Saturday, February 05, 2005

Saturday February 5, 8:31 p.m.

Another one of those long days. After my kids'classes, I just headed straight for the Tea Room to meet the one M. Again, I got there rather early so I enjoyed a leisurely lunch before she arrived. Since it'd been more than a couple of months since our last meeting, we had quite a lot to chat about.

Then it was off to Omotesando to pick up the maple syrup and the other goods for next week's Pancake Day. Fortunately I had the help of one of the school students. We finally made it back to the school by 6; it was my first time back at the old place since early December. Looks like the school has finally gone full bore into glossy advertising. First, their website with a couple of students and teachers looking off in the distance like a scene out of "Lamp Unto My Feet". And then there's a new large pamphlet with a bunch of happy pictures. As is true with all advertising, there's a lot more than meets the eye.

Got back home. Since I've gone through the supermarket food, the sushi and the SUBWAY, I decided to go for the ramen. So I had a nice bowlful of the noodles, some gyoza and a bowl of really garlicky rice. Nice going down on a chilly day. Even picked up a cup of Haagen-Daas Apple Pie Ice Cream to cool me down. Still gotta help out with those lesson plans.

Got the confirmation from PN. She'll be heading in at 11 tomorrow so I'll be waiting at Shinagawa for perhaps a bit of brunch.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Friday February 4, 8:52 p.m.

The Teacher wasn't exactly too hot today. She had some stomach problems which necessitated a quick trip to the washroom. Her reading was pretty off-balance. Went straight to the Tea Room to have their really nice salad; I got there more than 2 hours before SR's arrival so that I could eat lunch and then pore over the TOEIC material. When she did come in, we both ended up getting pretty exhausted trying the exercises.

I mentioned about that sighting of that comedian at the subway station yesterday. Well, over the past decade, I've managed to have a few other sightings. There were those two times at the Tea Room for a couple of second-stringers. One actually has the name of B-Saku Sato who, with his entourage, took over the back of the Tea Room for a rather loud chat, whilst the other time, a TV personality dressed up as a maid for some sort of variety program. Then, another time I caught one of the London Boots comedy duo in a telephone booth in Ginza for some sort of gag skit. Several years ago, I even caught the leader of the pop band, TOKIO, just sitting on a ledge of a display window of a department store in Shibuya.

On a very serious note, I turned on NHK News to find out that its first story was on some psycho who stabbed a baby to death in a department store playground. The man readily confessed but refused to give a motive. It's getting so that parents everywhere are wondering where they can actually have their kids play safely anymore. But just when I thought that this was a Japanese epidemic, CNN has just reported about some psycho Florida couple who tortured 5 kids in their house.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Friday February 4, 8:57 a.m.

Well, I guess it had to be done. Got the first word from The Entrepreneur, a fellow Trekkie from the old days, that "Star Trek: Enterprise" has officially gotten the axe. Certainly I'm a bit disappointed but frankly, the axe had been swinging over this show for well over a year. And as Jonathan Frakes once said about "Star Trek: Voyager", "I think they dipped one too many times into the well." I think that fact along with the typical-for-a-Trek-franchise first 2 so-so seasons pretty much did it in. Kinda too bad since the episodes were starting to get interesting. However, I'm sure that Paramount won't give up the ghost; probably there will be a few made-for-TV movies in the future. Just too many loose ends out there between Archer and Kirk.

There's at least one website which has been on the case to save "Enterprise". Well, they obviously weren't successful but now they're going to try to resurrect the franchise. It kinda reminds me when there was that very first fan attempt to bring back the original series. That wasn't initially successful either but a decade after the final episode of Kirk, McCoy and Spock, the first movie came out (not a great movie by any means, mind you) and there had even an animated series some years earlier. So as Spock once said, "There are always possibilities."
Thursday February 3, 10:33 p.m.

Yeah, it was pretty chilly today. Even I, a Canadian who once jogged in a snowstorm and waited for 40 minutes at a bus stop in -20-degree weather, actually felt cold. Man, I'm getting old.

