Saturday, June 18, 2005

Sunday June 19, 12:41 a.m.

Another long one. I taught the younger sister an English self-introduction for some party at the end of the month so it was rather easy to just work on that for most of the hour.

I picked up that "Batman Begins" ticket and made the requisite adjustments to the reservations at Viet Huong. We've jumped from 6 to 9. The Hawaiian has pulled out due to her chronic stomach problems but it looks like The Sylph and a couple of Movie Buddy's other buddies will join in the fun.

It was another pleasant two hours with M+M before I headed out to meet the gang to welcome back The Okinawan. Man, the area around Hachiko was packed! It was even more crowded than usual; had to use my arm like a machete to get through the "trees". I was lucky that Speedy could find me in front of the dog. It was quite a turnout for The Okinawan. There were a few others from the graduating class of 2005 that I hadn't seen since the grad party all the way back in February...people like The Doll. But there were also the familiar faces such as the Irishman, Scully and The Fisherman. Movie Buddy also showed up. The Coffeemaker and The Barmaiden spearheaded the event. I think all in all we were a party of 17.

The first stage was at an izakaya called Hananoren up in a building across from the station. Pretty good food and drink although Movie Buddy and I agreed that we could still eat some more by the end. The Doll certainly showed a new side to herself after downing several mugs of beer. For a petite girl like her with an appearance of a kewpie doll, she could swear up a storm and look like Yoda hunched over like she was. And she's just 21. I entertained my half of the table with all of those kanji that The Siberian had written down in my notebook. It's been a wonderful icebreaker.

The Okinawan had a good three months in Vancouver. I didn't detect any vast improvement in her English but since her English had already been quite good during her school days here, I wasn't particularly worried. She did talk about a little altercation at the government-run liquor shop one time, an altercation that she won. But it goes to show the difference in service here and in Canada.

The Barmaiden was having a ball of a time, sometimes at my expense. Mind you, wearing my green otaku jacket can make me an easy target for the young ones. Still, I know why she's the life of the party and the perfect hostess.

Next stop was this other izakaya on the other side of the station called Jan-Ken (the first two words used for "paper, rock, scissors" here). It had a more atmospheric vibe with dimmer lights. We got this huge narrow U-shaped table. The interior curve was spaced out for the waiters to get easy access to us, but Movie Buddy, The Okinawan and The Barmaiden basically took over as proxy servers. Between the two restaurants, I blasted away a good chunk of change but the food and company were great. We all broke apart by 11. But the Barmaiden warned that there would most likely be a similar party for another returning student in a few weeks. I shared part of the ride home with Scully. Her English has definitely improved. When I had my few opportunities to see her in class, she stumbled a lot but now she's stringing sentences together like a pro.

Got home to see that the juku boss left quite a few messages about a potential new student. But I probably won't be able to make any contact with him until Tuesday since I'll be tied up for the next couple of days.

Anyways, time to get that shower and then sleep as much as I can before I head out again later today.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday June 17, 9:28 p.m.

No rain today but it stayed relatively cool thankfully. Just did the usual Friday lessons. And did my usual round at Maruzen. I was hoping to find something to help the younger sister with her upcoming trip to Oz but I guess no enterprising author has come up with a book on homestay English for youngsters. Instead I just bought my replacement crossword book.

Instead of hitting Com Pho this time for lunch, I hiked it over to Maru Bldg and had lunch at that ramen place up on the 6th floor. It was good to have a change of pace in eating. And at 1000 yen for a course, the price certainly couldn't be beat. I had been thinking about Kua'Aina, that Hawaiian hamburger place a floor below but when I saw the lineup there, I said, nah. But on the same floor, there are some pretty good places. The West Side Cafe seems rather interesting.

Got home to find out that I got another postcard from the Ichikawa Tax Office (don't those guys ever leave me alone?!). I was under the impression that they were offering me the service of a tax accountant and not demanding that I take up the offer. Well, they're not demanding but they're being insistent that I give this guy a call since they claim that I had requested the services of a tax consultant in my survey. I thought the space was just to say that I'd already had the services of one...the son of the Matron. Well, I guess I'll send him a fax. I could use some help anyways for next year's return.

