Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sunday February 11, 3:24 p.m.

Well, Happy Birthday Japan! You don't look a year older than 2,355 (guessing that number, of course). Probably all of the folks under 40 don't even realize what the significance of the holiday is, either.

I met up with everyone at Nishiguchi of JR Shinjuku at about 5:00 for our foray into Foo Foo. Along with the usual eating members of myself, MB, The Satyr and Skippy, The Sylph and our companion from our foray to JAMS, The Alabaster, even decided to join us (never thought of those two as being the ramen-gulping types...although they don't really fit the hambaagu niche either and yet they were there at JAMS). The six of got the back table to seat 6. Because of the numbers and the co-ed mix, we were at our favourite ramen haunt much longer than the usual half-hour max stay there. The pai ko tan tan men has changed a bit...the soup was a bit less creamier but still it was its usual satisfying stew.

After our dinner, The Sylph and The Alabaster went off for their little girls' night out while Skippy went off for home which left us guys to head back to my place for the ritual DVD night. Buying enough chocolates to kill a moose (or mousse), we settled back into the sofas and caught our double feature, "Inside Man" and "Team America: World Police".

"Inside Man" wasn't a bad piece by Spike Lee. It was his most mainstream movie but it still had the Lee touches: not just one but two African-American protagonists, fast-talking Noo Yawk profanity-laced banter and jazz. Still, I thought Lee kinda fell into the trap that a lot of directors fall into when they try to do a film noir piece...throw in one too many red herrings and too many characters. MB thought that the characters portrayed by Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer could've been made into a stronger supporting character instead of the two cameos. I thought that Lee was kinda following what a number of folks have been doing for the last few years: make that big movie which is stuffed with A-listers doing supporting turns. I don't think I'd ever seen Willem DaFoe do a straight supporting turn before.

As for "Team America", it was a howler of a piece. I don't mean that in a bad way...just that, MB was just howling in laughter for most of it. If there were a university-level course on satire, this and "South Park: The Movie" should be required viewing. I could understand why Sean Penn sent that nasty letter to Trey Parker and Matt Stone, but frankly, Penn didn't do himself any favours by doing so. For me, the big highlight was finally getting to see what puppet sex was like.

It was another late wake-up call but MB and I did our usual pilgrimage to the neighbourhood Skylark for lunch. We managed to cover a wide range of topics during our two hours there while we noshed on Mixed Grill, Tatsuta Chicken and Saikyo-style Salmon. One was quite an interesting talk on the need for Tokyoites to own cars.

Here we in not only the world's largest city but also the world's most convenient one with kilos and kilos of public transportation lines criss-crossing the megalopolis like a Cat's Cradle gone crazy and yet the folks here crave cars. And not just your de rigueur Toyotas and Nissans, either. People here will give their firstborns for Aston-Martins, Bentleys and SUV's. These are big-ass cars for Tokyo. And MB and I were just wondering aloud about why anyone would ever want to own them. For one thing, I can't even imagine the horrors of trying to negotiate an SUV in one of those residential side streets in the Big Sushi. Having even one car and one pedestrian in the same area almost violates a certain law of physics...then imagine having an SUV or Caddy try to turn a corner in one of those mazes, let alone it trying to parallel park. It's a wonder that Japanese manage to live so long...I can only guess that Tokyoites actually can live to 140 with's just that driving there just chops the decades off. The world's-oldest living people (often from this country) must never have been behind the wheel. Then, there are folks who bizarrely need to own a sports car in Tokyo. Where could one even cut loose with a Ferrari in a city where expressways sport 20-km traffic jams almost daily? It's kinda like keeping a tiger in a 2K may be possible but at what cost to the tiger?

This and the continuing queues at Krispy Kreme are things that make me go hmmm...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Saturday February 10, 3:26 p.m.

I was looking through HMV on the 12th floor of Takashimaya Times Square (it seems like the top few floors of the place are going through some major renovations....after 10 years, I think it's a good time). A new MISIA CD has been released along with Michael Buble's latest...sigh...I hope I do get a rebate from the tax office. As for the J-songstress, I did listen to some of the tracks on one of the store's listening posts and it sound like MISIA has started to bring back some more uptempo stuff to her repertoire..about time....I thought she was permanently stuck in ballad mode.
Saturday February 10, 3:04 p.m.

Back at the Shinjuku Kinko's...across the street, there is the usual 2-hour wait for donuts. I kinda wish that one of the guys from "Jackass" or even David Letterman himself would just pass by the trend-smitten crowd and yell from a megaphone: "YOU F#$&'N MORONS!! IT'S JUST A M#$%#%' F#$&'"# DOUGHNUT! NOTHING TASTES THAT GOOD!" But I digress...

