Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wednesday December 13, 4:27 p.m.

Well, feeling pretty pooped after the usual last-minute shopping on Departure Eve. My target was Ginza. I managed to get a number of Pokemon characters for The Dancer's kids and those CDs for Egg. I had thought about picking up a pair of jeans at Uniqlo for myself but for some reason...even at the hefty size of 38, I couldn't fit into them despite the fact that I was wearing a pair of 38 Uniqlo slacks very nicely. Well, at least I saved myself some 3,000 yen.

I'm just waiting for Speedy to conclude his class so that he can give me my paltry pay so that I can at least pay off some debts before I leave this country. Still gotta pay off my rent and then the NHI premiums. Plus, there is all the packing and cleaning before I take off.

Just to catch up...after that Saturday of lessons and bonenkai, Sunday was an unusually busy day with three classes and then meeting up with MB for a movie. I was able to see the kids (or at least the Junior...the Senior decided that she wanted to go to Yokohama Chinatown; can't say that I blame her but frankly her selfishness is showing) and then sped off to Kinokuniya to pick up a book on self-publishing by Wm. Penn of the Daily Yomiuri's "Televiews". Actually, she is really a lady named Morikawa who decided to go into doing all the printing out and publishing of stuff by herself. She brought me back down to earth pretty quickly by saying that self-publishing a bestseller is like winning a lottery...damn rare.

I then finished up with The Carolinan and The Polynesian before heading to JR Shinjuku to meet MB for dinner. We went back to an old haunt, Foo Foo, for that paiko tantan men...that spicy ramen with a slab of deep fried pork cutlet (yes, we are heading into Homer Simpson territory); it'd been several months since our last visit there...I'd almost forgotten how good that bowl tasted.

Afterwards, we rushed to the Milano theatre in Kabukicho to meet up with three more friends (more associates of MB than of me) to catch 007. Yep, I was able to finally see "Casino Royale" with Daniel Craig. To be honest, I'm wondering how moronic those so-called fans are for castigating the Broccolis' choice of Craig. The movie was by far much better than "Die Another Day", Pierce Brosnan's last entry...and it was just a far more watchable movie, period. Certainly, it'll make us all forget about the very first "Casino Royale", a weirdo movie typical of the 60s (I think the Herb Alpert theme will outlast anything from that flick).

"The name's Bond. James Bond". The five words that are usually uttered in the first third of a typical 007 movie were given as the very last line. That's how different "Casino Royale" was. No Q, no gadgets, no god-awful puns...and Daniel Craig has given us a Bond that could out-Connery even Sean Connery. The plot was less fantastical and much more grounded in the murkiness of the spy world, although there were still the jaw-dropping scenes of hand-to-hand battle. It seemed to be a mix of James Bond, "24" and "The Sandbaggers" (an old British spy series). Here, in this Bond redux, we have a snarly thuggish 007 making mistakes and being screwed around (in all the meanings possible) by a woman. You might say that this was the proto-Bond. I hope the future entries will be more like this. I was rather reminded of the old classics such as "To Russia With Love" and "Goldfinger". Now, if only the theme songs could be improved on. I say...get Anita Baker or Diana Krall for the next one.

Monday was almost the usual day. I had The Class Act, SIL and The Part-Timer for their last lessons of the year but once again, 008 cancelled out. Tuesday was not one to remember too fondly. The lessons were OK enough but I got hammered with a major head cold. I was contributing to world deforestration with all the Kleenex I was going through...never a good thing to show to a bunch of students. Still, the Beehive ladies were kind enough to once again treat me to lunch. By the time I got home, I was ready to hit bed. And I followed a salaryman's recommended course of action; drink two heavy-duty vitamin drinks after a hot shower then wrap myself in blankets and sweat it out. Well, I'm not 100% but I'm certainly doing a whole lot better than I was yesterday. I still have a little honk in the nose, though.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday December 11, 5:13 p.m.

Well, Happy 65th to Mom!

It wasn't quite the all-beef weekend of last week but it was more of a business n' pleasure weekend. Saturday was spent teaching The Coffeemaker, Tully and then The New Yorker in Ichigaya before heading to Niwa no Yu, a spa across from Toshima-en, for Speedy's annual year-end bash.

The lesson with The Coffeemaker and Tully went pretty well since it was on business telephone conversations. They really appreciated all of the little nuances such as actually using "Mister" or "Miss" to address oneself. Over here, it is of course the height of rudeness to refer oneself as "-san". As for the New Yorker, it was a bit of a chaotic situation. I scheduled her lesson at 1 so that I could get over to the spa in enough time to indulge in its delights. However, 1 just happened to be the peak busy time for To The Herbs, the Italian restaurant over Ichigaya Station. As a result, I had to teach a lesson to one of my lowest (though faithful) students with two jabbering tables at either side of us and while eating my own lunch. Luckily the years of teaching gave me a certain amount of studied coolness to prevent any onset of panic. Strangely enough, since I was rather limited in my abilities, I was actually able to focus strictly on one pattern which she was able to get drilled into her head.

It was a cold and drizzly afternoon once I got to Niwa-no-Yu (The Garden Waters) spa...rather perfect weather to warm up in a nice hot bath. Actually, I hadn't planned on getting into the huge tub; all I wanted to indulge in was a scalp massage...one of the many treatments they had there. Niwa-no-yu is a relatively new establishment in what has become one of the many spa/relaxation spots that have been popping up all over Tokyo over the past few years. Once Speedy arrived and arranged everything, I was able to sign up at half the usual entry price and got my bag of spa robe and towels. Again, I hadn't expected to take a dip but when I signed up for the scalp massage, the young ladies (girls) sweetly told me that I had to strip down to au naturel mode with just a towel around my rather large midriff. For a scalp massage...hmmm, I did wonder what I was getting myself into.

I didn't realize it til later but the scalp massage was part of the Body Cleaning series of treatments which took place in the Men's Onsen (hot spring) area. There is another series up on the 2nd floor which didn't require disrobing. The Body Cleaning involved what it says...full scrub down. Well, not one to say no to any woman, I dutifully went into the locker room and changed into my towel. I had about 10 minutes before the massage so I actually tried out the saunas to open up those pores. The Finnish sauna was one hot sucker...stayed there for a grand total of 1 minute before deciding to take my chances on a more moderate version outside. Then I stepped into the small room where the scalp massages were performed; I could then understand why I had to strip down to skivvies. The place was rather wet since the room also contained the area for akasuri (exfoliation with a hard sponge...very popular in Korea). I was expecting some muscular guy or a really old woman who'd seen everything and anything to take care of me, but I got a bit of a surprise when my masseuse turned out to be a young, fairly pretty woman...the key point being that she was younger than me. I felt even more naked than I was. The woman had a very friendly nonchalant attitude and just told me to take off the towel (!) and wear these thin mauve pants. Mauve! Never thought I would wear anything that underwearish in mauve. I got on the flat table and for the next 20 minutes, my masseuse started playing my scalp like a very frenetic passage in a Beethoven symphony. It was quite good...she even rubbed down my arms and...gulp...chest! However, the finale was just as surprising as the beginning. She hosed me down with warm water all over me...that pair of mauve pants got very sheer very quickly. I muttered my thanks and did the quickest change from pants to towel. I then decided to take a shower after all since I was completely drenched.

The rest of the evening went very well. Mind you, there was a bit of tension in the main lobby as some yahoo was complaining to the manager about the level of service given to him. The manager didn't seem to be too fazed, though...he's probably gone through this many times before, and perhaps even with the same man. Speedy and a few others were in our spa robes while the rest of our party were in street clothes when we were escorted to the 2nd floor party room for the bonenkai. I must admit that I was quite impressed with the assortment of food. It was a typical year-end party setting with plenty of hot pot and sashimi and other things to nibble on. There was that new staff member who had just been with the school for two days. Very little time but considering that she's a woman who's spent more time abroad in various countries than over here, she was quite reserved. But I know that feeling very well.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Friday December 8, 11:22 a.m.

Back at the grungy I-cafe again. I had to check on some things including the cost of an Internet cable for that offered laptop. Doesn't look too bad.

I got the word from Speedy that I can pick up my pay on Wednesday. Although I don't have any classes on that day, I will probably have some last-minute shopping to catch up on.

As it turned out, I had a day off yesterday. As I was doing some final checking of my e-mail during my 3-hour stint yesterday, I got an emergency note from B2 saying that she had to cancel due to a family emergency. Well, I was out of 5,000 yen but I did get a pleasant evening.

Gonna be getting some lunch and then I'm off to "teach" the juku boss (although I foresee it'll be more of the chitchat...hey, it's her 6,000) and then actually teach The UL before making the return trip for the Ace. Also got word from the kids' mother that the Elder will not be available for Sunday's lesson. Not a particularly bad development...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Thursday December 7, 3:03 p.m.

Back in the grungy Internet cafe in my neighbourhood. At least I got a bit less sullen service. It's another quiet day for me...only have B2 and B2B tonight. So I just had some lunch at Subway and then it's here. I decided to spare 1/8 of my day today in front of the screen so I could think about what to do about my financial future. Couldn't hope to know anything about investing so it was time to think about other ways to increase income. So I decided to just browse and see what was available. Writing was always a potential option for me and since this blog has been good practice for, I went through the search engines. Apparently, there's a book about self-publishing in Japan that's sold at Kinokuniya which costs only 1800 yen; don't think I'll be making those J.K. Rowling millions but heck, the investment of less than 2000 yen can't be that bad.

Radio announcing was also another option. I've...ahem...been told over the years that I'm in possession of a voice that is radio-friendly by students. Hmmm....I'm not so sure about that but I know that how one sounds to oneself and how one sounds to others can be remarkably different at times. In any case, my search on the engines turned up nothing.

