Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday June 1, 4:53 p.m.

Woke up this morning to some sore muscles in my shoulders. I guess that masseuse really did a good number on them yesterday. All that lactic acid ready to be gushed out...

Paddy did get back to me this morning. He said that he only got my messages late last night; about a good 2 days after I'd sent them. And the two of us were using our Hotmail addresses. Well, I guess it was more like tepidmail.

As I promised myself, I enjoyed my completely free day by first heading down to that buffet restaurant in Shiodome City Centre, the UN. Now, I did something after that lunch that I thought I would never do after a buffet all-you-can-eat...I actually went down to the NTV Plaza and bought a hot dog at Hansens. The viking (as they call buffets over got me why they chose an ancient Danish people's name....I guess the tables of food reminded them of the fare that the Vikings ate...and smorgasbord was probably just too difficult for the Japanese to pronounce) was nicely arranged in an atmospheric setting with some jazz and R&B lite. There was some spicy Thai curry and plenty of salad....which I guess must've been my downfall with this place. There was just a certain sameness with the dishes...a vegetarian would swoon here. And the meat was virtually all chicken....just like an old buffet place around the corner. The desserts were OK, though. But I guess I was expecting a bit more for 1,500 yen. Thus, the quick trip to Hansens. I'm glad that that branch of the New York hot dog chain still exists after seeing the Shinjuku branch pack up its bags.

Took my walk down the Ginza to start shedding off the calories I ingested (fat chance). Stopped off at Yamano Music before hitting the stationery shop, Ito-Ya, to pick up a Father's Day card and a condolence card concerning my grandpa. I've decided that I will take the time and write my thoughts to my uncle instead of phoning him tonight. Considering the topic matter involved, I feel it would be safer for me to pen things down where I can be careful instead of the immediate risks of verbally expressing things that I'm not well versed in.

I walked up to Yurakucho and headed toward Tokyo Station. I also took a look-see in the Yaesu Book Store just across from the station. It's an unusual place in that the escalator and elevator take on a relay function instead of working in tandem. From Floors 1 to 4, the escalator takes up but then after that we have to rely on stairs and elevators.

As I was headed toward the station, I noticed how much more built-up and clogged this area of town was getting in terms of skyscrapers. I can only hope that when The Big One eventually hits, the buildings are strong enough to withstand a Shindo 7. Speaking of which, I was lulled awake this morning by a Shindo 2.

I went through Tokyo Station, took a brief dip into Maruzen before looking into the Shin-Maru Building. This has been the newest shopping mall of interest in a year when it seems like every neighbourhood is trying to grow its own ultramodern commercial complex. Unlike its older sister, the original Maru Biru, Shin's interior has gotten a heavier design esthetic...I guess one can call it neoclassique. The wood paneling is glossy and dark chocolate-coloured...I can only think that Willy Wonka may have had a few things to mention during the first design sessions. But the interior also reminds me of what the original Matsuzakaya department store must've been like a century ago. Of course, the stores and restaurants were on the high end of the credit card limit. Heck, even Godiva has opened up an ice cream outlet in the basement.

But that's all she wrote about my little walk through downtown Tokyo today. Tomorrow, I'm meeting Paddy out in front of Studio Alta in Shinjuku in the wee hours since that is the only time I can see him before I meet up with The Polynesian and then M+M later on.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday May 31, 9:40 p.m.

Today is sending out this month in a drippy fashion. Not too bad considering the earlier humidity of the week.

Kinda an off-kilter day professionally. Unlike the marathon session at Speedy's all yesterday, I just had the one morning lesson with one of the bossman's students. I only get to teach her once a year when Speedy has to head out overseas on business; she's a magician by trade and an English student by hobby. I would definitely tell her not to give up her day job. Considering that's she been with the school for as long as I've been here, she's remarkably low and unable to string even a few sentences together. And of course, the chapter I had to teach her was on simple statistics English...which wasn't so simple for her.

Then, tonight I met BC for the first time in a month since she had that trip to Belgium and Holland earlier this month. Also, a bit off-kilter since we spent the better part of two hours just talking about her fascination with Canada (so, would that make her a Canadaphile, a Canucklehead or an honourary Hosehead?) I was impressed that she would know John Candy, a comedic institution in his homeland but probably completely unknown here. Anyways, considering she's seeing me to help her with her writing, I wondered if she thought she got her money's worth with me tonight. But then again, she didn't finish off the report that I had assigned her so not much to be done there.

Still, the conversation got interesting between us when it came to her talking about the "Yellow Cab" phenomenon back Stateside. For those not in the know, the yellow cabs refer to the allegedly naive, trusting Japanese women who head out to countries unknown and get preyed upon by the local wolves. BC had been lurking through a Canadian web forum and saw some of the guys gabbing about yellow cabs and even that Japanese woman who had just become Miss Universe, Rio something-or-other from Shizuoka. My student posited that a lot of the foreigners who come upon this land take back to their own home countries info or images of the more erotic variety...not quite sure how accurate that could be with Customs regulations around the world. In any case, I kinda compared what she said with the fact that newcomers to their new home often pick up swear words before anything else in the new language.

