Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday May 23, 5:44 p.m.

Finished for the day and for the rest of the weekend. Speedy's having a fairly serious talk with Ray, being his administrative major domo. Not sure if that kerfuffle involving Mr. Pronounciation's visa has something to do with it. But I gather since he's holding this session with the door wide open, then it can't be all that bad.

Met The Smile at last. She's been doing OK; in fact, she's due to participate in a relay marathon (an ekiden we call it here) tomorrow. She seems to be in fine fettle although she admitted that she'd looked pretty gaunt some months earlier due to the rigours of being in the sales division. However, she got transferred to a less stressful section back in April, so she said that the colour is returning to her cheeks.

Well, I intend to head on out sometime in the next 10 minutes since I would like to see any remaining "Star Trek" episodes in that viewing marathon on SuperDrama TV tonight.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Saturday May 23, 3:08 p.m.

Yep, kinda scary spending two of the last hours toggling away on Mixi, although it is much harder typing in Japanese legibly. Made a somewhat (hopefully) humourous entry about my time at Krispy Kreme yesterday and then spent the rest of the time trying to answer questions and make comments throughout the various communities. Facebook is kinda like a game centre but Mixi is definitely more of the community centre for me. Quite glad that I've come back.

Another reason I'm glad is that my premonition came true and Speedy handed out the pay packets. Looks like I got a pretty handsome sum, despite the fact that Golden Week was during this past period. Not that I'm complaining.

Super Drama TV has started up its usual "20 Hours of Star Trek" marathon over 2 days. Good and appropriate timing since the movie hits these shores in another week. As for me, I'm hoping to catch "The Doomsday Machine" sometime tonight. The news has not been lost on the Star Trek community crowd. Ray was kind enough to give me The Trekkie's e-mail address so I sent her a friendly message about her thoughts on the upcoming flick.
Saturday May 23, 10:43 a.m.

Starting off at Speedy's in a bit of a dour least, the rest of the staff are. Apparently, today is, or was, the day that Mr. Pronounciation was supposed to take off for his odyssey in Toronto, but unfortunately the e-mail came in that his visa has still yet to show up. So, Ray and Bay are kinda grumping about...the bossman has called in as well; he should be dropping by sometime later today. The ladies have been muttering "Komattemasu ne..." (Man, what a mess...)

I've got The Intellectual in about 15 minutes for his usual biweekly lesson. Then it'll be another 4 hours before The Smile comes back for the first time in over 6 months.

I did get some new quickie translations from The Corner for that same website. Nice to get a bit more yen. Speaking of which, I checked my bank account last night; yep, that government handout of 12,000 yen did get in there. 11,100 yen was spent already in getting my new passport processed. What shall I do with the remaining 900?

Since Speedy is supposed to be heading out for his 2nd big business trip today or tomorrow, I'm wondering if I might be able to get my paycheck today. Would be nice.

I had mentioned about watching the long-running music show "Utaban" on Thursday night on TBS, but was surprised to see "Tokyo Friend Park II" in its stead; usually that game show comes on Monday nights. Well, checked out the Japanese Wiki and found out that its long run came to an end back in April. Well, I guess even Takaaki Ishibashi has limits to his manic energy.
Friday May 22, 8:12 p.m.

Well, it's been an interesting few hours since the last entry. As I was making my way out of the Microsoft Building, just across from Times Square. I noticed a most shocking development: Krispy Kreme #1, the donut shop that started the phenomenon of undeservedly long lineups, the place that I couldn't even think of entering for 2.5 years, had no lineup. I was glued in front of that shop for a full minute, musing about my options. I had my lesson with The Bow later that afternoon at Starbucks...another place with coffee...and I'd just had lunch. However, that part of my brain which controlled the entry of opportunities finally won out overwhelmingly. And I entered the donut emporium that I'd thought I would never be able to enter; mind you, I did get to go to the branch out in Funabashi's LaLaPort several months earlier, but this was the Big Time for me.

Of course, I got the free regular donut before I even uttered a word of my order. I decided to go for the Cherry Pie donut and a coffee....and I went all the way and had them "for here". I took my first steps into the world of Krispy Kreme upstairs in the mondo lounge. Pretty spacious, all told. I actually got a window stool so I could see the folks walking past downstairs. All of them had some rather surprised looks on their I the fact that KK was line-less. And a few of them decided to take up the same opportunity.