I asked the Coffeemaker last night if I could invite Speedy along to The Okinawan's welcome back party tomorrow. She responded that there was no problem. So I've sent off a short-notice letter to him. There's probably a 50/50 chance that he won't be available but at least I tried.

Anyways, I gotta get ready for the kids tomorrow and then I have M+M. In between, I gotta rush off to get my ticket for "Batman Begins" at the discount shop.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Friday June 17, 9:14 a.m.

Finally got that gym time in yesterday. I was actually surprised that I only gained a kilogram during my sabbatical, and that was considering the debauchery at Tony Roma's last Saturday.

Then I went to the new and improved(?) Coca up on 6th floor of the Bic Camera building in Yurakucho. The Madame arrived a few minutes later. She hadn't changed a bit in over a year. Her circumstances have, though. She's now attached to someone who, according to her description, may resemble a stringbean...rather different from the type that she used to go for, the guy with the massive shoulders and 6-pack abs. I mentioned that she and he must resemble that geek and that stylish lady from "Trainman", the Japanese fantasy currently playing.

As for Coca, I enjoyed the afternoon special they had there. I ordered the pho soup and spicy glass noodle salad as did The Madame. Unfortunately, I found that the Madame isn't too fond of spicy food. and learn. I wasn't quite sure what to make of the new Coca. Perhaps it was because of the time (just before 5) and the fact that we were only one of two groups in the place but the restaurant seemed a bit sterile. The owners were definitely going for some sophisticated urban vibe but I frankly prefer the old Coca with its resemblance to the Chinatown restaurants of my salad days. Plus, when I asked, the waitress told me that the new branch doesn't sell the Coconut Milk Shake that was the mainstay at the old Coca.

Anyways, I caught up with the Madame. We easily talked up a storm for about 6 hours. We ended up changing venues from Coca to the bar at the top of the SONY Building. Good golly! 2310 yen for two iced teas! Plus, we had to contend sitting next to this so-called Super Audio Lounge. Apparently, the creators decided that "super" means "ear-shattering loud". The lounge is, in what I consider to be an only-in-Japan phenomenon, a huge room with a stage carrying these just-as-huge speakers. People can come in and select certain CDs for play and then the audo system just blasts them out. I wasn't too bad about the jazz part but when it came to the hard rock selections...

In my talk with the Madame, I found out that her parents are very traditional and conservative (I can only imagine the sweat any suitor might ejest meeting her folks). Also, she has a love of traveling. In fact, she came up with the embryonic idea of having us travel to some place in Asia. Hmmm...considering the current political climate, I was a bit worried about that. Also, I'm not an experience traveler. So I suggested that our (or at least my) toe-dipping spot should be Taiwan. At the end of our conversational odyssey, she confided that she wanted me to be her good male friend since, well, she says that she feels that the two of us have a very good vibe (she has always been a very spiritual sort) and that when traveling we could have a very good time together but have separate rooms to unwind. Hmmm...interesting.

So, while one male-female friendship seems to be blossoming, another seems to be in limbo or fracturing altogether. After a few tries to her directly and to her formerly close friends, I finally got a reply from Jazz Buddy after several weeks of nothing. I even took her name off the contact list. But my pestering finally paid off. Unfortunately, she's still dour as ever and has no interest in keeping contact with us. So I basically let her know that I'll stop contact with her until she feels better while exhorting to get something done about her emotional situation.

Looks like my weekend will be a busy one. The Coffemaker contacted me to inform me of the details over The Okinawan's welcome back party tomorrow. I should be able to make the meeting time and place after my usual chatfest with M+M. Then, there is the movie-and-dinner outing on Sunday. Hmm...I'll have to revise those reservations. We've got three more coming for Vietnamese.

In any case, it's time to head on out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Thursday June 16, 10:28 a.m.

Past the halfway mark of June, and it feels pretty chilly out there. And yet, I'm not gonna reserve any judgement on what this summer will be like. I've been here too long to know that weather in this burg changes on a dime. Rice farmers can yet have a good crop.

Nice to have another free Thursday. I'm very sorely tempted to not head to the gym and just veg until I meet The Madame but physical duty does call. Still, I've got a couple of hours before I take off. I had my Pancake breakfast...always a nice sign of a leisurely start to one's day.