Speaking of Miss Universe, considering how much tragedy there's been this week with the deaths of that ZARD lead singer and the Minister of Agriculture, it's also been a week to celebrate some of the big wins by Japanese out abroad. Of course, there was Rio in Mexico getting the tiara, but also there was also that Japanese director scoring the second-highest prize at Cannes, and of course, Ichiro is on a 22-game hitting streak for the Mariners.

In between lessons today, I had my annual treatment at Creambath Ebisu in the titular area. As I mentioned in my last entry, I really needed that massage. My masseuse of the session took good care of me (no giggling out there). I got into my half-robe and went through the course of shampoo massage, aloe vera scalp massage, the option of shoulder-and-hand massage, steamer and then the big rinse in my 80 minutes with her. Yep, I definitely needed it...I fell blissfully asleep during the first two stages. And since it is their 10th anniversary, I got a thousand-yen discount along with a complementary jar of ginseng hair cream.

Tomorrow, I've actually got a full day off. That's right....nothing to do with teaching at all, and unlike today, it promises to be a fairly sunny day tomorrow. Being the 1st of June, I will probably head on down to indulge in a buffet in Shiodome (nope, LAST is gone but there is the UN), make like a tourist and walk around downtown.

I never got any follow-up from Paddy so that's why I'm currently here typing away. But I did get a surprise message from The Bohemian asking me how to make a call to Canada. You would think a guy of his intelligence would be able to figure it out. Still, I'm surprised he even made the call considering our last meeting in which I chewed him out for acting so caddishly.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thursday May 31, 1:51 p.m.

Well, I'm ready for that massage now. Just had one of Speedy's students while he's away. Really nice lady but I was surprised that she's so far up on the textbook scale considering her low delivery. In other words, it was a slog.

Managed to get through the second day of Hell. 001 was great and then I had The Judge's first official lesson as the last guy in my long 18 hours. He finally did admit that he was a judge (Speedy broke it open for me last week)...he was rather secretive about it for some reason. I remarked that he was the youngest judge I'd ever seen (he was in his late 20's when he got the post). To that, he replied that the Japanese system is markedly different from the American one in that people are trained to become judges directly, instead of having to go through several years of being a lawyer to earn the right to hold the gavel.

After two straight days of nothing but wall-to-wall classes, I just have BC tonight in Ichigaya. But first, I'm heading to Creambath Ebisu for that Balinese Head Massage that I'd been waiting for for weeks. I'll be putty in the masseuse's hands.

I still haven't heard anything from Paddy about tonight so I'm starting to think that it'll be straight home after BC's lesson. And then I have a glorious day of nothing tomorrow. May indulge in a buffet and just walk around the Imperial Palace area.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wednesday May 30, 9:48 a.m.

Actually, The Admin has to do some paperwork with him so I've got a 5-10 minute reprieve. The fellow is a bit of a serious fellow so I'll be following suit...I'll hold off on the jokes today. In any case, I'm not in too much of a humourous mood today.

In any case, to continue with the Jolly saga...yup, he was a sleeping drunk on the trains which explains his absence last week. But he did show up and did pretty well. But these long sessions could be the death of me. I was very lucky that the boss took pity on me and drove me home with the hotplate.

Still, I only had 5 hours of sleep before heading out the door to do this fellow's model lesson. He's looking for a STEP 1 Test. The STEP test is one of the English proficiency exams that regularly distract a lot of folks here from children to businessmen. STEP 1 is the highest level...basically, if you're going for that test, you really don't need my help. However, some masochists still want the practice of talking on politics and the economy in English. I think this guy may be the real deal, and he would be my first STEP 1 student. Perhaps, I should be taking out subscriptions to the Japan Times.

Next, after him, I gotta head on out for another in the latest of crosstown commutes to see 002. She's graduating to the next text. I would be giving her her test today but the computers are down so no test for her...much to her delight. I'm glad our students are so delinquent that way. Then, it's all the way back here for the STEP guy's first official lesson, followed by 001 (whom I haven't seen in 3 weeks) and then the first official lesson for The Judge. Man, I'm gonna have to talk with Speedy about this schedule.

I did get a letter from Paddy. The lad is back in town so he was thinking about getting together on the 31st. The best barrister I know in England has picked up a slight Brit accent...which I will never let him live down. Not sure, but I think I can see him after my lesson with BC. We'll play it by ear...
Wednesday May 30, 9:38 a.m.