I think that 12 o'clock wasn't the best move for Jazz Buddy and myself since all the eateries get filled up for lunch. Besides, she was 10 minutes late again. And those bags under her eyes are just getting deeper. Good grief. We ended up going to a small cafe in the Century Hyatt called "It's On Me". They had a lunch set for 700 yen which was OK, not great. In any case, we spent most of the time just gabbing but I did squeeze in some TOEIC practice using some ads. We'll meet at our old time of 11 again.

Did actually spend a whole 4 hours at Speedy's school doing those lesson plans. Speedy didn't sound all that impressed with my progress when I told him that I managed to finish halfway through Chapter 3. I think he wanted me to get to Chapter 4 by now, but hey, I had to re-align the format to match the other teacher's plans so it meant another look at Chapters 1 and 2.

Met the new student, Betty's friend, MK, in Kiba tonight. The only other time I've been in Kiba was last year to meet a couple of friends who'd stayed at a nearby hotel. MK took me to the venue, another Starbucks in a new mall just around the corner. She's pretty low but willing to work. Had a good inaugural lesson. Almost a pity that I can't see her every week but I've got the Carolinan and her sister from next week. I'm sure not gonna enjoy the commute home from Kiba. By that station, the Tozai is packed to the gills. I almost felt like taking the train westbound back to Iidabashi and then get back onto the eastbound so that I could get a seat.

Speaking about trains, over the past few days, I've been seeing signs at a lot of the subway stations hawking about this veteran comedy duo, Utchan-Nanchan (Uchimura and Nanbara), who would ride the subway somewhere on Feb. 18th. Well, it looks like one of them decided to start a bit early. At Iidabashi Station, I was going up the stairs to transfer to the Oedo Line when I saw Mr. Nanbara come on down with a full entourage of TV techs and one young lady with a lot of makeup and a plastic smile. I could only conclude that she must me one of those model-TV personalities. In any case, Nanbara didn't look particularly cheerful; in fact, he looked somewhat grumpy. But then again, I think a lot of TV personalities in this country aren't exactly particularly welcoming off-camera. Considering that the demands put on them by their public are even harder than those put on Hollywood A-list celebs, I'm not that surprised and I can't really even blame them. In any case, the other big surprise is that none of us mortals made so much as a peep of recognition, and Nanbara is a longtime veteran on TV. Mind you, there didn't seem to be any kids to scream shrilly but back home, there would have been at least a few yahoos who would've said something at him.

Looks like there's been another casualty amongst my students due to the cold. My ex sent me the message that she'd like to hold off on her inaugural because of a fever. No complaints on my part. I'd actually appreciate an early trip home tomorrow.

Now that I'm home, I still have to write up the lesson reports and then do a quick little lesson plan for SR's first TOEIC lesson.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Wednesday February 2, 9:11 p.m.

Did my errand trek around Tokyo. The trip to Ikebukuro was a waste of time since the Canada store has shrunk even more to just being a corner in the larger store. There was nothing of value to get that I couldn't get at the Kinokuniya. However, I did learn that the next big culinary exhibition in Namjatown is for chocolate cake.

Then I headed out to Maruzen once more to see if they had the CDs for the TOEIC text I'm giving to SR. Found 'em and bought 'em for a pretty steep price. Ugh...I hope SR doesn't balk. It was another hop over to Ginza and I got Dad's B-day present in the form of an enka tape at Yamano Music and even went over to the Ito-Ya stationery shop for a card. The walk through Yamano was interesting since there was an old geezer, obviously a few peas short of a pod disco dancing at a listening post. Ahhhh...countdown to senility, T minus 2 and counting.

I got to the Starbucks a couple of hours before OL's lesson. The manageress was there so she gave me a friendly greeting. Nice to be known. True to my age, I mixed in some drowsing with my crosswords before the OL showed up. She started off well with the new book.

Gotta get started on lesson plans for tomorrow including that new student.

Looks like the Pope is gonna come out alright after all. He had that crisis earlier today with his breathing but it looks like he's back up and running. The man may look frail but he's got the constitution of a Viagra-pumped ox.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Wednesday February 2, 11:00 a.m.

