Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday March 15, 6:11 p.m.

Managed to get through the gauntlet of lessons with sanity intact. In fact, all three students were in fine fettle: The Bostonian practiced writing a request letter, the EIC student was a bit on the mousy side but she did fine in her last lesson before her debut tomorrow, and although The Businesswoman was half an hour late, she breezed through the last of the exercises.

Now, just gotta figure out what I'm gonna have for dinner with the bountiful cash I've gotten from Tully and The Coffeemaker this morning.

St. Patrick's Day has become the latest foreign holiday to infiltrate these shores. There was a spate of parades today, most notably one in Omotesando. And of course, all the bars are planning big parties involving lots and lots of Guinness. I think it is rather natural for the Irish holiday to make a big hit here

Friday, March 14, 2008

Saturday March 15, 2:29 p.m.

A beautiful day and the pollen is flying. But I've got the meds in me and the mask on me. Looks like a lot of my compadres are going through the same Hell: Speedy, Tully, The Bostonian and BC.

Tully did show up for today's lesson since he got that report done. He and his classmate, The Coffeemaker, had a pretty good time going through statistics in English...these are pretty committed students. Then I had The Bostonian for her 60; yep, she's a hard worker but still gets a tad skittish on herself. All that furor over who was gonna get that 8:30 Wednesday slot between her and The Diver was all for nought, though. It looks like that for the next month at least, The Bostonian can only come on Saturdays due to the rigours of her job. So, The Diver can now rest easy.

In about 10 minutes, I've got that EIC student for her last lesson before her debut tomorrow at cooking with Mr. Influence. And then to wrap up, it's the Businesswoman.

I found out that butter may actually become an endangered species here in The Land of the Rising Sun. Because of all of the problems with oil and milk supplies, the sticks may no longer be all that available. So, goodbye Western omelettes, hotcakes and steaks (yes, for some bizarre reason, the Japanese love their steaks served with a pat of butter on top). And of course, the lowly toast may also become a thing of the past...the Japanese may find themselves ingesting miso soup, fish and rice again for their breakfasts. However, they may find that artherosclerosis may also be an endangered species.
Friday March 14, 9:17 p.m.

A couple of hours ago during the model lesson, a lightning bolt struck down within a kilometre of us. Man, kinda shook up the neighbourhood...along with a few neighbours. However, it doesn't seem that there was any major fire because of it. Haven't heard any sirens so far.

Speaking of that model lesson, the young girl is pretty good in terms of fluency. She's gonna be doing a homestay in Oz in a few months so I'll probably give her a good does of PASSPORT and some higher grammar for starters. In terms of her makeup and temperament, she reminds me somewhat of a pint-sized version of that tarento Suzanne (who's really full Japanese although she looks like a halfie), so I guess that's what her name will be. Suzanne will be replacing Chip N' Dale from April.
Miss Disney was much more on the genki side tonight, though she got drenched from the downpours hitting Chiba right now. Let's hope that last Friday was merely a sophomore jinx. I'm just waiting for Jolly...hopefully, he does show up. He's had a small habit of doing a no-show without calling us.

Got word from BC that most likely The Manhattanite will not be coming in tomorrow. Will lose out on some income but gain some sanity from the loaded schedule.
Friday March 14, 6:27 p.m.

Yeah, yeah...still blogging. This time, though, I'm at the juku instead of the I-cafe. Had my dinner at Subway's for the second time this week. I do like the place but the other reason is that I was able to fill up my point card to get that medium sandwich and drink for just 200 yen. And I did use that lousy coupon for free cheese...cheese indeed.

The juku boss is downstairs with her good friend from Kyushu. Apparently, her friend is an accomplished pottery expert. We were briefly introduced before I went up to my post here. I've done some prep work for tonight's lessons. That model lesson student for tonight is an old student of the kids' teacher from way back. Could be like Miss Disney.

I hear the rains coming down. Not a good night for White Day enthusiasts. But I'm sure some of those young folks are enjoying themselves at some romantic candlelight dinner in Ginza or Omotesando. The barber this morning was bantering with me as usual, and the topic of March 14 came up. He opined that nowadays, women start kicking up a fuss if they don't get only the finest of chocolates. In other words, if their candies don't come with the Godiva or Maison Du Chocolat stamp, that candlelight will probably blow out quickly and coldly. Well, I hope that really isn't the wouldn't impress me much about women here, and my opinion of the twentysomethings hasn't been too great of late.

