Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday May 26, 9:46 p.m.

Well, it's been a while since I've put up a second entry in the same day. It'll probably be my last one, too, since I've finally finished my 2 weeks of sitting in for Speedy's students. I had SB's brother; it was another good session. In fact, it looks like I've been chosen by him for a class on the 9th. Nice to be needed.

And something else that has gotten me a bit more buoyant is that my little conflict with The Madame has come to an end. I've sent my apologies to her and she has done the same. I sent her a fairly voluminous amount of writing but we'll be meeting next Friday for coffee so I'm hoping that we'll back to our usual jovial selves. For some reason, our few conflicts have been waged on the Net. I wonder if we ever got married, would all our fights will be cyberspace-based? It would certainly save us on our vocal cords.

It'll be kinda nice to get back to a somewhat easier schedule although the money rush was rather nice. However, there is a good chance that at least a couple of Speedy's students including SB's brother may become semi-permanent on my schedule.

Well, I gotta get home and prep for JJ. She'll be the only one on the slate tomorrow. Then, I gotta clean the place up for Movie Buddy's DVD pilgrimage. It'll be pizza again.
Friday May 26, 6:30 p.m.

It was rather oxymoronic (I'm sure some of you folks would probably just use "moronic") watching Lou Dobbs on his show. For the first time in history, I could actually use the expression "gleefully furious" to describe the man. He almost seemed to enjoy getting his Irish up about the Immigration Amnesty Bill getting passed in the U.S. Senate yesterday. Man, he was in feisty spirits! But he actually did celebrate something: seeing Kenneth Lay and Andrew Skilling of the Enron debacle finally getting their comeuppance in the form of guilty verdicts. Of course, they will probably appeal. Spending the rest of their lives in tiny cells will not sit with them lightly. If I were Takafumi Horie, I would be worrying a bit.

My hour with the juku boss ended up being a sales session on anti-spam software since the poor lady was getting pelted with all sorts of annoying ads from the Net and she has even poorer knowledge about computers than I do. I helped her download some free spam-fighting stuff and that got my 3,000 yen. As for The Fortune Teller, we were slogging away at his descriptions. I was feeling pretty tired by the end. The boss told me that I may have a new student or two in the tony neighbourhood of Yoyogi-Uehara in the near future thanks to her friend. We'll see.

I met up with my old friends at JR Akihabara afterwards. The area wasn't as boisterous as it usually is on a Sunday. There was through traffic and the maids were very few and far between. I got my Trek DVDs from my brother via the guys. We had lunch on the restaurant floor of the humongous Yodobashi flagship store across from the station. The crowds have finally dispersed after its huge opening a few months ago. We had lunch at this restaurant specializing in Japanese (Wa-fu) pastas. So, my one friend had mentaiko (cod roe) spaghetti while I had this somewhat Szechuan-style stuff with a ground meat-and-spice topping. Of course, most of the conversation was on old times and who was still around. I treated, of course.

After that, we took a look down on the lower floors of merchandise. We found some rather humourous stuff such as a plastic mold to help shape your eyebrows. There were different versions. I was kinda wondering if there a Mr. Spock or Divine version amongst the brands. And then there was the battery-operated nose hair remover. Ouch! Just looking at that made me quote those UN regulations on torture. My friend bought a couple of those eyebrow molds for laughs. We also looked at some cellphone shields to prevent prying eyes from making their marks. My other friend remarked with some surprise at how these Leicas and Hasserblads could just lay about in the camera section. Yep, I can imagine that they'd be swiped within a New York minute back home. Strangely enough, even in this day and age, electronic appliances can still rest easy and not fear being stolen.

It was another walk into the discount CD shop and then a dessert of crepes on the main drag before we decided to part. It looks like my three hours of them will be the only ones for this year to see them since they'll probably hit Singapore and Thailand during The Holidays. Ah, well.

I've made it up to Speedys for the last of the students that I'm teaching in Speedy's place. It'll be SB's brother for one more try. I've checked my e-mail. I saw The Madame has left another contribution to our private little skirmish. The title looks harmless enough but I've decided to let it go. I don't particularly want to have to respond to another one of those this week. Hopefully, I'll be in a better mood by Monday.