And I've been reading the reviews to "Batman Begins". Looks like the Japan Times reviewer who hates comic books and comic book movies is in a minority. So far, CNN and EW like what they see, one guy even spouting that this movie is the best one so far this year. Pretty high praise indeed considering how far down the franchise went with George Clooney's rendition almost a decade ago. "Batman & Robin" was one of the most uncomfortable cinematic experiences in my life, that and "Blown Away", that weird movie with Tommy Lee Jones and Jeff Bridges.
Wednesday June 15, 10:17 p.m.

Well, continued to slog through the day. The rains just kept coming although there was a ray of hope for a short while during The Hawaiian's lesson. Kept my dinner pretty small at Speedy's. I just had a fruit jelly there. I'd had a double Subway for lunch which kept my appetite from rearing its hungry head. Looks like even at that school, I may be getting a new batch of students on Wednesday night after Student 001. Speedy was busy chatting it up with a potential new student; she didn't look too impressed. Speedy is very earnest in his sales pitch but that could also be seen as a bit of a fast-talking slickness by certain people. Meanwhile, The Receptionist was also talking it up with another man whilst I was entertaining 001 in the lounge.

My jelly ended up not being enough to satisfy my caloric intake needs for today. I bought a small pack of calamari at the supermarket to eat with the remaining oolong. Still, I'll probably hit the hay around midnight. I've got the day off tomorrow so I'll be making it Pancake Thursday. I won't be hitting the gym until early afternoon so there probably won't be any chance of stomach upset.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Wednesday June 15, 11:15 a.m.

FINALLY! It's over....I got those taxes paid. Mind you, it couldn't have been on a "better" day. Miserable rain all over the place...we were only missing the gale-force winds. I had to slog all the way up to the tax office on foot since the bus wasn't exactly too frequent. By the time I got up to the building, I was sprouting plenty of moisture into my dress shirt and coat, stuff that stayed there since the air was already supersaturated with humidity. Of course, as I had expected, they did slip in the fine...a somewhat paltry 2000 yen penalty for handing in the return with errors. But at that point, I was too grateful to care. I ran the meterological gauntlet again; by that time, my shoes were getting rather moist too. I decided at that point that I'd already gotten my workout and canned the trip to the gym (walked a grand total of an hour's worth of pavement while toting a 10 kg bag of books and gym clothes...good enough for me). To add insult to injury, the entire transit system was screwed up to due to some mechanical trouble somewhere on the Chuo Line. I knew we were in for it once I saw the signs didn't have any times posted for arriving trains. That's usually a big oh-oh.

I got home to realize that my round-tripper took 2.5 hours to complete considering that I was traveling within the same city. Now I'm here and I have to take a shower again before I head on out in 75 minutes. My shoes are waterlogged so it'll have to be the sneakers. Luckily, Speedy's school has me take off my shoes at the entrance so at least I'll look presentable in dark socks. Another blessing in disguise, the white socks I was wearing not only got wet but holey as well. I hope the rest of my day isn't as sloggy.
Tuesday June 14, 10:22 p.m.

Had another shortened night at the juku. The Siberian canned out due to a supposed fever although I kinda wonder if he's just doing a bit of hooky. Apparently, the juku boss spoke with his mother (I forget that the man, for all his kanji expertise and his status as a juku tutor, is only 19 years old...he hasn't even gone through the Adulthood Day experience) and found out that Mommy was shocked to see her dearest actually making the decision to take off for that 3-week homestay experience in Australia. Mommy said that he's usually so lazy about coming to a decision (no kidding!) but suddenly he had developed a drive. I think the juku boss was trying to tell me that some of my influence was rubbing off onto him although my impression is that The Siberian simply realizes that my class won't cut the mustard when it comes to English education. In any case, I wasn't impressed when the juku boss told me what the plans were for his homestay. Basically the boy will be just one of a rather massive group of Japanese going over for those 3 weeks and that he'll be bunking with one or two others in a house. Considering his nature, I'm not sure if he's gonna pick up a whole lot of English that one.