I would have been talking with the one M at this time but I received a cancellation call last night from her citing a cold, so after dealing with the kids, I went straight to Shinjuku and had my Hansen's hot dog with least, I didn't have to wait eons for that. I spoke with the mother of the two sisters this morning; apparently, she was rather smitten with Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" and was wondering about one word that she'd heard repeatedly during the flick. The Japanese word was subtitled as o-taishi; there is the word ko-taishi which is Crown Prince. Since the movie dealt with Marie and the French court, I rather assumed that the word she was looking for was "dauphin". She was surprised and grateful at my discovery. I knew all those years of watching the second year of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" would finally reap benefits. "Marie Antoinette", by the way, is doing quite well here; when the movie seems to revolve around cakes and shoes in this country, it ought to be the highest-earning movie this year.

Basically the only reason I'm puttering away at this machine and spending almost 1,000 yen is that I had to print out a worksheet for those new kids, Chip n' Dale. Otherwise, I would just be walking around Shinjuku until 4:30 when I'm to meet MB and the gang for some Foo Foo ramen. Again, I don't think we need to wait...

Yesterday, I had my date of sorts with The Madame. We first went to this little soup kitchen down in the basement of Yurakucho's Printemps department store; it was called in the usual bizarre Japlish way, "Dear Soup". Actually, the meal was quite good. I had this spicy kimchi soup sharing space with rice...made for a great stew. As the two of us have been able to do for the past several months, we did our share of venting. I asked her opinion about The Bohemian's behaviour back on Sunday; she was, of course, not there but she did side with me that The Bohemian was being rather inconsiderate. Our second stop was another strangely named cafe in the Kotsu Kaikan building across from JR Yurakucho Station. For some reason, the cafe was named Arnie Palmer, after the legendary American golf player. Aside from that, there was no other hint of a golf theme inside the hoary old place. It was run by a trio of oldtimers with the square booths, pink platform phone and simple dishes that are reminiscent of 60s and 70s kissaten. There, we had a discussion on religion. Being a delver in all things spiritual, she was somewhat disappointed to hear that I was not just an atheist but an evolutionist. However, I did make my point clear that if there were indeed a god up there, he/she was not a noble one considering some of the atrocities that have been committed in the last century.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Friday February 9, 9:41 p.m.

Well, got a bit of a surprise to hear that Anna Nicole Smith died this morning. The Carolinan and I were just talking about her but couldn't recall her name last night while we were also talking about that Chilean golddigger, Anita, and her Japanese sugar daddy. I guess with Smith out of the way, that long-lasting lawsuit is now dead and buried...or is it? There's the case of Smith's newborn daughter...was she written into the will? Did Smith even write a will? Still, although there were some rather Monroe-esque circumstances in her death, I don't think Smith still holds a candle to the original. I got the impression that her TV show was just daring folks to label her insane.

Anyways, one of the fringe benefits of being a freelancer started its season. The Carolinan (and her sister, the New Yorker) gave me some macaroons as an early Valentine's Day gift. So, I've got two gifts to give back on White Day in little more than a month. Let's see how many more boxes I can get for breakfast. Man, how Fujiya must be that one of their most important selling seasons is in full swing.

As for The Carolinan herself, it looks like I won't be seeing her for about a month since she's got that accounting exam to study for. She's been getting fairly stressed out about that...and she's also been hitting the drinking parties as well...not a good combo.

Today, I'm meeting up with The Madame for one of those frequent lunches and coffee things in Yurakucho instead of the usual Ikebukuro. I would've thought that those gang wars in her neck of the woods was the reason for the site change, but she made the request before the first bullets were fired. On that sordid episode, apparently, the Yamaguchi-gumi and its rival, the Sumiyoshi-kai are brokering a peace deal. The police won't believe it til things stay quiet for a long time.

Afterwards, I've got The Ace for his Friday regular but Jolly got in a lesson just before The Ace's since he AWOL'ed again on Tuesday....which means I have to lug the TOEIC stuff for most of the day...ugh.

We've got a long weekend coming up since Japan's birthday is up on Sunday so we gotta have a compensatory Monday off. Skippy has signed off on the ramen deal on Saturday night but eschewed DVD night...not surprised there.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Wednesday February 7, 4:30 p.m.

