Friday, March 28, 2008

Saturday March 29, 12:30 p.m.

Just finished with The Businesswoman. Helped her practice Note-Taking for her upcoming business trip to the States next week. We used some TOEFL Listening materials. For those not acquainted with the test, it's the big English-proficiency exam that's given to Japanese here who plan to study at American universities. Man, these folks have to practice listening and reading lectures teaching everything from American Colonial Furniture History (yep, as if this topic will be circulated around during cocktails) to the Venusian landscape. If these kids can actually pass TOEFL, they truly deserve to be studying at UCLA. The Businesswoman's topic: Society Anxiety Disorder...from initial diagnosis to treatment.

BC just asked me about Maid Cafes. Huh?! Well, apparently, her friend is coming in from the States for a visit, so maybe a visit to this most bizarre of Japanese pop cultural rites would be just the ticket. Ironic...since I'll be heading to Akihabara shortly.
Saturday March 29, 10:20 a.m.

Back here at Speedy's for an early start to Saturday. I have The Businesswoman for her 60 in about 40 minutes. That is...if the computer can actually work fast enough. It's like dealing with a cranky geriatric.

Last night, back at the juku, Miss Disney has been steady progress although I sometimes think whether I'm being a bit too slow with her. And The Ace came back for the first time in about 3 weeks. He's been doing fine...he and his girl will be heading for Down Under in about another month just before Golden Week. They are playing it smart...getting on the plane the day before all Hell breaks loose at Narita.

Already feeling the grumblies in my stomach. I just got some little knickknacks at the local La Vie Du France...nothing too expensive but they should tide me over til dinner...although I may be doing a bit of exploration in Akiba this afternoon.

Over the past number of months, I've been seeing this commentator on CNN from time to time on shows like "Lou Dobbs Tonight" (sorry, Lou...will miss seeing you) and "Larry King Live" by the name of Laura Flanders. Fairly outspoken sort...even for a commentator. I was rather taken by her dialect, though. I couldn't tell whether she came from Darkest Bronx or England. Well, I looked her up in the Wiki...yep, she's a Brit. It's just that she really elongates those "o"s of hers.

Anyways, gonna see how the laptop is doing...
Friday March 28, 7:11 p.m.

Kinda threw caution to the wind and decided to grab something at Lotteria after my 3 hours at the I-Cafe. Had something called a Zeppin Cheeseburger...which is two slices of thick mozzarella on top of a patty. Kinda tasted like a hybrid pizza/burger but not too bad.

I see that I can add another season to this season of seasons. I just found that the Toronto NHL franchise has been kicked out of playoff contention yet again. Once again, Canada's largest city can "boast" that their Leafs fall in Spring.

Arrived at the juku to have the boss tell me that Jolly has indeed dotakyaned...still made a tidy sum this month. It's definitely happy to see. The boss' niece is visiting again. We've met a number of times over the nearly 4 years that I've been connected to the juku...quite more soft-spoken than her vivacious aunt. She seems to like museums a lot. She went as far as Mt. Takao, which is about as far west as you can go before hitting Kanagawa Prefecture, to some obscure art gallery today. Then she even went to one in Roppongi.

If the weather isn't too nasty tomorrow (it's currently spitting here), after doing my stint with The Businesswoman at Speedy's, I may just drop in on Akihabara. I'd promised The Lady that I would take a look at some of those massage chairs and pick up some brochures. She's been searching for something hi-tech and useful for her friends back in Illinois. Plus, it's been a while since I've gone through otaku town.

I finally sent off the last two packages to The Anime King. He was trying to sell me on the wonders of having a fully-online PC. Hm...yeah, if I had any idea about how to set one up, I'd do so but as it is, I'll be happy relying on everyone else's.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Friday March 28, 3:09 p.m.

Tis the season of seasons. We've got Spring, Cherry Blossom Viewing, Graduation Party, Company Recruitment, Hay Fever, and Moving. I've seen...and experienced..examples of all 6 in the past few days. A lot of young folk in their finest walking out there under the cherry trees which seem to be in full bloom this weekend. And there were two large moving trucks just metres away from each other in the neighbourhood this morning. Of course, hay fever is an everpresent phenomenon. But the meds have kept it under control today.