Speaking of female twentysomethings, that woman who has now joined the ranks of Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinski has been outed. Alexandra Youmans, aka Dupree, is pleading with the world not to think of her as a monster. I don't think that will happen, although I'm kinda surprised that her family isn't kicking much of a fuss over the fact that their daughter is a high-priced call girl. No...I think Eliot Spitzer is the one who should be doing the duck n' cover.
Friday March 14, 4:40 p.m.

Was going through YouTube's round of scalp massage videos. Yup, I'll have to admit it...I've developed an addiction to those things...kinda like my addiction to Pringle's. But I'm pretty convinced that watching vids such as "Indian Style" comes a fairly close second to actually experiencing the thing. And for someone who has to commute through Tokyo traffic nearly every day and deals with a variety of students every day, it's no surprise that massage clinics rival McDonalds branches in number.
So, it was with great anticipation that I had my first haircut of the year today at the neighbourhood salon. I didn't bother with the New Year would've just looked silly. However, the guys there were their usual fine selves. It isn't so much the haircut that's thrilling, but the extras such as the shampoo with the massage, and then the extra rubdown on the scalp with the menthol tonic along with some stuff done on the shoulders and the back that makes the 5,000 yen worthwhile. Yup...even in my financial dire straits, I would still pay that much for good service and banter...and that's considering there is a discount barber closer to my apartment for 990 yen. I don't go that often to the this rate, I figure that I'll just be going three more times this year, so I think I can handle that.
However, watching those Indian barber videos, it would seem that India may take the crown in terms of tonsorial services. I don't think I've ever seen barbers anywhere else that intensely occupied to ensure their customers leave smiling. Even my barber looks like he's slumming compared to these folks in Mumbai. Still, I'm happy to be getting the tonsorial that I get here since North Americans would never expect such things back home in their barber shops. And it's a pity, too, since it does make sort of wanna keep your follicles nice and happy and sprouting hairs?...make sure they get rubbed down once in a while. I've had past barbers tell me that massaging the various nerves leading via the neck into the scalp ensures that your hair stays longer on your head.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Friday March 14, 2:06 p.m.

Well, finally got the last of FY 2006 big bills paid income tax one. Despite the two trains and 15-minute walk to the tax office, the whole thing took just 5 minutes to complete. When the government wants your money, you'd be amazed at how quickly service can be. Feeling considerably lighter in the wallet, but heavier in the soul, I decided to walk down to Colton Plaza, one of the very first megamalls in the Kanto. Maybe its only claim to fame is that back in 1999, during all the hoopla surrounding "The Phantom Menace", the guy who played Darth Maul made an appearance there to sign autographs...of course, he charged folks for the courtesy.
I found a cheap Chinese eatery which serve chuukadon for 750 yen. It's a bunch of veggies, shrimp and pork cooked up in the usual thick cornstarch sauce and thrown on top of a bowl of rice. That stuff could also be easily found in any of the greasy spoons of Chinatown but I'm sure it's still about half the price there that it is here.

I then ended up walking all over the place for an hour...naively thinking that I could actually walk all the way back to my neck of the woods. Forgetting that Ichikawa covers a massive amount of land with 2 rivers and a wide expressway cutting through it, I plodded through a lot of suburban wilderness. I saw a lot of my adopted city that I hadn't seen in my fourteen years here. Not that it was really worth seeing again, mind you. I realize now that Ichikawa is definitely one big plate of corporate subsidiaries, government buildings and auto dealerships with a liberal sprinkling of plops of residential neighbourhoods. I managed to come across a map in front of the Ichikawa Police Department HQ and saw how far I actually was from my neighbourhood, and then decided to make the beeline back to the nearest JR station. Ironic that I made the realization in front of the cops...they do say "Nothing to see here" quite a lot.