As I've mentioned over the years, I'm a devout atheist...and even worse, a cynic. So, commiserating about my financial plight is just what comes naturally to me. And yet, over the past several days, I've been getting stuff from different sources that might signify that perhaps a higher force may be at work trying to cheer me up. First, it was the juku boss telling me about how lousy her 2006 was and in fact, some of the personal hardships that have plagued her. Then, it was The Madame with her fractious relationship with her parents because she won't get married or get a full-time job. If her folks only knew how deep into this spiritualism business she was in. And just a couple of days ago, it was Speedy's turn to let me know how much pressure he's been under trying to keep his school afloat at the risk of his frayed health. He's been burning the midnight oil a bit too much in my opinion. He's been hiring part-time assistants right left and centre when he should be thinking about getting a true right-hand person as a VP. I know...easier said than done. Still, I've got my own problems to think about.

CNN has been doing a low-key focus on Japan over the past week involving a series of "Talk Asia" interviews with various celebs here and perhaps one "Quest" segment with the avuncular Richard Quest. This is rather different from the Bill Hemmer Express that showed up at Roppongi Hills a few years ago. I caught the Kotooshu interview a couple of nights ago. It was a good revelation from one of the foreign sumo wrestlers (he hails from Bulgaria) who's managed to hit the top ranks; he's at the 2nd-highest rank of ozeki. One of the better points was on the motivation of sumotori to get ahead of the pack...if you don't practice and practice hard, you'll end up serving your higher-ups and probably getting bullied by them for the rest of your pathetic career in the stable. When the service involves cooking, cleaning, wiping sweat (and even butts...can you imagine seeing 250 kg Konishiki trying to clean himself in the toilet?...the laws of physics won't permit it), junior sumo would rather fight themselves to the top and actually get a salary.

The other one interview I'd like to see is the one coming up with J-Pop diva Ayumi Hamasaki this Friday. The J-Pop forums have been buzzing about this one. In the ads for this one-on-one, Hamasaki has shown some prowess with the English language. But I'm not sure if the entire chat will be in her adopted tongue...BoA, who had her CNN spotlight earlier this week, can speak some English, too, but most of her talk was in Korean with English dubbing. I'm not so sure if Hamasaki would be doing this interview if she hadn't been overshadowed this past year by the new reigning Queen of J-Pop, Kumi Koda. Koda is the Osakan pop idol who's given rise to one of the big buzzwords of 2006, ero-aidoru (erotic idol), for her distinctive lack of clothing during her performances. At last year's Kohaku Utagassen, the ratings showed a rather big spurt...heh...when she appeared for her number. What was probably not shown was that the cases of wife-on-husband assault probably also shot up during that hour.

Well, in any case, I've got a week left here before I take off...
Wednesday December 6, 9:14 p.m.

I've finished my last class with 001 for the year. As usual, she claimed to be sleepy but "full of energy"...ain't that just like a woman? In any case, we had a good finale. Also heard from Speedy that my tab for the annual Xmas party will be picked up (great!) although the boss did hint that a donation of sorts would always be appreciated. The party will be taking place at a spa near Toshima-en Station; before you get too confused about the venue....this place also has dining facilities fit for a ryokan. They offer various forms of massage; I am thinking of taking them up on their offer although it would mean some discharge of yen. However, I am feeling distinctly knot-like at this time.

Last Saturday, during dinner at the West Park Cafe in Akasaka, MB loaned me his copy of "Watchmen", that famed graphic novel which got all sorts of accolades including inclusion into TIME's "Best 100 Novels of the 20th-Century". I'd come across bit and pieces of it over the 20 years that it had been out but it was actually the first time that I could really read it from front to back. It was indeed a pageturner and a vastly interesting piece of fiction...and that I write considering that I had read "The Dark Knight" and "Kingdom Come"...similarly plotted and created graphic novels published after "Watchmen". I could imagine how these usually jaded critics dropped their jaws and raised their arms in literary orgasm on reading the very first revamping of the comic book superhero back in 1986. And then afterwards, basically any graphic novel featuring superheroes cannot help but pay homage to the book with the iconic Smiley face with the smear of blood running down it. I'm not sure how "Watchmen" compares to "The Little Prince" in terms of sophisticated layering of meaning and message but I was impressed at how this story changed from a superhero version of film noir to an apocalyptic sci-fi epic depicting an extreme example of Star Trek's "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few". All that angst and anti-heroism (with all due respect to Stan Lee's Spiderman) that have now become part and parcel of the contemporary superhero's emotional baggage...."Watchmen" was where it all started. All that happy, shiny heroism of Superman and Adam West's Batman goes out the window to be replaced with some of the most pathos-laden drawings and situations one can have. Perhaps my only gripe with "Watchmen" was that the denouement was a little too pat. But I'm just kvetching on one small thing. In any case, I'm not surprised that the Hollywood folks are treating a potential film adaptation like a flask of Polonium 210...I don't think it can be made successfully. Seeing how Alan Moore saw his other properties, "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and perhaps "V for Vendetta" got ground up, he will never put his blessing on his magnum opus to even Steven Spielberg. People might counter that "The Lord of the Rings" finally got made and made well but Tolkien's epic was basically a bedroom story for his children. I'm not downplaying Tolkien's...or for that matter, Peter Jackson's...efforts, but Adam Moore put in a whole bunch of uncomfortable, morally debatable layers which are far closer to reality in this universe than the stark Good vs. Evil in Frodo's. Of course, that hasn't stopped the fantasy baseball in terms of casting any incarnation of "Watchmen". Arnold Schwarzenegger was once touted as Doctor Manhattan (he's huge, strong and he was naked in "Terminator" ) before politics came knocking. Maybe Maggie Gyllenhall could be Laurie Juspecyk (Silk Spectre II) and Robert Redford could even be Ozymandias (yeah, I know...I'm reaching). But as for the star of the series, Rorschach, y'got me on that one. Maybe Hugo Weaving could pull off another masked role again. Still, I'd say that leave well enough alone. "Watchmen" has already put itself into legend...no need to tarnish that gold.

And on that note, I bid you a good night...hurm
Wednesday December 6, 5:25 p.m.

It's been a fairly quiet past few days. On Monday night, I had The Part-Timer for her first lesson outside of the comfy confines of Speedy's at the nearby Doutor's by the subway station. It wasn't too bad although obviously the refreshments were no longer free.

I was actually able to get a decent night of sleep for the first time in a while since The Anime King's return to Canada. I finally got my futon back after almost a week on the lumpy sofa, and since The Beehive wasn't seeing me yesterday morning, I also got a full 9 hours. I had to sacrifice "The Untouchables" but seeing that that show was in its final throes, I could accept it. It looks like that pinch-hitting teacher on Saturday at the juku did pretty well. There were almost no surprises. The new guy had a good time with Seven and Jolly, and he had to turn on the TLC with Mrs. Mild, who's eternally underconfident. The surprise was with The Ace...notably my best student of the group, who had apparently been very nervous. The juku boss also presented me with an old Panasonic notebook computer which can be mine for a bargain-basement 20,000 yen. The only problem is that my bank account is probably a full two levels below that. It would seem, though, that the original owner, the boss' friend, doesn't take NO for an answer. The boss said that I could pay him anytime. Well, I tried it out...no Internet cable so I couldn't log on but the internal software was running fine....even had a good couple of games of Hearts. Well, if the cable doesn't cost me an arm and a leg, then I'll take the note off his hands.

As for Seven, once again she gave me some goodies for eating...this time, it was sable cookies from the tony district of Shirogane. What she was doing there was beyond me since she doesn't seem to make the money needed to shop there; Seven is definitely more of the Harajuku Girl set. I also gave her the dreaded test that I had warned her about almost a month in advance. Even so, I had to give her a very generous 89%....she was as slow as molasses for a majority of the oral test. I had to remind myself that the juku classes weren't for any particular goal....just a hobby. Plus, she did bring the cookies. Jolly couldn't make it due to work. The Milds were back....as expected, Mrs. Mild curled up into a little ball when I asked her about the new teacher. I sighed internally. Mr. Mild showed up; he'd just come back from a business trip in Okinawa. So I got a souvenir in the form of kakuni, which is a very fatty slab of pork, the favoured meat of the southern islands. I should be getting a lot of collagen from that. As for The Siberian, he was as spaced out as usual.

I had my final buffet lunch with The Anime Chamberlain. As I said before, it was a nice way to finish things up with the month of otaku since our first meeting was also at a buffet restaurant. We ended up going to the U.N. Cafe in the Shiodome City Centre building....just around the corner from LAST, the first of our buffet restaurants. It certainly had a bit more cachet than LAST: the U.N. (not sure if it has any connections with the world organization) had a more atmospheric decor and softer music than the neighbourhood diner feel and 80's AM radio sounds of LAST. Foodwise, the fare was a bit more upscale and cosmopolitan. There were bowls of wonton soup, minestrone and mild curry to go with a lot of veggies. In fact, I'd initially thought that we arrived in a vegetarian restaurant, but once I saw the pasta, raw bonito and curried chicken, then all fears were allayed.

Afterwards, we took a short subway hop to Kokkai Gijidomae, which translates directly as "in front of the Diet" where The Chamberlain took some shots of the main Parliament building. The security was there which made me wonder if my companion would be approached by them about his intentions with his camera. I was reminded when my old Japanese language teacher had herself been given the 3rd degree by some overambitious guards when she tried to take some shots. Luckily, they left us alone although we were somewhat disappointed that there were no rightwing nutjobs ramming their cars into the main gates. However, we did see a number of protesters on the other side of Parliament yelling about North Korea, unions and the like. We took the train again to Shinjuku where I gave my final farewells to the lad before he himself took off for home tomorrow.