Hard to believe that this week has whipped by so fast. It's another Tamori Club night tonight. Even with Mega-Hump Day, it just seems to have sped by. Barack Obama may not have had a great 2 weeks, but I've not a great week myself....that is, when it comes to cafe seating. First off, there were those two university delinquents sitting (or should I say, slouching?) beside The New Yorker and me on Wednesday, and then yesterday at the Ichigaya Starbucks while whiling away the time before The Carolinan and BC came, a couple of Bickersons descended beside me to have their healthy "debate" about some idiocy. However, I shouldn't talk too loudly...years ago, my ex and I had a really stupid little row...on her birthday, no the Shinagawa Outback Steakhouse over my present from The Body Shop that I'd given her. I'm sure our eating neighbours didn't appreciate our sideshow. Anyways, by a stroke of good fortune, another booth opened up so I quickly moved off over there away from the Bickersons.

As for The Carolinan, she reiterated the story of the trip to Bali that she and her sister, The New Yorker, had gone on a couple of weeks previously. Thanks to some erroneous overbooking, The Sisters of State got a really good deal on their accomodations at The Hyatt Regency on the island. I received an omiyage in the form of some banana-flavoured (sorta) cookies. BC related some of that kerfuffle involving her and Speedy at the latest trade fair.

As I've said before, whenever there's a lurid news story, the media over here tend to dogpile on it...and they search and "miraculously" come up with a lot of other related tragedies. However, I'm kinda wondering if my cynicism is starting to slip and getting replaced with some true worry about the state of Japanese safety as applies to society. First, there was the nutjob who stabbed 8 folks in Tsuchiura on Sunday at a JR station. Then, I heard about the stab-and-run in Nagoya. And then a couple of days ago, there was an incident in Okayama where another young lad pushed an older man off a train platform and into the path of an oncoming train...killing him (the psycho said that he wanted to get the death penalty). And now, earlier this morning in The Big Sushi, a father confessed that he tried to kill his entire family...he was half-successful.
Y'know, years ago, there was some sort of government push to relax the stresses of life in encourage folks to take it easy....increase vacation time, quality time with the family, cool biz and all that. It seems that the results are quite the opposite. After hearing about the Okayama incident, I wondered as I got on the subway home about how safe we can really be when just about anyone can be a ticking time bomb. Will we have to keep 2 metres away from the platform? Will be have to keep our eyes peeled for suspicous folks with that strange glint of metal inside their jackets? During BC's lesson last night, there was a young salaryman sitting beside us who seemed to have been overdosed with caffeine. He looked very frustrated and was muttering to himself. He was probably just one of those overstressed, high-strung types who got chewed out by the kacho, but I kept my right eye on him....just in case. As I said, it hasn't been a good week for cafe seating.

On a lighter note, the kiosks were showing off the banner about Hideki Matsui's marriage to some 25-year-old office lady. She can now consider herself the luckiest woman in the land, at least for the next week or so. She may also have to think about how to wash out some of that acne medicine from her new hubby's pillow.

Well, tonight will be a 3-hour stint. I've got Miss Disney, The Ace and then Jolly.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thursday March 27, 2:24 p.m.

The Yogist was her usual vivacious self. She could be the Japanese Mary Tyler Moore. And we have been lucky for her renewal.

I just read that the inventor of the Egg McMuffin has passed away. Apparently, he died peacefully, instead of clutching his heart in agony. I will be putting up my next Hash Brown in lighted salute...not as difficult as one might think. Also, actor Richard Widmark has passed on..and I'd thought that he'd already done so years ago....maybe that was George Peppard I was thinking about...I think both were on NBC's Sunday Night Mystery Movie as their detective characters.

Well, one down, two to go.
Thursday March 27, 12:06 p.m.

Survived Mega-Hump Day. It wasn't easy, but I did it. After going through that Private Cafe Teacher's Hell of having those two female delinquents nattering like jackhammers beside The New Yorker and me, I had to settle down The Diver about her upcoming test next week. Usually, it's a take-home but I'm gonna have to have her do it in class since she's so nervous about it. Still can't master Singular/Plural. But her nervousness fades away miraculously when she spoke of her short trip to Okinawa last week. There's a reason that I tagged her as The Diver; she just loves the feeling of going underwater with the fishies. The school got a nice box of custard-filled manju from The Okinawa Aquarium as an omiyage. The box has a manta ray and a whale shark looking straight up at us with their maws way open...just the right message to send for those feeling guilty for overindulging.

However, 001 was a ton of laughs as usual and Medicine Man aced his test...although I had a few tense moments when he blew the very first question. I was just glad that I finished the day. Got home at the stroke of midnight.

Today, I only have half the lessons: The Yogist, The Carolinan and BC. BC just became an auntie for the fourth time yesterday. She showed me her newest nephew on her cellphone. He's got some pretty scarifyingly long tapery fingers. Could make the inevitable nose-picking phase a lot more suspenseful.

