Friday, July 20, 2007

Saturday July 21, 1:34 p.m.

Met up with The Madame for the first time in a few months in Shibuya yesterday. No particular change...still struggling to earn the yen in her teaching jobs, although she's fortunate enough to have her safety net of her well-to-do parents' house. She took me to this Chinese tea house just next to the Dogenzaka end of Mark City, the big mall abutting the station. Yup, the place had all the trimmings which would designate it as a place of imbibing tea in Yokohama Chinatown: a lot of bamboo, brown teapots and cane furniture. Actually, we didn't spend the 90 minutes there just taste testing the leaves but eating their dim sum. It was quite good and since the dumplings had already been seasoned, there was no need for soy sauce. But I think the big winner there was the very first entry of pickles with rice congee. Very delicious.
Afterwards, since The Madame was still on her Asian tea kick, we ended up going inside Mark City and having some more tea in a somewhat hipper place where we had matcha latte. Basically, it was that really strong tea that is served during tea ceremonies with a bit of milk. Not exactly a winning combination but I guess it could grow on me slowly. We didn't stay there too long since we were sandwiched between two pairs of noisy, gabby women (it is Shibuya, after all).
Finally, we waded into the hordes of Shibuya folk and went up Spain zaka to Cafe De Copain, a place that I've been to over the years. It is the closest to a Western pub but since it was still before 5, the cafe rule was still in effect. Just ended up having tapioca coconut milk there.

With the Madame back, I can probably look forward to another intense spate of weekly meetings with her and then perhaps a long period of no contact. However, later that evening, I heard back from a guy I hadn't heard from in a few weeks, MB. He was looking for some movie buddies for "Die Hard 4.0" for Thursday, but I had to decline since I've got a few students on that day. However, we've got the 4th marked off for the next DVD night. It'll just be MB and me since The Satyr will be off doing some volunteering work in Nagasaki.

Larry King has certainly had some rather powerful appearances over the last couple of days. First, he had Tammy Faye Messner (formerly Bakker). King, who must've realized the effect that her appearance could've had on viewers, gave a sneak preview just before his interview with one of the Baldwin Bros. Well, I have to admit that my breath was taken away. That inoperable cancer has wreaked some major havoc to her body. I was never a fan of her and her ex-husband, but even I felt a lot of sympathy for her as her disease literally ate her out from the inside. Everyone and his brother were fully aware that she was not long for this Earth but still, I thought some of the e-mail questions to her were approaching ghoulishness in content.

Then, there was today's little intense segment with Jon Lovitz....something about an altercation with Andy Dick. It was basically Jon, a microphone and some major venting while Larry kept back...way back.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Friday July 20, 9:06 a.m.

Back for my second time at the new I-cafe. Yep, this one's a keeper. The staff has a bit more professional courtesy in them.

My war with the bugs continues. Saw a few more of the critters yesterday but there were some more who've "checked into" the various motels I've set out on the kitchen floor. Back at Speedy's on Wednesday, I looked up "cockroaches" on Wiki and found out some tips. For one thing, I have to be a bit more anal about the cleanliness of my kitchen so I wiped down the entire place during most of my day off yesterday. It also advised to stop up any leaky faucets. Well, lo and behold, I've had one in my kitchen for several weeks now which I cannot seem to stop, so I may have to replace it. I saw some Brita-like filters at the local Daiei which aren't too expensive. Still, it looks like I've been countering the infestation fairly well.

I saw B2 for her monthly lesson last night. Looks like she's been doing well. She's still planning to get back to her old airline company, and she's more confident about living in London again, if she has to.

Meeting up with The Madame for the first time in a few months later today in Shibuya...a place I haven't seen in a couple of weeks due to the holiday Monday and the sudden cancellation last week. She said that she would be taking me to a tea room nearby...not sure if that means it'll just be tea. I hadn't planned on having lunch before meeting her.

Just found out on SkyPerfect's Super Drama TV channel that the TV's flavour-of-the-year, "Heroes" will be hitting these shores...soon. So, it may be possible that Daniel Radcliffe may have a new rival for the affections of the millions of teenyboppers in the form of Masi Oka. Oka might be twice as old as Harry Potter, and have much more of the geek factor but then again, "Densha Otoko" was the huge hit last summer here. It legitimized all of the otaku and made Akihabara a welcome part of the Japanese tourism scene.