The Milds got that new classmate tonight. Well, one of them did. Mr. Mild was absent which rather helped matters in terms of acclimating the kid. I will call her The Poppy. She's this rather adorable high school girl who used to be the boss' student in the other room a couple of years ago. I vaguely recall her back in my early days there. Apparently, the girl was a quivering wallflower back then but she's certainly a lot more giddy now. She's got a job at a neighbourhood McDonalds so after having Mrs Mild and her do a bit of "getting to know you", I decided to go with a role-play of her taking care of foreign customers at her workplace which seems to be one of the reasons that she's hooked up with my class. Not a high student by any means but it looks like Mrs Mild treated her like a surrogate daughter so that's a good sign.

The juku boss had a little talk with me after the lesson. She said she would like to increase my salary...always a nice thing to hear (never heard that at all in 7 years at the old school, although the management finally...grudgingly...raised it a bit a few years ago) but she needs to get more students. She offered to try and get some sort of adult class in the afternoon sometime. Well, since I'm starting to balk about going to the gym between the Beehive and the juku due to the large amount of baggage I have to carry I countered that I could teach during the Tuesday afternoon hours. Man, when I get students, I get them in bunches.

Well, gonna hit the hay early since I've gotta finally pay those taxes tomorrow. And then I hit the gym for the first time in 2 weeks. Then, I've got my usual crew of The Hawaiian and Student 001.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Tuesday June 14, 2:20 p.m.

I finally got in contact with the guy. After a lot of hemming and hawing for 5 minutes, we decided that I'll just come over to the tax office early tomorrow morning and pay the amount there. So hopefully by this time 24 hours later, I won't have to worry about taxes at least until next January. Ugh! Now, it's the immigration stuff next.
Tuesday June 14, 1:49 p.m.

Had the full crew of the Beehive today. Actually got to do some work with the text today. The ladies were shaking their heads in disbelief when they'd heard about the Jackson verdict. And now I'm hearing that a lot of the jurors believe that he IS a molester but that the proof wasn't in the pudding. And apparently about half of the polled also feel the same way. I don't think it's quite over yet. I'm rather wondering where that family of grifters is now. Maybe they quickly skipped town to lay low before trying another con.

My tax odyssey continues. I tried calling that fellow who has apparently steered me wrong by saying that I could just show up at my bank branch and pay the taxes by just asking. Well, he's not there and I've called him twice. I'll give it one more shot and then I'll have to try that tax consultant whose name I got. It's rather frustrating.
Tuesday June 14, 7:42 p.m.

Well, I literally woke up to hear a barely-heard Fuji-TV reporter announce that Michael Jackson was found innocent on all counts. There is joy in Neverland! To be honest, I didn't think that Jackson would have been able to survive but that he did. I got up a few minutes later and switched over to CNN where of course it was a media circus to match all the llamas and Ferris wheels that could be found in Jackson's modest abode. It must've been a huge decision since the news has been given its full court press on Lou Dobbs of all shows. The crusader against illegal immigration ceded to the King of Pop!

Jeffrey Toobin spouted some stuff which made me wonder if he's just as naive as Michael Jackson. He was bleating about the fact that the media had already judged Jackson guilty months before today's verdict due to all the salacious gossip and accusations. Well, in a 24-hour news cycle world, Jeffrey, the sad fact of the matter is that every bit of that gossip fuels the CNN, BBC and MSNBC machines as well as all of those magazines and rags from TIME to The National Enquirer. As long as people's livelihoods are involved, you can bet that all of the speculation or mis-speculation will continue.

In any case, the court case of the decade is now over. Michael Jackson can now go home and play and the rest of us can go back to our originally scheduled lives.
Monday June 13, 8:55 p.m.

Cool but humid today. Still broke out in a good sweat. Despite the coolness, my apartment was back emulating an oven. I think the menu was roast pig when I got in.

Well, it was just The Matron at the mansion today, and she was 20 minutes late. Mind you, I did give her the full hour and a half. As is usually the case when I just have her, we eschewed the text and gabbed. Looks like her daughter will be the newest member of my ever-burgeoning flock of sheep. I managed to squeeze her in for Mondays right after The Company at the nearest Starbucks. My only problem is that I found out that that branch closes up at 8 p.m. instead of the Toranomon's more generous time of 9. Looks like once the daughter contacts me, I'll have to propose another site. Maybe we'll have to make it the upstairs Dennys, although I'm not sure how busy that place will be since it is a place to have dinner. Hmmm...what to do.

