Saturday, February 12, 2005

Sunday February 13, 1:02 p.m.

Went to the salon for my cut and shampoo. Then, when I was paying my money to the manager and my usual cutter, she landed a little bombshell on me. She'll be leaving the store as of March 31st. She got married over the Holidays so she and her new hubby will be moving to the wilds of Gunma Prefecture. She's always been a sweet young lady with the happy talk and all, so it'll be a pity to see her go. True to her nature, she got a bit misty at the cash register but I did reassure her that I'll pop on by for one more cut with her in late March. She was kind enough to let her replacement know about me and my style. I'm now wondering if all those sniffles throughout the session were really because of a cold. I sent off a missive to my ex since she's the one who pulled me away from my old barber and introduced me to the stylist.

It certainly felt Canadian outside this morning. Pretty cold and the blah sky overhead didn't help warm things up.

Well, after lunch, I gotta get started on my taxes. Yeah, you heard me...I gotta fill out a return. After years of relying on my previous companies to do the dirty work, I have to pick up the pen and put down all of my income in Japanese. I'll go pretty slow since I have to translate the form first. This won't be fun but such is the costs of being a freelancer...a tax-paying one, that is.
Saturday February 12, 11:20 p.m.

After that epic last entry on the wedding, I wanted to get back to the mundane of the day. Woke up this morning to a bloated stomach. Teaches me for overindulging at the buffet table last night.

The kids were fine and I even got a Valentine's Day present in the form of homemade chocolates from the elder sister..."giri-choco", of course. What say I? "Giri-choco" stands for "obligatory chocolate", the perfectly platonic exchange of confections just to commemorate the holiday.

After that, I just went to Kinokuniya the bookstore in Shinjuku to pick up yet another couple of texts before taking the train home. Nowadays. I seem to be doing much more sleeping on the subway than anything else. It's starting to get embarrassing how I doze off in mid-puzzle, although I do find it somewhat amazing how I can still grip my pen while I'm asleep.

Dinner was once again two slices of Aussie beef all fried up. The steaks sure come in handy when I have to come up with something for cooking. Speaking of beef, yesterday was not just Japan's b-day and the Quarterback's most important day but it was also the return of gyudon, that bowl of stewed flavoured beef slices on a bowl of rice. Not too long ago, stores like Yoshinoya were providing the salaryman's saviour dish in the millions. Then, BSE came along and now gyudon has become pretty much extinct like the Passenger Pigeon and the Dodo. However for one day yesterday, there was enough of a shipment of untainted beef that gyudon outlets like Yoshinoya could provide the public with their raison d'etre much to the tearful delight of millions of people who lined up for hours to taste that delicacy which is now also a rarity. As for me, I never developed a particular like for the stuff since the topping always struck me as being mere scraps of beef and stringy fat. I can live without that.

Well, tomorrow I head out for my bimonthly haircut at the usual place.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Saturday February 12, 2:34 p.m.

Happy B-day, Dad!

Yesterday was the big wedding bash for The Quarterback and his homecoming queen. I put on my monkey suit and took my present and headed out to tony Azabu-Juban. For all those Sailor Moon fans out there (and you know who you are...stop hiding!), A-J is the neighbourhood of the eponymous character since the TV station which originally aired the cartoon, TV-Asahi, isn't too far away.

It was actually my first time to walk through the area, and my ignorance showed when I went out in a completely wrong direction for 10 minutes before getting my bearings straight and returning to the subway station. Once I got back on track, I discovered Azabu-Juban is quite the handsome neighbourhood. The slope I was walking up on seemed to have a very Italian flavour to it. There was a rather tight traffic circle on the way up being traveled by some not-inexpensive looking cars. As I went further into the interior, I found some not-inexpensive houses as well. I could imagine the Class Act setting up residence here.

After turning right into a smaller street with the unlikely name of "Racoon Slope", I came across St. Mary's Church. Despite the earlier misdirection, I got there in plenty of time.

Gotta hand it to the Tokyoites. These guys dress up even on a daily basis so when a wedding pops up, everyone takes it to 11. A lot of very sleek suits and slinky dresses were on display as I went into the basement locker room to put away my bag and present. As I came out, I encountered one of the socializing problems I dread the most. Some old Japanese acquaintances that I hadn't seen in 10 years who used to be in my old club at the U of T knew me by name. However, the ability wasn't reciprocated regrettably so I had to fall back on my powers of acting and evasion. The faces were vaguely recognizable but names are just deleted after a certain time limit. I did quite a bit of bowing to some of these faces without saying much until the first person whose name AND face I did recognize popped in. It was Shrek and Fiona. Then, Speedy and his wife entered. And finally, PH made her grand appearance. With all of these faces remembered and unremembered, I came to the conclusion that this was actually a club reunion disguised as a wedding. Mind you, there were other factions representing the bride and groom's past.

