Saturday, December 24, 2005

Saturday December 24, 8:53 p.m.

To start my Xmas Eve trek into Tokyo, I went to Maruzen to see if I could pick up another crossword puzzle book. The Oazo complex was abuzz with activity and there were some sizable lineups forming at some of the restaurants underground. Maruzen was also quite busy. I could find the crosswords but couldn't find anything of cheap enough cost to read at Fujimamas. There was The Person of the Year issue of TIME but I just wasn't particularly intrigued about reading up on The Gates or Bono.

Then, it was off to Omotesando to have my dinner. To put it in a nutshell, my experience at Fujimamas was overall fine: the food was great, the mood was suitably understated and enhanced with music of the season, and the service was cordial and efficient. It was just the start and the finish which kinda irked me...specifically, the maitre d'. For some odd reason, despite a series of e-mails between me and the Reservations staffer stating that I would be a party of one, the maitre d' still had me down as a pair of two which kinda confused her and annoyed me for a bit. She apologized and I said "No problem" and we were on our way to my table. I checked the original e-mail just now, and sure enough, I typed it plainly enough...just me. Then when I went to pay my bill, the maitre d' was at the cash counter talking with the cashier for several seconds. She suddenly gave me this one-second shocked glare beam! I'm not sure if she had been taken by surprise by my presence there...I certainly didn't mean to act like a ninja despite my dark clothing (not that I would ever be confused for one from my size). In any case, she just gave a few more quick words to the diminuitive cashier and then she was off. The whole incident lasted just a sec but it was enough to sour me on her....for now. I've seen her during the brunches and she's always come off as a friendly person but tonight for some reason...a pity. It wasn't enough of a problem that I needed to complain about it since I can easily imagine how people in the retail business have to handle overreacting customers (and I'm not exactly Mister Easygoing when it comes to being served incorrectly), but let's say I may hold off on any more visits there for a short while.

Omotesando was extremely crowded with the young tonight. It's been a decade since the local government decided to halt the annual Xmas illumination parade there and yet, it still felt like one big mall. I remember going to one of the last parades there back in 1994 with Chip Guy when he was still an unmarried gadabout instead of the straight-up family man he is now. Man, was that a nightmare! Thousands of couples were being corralled down the main street like cows to the slaughter. It felt like a Blue Jays World Series victory parade in extreme slo-mo except that there was no joy to be had. Romantic stroll?! Try Dead Man Walking! It took Chip and I almost one hour to get from the Aoyama side to the Harajuku side....a distance that usually takes ten minutes. I couldn't blame the neighbourhood association there that the parade had to be stopped since the residents behind all the boutiques and restaurants had to contend with all of the garbage afterwards. And yet, I recall there was quite a bit of a hue and cry about having to permanently shelving this once-annual ritual/ordeal. Believe me, I'm glad it was gone. Still, there were elements of the lights that used to populate the trees lining Omotesando. Just off to one side, there was a huge well-lit and well-decorated tree which was attracting several people to take pics including me. There were several staffers dressed in Santa outfits promoting Southern All Stars, a distinctly summer band.

I went down into the Omotesando subway station and was amazed to find the wondrous metamorphosis that it had undergone. For some weeks before December, the posters were up all over the lines talking about the new complex that would share space with the formerly drab and boarded-up was quite an incongruous mess down there compared to the fancy and trendy neighbourhood on ground level. Well, after what seems to have been a decade of drabness, the new Omotesando station has come out looking like a very new lady. The walls are now faux-marble and where there used to be construction plywood has now been replaced with all of these branches of popular chains such as Bagel & Bagel and Soup Kitchen. And these 26 stores and restaurants riddle the whole station outside and inside the gates. The whole thing is strangely called Echika, presumably a mix of the Japanese words for "station" and "underground". Still, the platforms are in the middle of remodeling.

I made my way home still feeling the buzz of the complementary glass of champagne and my ordered glass of traditional egg nog. But by the time I reached home, I was back to normal. The total cost of Fujimamas came out to just a shade over 5000 yen...not as cheap as I'd hoped but it is Xmas. But I only have 2000 yen in my wallet for food tomorrow. I could make another withdrawal at the bank but discipline tells me not to do so. I should be able to make it until I pick up my usual fee from The Class Act and Speedy on Monday. I'll basically be cocooning on Xmas non-food purchases.