As you may have guessed, I'm not at the gym. I guess my rule is take a week off during a cold. I thought with the Hawaiian's cancellation. I could pull off a visit but my condition plus the fact that I realized that I still have a lot of other errands to pull off means that the gym is back on the back burner. Not only will I be heading out to the Canada store in Ikebukuro to buy some of that Dark maple syrup and any other doodads, but I've gotta buy a card and present for Dad and see if I can finally score those TOEIC CDs for SR before her class on Friday.

So instead, I'm just doing a bit of writing and listening to a relaxing CD that Kei loaned me last night. It's one of those Bossa Nova-tinged compilations with plenty of Astrud Gilberto and Sergio Mendes to chase away the February blahs. I actually got a call from PN just now stating that she'll probably be coming in on Sunday morning so I'll have to hit the road pretty early to meet up with her at Shinagawa Station. Maybe we'll try for one of those breakfast buffets at one of the hotels...if it's still on by the time we meet.
Tuesday February 1, 11:28 p.m.

My class with the Beehive was a bit more crowded than usual when the very first person to greet me as their teacher returned with a friend of hers who had spent 8 years in Australia. Apparently, the lady lives just across the street from the bowling alley where I teach, so she was wondering about how we operate. Well, I kinda formalized things a bit more for her benefit which may or may not have discomfited the others. But the rest of the group was very welcoming. Not sure, though, if our setup is up the lady's alley. I got the impression she would have liked a bit more structure. Ironically, the woman who's always here first didn't show, but I'd been told in advance that she was probably going to be away for a month on different trips. For some strange reason, the others thought she was gonna show up.

Got home today and decided to eschew the gym since I wasn't feeling 100%. I wasn't feeling lousy but I just didn't want to take the chance of aggravating my cold. So instead after lunch, I took a 2-hour nap before taking off for the juku.

Bought a Kit Kat since I had this sudden craving for a bit of choco and plus, it is the exam season. Examinees everywhere in Japan buy a Kit Kat for luck since the name resembles the Japanese expression for "You will succeed".

The juku classes were the usual. The Beauty Pair went off on another tangent centered around food and sickness. Yuri told me that she had a bit of a cold. And then the Mild Ones came; Mrs. Mild was still recovering from her long bout with the bug. Then I got my newest student, a strapping young lad who's a juku teacher himself. His knowledge of grammar was quite solid but he definitely needs more practice in using it. I thought he wasn't gonna bite the bait since I didn't think I did a realy good job with the model lesson. However, he decided to take a chance on me. Afterwards, the boss and I spoke at some length about our respective career options. The boss had long been thinking about expanding her operations and how difficult it was to see these other schools seemingly rake the money in as they grew all over the place. I allayed her doubts by saying that her school is in a perfect niche. The atmosphere has always been very homey, not surprising considering that the juku is on the 2nd floor of her house. When I think about the huge chains like NOVA or AEON and even my old school, there's a certain warm-hearted quality that the juku has that the others lack. So I told her that she needn't expand. The Beauty Pair and the Mild Ones like the juku because of this warmheartedness. Besides, she really doesn't deserve the extra stress. And running any sort of large business would entail a certain cold-hearted ruthlessness that she simply doesn't have. It's the reason that I'll never start up a school. I'm not saying that Speedy is an ogre-in-waiting but he'll have to make some cold hard decisions in the future when it comes to his own school.

Sure enough, the cold is affecting other students as well. The Hawaiian just told me that she'd like to cancel her lesson tomorrow since she's been knocked out by the virus as well. So I may be able to hit the gym AND get started on the annual Pancake Day project since I won't be seeing the OL until later in the evening. Stiil, I'll be playing the gym by ear depending on my condition when I wake up. Speaking about the Pancake project, the Tomboy can't make it this time around but I may have the Doll's cooperation.

Not sure what Punxatawney Phil will say about Groundhog Day on the 2nd but I think winter will still be hanging around here for another 6 weeks.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Monday January 31, 5:45 p.m.

Yes, I'm back early...I scored a double cancellation today. Not only did SIL can out but I received a message from The Company that no one is available for their lesson tonight. If my writing sounds somewhat jubilant, it's because I'm relieved. I'm not at 100% right now with this official cold in me. Slightly achy, alternately runny and stuffy nose, scratchy throat...I'm a walking Dristan commercial. Loss of income but glad to be home.