The wedding was Western-style as you might guess from the venue of a church. Shrek, Fiona and I were seated on the very last pew in the back. Shrek wondered what kind of service this was gonna be. I had no idea...things looked Christian with the stained-glass, the organ and the enrobed staff. Things got underway when one of the female staff came in from the back and almost punctured my eardrum with a very soprano hymn. Then, the Quarterback solemnly and slowly schlepped up the aisle in a morning coat. When he took his position at the altar, his diminutive bride was next to enter on the arm of her father. Even though she was wearing heels that would've made Elton John swoon, she was still very petite.

The ceremony, which lasted for a thankfully brief 30 minutes, was presided over by an Italian priest speaking in mostly choppy Japanese although he did say some snippets of English. Automatically, I thought about the fact that there were a lot of these foreigners who masqueraded as marrying priests when they weren't teaching English so I hope The Q checked this guy's credentials. Mind you, this was a church so I think it was pretty secure. It's the professional wedding halls that might be a bit suspect. The big highlight came when The Q and his Queen walked down the aisle, and he bellowed a joyous yell of accomplishment.

There was the usual rash of picture-taking and petal-pelting and some quick conversations of reunion before we all broke up temporarily for a few hours. I quickly left the area and had some lunch before taking the subway over to Omotesando. There was still an hour before the reception took place so I had a coffee for an hour at the Canadian version of Starbucks, BLENZ. Being a holiday Friday, the cafe was packed so I had to settle for an hour on the outside the smoking section. Now I knew how the smokers felt in exile as I shivered by my table. Still, I don't regret the ruling and I give full accolades to North America for further defeating the cancer stick.

I walked over on the main street for about 10 minutes passing some very boutiques and cute restaurants. I even found The Blue Note before finally reaching the party venue, MODA POLITICA. Now, for those who want a bit of 21st-century style in their wedding receptions, this is the place. The exterior had a bit of the stony style made famous by architect Ando as I traipsed up the steps. When I entered the door, there was a huge event space. The Homecoming Queen was already there coordinating things. Two large islands of tables floated on top of the sea of smoothed wood (sorry, when I write this long, I have to wax a bit poetic or I nod off). The tables had all the food we would ever need for the evening. On the huge white wall, three images of MacIntosh computer screens loomed overhead. In an alcove, a few of the Q's buddies had the Macs on the tables. It was gonna be a high-tech reception.

Everyone showed up at the appointed time of 6. The party started off with the Q's little movie studio gang showing an MTV-style opening introducing the two hosts of the evening. Not surprisingly, the two came out in flashy tuxes with overly large bowties. Then, there was another video done to a grungy ballad as black & white images of the bride traipsing through a winter forest went across the screens.

Finally, the Q and his bride entered to lights, dry ice and music. True to their nicknames, the Quarterback carried his Queen on top of his shoulder as if he'd won a college bowl game. I'd say he did. There was even a nice touch thanking all the guests by having a montage video showing all the friends via footage taken over the years.

The food was truly volumnious. A lot of places would have enough food to feed everyone for barely a couple of helpings. This place kept a bottomless-is-best policy. It kinda made a guy like me who has a weakness for buffets just give up on all pretensions of a diet. And of course, there was wedding cake.

By around 8 o'clock, the party was still going on...highly unusual in time-conscious Japan where parties are usually 2 hours on the dot. In fact, the Quarterback had just started the disco segment and getting people to dance to the sounds of techno. Well, that was my cue to leave since I hung up my dancing shoes back in the late 80s. Besides I also had my kids early this morning. So I quickly said my goodbyes and slipped into the night. The pictures should be quite good.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Friday February 11, 9:21 a.m.

Happy two-thousand-and-somethingth birthday, Japan! Makes me wonder if the Quarterback will still remember his anniversary when most Japanese don't know the significance of this day.

Well, speaking of weddings, some 24 years after he first walked down the aisle, Prince Charles is gonna do it again with Camilla "Rottweiler" Parker-Bowles. I remember catching the first wedding here in Japan while I was staying with the relations in Osaka. The whole family got together in the late evening. The only comment I could come up with is that the laundry bill for Diana's train must have been enormous. Such was the depth of my wisdom in my teenage years.
Thursday February 10, 10:59 p.m.