Both my Cherry Pie Donut and coffee were along the same lines as the Krispy Kreme philosophy....just overwhelm the taste buds. The donut had some sort of Cinnabons-like icing with nuts on top while the inside was just gushing with cherry sauce....a sugar nuke. And the coffee seemed to have been fortified in a reactor. I was pretty much on a buzz when I got out some 10 minutes later. And the opportunity part of my brain was correct; when I exited the place, there was a 10-minute wait line forming outside.

I actually had to walk off some of the ultra-caffeine, ultra-cholesterol and ultra-sugar by heading over to Kinokuniya. The bookstore finally got the "Star Trek" novelization and that prequel graphic novel, "Countdown" on the shelves, but I'll be holding on until I finally see the movie. I did spend some money on getting a CD of some R&B hits...I forget the name and I'm too lazy to bother checking into my bag. I heard some of the tracks at the HMV listening station. Pretty darn good stuff that sounds like it came from my good ol' days of the 80s.

I ended up having another coffee at Starbucks while I waited the 2 hours before The Bow showed up. I was getting pretty jittery by that point. I thought I was gonna end up rapping my entire lesson to her, but I held steady for her.

With all of those empty calories inside of me, I ended up just having a couple of rice balls for dinner. No need to completely end up on a slab this weekend.

I've been reading that novel that The Satyr had lent me a couple of weeks ago, Mo Hayder's "Tokyo". At first, I thought I wasn't gonna last the first 20 pages since I didn't think much of the heroine, Grey. But over the past week, I've been getting more and more drawn into the story, despite the fact that I could pretty much figure out how the story was gonna come out pretty early. That one rave comment from one critic alluding to Thomas Harris pretty much telegraphed it to me. The other thing is that considering the yakuza have a good role to play in this, the gangsters seem pretty tame.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Friday May 22, 12:02 p.m.

Over here at the Shinjuku Kinko's. Wouldn't usually be paying the high prices for Internet usage but I just had to check my e-mail since Miss Honolulu did a dotakyan, thereby negating my need to come into Speedy's and getting Internet access. The reason that she cancelled has both the bossman and I wondering....she had a fever. And Tokyo, a couple of days ago, announced their first official cases of the shingata (new strain) flu through a couple of high school girls. Then, last night, it was some woman in her 30s from neighbourhing Saitama Prefecture. Hmm...wonder if Miss Honolulu will be the latest one on the news.

Speedy had jumped the gun (he should know better) and automatically put Miss Honolulu in for next Friday, but I let him know that I already had The New Yorker in Ichigaya that day. He wasn't too happy (and I can't blame him) but he has to be like all of the other students and wait in line.

I called him from The Canadian Embassy in Aoyama. Yup, I got that passport application done. Luckily, I got that nice lady whom I'd met a couple of weeks earlier, so she got everything all squared away. So I should see my new shiny passport with the ugliest pictures I've ever taken mailed to me in exactly 3 weeks. Then, I have to head on over to Immigration in Shinagawa and Ichikawa City Hall to take care of things about my new passport there.

Since Miss Honolulu cancelled, I suddenly found myself with not much to do for several hours. So, I took a long walk from Aoyama all the way to Shinjuku. Some pretty interesting urban scenes. Ended up having lunch at a local Wendys in Shinjuku 1-chome before making my way over here. Having that wind tunnel from all of the tall skyscrapers made for a nice air-conditioning effect since we're getting quite warm now. At least, I don't have to worry about rushing it for The Bow's lesson.

But I gotta wonder...will this flu start hitting some of my own students now at the juku, Speedy's and beyond? Enquiring minds want to know...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thursday May 21, 10:09 a.m.

Well, here I was wondering about how to get through a Grandma Dynamite double lesson without thoroughly exhausting myself to an early grave, and then she solved it for me. As soon as she came in an hour ago, she promptly proclaimed that she wasn't up for studying English today. OoooooK...kinda put a pall on things. And then some minutes later, she just requested to cut the double into a regular single. She hasn't been feeling too well, and it showed. Her memory was phasing in and out and word order resembled a verbal Jumble Puzzle.