I went up to Huong Viet, the Vietnamese restaurant that The Madame, myself and a bunch of others from the old school went to a couple of years ago. I went for the reservations but stayed for the buffet. Pretty darn good, too, for a thousand yen. I had my fill of curry, mabo dofu, pho and assorted meats. I thought the rice was a little overly saffronized, though. However, it's just a small quibble. Not too many people there which was nice but then again I got there around 1:30, probably a good half-hour after the last of the lunch hour crowd had gone back to work. There was a video running of some Vietnamese popsters singing stuff like a cover of Kylie Minogue's recent dance hit. Not too much different from the stuff we get over here. I did get those reservations in at the cashier. I rather like my technique of making reservations directly at the restaurant. I can test the fare before I commit. Luckily, Huong Viet passes muster easily. Also, the place works as an alternate place for lunch on the occasional day that SIL doesn't come for her lesson AND The Chef can't make one of his creations. And in addition, it and Hansens are both within rock-throwing distance of The Company.

Afterwards, I did a bit of a walk to lessen my load; I usually don't hold back on buffets which is why I haven't gone to too many recently. I stopped off at a CD shop before taking a look at the old Kinokuniya store on the main Shinjuku strip. Then, I just walked it back to the Starbucks near The Company for a Tazo Chai Tea Latte.

I got to the Company at about 4:30, my usual arrival time. Junior showed how much of a class act he was by standing up and thanking me for helping out on those translations. There was a story behind that after all. Apparently, the sad sack of The Company, a guy whom The Iconoclast despised and whom The Prez regularly used as the staff whipping boy, finally got the axe several days before. As his last assignment, HE was supposed to have done those translations as The Company's only member with passable English ability. But apparently true to form, he left without doing a stitch of the work thereby necessitating my help. My very cynical mind tells me that the sad sack decided to use of one of The Seven Deadly Sins as a farewell present. As one of my adages goes: "It's always the quiet one..." The lesson itself was a run-of-the-mill operation with the one student who isn't Junior. As usual, not the greatest performance but we kept things going with some amiable talk amongst the work.

Got home not needing to have any dinner. I knew having that voluminous buffet was good for a reason. The Madame called up to say that Coca, that Chinese restaurant in Yurakucho, will be a good place for dinner on Thursday. I've sent out the blanket announcement concerning the dinner reservations for Sunday and even a little note about seeing "Revenge of the Sith" on the 10th.

Looks like I'm gonna have to get started on those plans for tomorrow. And I'll have to talk with Mrs. Travel about my tax situation. I'll see what she says about that tax consultant the tax office referred me to. If everything's OK, I'll see if I can make an appointment for Thursday morning or so.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Monday June 13, 8:22 a.m.

Yesterday was a rather hot and humid affair. I actually had to turn on the air conditioner for the first time this year but in deference to the exhortations of the government to prevent global warming, I've done my part and kept the temperature up at about 28 C. That might sound as if I was using the air con for no purpose. However, when my place actually can go into the high 30s easily, 28 is not too bad at all and it actually did feel rather cool...and not cold. In previous years, I've turned on the cooler at the frigid temp of 15 C and ended up having to shut down the bloody thing 30 minutes later due to frostbite.

Mom called me up...well, gave me a wake-up call. As mothers usually do, she advised me to put all those pancake mixes into the fridge so that the flour bugs don't get at them. She also told me that my sister-in-law is starting to show a little bump now. According to the doctor, there's an 80% chance that the newest arrival to the family will be a niece.

Basically my day just revolved around getting those translations finally done for The Prez. I gratefully sent them off yesterday and I should know the truth of my actions when I go to The Company today.

Looks like "The War of the Worlds" gang is in Tokyo. Spielberg, Cruise and Fanning all arrived with their smiles on "Full" mode at Narita. Of course, tons of people were out there to greet them. I'm sure Dakota Fanning may find her trip here to be a bit like Alice in Wonderland.

And finally, it looks like The Madam and I have started our renewed relationship on a good and fresh note. We are now the proud parents of a friendship. I can't believe all the drama that we've had on e-mail. I haven't even met the lady yet. But that will change since I may be seeing her on Thursday. Still not quite sure what to make of this