Saturday, July 01, 2006

Saturday July 1, 5:35 p.m.

Happy Canada Day! 139 years old. The Quarterback had sent one of his mass e-mails inviting everyone to a Canada Day picnic somewhere but since he sent it during one of the periods that I don't have access to a computer, I only got it some three hours after the picnic had already started. Ah, well. In any case, I did have JJ for her regular before coming here to the school. Speaking of JJ, it seems that every family with children under the age of 5 had come to the Starbucks where I teach her. Therefore, the noise level was almost mindnumbingly loud, and a lot of our conversation was liberally peppered with "WHAT DID YOU SAY?"

The week leading up to Canada's birthday has been appropriately steamy here in Japan. It looks like all that doom and gloom about summer being cancelled has now been swept aside. I've got the air con on regularly now so that should bring up my TEPCO bills for the next few months. It's been a pretty light week for me. Tuesday was the usual busiest day of the week. The Beehive had its last regular appearance of Ms. Tulip before she heads off to Canada, and that was just for a few minutes since she's been running off her feet getting preparations done. However, we will all be meeting on the 4th for a farewell party for the lass. I met The Teacher for her regular afterwards. I was able to stay up a bit better this time around; I guess the conversational topics were a bit more stimulating.

The session at the juku was a bit of hello/goodbye. The hello belonged to my newest student, HJ. He actually had come to the juku for a model lesson some months before but never got back to us, but he either had a change of heart or he must've been really busy. In any case, I've got him for a mere 30 minutes each week between Seven and The Milds. Speaking of Seven, she's been coming along very nicely. She initially left the impression of being one of those typical airheaded Shibuya gals but she's actually become my fastest-progressing student. Go fig. The goodbye student was McGirl. She was here for about a year. Nice gal but she was a bit of a disappointment in progress. But she was nice enough to bring The Milds and myself a little goodbye gift. As for the newest addition, The Salaryman, I'm getting the feeling that he's not going to stay too least in a group setting. But now that McGirl is gone, perhaps things will go a bit faster.

From Wednesday onwards, it felt almost like a holiday. In fact, Hump Day was indeed a day off for me. I made sure that I didn't touch anything remotely connected to English teaching. So I put myself into relatively hard labour by cleaning up the apartment. I don't think I lost too much in the way of calories but things look a bit sleeker now. The gas man also did his triannual check of my gas meter and the stove. Just 5 minutes...of which over half was spent outside and then a minute more just to turn on the gas cock. I do look forward to his next visit in 2009...or maybe not, since I don't plan to be in the same apartment after this lease is up.

Thursday only consisted of The New Yorker. Man, the unpredictability of students. Just when I thought she was finally breaking through the barrier, she comes up with one of her old molasses-slow attempts to speak. Too bad, too, since she came out all the way from her house in the boonies to see me. Then again, I came out all the way from Chiba to teach her. Friday was the time for the UL. Here was another slightly sloggy class although the effort was there. The UL has been seeing some pretty busy days so she was exhausted with a slight throbbing headache. It was timely then that our lesson just happened to be on ailments and remedies.

Before the UL, I met up with The Madame for the first time in a couple of weeks. We went to Wolfgang Puck Express above Shinjuku Station. We were seated at the same table and just about ordered the same lunch. Since The UL had a later appointment time, the two of us managed to just nosh and chat for a few hours. Looks like she was able to get that money passed onto her "mentor" for her education in spiritualism. Man, I hope it's worth it.

Looks like I'm still at 007 at Speedy's. That prospective student for writing probably dumped us. From the way Speedy mumbled the explanation to the usual "suddenly got busy" excuse, I think the lady decided I wasn't the teacher for her. Just as well...I didn't particularly want to spend a long night on Mondays anyways.

In the "Perfect for Anderson Cooper" department, it looks like CNN has been having a lot of fun televising footage of PM Koizumi's dream-like trip to Graceland. Here's Junichiro playing air's Jun wearing his Elvis's Jun breaking into song every few minutes before a bemused George Bush, Priscilla Presley and her daughter. This could rival even "Seamanship". Well, what can I say? The soon-to-be-ex Prime Minister has been a huge fan of the King for decades, so why shouldn't he act like a schoolkid in the palace of his hero? I'm just glad that he didn't do the choreography for "Heartbreak Hotel".

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday June 26, 8:39 p.m.