Looks like the Mission: Impossible and X-Men franchises have traded places, review-wise at least, according to CNN. Tom Cruise's latest got a reluctant thumbs-up while I just saw that the newest mutant movie isn't exactly the great finale that everyone has been hoping for.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thursday May 25, 2:40 p.m.

There was a Daffy Duck cartoon in which Daffy played this overenthused salesman trying to sell an ultramodern home filled with gadgets to hapless Porky Pig. One of the devices eliminated the need for stairs by a button which brought down the 2nd floor to the 1st floor. The catch was that when Porky requested to return to ground level, Daffy raised the 2nd floor to reveal a crushed first floor. That was exactly how the weather played out with Tokyo yesterday. In the morning and early afternoon, as I'd mentioned in my last entry, Winter decided to directly cede to Summer. It was hot and humid and I was mopping my brow with my handkerchief (yup, I have become the prototypical salaryman). But then during my lesson with my first student, the clouds just billowed over and then the skies opened up mightily and the temps just plummeted. Then, there was a brief respite when the sun came out and all of us were privy to the rare event of seeing that double rainbow over Shinjuku. But the damage was done....the streets were flooded and the air was chill. Fortunately, today is sunny and the temp is just right.

During 001's lesson, the girl just kept twitching whenever the thunder and lightning struck (yep, the stormy conditions returned). I guess it isn't just cockroaches that the Japanese are terrified of. It was quite the light show. As it turned out, that threatened return of 006 turned out to be as much of a false alarm as the weather report's prediction of hail. I guess that Speedy had forgotten to mention to SB that 006 wouldn't be available for the entirety of May.

My little argument/misunderstanding/debate/discussion with The Madame over e-mail continues. She sent back another response with the title "Misunderstanding" trying to explain herself and the reason she used that epithet. This was one of the times that I wonder if she's gotten in over her head with this spiritualism thing. She stated that her parents' racist tendencies were a result of divine intervention so that she could be tested to learn and overcome bigotry in her current life. Well, I'm not sure if her parents, as wrong as they may be in their views, would appreciate knowing that they were brought onto this Earth as spiritual examples of what not to be. And I think in a way, she's trying to rationalize their behaviour through this mumbo-jumbo. I haven't sent an immediate reply to her since I would like to think about what she's written down.

Well, I've got my three consecutive lessons today starting in about an hour. I'll be finishing off with that fellow whose answers come out as slowly as molasses. I'm not sure if I'll be able to accompany him home tonight since I don't relish the thought of continuing a free lesson on the subway while my brain is fried. I mean, he's a nice guy and all that but I don't think I would be good company.

Skippy has officially dropped out of the second of the burger tours due to a wedding party she has to attend. So it may just be the gaijin contingent heading to Roti Grill on Sunday. I still haven't heard anything from The Satyr so it may just as easily be MB, Samwise and myself for the burgers. Of course, The Madame, with all the appetite of a hummingbird, wouldn't come anyways.
Wednesday May 24, 5:23 p.m.

I've been having a series of e-mail exchanges with The Madame which has turned into a somewhat personal discussion on racism. It all started a few days ago when The Madame set up our next kaffeeklatsch and somehow mentioned the word "Chinaman" (sorry, can't remember what the context was). Now, perhaps I was overreacting a bit when I saw that word in the message but considering the times that I'd seen that word being used on various TV shows back home, my hackles couldn't help but be raised. I responded that although I knew she hadn't intended it as such, the word could be construed as a racist slur (and I do construe it as such) where I come from. She then counterresponded by admitting that her parents are somewhat racist but that she wasn't (for a young lady whose past beaus included non-Japanese, I had no doubts that she wasn't). Well, there was one more exchange and I finally decided to send out a "clear-the-air" message just to say that we were both on the up-and-up. As a victim of racism back in Canada during my childhood, I just get a bit antsy when I see anything that seems even a bit demeaning to other people.

