Friday, June 26, 2009

Saturday June 27, 1:33 p.m.

I've spent the past 5 hours just puttering away at translation. I'm not quite ready to call it a day yet since I have The Publicity Assistant in about half an hour. It's gotten quite a bit more full with staff since I'd last talked. Bay, La Fille and the bossman himself have all come in in the last hour to do a cleanup before this private cooking party concocted by Speedy and Mr. Influence gets under way a half hour after I finish with The PA. I've managed to get two articles done and sent off to The Cornernette. I did get some sort of missive from her but I've not bothered to open it up. I just want to get the stuff done.

Since there will be a party happening soon after I'm done, I think getting more translation work done is now a moot point. I'll be heading home and I'll continue all this tomorrow.
Saturday June 27 2009 AD (1 ADM), 8:22 a.m.

The "1 A.D.M" stands for "After The Death of Michael"...yeah, I know I know...I'm being rather curmudgeonly here. However, you and I both know that "The Onion" beat me to the punch.

As for the aftermath of the death of The King of Pop, when I got back home after my stint at the juku, CNN and BBC were back to normal broadcasting parameters (imagine that!), and now the journalists' classic questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How are back to the fore. Aside from the dedicated Michael Jackson community on Mixi, it would seem that the average Joe on the streets of Tokyo have expressed mild surprise but not much more than that. I haven't seen any sudden shrines being set up in Ginza or Shibuya like they have been in Hollywood. Probably because Tokyo is the city of the young with Shibuya being the Mecca, and Michael Jackson to the current generation is probably seen more as Wacko Jacko than as The King. However, everyone that I did meet yesterday had seen the coverage.

That former student from way back in my JET days has started further dialogue with me. Apparently to her, I was the impetus for her to start her life traveling the US and then eventually find her hubby and kid. Well, I don't think I can really handle all that much responsibility so I'll just quietly demur.

Yep, I'm here way early today so that I can try to get those translations done before my lone class with The Publicity Assistant gets underway mid-afternoon.
Friday June 26, 8:29 p.m.

Had a bit of an existential storm today which may have finally abated. At Speedy's, I received a letter from The Cornerette in a tone which may have hinted at the slightly panicked about where my articles were. I had warned her the night before that it would take a few days to get them translated due to the difficulty of the material and the fact that I had a main job. I answered her query as quickly as possible so that she wouldn't have a least, not from waiting. I always had the suspicion that she was a bit more high-strung than The Corner. I just told her that I was sorry I couldn't get the articles done fast enough but that I would try my best to get them over to her. And then I started thinking about putting in some extra hours at the I-Cafe again and going in early to Speedy's tomorrow to get them done. And then I started getting rather depressed about things....and the thought that The Cornerette might have me dumped as Royal Translator.

And then I arrived at the juku tonight at about 6. When I came into the genkan, I overheard a rather serious discussion amongst the boss with that young hyperkinetic girl she's been teaching on Tuesday nights and her grandmother. It sounded rather stormy so I decided to quietly leave and just hang out in the nearby Tsutaya CD/bookstore for an hour or so. When I came back, I saw a van parked outside so I knew that the kid's mother had joined the fray. Well, I wasn't going to just hang back again, so I took my chances and went on in. This time, the boss could hear me do so, and the family was about to take off. Things had apparently cooled off considerably compared to an hour before. The boss told me that the little girl had a meltdown of sorts (seems to be catching these days) about not wanting to take an exam for a certain junior high school that her mother had demanded that she go for and was afraid to tell her. The tantrum made the boss call for familial support. Basically, the boss told the girl that it would ultimately be up to her to decide what she would want to do in the future...whether or not she wanted to come back to the juku.

It wasn't quite an epiphany, but after hearing that report, I decided that it wasn't worth getting all worked up about not having those translations on time. I've already proven myself to The Corner and he knows how I work. It might take time but I get the job done. The Cornerette should have known this from The Corner. My mistake was that I had decided to take on the job in the first place, but then I didn't know that it would be so hard, although the education in Japanese ceramics has been fun...really. I'll do the best I can...I will go in early tomorrow and plow through as much as I can before The Publicity Assistant's lesson some hours later, and if she feels that that isn't good enough for her, she can fire me. At my rates, she couldn't believe me that I was actually a professional translator.

