Friday, June 08, 2007

Saturday June 9, 2:47 p.m.

Just awaiting The Dentist for her 60 in about 20 minutes. Supposedly, we're getting deluged today and tomorrow. So far, though, Tokyo has only been sprinkled on. We can certainly use with the rain...the reservoirs are only at 55% capacity, which could mean water rationing.

I just had The Coffeemaker today at Tully's since Tully the student is now in Georgetown for his month-long English education at the university where George Tenet is lecturing. I did ask the lad to go up and meet him (and risk getting tasered by Secret Service). As for her partner, she is actually the first person I've seen or heard or read anywhere who actually enjoyed "Pirates of the Caribbean 3". Even Seven wasn't too thrilled with the overly supernatural aspects of this sequel. Still, even The Coffeemaker wasn't too sure about Orlando Bloom's performance.

Looks like 3 is the number of death this least where movie sequels are concerned. I read Roger Ebert's review on "Ocean's 13"...just marginally better than the mess that was "Ocean's 12". Now, there is just "The Bourne Ultimatum" to keep the 3 alive. However, I am interested in catching "The Prestige" with Batman and Wolverine. It just opened today. Heck, I'm even interested in seeing "The Shooter".

I remember when Paddy once mentioned that he had suffered reverse culture shock on one of his return trips to Japan and said that he couldn't tell the difference between men and women from the back since they were all too darn skinny. Well, that could all change. I read an article concerning the return of Burger King and the Whopper where one line read that the Japanese were now going away from the healthy diet of seaweed and fish and heading at warp speed toward typically American megacalories. There was a picture in the article of a rather portly Japanese fellow tucking into his Whopper which should be quite telling. However, I think the trend toward gigantism has been happening for some time now with the boon in burger joints such as Baker Bounce and Sasebo Burger. Then there is all that MegaMac business which sold out in no time earlier this year, followed by the craziness that is Krispy Kreme. Pretty soon, you're gonna have folks taking up two seats on the for each cheek.

Speaking about BK, it looks like the opening of the so-far sole branch in Shinjuku managed to bring Krispy Kreme-size lineups on its first day yesterday. I hope the chain will open up more branches in a hurry unlike the molasses-like KK. Once again, despite the potentially downpours that could happen tonight, the lines for Tokyo's favourite donut shop are 1:30 long.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Friday June 8, 9:33 a.m.

Another early start here. But I won't be here nearly as late as I had been this week. As soon as I'm done with The Nurse today, I'm heading back to my home in the wilds of Chiba for some catchup on sleep before dinner and The Ace tonight at the juku.

Last night's lesson with The Quiet Pair went swimmingly well. The Admin warned me that the girls were pretty quiet, but again, I'd met them and even taught them a couple of times over the past few years so I already knew their temperament. They were beyond the texts so it was 90 minutes of entertaining chat with The Dancing Bear...comic skills can go so far. However, we even had a mini-crisis of sorts when for some reason, the last person to use the washroom somehow was able to lock the door from the outside so one of the Pair couldn't use la toilette. Then, my unintentional comedic skills got to work as I pathetically tried to think like a lockpicker and used toothpicks, a de-curled paper clip and even the school business card to try to open the door. Basically, it took a call to Mrs. Speedy and she got the door opened with a fork. Of course, the old fork-in-the-lock trick. Crisis averted.

I was actually able to watch a bit of TV this morning on the main set for the first time in a couple of days. It was the usual sordid spate of child killings and other horrible crimes in this country. Yep, Japan's crown of low crime may be starting to slip.

The next few days could be rather wet ones....which I hope is true since the news is stating that water reservoirs for the Kanto area are looking pretty low right now since the past winter was an unusually dry one. It may mean back to the 1-minute showers or putting Saran Wrap on the plates.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Thursday June 7, 3:56 p.m.

Came back from Shinjuku doing a bit of walking. Checked out Tower Records by the station where I only checked out the magazine section on the 10th floor; can't really be buying too many more CDs. Not a whole lot to buy there, either. Then, I just went over the overpass towards Krispy Kreme...yep, the usual snaky lines. The sign said a 1h20 min. wait. Didn't bother going across the bridge to Takashimaya Times Square and Kinokuniya. I figured there wouldn't be anything different that wouldn't cost more than 2,000 yen to purchase. So I just turned right and headed towards the Maynds Building.