This entry is taking quite a while to write since halfway through, I got chatted from The Croissant who's now back in Japan with her Brazilian friend for the Holidays. Before she came back here, she had told me that there would be a drinking party with some of her old classmates but except for a mention of something from Movie Buddy during the sukiyaki party, I never heard any follow-up. Apparently, there had been something in the middle of the week but The Croissant quickly added that she didn't bother going to that one either. In any case, I couldn't have gone since I had my classes at Speedy. The Croissant mentioned that there could be one planned for the New Year. I shot one across her bow stating that if they really don't want to invite me, that's perfectly fine....after all, students can't really talk as freely as they would like to when teachers are around even if they've stopped their professional relationships for several months. That's also quite true the other way around. We teachers have to often go into our teacher-talk mode of slower delivery and easier vocabulary without a lot of slang. The Croissant reassured me that I would be welcome at any upcoming party but I'll wait for the official invitation. To be honest, I've always wondered how really welcome I am at these alumni-sponsored I really being invited because I have become more of a friend to them or is it just an obligation on their part? Perhaps I will really never know...there will always be a paranoid side to me on that point.

The telly certainly has been bringing up some interesting programming tonight. Nothing says Xmas in Japan more than having one of the country's greatest magicians perform his stuff in front of sumo wrestlers surrounded by a Yuletide setting on live TV. On NTV, I also got another huge surprise when none other than THE Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Russian President, was on a variety show in blazer, blue shirt and no tie just bantering (via interpreter, of course) with a whole bunch of tarento such as the bizarro comedy duo Regulars, buxom beauty Eiko Koike and even the son of PM Koizumi who is an actor. Gorbachev got into the schtick himself when he was telling one of the more hyperactive comedians to go to his room for acting up so much. Right now, there's been a program going on for almost 90 minutes showing off a musical Xmas tribute starring several of J-Pop's finest showing off their stuff. Now I'm not talking about the idols but the more respected folks such as Koji Tamaki, Shikao Suga and Midori Karashima. And even Enya (snore) and Cyndi Lauper are there for a bit of foreign flavour. All of this musical stuff for the season is being interwoven with a little drama involving actress Koyuki (taking that horrible bath in the pond from "The Last Samurai") as a lonely patissier making her cakes for more joyous customers. Nothing like sappiness to perk up the viewers' interest in Japan.

Well, time to take that bath...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Saturday December 24, 2:41 a.m.

Since I took up so much space talking about "Memoirs of a Geisha" last entry, I decided to start anew. Anyways, after being not-so-delightfully surprised about our reactions to the movie, The Madame and I went straight to the Sumitomo Building in West Shinjuku to this cafe just a floor above the venue for the Speedy Xmas party. It was one of those fancy-schmancy cafes that a lot of these omiai couples probably visit after the initial meeting in a tatami room. The sunset view of Mt. Fuji was spectacular. We shared a scone set which had quite a few more items than just the scones...there was a biscotti, a cup of yogurt with blueberry jam, a couple of pieces of cake swathed in whipped cream, and a small cup of two strawberry slices and a slice of kiwi. We were still loading up on food just in case the health food venue for the party held back on the menu.

Mu-mu was on the 49th floor of the angular Sumitomo Building. Speedy and his wife were already there directing traffic. Since we were amongst the first ones there, The Madame and I were escorted to Table No. 1 right by another large window overlooking a great night view of Shinjuku Station. The restaurant was one of those modern places of glass and plastic with whites and dark browns being the primary colours. Our table seated 8 so it wasn't too long before 001 got seated in front of us. 001 recognized the Madame from the Taiwan pics which kinda surprised my dinner date. But they got along fine. Then, an accountant for the school with his girlfriend sat next to us, followed by an acquaintance of Speedy's and her hubby, and finally a mutual friend of 001 and 002. The food was quite good and plentfiul despite Speedy's warnings although there was the inevitable rabbit food salad served. I felt nicely full by the end of the course but for some strange reason, The Madame was still quite hungry more than halfway through the dinner.

