Saturday, November 27, 2004

Saturday November 27, 9:00 p.m.

Ended up having my final class with the sisters this morning. Next week, I've got the school Xmas party and the mother had to can the 11th as the final day due to the end-of-year PTA meeting. I was lucky to get a goodly number of gift certificates at any of the old department stores so that could bring down my Xmas shopping expenses by quite a long as calendars are sold there.

Since I had to hang around in the area before my second lesson with the Aunt, I just did lunch at McDonalds. I could've done it at the family restaurant where I would teach her but I think that would've been a bit too much in the guilt category for me. 90 minutes later, she showed up at the cafe. The lesson was OK but seemed a bit haphazard due to her relentless questions and the fact that I didn't really have anything in terms of structured materials aside from a couple of photocopies of menus. We were focusing on ordering in English.

Was feeling understandably tired so I was sleeping a bit on the subway. And by the time I picked up the groceries for dinner, the last of the sun slipped behind the horizon. One thing about this country; we don't need to slip back an hour to lose sunlight early.

Actually was able to clean up the living room lickety-split so it looks almost passable. Should be pretty messy by Monday, though. I saw on the news that Charles Jenkins got out of his little vacation in the stockade. Now, 40 years of desertion have been swept aside so that he can live the rest of his life with his family on Sado Island.He said that he would like to visit America just one more time, but I kinda wonder what his reception would be like over there knowing how much the military is woven into life in the States. I'd think he would be lustily booed at the very least...and I'm sure a lot of the veterans are slapping themselves upside the head at the very light slap on the wrist Jenkins got. However, on this side of the Pacific, he is being welcomed with open arms. A lot of it is due to his wife, Hitomi Soga, one of the former North Korean abductees; another part is the unpopularity of the US military in places like Okinawa.

Well, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" slipped in here under the radar behind the more heavily hyped "The Polar Express". Gwyneth and Jude did come over this past week to do their duty and promote the flick but I'm not quite sure how their latest movie together will play here. I may have to catch it soon if I don't want to miss it. Tomorrow will be my only opportunity to catch it for the next several days. However, I also have my Xmas shopping to launch. I was thinking of just keeping it close to home but I think I'll probably head out to Ginza and see what I can come up with with those gift certificates. I will definitely take my time getting up tomorrow.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Friday November 26, 10:00 p.m.

Aghhh...after the help that Paddy had given me, my computer has gone on the fritz again. I feel like I'm back to my ol' dial-up days.

It was nice getting back to teaching the kids again. Good to get into the banter. Looks like there will be a good number for both the field trip next Thursday and the Xmas party next Saturday.

I met The Bohemian in Suidobashi today. We ended up going to EN in Shibuya since we couldn't really find a decent place in the neighbourhood. We got there early enough so we could get a couple of hours drinking and eating, but by the end, the waiter was getting a bit antsy for us to go. I was happy to hear that The B may finally be getting a romantic interest.

Well, back to prepping for tomorrow's lessons.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Friday November 26, 8:25 a.m.

The heartthrob of Japanese hausfraus everywhere, Paik Yon Joon, touched down at Narita yesterday to the screams of 3500. The media said that it was a new record for a welcoming committee (if you can call a whole bunch of middle-aged women going crazy in front of you a welcoming committee) at the airport, but I'd heard that Joon's last arrival attracted 5000! Or was that just a bit of advertising hyperbole? I can only guess that this year will be known as the Year of Korea in Japan.

Thursday November 25, 10:52 p.m.

Well, a month to go before Christmas, and the lights and trees are up. The Xmas CDs are selling and next week, the end-of-year party season is upon us.

Jazz Buddy had a lot to say today which was good. I found out that she had already been to the New York Grill with her Mom so that pretty much takes out the surprise element of going there. Ah, well. However, I did promise to lend her my DVDs of Chicago and Airplane; one for the ragtime jazz and the other for the wild and comedic aspects.