I sent a fax over to the juku boss confirming that The Ace's class will also be cancelled due to the passing of the boss' mother earlier this week. I figure that this was indeed the case but I'm pretty paranoid about making scheduling mistakes. I'm just kinda wondering how next week is gonna turn out.

After several days of unseasonably cool weather, I think today will be back to the scorching temps and humidity I've come to expect and gripe about in The Big Sushi.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wednesday July 18, 5:29 p.m.

Well, Speedy is back...he came in a couple of hours ago into the office after his trip to Dubai. He actually can appreciate the coolness of Tokyo now. He and his wife did the usual thing...go camel riding, sleep under a Bedouin tent and go through the markets.

As for me, the grandmothers were fine although it's never all that easy to do free talking with the elderly. I was surprised to find out that one of the two is 82 years old! She's even older than that other grandma who had attended The Tokyo War Crimes Trials as a girl. Since then, my idle hours have been spent getting some knickknacks done. I prepped for 001 and The Judge, checked over the curricula, and sent an e-card of condolence to the juku boss. Also dusted off the DVD class files on "Friends" and copied them out for that potential new student on Saturday. Since then, it's been going through the Net...found out what I needed to know about roaches considering my current household problem; I'm gonna have to fix that leaky faucet. And I even checked out international TV. It's a little difficult to do on this rickety old computer but next time I head over to the I-cafe, I'll have to see what's playing in Poland or Mauritius.
Spent some nice chat time with The Admin over lunch. The oldest grandma was kind enough to bring in some frozen pizzas (really) which we ate with some Thai bi-fun salad and inarizushi; it was a real multicultural meal. Apparently, her family takes care of some temple in the Izu Peninsula so it's possible within a few years that The Admin may have to take over as high priestess. Hopefully, she won't have to go bald.

As for dinner, well, it was The Golden Arches. Speedy decided to go decidedly lowbrow for his first major meal since coming back from the exotic Middle East. He was dismayed to find out that all meals at McDonalds went up some 70 yen. Unfortunately, with the yen depreciating and fuel costs, I gather that importing is not exactly all that cheap anymore.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tuesday July 17, 8:19 a.m.

Well, I know corporate presidents, lawyers and even got to meet the current Emperor decades ago. However, I've just read my monthly University of Toronto Alumni Newsletter and found out that an acquaintance of mine got into The Order of Canada. Gonna have to update my list.

However, despite my brushes with royalty, my rare free Tuesday night was partially spent fighting the bugs. Yes, right out of "Starship Troopers", my war continued with the cockroaches. I'd come across eight of the vanguard last week after coming home late at midnight, and though I blasted them into roach heaven with the remaining insecticide, the invasion continued. The next day, I decided to not only get a new can of critter whup ass but a bunch of gokiburi hoi hoi, otherwise known in North America as Roach Motels (y'know...the catchphrase "Roaches check in, but they don't check out"). I bought ten of the insect version of the Hyatt chain and set half of them up in the kitchen. The package was cheap (only 298 yen) and just consisted of an origami-type motel frame with a layer of sticky paper inside on which I put on a single tablet of stuff that smelled like an especially treacly piece of butterscotch...manna from heaven for the roaches, apparently.
Well, after having left the five motels for a couple of days, I decided to see if there were any check-ins. I put one in the bottom cabinet since roaches love the dark, three on the kitchen floor by the sink and fridge, and even one on the shelf where I place all of the spices and condiments. I had only been expecting a few unlucky bugs to get trapped. And sure enough, when I looked inside three of them (including, disturbingly enough, the condiment area), there were a few forlorn guests of sorts just waving their antennae and waiting to die, immobile on the sticky paper. The one I'd left in the bottom cabinet had no takers, however. But, and I do mean this with a capital B, the Grand Hyatt that I'd left in the sticky alley between the oven range and the shelves got a full booking. When I peered in that one, I was rather disgusted to see that at least a score of roaches decided to make their reservations there. It was like looking at a car lot of a shopping mall on Xmas Eve. Antennae were just poking out like chest hairs from a hirsute disco guy's shirt. Gahhh...I'm pretty calm with critters, usually, but this sight even had me gagging somewhat. Plus, the combination of that treacly butterscotch smell with the stench of mass roach infestation had me throwing out the motel a little prematurely (the label said that it would stay effective for up to a month....I'd say that it was a little too effective). I could imagine any of the local population would have run screaming in terror if they had come across my little Hyatt at that moment.
However, I was convinced that I did the right thing by buying the Roach ryokan. I'll see how filled the other traps get.

