Saturday, March 19, 2005

Saturday March 19, 7:31 p.m.

The hay fever's been hitting me hard today. I had to take a second dose of the medicine. Right now, my eyes feel like they're moving in dried corn husks. And my nose is pretty stuffed. Today doesn't sound any more optimistic. It's gonna be another pollen-soaked day.

Had the elder sister today. Looks like she lost the battle but won the war in English; didn't do too hot on the term test but her term mark was an A. Gave her another text on the house; hopefully, this will finally get her more fluent but I have to think about helping her out on some of that grammar which she screwed up on in her test. Didn't have the younger sister since she was busy with her school stuff but got to talk with dear old Dad. A bit more laid back than his wife but we managed to make small talk for an hour.

I stopped off at Shinjuku to see about lunch. I was wondering about Foo Foo again but decided that once a month should be more my style. Instead, I opted for a cheap meal at Lotteria. Cheaper than the ramen but not as satisfying.

JJ was her usual giddy self. Just needs to boost that self-confidence some more and she should be well on her way to better fluency. She won't be meeting me next week since she's got that final ski trip for the season. In fact, I don't have the kids either next Saturday which means I'm free and clear for anything.

Gonna end up having a late dinner. The rice is cooking as I speak and in another 20 minutes, I'll be frying up some pork kimchi. Well, before I catch M+M tomorrow, I'm hoping to get in a long-awaited rubdown at the clinic and maybe even finally get some of that free clothing with those gift certificates.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday March 18, 10:42 p.m.

Looks like I have some time and some news so I might as well put it up. First off, Speedy seems to be rather desperate to get me onto some night classes at his school. One of the students who came to my model lesson there almost a month ago would like to take my lessons regularly but I'm not sure how I can help him out with my current schedule. Actually I'm free after 7 on Mondays but frankly I really don't want to teach another class after The Company. The only hope is if The OL ever decides to shift her lesson to another day.

Secretary of State Rice (what a name for this nation) arrived in Tokyo tonight to try to open the gates again for American beef to fill up the gyudon bowls of Japanese salarymen everywhere. I'm sure a lot of the population would gladly take the risk of getting BSE and have their old favourite again. So I can assume that the government is between a rock and a hard place. The US has apparently threatened sanctions but the Japanese have seen all this before with the Kantor/Hashimoto battles of the 90s.

Looks like Northwest Airlines is having more problems. One of their flights had to return to Narita tonight after it'd encountered some rather major turbulence on its way to Taiwan. About 4 people were slightly injured. Still, I think everyone's wits were pretty frayed.

And on the royal beat, Princess Nori and her hubby-to-be will be doing the Engagement Ceremony tomorrow. Basically, it's just a relay of messages of the suitor's intention to marry a princess with gifts of silk, sake and sea bream. I guess jewelry and a Playstation just won't cut it.

Finally, I read a reply to that NOVA-loving guy from that METROPOLIS commentary a few weeks ago. The letter happened to be from one of his ex-colleagues. Not too long-winded...just a snarky hope that NOVAlover leaves his alma mater.
Friday March 18, 8:01 p.m.

I see my computer is gone on the fritz again; After my usual crash messages, now I've got all sorts of weird icons floating. Well, I guess a virus check would be in order.

In any case, I guess Friday is gonna be my Maruzen Day. I made another run down there to pick up some texts. The texts aren't that bad pricewise, but boy, the tapes do kill one's budget. I guess all that money must be spent on that English voice talent. Anyways, I had to splurge over 10,000 yen to buy the books plus order the tapes. I decided to get the books for the elder sister of the twosome on Saturday and for the New Kid. The text was designed for the Japanese student with an already good grounding in English but with the need for a bit of conversational fluency. Well, the two teens in question are just perfect guinea pigs.

I've been trying to avoid McDonalds for lunch since I decided to eat better. It's been a good move; it's forced to find other alternatives. I found one underneath Maruzen near the entrance to Otemachi Station. It's a Vietnamese place; Vietnamese hasn't been one cuisine that I've eaten a whole lot of in Japan over the decade. In fact, I think the only other time I've had Vietnamese was with the Tea Room Gang years ago in Yurakucho. Well, this place looks a whole lot more modern and smaller. I just went to one of the stand-up tables and ordered something called Bunbi, a bowl of pho covered with veggies and chopped pork. Quite was 50% more expensive than a Big Mac set and even more pricier than the equivalent stuff back in Toronto's Little Saigon but no guilt trip.

