Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sunday December 16, 1:50 p.m.

Well, we managed to get through another one of The Lady's annual Xmas parties on Friday night. It was more than the usual Friday night scrum in front of the Hachiko statue in Shibuya. Because of all those year-end parties, the place was even more densely packed. A couple of yahoos were even riding the poor dog like a steed.
Skippy, OA and Speedy showed up. Mrs. Speedy was the neophyte this time around since the other three had shown up some 2 years previously. Not surprisingly, the wife of the boss was feeling pretty doki doki about attending a swanky fete. When we did get inside the gates and the front doors, the house was already getting rather packed with the high n' mighty. The Lady herself was being her usual hostess self by just flying about from guest to guest.
If the experience could be compared to the BBC show "Upstairs, Downstairs", we were definitely the Downstairs cadre of servants infiltrating the organized zoo that was the Upstairs crowd. Of course, we made a beeline straight for the buffet table. It was the always-sumptious spread of Italian fare on the one table while the other had sushi catering highlighted by a huge block of thawed tuna. I gotta admit that the highlight there were the huge tender fillets of steak hiding under mounds of sauteed veggies. The ladies outate Speedy and myself in that department....a fact that didn't seem to pass The Lady's attention unnoticed since she kept passing by with that enigmatic smile and asking, "Full yet?" I almost felt a bit embarrassed since Skippy and OA hung about that table all night like vultures hovering over the dying carcass of an antelope.
As I observed, though, I saw a lot of the same faces at the party. Of course, none of them approached us since they were the high n' mighty and the opposite was true as well. However, I did also notice that the Upstairs crowd also consisted of little cliques that kept to themselves. So, I didn't feel as self-conscious as I had in the past. The Lady's children were there talking it up with their buddies...they'd met me a few times in the past but didn't deign to talk with the hired help. As for celeb sightings, I did catch a Fuji-TV announcer and a retired tennis player.
After about 3.5 hours, we made our way down the slope from the mansion and back into the real-life situation of Shibuya. We saw quite a few raucous types wrestling about in the side streets. Meanwhile, Mrs. Speedy was swooning over her cocktails of fresh strawberries and Dom Perignon. I did have one...it was quite tasty. Everyone gave me their thanks for a glimpse into the well-to-do side of things and half-jokingly said that they were waiting for their invitations for next year. Hmmm...we'll see.

Life did indeed strike me as being very unfair that night. While the five of us Downstairs folk and close to a hundred of the Upstairs swells were noshing on gourmet fare, at about 7:13 that night, there were two relatively young people being shot dead, hundreds of kilometres away in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. In a crime that eerily resembled the regrettably common mall shooting sprees of the States, some psycho set up an ambush on one of his old junior high school classmates at a Renaissance Gym using a shotgun. He also managed to injure several children in a swimming class as well as kill their instructor.
And just like the massacres at Virginia Tech, Columbine and most recently, that attack in a Nebraska shopping centre, the shooter ended up killing himself several hours later, ironically near a Catholic church. Police have yet to find the true motive behind the shootings. But if this is the last major gun-related incident this year in Japan (hard to believe that guns, crimes and Japan can now be put in the same sentence), it would cap what has become a year of a large increase in such crimes...something for all of us to mull over as we get ready for the New Year.

Well, yesterday was strictly a stay-at-home day in my little rabbit hutch of an apartment (spending a night at the Lady's place can leave that impression on me). Still, I managed to get out to the station mall where I handed in my raffle tickets for a few rolls of the wheel. Earned myself 2 Mandarin Oranges and a bottle of green tea. Ahh...life is complete.

Had what I thought would be my final lesson with Tully and The Coffeemaker today. However, they were gluttons of punishment since The Coffeemaker suggested the 29th for one more session. Today's session wasn't any great shakes...Tully was fine but The Coffeemaker seemed exhausted which exhausted me. So I just said that the 29th will be a thank-you lunch for them at Din Dai Fon, the Chinese soup dumpling place in Takashimaya Times Square. And speaking of other social engagements of the season, I have to go across the bridge to Times Square itself to check out some stuff for the little party I'll be holding for the juku kids, Chip N' Dale, on Tuesday. It's probably gonna be Scrabble, maybe another game and then chocolate fondue.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Friday December 14, 9:44 a.m.