I was expecting to tuck myself into another spicy Chinese lunch at that eatery in the basement, but as it turned out, the place was going into junbichuu status (standby status for the dinner crowds). I was tempted to try out the Indian curry place next door but I didn't want to subject my two students to any more body odor than absolutely necessary, so I just headed to the local Subways for a sandwich, before getting back here.

Well, so far so good with Speedy's students. If I can pass the gauntlet with these two quiet ones in a couple of hours, I'll head back home as quickly as I can.
Thursday June 7, 11:42 a.m.

Just finished the last of the Grandmothers. She was another one of those sweet little old ladies from a bygone era, but she also had some very interesting tales to impart. We spoke about her love of ballroom dancing (the first student who has ever referred to the activity by its proper name instead of "social dance"), but the interesting stuff involved her confession that until last year, she'd never been on an airplane of any sort in her life and that last June was her first overseas trip ever. Also, she talked about the postwar era and the fact that she had attended two sessions of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials as a young lady. Good golly...what the elderly can teach us about those days.

While we were talking for the hour, Grandmother 4 caught sight of a zeppelin flying about the Shinjuku sky....which, I'm sure, evoked some more memories. I don't really see many dirigibles out here, so I'm kinda wondering if there's some sort of event happening today.

Anyways, the Grandma classes are over and done with, so they'll be back with Speedy next week. Now, it's just the quiet pair tonight.
Thursday June 7, 10:19 a.m.

Just got through Grandma 3...and yep, as expected, she's quite the firebrand. I wouldn't say it was an automatic, though...did have to help her through some rough spots. But we talked about our hobbies which includes the famous all-female troupe of Takarazuka. She's not quite up to the okkake (groupie) level that one of my students was, but she's pretty knowledgeable about the current and previous stars.

Well, Grandma 4 has just rung in....hope my energy levels can keep up.
Thursday June 7, 8:36 a.m.

Some nine hours after leaving the school last night, I'm back again. For the last couple of days, my apartment has just been a bed to me. And I think for the first time in my long history here, I haven't turned on the main TV for 2 days straight. The Admin, who always opens up, noted amusingly that I looked rather tired...this, despite having drunken down an Oronamin C and on my way through a Nescafe iced coffee. I'm now starting to understand how Speedy feels on a regular basis. However, it will be just for this week.

In the batter's circle today, it'll be all Speedy's students. I've got Grandmas 3 and 4 followed by another several hours of nothing before I've got that quiet pair that I usually only see at the dinners. I met Grandma 3 when she came for her model lesson with Speedy; she's actually Grandma 2's sister, and she's a bit of a firecracker in class. In the industry, you might say that she's an automatic...the teacher can just sit back and relax while she barrels on. I've heard that Grandma 4 is diametrically the opposite in demeanor. The Admin told me that Grandma 1 (who was quite low and had to struggle to keep a conversation going) is probably better than her. Oh, boy...

I'm gonna make a concerted effort and head into Shinjuku today to get a bit of air, physically and spiritually. I just read in today's Japan Times that Burger King will get its second chance in the market as of Friday...right in the heart of Shinjuku somewhere.

The Manhattanite is a good kid but I'm kinda glad that she cancelled her lesson tonight. I could use with a bit more sleep tonight. So, as soon as I'm finished with the pair at 8:00, I'll be taking off for home. Still, I have to make another beeline here early for the 3rd morning in a row since I've got The Nurse for her 10 o'clock. However, after that it'll just be The Ace at the juku and since he won't have his class for about 10 hours, I'll just shoot straight back home again and recover.

When Speedy gets back, I really hope that he won't offer me the opportunity to make this lineup a permanent one. The money is good but the cost in commuting time and sleep is just a bit too high. Still, I'm saying this after a few months of being in the black. The Health Insurance premiums and Citizen's Tax (which apparently is going up) payments are due to come in anytime now, and then I'll probably be begging once again.
Wednesday June 6, 10:43 p.m.