The second party was taking place just north of Shinjuku Station at Karaoke Kan, one of the several karaoke box chains in Tokyo. The Madame pulled out due to a busy day tomorrow although I think really it was because she's not into the pastime. I can't really see her crooning her favourite songs in public. We were a group of 17 including Speedy and 001. Speedy, his wife and I had to anchor a lot of the numbers since the others weren't so into karaoke. 001 and SB stayed resolutely mute throughout the 2 hours in our suite. All in all, it was a good night.

I got back home just around the stroke of midnight. Got a Xmas card from The Beachgirl in California...three times. I also got a message from Skippy. She'd skipped the Speedy Xmas party (at 5500 yen a head, I couldn't blame her) to go out with her kid student and his mother to see "Chicken Little". She wasn't as enthused about it as she had been for "The Incredibles" last year but she said it was good enough. She also asked about my schedule next week to see if we could get together for some dinner. And then, SIL sent in a cancellation for her lesson on Boxing Day.

Gonna sleep long and hard after this. I won't have to worry about the Oven Light Gremlin since I unscrewed the light bulb. But I still have to write the remaining New Year's cards tomorrow before I head on out to Fujimamas.
Saturday December 24, 1:49 a.m.

Well, Xmas Eve has finally come to town. And I'm typing this after another long day. I got to Shinjuku at about noon and got the tickets for The Madame and I for "Memoirs of a Geisha". Heeding Speedy's warning about the smaller portions at his Xmas party later that evening, I tucked myself into a Wendy's Spicy Chicken Burger set to fill me up before the movie. I thought I was rushing things a bit but as it turned out, The Madame was 10 minutes late.

Now, as for this movie that I'd been dreading to see for some weeks. Well, it didn't stink. Go fig on that one. I think part of it is that both the Madame and I had heard a rather bad review from Speedy who had seen it earlier in the month, and therefore the both of us had the lowest of expectations when we took our seats. As it turned out, the movie was basically one big beautiful soap opera right down to the dreamy closing credits with the actors' faces in soft focus. I could almost imagine hearing the theme song from "Young and the Restless" instead of John Williams' score. The set design was great, the music was haunting and I could even get through the movie without having the English language script spoken by Japanese actors bother me. However, as Speedy noted, watching "Memoirs of a Geisha" was like watching something through a plate glass window. I didn't particularly feel moved by any of the characters except for Gong Li's Hatsumomo who seemed almost unbelievably evil. It was interesting seeing actors such as Koji Yakusho, Ken Watanabe and Ziyi Zhang tackle the English script. Before watching it, I was wondering if I were going to have to pull out my red pen and make notes about their delivery but I guess their dialogue coaches were very good since all that talking didn't especially interfere with the story. Also, there was that scene in which Sayuri performs her non-geisha dance...a scene that had been advertised in the papers for some weeks before release. Well, after seeing it finally in full form, I just had to say that that was the Hollywood machine in full action. For me, though, the two steadiest actors were Yuki Kudo (Pumpkin) and Kaori Momoi(Mother). Kudo, or to be more precise...Pumpkin, seemed to have undergone the biggest changes through the movie, more so than Sayuri. She goes from becoming Sayuri's best friend and protector in their early years to a nervous inferior geisha and reluctant rival to Sayuri in their early adulthood to an unleashed US-centric GI Joe-loving moll complete with American slang. And as for Momoi, she was born to play her part. Throughout her career in Japan, she's made a reputation for herself as this brassy, seen-it-all actress. The comedians who have mimicked her usually have done so by smoking this very long cigarette. Well, guess what Mother was smoking during most of the movie. All in all, though, it was an OK movie but again it could have been Speedy-assisted.

