Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sunday March 2, 1:51 p.m.

I was pretty lucky to find an empty booth on a Sunday at the I-cafe today. I thought I would have to line up. As it is, though, I got one and have been working on corrections to some of Cozy's replies to my first translations. Not easy. In fact, I'm thinking of talking with SIL tomorrow during some of her lesson to get some insight. I wouldn't ask The Class Act since they don't have the ability to express their thoughts on that level.

Came home last night feeling all knotty. I actually did splurge some yen (although it isn't like the old days (my food bill came out to just 1,600 yen in total) on a bento consisting of rice and a piece of salmon. Mom called last night to confirm that my brother and his family will be moving a little further out into the boonies outside Toronto into a larger home. He even invited Mom and Dad to move with them, but Mom demurred since she is still working, and it would be a huge commuting headache to get into town. Apparently, some of the relations on Dad's side will be coming into town in a few months for a visit. Mom told me that the only cousin I really got to know and her hubby are now well-to-do retirees in their fifties traveling the world. Even if she doesn't mean to do it...she makes me feel very guilty. Well, there's always the lottery.

Just had The OL at the cafe in Nihombashi this morning. Did well.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Saturday March 1, 1:41 p.m.

March is here and the breathing is tough. Yup, hay fever season is in full swing again. All those TV reports on masks have starting popping up like fleas. I even got my own little pack of 105 yen masks from the dollar shop downstairs.

Well, paid more of my debts last night. A bit more off my back.

Saw The Coffeemaker this morning at the coffee shop. Tully himself was a no-show but we both figured that he was busy working on his paper for university.

I've got The Manhattanite in about half an hour and then another new student a couple of hours later. I had lunch at China Quick. I usually go for the large bento box special for 750 yen, but this time I went for the other option...which was this big bowl of ramen with a huge continent of BBQ pork or cha-shiu. It goes for 800...and I definitely got my yen's worth. That picture was misleading in the other way. My piece of meat looked like the answer to "What if Piglet starred in Ian Roth's 'Hostel'?" It was this huge hunk of tender pork with plenty of fat. I concluded that my protein and fat requirements were duly answered in this bowl. The soup itself was pretty ordinary but as the fat slowly melted, things did improve. However, I'll probably head back to my bento next time.

Tonight, I'll just have the salad, thank you very much.
Friday February 29, 6:01 p.m.

A quiet Friday. I did the dry run of my tax return today...not too bad, I only have to pay an extra 200 yen over last year. Still, my year is pretty much set financially in that I'm gonna have to be very careful over the next several months.

Looks like Prince Harry's cover has been blown. The Royal has (or had) been plying his military trade for the past 2 months in Afghanistan. I hope he has an exit strategy. Now, every Taliban soldier is out for blue blood.

Saw Janet Jackson on Larry King this morning. Still hot at 41...I can't even believe she's that age now. I will always see her as Willis' girlfriend on "Different Strokes". Pretty laid back today, compared to Valerie Bertinelli's somewhat caffeinated appearance the other day.

Anyways, I've got Miss Disney in a couple of hours and then The Ace. I've just been prepping for the weekend classes.

The Carolinan was hinting that she would probably like to move to another site for future lessons, preferably one that doesn't allow smoking. To be honest, my coat smelled pretty putrid from the coffee & smoke at Tully's. We will probably have to try the Starbucks by the station.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thursday February 28, 12:34 p.m.

The usual orderly chaos in the office right now. The Admin will be making the slow fadeout from our school over the next few weeks...much like the others preceding her, since she does have to help out her husband's work. But she'll be generous enough to fill in on Wednesdays for the next little while until we find a new day-to-day person. BC has been good but both Speedy and I think that she's just not ready to take the top spot. It's too bad The Admin's leaving...she's been a very steadying influence, especially when compared to the occasionally manic bossman.

I've just gotten off the translation over to Cozy. Maybe I'll get another assignment hopefully.
Thursday February 28, 11:42 a.m.

The last day of the month....only it is Leap Year, isn't it? I believe the term is known as urudoshi in Japanese.