That pho plus a Subway set for dinner continued to hold off the guilt, both calorically and financially. I certainly broke the bank in the two areas when it came to last night's feast at Tony Roma's.

Well, gotta plan for the kids and then JJ. I gotta hit the hay a little earlier since I've got the early shift with the kids tomorrow.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Thursday March 17

Looks like for some reason my entry for this day got wiped out. Well, I'll give you the highlights. I met up with Jazz Buddy yesterday morning. The lesson was a lot more cheerful than the drudgefest a couple of weeks back. For one thing, JB was quite delighted and surprised to get my belated White Day present of Belgian chocolate. For another, I was happy to get my ticket for Diana Krall. Can't believe that the concert is just a week away.

In between her and MK, I had my regular stint at Speedy's. I was actually able to get through all of the textbook. Not quite sure what I'll be doing next for the guy.

After MK's lesson, I sped over to Tony Roma's to catch up with the new grads. Yup, I engorged myself on the large ribs, french fries and clam chowder. The kids weren't disappointed. But I don't think I'll be doing that again for a while. Very nice to have chatted with the gang once more. Not sure when the next time will be.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Wednesday March 16, 9:54 p.m.

Feeling rather achy right now after my first gym outing in two weeks. Surprisingly, there was only an increased displacement of 200 g since my last outing there. I must be doing something right.

It was another day in cafes and family restaurants. After gym, I had lunch at the family restaurant a couple of floors down. Had my usual set of hamburger and deep fried oysters, a favourite dish in these parts. Then I hit the supermarket to buy some Belgian chocolate for Jazz Buddy since she got me the chocolate truffles last month on Valentine's. I still haven't even reached the second package of truffles; the things are just too rich to eat in a bunch...more like one or two a night.

Then, I had The Hawaiian and The OL at their respective eateries. I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't even bother spraying on the cologne...just throw a few coffee grounds on my neck. I think I had about 4 cups of coffee today, double my average. So I ended up going for a Strawberry Creme Frappucino at the OL's Starbucks. Made for a rather sweet but nice alternative to the caffeine I'd been ingesting all day.

Before the OL's lesson, I stopped off at the HMV in Yurakucho. I needed a magazine to read since even crosswords were no longer enough to keep me from nodding off on the trains now. There are quite a few CDs that I wanted to get but with the rent due tomorrow and knowing that I'm gonna have to shuck out a lot more yen for income tax, I held my wallet.

Well, after some pleasant if pollen-filled weather this week, we're in for some rain tomorrow. Maybe that will mean all that stuff will get washed out of the air.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Tuesday March 15, 11:02 p.m.

Wooh...pretty drained after another 4 hours at the juku. Teaching may look sedentary but it sure doesn't feel like it. I really have to keep my focus on each student. The New Kid was better today; had more strucutre to the lesson which helped. I got my "revenge" on the Beauty Pair for those chocolates they had given me last month on Valentine's. Mind you, I just picked up some Fujiya chocolates for them...nothing like Godiva or Maison Du Chocolat, but it's the thought that counts. I also have to get some for Jazz Buddy and the two sisters on Saturday.

Well, I'll definitely be hitting the hay in about another hour or so. I feel a bit bad since I haven't done any more lesson plans for Speedy but considering the past few days, I just don't have time or energy to get back onto that project. I think the only opportunity may either be tomorrow night (if I'm still all there) or during my regular gig at the school itself on Thursday afternoon. I'm glad that I'll be finally be getting back to the gym tomorrow morning after not having a single day there all last week. At least tomorrow, I have The Hawaiian and The OL, two of my most dependable students.

I may not have mentioned it but The Bohemian tried to contact me on Sunday about dinner sometime. I did mention Friday night as a possibility since those so-called classes with my ex have turned out to be a bust. He's yet to contact me so I'm kinda wondering if that also means a no-go. M + M have contacted me about getting together for Sunday afternoon. I think the Tea Room ought to be open then but I'll have to check on Friday when I see SR.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Tuesday March 15, 2:39 p.m.