A day off today. Again, a typical December day in the Big Sushi...cold (cool for Canucks) and sunny. Just have that swanky party at The Lady's house tonight, so I've got my dress blues ready to go. I sent off a missive to Skippy yesterday asking if she would rather meet in Bunkamura, closer to the house, rather than in humongously crowded Hachiko-mae. However, never got a reply though I sent it to her cellphone, so I'm assuming that she thinks I doth protest too much since I got her to rush up the meeting time to 6:30.

Along with the usual things surrounding Xmas, it's also raffle and lottery season in Japan. Lines almost as long as those for Krispy Kreme (celebrating its 1st year in operation tomorrow) are snaking everywhere in front of the ticket booths for the huge $3 million prize in the New Year's Jumbo Lottery...teensy winnings compared to the near-ionospheric loads that retirees seem to win Stateside. And a lot of the older malls such as the one under my subway station are holding year-end raffles. Basically, for every 500-yen worth of stuff I buy at any of the stores, I get a raffle ticket. If I get 4 of the tickets, I get one turn on the raffle wheel which is situated somewhere in the middle of the mall. A little ball of some colour comes out; depending on the colour, I could win stuff like a 5-kg. bag of rice (in Japan, this is valuable) or gift certificates. So far I've got enough tickets for 3 turns on the wheel. I've also got enough tickets for a roll on the wheel in the Odakyu Shopping Mall where Foo Foo is located...thanks to the entire gang eating there last Saturday.

Last night after my lesson with The Yogist at Speedy's, I rushed over to Ichigaya to have my biweekly with The Carolinan and BC. The two friends make for an interesting comparison. The Carolinan's ability may not be as proficient or fluent as BC, but BC is more of a worrier than The Carolinan; the Carolinan is quite a bit more self-confident and secure about herself. She's even boasted that she always handles all the reservation arrangements for her overseas travel by herself for her and her sister, The New Yorker. Indeed, quite good for an intermediate student although the only reward I would consider giving her is a lolly and a pat on the head. For BC, it was her last lesson of this year since she's heading off to Vancouver next week for the Holidays.

Finally, took a look on YouTube at that "1,2,3,4" video by Feist. I hadn't realized that she was one of ours. That was certainly a breakout hit for her just because of that iPod Nano commercial that's also reached our shores. She got a lot of catty remarks in the comments section (maybe the folks are veteran "2 Channel" flamers) for her dancing, but I thought it was just a sweet little video. I also took a look at one of her earlier videos "One Evening", an interesting 70s-ish R&B ballad. Again, it was obvious that she likes strutting her heels...in a post-modernesque way.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thursday December 12, 2:25 p.m.

One down, two to go. Just finished with The Yogist. She's a keeper, for sure. Very vivacious and asks questions...couldn't ask for a better student.

Movie Buddy left me a phone message last night out of the blue stating that he was looking at some retrospective about aidorus from the 70s and 80s. Apparently, the program had the former singers on as they are now as guests. He also pointed out tongue-in-cheek (and hopefully, that's where it'll stay) that though the ladies are no longer 18, they still didn't look half-bad.
I'm gonna assume that singers-turned-tarento Yu Hayami, Ikue Sakakibara and Chiemi Horie were among the guests since they're now fixtures on Japanese TV. Yep, for ladies going into that "certain age", they certainly don't have that look of matronliness that their counterparts of a generation earlier had. Just better health hints, the deluge of spas...and maybe even that spackling of makeup (heheheh) have helped their lot. Middle age doesn't have that sad cachet it once had. Heck, I even read on some ad on the subway this morning that actress Ayako Sawada, all of 58 years, is planning to take her clothes off for some pictorial. Usually I would've immediately gone "EWWWWWW...", but these days, one never knows. And to add a sleazier angle, Japanese porn now seems to have a healthy genre in MILFs.
Thursday December 13, 12:30 p.m.

Back at Speedy's for the fourth day in a row. I've got The Yogist in half an hour. And then I've got The Carolinan and BC. It'll be the last one for BC for this year since by this time next week, she'll be in rainy Vancouver. Speaking of which, I think we got a simulation of their weather today. Pretty cold and wet out there. Actually, last night we got out of here at about 10:30 p.m. For the bossman, it was the equivalent of getting out in the early afternoon since he almost never gets out before midnight most nights.