Got the lineup for the new CNNj regime. "American Morning", "Lou Dobbs Tonight" and "Election Centre" are all gone with the relatively bland international stuff replacing it. Mind you, I'm not surprised that those shows have been taken off of the Japanese airwaves. They all did just focus on the US. However, "Larry King Live", "The Situation Room" and "Anderson Cooper 360" will still be here. Looks like AC's love for the Seamanship video turned the tide there. So, it'll be back to what CNN was several years ago.
Wednesday March 26, 5:04 p.m.

I am rather exhausted right now. My model lesson student was a real lovely lady but as a GABA refugee unaccustomed to tests, she was pretty overwhelmed by our methods which kinda influenced the course of my lesson. Great delivery and listening but grammar is a house of cards. Then, there was The New Yorker. At the best of times, the lass is still not the most gregarious of students, but today, we had the unfortunate circumstances to have these two annoying gyaru sit beside us and just about act as if they were trying to be caricatures of Shibuya gyaru. It was the high-pitched whine and intonation along with the rude manners and attitudes that almost made me want to do something that I would not normally do. Left me somewhat shellshocked as the two of us left the Tully's. And I started to sound like my age as I tried mightily to keep my annoyance level down in front of my student as we made our way back to the station. I hope The New Yorker wasn't offended since I did ask whether she and her sister were like that back when they were kids...but sometimes when you're pissed off, you tend to blurt out things that you regret later. I don't think she would be offended since she's a good ten years on those delinquents. I was further surprised to hear that The New Yorker pegged them as university students...I would've said high school dropouts myself.

Anyways, I still have three more lessons to go. Luckily, the three coming up are people that I've gotten well used to...although The Diver is still quite the Nervous Nellie, and Medicine Man is also quite reticent.

Looks like the season of visitations is upon me. The Lens said that he and his wife will be coming in next week. Automan will be headed her in a few weeks, and then, Mom will be arriving after Golden Week. Saints preserve me...even though I'm atheist.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wednesday March 26, 12:04 p.m.

The Nurse came in on a huge ball of steam. She said that she was angry about the fact that she's had a broken toilet for almost a month and that the repairman has yet to show up. So I guess Japan and North America share one more thing. However, she did settle in and enjoyed the lesson.

Next up is that model lesson student.

I came across the news article about "General Hospital" celebrating 45 years on the air. Nothing ages me faster than the fact that Robin Scorpio isn't only just a doctor now but she'll be having a baby. I remembered her when she was the baby...back in the days of Robert Scorpio and Anna Devane. But I go back even further when the plotlines centered around Dr Hardy and Jessie Brewer.
Wednesday March 26, 9:44 a.m.

Well, the Mega-Hump Day starts today. I've got The Nurse, a model lesson student, The New Yorker, 001, The Diver and finally Medicine Man. Apparently, Speedy will also be knee-deep in the lessons.

I made the reservations for Spyros and sure enough, BC contacts me to say that she can't make it in after all since she's got relatives coming in. Grrrr... On a similar note, I asked Mr. Mild if he called up The Yogist, and he basically got cold feet so he'll just go to the gym instead.

Paddy contacted me about a translation gig with an acquaintance of his. It seems to be a webpage this time.

I've got Kaela Kimura's tune playing ad nauseum in my head. I saw the video, "Jasper" on YouTube yesterday. One of the comments said that the tune was simple but very catchy. The day-glo video also helps. I've always had the impression that Kaela was one of those 21st-century Japanese (or in her case, half-Japanese) women with a cheerful, but Don't F*** With Me attitude.
Tuesday March 25, 7:17 p.m.

It's gonna be an even shorter night than I'd thought. Mild Jr. did a dotakyan as I was coming into the juku today. So I just had Chip N' Dale for their last class tonight. Chip's mother was hovering so that she could give her thanks to me for a year of teaching her son and his buddy. The kids were quite surprise there. While Dale will be going onto bigger and more stressful things, Chip will still be dropping by to get his education from the juku boss.
So it'll just be The Milds in about 40 minutes, then I head on home. It's probably going to be one of my earliest nights at the juku.

During my stint at the I-cafe today, I came across Kylie Minogue's latest video "Wow" at YouTube. As a cancer survivor, she's doing excellently. If I'd only known her for her special appearance on the latest "Doctor Who" season premiere, my jaw would've fallen right down to the ground...I don't think I know too many 39-year-old women who can throb like she does. Perhaps Cher and Madonna are the only ones.