Well, I've opened up the school today since I've got the keys. The Admin is probably one happy lady that she doesn't have to open up early. Speedy and his wife are supposedly back in town now but they'll probably need the extra day to recover from their honeymoon. Despite the more leisurely round of sleep I got last night and a proper breakfast, I was still feeling out of sorts so I just got a couple of pastries and a carton of veggie juice from the local "La Vie Du France" bakery/cafe and am now feeling a bit better.

I had another cancellation today. The Admin informed me that Mr. TOEIC has decided to kill his class tonight which will leave with a 90-minute gap between 001 and The Judge. Still, I'll have another long Wednesday here.

Michael Moore is mellowing. He has to be....I checked TVNewser right now, and apparently, the maverick director has indicated some remorse at beating up Wolf Blitzer last week. Before you know it, he may even admit that George W. Bush is a pretty nice guy.

Over here, the big news is about the quake of course. I think Prime Minister Abe's fortunes may either go up or down depending how the response to this disaster goes. Right now, talk on the pension scandal has decreased although not disappeared. But there is that nuclear reactor in Niigata which spewed smoke and fire. Apparently, TEPCO is slowly letting out that some radioactive steam and water may have been released. I believe that Shinzo needs news about another Chernobyl like he needs another ulcer.
And speaking of besieged politicians, the media was scratching its collective head when the current embattled Minister of Agriculture did a press conference looking like he lost a couple of rounds to Mike Tyson. He had already earned a few scars, figuratively, when it was found out that his koenkai may have been a little naughty by claiming his parents' house as a tax-deductible business expense last week. Well, it looks like he earned a few physical ones as well under the couple of bandages on his face. He was pretty mum on the subject, just saying that "...his skin is pretty delicate." Methinks that his wife had some powerful opinions.

Still, some good news abounds. The Japanese soccer team beat Vietnam to advance further into The Asian Cup. And Ichiro not only got the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history last week, but he didn't show any ill effects whatsoever in his first game since he his knee got beaned by an errant pitch the other night. I'd say he could probably be the MVP of the entire year. Certainly, the press here thinks so.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tuesday July 17, 3:15 p.m.

It's been a sad start to this week. First, Typhoon Man-Yi took its share of lives, and then yesterday's earthquake in Niigata Prefecture has left at least 7 families in grief. And now, something a bit more personal has hit home. This morning, I got a call from the juku boss who informed me that her mother had just passed away within the last few hours. She sounded somewhat shellshocked which was somewhat worrying to me since she's usually one of the most cheerful people I see regularly. It wasn't a total surprise concerning her mother since the boss continued to tell me that her mother had been deteriorating gradually, but when the moment finally arrived, it still must've been a terrible one.
In any case, classes have been cancelled for this week. So, not only did I get a rare Monday night off but I'm apparently gonna get an even rarer Tuesday and Friday nights off, too. Not sure what's gonna happen in terms of funeral arrangements but the boss'll let me know in time.

So, it was just The Beehive and The Nurse today. Yup, I'm all done except for this blog. The Beehive met for the very last time at Mrs. Perth's apartment this morning. And in fact, it was the last official class for Mrs. Perth, who'll be joining her husband shortly for their new life in Hokkaido. Double in fact, it was the last official class for the Beehive before Summer Break. Next week, we'll all be getting together at this famous restaurant chain in Funabashi called Ume No Hana (Plum Blossoms) for a little lunch party. Actually, today, Mrs. Travel was true to her name and absent since she's off in Turkey, just a couple of weeks after her trip through India. However, Mrs. Alp was back from her own trip in Switzerland with lots of photos and a souvenir cake.