After her lesson, I walked over to the neighbourhood branch of Maharajah for lunch. As I was tucking into my Tandoori Grill Special, the manager of the restaurant seemed to have been venting in his own language at some folks...couldn't tell if they were just friends or business associates. In any case, it didn't get so heated to ruin my dining pleasure...and yes it was pleasurable.

Then I crossed the bridge where I plopped down my money at Kinokuniya and bought that second book of Peanuts. Still don't regret it. Next, I took the Oedo all the way to Shiodome and spent about a couple of hours on that scavenger hunt for Shard and my brother. Couldn't see hide nor hair of that peach wine my sister-in-law likes, and that Namiki pen at Ito-Ya costs about the same as your usual fairly nice suit.

I didn't go entirely empty-handed, though. I did buy an enka tape for Dad and even splurged to get the latest new J-Pop Xmas song hit by the comedy duo Downtown called "Chicken Rice". Yah, the title does evoke all that is festive, doesn't it? Well, the song sounds nice and Christmas-y; it was written by popmeister Noriyuki Makihara.

I then hopped the train over one stop to Daimon where I searched for that Chinese dumpling restaurant that the Class Act had recommended. It took a few minutes but I found it. Yes, it is small but we can get in there. However, Betty Boop replied to say that she's on overtime all the way deep into December so she's out of the equation. I just wonder if that means The OL is out as well. Well, I'll still go by myself.

I made my final stop at the Tea Room where I had my usual dinner of tuna fish sandwiches and fruit punch before The Carolinan came in. That Carolinan certainly has an interesting angle to her. She not only remarked that I'd gained weight the last time we met, but she gives me a Xmas ornament and a can of spray-on cheese as souvenirs from Hawaii. Go figure. I've gotta find some cheap crackers to match it. Well, the good intentions were there. Her time there was only half-fun. Apparently, she has a pretty weak stomach when it comes to cars and boats.

Well, tomorrow is that trip to the Tax Office to pick up my income tax form and then it's off to the school for the final class of 2004. Finally, I meet up with The Bohemian for dinner. Still, I've got things to finish off before I hit the hay tonight. I'll probably have to at least look at Saturday's classes since I may be with The Bohemian for a while on Friday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thursday November 25, 7:38 a.m.

A bit of activity over the electronic ether since my last entry. First off, The Bohemian gave me a rare contact over the Messenger. Apparently, he's back in town to check a job placement centre in Suidobashi on Friday so he asked if I were free for dinner. Well, I had planned on for my sole outing to the gym for the week. Looks like it'll be a gymless week then. Friends or the gym? The decision was easy.

Plus, this morning, I got word from The Tomboy that she did get my message. Good, now I can find about numbers for this Namjatown trip tomorrow.

I'm currently listening to this Lambert, Hendricks & Ross CD that I got a few days ago at Tower. L, H & R were this jazz group that perfected the art of vocalese almost half a century ago. I've read about them and I have their charmingly warped take on "Deck The Halls". Some wags have taken down groups like The Manhattan Transfer down a few pegs by comparing them to the majesty of this group. L, H & R are certainly virtuosos in their craft, I'll have to admit, but a few of the tracks do sound as if the wordsmiths were pretty desperate in setting the lyrics to music and not that successful. But then again, that's not the real point of vocalese anyways. It's really to marvel how accurately the the trio can match, note by note, the dulcet tones of jazz instruments.
Wednesday November 24, 10:09 p.m.

As I had predicted in my last entry, I'm pretty exhausted. However, the day of four lessons went pretty well. And there were some nice culinary dividends.

Between the Class Act and SIL, the lady of the house was very generous to offer me lunch since I only had an hour between lessons. So she whipped up some yakisoba with a rice ball and some fresh fruits. I got this after the snacks we usually get during the lesson. Plus, the lady gave me a canister of Neiman-Marcus Chocolate Covered Potato Chips. Not as gross as I'd thought. Actually, the chocolate is so overwhelming that I can barely feel the crispiness of the potato chip buried inside. Should make for good show n' tell at the school on Friday.