I saw The New Yorker for the first time since her return from Hawaii last week. She enjoyed it immensely and so she's now hoping to get a chance out there, instead of New York.

I also found out from the juku boss that apparently Suzanne took my advice really to heart. She's skipping out from class altogether for the next month or so...and perhaps permanently since apparently she can no longer take working at the supermarket. I told the boss all about the tense atmosphere there and she was able to put two and two together. Well, my Tuesdays are looking especially sparse now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Friday June 26, 10:17 a.m.

The Michael Jackson Mixi community hasn't been idle on the news of the death of its idol. There have been a lot of one-line comments expressing shock and disbelief. Saw some person-on-the-street interviews by Japanese reporters in the US. Comments have ranged from tearful to frankly "why-are-you-bothering-me-about-this-freak". Pretty much par for the course.
Friday June 26, 9:11 a.m.

"The day the music died...."

It's that famous line in "American Pie" which referred to the passing of Buddy Holly in 1959 in a plane crash. In that same year, a teen group called The Quarrymen was playing their brand of skiffle only to metamorphosize into The Beatles a few years later. I hadn't been born then but I was definitely on this Earth in late 1980 when John Lennon of The Fab Four was gunned down by a psychopath in front of the Dakota apartments and his wife. That line was probably used in all of the newspapers and other media outlets on that day as part of their tribute. In that year, Michael Jackson was getting his awards for "Off The Wall"; a few years later, he would hit legendary status with "Thriller".

And now, the line is probably being used over and over on CNN, BBC and elsewhere today and maybe for the next week.

I'd woken up this morning for another early departure to Speedy's. I turned on BBC to do a quick check of the headlines. I was expecting another media report on the tete-a-tete between the world and Iran. I did get that, but then came some breaking news that Michael Jackson had been whisked away to hospital in Los Angeles for what was being described as heart problems. A couple of hours later, I come to Speedy's, turn on the computer, and find out that The King of Pop has died.

The CNN and BBC sites had his face and headlines right at the top; I tried to check out his fansites but they were impossible to access for unsurprising reasons. I turned on the TV here and almost all of the Japanese wide shows had changed their schedule (talking about the latest dismembering incident or the latest hot restaurant has its limits) to cover his death. I saw a huge crowd in front of the hospital where he'd been taken. I was reminded of that morning in November 1980 when I'd woken up and my mother told me about John Lennon's passing while his songs were playing on the radio. For that matter, I was reminded of the day in August 1977 when Elvis Presley had passed on and how the masses formed in front of Graceland.

To be honest, although it was initially shocking to hear of his death (my memory still reveals him as that hurricane who whirled about with abandon in the "Thriller" video and as the guy who had brought down the Apollo Theatre some years before with his introduction of the moonwalk to the masses), I wasn't surprised. The court appearances, his facial warpage, his loss of Neverland, the downturn in his career, the media switcheroo campaign to show him not as The King of Pop but more as the Court Jester would've killed anyone earlier. And frankly, I couldn't see this guy living all that much longer; I can't imagine how he would've looked at the age of 70 with that face.

It's been 3 days of the deaths of 3 icons. I mentioned about Ed McMahon yesterday, and how he and Johnny Carson kept folks happily awake way past their bedtime for 30 years. Then came yesterday's news that Farrah Fawcett, the face and leonine hair that adorned teen bedroom walls and T-shirts in the late 70s for being the first Charlie's Angel, died at 62 from cancer. Larry King probably had some big show on her tonight. But for the world, Michael Jackson is the big one. The one who'll launch a Mississippi-sized river of tears, a sun's worth of candlelight vigils and multiple playings of his albums for the next several days. Of course, I'm sure the vicious recriminations will begin against the prosecution team and the media in due course. But for now, the theme of the day will be tears and shock.

But the tragic thing that links all three of these now late celebs is their circumstances. From what I've read on Ed McMahon, he had been suffering some horrible financial dire straits along with the bone cancer that finally claimed him. As for Farrah Fawcett, a lot of folks had been seeing her as having gone over the deep end mentally starting with that weirdo appearance on Letterman. And of course, all of the rigamarole concerning Jackson.

But for the current generation and the last, Michael Jackson will be the one today for whom the quote "The day the music died..." will be on as heavy a rotation as one of his old songs.
Thursday June 25, 7:17 p.m.

