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.