Well, back here at Speedy's to teach my sole lesson to 001. Speedy's breaking in another assistant in what has become the revolving door to help here at the school. It's almost become a running gag on the level of Murphy Brown's everchanging secretaries. Nice young lady...she even offered me some chocolate.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Monday December 4, 4:56 p.m.

Well, the final guest at Hotel Haruhiko for the year checked out this afternoon. The Anime King has finally left the building. In the past few days, he along with The Anime Chamberlain and The Anime Duke have touched their inner and outer otaku full tilt. Almost every night of their stay, they all went to their Mecca in Akihabara and scoured the area for anything new and anime/manga/character. Yesterday, their big conference reached its peak with their visit to a couple of shows in Tokyo. One was a character goods festa near Haneda Airport and then there was the cosplay party at Toshima-en Amusement Park. The boys took some pics and even a video. I was quite impressed by the fellow (who obviously wasn't lacking for money) who donned a Gundam suit of armour. That was just gun-damn impressive....ouch!

However, The King and I did take a little respite from his subcultural world by meeting up with an old friend of ours, The Prez from the Company. It'd been 2 years since I last met up with the old guy...right after finishing up with those somewhat futile English lessons for his staff. The three of us went to the Century Hyatt in Shinjuku and down in the basement was the branch of the famous Imahan, the sukiyaki restaurant. Of course, The Prez footed the bill. Being Imahan, we were served by a kimono-clad waitress with the gift of the gab; she was just going on about her travels throughout North America. Meanwhile, she cooked up the tender slices of meat in the sweet soy sauce mix. Needless to say, the sukiyaki was delicious. It had been a year since my own little sukiyaki home party that I tried Japan's second-most famous dish next to sushi. I could even take the raw egg that I dipped the meat into. But then again in Japan, it would seem that raw eggs don't have that inbuilt fear of salmonella that they have in the West.

The Prez must've mellowed in the past couple of years...he didn't mention The Iconoclast without giving a snide comment about his problems in the office. Afterwards, The Prez took us back to the office...another trip down memory lane. The office looked pretty much the same but without the staff; apparently, it was a pretty quiet weekend. Afterwards, we all parted in our own directions...I had to run off to teach that final EIC lesson at Speedy's. It was pretty harmless for her but just not sure what her retention rate will be.

The sukiyaki was only the beginning of what would be an all-beef weekend for me. After Speedy's, I went down to Akasaka-Mitsuke for the next chapter in the nearly year-long Burger Tour with MB and the guys. Unlike the duo of me and Skippy a couple of weeks ago at Brozzers in Ningyocho, we would be joined by MB, The Satyr and The Sylph. The next place turned out to be The West Side Park Cafe, a chain whose branches I'd come across several times in the past in different areas...most notably, the Maru Building across from Tokyo Station. I'd always wondered what eating there would be like. Well, this Akasaka branch was very quiet on a Saturday night...no problems about where to be seated. I was sorely tempted to get the Roast Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes but since it was indeed a Burger Tour, I toed the line and got a Bacon-Cheese Burger. Yep, it was pretty good but I think Brozzers is still the one to beat. We even made a pit stop at Anna Miller's down the street. Anna Millers is the notorious cafe franchise with the waitresses in the short skirts. But before any of you Hooters perverts start hoofing it there, the cafe is more maid then wet T-shirt. And I'll be polite and say that the wait staff doesn't exactly reach the standard of leggy supermodel. Our waitress had a distinctly anime way of delivering her spiel. However, I did go for the Dutch Wife...er, I mean...Apple Pie with bottomless cups of coffee.

While Skippy and I decided to make an early night of it, the rest of the guys decided to head on down to Shibuya to catch 007's latest. MB, being the resident Bond fan, had been waiting for years to see how Bond redux would do in his estimation. Both he and Skippy had gone to some concerts in the last little while. MB caught his other heroes, U2, up at the huge Saitama soccer arena. Skippy saw The Piano Man at Tokyo Dome back on Tuesday.

Sunday was relatively less hectic. While The Anime King and his group were out in Haneda, I had some time to get some laundry and vacuuming done before heading out to Ikebukuro to meet The Madame. She took me to Din Dai Fon, the famed sho ron po restaurant whose mother ship we'd visited in Taipei last year. Strangely enough, with all of the news about long lineups, we were able to get in pretty quickly. I noticed the difference in cultures between Taiwan and Japan when we sat down. The original Din Dai Fon was notable for its utilitarian and grimy interior decor...just like lots of places in Chinatown back in T.O. This Japanese branch was sparkling clean and its interior had lots of that fake wood. The dumplings were still the same good juicy pouches of meat and liquid, though. The Madame is gradually getting deeper into her thrall of spiritualism. She claims that she'd actually met her future self...who comes from an extrasolar planet, by the way. Not surprisingly, her relationship with her parents has been strained of late. We went to Cafe Du Monde for some coffee and...beignets. I was kinda wondering where these pouches of dough came from. Well, I got my answer from the coffee which was The New Orleans Cafe Du Lait.

My all-beef weekend culminated with the meeting of the otaku and their representative here in Tokyo, the Anime Attache. We somehow managed to find each other in the nutso environment by JR Shinjuku East Exit. As for venue, we ended going to one of the branches of Mo Mo Paradise, a franchise which specializes in sukiyaki (yet again) and shabu-shabu. Our first branch met with failure since there was an hour's wait there but just a few hundred more metres and we came across a more spacious version. It was a bit of the blind leading the blind during the ordering phase since everyone had their own opinions of what to order; however, we all went for the all-you-can-eat sukiyaki/shabu-shabu course for 2,100 yen each. We definitely got our money's worth over the next 90 minutes. We were already heading for balloonhood by the 60-minute mark. We were basically just eating machines by the end. After dinner followed 2 hours of walking (it was needed) around Shinjuku browsing the anime stores before we finally broke up at 9. To neatly complete the epic monthlong circle of social interaction with my otaku friends, I'll be meeting The Anime Chamberlain one last time on Wednesday for yet another buffet. He was the first and he'll be the last.

My dark O. Henryesque year is still throwing curves at me. I had to fork over another ton of cash to the government in the form of advance taxes...and The Class Act along with 008 cancelled their classes today so my money flow has again tightened. Well, I'll be heading out to teach The Part-Timer in a few minutes.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Friday December 1, 4:54 p.m.

Well, here we are...the first day of the final month. It's suitably cold and gloomy out there. Just waiting for that first flake of snow to wreck up the JR.

Yesterday, on the final day of the penultimate month, I was heading toward Kinokuniya Books in Takashimaya Times Square. As I went up the escalator, I saw the horizon of the big building across the tracks looming up in front of me when a building also rose up in front of my eyes. It had been an Italian restaurant until it closed down some months ago. But now, I could've had the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey" as BGM since the restaurant's replacement will be none other than...Japan's first Krispy Kreme franchise! A ripple shook through me as I saw this vision of loveliness surrounded by construction workers. After months of speculation, the rumours are now truth...if they build it, it will come. However, I have my doubts that it'll arrive by the end of the year. The future donut emporium still looks very unfinished. But it'll only be a matter of time before we have yet another excuse to endanger our cholesterol levels.

Of course, I told this info to B2 and B2B later that night. B2 confided to me that as a member of the grand Mixi conference, she's part of the Krispy Kreme community. I couldn't imagine what these guys would talk about, but she said that a lot of the chitchat (or chewchat) was wondering aloud about when oh when the first shop would alight on these shores. The news certainly helped the lesson last night, that's for sure.

Before the lesson at the Mitsukoshimae Starbucks, I was browsing around the area for a dinner place. I'd already had my weekly dose of McD's so I eschewed another visit at the Golden Arches and Freshness Burger for that matter, but I did come across this small sandwich shop called Intermezzo. The sandwiches looked fairly big although they didn't approach the Subway level of things. The place looked rather deserted but during the course of my chicken katsusando dinner, I noticed that a few dour-looking suits came in and out. The lone master of the shop also had that well-weathered look. Although I was able to stay and finish my meal with little problem, I did feel slightly out of place. I realized that the shop was mostly for the middle manager types. There was none of that manufactured politeness that all of the main coffee chains' staff get indoctrinated in.

The Anime King is still enjoying his otaku life in Tokyo. He actually called up the ol' President, my former employer for 2 years. And I even had a few words with him. Looks like I'll be meeting him for lunch along with The King...and perhaps the Chamberlain, tomorrow before I head over to Speedy's to do that last of three with the EIC student.

My "lesson" with the juku boss turned out to be a bit more serious than normal. We both commiserated about how lousy 2006 was for us. However, the boss had the worse of the deal with not only financial problems but also some personal problems as well. I also found out for the first time that she's a batsu-ichi...a divorcee. Looks like her first hubby was a bit of a philandering creep. Amazing how the woman still keeps her cheer. Although I didn't feel any better about my situation, at least I know I'm not alone.

I'm now here at the Otemachi Kinko's writing this after having a good spicy soup at Com Pho and then picking a new text for the UL, whom I'll see in about 2 hours. I'll be heading over to our new base of operations at Cafe Croissant.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wednesday November 29, 9:31 p.m.

Yup, the classes went pretty well. 001 was her usual giddy self. And 007 was his usual button-down self. But most likely next week will be my final week at Speedy's before heading back home for the Holidays since both students will be away...which may benefit me in that I can get some last-minute holiday shopping done. However, my pocketbook will be hurting me some.

Looks like the staff revolving door is starting to turn once again. We're gonna be losing one staffer who'd been here for several months, and our cute one will be taking off once she graduates from college next March. But I got the glimpse of the incoming help. She's apparently more Western than Japanese despite her roots; Speedy claims that she's just like us folks..native-level fluency. Well, it'll be nice gabbing with someone once again.

Anyways, time to close up shop...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Wednesday November 29, 4:37 p.m.