Well, it turned out to be an abortive attempt to get the donuts at Krispy Kreme on Monday night. That 10-minute wait that The New Yorker had experienced looked more like a 1-hour marathon standing session. Looks like I'm gonna have to come back in, say, 6 months. It's just amazing how the Japanese just jump on the trendy bandwagon like a hungry cat in a mousecage. I don't think The Doughnut Plant ever got this crazy when it debuted a couple of years ago. Mind you, it has a number of branches around Tokyo whilst KK only has the one in all of Japan. Plus, The Doughnut Plant didn't have the ready-made marketing campaign of lots of Japanese tourists coming back from Hawaii toting their Krispy Kreme donut boxes along with their Macadamia Chocolates and Godiva Cocoa. This feeding frenzy must be quite amusing to folks back in North America where KK has become somewhat forlorn thanks to overexpansion and shoddy accounting practices. Shoddy accounting practices do seem to be rather common over here so I guess KK may have a home in Japan after all.

Looks like the yakuza have come back into the news after several months of nothing. Over the past few days, there have been some reprisal shootings...or shots across the bow, to be more accurate in the safest city in the world. Apparently, some capo got assassinated so various gangsters have decided to shoot out some windows of local chapters in the usual entertainment districts of Shibuya, Ikebukuro and Azabu-Juban (for you Sailor Moon fans, a lot of Usagi-chan's haunts are based in that last tony neighbourhood). I'm not sure if it was a matter of honour among thieves or if the thugs just wanted to avoid being clamped down by the cops, but all of the shootings took place in the wee hours. So, here's a safety tip for you tourists...don't do any early morning jogging around those areas for the next little while unless you wanna risk a bit of extra lead.

On the happier end of things, everyone is getting excited about Tokyo finally entering the marathon cities. On February 18th, The Big Sushi joins Boston, NYC and London with its own 42-km run of endurance. It starts from City Hall in West Shinjuku down to the hotel district of Shinagawa up to the trad quarter of Asakusa before finally winding its way down to Odaiba, in front of the Tokyo Big Sight convention centre. I just hope that there isn't a major earthquake since Odaiba will basically liquefy....could be somewhat embarrassing. 002 and her hubby, being the marathon enthusiasts will be in the thick of things.

Yesterday, I had my newest students, Chip n' Dale, the 10-year-old guy/gal buddies. The boy, Chip, looks to be 5 years younger while Dale could probably flip him across the room with one arm. The inaugural class went well. Actually, along with 002's lesson earlier in the afternoon (her last one before the Tokyo Marathon...she should have lots of stories to tell me in 2 weeks), I had four classes at the juku last night. Man, that was a long day....the first time I went through one of those in a long time. By the time, I finished up with The Siberian with our talk on the etymology of names, I was pretty much ready to be buttered and eaten with a cup of coffee.

Looks like Saturday will be a good least from the afternoon. I've got the Elder and the Younger earlier in the morning. Even though we're in February, I've yet to see the Elder for the first time this year and I kinda sent a shot across the mother's bow by suggesting that maybe the Elder can just focus more on her volleyball and other stuff. Her reply was not all that noncommittal. However, I do have the one M for our first chitchat session of the year at our new haunt since our old Tea Room closed down. Then, I'm meeting with MB, The Satyr and Skippy for some of that hearty pai ko tan tan men at Foo Foo in Shinjuku Station. After that, it'll probably be a guys' night at my place for DVDs. I don't think Skippy would join us since she's got her kid to teach the next day...and besides, three guys with a girl? Not even someone as up-with-people as Skippy would feel too comfy.

That astronaut love triangle thing in the States is the stuff that a scriptwriter's dreams are made of. Noone could have ever seen that one coming. I kinda wonder if those former producers of "JAG" are just slapping upside their heads.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Monday February 5, 6:01 p.m.

Sunday was a rather awkward least to me. I was to meet MB, The Satyr and his Aussie buddy for a round of burgers at The Maple Leaf, the Canadian pub in Shibuya. I had also posted an invitation to The Bohemian since I hadn't seen him in months and since he also had an abortive attempt to invite me to dinner back in early January when I was still back in Canada. Well, MB was going to be late but the other four of us met up in front of the Shibuya police box at about 4 yesterday.

Things started getting awkward with the pub itself. The fact that on a Sunday afternoon that a pub that supposedly opens up at 11:30 was absolutely devoid of customers at 4:10 wasn't a good sign but The Maple Leaf has always seemed pretty schizoid in that sense. Sometimes, you needed a crowbar to get in and then there was yesterday. Perhaps the price of the beers could be part of the problem. Selling beers for 1,000 yen a pop doesn't exactly bring in the izakaya crowd....especially if one of those beers is a's kinda like selling Bud Light for 1,000. Plus, any ambience for a nice casual drink was ruined by the bigscreen blaring out some unknown movie called "The Musketeer". After the first round, The Satyr and his houseguest decided to go manga-shopping before MB arrived (I also didn't take that as a good sign). So, it was just The Bohemian and me for the better part of an hour...and then two ladies came in.