Last night, I made it over to Ichigaya Starbucks. Sure enough, I had to line up for a table for about 15 minutes. But the corporation knows how to provide good service; the barristas gave all of us squatters small free cups of black coffee...presumably so that we wouldn't collapse. I was phenomenally lucky, though. The same barrista who gave out the free java also got me a table for two right by the glass corner overlooking the main intersection. It was in the midst of the hustle and bustle inside but also isolated enough.
The Carolinan was grateful as well for not having to endure through the smoke of Tully's. She and her sister got their White Day gifts from me, and I think at this moment, they're probably boarding their plane for Bali where they'll enjoy their few days of sun and massages. Must be nice not being poor. Then, BC showed up and we discussed her resume and covering letter. No particular problems outside the fact that she needs to do a bit of cropping and editing...just a bit too much information.

Got home last night to watch that "Doctor Who" tape that The Entrepreneur had kindly sent me. Mind you, it took several tries and minutes to get the ol' VCR going. It's very much on its last legs. The Entrepreneur sent the last 3 eps of Season 3...the big epic involving The Master. Sir Derek Jacobi had just a few minutes of playing the villain before he regenerated into the next actor, but he sure did make the most of them, chewing up the scenery like he did. It was a good watch although the resolution in the final episode dangerously skirted "Kum-Bah-Yah" territory.

It'll be quite an atypically busy Friday night and Saturday. I've got a model lesson student at the juku to start before Miss Disney shows up. The Ace actually cancelled but his class is just half an hour; and then, Jolly shows up. When he cancelled his class on Tuesday, the boss told me that ol' J had told her that things may be even worse when he had to chew linoleum for a sales screwup a few weeks back....which may mean he might have a whole lot of time on his hands from now on. However, I'm sure he'll let me know. I may have to put on my psychiatrist's hat tonight...something that I do from time to time.
Then, Saturday will be chock-filled with classes. Tully (maybe) & The Coffeemaker, The Bostonian, an EIC student, The Businesswoman and maybe even The Manhattanite to finish things off.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Thursday March 13, 2:41 p.m.

Finished up with The Yogist. She cruised through her test at 92%. Also managed to get her name card from her so that I can give it to Mr. Mild, who has expressed an interest in learning yoga. Looks like that trip to India a couple of weeks left quite an impression on my newest retiree student. Not sure if I'll get a finder's fee if Mr. Mild decides to sign up with her, though.

I'll be taking off in about an hour and a half for Ichigaya to teach The Carolinan and BC. The venue will be shifted from Tully's to Starbucks since The Carolinan had expressed a desire to no longer have her clothes smell like coffee and cigarettes, and since all of Starbucks is non-smoking.... However, it is only half the size of Tully's which will make finding a table that much more difficult. I've got my White Day chocolates for The Sisters of State since they were kind enough to give their old teacher some giri choco last month. I can guarantee that my contribution will be far cheaper than the delicacies they jointly gave me.

I found out from CNN that Dawn Wells who had played the girl-next-door castaway, Mary Ann, from "Gilligan's Island" got busted for marijuana possession. Well, I guess that definitely refutes the theory that age and wisdom go hand in hand. Try to imagine....Mary Ann gets some Mary Jane. Hope that the ghosts of Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer aren't rolling too hard in their graves right now. I saw her mug shot; she certainly had that "Ooops...I kinda goofed" look on her face. Well, at least, she doesn't look as bad as Nick Nolte.
Thursday March 13, 12:05 p.m.

Started the morning watching the continuing fallout from the Eliot Spitzer debacle (that must be some dinner table scene in their household these days) while I was proofreading BC's resume and covering letter.

Of course, I'm now here at Speedy's awaiting The Yogist for her regular lesson. I might ask her about Mr. Mild's earlier interest in yoga. Not sure if she does house calls for lone customers, though. Plus, I'm not sure about how Mrs. Mild may feel about this.

Got a letter and photos from The Cat following my visit to her home last month. And I finally got that "Doctor Who" tape from The Entrepreneur after that first abortive attempt. Strangely enough, my two long-distance friends had met a few times years and years ago; The Entrepreneur's friend was an elementary school teacher in Toronto who was looking for someone to give a presentation on present-day Japan, and The Cat (during her freewheeling days as a working-holiday student) decided to assist me in the event.