Well, the Anime King has arrived. The pickup was as smooth as a baby's bottom. Between The Beehive and the juku classes, I got him at Keisei Funabashi and just took him back home. After about 10 minutes of chitchat, we both got on our respective ways....I to my lessons, while The King went off to meet the Anime Chamberlain and the Anime Duke in Akihabara. My lessons came off well as usual but I'm still wondering about this Saturday guy who will be teaching them.

This morning, the Anime King and I went off to Ikebukuro. By sheer coincidence, we saw the Chamberlain walking on the right Otemachi Station platform. The Duke was somewhat late at our rendezvous point in front of the Animate Store across from the Sunshine 60 Building. It didn't matter...we got to Namjatown and the Gyoza Museum without seeing the huge crowds. It's always good to bring a group to this place; it's just like going to dim sum, you need the numbers to sample all of the different kinds of dumplings. The only down side is that everytime you order, you have to wait around for 10 minutes for the stuff to cook up. Well, at least they are dekitate (freshly made). The four of us then took a look through Ice Cream City and the Cheesecake Exhibition. Unfortunately, my compadres don't have huge sweet teeth so we didn't bother with dessert. At least, we saved ourselves some empty calories. We also passed by Riraku no Mori, the massage oasis in the centre of all that food emporia. However, I wasn't going to douse my masseuse with garlic so we left the building.

The Duke was looking for this liquor store nearby which had this rare commemorative bottle of sake; it was a longshot and sure enough, a local when asked replied that the store had been long gone. So, instead we turned our attentions back to Animate where the Duke assuaged his disappointment by buying a whole ton of anime goods. Gotta admit, though, that some of the goods were just bordering on porn...yeesh.

Then, I further entered the world of otaku-dom when we went to this game centre across from Tokyu Hands. At the top of the building was this ode to the legendary anime, "Sakura Taisen", one of the classic examples of steampunk with lovely lady warriors before going down one floor to the game floor where the Anime Duke heartily started this game called Idolmaster in which he becomes the Svengali for a digital aidoru. At that point, I decided to take my leave and head for Speedy's.

I've got 001 and then 007 for their two. Tomorrow should be another busy day especially since I'll be doing another multiple crosstown commute to see The Polynesian, then 002 and finally B2 and B2B.

Well, I finally paid off the balance for my Air Canada ticket. It's just vomiting...you dread doing the deed but when it's done you feel somewhat better for it. Mind you, I've got some more dry heaves coming up since I still have that tax payment and the monthly NHI premium to take care of as well.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday November 27, 5:02 p.m.

Another gray wet cold November day. Yep, it's definitely starting to look more like Xmas in Tokyo. Pretty lucky that the major rains have so far been restricted to the overnight hours.

So far, so good on the classes today. The Class Act and SIL were up to speed. In between lessons, I went to Tower Records and finally put my filled point card to use and bought a couple of discs, both of a Yuletide nature. One is J-diva Ayaka Hirahara's cover of "My Christmas List"; if there's anyone who could pull it off, it would be her. The other is just a compilation of J-Xmas songs...yep, Japan has had a long history of its own musical tributes to the Xmas season along with covers of the classics. I'm not surprised...considering how in thrall Japanese audiences are with the AOR genre, Xmas songs are a cinch here.

In about an hour, I've got The Part-Timer. I got lucky again. One of Speedy's students canned so I've got my old room here to teach her in. Then, it's 008. Should be OK.

Tomorrow could be interesting. Between The Beehive and the juku classes, I have to wait for The Anime King's arrival...which means I've gotta get the hotel all gussied up. I'm hoping that the guy does arrive in good time but I've already put in the requisite checks and balances with him so if something bad does happen, I can still make it to the juku, guilt-free.

Glad to see that Nancy Grace(less) is getting a bit of comeuppance from that lawsuit thrown against her. I'm also thankful that since she got her own show months ago, CNNj hasn't had to show her to us here in Japan. Although I don't think the suit will go anywhere (it would set a deadly precedent on all journalists), Grace is now duly warned.

Well, back to dinner...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sunday November 26, 2:03 p.m.

The holiday Thursday, Labour Thanksgiving, wasn't much of a holiday for me but at least my students were two of the good ones: The Polynesian and The Carolinan. The Polynesian had met MB the week before for the first time in a couple of years. MB was later to tell me that she'd broached him on the topic of doing some language exchange but he never heard back from her. So I gather that some of the flightiness of her past self was still there. In any case, there has already been a slight change in plans between us. Poly got herself a full-time job at an accounting firm in Shibuya starting from December so it looks like she'll be sharing the same day with the kids since they all live in the same neighbourhood.

As for The Carolinan, it looks like the Tully's not too far away from Ichigaya Station may become the new base of operations for at least some of my lessons. I met her at the station and brought her in. Since Ichigaya is a commercial area, the holiday meant that the basement of Tully's was barely occupied so it wasn't too difficult setting up a lesson there although the interior reminds me of something of an underground laundromat. As for the old Tea Room, strangely enough I took a walk past my late haunt before meeting up with The Carolinan. The place still had all of its furnishings despite the fact that it had closed its doors for good a couple of weeks ago.

Friday was back to a fairly full schedule. I met up with 002 and then scooted over to Otemachi where I was to meet another Tea Room refugee, The UL. She picked out Cafe Croissant (love the name) in the Asahi Seimei Building since Otemachi was central for both of us. However, the place was obviously a smokelovers' paradise and so my jacket just absorbed the smoke like a desperate nicotine freak during withdrawal. Cafe Croissant was more like Cafe Emphysema. What complicated matters was that The UL was dead tired; she couldn't even absorb a bit of English (although I'm sure her clothes could pick up the smoke). We're gonna give Cafe Croissant another shakedown next Friday but I did see another Tully's down the corridor along with other choices. No smokeless Starbucks though. I then went to my last class of the evening at the juku where I was to teach The Ace. I also had to contend with the boss' choice of sub teacher on Saturdays. Since I'll be heading back to The Great White North next month, the boss wanted to get a teacher to do a couple of those classes that otherwise the students would be short on in December. I'm a bit sensitive on the matter. Of course, there is the natural overprotectiveness that a teacher gets when an interloper comes in. But I'm also a bit worried about Mrs. Mild who's just a bit overly nervous with new faces. However, I've been in e-mail contact with the guy so I'm giving him as much ammo as I can when he does his first session with them next weekend.

Saturday was my biweekly session with Tully and The Coffeemaker. Hmmmm....I think things are going fairly well with them but I was wondering if Tully wanted something a bit more leaning on the business side of things. So next time, I'll bring over the telephone conversations. Then it was off to Speedy's to take care of The Ramen Lady and that new EIC student. The Ramen Lady was her usual jovial self but I think she was fading out near the end. As for the EIC student....well, she should be going through her first class with Mr. Influence at the school right now...not sure how she's doing.

I sped off back home last night to meet MB and The Satyr for our final DVD outing at my place for the year. We did our usual Domino's dinner. The menu for our eyes was: "Transporter 2", "Nightwatch" and "After the Sunset".

"Nightwatch" was that surprise hit movie from Russia a few years ago about these two sides representing Light and Dark battling it out over and under Moscow. It had garnered quite a bit of attention since not only was it an effects-heavy movie from the land of Lenin and former Communism but it wasn't a movie about the glory of totalitarianism and tractors. The three of us thought it was somewhat overrated, though. The story had a lot of potential but the execution kinda lacked. We kinda did double takes a few times at some of the twists and turns in the plot and just shrugged that it must be a Russian thing.

"Transporter 2" was (or should've been) a straight-to-DVD feature. I could hear the Career Freefall Warning Siren for Jason Statham after watching this overly CG-stunted flick. It just seemed to emulate Denzel Washington's "Man On Fire" a little too closely with worse acting and stunts. As for the stunt casting of 80s relic Matthew Modine, I think his Career Freefall Warning Siren exploded from overuse.

"After The Sunset" was by far the best of the 3 which made me feel a bit bad for The Satyr since he had to run for his final train back home halfway through this flick. Pierce "post-Bond" Brosnan made a good foil for Woody from "Cheers". Some good laughs, sunshiny locales and Selma Hayek lifted this movie considerably.

MB did his usual sleepover but we had to actually race out of the apartment fairly early this morning since I did have the kids today. We went over to the Skylark near the station. I hadn't been to the family restaurant for breakfast in years although MB and I have made a fair number of lunch visits on Sundays. There was no more breakfast buffet like back in the old days but we still had our access to the drink bar. We had our umpteeth talk on what was right and wrong about "Superman" and "X-Men 3". As I'd predicted, "X-Men 4" is on the board.

I'm sure MB and Frodo are somewhere not too far away in Akiba since MB said that he was supposed to be meeting his compadre for some software shopping. As for me, I'll soon be heading home to make some dinner and then getting ready for the week's lessons.

I just have to finish off this entry with talk on an "Untouchables" episode that I'd caught last week. As I've mentioned before, the Robert Stack series is now showing its overall inferior 4th season. The show was actually the one that had started off the final season, "The Night They Killed Santa Claus". When I saw this title, I just thought that it would be the cutesy/comic show with plenty of schmaltz. Boy, was I wrong! Folks who are looking to get as far away as possible from the saccharine-sweet stuff of "White Christmas", "It's A Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Carol" should watch this show as a very ice-cold bracer. It is almost unbearably bleak and shows a very helpless Eliot Ness. In the ep, Ness' men look at him mopingly for being torn away from their Xmas' dinners, all of the characters' are just plain losers or evil sociopaths, and the guy in the Santa outift who was supposedly a kindly ol' buddy of Ness' posthumously turns out to be just as bad as the rest of them much to Ness' shock. Heck, not only do the last few minutes of the unrelenting gloom show the main villain just laugh and laugh at Ness as he gets off the hook but maybe there were tears filling up in Ness' eyes as he drove the thug away to the police fully knowing that the bad guy would get away with the murder of Santa. The episode took place in 1929...early in The Untouchables days, so it kinda served as the glimpse of how Ness became such a hard man. It was even reminiscent of the early scenes of Brian DePalma's "The Untouchables" in which Kevin Costner's naive Eliot Ness majorly screws up a raid before Sean Connery takes him under his wing.