Already feeling a bit piqued after a rare lunch at KFC and before that, handing in my tax return at the Ichikawa Tax Office. I've never been a great fan of heading to government institutions but this trip was fairly painless aside from the 30-minute round trip between the tax office and the train station. There is actually another train station just a few minutes' walk away from the office but to take that would involve one extra transfer so I decided to go for the exercise instead. There was indeed a lineup on the 1st floor but it moved almost to the point of a rather pleasant flow. So I was in and out of there within 10 minutes.

Mind you the day isn't over yet. I've got my 4 hours at the juku starting with The New Kid. Hopefully, things will finally settle down with him now that I've got a better handle on his situation. Plus, White Day was yesterday so I should pick up a couple of boxes of chocolate for The Beauty Pair since they were nice enough to bring me something for Valentine's Day.
Monday March 14, 9:17 p.m.

Rather exhausted. It just took a really sloggy session at the Company to wipe me out. And it was just on adverbs. Man, I'm glad we have the holiday Monday next week.

Had another wonderful lunch thanks to that new chef at the Class Act's house. Made me a great rice omelette with Hayashi Beef. Rice omelettes and Hayashi Beef are examples of the first try at Western/Japanese fusion cuisine, probably as far back as the Meiji period over a hundred years ago. Along with main course, I had a salad which included broiled sea eel and a balsamic vinegar dressing. A guy can get pretty spoiled on the stuff.

Well, I wish I can hit the hay early tonight but I think I probably won't get to bed until midnight since I gotta fill in the final tax return and then prep for my lessons tomorrow. This could be another taxing day, to say the least

Read Volume 2 of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". Another rollicking read...more of the scintillating story and that underlying tongue-in-cheek humour. But I must admit that I was rather surprised that the authors took advantage of the GRAPHIC part of the novel pretty seriously. Let's say that some of the scenes can give hope to the older guys looking to sow their wild oats one last time. Plenty of gruesome violence, too.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Monday March 14, 12:17 a.m.

Rather long day for a Sunday. I'd usually be at home by around the early evening but instead Movie Buddy and I involved ourselves in a gastronomic odyssey interspersed with some major walking.

It all started out with a quick realization that my apartment and home of over 10 years may finally be falling apart. My washing machine now leaks water even during the spin cycle so that I have to turn off the water midway if I'm not to put drenched laundry on the line...rather heavy with all that moisture. Now, my door knob is not only falling off but I had a bit of a problem just getting out of my own home; the lock wouldn't turn. I had to quickly dismantle the indoor knob and reattach it before I could get out. As a result, I was gonna be late. But not to worry, the rest of the group wouldn't show up for a good half-hour beyond our start time in Ginza.

MB, myself, The Sylph and a few of the original school alumni went to Marenma, a pizzeria located on Ginza's 5th Avenue. The place has a weekly all-you-can-eat pizza buffet on Sundays. The Sylph was able to secure a reservation there so we got in rather easily. Since half of our group wouldn't show up for 30 minutes, we decided to start on the stuff that was on the table such as salad and soup. Then, when the other half did show up, The Sylph gave the word to the waiter and we started getting the rash of pizza pies. Apparently, the pies weren't coming fast enough so The Sylph had to ask the harried waiter a number of times in a rather coy but firm voice. The pizzas were quite good; they were of the original Italian thin-crust style. And the variety was quite good...none of this Mega Meat or Chicken Teriyaki that comes from Dominos or Pizza Hut. The pies were more sedate such as Marguerita or plain tomato. The bunch of us managed to engorge ourselves like ticks on a particularly beefy arm, and still had some room left for some dessert (the usual tiramisu and chocolate cake).