In the middle of the two days of scheduling Hell. First off, I had my first of the newly-packed juku nights. And it started with that Pancake Party. Kids have never been my forte but I had to deal with Chip n' Dale, plus two of their siblings, plus two of the boss' regular high school students and then with the mothers in the same room. Then, there was the fact that the recipe for the homemade pancakes didn't work out too well which necessitated a not entirely successful quick fix. The flapjacks came out more like crepes. Then, Seven came in which really filled up the room. Basically, I would rate the result as somewhat'll be the last time I do a Pancake party...just don't have the flair for that type of stuff anymore.

Afterwards, things were pretty smooth, although Mrs. Mild had her usual sieve-like mind. The Siberian was fine. And then, the juku bad boy of fecklessness, Jolly, came in sheepish and apologetic after last week's no-show. Apparently, the lad had ended up sleeping on the subway all the way to the end of the line after a round of wining and dining last Tuesday.

But I must stop here since my newest potential student has arrived...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Tuesday May 29, 2:52 p.m.

Currently giving The Nurse her test. Got a surprise jump start to Pancake Day when the lass brought some kinako pancakes for us to taste test the Extra Light No. 1 syrup on. Considering that Speedy is out on business, we got downight slovenly and had ourselves a momentary tea party which included even The Admin.

I lugged out the hotplate earlier today to the juku along with the other stuff. The bags themselves weren't too heavy but lugging them for a total of 30 minutes still took some out of me. The juku boss was out at the hospital having her arm looked at after having strained it a little after some ill-advised calisthenics.

The Nurse got a clear pass. We're free and clear. Now, it's time for the main event.
Tuesday May 29, 1:33 p.m.

Well, the day after two untimely deaths...first off, that Agriculture Minister Matsuoka. Looks like the news hit the government like a ton of bricks. The Prime Minister and his No. 2, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shiozaki looked rather shellshocked, and one of the female ministers had a major crying jag on camera. Of course, all the shows were talking about the fallout. The comment has been made that this was the first suicide of a standing government minister since World War 2. I think it is something to be mentioned since all of us wouldn't have noticed. Suicide news has almost become a genre unto itself, and there have been the fair share of Dietmen who have offed themselves over the years.

Then, there was the news about the lead singer of ZARD dying that would have taken centre stage if it hadn't been for the above suicide. Now, the journos are speculating on whether the death had been an accident or not. The reports have been strangely confused. The Japan Times reported that she died as a result of her slipping down the wet stairs, which was the original story. But subsequently, reports and pictures have pointed to a 2nd-floor outdoor sloping walkway, some 3 metres above the pavement. And both theories have holes...if it had been suicide, why would the singer Izumi have decided to jump from the lowest level when there were so many other higher levels to jump from? And if it had been an accident, it would've taken some doing for a lady some 165 cm in height to allegedly "fall off" over a metal barrier which was 150 cm high. But it isn't impossible, especially if the lady had decided to sit on the foolhardy as that may sound. It may be one of those cases that may never be fully solved.

But in any case, the official mourning has started. Altars have been set up at her recording company and elsewhere for fans to lay flowers and comments. A couple of teary-eyed women was interviewed by the geino reporters.

In any case, off to class...
Monday May 28, 6:27 p.m.

Well, it's been a double-shock day! On the political front, a government minister, Mr. Matsuoka of Agriculture has decided to shirk his responsibilities of facing up to some scandal in the ultimate way: hanging himself in those inexpensive government dormitories. To be charitable, though, sometimes it's a combination of circumstances beyond one's control and one's past choices which call in the Grim Reaper.

Then, on the pop-cultural front, the Greta Garbo-like Izumi Sakai, otherwise known as the lead singer of 90s-sensation ZARD, passed away due to injuries suffered in a fall down the stairs at the hospital where she had been being treated for ovarian cancer. As the saying goes, "I didn't even know she was sick." The rumours are flying that Sakai's tragic death may have been suicide as well since her cancer had metastisized into her lungs.

I found all this out from SIL when I hit her office. She had been watching NHK about the Matsuoka suicide, and then she was trying to remember the band's name for a few minutes when she told me about the other death. Being the old J-Pop hand, I immediately went into memory mode as she hummed a few bars of one of her old hits and said some bands which had been ZARD's contemporaries at the time....bands like B'z and DEEN. I was quite shocked to hear about Sakai dying since she was only a couple of years younger than me. Again, her rare appearances on TV shows will probably add to her legend. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of ZARD although I do have her very first hit on CD, "Goodbye, My Loneliness"; I just found a lot of the ZARD catalog very repetitive. I was looking through the J-Pop was rather interesting in terms of the comments; there was surprise and shock at the announcement but none of the horrified "I JUST WANNA DIE!" screams from the fanatics when that former member of X Japan, Hide, had died years ago in that bizarro accident (?). And in fact, a lot of the statements prefaced their condolences with "Well, I wasn't a huge fan, but..." So I gather we won't be seeing the 50,000-plus funeral procession for Ms. Sakai.