Strangely enough though, and I'm intentionally pushing ahead the action by several hours to just a few minutes ago, I have been watching a late-night variety show in which buxom tarento MEGUMI, a more pixieish celeb, and a crusty no-nonsense Japanese director gave their opinions on "Memoirs of a Geisha" after having seen it. Boy, did the director really let the movie, director Rob Marshall, and the two male leads have it with both barrels. He gave the movie no stars and a lot of vitriol. In fact, his anger was so palpable that the rest of the dozen or so celebs on the panel quietened down to a bunch of scolded kids. He reminded me of the ol' Prez from The Company whenever he was beating a tattoo in that former feeb staff/whipping boy in his spleen-venting. However, I had far less sympathy for this director. I've never liked bullies as a matter of course, and I think part of his ire rather comes from right-wing tendencies. He absolutely detested the fact that Chinese actresses were chosen to play Japanese women. Of course, I would've thought it better to cast a Japanese actress in the title role but then again, are there any Japanese actresses famous enough or good enough to be cast in a Hollywood movie? Nope...the sad fact of the matter is when making a Hollywood movie, it's all about the Benjamins and as such, Ziyi Zhang is the "it" Asian girl. Yuki Kudo could've been Sayuri but would there have been as much buzz about it? I say again, nope. On the second point of lambasting Rob Marshall for his ham-handed attempts to depict Japan, I can understand that a bit more. I've never been all that much for Hollywood's attempts to depict The Land of the Rising Sun, whether it be anything from "Shogun" to "Mr. Baseball". But his final attacks on Koji Yakusho and Ken Watanabe while giving some praise to Momoi and Kudo seemed very strange. The director angrily denounced their performances as shameful; basically skewering them for giving a "Let's Do Acting Workshop in English". I don't see the difference between what Yakusho and Watanabe gave from what the two Japanese female leads gave. In summary, the director felt that if they were gonna do "Memoirs of a Geisha", it should have been made in Japanese. can just imagine how Hollywood would've taken that news. Plus, the director misses the point completely. The original novel didn't come from Japan; it was from an American novelist who based the book on interviews with a true-blue geisha. It's an American production so it's natural that it would have been a Hollywood production. To be honest, if I'd seen the movie with high expectations, I probably would have been more amenable to this director/critic but his vitriol just sounded like so much jingoistic breast-beating that I just scowled at him.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Friday December 23, 8:39 a.m.

Well, it's the Emperor's Birthday today(yes, please cue the Darth Vader theme) so another national holiday. Very well-timed as well since it means a long weekend although I'm not sure if people are really willing to head out of the Kanto considering the lousy snow outside. I just heard that 120 million residences...not sure where hit with a blackout.

The folks at Fujimamas contacted me today to see if "my group" would be having the turkey or roast beef on Xmas Eve. Hmm...they already know how big I am, eh?

I watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" just before hitting bed last night. 26 minutes of "happiness and cheer". Initially, I was kinda wondering how the network affiliates were able to stuff 26 minutes with commercials when it came to the annual presentation of this special. Then I realized that they took out the scene with the kids throwing snowballs at the tin can. Yup, the animation and continuity are quaintly wonky, and as I've said before, a lot of the script is just directly lifted from the original comics lending it somewhat of a patchwork feel. However, the Guaraldi soundtrack, the use of real kids to voice Charlie Brown, Linus and all the rest of the Peanuts crew, and the nostalgic feel more than compensates this into classic status. Not surprisingly, it is the scenes which couldn't be shown in comic form that stand out, though. For example, that dancing scene that starts off the second act...where did that idea come from, I wonder. With the juxtaposition of the patchwork-like insertion of the 4-frame comics, that whole second act in the school reminded me of the go-go dance/punchline parts of "Laugh-In", an old comedy show from the 1960s (yup, I grew up on Rowan & Martin...I can just imagine a lot of question marks from you guys born after 1970). Well, after watching the DVD, I went to bed listening to the soundtrack from the show.

My oven light gremlin came back to haunt the kitchen for several hours. Looks like I'm gonna have to unscrew the light bulb in there if I'm not gonna donate any more yen to TEPCO. Anyways, it's time to have breakfast. I guess I'll try to polish off the remaining smoked duck in my fridge.
Thursday December 22, 10:15 p.m.