Well, I figured it was gonna happen sooner or later. I got the e-mail from the two sisters' Mom stating that the Elder will no longer require my services as her teacher. It seems that the Elder and her mother came to the mutual decision (probably after much yelling) that she just had too much on her plate with her volleyball practices and other school stuff. Part of me feels a little bad that it came to this after 3 years, but on the other hand, most of me feels quite relieved that I'm dumping some adolescent deadwood. It was just not working out.

The news came between 001 and The Judge. 001 kept her spirits high as she usually does in her lessons but she also admitted that she and her department are in a bit of trouble due to some sort of error committed in the past few days. So, she said that she may be in for a bit of turning and tossing in bed tonight before the investigation begins. Hopefully, it won't be so bad that NHK will be aiming its cameras. The Judge has been quite the hard worker. Not too quick on the delivery but he does have quite a bit of grammatical accuracy.

Well, I gotta head out of here in a few minutes. Basically, I'm just heading home to get some shuteye and then I'm back here in less than 12 hours to teach the next two grandmas in the morning before getting another couple of Speedy's students in the early evening. The Manhattanite has cancelled her lesson for tomorrow which means that I may be able to head on home at a more decent hour. But then I've got The Nurse first thing on Friday morning.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wednesday June 6, 1:54 p.m.

Well, got my reservations for that hotel in Fujisawa later this month. Man, just love Net hotel reservations! I don't have to talk with a human being. It could be a bit of a reenactment of that stuffed train I took this morning, though. I'm headed over there from 002's apartment right around rush hour.

Time for lunch...
Wednesday June 6, 1:00 p.m.

Well, got through the first half of the lessons today. I had the 2 grandmas. Grandma 1 was a fairly quiet sort although very sweet. I kinda had to keep the ball rolling with her, whereas with her friend, Grandma 2, it was pretty much automatic. She could hold her end of the talk with little problem. Grandma 1 was nice enough to provide us with Godiva chocolates...she has a rather nasty penchant of giving us little goodies like those.

I've now got about less than 6 hours before 001 shows up. Not quite what I'm gonna do with her since she's pretty much finished her text, and so we're going into rather virgin territory. After I figure that one out, I'm gonna see what I can do with the curricula project since I've let that go fallow for a while.
Wedneday June 6, 9:51 a.m.

Less than half an hour away from my first lesson here at Speedy's with Grandmother 1, one of the bossman's students. I was told that I needn't do anything in her text'll probably be free conversation. I've never been all that comfortable with that directive since I kinda feel naked without some sort of lesson plan under my belt. Ah, well...we shall see.

Made it through yesterday in fairly sane shape. The Beehive got together at the meeting room of Mrs. Perth's apartment building. To use it, a resident has to pay 500 yen an hour for regular meetings but if it's to be used for educational purposes, heaven forbid, the rent doubles! So, of course, Perth, being the shrewd and savvy one, just said that it would just be a meeting. We were gabbing in Japanese while the maintenance crew was in earshot but once the folks closed the door, we were in the clear. The things we have to do to get a dedicated classroom... In any case, we mostly discussed Perth's trip in Italy and Malta along with her impending departure to start a new life with hubby in Sapporo. The ladies have said that they'll be fishing for a new classmate.

It was the usual lunch at Becker's and lounging around in the Funabashi Seibu Department Store between The Beehive and 002's lesson. I spent some of it proofreading The Chef's latest recipe plans. 002 was another fun run as usual.

The long stint at the juku went pretty well...really well, considering some of the chaos that prevailed during the Pancake Day proceedings last week. Chip n' Dale were fine. However, I'm a bit worried that Seven may be starting to tire of the lessons. She's been with me for over a year now and since she's still rather young, she may be getting those ideas of straying away. Mind you, her new textbook, Expressways 2, hasn't exactly given her much of a challenge, despite her protestations to the contrary.