The Bohemian, as his call name would indicate, has always been a mypace type of guy (in natural English, that would mean he goes by the beat of his own his case, that would be a bongo played by Tito Puente). Sometimes that mypace-ness would lead to some rather off-colour remarks and actions. Well, during that hour, Bo told me about his latest job failure; for a couple of months, he'd been working at some securities company for a couple of months but found his professional relationship with his boss to be anything but happy, so he pulled out. He was somewhat depressed. I told him about my latest tension with my parents..."Why don't you come home and get a real job?" Well, actually I vented....fueled by my bitter Guinness and my even more bitter resentment.

Then, the Bohemian did the one thing that I get peeved about...he always has this annoying penchant of trying to pick up the ladies...badly. His latest victims were in the next booth. Previous victims included waitresses at our usual izakaya, En. Usually, I would have just grated my teeth and borne it (sorry I'm such a prude but I think there's a time and place for this sort of nampa...Sunday afternoon at The Maple Leaf ain't it...I think the girls would probably have agreed). Unfortunately, with the dark stuff inside me (literally and figuratively), I ended up telling him straight that I would appreciate him cooling off that sort of thing in front of me. I don't think it's so much that he does what a lot of younger folk do in front of Shibuya on a Friday night but that he performs like such an Earl Camembert. I mean, this is a guy who had just confessed a few minutes earlier to being warned by the staff at his local gym about not approaching any more women...I guess the words "stalker" and "sexual harrassment" haven't embedded themselves too well into his psyche. Again, it's just me but I frankly think that his sort of flirting is just embarrassing for everyone. After my little snap, he quietened down a bit.

Of course, all this happened without the knowledge of MB, The Satyr or his friend. When they all showed up some minutes later, The Bohemian started making motions about moving over to a cheaper izakaya...after having glugged down some beers already. MB very amiably asked if he could just have the burger first before moving on. From then on, I kinda realized that perhaps the addition of The Bohemian wasn't exactly the best thing. His world and the world of The Satyr and MB were two different animals. So what did Bo do? Just continued to glug down more brewskis. As for MB's burger, he said it was good..could beat a Big Mac anyday but he still preferred the burgers at Village Vanguard (I really gotta take him to Brozzers in Ningyocho).

We finally did make our move closer to the station to a bar that served 157-yen beers...more to Bo's tastes. I think I know the reason for the low cost...the labour cost is probably close to rock bottom...the waitresses were all non-Japanese Asians. Still, the beer was good and the food was fine. However, it was quickly evident that Bo was winding down fast. All that beer shut his systems down so I was wondering if he were going to be OK. I did mention that he could sleep it off at the sauna hotels that he often uses. Somehow, he heard my suggestion but said that he would be OK. At least he wasn't like The Ballerina in her worst she's a bad drunk.

So, after we said our goodbyes, I'm left wondering how The Bohemian is doing. I'm not sure if there has been any lasting strain on our friendship but he knows now without a doubt about his attempts at flirting. Still, it looks like our first DVD night of the year is gonna happen again amongst The Satyr, MB and myself this coming Saturday....all this after a round of ramen at Foo Foo. I've asked Skippy to see if she would be game...I kinda doubt it though. Strangely enough, even though Skip wasn't around yesterday, she was very much with us in spirit...mostly when it came to talk about her pendulous breasts! Apparently, women over here don't hesitate to openly talk about each other's sizes or even to cop a feel. MB told me that at that somewhat disastrous reunion party with the alumni the other Friday, The Coffeemaker was trying to squeeze the Charmins of her good buddy.

Well, looks like this week is gonna be another one of those cancellation-prone ones. The Part-Timer just canned hers due to a cold and then I got a message from The UL that she would have to bow out of her Friday due to a funeral. I actually got a contrite fax from The Polynesian about her standing me up on Saturday. As I thought, she overslept after her latest 18-hour day at work.

And I'm actually gonna try to see if I can actually buy a box of Krispy Kreme donuts in under 10 minutes in Shinjuku. But it looks like despite The Part-Timer's cancellation, I'll be hanging about here for another couple of hours to do so since The New Yorker's successful attempt came about at 9 p.m. Not promising anything but since I don't start teaching 'til 3:30 tomorrow, I think I can afford the risk.