Another long Thursday comes to an end. Jazz Buddy's session was all counseling and no teaching; JB's been having problems with her future and her sister again so she was bending my ear. Out of some ethical, if not financial, sense, I waived any payment from her much to her surprise. Hopefully, that'll instill some sort of line when it comes to future lessons.

Then, it was back to the school to set up for the annual Pancake Day. The coordinator had to pull out early due to the need to visit a hospital for the finger that she nearly severed the night before. She said that she mistook her digit for a potato. Methinks she needs to change the prescription for her glasses.

Pancake Day itself started off with me making the dash to the nearest supermarket 10 minutes' walk away to pick up a whole bunch of supplies. As it turned out, a lot of them weren't left in their packages which rather dismayed me; I ended up giving them away in a paper-scissors-stone tournament. Also, half the maple syrup went the same way as well. Mind you, the students who had showed up enjoyed making the fondue and the pancakes, and some of them were rather surprised that maple syrup has 5 different grades like olive oil. I did rush through a quick explanation of how we get maple syrup from the trees but I still have to smooth that out. But I'm not sure if I'm gonna get another chance this time next year.

The Jester and The Satyr were the other teachers who did show up for their share of flapjacks. Speedy did make it to the school alright. He managed to get quite cozy with the kids.

Earlier in the afternoon, I stopped off at the Tea Room to ask about a wedding present. It would be much better (and cheaper) than handing in the usual envelope of 30,000 yen, and it would have the advantage of being rather unique. The manager kindly showed me some ideas. We ended up deciding on a package of a pot, a tea cozy, two cups and three bags of special blends of tea. The price indeed came out to just a third of what I would've had to hand in the envelope.

Later that night, I met the Carolinan and her sister, the New Yorker. The New Yorker is quite different from her more linguistically adept sister. Not only is she a beginner in the second language but she's also quite shy as well. A lump of clay to be a challenge. As for the Carolinan herself, no problems. When we finally left the Tea Room, the manager had the wedding package ready to go.

Back home and hopefully, I'll be in bed within an hour. I wanna get some cleaning up done here before I head off for The Quarterback's wedding in oh-so-cool Azabu-Juban. It'll be much colder than today so I may have to wear the winter coat over the suit...not exactly the most appealing look but heck, I'll be 40 this year. I'm beyond impressing anyone anymore.

Man, another psycho is attacking kids again...or at least their knapsacks. Some nutcase in his 40s stabbed a boy's backpack while the kid was holding it. I kinda wonder if the cops oughta just shoot the bastard on sight.

I see those SAVE ENTERPRISE folks haven't given up the goat quite yet for their beloved soon-to-be cancelled show, although the producer has certainly accepted their fate. Now, the mass media campaign is trying to get the Sci-Fi Network to pick up the show. It's not without precedent. Buffy got switched that way for at least another year of life. The thing is, though, whether the cast has started to look at other projects.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Wednesday January 9, 10:26 p.m.

Japan is a happy country right now after their soccer team's win over the North Koreans. It was a pretty nailbiting game at 2-1. Good performances by both.

My day started out lugging a suitcase carrying my hotplate and my regular bag with some other stuff over to the school. Actually, they weren't all that heavy but I did have to contend with the usual throng of commuters...kinda like swimming against the spawning salmon.

After I dumped the stuff at the school, I rushed down to meet my ex at her workplace. She took me to a yakiniku restaurant since our old haunt, the hole-in-the-wall tonkatsu joint, went belly-up. She was certainly back to her ol' happy-go-lucky self before we started our relationship 3 years ago, and she pretty much dropped some big hints that the romantic phase is definitely over. She was rather evasive though about her own love life when I asked after she had grilled me on mine. She didn't get anything from me since I had nothing to give. The lunch special was quite tasty...a small plate of kalbi, kimchi, soup and salad plus bottomless rice for the grand total of 990 yen. And there's also complementary coffee although I'm not sure if coffee best complements a Koream BBQ. The ex also gave some rather interesting trivia about the restaurant's upstairs neighbour which happens to be a pervert bar. If I'm not mistaken, the bar consists of a mockup of a train in which customers can "board" and grope the female passengers at will. BTW, Tokyo hit a record last year with 2,101 gropings on the real trains.

The Hawaiian was still sounding rather hoarse after her bout with the flu but the OL was in fine fettle as usual.