The news on Sakai must've been very new despite reports that she had died early on Sunday morning JST. I had dropped by Tower Records before seeing The Class Act...didn't see any hastily-made notices on her passing or a huge commemorative section with all of her CDs. No doubt, though, that there will be lots of coverage on her life and death on the morning wide shows for the next couple of days, followed by lots of singing of her hits in the karaoke boxes for the next several weeks.

But death wasn't just limited to the outside world. I got a call from Mom last night that Grandpa finally left the mortal realm on Sunday morning. He was 94. It wasn't unexpected and he had lived a long life. My mother, who would cry on a dime at any tender scene in an NHK drama, didn't shed any tears. Not that they hadn't gotten along but decades of separation pretty much eliminated any close emotional ties. And for that matter, although I did meet Grandpa a few times, I didn't particularly feel any major mourning for him, although I will be sending a letter of condolence and I'll be phoning my uncle later this week. But I do regret that my direct family and I never really had that closeness with the rest of the relatives. I'm not sure if that had been due to a choice on the part of my parents or whether it's just the family way. However, I sometimes wonder how much life could've been enhanced and how many more grand Xmas dinners or New Year's celebrations could've been had if there had been closer and better ties amongst us.

Before things get too maudlin, though, I'm happy to say that the covert feud between The Admin and The Cook has been nipped in the bud. All a misunderstanding, as they say. Due to my extra efforts on Saturday, a grateful Cook gave me some a tender, giant bamboo shoot as a present (here, that is a nice thing to do). She said that the top part of it can be sliced into sashimi whilst the thicker part can be fried as a steak. Wow...multitasking ingredient.

In any case, both The Full-Timer and Mr. TOEIC have cancelled so I will be out of here in a few minutes. I had wanted to make something up for Pancake Day tomorrow but since Microsoft Word has been disabled on our loused-up computers, I think I'll take that as a hint to vamoose.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday May 27, 6:23 p.m.

Well, it's been a bit of an up-and-down few days. On Thursday, my lesson with The Carolinan was off since I had the bad luck of witnessing a couple next to our table at the Tully's pulling a few faces when my student kinda gabbed in English a bit louder than I was somewhat on pins and needles for the rest of the hour while The Carolinan wasn't sure what I was so concerned about. It also didn't help that the ambient noise level in the place was higher than usual which made comprehension all that much harder. Friday was just the lone class with The problems there. Yesterday, though, I had my three at Speedy's...the first day of class there while the bossman was off on a business trip. So it was just The Admin and myself.

The three students, The Manhattanite, Farrah and The Dentist, were just fine. However, the Admin was going off on a small rampage about The Cook, that student who has been sporadically showing up for some help in her lessons at that cooking school. Apparently, The Admin has been having a back-and-forth with her on the phone about the fact that The Cook has been put out about me not being all that available for lessons. I hadn't seen the lady in some time so I still have yet to get her side of the tale, but The Admin feels that The Cook is acting like some sort of prima donna. Plus, I ended up staying a few more hours at the office than necessary to go over the latest recipes that needed to be faxed back to her posthaste. So I had to endure those extra hours of tension in the atmosphere; plus, The Admin mistakenly scheduled my lesson with The Cook 15 minutes earlier than I would've liked which meant that I had to bring up my lesson with SIL appropriately. Luckily, SIL was game. But it should be rather interesting when I get to the school tomorrow. It'll be a packed two weeks since I'll be taking over some of Speedy's lessons.

Then, today, The Elder of the two sisters was on a major sullen pouting fest which got an apology from her mother. The kid only lasted 40 minutes with me before she decided that she'd had enough of me and begged off. Well...being a teen myself, I could see what I was partly like back in those emotionally charged years. Apparently, mother and daughter have been having some words for the past few days. Fortunately, The Junior is firmly on my side of the fence.

And happily, Tully and The Coffeemaker were good to go. It'll be Tully's last class with me for the next month or so. He takes off for Georgetown next weekend for a month of English practice in the US capital. I did ask him to say hi to George Tenet for me. Surprisingly, The Coffeemaker is still willing to go solo with me for the next couple of times while her buddy is away. As for The Polynesian, she did show up and she was quite good, although she's still wrestling about whether to endure the machinations of her psychopathic boss or to finally call it quits. Both she and I feel that life is too short to gain an extra ulcer.

So I find myself back here getting some respite before the coming storm this week. I still have to get The Full-Timer's reply about whether she's gonna show between The Cook and Mr. TOEIC. But I'm just gonna enjoy myself with a nice dinner and do a dry run with that pancake recipe before showtime at the juku on Tuesday.