I also received a "personal" invitation from former Ontario Premier David Petersen to some sort of light reception at the Canadian Embassy in Akasaka on the 9th. It's apparently involving the U of T Alumni Association. I actually had a second of his time....again, years and years ago...when, for reasons that I forget now, he was traipsing through the Koffler Student Centre in the main campus. I'd heard that he and his father had done dealings with various Japanese companies. There was no security cordon whatsoever around him, so one of my very first students and I just cordially went up to him and greeted him. He gave the usual vacuous smile and acknowledgement that all politicians learn to give the unwashed masses.
Unsurprisingly, I will not be attending the event, since: 1) I'm working, 2) I hate parties, 3) frankly, English teachers don't exactly occupy a high place on the totem pole here, and 4) I had a rather uninspiring time at the last Alumni reunion a decade ago.
Wednesday March 12, 8:18 p.m.

Just finished with 001. Her Alaskan adventure was quite successful. She showed me her photos straight from the digital camera. Couldn't quite get the actual aurorae (I think it would challenge even a professional) but could show me a lot of the wilderness there. Got some souvenirs in the form of chocolate and smoked salmon. Gonna have to get some bagels and cream cheese now.

Waiting for The Diver to show up...
Wednesday March 12, 5:44 p.m.

Before coming out all the way here, I stopped off at the local Subway's sandwich shop near my station for a small bite. I did...and got one back in return. It used to be the custom for me to use a lot of the coupons for slightly discounted sandwiches such as tuna or BLT or the club. Well, it looks like those familiar green sheets have now gone the way of the dinosaur. Now, the only coupons they have are those for free slices of cheese or bacon. The former used to be de rigueur for sandwiches. Man, this inflation does stink.

However, just down the hall in the station mall, the newest eatery opened up a couple of days ago. It looks like another one of those all-you-can-eat tonkatsu places. The picture of the pig in a chef's hat and apron gives it all away. It's usually my policy not to visit a restaurant in the first few months of its opening, since the service and the food are gonna go through some growing pains, but after the slight disappointment at Subway, I may be tempted. Certainly, after paying my income tax this Friday, I may be ready for some comfort food.

Looks like this Saturday may be chock-filled with classes. Not only do I have Tully & The Coffeemaker but I've got The Bostonian, an EIC student and The Businesswoman. Heck, I can't even teach The Dentist since the schedule will be so tight. And now, maybe The Manhattanite may be trying to inch herself in as well.
Wednesday March 12, 4:05 p.m.

Hump Day again....although not as big a hump this week. Jolly cancelled his lesson again last night, paired with the fact that The Siberian is away for this month (and maybe forever), meant that I could go home early. And The Nurse wasn't scheduled for her typical 10 a.m. lesson today. I could actually wake up a bit more leisurely without having to drag my sorry butt over to McDonalds for breakfast in the wee hours. And I could actually see a US Primary...mind you, it was far less than a Super Tuesday since it was just the one state of Mississippi up for grabs. Barack Obama got it handily.

This week is White Day Week. I've got my list of ladies who were kind enough to hand me chocolates last month on Valentine's Day, so I'm returning the favour. I already got 002 and Mrs. Mild their boxes, and 001 is on the list tonight. Then, there are the Sisters of State tomorrow night before they take off for Bali on Friday.

Speaking of the Milds, it was just Mr. Mild last night since his wife was stricken with a cold. Looks like he's been enjoying the retiree life quite nicely. He's been thinking of trying a new job to keep himself occupied. Must be nice.

Got word from Mrs. Tulip, ex of The Beehive, who's now living in T.O. Apparently, my parents visited her place to witness her Ohinasama ningyo display. Since the parentals were in the relatively same neighbourhood for their weekly tournament of bowling, they could come by. My brother and his family were also supposed to visit but the snowy weather kept them at bay. Not too sure if my brother would actually appreciate the annual Japanese ritual of displaying a three-tier showpiece of dolls, but my sister-in-law would be a bit more open.

After its explosive debut on Monday, my hay fever has been keeping a low profile since I've been taking the meds and wearing the masks. I've been very grateful.

Speaking of 001, she's back from her Alaskan adventure. Ostensibly, she and her friend were there to witness the Northern Lights...quite the travel magnet for Japanese folks nowadays, despite the sub-frigid temps up there (here in Tokyo, people bundle up like Eskimos at 10 C!). However, I'm sure The First Student found quite a few new ales to try out during her stay in The Klondike.