I also saw last week on that Richard Quest show on CNN that Hollywood is daring to make its own version of the Japanese folk tale, "Hachiko". For those who don't know, Hachiko is the famed Akita dog who faithfully waited for his master at Shibuya Station about a century ago. Even when his master died, Hachiko kept on going to the station to fulfill his daily duty until he himself passed on. The Hachiko statue is the landmark of what is now the Mecca to All Japanese Teens. Well, apparently, that go-to guy for Japanese remakes, Richard Gere, will be playing the doomed master. I guess his stint in "Shall We Dance?" qualified him.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tuesday March 25, 12:42 p.m.

Yep, as I said last night, I'm here at the I-Cafe typing away. Since 002 is off this week, I've got some time to surf and watch. I've been declining the Beehive's offer of lunch for the past few weeks since I don't want to impose any more than I already have, and frankly a bit of distance is better now. It's been a month now since I got the financially rude awakening via my real estate agency. I'm accustomed to the new regime now...basically I'm vigilant every day and most hours about anything I pay for. And it's certainly showing in my ledger...most of my food entries have been half of what they were in February. Ironically, the real estate agency sent me my copy of the new lease. Looks like the juku boss' role as my new guarantor has passed muster with them. So, I'm safe for another 2 years, and I no longer have the yoke of my uncle on me. But March has finally shown me the true meaning of fiscal responsibility. Shelter will now be my top priority. And I'm gonna see if I can start saving for moving out of here and into something more manageable by this time next year. I'm thinking about's a local agency which specializes in helping out foreigners with accomodations. No guarantor, no key money, and no real fuss. It will probably mean that I'll be leaving the city and into Tokyo with all of the complications that would convey, but I think it's high time.
It's been strange since this new life began that I haven't heard anything from Movie Buddy or Skippy. But I'm not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth; I've been lucky that I haven't been asked to go out for a movie and dinner. And I will definitely be turning down the Speedy invite to O-Hanami next week. He always like to have them high-priced.

I had my tonkatsu today. It's also the first time I've been to Tonki in well over a month. It felt good to have my mouth full of pork cutlet and cabbage again.

I've got a shortened night at the juku. It'll be the kids' final...I'm wondering if I should get them some parting gifts. One of the mothers will be dropping by to give her aisatsu. I don't particularly think she should bother. I'm not really all that proud of my work with Chip N' Dale...and frankly, awkwardness is an emotion that I despise. After that, it'll be the Mild Family. And then I'm headed home for an early whack at sleep since I've got the Nurse at her usual time tomorrow morning. Gonna have to be getting that text for Suzanne next week.

Last night when I got home, I decided to get rid of the last remnants of the cognac that had been with me for the last decade. Just mixed it in with the last of the milk and some of the ginseng honey that I'd gotten from The Lady a couple of years ago. Well, I was feeling pretty warm and fuzzy after gulping that down. But ended up having a nightmare of me being pursued by zombies. I'm sure they had quite the smorgasbord at my expense.

I got word from The Entrepreneur that Toronto has been 13 degrees colder than usual this past winter. Gad....and here I thought we were in global warming. Well, it's been pretty nice today. Heck, I haven't even needed to use my mask or take the meds. But I've got the cream shoved up my nose.
Monday March 24, 8:06 p.m.

I've been finished for about an hour now. The Full-Timer got to use the Speedy lounge tonight since the bossman's student cancelled. Looks like she'll be busy next week since it's not only the last day of the month, but it's also the last day of the fiscal year. Just as well, since it'll be a packed Monday on the 31st. Along with The Class Act and SIL, I've got The Bostonian (who cancelled her Saturday class...meaning I've only got The Businesswoman as a student), new student The Tippler...she was the one who had recommended her buddy The Yogist to us, and then Medicine Man. At least I won't have to run between Doutor and the school.

Speedy's asked me whether I'll be attend the next big party in the form of O-Hanami on the 5th. When I heard it was going to be 5,000 yen, my mind automatically balked although I just told Speedy that I'll think about it. There's no way in Hell that I'll pay that much for a meal anymore...or for the foreseeable future. Besides, the cherry blossoms will have probably already fallen off by that time anyways.

I've got a lopsided donut day tomorrow since 002 won't be having me over between The Beehive and the juku students. I'll probably have some long-awaited tonkatsu and then hit the I-cafe. It'll be Chip N' Dale's last bout with me tomorrow night before Suzanne starts taking over the slot. I'll keep it to schedule. I wonder if Mr. Mild has contacted The Yogist about lessons yet. Jolly won't be showing up to clean up, so I can get home by around 9:30 and get some more sleep before the huge Hump Day.