Just gonna decompress right now, and since I now have a full 90 minutes, I'll probably just finish off that passport application.
Thursday May 21, 8:54 a.m.

Just a month before summer officially arrives but it's starting to get that warm and humid feeling out there. I think we've served our last hot drink for the next several months.

Well, it looks like I'll be out of here by early afternoon...hopefully, Mr. TOEIC doesn't decide to pull a sudden request for a reservation.
Wednesday May 20, 9:44 p.m.

Obviously since I'm able to type this, The Fashion Designer has dotakyan'ed. And she's also cancelled the next week as well. The only reason that I haven't fled from Speedy's is that I've gotten obsessed with my Mixi habit. Good heavens...and to think that a month ago, my account was dead as a doornail. Now I'm handling Internet conversations like an old-style telephone operator.

The Cracker was a bit off today but the lesson was still fun as usual. As for The Diver, we were putting along nicely until we got majorly sidetracked by the news on Swine Flu. Then, we were both commiserating about the chances of Tokyo getting hit by the bug. I say that the chances are 50/50; it will all depend on how the weather warms up over the next few weeks.

Well, I'm taking my opportunity and getting home so that I can get some sleep. Looks like I may just get that evening off tomorrow.

Wednesday May 20, 6:07 p.m.

Another quiet afternoon gone by. Ray and La Fille have been quietly gabbing away about where to go for La Fille's official welcome lunch or dinner. Meanwhile, you can admire the up-close-and-personal photo of that 300 g hamburg steak I devoured at Meat Yazawa a week and a half ago.

I've been gradually getting deeper and deeper into the Mixi communities. It almost feels like I've entered a virtual community centre and it's eternally an Open House. Now, I've joined up with the AOR community...a pretty natural extension since I'm in the Japanese equivalent.

I did actually plan for my 3 lessons tonight. They'll be back-to-back-to-back so I'll be weaned off of the computer soon. And I did a dry run on filling out the passport application forms. Hopefully, everything will be OK by Friday morning.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wednesday May 20, 12:54 p.m.

Met The Admin for the first time in almost a month. She's been pretty busy between doing stuff for her father's temple and for her husband's design business. Not sure how she pulls it all off, plus do the homework I assign her. I returned the favour and lent her my own CD of Joanna Wang, her first release, since she had introduced me to Wang with her second release. I also informed her that the chances of me heading over to that NASPA Hotel in Niigata are nil due to my other financial obligations such as paying for my new passport and then the twin horrors of National Health Insurance premiums and Citizen's Tax. Basically, I find myself in the situation of saving money just to pay the government. Why do I feel like I should have the term "serf" put on my gaijin card?

However, I did get my notice in the mail last night that the government handout of 12,000 yen is on its way to my bank account. Ironically, that money will be used to pay the Canadian government to renew my passport instead of going to some worthy yakiniku restaurant.

Still, I should be getting my share of the yen in next month's pay packet since I'll be spelling Speedy for two weeks with all of the Grandmas while he does his usual business trip. That's the theory, anyways.

I've actually brought over all of the fixins to fill out my passport renewal form today since I've got bupkiss until 7 tonight when The Cracker comes in. Strangely enough, although I've got Grandma Dynamite for a double tomorrow morning and then Miss Sedona, after that I've also got absolutely nothing at all (knocking most rampantly on wood) for the rest of the day. May actually get to see "Utaban".

Speaking of Miss Sedona, I went through her Superfly DVDs over the past few days. Yep, Superfly, aka Shiho Ochi, is a talented singer who liberally channels her idol, Janis Joplin in her music which evokes the roots rock of the late 60s and early 70s...also dresses like a hippie. In her DVD, she travels to San Francisco and actually meets some of Joplin's old bandmates and jams with them. The cynical side of me figured that there was major begging and handing over of money, but the band actually looked quite appreciative of Superfly's love for their old friend. Both Miss Sedona and I hope that Superfly doesn't end up getting homogenized into a slightly R&B-tinged J-Pop singer; she's perfectly fine bringing back the 70s.

I finally got word from Maruzen concerning my long-awaited orders. One of them has arrived at the store but the other disc will be arriving in a couple of days, so I figure that I'll pick them up over the weekend.
Tuesday May 19, 7:41 p.m.