Well, on that note....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wednesday November 22, 4:53 p.m.

Quite at the ol' Speedy corral. Looks like the school is only gonna have 007 tonight so Speedy's hoping that once he's out of here, we're all out of here. Then again, he's done a dotyakan about an hour before showtime so we may be out even sooner.

Earlier in the day, I met up with The Anime Chamberlain for yet another buffet...this time, right by the main intersection in Ginza, known as 4-chome. We went to The Siam, a Thai restaurant up on the 8th floor of one of the buildings. There was a huge gaggle of middle-aged women lining up at the elevator. But I didn't have any qualms that they were invading our space. They were all going for some wa-fu eatery on either the 4th or 5th floor. It had been several years since I've been to The Siam; actually, today was just my second visit there. My first time there was with Betty Boop and a couple of other former students. I enjoyed the buffet there but for some reason, I'd never got the opportunity to head there again until today. Since The Chamberlain and I got there at just a few minutes past 11:30, we were pretty much the first ones to hit the trays and fill them up with Green Curry, Pad Thai and Tom Yan Kung. It was all suitably spicy and by the time our first hour came and went, the restaurant filled up to the rafters. I realized that The Siam wasn't just for the salaried drones of the surrounding companies since it stayed packed beyond 1 p.m. Once again, my eating companion mentioned that the Thai food here was a little unlike the stuff back in Toronto's Thai restaurants but that's no surprise. Pretty much any culinary import here gets the Japanese twist.

Speaking of food, MB has also started the planning for the next and last burger outing of the year in Kasumigaseki, strangely enough, the central business district in town. Looks like he, The Sylph, The Satyr and I will be game. I haven't heard anything from Skippy and of course, The Madame politely declined the invitation. She will be meeting me the next day for something easier on her delicate palate.

I got those photos finally developed yesterday. The one at that tarento's house came out pretty well. She actually looks fairly pretty outside of the small screen; on it, her trade du guerre is to distort it as much as possible to make people laugh. I also found out why she had re-scheduled my presence there from last Sunday to last Saturday...as I was having my dinner on Sunday in front of the tube, there she was live on a cooking program trying out the latest foodstuffs with her fellow panelists.

Well, I reached another musical milestone recently. After years and years of searching, those nice folks at MySpace gave Chas Jankel his own forum and there I found and heard the legendary "Questionnaire". Better yet, it looks like the singer has released a disc of his best hits. Hopefully, I may be able to find that somewhere here before I head back to The Great White North. Still haven't come across the weird video which accompanies the song but I'm sure that'll be just a matter of time.

I had The New Yorker this afternoon after my Thai binge. This time, instead of going to the noisy Starbucks over Ichigaya Station, the two of us opted for To The Herbs, an Italian place across from the cafe. I had to wonder again why she has lasted this long with me. After 18 months of steady teaching (she's yet to cancel a class), she's still low and slow. I've got her sister tomorrow...it might be To The Herbs also or I may just drag her to the nearby Tully's.

Looks like that Seinfeld curse can truly be malignant. Michael "Kramer" Richards' career has taken an even steeper nosedive than those of his former comrades, Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I saw that really squirmy piece of film of him going into racist stage rage after some hecklers got under one layer of his skin too many. To his credit, he did apologize live on "The Late Show" but considering the content of his rage and the country he went ballistic in, he may just as well end up only doing KKK gigs.

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in America and Labour Thanksgiving Day in Japan. Both places will be offering places to serve turkey although I won't be frequenting any of them. Plus, I do have my two lessons tomorrow. At this stage, I need all the cash I can get before I head on home.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday November 20, 10:32 p.m.

Had a bit of a surprise with The Part-Timer when we tried to enter that cafe...our supposed new base of operations...and we couldn't. Speedy was even more surprised when we came back up like lost puppies looking for a home. Well, at least for tonight, we were able to use the confines of the school one more time. Speedy later found out that the cafe is indeed closed on Mondays. Back to the search again...

008 was her usual happy-go-lucky self. We had a good round of chat and found out that we do share the same experiences...ahhh..if only I wasn't her teacher. Still, I think she's already got a beau in any case.

Got a message from The Anime King. He's now safe and sound in Taiwan...provided there's no imminent coup. I'll be meeting his cohort, The Anime Chamberlain, for another round of buffet on Wednesday. It'll have to be a shorter jaunt though since I've gotta teach The New Yorker later in the day. However, it may be a very short day. 001 is off this week and I found out that that temporary student heading off for Australia won't be on my schedule. And 007 has been rather scarce of late.

The Madame contacted me to see if I were open for an afternoon but I told her that I've got my Saturday classes here at Speedy's and then there's the final DVD outing with MB. Looks like it'll be either the 3rd or 10th.

Time to head on home....
Monday November 20, 5:28 p.m.

Gonna have to be typing this at a slightly more accelerated rate since I gotta go pick up The Part-Timer at the subway to lead her to our new "classroom".

The weather has been another wet one. I got a reprieve this morning when the clouds decided to dry up. My sneakers (more like overdressed sandals now) were grateful but I think the raindrops have started to fall again according to what I'm hearing out of the window.

I had my regular Monday sessions with The Class Act and SIL. The Class Act was once again on gab mode...this time on art. The Lady had just purchased some rather ancient Chinese artifacts and was showing them off. I can believe that she had the moxie and the money to pull this off. She also mentioned that she has a Picasso somewhere in the house...figures. She asked me about my artistic tastes. I don't really have any so I just went with who I knew from my trips to The Art Gallery of Ontario as a lad....Henry Moore. The Lady was quite satisfied with my answer; apparently, Moore has a cult following here, too. As for SIL...well, let's say it wasn't one of our more prolific sessions. She rejected my article on the TomKat wedding although she asked if she could take it home for further perusal. When a teacher finishes up a class with a talk on vomit, it's a pretty dire class. I noticed that although SIL said that she would be available next week, she also landed a caveat that she would tell me if there could be no session. Not a good sign.

I'm still having my Desilu mornings on Super Drama TV. "The Untouchables" is in its fourth and final season while "Mission: Impossible" has entered the Leonard Nimoy years. Both transitions have shown that the shows have "jumped the shark". Robert Stack's magnum opus is no longer all that watchable although this morning's episode, "Blues for a Dead Goose" was a step back to the old days, thanks to the film noirish antihero played by a young Robert Duvall. However, it's evident that Ness and the boys were now taking a back seat; Hobson and the rest of the Untouchables hardly have any lines at all. As for "Mission: Impossible" without Martin Landau and Barbara Bain....well, let's say that Nimoy himself has admitted that even he doesn't remember too much about his time there.

Well, as TomKat have given their Scientology nuptials in Italy, I was given some rather interesting news about weddings on the local scene. Actress/model/pneumatic beauty Norika Fujiwara has announced her engagement to some popular comedian...not the usual company president or handsome thespian or baseball player. I'm sure while Fujiwara is stating that she feels like the luckiest woman in the world, the guy, and many other guys, must be saying that he feels like the luckiest bastard.

I did forget to mention that The Engineer called up past midnight (so of course, I wasn't answering the phone) to ask about my availability during Xmas vacation. He needn't have done it since he had already asked about it via e-mail some weeks ago. Maybe he needed someone to talk to.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sunday November 19, 3:19 p.m.

After our special lesson with that tarento's kid, Skippy decided to keep going with our regular Burger Tour. She'd asked a few other people such as OA, The Madame and The Kid. The Kid did respond positively to Skip's summons. But OA couldn't make it and, of course, The Madame pooh-poohed the idea since her transition to Asian vegetarianism.

We headed all the way to Ningyocho on the Hibiya Line...a couple of stations away from Akihabara. It was also the first time to visit this area. Unsurprisingly, Ningyocho was more inner-city than Honancho but it still had that down-home feel of shitamachi. Since The Kid wouldn't be available for another few hours, we just whiled away an hour at a nearby Doutor's cafe before we walked into one of the quiet side streets.

This latest burger joint, Brozzer's (and here I thought that Skippy was making a typically Japanese pronounciation error with the word brothers), was located on the corner in the middle of a deserted commercial sector; I gather that the area is a lot more hopping during the weekdays. As we shivered briefly outside in the windy cold, we took a gazer at the menu. Yup, these guys do their burgers...there were two pages of different variations on the American staple which included the de rigeur super burger. Brozzer's isn't a huge place...it only occupies one floor but it beats Baker's Bounce, the very first burger tour destination, in that it's a whole lot more spacious, although it also helped that it was a Saturday night in a commercial area of town. Skippy ordered an Avocado Burger while I went for the Bacon Cheese with an extra patty for 350 yen. I gotta admit...the Bacon Cheese made a very good rival for that burger I had at Village Vanguard almost a month ago, and I didn't have to hear the spiel on how to actually eat a burger. One other thing that shows that Japanese society likes to put its own little spin on imported ideas: along with the regular napkins, there was also a basket filled with wax paper envelopes to put our burgers in. Heaven forbid that any of that combination of meat juices, mustard and ketchup would invade our fingers while eating. Even in these days of J-R&B and hip-hop fashion, licking fingers after a good juicy burger is still verboten. However, I stayed true to the American cause. Even though I used the envelope, my hands were still a regal mess by the time I inhaled my mass of meat.