Mind you, I wouldn't be nearly this rundown if I hadn't decided to get a whole bunch of errands done which entailed a good bit of walking. Got that insurance bill paid off, bought the texts for OL and SR, and walked all the way up to Omotesando to do some recon for the Saturday trip there to buy the maple syrup. No problems...all the necessary stuff was there.

However, my stomach was getting quite growly and I was determined NOT to enter McD's after my month's ration of a Big Mac last week. So I just walked down the big avenue in Omotesando. I passed by SUBWAY (looked too small so too crowded) and foreigner fave FUJIMAMAS (too pricey for lunch). I was about to cross the main intersection dividing the classy Omotesando and the trendy Harajuku when mine eyes came across a sign hanging out just beyond the GAP. It had a picture of a hot dog (!) with the name of NATHAN'S printed on it. Well, considering that I'd given up on any good hot dogs in this country, I decided to track this tip down. At first, I saw a hot dog stand with a guy inside hawking the franks, but then I also saw a sign pointing to the basement which had the main store with seats and tables. Well, I saw the menu and definitely decided that I couldn't pass this opportunity up. There were chili dogs, cheese dogs and double dogs. However, I miraculously held my discipline and opted for a single 100% beef dog and a regular Coke (well, so I wasn't totally successful). All I can say is that I was a very satisfied customer. It tasted like the ol' Maple Leaf wieners that I can now only eat once a year. Next time I'm in the neighbourhood, I'm going for the whole shebang.

On that note, I heard from Betty Boop yesterday that her colleagues had been talking about these deliciously big donuts with slurpworthy icing that they had in the swanky Shirogane neighbourhood. Two K's zipped through my mind at that moment. It just couldn't I checked out the Krispy Kreme website at length. It did mention new openings globally up to December but nothing about a new store in Tokyo. Also, considering that KK's stock has finally started dropping in the past year I didn't think the company would be opening anything in Asia. However, that description by BB was just too close to the real thing to let go.

After my text shopping at Kinokuniya, I traipsed across the bridge to Takashimaya to use the tastefully designed washrooms. The previous occupant was kind enough to leave some reading material. It was one of the loud and colourful broadsheets, probably Tokyo Sports, and on the front cover was a picture of a tall skinny girl just about to burst into tears. Well, it was none other than the last of the original Morning Musume, Kaori Iida, taking a final bow before "graduating" onto bigger and better things such as permanent exile in tarento land or somewhere in the ever chaotic food industry. Now that the original five are technically free (although the original leader is still hanging out on MM's weekly show), they could actually get back together under a new name just like the original X-Men became X-Factor whilst the new generation was busy fighting villains.

In other "only in Japan" news, there's been a bit of a feather-ruffling in the Kabuki world. One of the young turks, Shichinosuke Nakamura, all of 21 years got arrested for punching out a cop in the Otsuka neighbourhood after getting roaring drunk. Apparently, he tried to skip out on paying the taxi driver. He's out now but his father, a newly anointed master, was justifiably mortified and furious at a press conference. After apologizing profusely to all of Japan, he quietly called his son every name in the bad book before stating that he has no desire to face his son right now. Considering that the art of Kabuki seems to demand as much discipline as a Special Forces regiment does, I think Shichinosuke is gonna be eating Alpo for the forseeable future.

Ahhh...another "only in Japan" item. Up in Saitama, citizens of a certain town have been rather dumbfounded to see 20 million yen worth of 10000-yen bills floating in the river and in a drainage ditch over the past couple of days. I think that would come about to $300,000 US. If this had happened in the US, I'm sure the townspeople would have had a feeding frenzy to put most sharks to shame trying to grab the money. Over here, the reaction has been surprise and call up the cops. Every bill that was found floating is safely drying out on a floor somewhere. Makes one think of the cultural differences.

Well, what to do? I bought another Aussie steak for the ridiculously low price of 250 ridiculously low that I'm getting suspicious if it's really from Oz. A couple of years back, a meatpacking company got nailed for disguising domestic beef as Aussie beef during the BSE crisis in Japan.

Gotta get the ironing done and prep for tomorrow's lessons, provided they don't get cancelled on me either.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Monday January 31, 7:44 a.m.