Just 20 minutes away from The Milds; not sure what I'll be doing with them. They are in a limbo of sorts since, for all practical purposes, they have finished their textbook, but they said that they didn't feel too comfortable about the grammar to move on ahead. And I'm just 29 entries away from hitting the big 3,000 in this blog.

Suzanne was fun as usual. Just worked solely on Pronounciation. Meanwhile, the juku boss' newest charge, this cute little munchkin of a girl with a voice that a Sunday morning anime would just love, was plugging away at mathematics. She kinda reminds me of a preteen Skippy.

Was briefly on Mixi since there weren't too many new entries in the communities. One fellow wrote into the Toronto community to ask about any cheap hotels in the ol' hometown. I don't think I can help him there. I would've recommended the Madison Ave. Boutique Hotel but although that was just great for The Beehive when they did their big swing into Eastern Canada a couple of years ago, that's just not within the budget of the average young student.

Got a Donut Day of sorts tomorrow instead of a Hump Day. I've got The Admin for the first time in nearly a month tomorrow morning but then there's a huge hole in the schedule until 7 when The Cracker comes in lieu of 001; then it's The Diver and The Fashion Designer. The Smile is coming back though for the first time in 6 months (!)...I had to go through one of my other logs just to track down her last lesson. She'll be coming in on Saturday afternoon which is a bit of a relief since she used to come in at the bleary-eyed hour of 8 a.m. on Thursdays. I'll take the former position anytime.

And my somewhat troublesome student, The Action Freak, called in after several days to say that, yes, she's cool for the 29th. Well, there goes that theory. But if she dotakyans on me one more time...

Did forget to mention that just before The Beehive came in for their lesson, I managed to spill all of my iced coffee onto the floor for some gravity-warping reason. However, the staffer came by, smilingly reassured me that everything would be OK, had me re-positioned to another dryer area of the restaurant, asked whether my pants were OK (they were splashed with the coffee), proceeded to clean up the mess, and even got me a free iced coffee. I realize that this country is known for its service, but even I was impressed by that sort of attitude. Never thought I would ever see the day that I would get a replacement drink for something I goofed up on. I may have some gripes about living here, but service isn't usually one of them. However, there is still that outstanding order of my Maruzen request.
Tuesday May 19, 4:20 p.m.

At the juku. With some tea and a couple of aspirin, the remnants of Montezuma's Revenge have gone away. However, my back and shoulders are feeling pretty knotty. Any resemblance between them and a piece of California Redwood is strictly coincidental. I tried doing my usual thing and watching some massage videos on YouTube as a visualization substitute but to no avail. After my ripoff at that massage place in Namjatown the other week, I'm pretty tense about going to any such place again.

The juku boss approached me just now about teaching her and that kids' teacher who comes here, Mama Cass. Mama Cass is originally from Iran but has been teaching English to the tykes for twice as long as I have been here. But apparently, the lack of opportunities to speak adult English has sent her speaking abilities into a tailspin of sorts, and thus the unusual request from the boss. After that last attempt to teach the boss a few years back, I was a bit hesitant about the idea (although I kept my face as still as possible), and I'm always leery about teaching teachers. However, at this point, it's moot since none of us can find a time mutually advantageous for any of us. Perhaps it will stay that way.

Spent a lot of the second hour at the I-Cafe going through the Mixi responses. Yup, having even the small number of communities that I do can keep me rather busy. But the Star Trek community has been getting together on that question of Star Trek-loving celebs. Completely forgot that Whoopi Goldberg and Christian Slater are big Trekkies.

The boss gave me some beer chocolates. Yup, you heard me...they're wrapped in a foil resembling the Asahi Beer can. She reassured me that they're non-alcoholic despite the beer jelly inside. I'm gonna have to save one for Mr. Mild since he has his love of drink.

Nothing big on the news front today. Haven't heard any encroachment of that flu into the Kanto area as of yet, but give it time. However, the Democratic Party of Japan has got its new leader, Yukio Hatoyama, after an internal vote on Saturday. Not as if they had much choice.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tuesday May 19, 1:00 p.m.

Ach....that news about plug-ugly comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto finally getting married has an unsurprising postscript. His wife is 4 months preggers.