The Kid would be another hour or so. I cheekily suggested that when he did arrive, we would be honour-bound to order some dessert so that he wouldn't be too self-conscious about eating his burger in front of us. As it turned out, The Kid hadn't eaten a thing all day so he was quite happy to go down to town on a Tartar Burger (don't ask)...I was quite happy to do the same to a slice of brownie with a scoop of ice milk (not ice cream...this definitely didn't have that usual taste of vanilla). Neither Skippy nor I had seen The Kid since our last get-together for those Akiba maid cafes back in March. Skippy reverted to older sister mode again with him.

Not sure as we waddled our way back to the station if I would see Skippy or The Kid again for the rest of the year. In a way, after looking at my bank account, I kinda hope that I don't just so that I can ease the financial leakage but I've got a feeling that Skippy will be calling upon me one more time for a new restaurant she wants to try out.

When I made my way home from the station, I witnessed a couple of examples of some of the dregs of night life. A couple of raucous lads were screaming gleefully at the top of their lungs in the mall under the subway, and there was an angry drunk man hitting anything sticking out of the ground while ambling on the street heading home. I daintily walked across the street so that I wouldn't have to encounter him. No problems obviously in either case but when I got home I was reminded of yet another murder in suburban Tokyo in which the sociopath was able to straddle across balconies and enter an open window to strangle his female neighbour who had been arguing with him about his rather loud entries and exits. The loud screams got the other neighbours calling 110 but it was too late by then. I currently have that weirdo hikikomori type living next door so I locked my bedroom window. My living room window can't be closed due to the washing machine outside so I've braced the sliding window with my old crutches.

I felt rather bloated this morning when I woke up but my stomach is growling something awful now since I haven't eaten any lunch. I got the call from Mom that she and Dad got back home safely. This time, it was my turn to suffer from garbled KDD transmission; Mom could hear me perfectly clearly so I didn't mention anything about my end. In any case, I'm so accustomed to her comments and cadences that I could pretty much decipher everything she said.

That arrival of the Anime King is getting more and more dicey. He's now well on his way to his home country of Taiwan so contact will be more difficult. He's arriving on the afternoon of the 28th, the same day as my juku classes. Timing will be crucial. I hope that the Anime Chamberlain and The Anime Duke will be able to assist.

The biggest worry though is how I'm gonna try to financially survive over the next few months...
Sunday November 19, 2:49 p.m.

I've found another base of operations for Internet...just across from my station. It's a bit more rough n' ready...the cashier was sullen, I hear a lot of annoying giggling near me, and there is no point card system...but it's cheaper than even Ai Cafe. I got the 3-hour pack for just 980 yen. I was gonna go to Ai Cafe but when I updated my bankbook after about a month, I was rather depressed to see the results, so I decided to keep things strictly within the neighbourhood. It isn't much of a day to go out anyways...cold and drippy out there.

Well, yesterday was quite interesting. I had the kids for their usual lessons; I got some persimmons from their Mom. And then I headed out for lunch before my meeting with Skippy. I ended up going to the B1 of the Maynds Bldg near Shinjuku Station. Folks, if you ever want to find some decent uncrowded restaurants in one of the most crowded areas during the weekends, the Maynds Building is the place. The entire B1 is one restaurant alley: Chinese, tonkatsu, ramen, a Subway, Indian. I ended up going for a bowl of chashiu shoyu ramen. That would be noodle soup with large slices of BBQ pork and soy sauce-base broth. For soy sauce, I found it a bit lighter than usual.

After noodling around at Tower Records for an hour, I met up with Skippy at Honancho Station at about 2. We were going to that celeb's house to teach her kid. But first, we stopped off at a nearby family restaurant to have some drinks and talk about the plan. Skip was of course the person in charge so I just listened to what she had in mind for me. I was to be the native English guy for the kid. I'd never been to this neighbourhood before...it was at the end of an adjunct branch of the Marunouchi Line...just 4 stations. Walking through it, Honancho just struck me as being a typical suburban area...not a place where the famous come to roost.

We walked over to the tarento's house at about 3. The house itself was not a huge deluxe mansion that would be typical of The Lady's neighbourhood but it was a nicely apportioned semi-detached townhouse. Meeting the tarento herself was striking in that I wasn't awed by this person. I don't mean that as an insult at all...the lady has been a fixture on TV variety shows and even a few dramas for years and comes across on the small screen as a rather loud and raucous presence...but the lady in person(same face, same height) just struck me as a very regular softspoken housewife and mother. Skippy had told me once that her employer was quite different but I finally got the proof from that moment. The tarento and her mother cordially invited us in to meet her son, a typically 6-year-old bundle of energy, and we had some desserts before the lesson itself. We had a nice little bit of chitchat about me and Canada and about the kid's numerous robots and dinosaurs before we went up to his room. The only thing that tipped me off about the family's well-off status was that this kid is the first ever kid I've ever met with his own large TV and DVD player in his room. The lesson itself was about an hour long but Skippy was made to teach kids; she just has this very natural ability to get along with little ones, but she was able to insert me in through the games like a pro. Really, all I needed to do was just ask the kid some questions that he could answer very well already. The hour went by at warp speed. The tarento herself poked her head in secretly to check on the goings-on. She seemed quite happy at the results.

Afterwards, the son showed me some of his Lego creations. They were definitely not my generation's Lego...they were some pretty complex looking dinosaurs...I wouldn't have identified them as the multi-coloured bricks of yore. I also got a chance to meet the father, a young and handsome actor. Just like his wife, he didn't put on any airs...he could've just been working at a company as a regular salaryman. Finally, we were able to take some pics; I had my last shot on my disposable camera luckily. I hadn't been sure if I would've been allowed to take some pics or ask for an autograph (I didn't) since privacy could have been an issue but the entire family was only too happy to take some poses for me and Skippy. And we even got some baked goods from a nearby trendy bakery. One of the nicest afternoons I'd ever spent.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thursday November 16, 2:45 p.m.

Unlike yesterday, the sun is out and shining. Got back home last night to see that my hanging laundry was quite drenched but it should be drying nicely now.

Last night, while Speedy and I were putzing away at our computers, I just happened to come across the CNN site stating that there had been a major quake yesterday some 1100 miles away from Etorofu, one of the Kurile Islands, northeast of Hokkaido. Because of the distance, there was no problem from the quake itself but all of the tsunami warnings lit up like a Xmas tree apparently. So, all of the TV stations, including NHK, went on alert for half of the Pacific coast and the entirety of Hokkaido. However, I wouldn't have heard of anything if it hadn't been for that little look at CNN. And by the time I got home, everything was pretty much back to normal. My brother was concerned enough, though, that he sent me an e-mail asking if everything were OK. Also, he wasn't sure when Mom and Dad were coming back to Toronto, so I'm gonna have to try to contact them via Uncle to get the number for Grandpa's ol' house.

Just had The Polynesian today. She and MB finally met after an absence of 2 years. As for MB, I had to let him know that we would have to re-schedule the final DVD outing this year since I realized that I have the kids on the 26th. The 2nd is the only chance we've got.

After The Polynesian, I scooted over to that cafe across from Speedy's for a bit of recon, since The Part-Timer will now have to find alternate facilities for her lessons on Mondays. As true with all of that strange Japlish, this place is called The Cafe in Broom (should it be bloom?). The interior has got that pastel trendy interior with a bunch of coffee-table magazines. I was lucky enough to see an English-language "Esquire" with that fetching picture of Jessica Alba on the cover (too much mascara, though...looks slightly raccoonish) so I had some reading material while I noshed on a 900-yen chili chicken on rice lunch. It was tasty if a bit too shrill on the heat. The place should do rather nicely.

After I get done with the surfing here in Akihabara, I should be heading over to the nearest department store to start the Xmas shopping. Mom gave me a little stipend in thanks for the accomodations so it's time to pick up the calendars. Then, it'll be a nice little night at home.
Wednesday November 15, 10:03 p.m.

Recently, I've been hearing about this new hit show called "Heroes" which has been making its rounds on NBC. I first noticed the phenom (I guess "Lost" has finally peaked?) when I made my visit to Kinokuniya a couple of weeks ago and noticed that an edition of Entertainment Weekly put the cast on its front cover, including the potential new sex symbol in the form of one Hiro Nakamura, a character who can apparently manipulate time. The bad news is that Hiro has a passing resemblance and character traits to me; the good news is that so do millions of otaku in this country. I can still rest easily. However, I do wonder if this show will make its way over to this side of the Pacific. "The Adventures of Lois & Clark" and "Smallville" have done so but not to any wildly successful degree. Mind you, the X-Men series of movies has done fairly well here. Plus, since I'm an old X-fan of 3 decades running, I would also be interested in seeing a bit of this. Ah...I do remember..."Roswell" has a cult following in Japan. So, there is hope.

Anyways, gotta get home and see how wet my laundry got.
Wednesday November 15, 8:51 p.m.

It's been a while. Pretty drizzly out there...in other words, miserable. Kinda reflects some of the cancellations I've been getting over the past few days. Not only have I lost The UL and The Ace for their Friday night regulars this week, but I found out that the juku boss and B2 today have decided to cancel their lessons as well. Also, 007 pulled a dotakyan tonight. And even 001 told me that she won't be here next week since she'll be going over to that huge spa complex next to Tokyo Dome, L'Aqua, for some refreshment. Nice to be wanted. So I guess tomorrow's session with The Polynesian will be my final lesson for the regular workweek. Still, I have the kids on Saturday and even that little assist with Skippy's kid later on in the afternoon.

I actually got an invitation from The Ballerina via B2 on Mixi. Apparently, she's got her own page. I answered her summons although I don't think it'll mean much since I have lost a lot of motivation for it...people don't or can't respond to my English commentary. As for B2, although I'll be out of some fluid cash tomorrow night due to her cancellation, I really don't mind all that much since we had a rather tiresome session two weeks ago.