Back for The Yogist in about an hour or so. Cozy has finally gotten in the payment for my services, and I'm ready to hand in my latest work for him. Looks like he'll be like the juku boss and Speedy, and pay me at the end of the month. Good for me anyways, since I need to get the textbook for the juku's new student, Miss Disney. I'll be going with World Link's been good for me and the low students...namely The Diver.

After that retrospective interview with Elton John on Larry King the other night, I've been listening to John on the old stereo. Tunes like "Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road" and "Your Song" have been quite soothing during these trying times.

Anyways, back to my scallop-flavoured crackers...
Wednesday February 27, 10:51 p.m.

The Diver is slowly gaining her sea legs as pertains to English...a good sign. And it looks like my model lesson student is another lock. 2 for 2! She's a charming one...don't worry, I'll keep it professional. Pretty good delivery and comprehension but somewhat underconfident and lacking in vocabulary. I dub her The Bostonian.

Anyways, I'm out of here. But I'll be back again in about 12 hours time for the weekly session with The Yogist and then The Carolinan.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wednesday February 27, 4:17 p.m.

Well, it looks like I wasn't the only fellow going through a Black Friday last week. I got nearly wiped out by my real estate agency, but Jolly (who was not too jolly last night when he raced in) had to endure one of the trials by fire that an eigyoman (sales rep) goes through. Due to a slipup somewhere, he had to go over to a client's company and apologize by bowing really, really deeply while the client berated him. He wasn't a happy camper, let's say. However, he will be heading off to Hokkaido on Friday with a fellow snowboarding buddy to lick his wounds. He's actually heading over to the same resort that 001 had gone to a couple of weeks ago. I gave him a small taste, literally, by giving him some of those scallop-flavoured crackers.

The winds were still whipping up something fierce until about noon, so the laundry had to come in, lest they end up flying over The Pacific.

I've just a couple of students tonight: The Diver and then a model lesson student for Business English. Hope I'm 2 for 2 with the latter since I locked up Miss Disney last night at the juku. The Manhattanite called in for a lesson on Saturday afternoon after Tully & The Coffeemaker and before yet another new student. Surprisingly, Miss SDF, that former soldier-turned-homestay student in Toronto, dropped in to say hello and give us a souvenir of icewine chocolates. Looks like we have another convert to the Toronto life...she'll be returning after her first tour of duty there.

I've been watching Larry King the last couple of times. Looks like it's 70s week. Sir Elton John came in as a much more sober-sided Knight of the Realm, instead of the notorious hissyfit-throwing prince of flamboyance. And then, this morning, I saw Valerie Bertinelli from that old sitcom chestnut, "One Day At A Time". Man, she looks great at 47!
Tuesday February 26, 9:51 p.m.

It's raining nearly cats and dogs...ironic that the juku cat came in through my window all wet. Well, that model lesson student came in and she's now a lock for Friday nights before The Ace comes in. She reminds me a lot of Seven....she's a fairly low student but she's got potential. She hails from Aichi Prefecture, the home province of Nagoya City. I'll have to check out her regional accent someday. Like Seven, she also seems to have a great love for all things Disney. In fact, she went to Hong Kong last see HK Disneyland. That's something, considering that there's a Disneyland just a stone's throw away from here. I guess until further notice, my new Seven will be tagged Miss Disney.

And along with that new hello may be a goodbye of sorts. The Siberian came in to state that he finally got that start to his career at a printing firm in downtown Tokyo. So, he'll probably be quite scarce, especially since he'll be assigned to eigyobu...Sales Department. As with the millions of other twentysomethings, he'll be starting the new phase of his life in April.

Ahhh...Jolly has actually shown up. Should be fun.
Tuesday February 26, 7:15 p.m.