Well, my day is about to end soon. Finished with The Carolinan 20 minutes ago; she and The New Yorker had a good time in Hawaii as usual. The school got a omiyage in the form of the usual Macadamia Chocolates.

Like it when I can pull off what I set out to do. Managed to hit Kinokuniya in Shinjuku and pick up that text for the juku boss; yes, she wants to get back to learning from me again although I have my doubts whether she's the type that will continue for long. And I even managed to get into Krispy Kreme #1 and pick up a dozen for the gang here at Speedys. Both Ray and La Fille hadn't had the cholesterol bombs in some years so were quite grateful at reacquainting themselves.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thursday June 25, 11:08 a.m.

Last night, as I was just about ready to go home, I came across a sight that would've chilled La Fille, AK and Bay to the bone. Saw 3-4 cockroaches of mini-Toyota size skittering around the kitchen. Speedy and I decided to see how many of them we could catch, but at our advanced age, we were only able to maim one and then throw him/her out the window...kinda like what's happening in Iran. Of course, since I don't have any fear of gokiburi, I had no qualms of picking up the critter by hand and then giving him the heave-ho. Well, this morning, I brought in 3 Roach Motels and set them up. I'm pretty sure within 24 hours, we'll have some vacancies filled.

It'll be a fairly slow day. Just Grandma FON and Miss Sedona, and then The Carolinan a few hours later. Miss Temporary and The Music Man have canned their lessons, so I may find myself heading home quite a bit early tonight. Not too much time to do the translations but I hope to have at least a few hours. I have to head into Takashimaya Times Square in the interim to get a text for the juku boss. If I'm very lucky, I may just be able to grab some Krispy Kreme for the gang back here....but not the roaches.

Gotta give my tribute to the late Ed McMahon since I used to be an avid Tonight Show watcher during the Johnny Carson heyday. Always loved his gravelly, barely-c0ntained laugh, especially when Johnny was bombing with a joke. Ed, you were right, sir!

Wednesday June 24, 10:18 p.m.

Well, this has been one for the record books. Not only have my two students for tomorrow cancelled out, but in one fell swoop, The Fashion Designer cancelled for tonight. And the kicker is that tonight ended up being The Diver's final lesson. I'd been wondering how she was going to pass the test I had for her considering that she couldn't even construct a decent question after one year of coming here, and she solved the problem by pulling out. Of course, the bossman was fairly panicky about the reasoning, but as it turned out, she's leaving for a good reason (that is, besides the fact that she was frankly spinning her wheels here)...she found a job at a hospital that starts from next Wednesday. I wished her well...she's a nice lady but I think it's time for her to get back into the swing of things.

But that was plenty weird with all of these cancellations. I would almost think that someone up there seeing that I had all of these translations was giving me a hand with some extra time, although I've called it a night for translating tonight. However, I still have to head on out to Shinjuku tomorrow afternoon after Miss Sedona's lesson to pick up a textbook for the juku boss. And then I have The Carolinan, post-Hawaii.
Ah, as for that latest warped picture...that is Le Petit Troquette, a French restaurant just on the outskirts of gyaru-and-tout-boy infested Shibuya. Last Saturday, the entire crew of Speedy's went out there on La Fille's recommendation for a bit of a dinner. The interior definitely had its Gallic charm. I had the course for about 2,800 yen...reasonable as far as French cuisine goes in this burg. Got my terrine, got my stewed beef in wine sauce.
Well, it's the time where I would've wrapped up with The Fashion Designer. However, I had a good time just decompressing from all of that translation work tonight over the hour. But now, I'll just head on home.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday June 23, 9:05 p.m.

Man, the drama keeps on going. Well, I exaggerate a bit with The Milds. Mr. Mild was feeling a bit out of sorts since his e-mail to me didn't get through for some reason. I checked my Gmail to make sure that it hadn't been neglected, and sure enough, there was no such message from him. I decided to send him one of my own in good faith. Mrs. Mild wasn't laden down with a migraine but she was still pretty weak grammatically.

Looks like that model lesson student from last week is a lock. He'll be starting from July for a 45-minute (!) session. Apparently, according to his wife, he can't really deal with an hour. So, Mr. White has entered the juku....which means it's time to get him a textbook as well plus CD. This time, I'm doing business with Kinokuniya. I'm still waiting for Maruzen to get me that last DVD for Mr. Jyuppie and it's approaching 2 months. Not sure what is up with that store. I don't think even places in the States are that slovenly.