The Baker responded back about her potential lessons. It looks like she'll probably want to start from the New Year which makes more sense. I'd already told her that nights are pretty much out of the question for her and most likely she'll be busy with year-end stuff. Perhaps the last couple of months may bring a breakthrough. I did tell Speedy about the semi-conflict-of-interest between any private lessons with her and the official Speedy school lessons...y'know, I gotta show some loyalty. Of course, he said that he would prefer her to have lessons with the school for the reason that I charge a whole lot less than he does and that he doesn't want 001 and 002 to defect to my bargain-basement rates. Well, I don't think The Baker will be towing the party line, so to speak. But again, we come to my availability which doesn't look too good.

Well, the parentals showed up at Tokyo Station on Sunday. And I hosted them for a couple of days. It was good seeing them again after 2 years. We spent a quiet night at my place and at the wa-fu family restaurant a block away. Of course, I got caught up on the family matters...all about how the relatives were doing and who had kids. I aged a bit on hearing that my little cousins are now full-fledged parents of their own now. The next day, I took a day off so that I could spend time with the folks. I took them first to Akiba since Dad wanted to get his digital camera. It wasn't too difficult...just took them to Yodobashi Camera. After some poking around and a talk with the knowledgeable staffer, Dad got his device. Afterwards, we headed on down Ginza way to our next destination, Yamano Music, since Dad also wanted to pick up some enka CDs...especially those of a singer whose latest single happens to be about an area in the ancestral prefecture. For lunch, we only had to cross the street to Genkatsu, that place where I've been to twice for mille-feuille tonkatsu. This third time, though, the three of us got in without any waiting so at least I know when to go now. I was happy to see that the parents enjoyed lunch. Of course, at their age, they didn't want to really stick around town so we just headed back home and watched the sumo championships in Kyushu before noshing on some store-bought sushi for dinner. The parentals then retired at the early time of 9:30 p.m.

When I saw them off at my station on Tuesday morning, I actually experienced a sensation that I'd never had when it came to my parents. I actually felt wistful and felt keenly aware of me missing them. Now, before some of you start dismissing me as a real cold fish, I'd like to emphasize the word keenly. Of course, I do miss them. But the night before, my mother remarked that it would probably be the last time she would see her father alive. When I heard that, I realized that my times to see my parents may actually be getting numbered as well. My folks are still pretty healthy although age has definitely brought the inevitable sags and lines to their faces...and they've also mellowed considerably. Because of my money situation, I don't think I can really see them every year so anytime that I do see them will probably get increasingly precious and poignant. It was an interesting start to my Tuesday.

I was also reminded by a remark that The UL made a couple of weeks ago when The Tea Room had still been open. She was rather amazed that I would be willing to live far away from my parents when she had heard about my permanent residency. The UL said that she couldn't ever imagine living away from her family for any considerable length of time. Well, it did make me think that not only are The UL and I are quite different, but it also reflected the similarity between my parents and me. My mother can count on two hands the number of times she's seen her father since she decided to emigrate to Canada decades ago. I guess it's just the nature within our family that there will be one member of a generation that will fly the coop for good. I'm quite happy here and though I will miss my parents and the rest of my family, I know that Tokyo is really the place for me.

As I said, it was an interesting start to my Tuesday. After two days of feeling like part of a family again, it took a bit of temporal decompression to get back into my usual swing of teaching classes. Luckily, The Beehive and 002 were there to make that decompression comfortable. However, I did have a 3-hour interval between those two in which I had time to sit down on a bench on the top of the Seibu Department store in Funabashi to reflect on things. It really wasn't until the juku classes later that night that I was back to English teacher-normal. Mind you, Mom called me when I got back home to let us know that they were back close to Grandpa. I felt kinda sorry for them...this trip has been more of a solemn business instead of a vacation. Our hopes to try a ryokan somewhere were dashed because of the insertion of the memorial service for my long-dead grandmother right smack dab in the middle of their time in Japan. I was somewhat unreasonably angry at first that my relatives had the nerve to disrupt my parents' vacation, especially since they only had less than 2 days' worth of seeing me and a lot more days of staying in Grandpa's long-deserted drafty, TV-less house. Still, there was a bit of balance when I remembered that my parents had gone on those two cruises in two oceans in the last two years.

Anyways, I met up with The Anime Chamberlain today. He arrived last week for a month-long vacation in Tokyo. His buddy, The Anime King will be arriving for his little trip in a couple of weeks. It's possible that even The Anime Duke could join the party but we're still not sure. The Chamberlain and I went to my buffet place, LAST in Shiodome. Looks like the food kept coming in droves even after the lunch time crowd had taken off. It was nice talking with the man; I've always appreciated the mano-a-mano talks instead of the big parties. But it'll also be nice to have two more to add to the mix in a couple of weeks.

It looks like I've finally caught up on things now. Surprisingly, I was able to do it considering Speedy's exhausted exhortations of closing up shop as soon as I finished with 007. I guess he's fallen to the temptations again of answering every little e-mail. Lucky for me...not so lucky for him.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Saturday November 11, 1:25 p.m.

Pretty dreary outside right now as I type this at Speedy's. I've got an EIC session, the first one in a while, with a newbie. For those not in the know, EIC stands for English-in-Cooking, and it's our mini-course for folks who want to try the Cooking-in-English class with Mr. Influence but aren't too confident in their English abilities. I'm the one who designed EIC but I've never been all that comfortable with my brainchild...not quite sure why but I think it's just because it seems a bit dodgy just to teach 3 classes of food-connected English when the student can just pick up stuff in Mr. Influence's classes. I mean, why shouldn't the student pick up the vocab during the regular session? Ach...I'm just griping...mostly because EIC has had its share of growing pains and the fact that a lot of my students only bothered to come to the first two sessions.

Last night, I saw The Ace after all. One call to him from the juku boss got him to come later last night. But he'll be away again next week...which means that I'll only have the 2 hours with the boss herself next Friday. So, with The UL away next week as well, I'll only make half the earnings but at least I can keep things within the neighbourhood..

Then again, The Baker contacted me about potential lessons last night. At last week's party, she had mentioned this topic and was deciding whether to go with me as a private teacher or go to Speedy's as an official student. Of course, that kinda put me into a spot. The Baker has further complicated things by stating that she would now prefer to have me as her private teacher since it would be a pain for her to come all the way up here to the school from her homebase in Shiodome, near Ginza, and Speedy won't refund any money for emergency (namely on-the-day) cancellations. Hmm...gonna have to break it to him gently since he was really hoping for a hat trick with 001 and 002 safely in the Speedy arena. However, I am thinking now whether to have a prelim meeting with The Baker for her lessons on Friday night since I've got those two cancellations. Another wrinkle is that I just don't have any weeknights free to teach her. It's either that she has to become a floater or strictly a weekend student. I don't mind teaching her on either Saturday or Sunday but I wonder if she would be willing to come down to Tokyo all the way from Saitama. I ain't doing house calls all the way up there.

Had The Coffeemaker and Tully for their biweekly. Again, a pretty good session and the lesson seems to be taking on a more formal character than a lot of my other sessions...which is, of course, not a bad thing.

I actually caught the very first episode of The Sopranos last night on Super Drama TV, the SkyPerfect channel. Yep, just when the acclaimed HBO programme is (or has) wrapped up back Stateside, Japan has finally decided to start with it. For years, I'd just been hearing or reading all the badda-bing-badda-boom about James Gandolfini's magnum opus. Now that I finally got to see an episode, I can say that it truly delivers a punch...plenty of swearing and nudity. Not sure if I'll stick with it but it was a fun diversion before bedtime.

Well, gotta get ready for EIC, and then I have to get ready for the parentals' arrival tomorrow afternoon.
Friday November 10, 8:00 p.m.

Well, got over to Toranomon Starbucks for what may be the final time since The UL actually found a more centrally located cafe in Otemachi. Just as well...that branch of the cafe chain had already started belting out Xmas jazz tunes. Yeah, I like my Yuletide songs like anyone else not named Scrooge but having to go through 4 weeks of that...don't think so. In any case, The UL is off next Friday due to some tea ceremony practice.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Friday November 10, 12:46 p.m.

It's been a fairly peaceful couple of days. I only had The Polynesian for her 11:00 yesterday. Unfortunately, I was blindsided by a sudden spate of sneezing which necessitated the medicine. The first half-hour was trying my best, therefore, to direct attention away from my runny nose. Luckily, that herbal stuff kicked in from the second half-hour but I gave her a full 90 minutes of time since those first 30 minutes were lousy.

Today, I've got the juku boss for her 2 hours and then The UL for our first post-Tea Room session. Looks like my nighttime stint at the juku will be a washout though since Jolly has once again canned his lesson, and The Ace has no idea about when he can come here from his conference. I would rather not be waiting for a class that may never be. I can always use another early night off.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wednesday November 7, 9:08 p.m.

Well, it's been the usual fun n' games during the last couple of days. Yesterday, I didn't have The Beehive but I did see The New Yorker, sans our late lamented venue of The Tea Room. We decided to have our inaugural Tea Room-less lesson at the Starbucks above Ichigaya Station. I was surprised that we could get ourselves a table at the usually packed cafe but the noise level was even higher there than it was during our last lesson at The Tea Room. However, I was relieved that the lass did better than she did last week. It looks like the next time we're gonna go for the Italian restaurant next door, To The Herbs, just to see if we can operate in a more audibly quieter environment.