Went over to Ichikawa City Hall today to pick up those documents for my Permanent Residency bid. Cost me 300 yen per document to get them but it didn't sting me too badly. What did sting me was the stench in the men's toilets. They really gotta switch to modern sit-down Western toilets instead of the old squats. Obviously one guy not only had a stomach problem but one of targeting as well.

Then I headed for Ginza to take advantage of my Yamano Music point card. I was just 3 points away from getting my 3000 yen discount and since it was double-point day I figured I was in for an easy ride. However, it took me quite a while to pick out a suitable CD to sacrifice my cash on. I first tried out the 1st floor which had all the J-Pop discs. I checked out the latest Kazumasa Oda disc which apparently hit the Top 10 in total album sales this year. Well, let's say that I didn't contribute to any further climbs on the list. And then I thought maybe the new CD by sultry songstress Toko Furuuchi would be just the thing. After some quick listens to the various tracks, I also gave it a pass. Basically, I thought both artists suffered from the same problem...they've become so mellowed out that all the songs are pretty much variations on the same theme; a pity since both are good singers. Then, I went up to the 2nd floor to see if there was anything work buying from the Western side of things. Again, it took me several minutes to find something but I finally decided on Spandau Ballet's "Anthology". I kinda laughed at the title. Any resemblance between it and The Beatles' "Anthology" is purely coincidental, I'm sure. Well, what can you say about the former New Romantic band? It was an early 80s fave due to "True" and "Gold". Kinda kitsch now but still I hadn't bought a Spandau Ballet disc for my 80s collection so why not?

I got the golden number of 50 points on the card so I went down to the DVD floor in B1. And I picked up "A Charlie Brown Christmas" DVD (over here, it's called, strangely enough "Snoopy's Merry Christmas" which just makes Charlie Brown's disrespect even deeper). Well, it's too bad that it's just a bare-bones disc without any sort of specials or commentary considering that it is the 40th anniversary but I figure that it's still worth having. It was only 1890 yen so I had to search one more disc to pad out the discount. It took another number of minutes. I wanted to get "X-Men 2" but it was just a tad too expensive even with the discount so in the end I just went with "Star Trek: Nemesis". In any case, it's still a Patrick Stewart movie. I thought the cashier at the DVD counter was a lot more eager to please than the dourpuss on the 2nd floor; then I saw the badge of "Trainee" on his lapel.

By the time I got out of the shop, night had fallen. Ginza was once again bustling with night activity appropriate to an evening of Xmas decorations and shopping. I took the subway up to The Tea Room. As I had expected, it was pretty quiet inside. Just went for the Tea Room salad as dinner since it is rather big. An hour later, The Carolinan showed up. It just goes to show the difference between her and The New Kid in terms of enthusiasm. It takes two to tango. She asked about the ball at The Lady's place since my last time with her was just on the night before it. She was sufficiently amused by my regaling that I was left wondering if I should invite her and the New Yorker next year. In any case, as we were walking back to the station, the winter cultural difference between us was also rather evident. I found the cold rather refreshing and was striding down without gloves; meanwhile, the Carolinan was walking down as if she were somewhere in Antarctica.

Got home to find out that my uncle did send back the document. No message on the machine, though. However, I will still have to acknowledge that it did come back. There was a message from Fujimamas, though, asking for confirmation for my Xmas Eve reservation. No problems on that point...I just sent an e-mail back to them.

Well, tomorrow is that movie date with The Madame for "Memoirs of a Geisha". Hmmm...I hope my low expectations will be rewarded with a delightful surprise. However, considering Speedy's rather negative assessment of it, I'm not too optimistic.

Then, there will be a bit of a coffee break before the two of us head out for the Speedy Xmas party at this place called Mu-mu--Body Balance Dining. Uh-oh...body balance dining? Speedy warned me that it is rather healthy if delicious food which means that the portions will be small. Speedy promised me that I would get double portions although I'm not sure if was just joshing me or not. He did advise me to get something to eat for lunch. So I may have a distinctly unhealthy Wendy's meal beside the Picadilly before The Madame meets me. She's not too thrilled with that place. The Madame should be quite pleased with the portions at Mu-mu and the sky-high night view in the Sumitomo Building.