Speaking of Jolly, he taught me a way to prevent fogging up my glasses whenever I wear my hay fever mask. Last Tuesday, he just took my mask and then bent the stiff upper frame. He calls it the Jolly Airflow System. He should patent it.

May be heading out in the next 45 minutes..that is, if Speedy doesn't decide to close up shop even earlier. Could be quite a precedent for a Monday. All of my Monday night students at Speedy are gonna be AWOL tonight. Mr. TOEIC hasn't shown up in weeks, and The Diver plus Medicine Man will be switching to Wednesday night this week.
Monday March 24, 4:47 p.m.

Last week, I'd forgotten to mention about my way home last Wednesday...the last time I was at Speedy's. I was gonna take the Oedo Line but saw my way blocked by a mass of commuters and some harried station personnel. Then, I saw the paramedics and cops literally race in with all sirens a-blazin'. Oops, that couldn't be good, I thought. I'd already bought my ticket, too, so I ended up waiting for half an hour to find out what had been going on. Apparently, the entire line was shut down because of what happened down below...although I kinda knew already. And sure enough, by around 10:45 p.m., the blue-garbed, white-helmeted guys brought up a body; of course, they had him/her surrounded by a green tarp so that noone could see the grisly results. It was a jumper. Well, I'd always heard about these guys. I finally came across one..kinda.

The news about how Japanese society seems to be heading for Hell in a henbasket continues. Police in Tsuchiura City, Ibaraki Prefecture (where The Sisters of State hail from and not too far from where Paddy hailed from) are looking pretty bad right now. In the US, they have shooting sprees...well, over here since gun control is very much a reality, it's stabbing sprees. Some psycho who had killed his relative last week ended up knifing 8 people near a station, killing one. The nutball even called up the cops from an empty police box to have himself arrested. It was the usual M.O....he just had that urge to kill.
And then there is the case involving a US military guy who allegedly sliced the throat of a taxi driver last week in Kanagawa Prefecture. And this morning in Nagoya, a guy on a bike just nonchalantly poked his knife into a woman before racing off. I can't really figure it out sometimes.

Well, the weekend was pretty quiet...luckily. The hay fever has been coming and going. It was just Tully on Saturday...The Coffeemaker was away sick. And then, it was The OL on Sunday morning. I finally met up with M+M at the Keio Plaza in the afternoon. We had a bit of Tea Time at the basement cafe, Jurin. M1 has been pretty fact, she's headed for Switzerland next week on business...economy class for more than 12 hours...not nice but no money in the budget for Business Class...sign of the times. M2 has been making do in her post in Yamato City as a medical therapist. Apparently, her care home has its share of nuts, including a bully who likes to put in tacks in her target's shoes. M2 has also been working out as well; she did look thinner and her shoulders looked a bit more broader. She's been tackling the freeclimbing course in nearby Fujisawa. The bottomless policy for coffee worked a bit too well for me. I ended up drinking five cups...and ended up shaking all the way home.
I also noticed that there were a lot of folks dressed up in dark suits and white ties...which means that the graduation parties were in full swing. A lot of women were in all gussied up in kimonos as well.

Fairly light day for me. I just had The Class Act for the first time in 2 weeks. We ended up just gabbing again...but it was pretty useful for us. The Lady has been wondering what to get a couple of her newlywed friends in Illinois. She was thinking about something hi-tech, so I suggested either the Wii Fit or one of those Star Trek-like massage chairs with the plasma-panel display. I also gave The Matron the business card for Speedy since her nephew is interested in taking some Parisian French before he heads for France to take the Cordon Bleu course. And then I got some news from The Matron concerning some really cheap electronics place in Mitaka, the really far end of the Tozai Line. Apparently, it sells toasters for just 500 yen. And she thought she saw some nice CD player for just 6,000. Gotta get there sometime.
The Lady herself has discovered the wonders of 100-yen shops. This is a woman who can buy an island with her credit card, and she stunned The Matron and me when she said that she had gone to some sort of cheapo store over the weekend and discovered some amazing things for low, low prices. And then she nonchalantly went over to one of her favourite boutiques in Omotesando...the ones with the security guards in suits to buy some clothing....while carrying the paper bag of Daiso goods. I could imagine the shop staff calling security on seeing that. Well, I always said that I had the most interesting of students.