The Nurse was in pretty fine fettle although some of her insecurities crept in when tackling Possessives today. Luckily, she has enough confidence in me that she can still continue on. Actually, The Admin informed me that one of the grandmothers would like to have my services in addition to her regular lessons with Speedy. It would seem that she likes the free chatter with little ol' me. Nice to be loved.

Movie Buddy sent out the word about catching "Die Hard 4.0" this weekend. Well, The Satyr has already seen it. I'm good for it but it won't be this weekend since I've got those classes at Speedy's on Saturday, and then there is that get-together with The Bohemian on Sunday. Yep, I'm meeting him again a few months after that little mistake of matching him with MB and The Satyr.

So, this week will be quite an empty one, although it'll be another whole day at Speedy's tomorrow since I still gotta teach a couple of the grandmothers in the morning followed by 001, Mr. TOEIC and The Judge in the evening. I've only got B2 for her monthly on Thursday and then I just meet The Madame for our first lunch in several months. Not sure what she's been up to. However, Saturday will have The Manhattanite (hopefully) and The Dentist before I do my first "Friends" DVD lesson in what seems to be years. I'll have to devote some of my free time tomorrow trying to get that hoary project going again.

I may have wrongfully given the impression yesterday that Japan was a technological paradise when it came to earthquakes. Well, the fact that Japan is one of the most quake-prone areas in the world has kicked the scientific intelligentsia into producing some of the most advanced ideas on how to cope with unstable geologies. However, Japan has still suffered some pretty bad casualty rates over the decades. Of course, there was The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 which killed hundreds of thousands of people in Tokyo (we're 20 years overdue for the next big temblor). And then there was The Great Hanshin Earth-quake of 1995 which killed over 5,000. So far, the big quake in Niigata has claimed 7 lives but hundreds have been injured and/or left homeless. No small sense of loss here. The sad thing is that this is the second quake in a little less than 3 years to hit the area. I remember the last one since Tokyo also got rocked in that one. I was in an Indian restaurant with The Coffeemaker and several of her classmates after shopping for the Halloween party when the shaking began.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Monday July 16, 1:52 p.m.

What a long weekend! If some of those ancient deities that used to lead Japanese religion wanted to give us a roller coaster adventure, they certainly gave us an Indiana Jones-like ride. First, there was Typhoon Man-Yi (known locally as No., not exactly too big on fancy nomenclature over here) for the first two days which just skirted a hair's-width of striking Tokyo...all we got was a lot of heavy rain sans the gale-force winds. And then this morning, I and millions of others got a Shindo 3 jolt when a Shindo 6+ earthquake shook the hell out of Niigata Prefecture some 250 km away on the other side of Honshu. I was just watching TV when my lamp above started weaving and I started getting slightly queasy. I could only imagine how nauseous the Niigata residents got. Of course, NHK started throwing out the bulletins for potential tsunami (there weren't any) before all of the commercial stations followed suit. As usual, the cameras were trained on the various newsrooms when the quake hit; it was the customary crew running around while the department signs swung away; then there were the security cams outside which started getting epileptic fits. Next, the news crews were out on the road searching for damage in the Niigata/Nagano area. It didn't take too long...a number of houses have collapsed, a train has fallen onto its side and various roads have inherited some rather king-sized cracks. As for casualties, this is where Japan gets its reputation as being one of the most quake-prepared nations on Earth...of course, there are injuries...a little over 100 so far, but nothing compared to some of the horrendous fatalities that occur in other countries.
I guess later this week, we can expect Mount Fuji to explode...

In any case, it's been a number of days since my last entry on Thursday. I saw The Carolinan for the first time since she got back from Hawaii. Not surprisingly, it was a relaxing trip for her, her mother, and The New Yorker. It was a judgement call but I also decided to tell her about the drama with BC a couple of weeks ago. I'm not sure if BC would appreciate what I did, but I think her former colleague would probably be better able to help her than I could.