The winds are howling out there right now. Not sure if this portends to any sort of major weather phenomena in the next 12 hours.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thursday December 22, 8:23 a.m.

When it comes to heinous crimes in this country, and we've had more than our fair share this year, it's always easy to distinguish between those killers who feel remorse/shame from the true sociopaths. Most of the folks who have been arrested are seen with coats draped over their heads or heads bowed down; it's up to file photos to reveal what these guys looked like. On the other hand, there was a case in which two sisters in their 20s were recently murdered by an unrepentant psycho. His mug was fully visible in the perp car, sneering/smiling/glazed. He even gleefully admitted, when he was actually lucid, that he offed his mother 5 years ago with a bat and started his murderous ways to "see the blood flow" again. Sounds like a Japanese Norman Bates.

Today, I'll probably get that lone gym session in this week and then perhaps I may head off to Swarovski Crystal in Shibuya to see if I can pick up that crystal hedgehog that The Madame likes. I'm not hopeful that this will change anything in our strange relationship but who knows? Then I've got The Carolinan for her final lesson of the year. I suspect it'll be another quiet night in The Tea Room.

I didn't quite get that gloriously long night of sleep today but at least I could peg on an extra hour. Hopefully, I'll get some more shuteye as we approach Xmas.
Wednesday December 21, 10:31 p.m.

With an Orange Cassis in a paper cup and some Sour Cream n' Onion Pringles at my side, I'm officially declaring the supposed first day of Winter closed. Another long day comes to a pretty nice end.

In the morning, I went to see the Immigration lawyer in Shin-Okubo and for a half-hour, we went over the documents that I've been able to amass. The big snag appears to be my birth certificate. In most of the other countries, a birth certificate would have both my name and my parents' names, but in Canada....nooooooo. It just so happens that my Permanent Residency bid needs to have that official link between me and my parents stated. Ach...well, at least the lawyer gave me the option of just explaining the situation to the powers-that-be as a note. And as it turns out, the lawyer told me that that form that I'd sent to my uncle to sign is no longer needed at all. Well, I've still yet to hear from him about it but since it's no longer an issue, I'm not worrying about it. However, I still need to get a few more things together before I head on down to Immigration again. It cost me another 5000 yen for the consultation but it's been worth it.

In the afternoon, I met up with The New Yorker for her final lesson of the year at The Tea Room. I got a very nice present from her in the form of Snoopy pins and plastic folder. The pins were just made for Japanese customers since one of them is an Ueno Snoopy. Slow but steady progress from her.

Then I headed on out to Speedy's. Thankfully, it was also another nice night there although Student 003 once again bailed out due to overtime. So I just had another rollicking lesson with 001; sometimes, I think some form of psychic alcohol is fueling our classes. Whatever it is, it's a good tonic whenever I've had a bad day anywhere else. She'll be coming to the Speedy Xmas party on Friday so things should be quite fine at our table at least. I may have a model lesson with a pretty capable young lady on Boxing Day at the school. Hmmm...I'm kinda wondering if this is gonna end up like erstwhile 005.

Considering that this is the first day of Winter, it wasn't too cold today. Not sure if we will get any sort of snow at all tonight although I've been surprised in the past.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tuesday December 20, 10:06 p.m.

Well, today's session at the juku was pretty off-kilter due to the fact that the boss told me as soon as I got into the house that The New Kid would be leaving us for Yoyogi Seminar, a famed cram school. The second shoe has dropped. Therefore, things were pretty awkward especially near the end when I was struggling to think of things to talk about. To be honest, I think things were pretty much inevitable...he's not one of those special kids; he's just a typical teen...a good boy in general...but a teen with the usual disinterest in things, and I'm the type of person who just doesn't do well with teens, especially boys. I'm never very happy whenever I lose students, and I've lost my fair share this year...but I think there's a sense of relief along with the disappointment with this latest departure. As for the other classes...they went OK, although I think I was quite happy to finish them off for the year. I think I need a bit of a break from the juku for the next three weeks.