Mind you, on the way to the Class Act's lesson, I thought I was headed for a rather lousy day. At one of the stations, a young woman collapsed on the platform which delayed things for the subway so I had to transfer to the Oedo Line which meant that I was 5 minutes late for the lesson. Of course, the ladies took it all in stride.

After SIL, I rushed up to see The Hawaiian. I asked her to guess about the canister. She pegged it right away as the chocolate-covered chips since she had been wondering whether to get that exact product or the chocolate-covered macadamia nuts in Hawaii. She chose the latter.

I rushed down to get to the Starbucks for my usual lesson with The OL. Since I was a few minutes late, The OL was actually already there; the first time that she has actually preceded me in our 18 months together. It certainly looks like the staffs at the various cafes where I teach have considered me a regular. They now greet me as an equal and ask me if I'll be having the usual. Ahhh...nice to be appreciated.

During OL's lesson, she told me that she'd spoken with Betty Boop and found out about my offer of taking them for Chinese dumplings at the place that The Class Act had recommended a few weeks ago. At first, I thought it was going to fall through since the weekends from now til my departure are all booked up for the OL. However, I offered to make our last lesson the visit to the Daimon restaurant. She looked much more hopeful then so now I'm hoping that it'll be OK with BB.

So, back home, I found a rare fax sent to me. It was from The Tomboy, the current student at the school who'll be helping me with this trip to Namjatown next Thursday as well as with the Xmas party on the 4th. It looks like there was a glitch in my response to her; it never got to her so she sent her questions again by fax paper this time. I sent another response to her other, hopefully more stable, address with a CC to the Coordinator. Let us hope that she gets it this time.

Also, it looks like I may be on a scavenger hunt for both my brother and Shard. My brother wants me to check out for this special bottle of Peach Wine that his wife had tasted at the Ginza Tobu Hotel some years ago. Plus, Shard was asking about these pens made by a company called Namiki. On a more disturbing note, it's possible that my package to Bro that I'd sent a few weeks earlier may be MIA. SIGH. My only hope is that the post office guy had stated that it would get there somewhat later than usual.3 weeks is starting to press things.

My brother also informed me that a friend of the family had passed away recently. I'd known him since I was a baby and the last time I'd seen him was at my brother's wedding a few years ago. He had kids which we knew back then. It does bring home the fact that our parents are entering that final stage.

Well, being the end of the year, NHK has just announced the lineup for the big Red & White Song Festival. They've got quite a few young acts up although I think the show is really only seen by the older generation or some very lonely, lonely folks. I'll have to check out the J-Pop website to see the reaction. All these guys from all over the world didn't seem too impressed by last year's show.

Tomorrow shouldn't be as hectic as today. I've got Jazz Buddy; I've gotta tell her about my recon to the Park Hyatt on Monday. And then I have the Carolinan. I think we may be gabbing a bit on her trip to Hawaii last week. In between lessons, I may give an advance trip to Namjatown just to make sure everything is OK on that end.

I got word from Skippy after her trip to Paris. She had a great time as expected. And she's also looking forward to the 5th.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Wednesday November 24, 7:45 a.m.

Well, one month to Xmas Eve. Hopefully by this time next month, I'll be back in Canada getting as stuffed as the turkey that will be popping out the next day. Unless there's some sudden notice from them, I don't think there'll be any special guests for Xmas day from among the students this year. Not that my Dad would feel disappointed...the last guy I had over didn't impress him at all. He was a bit of a doofus.

Yesterday being Labour Thanksgiving, I had the entire day off to luxuriate in late sleeping and then going through the whole 6 hours of ENTERPRISE that The Entrepreneur was so kind in taping for me. It's a testament to the improvement of the series that I riffed through the entire tape in a day. Not sure if it's too little, too late although I heard that the Brent Spiner appearances have already spiked the ratings for the show.

Heard from The Iconoclast for the first time in a while. Looks like I may have to send official word pretty soon about my return since he and The Anime King have both asked about it. I just hope that that Osakan travel agent that PH recommended did make the booking.