Met up with The Beehive this morning. Mrs. Tee actually showed up; since she came back from her first trip ever to Italy, she was giving out some souvenirs. I gratefully accepted a small bottle of olive oil infused with white truffles...not sure what the heck I'll use it for, though. She also handed out some chocolates filled with dried orange peel. Not sure if it had been them or the fact that I didn't exactly have the healthiest breakfast on the planet (instant tonkotsu rice soup with a chocolate bread stick and 2.5 cups of coffee), but perhaps the combination gave me a bit of Montezuma's Revenge for which I've hopefully alleviated with some aspirin, two trips to the bathroom and some roughage in the form of the shredded cabbage that always comes with my tonkatsu lunch.

Over the weekend, I saw "The Da Vinci Code" on Fuji-TV. Japanese TV always shows the original movie of any franchise whenever a sequel gets put out in the theatres, and yep, "Angels and Demons" was released last weekend. I'd never seen the Ron Howard adaptation of the Dan Brown novel in the theatres due to the horrible reviews. Well, after catching the three hours with commercials on Saturday, I've found it to be not too bad, although I am saying this after watching it from the comfort of my apartment and a remote control in my hand. In other words, I wasn't a captive audience member. However, I have to say that the biggies in the Roman Catholic Church are a bunch of humourless nitwits for making such a furious hew and cry about this movie. I mean, as I was watching Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou running around like headless chickens, I was thinking that this story is nothing but hilarious claptrap...the contents of an airplane flight pageturner, albeit a very profitable one for Mr. Brown. Even the cast was saying that the so-called conspiracy was just all smoke and mirrors; Sir Ian McKellen read the book and then remarked that the plot was "total codswallop". And it is, and the critics also thought so as well. On "Larry King Live", the cast of the new movie were on going into full defense mode by also saying that the plot of "Angels and Demons" was also just all in fun. But humour be damned, says the Church.

In any case, I've made some more money by doing some quick translations of recommendation letters for Speedy. Still, after checking the Net, I don't think I'll be making that trip up to that hotel in Niigata after all. Just too much for my budget, especially with a passport renewal coming up and then the dreaded arrival of those National Health Insurance premiums.
Monday May 18, 10:20 p.m.

Man...I'm starting to really get into the Mixi communities. May need to be deprogrammed sometime in the future. I may have hit pay dirt with the Star Trek one. I came up with the topic about which famous people are closet Trekkies. I mentioned King Abdullah II of Jordan. In the 5 minutes since I put it up, I already got two responses.

The only reason I can write this at this minute is that Medicine Man pulled off a very rare dotakyan...only the 2nd time in a year that he's done that. I got paid for it. And yet here I am still.

It was a summery day today. It went all the way up to 29 C...however, I was doing alright in my apartment...the key: dryness. Once the humidity comes rolling in next month, my place should take its usual place as the local sauna.

The big news over here has been that despite all that "Outbreak" approach at the airports, Japan managed to get its first several cases of Swine Flu patients amongst high school students in Kobe over the weekend. The principals of the schools are just flabbergasted as to how they got it. Well, I figure it'll be a matter of time before Tokyoites start getting some sort of effect as well.

The other big news is that Hitoshi Matsumoto of the veteran comedy duo of Downtown finally got hitched at the ripe old age of 45. Hooked himself a fine filly as well in the form of a former NTV weather announcer. Some weeks ago, I came across an excerpt from an interview with Seth Rogen, the lovable slob from "Knocked Up", where he said that women will only dig hunks....homely guys with a sense of humour don't have a chance. Well, he hasn't been to Japan. Matsumoto is definitely no prize in the looks department, but he was able to get his match thanks to his sense of humour, as crass and Osakan as it is.

AK finally came back from her month in New York City. She and I had a long talk in the kitchen about our thoughts on The Big Apple. She was able to catch several musicals there, including a musical adaptation of "9 To 5", that old movie with Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton. This one had Alison Janney, the former C.J. Cregg from "The West Wing" as one of the characters. For such a tall person, Janney apparently can hoof it up on stage and belt out a tune, too. I guess AK knows me too well...she got me an "Entertainment Weekly" issue covering the new "Star Trek" movie.

Anyways, gotta head on home.