During my long digestive process, I received a call from Mom. Looks like Grandpa is hanging in there well enough so that she won't have to make an emergency flight to the home country in July. But she's still planning on coming over in late October. Dad is rather ambivalent about the whole thing...but what else is new? But he did ask me...via Mom of get a bottle of Seirogan. Say wha-? Seirogan is this noxious stomach medicine with the subtle hint of brimstone which pretty much manhandles any gastrointestinal problems to heel...along with pretty much every other system. It's noticeable for an orange-and-red box with the logo of a bugle...probably because once you take the stuff, you run for the toilet where you...continue to another way. It's kinda like post time at the racetracks. After many decades of literally scouring out your insides, the producer of Seirogan decided to pull a New Coke and put out a version of the stuff which was coated in a white candy shell; it didn't even smell. And the new form was put into a creamy-white box...ahhh, how soothing. Well, Dad won't have any of that stuff. He wants the killer treatment. So I'll be searching for the stuff.

Bringing my bloated self back to work, I had The Class Act for their usual. The Lady made that repeat trip to Seoul...this time, with her demanding hubby. They didn't go to that wonderful yakiniku place but they did hit the reimen restaurant at the top of the Hyundai Department Store that the three of us had visited after checking into the hotel. In a couple of weeks, The Matron will do the same with her family, since her husband is so rarin' to try out The Park Hyatt. During the lesson, she got a call from her daughter. She could be heard loudly bleating like someone far younger than her 18 years of age that she had a fever and wanted permission to hit bed. And this is the same kid who's got the soul of a cranky 60-year-old and who often sasses back without fear of retribution from her indulgent parents. I'd like to introduce her to my Dad in a bad mood.

SIL was again away taking care of her mother so it was off to Wendy's for lunch (I am literally a glutton for punishment after last night's feast), and then a little search through HMV. I took a nap on the Marunouchi Line, which I seem to be doing regularly after a meal, before hitting Speedy's. Speedy told me that I'd missed another great cooking performance by Mr. Influence with his cheeseburgers basted in herb butter. I would have liked to have tried them but that and The Perths' shabu-shabu meal would have made me into the first victim from "Seven". Speedy is no longer worried about income flow since we've had quite a good month. Now his problem is trying to find that teacher and that new administrative assistant to replace SB. I was on greeting and catering duties as well as teaching ones with The Part-Timer.

My week will be pretty light. I haven't heard anything about that model lesson from last Wednesday so I assume that I'm gonna have the entire day off then with 001 and 007 off on trips. On Thursday, I may just have The New Yorker. I'll be seeing The Madame on Friday for our occasional lunch together. Once again, she resisted my kind offer to try out one of our Burger Tour destinations....a repeat trip to Baker Bounce. And this is after the official sendoff to SB the night before. My weekends are just defeating my attempts to trim my waistline during the week.
Monday June 26, 5:21 p.m.

I just saw a headline on Yahoo stating that Japan will consider exporting "octopus dumplings". I gather that it's referring to takoyaki. Hmmm....I'm not sure if "octopus dumplings" will have quite that zingy attraction in the Americas. But then again, the name is better than "octopus balls" (I can just imagine Beavis & Butthead snickering at that). I'm also wondering if this export is a "let bygones be bygones" gesture for that US kerfuffle with its beef or a revenge.

My Sunday was one of huge caloric proportions. I had my usual lesson with JJ. And then I headed on out to Omotesando where I met up with MB and The Sylph, The Satyr and Samwise with his little clan on the main intersection...the one with the Condomania store on the southwest corner. Odd...I thought I noticed some distinctly underage folk entering the place. I guess they do start early nowadays.

Our first stop was at a new place on a side street called Zip Zap. It's in the mold of a Fujimamas or Roti (the former being just a block away). It was the 3rd in the Great Burger Tour created by Movie Buddy. The restaurant was one of those trendy little places which opened out in the front. MB was grumbling a bit about how the waitress wasn't too cooperative about seating the seven of us (or I should say 6.5, considering the baby). But I was a bit more understanding of her side of things since they were in the midst of closing up shop due to a party of sorts a couple of hours later. And since she was a waitress, she probably wouldn't have had much of a say in the matter. However, by some miracle, the bunch of us managed to get a couple of tables. Strangely, I didn't order the burger plate since it was rather hefty in both price and mass. 2100 yen for 225 grams. I got my 300 g at Baker Bounce for a lot smaller 1500 yen. However, I did go for the brunch plate of sausage, scrambled eggs, sliced turkey and mashed potatoes. I gotta say that I wasn't too impressed with the results. The eggs were basically lumpy soup, the sausage was something that I could have gotten at any supermarket, and the mashed potatoes were hidden under the two slices of turkey. However, there was a bit of compensation in that afterwards, the remaining five of us just turned the corner and went to Fujimamas for dessert. Much better there and the waitress was refreshingly American and saucy.