The police are still on the manhunt for a psycho who murdered a little girl in Nara last week. There didn't even seem to be any attempt at any sexual abuse; he apparently killed her as soon as he kidnapped her from her neighbourhood. What's worse is that he taunted the parents by sending over a picture of her dead body and the message "I've got your daughter!" over her own cellphone. KILL THE BASTARD, I say.

Well, in contrast to yesterday's rest-easy kind of day, I've got a pretty full slate of work today. I've got the Class Act, SIL, The Hawaiian and The OL. I'll be one exhausted teacher again by tonight.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Monday November 22, 10:36 p.m.

Well, I did it. I went off to that Creambath Ebisu place that SR recommended me. It's actually not too far from PH's apartment. I wonder if she knows about it.

I was planning on going there later in the afternoon but my gym trip was suddenly curtailed when I saw a rather large metal curtain where a gym was supposed to be. Then I realized that the gym is usually closed on the 3rd Monday. Bad timing. With tomorrow a national holiday and then Wed. and Thurs. being busy with classes, I now only have Friday as the week's physical workout day. Ah well. In any case, I decided to head down to Ebisu a bit ahead of schedule.

Perhaps a bit too early. Even though the pamphlet said that the Balinese spa was open at 11 and despite the fact that I arrived there at 11:30, I only saw a closed door and some bemused staff people walking in. The manager, with a veneer of politeness, asked me if I had an appointment. When I replied in the negative, she then asked me for my name and then told me to come back at 12. Well, I felt a bit snubbed so I trudged off to the local Wendys for an early lunch before returning.

And as I did so, I was accosted by a world of bamboo, exotic music, heavy incense and pretty Japanese women in Balinese outfits and sandals. And here I was standing in my usual "Will-Teach-For-Food" outfit. I'm pretty sure that a couple of the female staff must've thought that it was INDEED a Monday when they saw me. However, the one who ended up massaging me kindly showed me the course description although I knew what I wanted thanks to SR's description. It cost me 6,825 yen up front for the Quick Course and a 10-minute arm/hand/neck massage option. Boy, I hope this is good, I thought.

The young lady escorted me to a bamboo room and asked me to strip to my voluminous waist (no, the workouts haven't quite licked that yet) and put on a short terrycloth robe. Once I did so, I was once again escorted to the sink area and my treatment began. She started washing my hair like I was at my bimonthly haircut. However, when she engaged in a 10-minute scalp rubdown session, I turned into butter and her hands were the flame. Oooooh, yeah! For a lady who looked like she wasn't even of drinking age, she had hands which could coax blood from a stone.

Step Two was even better. I was taken back to my room where she seated me and then threw on a whole goop of white aloe vera lotion all over my head. I felt like I was a victim of a drive-by yogurting. The stuff was darn cold, too, at first, but once she got kneading, I was hers once again, and it lasted 20 whole minutes.

Step Three was relatively quiet as my wrapped head got a steam treatment for 10 minutes. Then, my masseuse returned to work on my arms, hands, shoulders and neck with some sort of coconut cream. I was feeling no pain, and I was starting to smell pretty good. That was an especially great sensation considering the olfactory pain I went through yesterday.

The penultimate step was the rinsing off of the aloe vera from my hair and then I was blown dry and moussed. Yes, a bit pricey but every yen was worth it. Still, I won't be able to make regular visits but I figure that a New Year's drop-in wouldn't hurt.

My first experience there made me forget the initial awkwardness with the manager whom I didn't see during the treatment. I headed up to Shinjuku to check out Kinokuniya which I haven't been to in a while. As I went along the street, I was fairly astounded to see all that construction for over a year resulted in just a parking lot being built.