Well, my friends from The Great White North called up and we've set a time and day to meet. Of course, it would have to be Akihabara this Friday between the juku classes and that class with SB's brother. They are staying at the Yokohama Pan Pacific, the same hotel that I stayed at almost a couple of years ago. Good place. I'm not sure if my friend, the lawyer, would be as enthused about visiting a Maid Cafe like Skippy.

It's possible that I may be here at Speedy's a bit later than expected. I was supposed to teach one of Speedy's students and then 001. Luckily, I checked with SB about the schedule tonight. I got a surprise in the form of a reply from SB that 006 is supposed to be coming for her lesson. I distinctly had heard from the bossman himself before his trip that 006 was incommunicado until June at the very least. Well, I've learned to keep from exploding at unpleasant surprises. In any case, there's really nothing I can do since I don't have any of her materials with me so I'm just gonna have to wing it.

I listened to "Fundamental", the new Pet Shop Boys disc. Actually, I got a double disc. One is the album itself and the other, "Fundamentalism", is a set of remixes. "Fundamental" has the usual combo of uptempo dance songs and ballads but the Boys sound like they've returned to their musical roots (hence the title?). They've brought back some of the thumping analog synths from their 80s stuff. For me, the song to beat is "I'm With Stupid" (maybe it can become the next RNC theme song?).

It looks like the weather has had to catch up with the rest of the year so abruptly that it decided to go straight from Winter to Summer. It felt muy hot and humid in the morning and early afternoon although the weather guys forecast rain for later in the day with even some hail. Well, the hail hasn't come yet but the skies opened up with a cacophony of rain, thunder and lightning. And then the sun peeked out a bit, giving me and Speedy's sweet old little lady student a show in the form of a double rainbow over Shinjuku. It's gotten overcast again so we're not out of the woods quite yet.

Well, I'm still waiting for that confirmation call from 006. Is she coming or not?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday May 22, 5:43 p.m.

My Sunday was a lot less turbulent than the Saturday in both social life and weather. The sun actually beamed on us for most of the day...not so much as a drop of precip. I finally got my first 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep in 2 weeks. Got the usual chores done in the house and even watched "Batman Begins" on DVD, thanks to The Teacher's generosity. I appreciated it more on the second viewing but the movie still falters a bit in the second half when it gets out of the origin of the superhero, much like "Superman" and "Spiderman". Still, Christian Bale makes a good Dark Knight, and I'm sure the comparisons between his Batman and Michael Keaton's Batman continue, along with the comparison between "Batman Begins" and the original "Superman".

Speaking of potential psychos out there, Japan may have a serial killer of the worst kind...the kind that preys on kids. Last week, two children were murdered within a few days of each other. I'm not quite sure if both cases have the exact M.O. but the 2nd kid was strangled and both victims were taken and dumped on a lonely stretch of road in the rural areas.

Well, I'll be having The Part-Timer in about 20 minutes followed by those two sisters in their final EIC class. Should be a bit of an exciting finish. They'll be concocting my Sweet N' Sour Sauce as their final exam. It could be another long busy week although not quite as bad as last week since McGirl and The Milds will be away tomorrow.

I pulled the trigger and got that new Pet Shop Boys CD today. I took a listen to it at Tower Records this afternoon. It's got quite a few uptempo techno dance tunes which ought to be worth the 3200 yen.
Monday May 22, 4:43 p.m.

The weekend was a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde weatherwise. Saturday was just lousy with that rain and gloom from the rest of last week. Luckily, the kids were more cooperative in the morning, and of course, JJ was her usual diligent self. I had another one of occasional reminders why I stay single when I saw a young and harried mother (kids tend to age women faster than any other stress-related factor) berating her brat for some infraction while I was buying some cold medicine in the department store next to the Starbucks for JJ. Strangely enough, I had received e-mail from The Madame who was bemoaning the fact that yet another one of her friends finally tied the knot. I should just tape the next chewout by a devil mother and send the recording to her. That ought to cure her of the bachelorette blues. Chip Guy has often gone on about the joys of fatherhood; I wonder if his wife could share the same feelings.