Although the classes went well, the juku boss warned Chip n' Dale to be careful outside. Apparently, a couple of teen boys have been riding...illegally...a moped on the street immediately outside of the house. I did see them hotrodding back and forth, but seeing a couple of boys gleefully flaunting authority on a moped doesn't exactly bring fears of moral turpitude when I've seen and heard scenes of gangbanging and drive-by shootings on the evening news in the States. However, I was surprised when the boss said that the two delinquents were junior high school kids. The punks I saw on the moped looked a whole lot bigger than middle schoolers. I guess someone's been putting steroids in the kyushoku.

The subway into the big city was just packed like a mid-rush hour train. Once again, the droning announcement stated that due to some tech difficulties at Nishi-Funabashi Station, delays were piling up. This year, it seems that Tokyo Metro has been having more and more of these problems.

Anyways, Grandma 1 is here...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday June 4, 9:32 p.m.

Just got through Mr. TOEIC's lesson with brain intact. Actually, it was a pretty good lesson. We didn't get too far with the text but we did communicate on other stuff. For example, we gabbed on the utility of Internet cafes and our mutual like for Hayao Miyazaki movies (well, in my case, I really just prefer "Kiki's Delivery Service"). For him, just to talk in English was a huge boon.

This morning, I watched the majority of the first big series of Democratic Presidential Nominee debates on CNN (remember I'm in Japan...Lou, Wolf, Paula, Larry and Anderson are my morning team). According to what I read on TVNewser, the opinions on the debates themselves were very mixed, but for me, I actually did enjoy what I saw and heard from the candidates, although it was very obvious that the talking time was made especially for Barack, Hillary and John. None of these sound bites; there was a bit more substance with the style.

As was the case last week, this week will be another loaded one with classes. I've got the bulk of Speedy's students, which include a gaggle of grandmothers. I'm not sure what I'm gonna do with them although the bossman has said that I don't need to use the texts with them. Just hope I don't end up a basketcase.

In about a few weeks, The Dancer and her family will be heading over here. She and her troupe will be performing in front of the locals in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture, just west of Yokohama. The recital is actually gonna be held fairly early in the morning so I'm thinking of just getting a room at The Dancer's hotel in the city the night before. So, I've asked the juku boss to see if I can get a night off, although I do have The Chef and 002 until 5 p.m. that day, so any check-in will have to be around 8 p.m. at the earliest.

I guess 3's not the least where Hollywood blockbusters are concerned. "Spiderman 3", "Shrek 3" and especially "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" haven't exactly scored the highest of critical ratings so far...mind you, making hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide must cut down on the stings. I've been somewhat surprised at the vitriol that Johnny Depp's final (supposedly) entry as Captain Jack Sparrow has been splattered with...although I'd always been contrarian in my opinions when it came to the very first movie...never really liked the franchise, to be honest. So, unless I get some sort of invitation from either Movie Buddy (he's likely gonna be very busy with the wedding stuff) and Skippy, I'll probably wait til the DVD. Now, I just wonder how "Ocean's Thirteen" is gonna be taken by the critics, and that movie is coming from the distinct disadvantage that was "Ocean's Twelve". The knives will probably be sharpened for this one. I did hear, though, that former sumo yokozuna Musashimaru, a native Hawaiian, will have a cameo in this one, although I'm not sure who he'll be portraying.

Anyways, it's just Mrs. Speedy and myself now. So I'll probably be getting ready to get going home. She gave me some orange juice that's gone past its due date. I'm pretty confident, though, that I'll survive...although there may be a chance of some Montezuma's Revenge later on tonight.
Monday June 4, 7:32 p.m.

Just finished with The Part-Timer for her first class in 2 weeks. We actually got to do it here at Speedy's which certainly saved us a lot of wear and tear in terms of coffee and cigarette smoke, and of course saved us a bit of yen on drinks. Just waiting for Mr. TOEIC...that is, if he doesn't pull off another cancellation.