Usually I don't buy much at Kinokuniya since their books are pretty expensive when compared to the stuff at Towers or HMV. However, it is the only place that I can buy a Dell's Crossword Puzzle Book, my book of choice. Also, I saw that second annal of Charles Schulz's Peanuts comic strips, something that I've been wanting to get for a long time. However, I held off since there is no point card system, and I know that Tower has one and it has also carried the Peanuts series. Unfortunately, my gamble didn't promise the desired results so there was still just the first volume. But I did buy another jazz CD in the form of a Lambert, Hendricks & Ross album. Apparently, critics have said the Manhattan Transfer have never held a candle to these guys in the art of vocalese. Well, since I'm still an MH fan, I can only look forward to even better results from L, H and R.

Instead of my usual break in the Shinjuku Plaza, I decided to walk over to the Park Hyatt. I was just getting a bit too cold just sitting there and I knew that I had to do a bit of recon if that plan for JB and I to have our final lesson of the year there is to come off. On the way, I saw some nitwit foreigner riding her bike yelling "Baka, Baka" at some crows. Maybe she got splatted on by them in her past.
When I did get to the Park Hyatt, I took a look inside on the 1st floor to find The Delicatessan. It appeared quite fancy from the outside, and quite small on the inside. I was informed from the website that it only had 16 seats. Hmmm...will have to do some thinking about that. Perhaps, JB will just nix the whole idea.

Today's sole lesson with the Company folks was a bit of a slog. I mean I was just teaching "will", and they reacted as if I had suddenly thrown them The Future Perfect. I also found out that that lady who has been quietly working at the table in the outside room for the past few weeks is the wife of one of the students.

Well, tomorrow is a national holiday, so I decided to have dinner at the Dennys near the Company. There was a Chinese family sitting next to me, and then towards the end of dinner, a French pair came by. I gather that with the hotels across the street, Dennys must be a safe haven for the tourists.

I got home and polished off the last of the chocolate macadamias that The Hawaiian had gotten me. I also checked my e-mail. Got into another long talk with Shard and replied to The Hawaiian and Arwen. At this time, I would be getting a little worried about hitting the hay and prepping for lessons but since I've got nothing tomorrow, I will just enjoy a late evening and then a late morning.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Sunday November 21, 10:02 p.m.

Well, back from that odyssey to Chichibu, a city of 60,000 people and a lot of trees. First off, although I'm a bit loathe to say it, when I met the juku boss at the station this morning, I noticed that she had on her Sunday best and makeup which is atypical of her; whenever I teach at the juku, she's usually very down-to-earth. However, I was almost knocked out when my olfactory sense registered a reek from her! Couldn't believe it...she smelled of OLD MAN...if that old man had just woken up in his clothes after a night of coffee, cigarettes and whiskey and used frying oil. I had to resort to rotational breathing (inhale through my mouth and then exhale through my nose) at times and turning discreetly away on the train. Quite a feat I engineered considering I was with her for 12 hours.

Yes, it was a 2-hour trip up to the wilds of Saitama. When we finally got to our destination, our host up there told us that he'd be a half-hour late, so we ended up having lunch at a soba shop just across from the station. On the Red Arrow, the juku boss had told me that Chichibu Soba had quite the al dente texture to it. Much to her dismay, she thought the soba there was quite soggy. I found it quite palatable, actually, although I was a bit more concerned about the slow service. Soba and coffee would be the main culinary theme for the rest of the day, as unlikely as that combination would be.

The boss' cousin eventually picked us up and our first stop was a real estate agency run by his good friend, a very amiable sort. We spent a good hour there discussing about the possibilities of setting up a new school there in terms of what the market, the rent and the competition are like. It was a good discussion and even I put in my 2 yen worth. The boss, knowing her personality, naturally got quite animated.

Afterwards, the cousin took us to the school (and potential rival) which was responsible for educating his child in English. The place was closed and it was located on the 2nd floor over a beauty salon. Back at the agency, he showed us a couple of pretty glossy pamphlets of the school; they resembled invitations for a Queen's concert at The Opera House. Certainly the tuition reflected it. I was rather astonished to hear the 300,000-yen price tag to teach his kid...who incidentally tagged along with us for some of the ride and seemed to be all of three years of age. The juku boss quickly dipped into the beauty salon where she found out that the stylists have frequently had to go upstairs to complain about the racket that the kids were making. Well, definitely, this new school won't be on any floor above ground level, then.