Movie Buddy contacted me and set up a next outing to catch "Alexander". Ah, well...I've seen bad movies before. Looks like it'll be the 20th and then a visit to Foo Foo for some spicy ramen. Speedy also contacted me about helping him with some of his model lessons on the 26th. Looks like his phone has been ringing off the hook since he got some advertising. He should be coming over to the school tomorrow. Speedy also informed that I needn't have to pay the customary weddng envelope money since The Quarterback's wedding isn't one of those traditional overglorified affairs. However, since I don't have any time to get anything else for them, I'm pretty much locked in to paying something. Gah!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Wednesday February 9, 8:48 p.m.

Everywhere else, the news is about Iraq or Condi Rice. In our little corner of Asia, the big thing is tonight's soccer match up in Saitama between Japan and North Korea. I am glad that it's being held out there in the boonies and not in the city. The traffic would have been hellish, to say the least.

Gotta drop off the equipment including the hotplate at the school today, and then rush off to see my ex for lunch, get another text for my juku boss (she was wailing that I won't be able to teach her for the next few weeks because of the inclusion of the new student), teach The Hawaiian and then the OL.

The good thing is that it's gonna be balmy. Going all the way up to 13 degrees. Not too bad at all.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Tuesday February 8, 2:00 p.m.

Add rain to today's weather. Pretty cold outside. Even had a bit of a shake during the Beehive's class but it was just a momentary thing. Afterwards, I had lunch at the kaiten sushi place. Things seemed to have slowed down a lot there. The conveyor's moving but nothing's on it aside from the container of wasabi packets. I ordered the set lunch of sushi. Pretty good.

Tomorrow's supposed to be the big soccer match between Japan and North Korea. The North Korean team arrived on Sunday at Narita. Quite a few of the pro-Pyongyang association showed up to greet them. Considering what I've heard of the harassment that the resident North Koreans have been getting in Tokyo recently, I kinda wonder how frosty the air was at the airport. Security has been pretty tight around the arena.

Looks like the Daiei (the Japanese Walmart) by Tsudanuma Station is closing down after several years of service. I was watching NHK News when it announced that the store was closing a few hundred of its branches. I had a bit of a personal stake in it since the only department store in my neighbourhood is a Daiei. I thought it would be on the chopping block since I never thought it was all that busy outside of the weekends but it was saved...probably because of its loner status in my area. On the other hand, the Tsudanuma branch had to face off against several other stores on the other side of the station.

Well, I'll be hitting the gym in about 90 minutes after a week of teetotaling due to my cold. Hopefully, I'll get one more chapter done for Speedy before I go.
Monday February 7, 9:52 p.m.

It was a very February day. Overcast, bare trees and Tokyo cold (which is equal to Toronto balmy). In other words, it was very blah. The local suicide hotline could be quite busy this week. It'll be a pretty cold one tomorrow...only going up to 5 degrees. My hometown and my adopted one will reach parity. May even get some rain or snow.

SIL cancelled again today but the Company was back...which was too bad for Movie Buddy. He had contacted me earlier in the morning to see if I were up to catch ALEXANDER. Actually, from what I've heard of the flop, I wasn't but it'd been a while since I've seen MB so it would have been nice to catch him again.

Since I had that large gap between classes, I went off to Tower again and picked up a magazine. There was an encyclopedia on the DC superheroes and supervillains that I would have loved to get but since I've gone into austerity. I can't afford that luxury anymore.

I walked up to Omotesando to try out Nathan's again. This time, I did go whole hog, so to speak, and got the Double Dog set. The hot dogs didn't disappoint and the fries were nice n' hot. Interesting texture to them as well; they were of the crinkly-cut home variety of fry.

Decided to walk up all the way to Shinjuku again. Always rather interesting to walk up Meiji Dori and see some of the various boutiques and little restaurants that pop up along the way. Meiji between Omotesando and Shinjuku isn't stuffed with stores like a huge mall; there were some long gaps of just nothing but commercial offices and apartment buildings and small ramen shops. That fact, plus the fact that there was the mid-afternoon lack of people contributed to a bit of melancholy during the walk up in the drab weather. I did pass by some sort of fashion school whose students seems to consist of foreign students. Pretty comely students, too. Also, I passed by the Communist Party HQ, a pretty monolithic building. I can't imagine anything like that being built in Manhattan.