After Paddy on Saturday, I met up with M+M for the first time in 6 weeks. I headed over to that supposedly new haunt of ours just a few seconds away from Ichigaya Station, Cafe Des Etoiles. I was then approached by a woman whom I had initially thought was some sort of unusually aggressive tissue pack distributor. It turned out to be the Junior M; it was the first time for her to show up before the Senior M. The Cafe Des Etoiles was shuttered...perhaps permanently, so we had to look for new digs. Well, we ended up at my new home away from home in Ichigaya, the Tully's where I teach The Sisters of State, BC and Tully & The Coffeemaker. The Senior M did show up some minutes later...and we even got a mild tremor, to boot.

It looks like the Junior M is going through some teething relationship pains at her first career posting in the city of Yamato. It looks like she has a bit of a dilettante of a supervisor, although he doesn't seem as bad as the potentially psycho boss of The Polynesian; but to digress, The Polynesian doesn't have to worry about her supervisor anymore since she quit last Friday. In any case, it seems like every organization will have an in-built psychopath as corporate tormentor.

I finally got that condolence letter off to my uncle. Boy, did it take a few hours to write down. Even my students were commenting on how difficult it is to get that sort of letter written. Of course, I had to pull out all of my dictionaries along with a small guide on writing Japanese letters.

Sunday was happily a totally free day. All I did was just clean things up, do some shopping and watch some of the satellite stations that were on free. So my evening was just spent hearing some oldies on Channel 795 of SkyPerfect. It will be the only free day that I'll have for the next 2 weeks.

I received a call this morning from Mrs. Travel of the Beehive. She told me that the field trip to the Canadian Embassy has been canned once again. Again, I'm not all that disappointed since any interesting information concerning the Beehive's trip to Canada will be rather limited in any event, and besides I have 002's home visit tomorrow afternoon. So, I'm just meeting the ladies at Mrs. Perth's apartment tomorrow. Yes, Mrs. Perth is back with lots of tales of her European trip...and the news that she and her hubby will be moving to Sapporo soon; apparently, her hubby has found a new position up in Hokkaido. With Perth's imminent departure from the group, she'll be the third Bee to leave the hive in the past 12 months, along with Mrs Tulip and Mrs. Potter. It'll be sad to see Perth go...she was definitely one of the best students I've ever had.
Monday June 4, 5:32 p.m.

It was a good weekend. I met up with Paddy bright and early in Shinjuku on Saturday in front of Studio ALTA, the main meeting spot for everyone in that area. Actually, at 8:30, it was downright deserted. Just some gaggles of young folk getting together for some trips outside of town or the usual nomadic homeless people just schlumping along. Paddy arrived about a half hour later and we made our first stop at a cafe inside the station.

Paddy has been doing good as a lawyer in jolly ol' London for the past few years. His significant other has been writing up her PhD in university. The lad has been back here for the past few weeks to do some presentations and make some connections in the big town, although he and his missus have no plans to live back here at all. Talking with him now made me marvel at how far he's come along over the 15 years of our friendship. Back then, he was just a slightly angst-ridden working-holiday student taking a year off university. Now, he's fighting the good fight for environmentalists everywhere. Kinda reminds of CG in that way.

After the coffee, we made a further stop at Starbucks (yep, more coffee) before going across the street to Takashimaya Times Square to pick up some edible souvenirs for his family. He picked up a bag of candied grasshoppers (yep, you saw that's a delicacy here) and some much more appetizing desserts. For lunch, we walked up north to a ramen shop called of those noodle joints that have gotten onto the media scene. Sure enough, there was a bit of a wait in store for us....unsurprising, since the seats are only counter ones. Another restaurant with that eclectic mix of traditional and new...the chefs were all young folk in blue-and-white headbands and red T-shirts chanting slogans while making the broth and noodles in the open kitchen. Meanwhile, B.B King was wailing away at his blues on the stereo. Musashi is a chain, and Paddy used to go to the Aoyama branch almost daily (amazing that he'd survived all that salt and cholesterol). However, in a "you can't go home again" moment, he declared that the ramen has changed and that it's no longer that good anymore. To be honest, despite all the hoopla and lineup, the ramen wasn't all that remarkable when compared to the hundreds of other outlets. After one stop at the nearest Bic Camera, we made our goodbyes at Ichigaya Station.

More later...