I've finally sent the last of the Xmas presents out. So, hopefully, I won't be darkening the post office for at least a month.

The bakery/cafe near Speedy's, La Vie De France, got a facelift of sorts. The interior has gone from a wooden hominess to a slightly more whiter, hi-tech look. Same good if pricey fare.

Just heard that Jessica Alba is pregnant thanks to her boyfriend (doesn't anyone get married first anymore?). I'm sure there are a lot of worldwide boys crying in their pillows right now.

Man, are my shoulders stiffer than a guy on Viagra right now. Maybe it's the cold (both disease and temperature). Could use with a rubdown but I don't think that'll be happening anytime soon. The flu is apparently flying around Tokyo as I type, but so far, I've been lucky...just been popping some of the medicine so my nose is currently nice and dry.
Wednesday December 12, 10:08 p.m.

Pretty painless day. 001 was fun as usual (found out that both our mothers have the same birthda). In fact, Speedy found out that it was The Admin's b-day today. The Admin was profusely begging us not to make a huge fuss...so of course, we did. As for The Manhattanite, well, she actually got perfect on the first three of her four pages of the test. Then, there was a bit of a crash n' burn due to a misread question. However, she managed to get 78% so nothing to worry about now.

Found out from 001 that she has to go through a major health exam on Xmas Day of all things. Over here, a major health exam means a bout with the dreaded endoscope...the endoscope being that huge snake-like camera which winds about in your gastrointestinal tract. And the Americans are debating waterboarding as a form of torture. The endoscope can go from either end, although I would've thought with the name of endoscope, it would've been obvious which end was up. Well, I know that I'll never submit to one of those probes, especially since it would entail having to fast for 12 hours before the thing goes up or down. And I certainly wouldn't do it on Xmas Day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wednesday December 12, 4:13 p.m.

Wasn't quite sure whether to strangle or hug Chip N' Dale last night at the juku. Dale had said last week that two of her buddies would be interested in joining the class from yesterday. So I had to prepare for a model lesson involving two more boys along with my two current kids. I basically went down to town, preparing all sorts of games and realia such as buying prop food from Tokyu Hands and expanding the lesson to an hour. I was taking deep breaths when Chip N' Dale came in, only to say that the parents' of the boys had decided to hold things off til the New Year. Well, at least Chip N' Dale got quite a realia-laden lesson and they enjoyed seeing the model donuts and other food.

This aborted model lesson had been the one major stress point yesterday. When that turned out to be a false alarm, I could sigh some relief although I had a few more hours to go last night. I was worried about Mr. Mild's health though. He'd been suffering from a heavy cold for the past month, and remembering the fact that older people tend to bounce back from illness a lot slower, he still looked pretty haggard. In fact, he admitted that he'd lost 3 kg. Plus, he also stated that because some of the strong medicine, he had some issues with his liver. I'm hoping that he'll pull through OK. Jolly was about a half-hour late but I kept him for another 90 minutes only to be told that my student didn't need to make up the lesson so I could've just let him go at 10 p.m. Well, at least I survived the night. It was a pretty hectic day with having to do the crosstown commute between The Beehive in Tsudanuma and The Nurse's atypical Tuesday afternoon class before coming back for the juku.

In comparison, tonight will be pretty quiet. I've only got 001 and The Manhattanite. 001 had taken a powder last Wednesday since she had the day off, and I've gotta take a look at The Manhattanite's take-home test tonight. Me and Speedy aren't quite sure how she did.

Looks like everything is all set for the Friday night party at The Lady's. Got final confirmation that Skippy and OA are ready to meet Speedy & his wife and myself at Hachiko before trudging off to the mansion. I kinda wish that they had chosen a less crowded place like Bunkamura for the meeting place. The Hachiko Plaza on a Friday night is a pure maelstrom...especially during bonenkai season.