I made it all the way to the Starbucks near The Company, and just sipped a Marshmallow Mocha for about an hour before heading to the class. Since the year began, I've only had the one student for that lesson. The best student has gotten very busy recently while the weakest student has not only disappeared from class but has also disappeared from the company. The Prez told me a couple of weeks back that he's been suffering from some "mental" problems although I'm not sure if he'd been putting me on. I know that the weakest student's wife has been hospitalized, though.

Had some time to wolf down some dinner. I find myself with a bunch of stuff including wrapping up the next package heading out to the Anime King which I've done, prepping for tomorrow's lessons and then writing up another lesson plan for Speedy. My week will be fairly busy. I've got to get stuff ready for Pancake Day and get some crisp new 10,000-yen bills for The Quarterback's wedding on Friday. Over here, when you go to a wedding, it's customary to donate some money in a special envelope. The bills have to be odd in number so that they can't be separated equally and therefore hint at any potential discord in the marriage. 30,000 yen is the least one has to contribute without any perceived guilt; the closer the relationship to either the groom or bride, the higher the contribution. I'm keeping it to the minimum...sorry, I gotta live.

I also have to lug the hotplate and some of the other utensils over to the school on Wednesday and then quickly scoot over to meet my ex for lunch and then perhaps head over to teach the Hawaiian although I've yet to find out what her condition is.

Ahhh...Superchannel isn't just the Japanese home for Star Trek and Columbo, but it also takes in a lot of short-lived orphans. Caught one of them this morning. It just happened to be MANCUSO, FBI. Now that was an interesting show. It had the Klugmanesque Robert Loggia as the crusty agent. The show had a rather odd mix of over-the-top hardboiled dialogue, somewhat Canadian TV production values and late 80s fashion. I checked out some information on the show on the Net. None of them mentioned the trivial info that at the time the show had aired, there was an actual actor, Nick Mancuso (same name as the character) who had his own NBC (same network as the show) program called STINGRAY. The actor looked considerably more handsome. In any case, it's kinda hard to believe that this rough n' tough character actor who's been in everything from INDEPENDENCE DAY to the SOPRANOS was once T.H.E. CAT, another starring character from a short-lived show. I vaguely remember one episode in which this rather effeminate sounding guy identified himself as this former master thief-turned-bodyguard.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Sunday February 6, 8:38 p.m.

Met PN at Shinagawa Station. We spent about half an hour looking for a relatively cheap place for lunch. We settled on one of the restaurants in the Pacific Meridien; in fact, it was the same one that my brother and I had breakfast when he came here on business over a year ago. FYI, all the buffets in the Shinagawa area start at 2000 yen and at 11:30 a.m. The restaurant we went to wasn't all that special as buffets go but the smoked salmon was quite delicious. In any case, we weren't really there for the food.

As I had expected, PN vented about Japanese society and business. She said she was almost ashamed of her own country for its narrowmindedness and racist policies. I couldn't really defend anything from my end since I also believe those bad parts of my adopted country. But I did counter that with the bad comes the good. Japan is still a very safe country with a record of politeness in its service. And I think the government policies and the attitudes towards foreigners will eventually change within the next number of decades. I suggested to her that she she should consider taking a service job in the hotel industry. Recently, a lot of hotels have been going up at a near-unprecedented pace and they will need staff. I think her experience at home and overseas will serve her and any hotel well. However, she said that she really didn't like Tokyo life for which I replied that she can't have everything. She also said that she'd like to return to Canada but as I recall she was also doing her fair share of griping about that country during her stay there.

Having said that the country is very safe, I'm afraid to say that's increasingly more from a relative than an absolute point of view. There certainly seems to be a flouting of law. There was that psycho who had stabbed a baby to death and injured a few others at an indoor playground at a department store; he had actually been released on parole for a previous offense. Then just last night, a drunk moron plowed through 8 senior citizens on a road in my prefecture killing half of them. That driver had had his license revoked for speeding. Open the gates of Hell for these two.

Then there's the mystery of all that money which was found floating in the water in Saitama all last week. Well, the culprit was found. Some woman had robbed an acquaintance, and then got panicky during the getaway and threw a ton of the money out of the car. No idea why anyone in this day and age still carries $300,000 in cash in the house.

Started prepping for The Quarterback's wedding this coming Friday. Bought a new dress shirt, socks and some cologne OK'ed by French actor Alain Delon called Le Samourai. The cologne cost more than the clothes, and the cologne wasn't all that pricey. Just 2100 yen compared to the rarefied costs of Chanel colognes.

Gotta continue working on those lesson plans for Speedy. I figure I'll try and get one done a night. Even that might be optimistic.