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 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 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 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.