The latest change to the station mall has opened up. At this time last year, one section of it under the tracks consisted of a longtime bookstore and the shuttered former site of the failed kaiten sushi restaurant. Well, several months ago, the branch of the hairstyling chain, Orange Pop, opened up where the bookstore had been. And today, the old sushi place is now some wafu eatery called Yayoiken. It specializes in what would probably be bento fare if it hadn't been served right at your table. I went into the place in the afternoon and got greeted by some fresh-faced waitresses with the new training and plastic smiles. Yayoiken is one of those places where one has to plug his/her yen into a machine which spits out tickets for the waitresses to process in the kitchen...just like a lot of ramen places.
The interior had that current trendy look of smooth wood and soft lighting with jazz playing on the yusen. I ended up ordering an assorted set of two wafu-style hamburg steaks, two sausages, two fried potato chunks and one karaage (fried chicken) with a bowl of rice, salad and miso soup. For 880 yen, not a bad deal at all...and something to add onto the go-to list after the usual DVD nights with MB and The Satyr.

Well, kinda fighting a slight cold right now. May have to go to the salarymen's remedy of swigging down two Yunker Vitamin drinks and wrapping up in multiple blankets to sweat it out.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday December 10, 8:56 p.m.

It was a pretty good weekend, all told. Met up with Movie Buddy, The Satyr and their respective significant others. Also, The Sylph's former co-worker tagged along with her German boyfriend who looked quite a lot like actor Adrian Brody. Fairly quiet lad, though. We all went to Foo Foo for the first pai ko tan tan men of the season. MB was quite happy to be devouring it down.

Afterwards, it was off to see Matt Damon in the supposedly final part of the trilogy for which he'll always be remembered for....nope, it ain't the Ocean's series either. "The Bourne Ultimatum" did come off as being a most entertaining movie, and certainly the best of the threepeats that seemed to have littered the cinematic landscape this year. After the depressing "Spiderman 3" and the blah "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" (never even bothered with "Ocean's 13" or even "Shrek 3" after their bad reviews...even on DVD), it was good to have seen a 3rd part which was indeed good. However, I don't think I would go far as that reviewer for Tokyo Metropolis and say that "The Bourne Ultimatum" was the best action movie ever. There was a tad too much repetition in the stunts for it to top the original "Die Hard". However, I could see that the director was using the old technique of copying certain scenes from the "The Bourne Identity" for comparative effect...in this case, between Franke Potente's "Marie" and Julia Stiles' "Nicky". There was actually some good suspense and an especially delicious "Gotcha" moment when Jason managed to infiltrate CIA HQ. Definitely a must-buy DVD.

Sunday was a quiet day at home. Just did the "I-Go Day in Japan" via NHK-3, and that was all she wrote. Today ended up to be rather painless as well. I head over to The Lady's mansion and find out that not only did The Matron cancel out but The Lady had to do some emergency shopping. Missed out on the usual handsome pay but still made half for doing absolutely nothing but sip coffee by the living room bar. Her big annual ball is this Friday so I finally made the arrangements amongst Skippy, Speedy, Mrs. Speedy and OA to meet.
So I ended up having quite a few hours before meeting SIL. Continued to do some Xmas shopping before heading up to Ueno. Instead of the usual Wendy's or KFC, I actually went into an eatery in the middle of Ameyoko that specialized in don...various kinds of meat on hot rice. I had the minced negi toro and slabs of maguro on my rice...a little more expensive than the usual hamburger set but it made for a nice culinary diversion at 780 yen. Will definitely have to take guests like The Lens there next time they're in town.

As for SIL, it was my last time with her for this year. She won't be coming to The Lady's party this Friday on account that she has always found it very boring. To be honest, I kinda think the same way but I'm sure the people that I'm bringing along will find it thrilling. And The Full-Timer showed up tonight....aside from a nagging cough, she has recovered from her cold although I can't say that being in smoky Doutor's helped her throat any. And then, I come back here to find out that Mr. TOEIC had to dotakyan because of work. In fact, my schedule has changed quite a bit. The Nurse will be coming in tomorrow afternoon which means that I'll have to eschew my usual lunch with The Beehive to rush back from Tsudanuma. The Manhattanite will be coming into Mr. TOEIC's Wednesday night slot after 001. Plus, this Saturday will be a total scratch since The Dentist had to cancel so I'll be seeing her on the 22nd instead. And then Mr. TOEIC will come in for a double next Monday afternoon which works out since SIL is out for the remainder of December.

However, the big lesson for me will be tomorrow at the juku. I may be having a couple of extra waifs to add onto Chip N' Dale from now on. Just what I need...more pre-teens...and they're both boys. Well, at least, it's just the model lesson tomorrow and then the special Xmas lesson next Tuesday and I won't have to worry about them for about a couple of weeks.