Next, we drove over to his place where he showed us a huge carton of educational materials that the school had given him for the kid. Three years old, and he can't even speak Japanese yet, and he has enough vocab cards and CDs to open up his own school. Our juku is very much bare bones and cut n' paste. The materials from this other school looked like they had been designed by Dentsu.

Our next stop was the Nagatoro River. The boss was surprised at how much of a tourist trap it'd become since her days as a child living there. The shopping street certainly looked like anything in Nikko or Kyoto nowadays. I was impressed with the scenic beauty of the river, though, although the cousin remarked that it has seen better days in terms of cleanliness. As I could see, the river was a telltale murky green...not particularly inviting for a swim. And here I was in a suit (which the boss had asked me to wear) negotiating through some often craggy rock formations. We ended up having another coffee and soba (much better for her) at a restaurant/cafeteria setup run by some old friends. The soba definitely had more bite.

Our final stop as the sky darkened was the pub run by the boss' aunt and uncle. It looked very homey inside and in fact, the kid was sleeping on the tatami. There were a couple of oldtimer regulars just whiling away the time while the uncle and aunt were busy behind the counter. I felt somewhat envious of the boss' close relationship with her extended family. something that I have never been able to get with my own family due to distance and some other unfortunate matters.

Finally, we were back on the train to Ikebukuro. It was almost an uneventful ride until the last leg when we were delayed by a good 15 minutes due to some moronic vandal leaving stuff on the track. And then, the subway ride home was puncutated by an unforecast rainstorm. And I just merely left my laundry hanging on the line. So I was rather broody because of that fact and the unfortunate BO that surrounded the boss; she didn't even blink twice about it. I did send a thank-you e-mail to let her know that I was grateful for the opportunity to head up to Chichibu just in case she may have been a bit put off..doubtful due to her usual high spirits.

I got home and pulled off the wet stuff. Luckily, though, they were indeed wet, they weren't dripping. So there's a 50/50 chance that they may be dry by tomorrow morning. My nostrils are still permeated with the smell of coffee and oil and cigarettes though.

Doing my e-mail housekeeping, I found out that my plan for Namjatown is a go. Misty got back and told me that a lot of her classmates are interested in my proposal for the 2nd so it looks like that's rolling. Plus, I've got DTE's thingy on the 5th. Looks like she wants to do Tony Romas again. That's fine with me since it'll be simpler to plan than doing it at En. Movie Buddy was quite high on Tony Romas himself.

Betty Boop sent a message to me for the first time in a while. She told me that she choked when she tried to help an American find the right subway for Asakusa. Well, when one doesn't practice English all that much... In any case, she's hoping that we can do some lunch before I head back to the home country.

The Dancer sent me another tape a couple of days ago so I took a look-see. Most of it consisted of a sci-fi miniseries called The 4400 which seems to be a mix of X-Men, X-Files, Unbreakable and Taken. Interesting idea but it looked so much as I don't want to denigrate my own country's culture in the arts, I've just never been all that impressed with the national stuff aside from SCTV (which is a Classic). Also, the attempt to generate a Mulder/Scully chemistry between the two main characters ended up being as inert as a lump of lead. I checked the comments about the series on the IMDB...pretty mixed and heated debate...more so than usual. However, most everyone was of the opinion that the ending was not much of one.

Well, such a long entry. I'll be starting my week with a workout at the gym since The Class Act has been re-scheduled to Wednesday and it looks like I won't be getting any other opportunities to work out until Friday, and I may brave the trip to SR's Balinese massage place in Ebisu. If I can get in, I'll be shucking out 6000 Natsume Sosekis for the scalp treatment but I do love a good rubdown on the old pate.

But first I hope the laundry dries out...