Then, there was the rather unusual start to my night at the juku. Toonces the Juku Cat was crawling around my room again when he was scratching at the screen window behind me. Since the boss had always let him roam around outside, I simply opened the window and let him loose, safe in the thought that he would return home. However, when the boss was made aware of his meowing outside the window, all hell broke loose. At first, she stormed in on me and demanded to know why I'd let him out, not realizing that she had never told me about the new rule change that Toonces could no longer be let outside due to an incident the day before in which the puss was mysteriously and sinisterly trapped into the covered drainage ditch. Once she realized that I was innocent, we, along with the student that she'd been teaching at the time, ran outside to try and grab him. Toonces is just over a year old which would make him equivalent to a 7-year-old boy. He was certainly as energetic and as rambunctious as one which made him impossible to catch so after some running around like a trio of Keystone Kops, we just let him be until he tuckered himself out and came in from the cold.

Seven had cancelled out and Jolly once again dotakyan'ed so I just had The Milds. We've come to the end of the second book. Once the lesson ended, we kinda gave each other a look which may have had a bit more significance than usual. It's been over 3 years now and though the couple has improved somewhat since their nearly mute days...I'm kinda wondering if they've reached the end of their time with me. The Siberian finally showed up. Had a nice chat on Shakespeare and some of his most famous quotes.

Today was a full Speedy day. I did my usual house call to 002. Looks like the afterglow from that nice party on Saturday was still dimly suffusing the atmosphere. Strangely enough, 002 still had that Jack O'Lantern although it was probably a breeding mold factory by now; but she reassured me that it would be in the trash by tomorrow morning. Then, I made the long commute back to home base to teach this young lady who's doing the crash course in English before she takes off for a 1-year working-holiday programme in Australia. I think it's going to be a regular Pygmalion process. All of us have gotta change this very low lass into a relatively conversant lady in 2 weeks. I think we're still at the beginnings of "The Rain in Spain". Of course, 001 was her usual guffawing self.

Well, it's a new day in America...at least when it comes to the government. I was watching CNN's coverage of Election Day, so it was the whole gang of Lou, Anderson, Paula and Wolf tackling all the number crunches and the grande version of Milton Bradley's Battleship. Democrats must've been partying til the wee hours of the morning since they finally got the House and perhaps even the Senate. But I think even if the Senate is still held by the Republicans, Pelosi and her gang can still celebrate. Besides, I think folks would feel a little more secure with a balance in power.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday November 6, 5:45 p.m.

Did also forget to mention that I had met The Madame for the first time in a while for lunch on Friday. We met in Ikebukuro this time, nearer her home. We ended up having our meal in this somewhat trendy little basement Japanese eatery. Prompt service and a reasonably-priced delicious set but the first half of our meal was marred by some shouty mother, misbehaving kids and the ineffectual father. And people wonder why I've stayed single this long... A couple of times when things were coming to a head..I quickly turned my head and did a bit of a glare at the brats but families always seem to develop a Cone of Ignorance during these times.

Looks like Speedy's given The Part-Timer her eviction notice. Things are starting to hop here at the school so since The Part-Timer is my private student and not an official student so Speedy told me that we're gonna have to find new accomodations of sorts. Speedy, being Speedy, was kind enough to recommend a cafe just across the street. He says it's pretty empty so getting a table should be easy (although I wonder how much longer it can stay in business with that type of rep). As for the Part-Timer, she was already given the 2-minute warning about finding a new classroom so she should be OK. Plus the fact that there will be a 1-week absence should cushion things nicely. I'll be sampling the place myself on Wednesday before 001's regular lesson.
Monday November 6, 4:56 p.m.

Been a while. There've been a few social events and my parents have arrived in the home of their ancestry. To start off, my latest class with B2 and B2B wasn't quite as bad as a total crash n' burn but...let's say that all 3 of us were pretty winded by the end. I kinda thought that I should've just cancelled the lesson first off and gone on to The Coffeemaker's party.

Then again, that party and the party I had at 002's on Saturday make for an interesting comparison. I got down to Shibuya on Thursday and met up with the ol' school gang at that same restaurant where over a year ago Scully had stepped on that dead rat. I'm just amazed at how willing the gang was to try that place again after that incident...especially in cleanliness-obsessed Japan. The Satyr, Scully and Tully were there along with a few others. Unfortunately, The Barmaiden and The Okinawan, the two other ringleaders of this latest reunion couldn't make it...the former due to the demands of work, and the latter due to personal problems (ie. the boyfriend, I assume). By the time I got there, everyone had already had their fill of food and drink so I was very much in the role of cleanup hitter. In other words, I just ordered my own drink and little dishes. I guess the digestive process must've already kicked in since the conversation was fairly low-key. And I never really chimed in with some of the guys there even during their school days. Basically, it was just some fairly polite conversation from former teacher to students and vice versa.

On the other hand, the 002 get-together was oh-so-comfortable and nice. I brought the Cabernet Sauvignon (a gift from that Halloween event with The Satyr and Skippy) and the pumpkin for carving. Of course, 002's hubby was there along with The Baker and 001. Speedy was right in that I could've read the telephone book and the ladies would've been rolling in the aisles. The main course du jour was something imoni-nabe; now that the Fall is truly upon us, nabe or hot pot cooking is back in vogue. Imoni is this really starchy potato dropped into the usual mix of broth with carrots, onions, beef and other stuff. All very tasty. Beforehand, we all tried our hands at making onigiri...rice balls with different fillings such as flaked salmon and mentaiko (salty cod roe). As is the case with many a thing that I try to learn, my attempts at making the simple rice ball ended up with me making something to a Henry Moore sculpture. However, the laughter was graciously kept to a minimum. 002 even decided to go Okinawan and made some spam onigiri. Yes, you heard me...the quiet culinary trend in Japan has been to place some slabs of Spam onto a rice ball and wrap it in nori. It's pretty darn good...but then again, I'm quite the Spam connoisseur. MB would probably be heading for the toilet on seeing this entry. After filling ourselves up on nabe and other stuff, we got started on the last pumpkin carving of the year. 001, 002 and The Baker had a ball of a time carving the Jack O' Lantern; as I said, anything could amuse them. Of course, once Jack was ready, the cameras came out to take pics of the lit-up pumpkin. As you can see from the size of this paragraph as compared to the other one for the other party, I think I was much more at ease with 002 and the bunch there than I was with the ol' school gang...not that I like the latter any less but I think things are much easier when there isn't that barrier of teacher and student between me and them.

Sunday was by contrast a very quiet stay-at-home day. Mind you, I did get to see Saddam Hussein finally get his comeuppance live on CNN. With the exception of Fidel Castro, it would seem that dictators' life spans are quite short. But at the same time, they also share the same sociopathic trait of blaming everyone else but themselves for the misery they'd put their populace under.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thursday November 2, 3:01 p.m.

Back at the Ai Cafe in Akiba. This time, due to a full house, I've been placed in the so-called full flat booth. Instead of a chair, I've got something like a chaise lounge to sit on in front of the computer. I have to admit, it's pretty comfy. I had The Polynesian this morning. She was fine but there was one of those things that happen from time to time between me and students; forgetting to pay me. Before, I used to let that sort of thing go and just gently remind them via e-mail. But today I tried to leave some hints such as asking as innocently as possible, "Uh...did you pay me?" However, try as I might, she just couldn't pick up the hint so I sighed internally and let it go. It was lucky though that the two of us were headed for the same station on the Oedo Line, Tochomae, right in front of Tokyo City Hall. As I was heading up and out and she was heading for her train, I stopped at the top of the stairs to tie my shoes when she breathlessly rushed up and profusely apologized before handing me the fee. Well, better late than never.

I had lunch at the nearby Hansens since it'd been a while since I had hot dogs. I had my usual double dog lunch but also tried the Bacon n' Cheese Fries. Yup, certainly was cheesy...there was a lot of bright orange goo smothering the taters with some generously large squares of bacon instead of the usual burnt bacon bits. Kinda reminded me that it's also been a while since I last set foot in The Maple Leaf. Maybe it's almost been a year. There was a review of it in The Japan Times a while ago...I definitely agree with the reviewer's take on the chicken wings. Their Suicide Wings are the real deal. However, I do protest on charging almost 1,000 yen for Labatt's Blue.

I've got B2 and B2B later on tonight. And quite possibly, I may be heading down to Shibuya for the second party of the ol' school gang. But I got word from The Coffeemaker that they're still not sure whether or not there will be a nijikai. So I've got a feeling that I'll be heading home after the lesson. However, The Satyr will represent the teacher side there tonight. Ironically, the main restaurant will be the same place where the gang had come across that dead rat. Man, these guys are a forgiving lot.

I've been steadily watching Robert Stack's "The Untouchables" fairly religiously for the past several months. Super Drama TV is now showing the fourth and final season, and I am getting the impression that it had "jumped the shark" by that point. Eliot Ness, Lee Hobson, Rossi and the rest of the bunch seem to be heading into the background again and letting the crims have most of the scenery. However, I did get to see the Robert Redford episode, "Snowball". Lest I give the impression that it was a cute little show based on the title, the young unlined Redford plays a handsome sociopath who doesn't mind killing college kids with wood alky to get up in the criminal world. And there was an uncredited "blink-and-you'll-miss-him" appearance by Walter Koenig, aka Ensign Chekov of "Star Trek" and Alan Bester of "Babylon 5", as the buddy of one of the victims of Redford's James Parker. The show plays without commercials on Super Drama TV so at about the 45-minute mark, I was starting to scratch my head at the fact that the story still hadn't reached any big point until there was a very quick climax and denouement in about 3 minutes. A bit disappointing, that. It kinda reminded me of some of the dramatic arcs of the more mediocre eps of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". And it wasn't Ness who wrapped things up, but Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti. I think the show overall though has been a hoot to watch just to see all of the stars who have popped up on it: future Oscar winners Redford, Patricia O'Neal (who did a remarkable Captain Janeway impersonation), and Martin Landau. And there was Peter Falk, Steven Hill, Cloris Leachman, Michael ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") Constantine, Jack Klugman, etc. But it won't be too long now before the end is nigh, and I'll be able to get an extra hour of sleep in the mornings.