Next day, I saw her sister, The New Yorker. Another sigh as I found out that she tried her best not to have any communication in the language I've been trying to imbue within her for the past couple of years. But The Carolinan and I can only admit that's the way she is. Still, The New Yorker enjoyed herself and got a nice tan out of the experience. Got the usual omiyage in the form of chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies and some mints (nice change from the usual macadamia nuts).

On Saturday, I had my last meeting with The Dancer and her family. This time, the target was Ikebukuro...Sunshine City, to be exact. The Dancer wryly remarked that the famous building was built not too far away from where Prime Minister Tojo and his compatriots had been hanged for war crimes back in the 40s. I guess Sunshine City is a most apt moniker. Sunshine City is also a most appropriate place for kids since it's got Namjatown with all of the food emporia such as Gyoza Hakubutsukan (the dumpling museum) and Ice Cream City, and a huge aquarium.
Unfortunately, at that point, Typhoon Man-Yi was making its presence known on that day so umbrellas were mandatory issue for us. Plus, before Sunshine City, The Dancer wanted to stop off at the Traditional Crafts Centre at the West Side of Ikebukuro Station and then to a soccer goods shop for further souvenirs.
Unsurprisingly, Gyoza Hakubutsukan and the rest of Namjatown was packed to the gills with folks, being a Saturday and all, but somehow all of us managed to grab a goodly amount of gyoza to feast upon and even grab a table. I treated for the dumplings while The Dancer's husband picked up the tab on the ice cream across the floor. Of course, the kids were desperate to try out the game centre with all of its UFO Catchers. This time, even the boy was happy since this time Daddy did grab some prizes including a giant box of Kit Kats.
I'd been worried about how the kids would be after that Sunday of occasional temper tantrums. But I guess I was either accustomed to the inevitable scoldings or the kids were better behaved, but Saturday was a lot less arduous. It also helped that I'd brought my I Spy book along with crayons & paper to keep them occupied in the restaurant, although Hubby got tense at moments.
Although I'd been to Namjatown a number of times, I'd never been to the Sunshine City Aquarium on the top floor, some 60 floors up. I'm glad that I finally got the opportunity. Got to see a couple of manta rays, a huge sunfish and even a shark's egg. There were even some other animals one wouldn't really associate with an aquarium such as a couple of squirrels, armadillos and even a fennec fox.
Well, today The Dancer and her family should be well on their way to Narita right now. Hopefully, this morning's tremor didn't scare the kids too much. Actually, it'll probably be their father who will probably scare them more.

Anyways, I'm typing this from another new Internet-and-manga cafe that popped up a few months ago. I've just gotten a bit tired of the sullenness at that other place. Mind you, although the guy here wasn't exactly welcoming me like he were the doorman at the Ritz-Carlton, he was more human. The place reminds me a bit more of the relatively expensive I-cafe in Akiba but the 3-hour package here is even cheaper than it is at the sullen cafe down the street. Plus, things seem a bit more classier.

Ahhh....I did forget. Before I saw The Carolinan on Thursday, I had caught "The Prestige" (finally) at The Wald 9 in Shinjuku. The Wald 9 is the newest movie theatre on the scene with all reserved seats. Nice, but they sure could use some more work on the concession stands. My hot dog was perhaps just a molecule or two removed from being misidentified as Kappabashi plastic food.
Anyways, I'm glad that I saw "The Prestige". It was indeed a movie that kept me glued to my seat and my eyes glued to the screen (and not to my watch). At first, I thought it would be something like a "What If?" flick with Batman, Wolverine, Alfred The Butler and Aladdin Insane put into the late 19th-century. But much to the credit of the performances, this was a totally different animal. Although David Bowie kept pretty much the same expression on his face for his extended cameo, it was interesting to see this fellow who pretty much scared the hell out of every prude in England in the 70s (that is, before The Sex Pistols came to be) act as the constipated Nikola Tesla. As for the big whammo ending...the prestige of the was a bit of a sci-fi/"Twilight Zone" cheat but I have to admit that I was kept surprised right to the very end. I will follow Chris Nolan's entreaty not to reveal the ending but let's say if Tesla hadn't been so unlucky, I think a lot of office executives would be telling their gofers today to "Tesla off some copies".