It was just as well that I didn't have the burger plate at Zip Zap since I rushed out to Tsudanuma to meet with Ms. Perth's family. I did get my nap on the various trains headed back to Chiba. I got there just a minute after 5 and the car was there to pick me up. In the car, I met Mr. Perth and their son. The son is a budding stage actor. He was suitably self-effacing as I think a lot of actors over here are. He's also at the starving actor stage. He just started working as an izakaya waiter until that big break comes.

The reason I mention that it was just as well that I didn't have the burger plate is that the Perth family and I ended up having shabu-shabu. Shabu-shabu for the uninitiated is thin slices of marbled beef seared in boiling water very quickly. Mrs. Perth mentioned that the restaurant had only been open for just a few months but was already gaining a good reputation. I could see why...for a suburban eatery, it had a touch of class with its waitresses all dolled up in kimono. Initially, we were seated at one of the regular tables but Mrs Perth did a bit of quick negotiating with the head waitress which got us transferred to a private room. Good on her! I don't have shabu-shabu all that often...I think Clinton was still in office the last time I had it (I'm not sure if it was before or after the cigar got stuck in...ahem). My experiences with the heavy meal though involved being with a lot of students and teachers gouging through literal mountains of semi-frozen beef in ever-greasifying water. This restaurant was a few levels above that. For one thing, we got a couple of courses before the plates of red meat arrived. One was chawanmushi, a personal favourite. The best I could describe it is savory egg custard. That came in a small cup but then came in this huge platter of sashimi for which I wondered if we had ordered the wrong course. With that Omotesando meal, I was already heading for gastric overload but for the sake of retaining good relationships with my benefactors, I kept silent and enjoyed it. And to add further to my cholesterol levels, there was even a small basket of tempura.

The one thing that vaulted this shabu-shabu restaurant way above all of the other similar places I'd visited in the past was that when the plates of red meat arrived, the polite and pretty waitress in the kimono proceeded to cook the first round. I did learn a bit of shabu-shabu etiquette. For one thing, the marbled beef didn't come in huge semi-frozen mountains; more like a flat pressed flower of beef with the fat quickly starting to melt. With shabu-shabu, one is given two bowls of dipping sauce: a thick sesame sauce and ponzu which is soy sauce flavoured with mirin (sweet rice wine) and yuzu (a citrus fruit native only to Japan). I'd been led to believe that I could dip the seared beef in both sauces. Uh-uh-uh. Nope, only the sesame gets that privilege. The ponzu gets the boiled vegetables that accompany the shimofuri (the name of the beef). In any case, I thought that the service here was attentive to the point of anal-retentiveness. But the food was good.

Conversation was also very cordial. Talk went to the very reason that I was there with them in the first place. I'd lent Mr. Perth my crutches when his Achilles' Tendon made a rather dramatic snap during a tennis game. Hmmm...lend crutches...get a free expensive tasty meal....I'm gonna have to save this into long-term memory. In a way, Mr. Perth reminded me of a more cordial version of my father. His son reminded me of a far more handsome, thinner and more talented version of myself. He was also more of a listener than a talker...which is actually what is needed in the Meissner technique....which is definitely more my way as well. In fact, I had to consciously draw him into the conversation myself unlike his more vocal parents. I almost felt like the male half of an omiai meeting. At least he was impressed that I knew quite a lot about the art of acting...well, from what little I could glean from all those Biography specials.

On my way to the ultra-modern washrooms, I saw one of the head waitresses admonishing her young charge on protocol. It wasn't the usual berating that happens between teacher and student or between a section chief and a hapless staffer. It was one of those tut-tut type of criticisms. Cute. After she got out of work, the younger of the two probably wanted to shiv her. A woman can probably hide quite a lot of small sharp objects in the folds of a kimono.

The dinner was fine and Mrs. Perth kindly drove me back to Tsudanuma Station. I did the usual thing of holding a 5,000 yen bill so that at least I could give the impression that I wanted to pitch in my share. But of course, the entire family insisted that it was their pleasure so I quickly stashed it back into the wallet. It is the usual custom to offer payment twice before finally "reluctantly" accepting their generosity. I think I fulfilled my part of the bargain. In any case, I went back home feeling much more enormous than I did 24 hours previously.