The education of the folly of my ways is continuing. I met The Beehive at the usual place. And I was very contrite and grateful for the ladies' help. They were quite concerned for my all of us have said time and again, they are like my surrogate mothers. And like a mother, Mrs. Alp became the designated admonisher. It wasn't a full bore chewout, and the fact that Mrs. Travel was kinda giggling at the same time made it known that it was not all that serious, but Mrs. Alp made it clear that I was gonna be given a bit of an asskicking...or a light spanking, in any event. Mrs. Alp was just as much worried as ticked off. Both her and Travel said that even their husbands were worried about me. Of course, I took the tongue lashing with the respect I had for them and just imagined that if it had been my real mother, I would have been figuratively thrown across the room. But the message was still clear from them....I have to get my affairs in order while I try to get over the guilt trip that I'm now wading through since I have kinda gotten the ladies in a bit of a tizzy. Later in the day, I did pay off some further debt with the money they gave me.
The gloomy atmosphere didn't last long since we were all back to our smiley selves (well, at least I tried to put on a brave face) and talking current events.

002 was fine as usual. I haven't told her anything about my situation and none of the Speedy group will be told. I got to the juku, and the boss has given me a document to hand into the real estate agency along with her consent of guarantorship. There will be another payment; this time, the renewal fee due next Monday.

Just had Chip N' Dale. Dale was back to her sleepy n' sniffly self. For some reason, she seems to get lackadaiscal whenever her buddy comes with her. However, I've been using their class along with the other lessons over the past few days as therapy, as a tonic of sorts. Work does make for a good diversion. Mild Jr. just dotakyan'ed, as I thought he would. Since his parents are currently doing the Indian tour, although he said that he got saddled with work, I kinda figured that he wouldn't be able to make it today. I do have a model lesson with a young lady in about half an hour in lieu of The Milds. And I've just gotta see about The Siberian and Jolly. I hope they do show up.

The winds were whipping up something awful around the time that the kids came in. But it sounds calm now. Looks like rain tonight. I'm happy that tomorrow classes won't be starting up til 7:30 with The Diver...I can get some sleep time in although I may be brooding again. 001 will be away for the next couple of weeks due to an unfortunate need to do the night shift Wednesday night, and then an Alaskan trip the week after. I've also got another model lesson right after as well.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday February 25, 9:09 p.m.

Well, tomorrow I'll be meeting The Beehive, ladies who are now gonna be investing me in a way that none of us had expected to do so. As I said, they'll kindly be advancing me some money to keep my head over water...and for that matter, away from the exhaust pipe. It may be a bit awkward, and I kinda wonder if I should be going to lunch with them as I usually have done. I do have that assigned lunch of scallop-flavoured crackers, y'know. At this point, I'm keeping my financial situation from being known from anyone else....just the juku boss and The Beehive. I'm not even telling my biggest patrons, The Class Act, since they've been very generous with me in the past.

It's good then to find out that my brother and his family have been able to find their own detached house even farther into the boonies. I only found out by accident by reading the status bar of my sister-in-law on her Facebook account. At first, I'd thought that there was some serious marital discord, was just a move. I can only imagine how much bigger this new place is gonna be like. I think their soon-to-be former place is a pretty spacious deal. Well, at least someone in the family has actually succeeded. And nope, I won't be telling them either. And neither will you, Shard!
Monday February 25, 8:39 p.m.

The Japan angle on the Academy Awards was one itty-bitty acute angle barely 10 degrees: there was a film up for Best Foreign Language Film called "Mongol" from Kazakhstan (no idea whether this was an official rebuttal to "Borat") which starred Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano, the same guy who was in the cult fave "Ichi the Killer". Nope, didn't win. Too bad since Fuji-TV's entertainment reporter, Mr. Karube (my clone, by the way) was posted outside his hotel waiting for the actor to come on out in his tux.

However, the really big news was about that odd fellow, Kazuyoshi Miura (nope, not the legendary soccer player), who had been charged and later acquitted of murdering his wife way back in 1981 in Los Angeles. Well, apparently the LA police aren't done with him quite yet since they had him arrested in Saipan...a US territory. Took all of the folks here by surprise.