Well, the Iraqi elections have ended and it seems like the forces of democracy have won. Thousands of surprised and delighted Iraqis lined up for hours to put in the most important slip of paper of their lives. The scenes of jubilant people in places like Baghdad over something like voting could give us, in the well-established democracies, pause to reflect about how much we should be thankful. Of course, I won't leave this line of thought without putting a bit of bitters into the sweets. The very cynical of us would posit that Iraqi democracy is less than a year old and would yell at those celebrants that they haven't yet encountered the phenomenon of special interest groups and spin doctoring and mealy-mouthed pols. And yet, Iraq's entry into democracy (admittedly, still early to tell if it'll hold or breakdown into civil war...but then the States went through the same process) happened in a 21st-century world of global communications, business and culture compared to the birth of the US over 2 centuries ago. It will be a different democracy if it succeeds.

Anyways, enough with the journo monologuing. My nose is feeling distinctly stuffy and my throat has a bit of a rough patch. I guess cold season has arrived. The Hawaiian was her usual sweet self and sent me some advice on how to combat hay fever by buying some sort of special tea from the drugstore. I may have to buy 6 months' worth.
Sunday January 30, 10:58 p.m.

Our trip to the dumpling place in Daimon was a mixed least when it came to the women. The food was indeed quite good; as the matron of the Class Act had promised, the sho ron po was juicy, meaty, tasty and good n' hot. However, the OL and BB weren't nearly as impressed with the in-your-face service by the non-Japanese staff and the decor. Me, that's how I grew up with my Chinese restaurants back in Toronto. And frankly, I don't think the staff there would take too kindly to the "Do as the Romans do.." approach in Tokyo. Pricewise, it wasn't too cheap although the quality of the food was well worth it. The Class Act had said it was reasonable but I realized who I was getting this from...from a lady who could buy houses on just one credit card. Still, I'm glad I finally got to go there. I can give a good report to the ladies tomorrow.

Speaking of which, I've got them and the Company but SIL has canned her lesson. So I guess I can get some errands done such as pay my National Health Insurance premium and actually get some books for SR and OL. And I can even squeeze that little recon to Kinokuniya to see if they still have the varieties of maple syrup before Saturday's raid.

After our pricey lunch, OL, BB and I walked down a kilometre or so to the Hotel Intercontinental in Takeshiba to see if there were a dessert buffet according to what BB had said. That walk was pretty chilly since the winds were still acting up mighty fierce. We got inside and the hotel indeed looked very 5-star. We ended up going to The Blue Veranda. It didn't have a dessert buffet...just a regular one which under the circumstances we had absolutely no appetite for. However, we did pick some desserts from the tray. With that and the lunch, I did quite a blowout with the food budget; luckily, I've been quite frugal this month.

We ended staying at the place for quite a few hours chatting. One of the topics that came to mind was the girls' gripes about having to work overtime every day. It's interesting to note how things have really changed even in the last 40 years. Back in the early postwar period, everyone was working their tails off for more than half a day without any particular bonuses until Japan was on its feet again. Today, my ladies at least are complaining about overtime even though it's paid. I'm not trying to trash them (and I didn't either during our conversation) but I'm just noting it. It's also the first time in the several years I've known Betty that she actually got a bit steamed at the situation. Well, in the end, it looks like our little triangle is becoming quite the foodie group. Maybe next month, we'll try our luck again with another restaurant. Hopefully, we won't have to shuck out all that much.

Actually got some chat in with The Engineer whilst I was writing the above. Looks like he's been quite busy with his domestic travels. He mentioned that he's wondering about getting back here to help his current girlfriend move over to Canada. I wonder if this means he's finally settling down.

Looks like the second-biggest news story of the day next to the Iraq elections has been the weather. Once again, all the areas surrounding Tokyo are gonna get hit with the white stuff over the next 24 hours but Tokyo will be nice and dry...kinda like an armpit after a roll-on.

Also, my histamines are starting to dance around in my nose...which means that hay fever is just around the corner. Ugh! Well, I've armed myself with the tissue, medicine and even a special type of Febreeze which stops pollen in its tracks. I'm gonna have to spray the stuff every time I come home.

Well, looks like the ironing will have to wait til tomorrow. I just wanna take a shower now.