The second shoe...perhaps one of many pairs to be dropped over the next few months...has also dropped for Hidetsugu Aneha, the notorious architect who falsified all that data so that several buildings are now potential deathtraps. The police and media descended on his strangely dilapidated house so that the former could scour it for evidence while the latter could take as many pictures as possible. The amazing thing is that this pariah lives in my own humble city of Ichikawa. Mind you, my city isn't exactly does spread rather broadly...and I didn't see any TV trucks around my neighbourhood. Ironically, the police also raided the residence of the president of one of the contractors under investigation...he lives in some pretty regal digs. NHK has just reported that today's multiple raids are the one of the largest ever seen in this country. Aneha is increasingly looking more like a pathetic corpse left to swing in a conspiracy of pretty sinister-looking characters.

Well, I've gotta get my paperwork in order to show that lawyer tomorrow. It's gonna cost me 5000 yen for the basic rate but I just wanna make sure everything is OK. I've still yet to hear from my uncle about that document that I'd sent him last week. Ordinarily I would think that I may have sent it to the wrong address but I also sent that present of rice crackers the day after; I just hope I didn't offend him in some way. He's definitely one person that I can't afford to alienate. Basically, if I don't get that document back from him, I don't go to Immigration on Thursday. Plus, I still have to prepare for 3 classes later on.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Tuesday December 20, 7:34 a.m.

SkyPerfect is now showing the second season of "Space:1999". Tried to watch the first two eps but frankly the Trekkifying of the show rendered it unwatchable for me. I realize any viewing of science-fiction requires a very huge suspension of disbelief but to have every alien race be able to speak perfect English to a group of humans who didn't choose to be in deep space is perhaps a bit too much to ask for....unless Maya the Metamorph was able to concoct a universal translator.

I've got my first event during the official holiday week next week. The Denmother has set up something for the 29th. The Croissant has been telling me of this party but none of her group, which includes The Coffeemaker and The Barmaiden, has contacted me about it.

A follow-up on one of the grislier news stories this year. I mentioned about that discovery of skeletonized dog heads in a box by a river in Tokyo. Well, Dog's Worst Friend turned himself in a few days ago according to SIL. Apparently, he had wanted to dine on some Fido and Rover. The man, I assume, is getting his head examined in jail where, much to his disappointment, the meat of fare is just mundane beef, fish or chicken.

Speaking of beef, the US variety has finally come back into Japan after a few years of exile due to that BSE scare (which was really Canada's fault). Now, those poor purveyors of beef bowls, gyudon, can run to their local Yoshinoya gleefully, knowing that they can have their old beloved dish again.
Monday December 19, 9:32 p.m.

As expected, the day went pretty smoothly. The morning wasn't as frigid as it had been on the day before but that slowly changed as the day wore on. And as I found out tonight, Nagoya got whacked with a snowstorm, the first time that it actually broke a record in 58 years. Tokyo has still been spared the white stuff but I still think we're due for a White Christmas.

The Class Act's lesson ended up being a gab session while SIL's lesson was another one filled with plenty of mirth. Let's say that the class was filled with topics such as the fattening of the US, jargonization of job terms enemas. I'll let you use your imagination about how that class went, but on her digital recorder, there was a lot of laughter there. In between, I did get that lunch from The Chef after all. On hearing the announcement from The Lady, my big stomach miraculously cleared itself of all that sukiyaki beef and sprouts from breakfast. Incidentally, lunch was Vegetable Curry, Salad, and Strawberries. It's amazing that The Chef can whip up such a great curry although he cannot taste the stuff himself since he hates spicy food. Also, in a continuation of the tribute-to-teacher, I got a bottle of French Red from The Lady which will come in handy for the Beehive Xmas party tomorrow. And from The OL tonight at Starbucks, I received a Starbucks charge card. Hopefully, I can return the favour to The OL in the new year.

Since I was heading home around 6, I was stuck in my first evening rush hour in several years. If I'd remembered about this horrible phenomenon, I would have scheduled The OL's lesson for later on in the evening but I just didn't wanna hang out too long in the city. As it was, it wasn't too bad on The Tozai Line. I managed to find a good niche in the middle of the train for a few stops before the guy below vacated his seat. I consider myself rather lucky.