Got the first two packages of games over to The Anime King yesterday. In our latest correspondence, he let loose a bit of a diatribe on the evils of Facebook. Well, I had only asked him whether he did have an account since I came across his name there. Perhaps, he may be pulling off the same stunt that New York State's biggest loser, (soon-to-be-ex) Governor Eliot Spitzer tried. Man, and here I thought I was having a bad year. His story is reading off like a corporate Jekyll-and-Hyde book. I have come across his name in the past. He had a reputation of a namesake...that of Eliot Ness; and despite his family name of Spitzer, friends and foes alike probably likened him to a Rottweiler during his years as New York Attorney General. Not anymore...he probably has as much cachet now as an emaciated Chihuahua.

Came across some old TV chestnuts on Super Drama TV over the weekend. Saw the ancient cartoon of "The Jackson 5"...yep, that's right...Michael portrayed a cartoon character years before he actually became one. It was made back in the early, early 70s with all of the horribly clunky animation and groan-worthy one-liners that made up Saturday morning TV. However, it wasn't everyday that a cartoon had Stevie Wonder's "Ma Cherie Amour" as background music.

I also did catch the final episode of "Heroes" from Season 1 on the same satellite channel last night. So far, I've only seen the of it anyways...and then I came in about 20 minutes into this finale where the junior Petrelli did save the cheerleader and therefore the world. I would like to see what had happened in between but the nature of my job rather precludes that possibility and since I'm not into rentals and I'm definitely not gonna be buying the DVD set during my financial precariousness, I guess I'll just have to wait until Super Drama TV comes up with a "Heroes" marathon that I can be present for.
"Heroes" hasn't really caught on like wildfire here in Tokyo...despite the presence of Mr. "Yatta", Masi Oka. It's probably being absorbed by the niche folks...aka otaku. I guess one has to look like one of those Johnny's Entertainment mannikins to get noticed. Plus, Western superheroes don't really seem to be this population's cup of tea...on TV, anyways. "Smallville" never really made it big, and "Doctor Who" is just doing its rounds on NHK-3. But "Heroes" shouldn't feel too US show has really hit the Japanese zeitgeist since the days of "24" and "Sex And The City". "Lost","The O.C.", and the new "Battlestar Galactica" aren't exactly household words, either.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday March 10, 7:39 p.m.

As it turned out, the M+M meeting on Saturday was cancelled at the last minute since the senior M called me up to say that she'd caught one of her occasional migraines. So it was a full day at home. Sunday was just the little trip over to Nihombashi to teach The OL.

Today was the day that I finally got whacked by the scourge known as hay fever. It was a miserable morning to commute since it was cold and rainy, and I had to wear my mask as the nose drippings flowed down my filtrum. The sneezing started soon after. By the time I started with The Class Act, I was a mess. So The Lady was kind enough to give me a box of this medicine which one swabs inside one's nose; supposedly having a 1-cm thick coating of the stuff on the nasal passages should be enough to keep the pollen grains at bay....but only if one doesn't sneeze it out. Unfortunately, that is what happened. So it was time to buy the Benza Block pills which kicked in about a third of the way into SIL's lesson. Part of the talk was on enka, that Japanese version of Country & Western. Apparently, there is now an African-American guy who looks like a miniature of Will Smith (including hip-hop stylings) but croons those Japanese hurtin' songs like a middle-aged Japanese guy in a kimono. Celo is his name. I'll be keeping an eye and ear out for this lad.

I just taught one of Speedy's students while the bossman was absent on some business before meeting up with The Full-Timer. Now, it'll be about a couple of hours before my last student in the form of Medicine Man. Strangely enough, next Monday will be pretty sparse...atypical for the beginning of my week. I've had to cancel a Class Act session so that I can take care of The Nurse, but both SIL and The Full-Timer have asked to have their sessions cancelled as well. If Medicine Man decides to can (doubtful), I may actually be able to hit home very early. Otherwise, I'll probably end up playing I-go on the computer for several hours. I can only hope that Cozy sends me another one of his translation assignments.