Last night, while I was digesting my corned beef n' cabbage, I was watching a 2-hour special on The History Channel called "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk". I'd always heard about the famous openly gay city councillor in San Francisco and his subsequent assassination thirty years ago but never really knew what had happened until last night. It was interesting to find out about his dedication to public service and his inevitable rise to public office in the first hour and then his killing in the second. Now, I realize what The Twinkie Defense was all about. The special was dated...probably only a few years after the fact. I checked out Wikipedia about what had happened to the killer, Dan White. The special only mentioned that he had been released in 1984 without any sort of remedial therapy. Well, I guess the special must've been released just several months before White's suicide. It also asked about whether Harvey Milk brought about some change. He did but there's still much more to be done when it comes to the issue of gay marriage. And just this morning, I saw a CNN report on some openly gay teenager who was just shot to death by one of his classmates.

Somewhat less tragic but nearly as sordid was an incident that had happened during the New Year's holidays up in northern Japan. Up there, there is a custom in which young or middle-aged men dress up in demon costumes and dance into invited houses to rid them of evil spirits and take payment in form of the family's booze and food. Well, it looks like one of the young devils was indeed a devil...he merely decided to part from the main pack at a hot spring and invade the women-only part of the bath; and before you can say Ken Shimura, he ended up doing some major groping of the nude women.
The article may have ramped up the seriousness of the situation since it reported that none of the women there decided to charge the 20-year-old dolt (the only spirits invading his soul were of the liquid variety); probably everyone there just thought that "Boys will be boys".
However, the article...which I discussed with SIL today....did remind me of a place that my ex had pointed out to me. Some years ago, between our official breakup and the time that she'd completely disappeared from my life, we had lunch at one of her favourite tonkatsu restaurants. When we left the place, she nonchalantly told me that the place upstairs was known as a chikan (groper) bar. This is a place whose interior is designed as a subway car in which female staff just hang around as supposedly unsuspecting commuters while the male customers come in, order their drinks and then....well...squeeze the Charmin. Mr. Whipple would have a major coronary. Yep, it's just like my old friend once told me....Japanese men are perverts.
Monday February 25, 7:23 p.m.

Well, I'm poor...what do I do now? At this point, I'm just glad that I got paid by Speedy today and that The Beehive is giving me that advance. Of course, I also have whatever the juku boss is giving me this Friday.
As for expenditures, I can pretty much say goodbye to just about anything that isn't absolutely necessary for survival or the job. Which means sayonara to movie nights (I'm gonna miss MB, Skippy and the rest of the bunch), magazines and CDs. And even my culinary habits will have to change as well. On Mondays, for instance, Wendy's was the usual destination after my 90 with The Class Act. Today I didn't have them since The Lady was off to witness her first Paris Collection, but if I did have them, the famed burger emporium would no longer be on my list. In fact, today I had my first real taste of my new life...I just had a small handful of scallop-flavoured crackers with bits of real scallop for lunch up on the rooftop of the Matsuzakaya Department Store near where I teach SIL. Ironic, since I had passed through Maruzen in Otemachi to pick up the latest issue of METROPOLIS for SIL...I passed by Com Pho, my old Vietnamese lunch haunt. I don't think I'll be hitting that place anytime soon anymore. Yesterday, I just rustled up some corned beef and cabbage with my rice....always good cheap fare.

As I said before, it's a smaller lineup today...well, it's basically the same number of lessons as last week, although without that rash of cancellations. I had SIL and I just had The Full-Timer right now. We met in the usual smoky Doutors branch near the station. She had a short trip in Guam for which she brought back some small souvenirs for me....happily, they're food. Looks like she may be facing some big decisions of her own as well. It seems like she has a bit of a crackpot for a manager, so she's starting to think about moving onto better things. After that, I've only got Medicine Man. Fortunately, he has decided to continue on with his lessons; in fact, he's hooked up for the full package.

It was Oscar Night.....not that it really mattered to me. Most of the movies that were up for Best Picture haven't even arrived here yet. Of course, CNN had most of its smarmy best by the red carpet. It was just interesting for the fact that things were back to normal after that writers' strike. Kinda wonder how Jon Stewart did.
Monday February 25, 5:17 p.m.