The rest of Saturday night was a bit of a downer. I decided to head on out to Movie Buddy's little lunch in Ebisu. I was pondering whether to go or not since I was in Kiba...closer to my home than it to Ebisu but I flipped the coin and decided that a night out wouldn't be bad. My bad. Although it was sunny and clear during JJ's session, there were some ominous dark gray clouds as I made my way to the station.

And sure enough, it was squalling big time by the time I got to Ebisu. I phoned up MB to get the directions to this place, Zest, which is this restaurant with a vaguely Western theme, complete with a mechanical bronco in the middle of the room for those who had the inclination and the insanity to try it out. I had been there some years ago with Chip Guy but couldn't quite remember how to get there. So I asked MB on the cell who then put me through to Samwise's wife who gave me these rather voluminous instructions with a lot of "turn here". All I got was "West Exit of JR Ebisu", "Mont Bell" and "Meiji-Dori". Well, my phone card was nearly dead and I didn't have a whole lot of coinage on me so I couldn't afford to ask for a repeat from the missus so I decided to just do the best with what I got, based on the faith that my usual good sense of direction would bail me out.

Well, I could find Meiji-Dori and there was a Mont-Bell sporting goods store but that was all that was right about the next 20 minutes of walking through the rain under an undersized umbrella that left me half-drenched on the right side and my feet wholly drenched. I had to make a dejected turn back to the station only to see that there were two "West Exits". I went out the wrong one. Sure enough, the right one was across from a Mont-Bell and within 5 minutes, I found Zest (the restaurant, not my energy levels). I got there to see MB coming back up with a whole load of brolleys. He had been searching for me since I didn't show I had guilt to join my ill humour. There would be some more negative emotions piling on as the night wore on.

MB didn't seem to be too ticked off as he escorted me up to the third floor of the restaurant. Well, there were about several folks paired off into romantic couples including The Sylph, and Mr. & Mrs Samwise. The latter even had their kid with them. Of course, everyone was doting on her; I was more interested in getting my food. I felt distinctly guilty about keeping the folks there waiting so I hastily searched for something. I got a BLT with a cola. I didn't feel much like talking with anyone, especially in my alternately sheepish yet snarly mood but fortunately, I was surrounded by a lot of forgiving folk who engaged me in conversation. I ended up even not having to pay for my meal since the waiters didn't separate me from the rest of the group as had been requested. Samwise and I were pleasant with each other but didn't really talk. For some reason, he and I have never been able to gel well. My theory is that he was just one of those laddie lads in school who used to disdain or terrorize bookworms like me. Mrs. Samwise asked me about the directions to the place. When I mentioned Meiji-Dori, one of the others quickly cut in that Zest was nowhere near the avenue. The missus turned red in embarrassment and apologized profusely for leading me astray. I was too busy eating my BLT to mind or care. There was a wedding party going on while we were there. Some guy in a Commander Data uniform was regaling everyone with a Japanese rock song. I'm sure Brent Spiner would've looked on in some bemusement.

My second mistake of the night was agreeing to go to the second party, or nijikai, which was in the form of karaoke. I think I've finally exorcised myself of my former dalliance of singing in front of folks once and for all. As the years have gone by, I've been realizing that the type of stuff I sing...AOR, Billy Joel, etc., the musical equivalent of a "Kick Me" sign nowadays....just doesn't grab people anymore. Certainly, my voice hasn't aged too well either. I tried out Stevie's "You're The Sunshine of My Life" to some snickers from MB and Samwise. They and the rest were more into stuff like Red Hot Chili Peppers. I like eating them, not listening to them. I just listened politely from that point onwards.

Strangely enough, I even went to a wrap-up sanjikai with my two "tormentors" and The Sylph for some coffee at a Doutors. It was there that Samwise and I could actually do a bit of civilized conversation but I think the damage has been done. In any case, MB proposed another one of those DVD nights this upcoming weekend. He also wants to match that with a Sunday afternoon burger hunt, our second after Baker Bounce a few weeks ago. This time, the target for our stomachs would be The Roti Grill in Roppongi. That was the place that I had my rather lonely and pricey Christmas dinner a couple of years ago. I wouldn't assume that the burgers there would be any less expensive. Anyways, I've sent word out to Skippy and The Madame. I think the former would jump at the chance.