Intercontinental was quite reasonable considering its five-star status so I just pulled the trigger and asked her to book it. I'm committed now although considering that I probably won't be making all that money next month, I ought to BE committed. Well, I figure if my parents can go off for a nice cruise to Alaska at the end of this month, I ought to indulge myself. I certainly won't be putting out as much money as they have for their little excursion.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Sunday July 25, 11:52 p.m.

I met Skippy and Movie Buddy in front of the Picadilly as scheduled this afternoon. We first had a snack at the Wendy's next door where a rather colourful-looking freak of nature came in. He was a middle-aged man dressed up like a rather smelly clown (sans the makeup) and nonchalantly ordered some sort of burger set. in the big city...

We caught "Harry Potter and The Prisoner Of Azkaban". As the critics have already said several times, the third movie is a much-improved product over its two predecessors. I'd say that it was a Harry Potter done up like a film noir. Almost everyone had a bit more grit in them and the final confrontation amongst Snape, Lupin and Sirius Black could have been an homage to the final showdown amongst Bogey, Lorre and Greenstreet. If the future movies are along these lines, then you may consider me a faithful viewer.

Afterwards, the three of us met MB's girlfriend and the Curry Master nearby and then we all went up to SAMRAT where I had my third feast in as many days. I engorged myself on some tandoori chicken and the Thali Platter. Poor Skippy may have overindulged though; when she went to the washroom, the Curry Master and the Sylph wondered if she needed checking on. However, Skippy returned better but still feeling pretty stuffed.

The Curry Master told me that she won't be able to have our semi-regular lessons due to her new classes. Again, I am left wondering if she was trying to let me down easy or if she's really is that busy. Then again, I was never all that comfortable teaching her in the first place since she's already highly proficient in the language. As for the SE, I'm not sure about his status since we always used the CM's apartment for our teaching venue. His priority seems to lie in his need to get a high TOEIC score but he can get that education from CM. Therefore, I'm assuming that that tandem will be soon going over the wayside. And since I'm still not sure how stable this gig with the Quarterback's friend will be, I may be searching for students for my Thursdays come Fall.

I've started some prelim searching at some of the discount travel sites which shows that I'm pretty serious about enjoying myself in Yokohama. I even contacted that lady who helped me out with my Hokkaido trip. I hope to hear some good things but according to one site, a night at the Pan-Pacific will still put be back 35,000 yen. Getting R and R is pretty pricey.