Just like a real pizza, the eight of us split apart into 4 pairs with our own plans. The Sylph and the Curry Master (yes, she did show up) went to do some lingerie shopping, while Movie Buddy and I started our major walking excursing throughout downtown Tokyo. We first tried to check out Yurakucho Mullion to see if there were any movies worth catching. Seeing that was none, we continued to hike through Yurakucho to the Tokyo Station area, walk through the outskirts of Kanda, Otemachi and Kudanshita until we eventually arrived in the neighbourhood of our school some 90 minutes later, all the while talking on movies and the like. We had a bathroom stop in the building where our adminstrative offices were located. The school and, for that matter, every other office in the building were closed but flip a few switches and the lights were back on. I was very surprised and delighted that the washrooms, after suffering from years of increasing grodiness, were miraculously transformed into lovely lavatories of hotel calibre. I was just stunned at seeing polished granite and actual Western-style toilets with heated seats instead of the grimy squats in the decayed porcelain of yesteryear. Tis heavenly!

When we both finished our toilette, MB suggested that we actually break our hike for a bit and take the JR down to Shibuya since he was rather keen to find some graphic novels. I'd earlier mentioned during our walk that there was the Manga no Mori in Teen Mecca which carried what is probably the best source of Western comics in the city.

It'd been a while since the two of us were actually in Shibuya on Sunday. I think there was an underlying reason that we had avoided going there. Sundays in Shibuya are like Time Square on New Year's Eve. It's just wall-to-wall masses of people. Mind you, the walk up was interesting enough. Lots of young girls dressed up in either hip-hop fashion or in the currently hot Goth Maid style while the guys looked fashionably scruffy. We made it up to Manga no Mori and there I perused through the latest X-Men comics. I gave up the habit almost a decade ago when the prices were just too steep. I see since then the prices have got even more nosebleed-inducing. Plus the X-Men have gone through so many twists and turns that I just cannot even begin to catch up. Scott Summers and Emma Frost an item?! Jean Grey dead?! What the--?! In any case, we spent a good half-hour in there until MB found what he was looking for. He was very grateful for my tip. In fact, he lent me the novels since he's a bit busy reading something else at the moment.

After a bit more traisping through the bowels of the area, we decided to walk up to Shinjuku via Omotesando, thereby launching Phase 2 of our big trek. Plus, MB had wanted to go a step further in our gastronomic excursion by eating the Foo Foo ramen. I was a bit surprised that he would still want to do that after the pizza buffet but I was game. However, we had to do both phases of the walking to get us even close to becoming hungry again. During our walk this time, we got into somewhat more sobering topics such as our respective futures. I'm still not sure what this year will hold for me in terms of being able to stay in my home for the past decade.

By the time we reached Shinjuku some 30 minutes later, it was already dark Still, we were still not hungry at all so we decided to hit the Excelsior Cafe, the Japanese clone of Starbucks owned by Doutor Cafes, just on the brink of Kabukicho. MB had something caffeine while I settled for an iced tea. We spent the next two hours talking about life at the old school going over old faces amongst the students and teachers, and the various scandals and vicious gossip that infiltrated the place over the past 7 years. There was no problem about that stuff filling 2 hours. During that time, though, my eyes started to water like sprinklers so the medicine was starting to wear off. I took another dose and within several minutes, my eyes thankfully dried out.

Finally, we weren't absolutely famished but neither did we feel bloated anymore. So, the long walk did fulfill the mission and we walked over to Foo Foo. We just ordered the bowls of Pai Ko Tan Tan Men, our usual choice. Didn't do much talking at that time...just enjoyed the savory soup. However, I think we could safely call it a night by the time we finished our meals.

The ride home after separating from MB was spent looking at the comics that MB so graciously had lent me. They turned out to be the two volumes for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore. MB and I had seen the movie version with Sean Connery almost 2 years ago; the two of us weren't all that thrilled with the adaptation. After reading through Volume 1, I just found the novel so much more engrossing than the watered-down movie. The original certainly has a different slant on it with Mina Murray as the team leader instead of the movie's Alan Quartermain. I'm sure Sir Sean had a hand in that little difference.

When I got home, I got a message from The Bohemian. Looks like he's back in town. He'd called to see if I were available today but obviously I wasn't. However, I've gotten a missive off to him to see if Friday would be open for him.

Well, off to bed. I certainly hope that my stomach will forgive me my excesses. But I doubt it.