After the nightmare financial crunch of Friday, I was able to get some good news via The Beehive. The juku boss had been rather hesitant about the extra month's rent I needed since I am already indebted to her husband for the guarantorship...that is, if the real estate agency does accept it. So I had to ask...beg...for The Hive's help. Luckily, on Sunday morning, just before I left to teach The OL, Mrs. Travel called up to say that she and the other ladies would advance me several weeks' worth of fee to cover the shortfall.

So it was with some relief on Saturday that I could take some time out to visit The Cat up in Nagano Prefecture. Sure, it cost me over 10,000 yen in Bullet Train round-trip fare to get up there and back, but it was certainly better than moping around the apartment.
Tokyo Station was bustling with folks heading to various places around the country, and it wasn't even a long weekend. It was the first time that I'd gone onto the Bullet since the last time I'd been up to see The Cat and her family, and that was at least a couple of years ago. I took a non-reserved seat in the last car; the train was about 8 minutes late getting out...something that turned out to be an inadvertent omen of sorts, but more on that later.
Tokyo was balmy at 15 C and sunny. Of course, I knew that the trip up to Nagano would show a differing climate as I approached it. And sure enough, once we got through the tunnel in the Japanese Alps, the weather changed dramatically from balmy and sunny to overcast and snowy. By the time I reached the resort town of Karuizawa, the Japanese version of Banff, Alberta, it was looking pretty much like Xmas again. That Bing Crosby tune from "White Christmas"..."Snow", was starting to ring in my noggin' once more. The next station over was my destination, Sakudaira. Actually, although the snow was on the ground, Saku City was a bit less snowier and more sleety.
The Cat was there with the car and her two little kittens to pick me up. And it was just a 10-minute drive back to her apartment. Her hubby was at work all day. It was a nice homey visit. I brought over a small package of strawberry cakes for the family (I may be destitute right now, but I still think going empty-handed to someone's house is a sin). The Cat's two daughters have gotten used to me and we actually engaged in an afternoon's worth of playtime. The elder sister seems to have a talent for building things with her blocks...I sense future urban planner. Kinda reminded me of Linus Van Pelt and some of his creations in the earlier Peanuts strips.
The Cat whipped up some rice curry for all of us and then after the few hours of playtime, we all took a drive around the area just to freshen ourselves up a bit. The Cat had wanted to show me Mt. Asama, but the clouds obliterated that view. We got back home and then she and her elder daughter got busy making dinner out of Nagoya-style chicken wings (you gotta try these ones), fried potatoes and a Quattro pizza that she'd ordered.
I actually stayed an hour later than scheduled since The Cat told me that her husband would be back around 8 p.m. It would've been a pity if I'd gone without at least giving him my respects in person. And sure enough, he did get back to have a 30-minute chitchat before driving me back to the station. By that time, Saku was pitch black (no chance of downtown lighting obscuring the night view), the temps had plummeted to -4 C, and there was a fair blizzard whipping up around us.
I said earlier on that there was an 8-minute delay with the train headed to Saku. Well, it looks like The Cat's request to stay around another hour was a good one. Apparently, there had been a major power outage on the Nagano Shinkansen Line which pretty much screwed the schedule for the entire day, including 2 hours of no service whatsoever. As it was, though, it took 20 minutes longer than expected for my return train to reach Ueno Station because of the log jam of Bullets trying to get in and out of Tokyo Station. So I decided not to take that chance and got off at Ueno. Luckily, the rest of the trip home was uneventful. Still, Tokyo had gotten a taste of a climactic barrage of a different the form of a sandstorm, thanks to the Japanese equivalent of the Chinook winds in Canada and perhaps the Santa Ana winds in the US.

But the main event was yesterday. The entire Kanto got majorly buffeted by some powerful gales. There was a whole lot of whistling going on around my apartment for virtually the entire day and night. I was thinking the Tozai Line would be cut off due to the high winds but surprisingly enough, it was still running. I was lucky that I didn't have to go outside at all to see The OL. All I had to do was just get off at Nihombashi Station and just go through the downtown entrance of the Coredo Mall to reach the Ueshima Cafe where I taught her.

More later....