After all that spending on food yesterday for the sukiyaki, it was nice that I had so much food left over that my supermarket bill was really low. Also, getting that free lunch from The Chef helped as well. I ended up having the sukiyaki leftovers but there's still some stuff left over, so I guess I'll have to have that for Wednesday breakfast since I've got that feast tomorrow with The Beehive.

I got my Xmas package from the parentals tonight. Clothes as usual.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Monday December 19, 8:08 a.m.

My oven light gremlin was back at it last night. I woke up to the eerie amber glow from my kitchen once more. I'm sure TEPCO will have something to say about it next month. Maybe I ought to unplug the bulb...or perhaps that won't matter.

For breakfast, I ate the remaining unused meat from the sukiyaki party...all 300 g of it. I just tossed it together with some bean sprouts. Sukiyaki meat isn't the most conducive for stir-fry; it's just a bit too stringy and fatty but it made for a filling meal. Hopefully, The Chef (and this is one of the few times I would ever say this) won't be making anything for me today after The Class Act's lesson.

The Madame confirmed her meeting with me on Friday to see "Memoirs of a Geisha" in Shinjuku. I still have some mighty big misgivings about this one. Well, at least, we'll have plenty of stuff to talk about (or argue about) over coffee afterwards.

SR's colleague at work contacted me for potential lessons. I offered midweek mornings but I also threw out Monday night, the night that was saved for Speedy. But since I no longer have any class there at that time, I need to fill that up. I've got a feeling that it could be a while before anything fills up there.
Sunday December 18, 11:30 p.m.

Well, the second party of this Xmas season is now history. First it was Speedy, Skippy, OA and myself at The Lady's grand ball on the 9th. Today was a far more humbler soiree at chez Haru, and it was on the coldest day of the year so far. When I met up with Skippy, OA and then The Madame at the station, they were all acting fairly frostbitten. Being the long-standing Canuck, I was in pretty good shape although I did feel Winter's sharp touch initially when I stepped out of the apartment. I'd had spent a few hours trying to get the place into shape which meant lugging my sofas into my bedroom and basicaly transforming it into one big closet. By a miracle, I was able to open things up in my living room so that it could barely fit 8 people.

The four of us got our fixins at the supermarket. I didn't bother with the raffle since there was already a discouragingly long lineup. The bill for getting the meat and veggies amongst other stuff cost us around 9000 yen; amongst 8 people, that was a pretty good price to pay for sukiyaki. We also picked up some wine and cassis since Skippy had a craving for Cassis Orange, a popular cocktail amongst the women here.

It was basically just the four of us for the first couple of hours at the apartment so we just got busy preparing the ingredients while noshing on some of that smoked duck that The Matron had so kindly given me. Once we started getting the portable gas stove and pan ready and oiled up, the other half of the party arrived just in time. Speedy and his missus along with Movie Buddy and The Sylph came in at virtually the same time. After that, it was all Skippy's show. Fueled up on all that Cassis Orange, she was on fire! She was hypercheerful throwing in all that meat and veg into the pot as if it were radioactive material. Good thing, too...the sukiyaki was excellent. It was pretty much that...I didn't have anything really to entertain them with although there were the photo albums showing yesteryear. Afterwards, it was The Madame's turn to take over as she made some caramelized apples and poured them onto some cake with whipped cream.

Well, the party finally broke up around 9. I had to get the apartment back into its dilapidated self again but the benefit is that I have a ton of snacks and drinks which should be keep my food bill down for the next few days....that could only help my bottom line especially since a sparse patch is coming up.

I just read that The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, has taken a leave of absence from his coaching position for the Phoenix Coyotes to be with his ailing mother. The report also mentioned that his daughter, Paulina, is an up-and-coming model/singer. I also read these other names such as Steve Tambellini and Rick Tocchet in front office positions. I remember them only as players in the NHL. When I remember Gretzky as the most amazing hockey player that ever lived, it just ages me that much more when I read this report.

Miraculously, I think I can take that shower now and actually hit bed by 12:15. I've got a pretty full day tomorrow with The Class Act, SIL and The OL...although these ladies are always smooth to teach.