Anyways, I'm heading home to decompress before hitting bed.
Tuesday June 23, 7:46 p.m.

Well, found out why Suzanne has been so down in the dumps in the last couple of weeks. Looks like that stalker co-worker has been hassling her again. Although I think it's more a case of mutual dislike now. But from what she told me, it's part of a rather larger, more disturbing pattern in her workplace involving racism. I think what's eating her more is that it all started from an attempt to help him. Those proverbs come to mind: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" and "No good deed goes unpunished". Far from happy witticisms but all too true. It was definitely me as counselor today. She even asked me if I knew any psychologist. I know rich folk, coffee enthusiasts, singers and doctors but no mental health professionals. I don't think she needs one quite yet but I did tell her that if she allows herself to continue on in this way, she will need one.

The juku boss is entertaining some mothers about their kids' class downstairs.

Since I don't have The Admin tomorrow, I'm pretty much free and clear until the Wednesday night lineup. I may actually pick up a dozen of those Krispy Kreme donuts in Shinjuku if my theory on the relatively sweet spot hour of 12-1 holds out.
Tuesday June 23, 4:05 p.m.

I remember a movie from a couple of years ago called "A History of Violence", directed by David Cronenberg (director of all those 70s horror movies and "The Fly"...I met him once; nice guy, not as tall as I'd thought he'd be) and starring that actor who had played Aragorn in "Lord of The Rings". It's about a mild-mannered cafe owner whose very sordid and heretofore hidden past comes racing toward him at warp speed to haunt him. Watched it with MB in one of the tiny artsy theatres just south of Ginza; good, violent and underrated movie.

Then, there are other similar movies and TV episodes ranging from "Casablanca" and that Classic Trek episode called "Obsession" and that TNG ep called "The Pegasus". All show one of the main characters getting hit with a past that one would rather forget.

Well, I've just had a similar moment. And it came out in TV-friendly cliffhanger fashion. I was just wrapping another 3-hour cycle at the I-Cafe. Got one more article translated, watched the usual YouTube shenanigans, and checked what was up at Mixi. I decided to check Gmail one more time before signing off. I got a message there that a new person had sent me a message onto Facebook. Gmail gave me the full account of the message, and so I found out that the messagemaker is an old student, in fact one of my very first ones in my career, during my days as a JET teacher in the far-flung mountains of Gunma Prefecture 20 years ago. She has a first name that I came across a lot amongst the students there, but her last name is firmly Western, so obviously she tied the knot with someone distinctly un-Japanese. Facebook may have sprouted roots in Japan recently but it's still firmly American so I gather that she may not be living in this country. When I logged on there, I checked her account. Restricted access...fine, her picture showed presumably herself with two other ladies. I couldn't really recognize who she was since she was obviously no longer wearing the junior high school least, as long as she's not working in that industry. In any case, I sent out a rather neutral sounding reply confirming her question that, yep, that was who I was.

Now, why do I sound so glum about this? Well, I'm not exactly proud of my time there in my very first post-university job. One of my old colleagues in the programme who was about a good decade older than me talked of the Arrogant 20s when he referred to the younger folks in JET. I guess to him I wasn't nearly as bad, but to me I would have to disagree. One of the big criticisms I have about the Japan Exchange and Teaching programme is that it takes (or took) these university grads with degrees that often didn't have anything to do with teaching and souls that were still in adolescence, shipped them over en masse to The Land of The Rising Yen every August, and then unleashed them into the public education system with tons of money, a car and even a free house to boot. Talk about introducing nitro with glycerin. I wasn't quite as bad as some of them, but I still look upon my time there with little pride. All teachers start out as bad teachers...that's a fact, and that's just the folks who did come out of teaching school. I was basically a walking "Airplane" movie...throw out the stuff and see what sticks to the wall. Well, I had my successes but a lot of screwups as well, not just professionally but personally. All that money, privilege with the typical cocksure attitude of a typical guy in his twenties didn't make for a great mix. And by the end of my tenure there, I think both me and my town were quite happy to see the backside of each other. I made one more return to that town a few years later....the start of my current tenure here 15 years ago...a few of the former students made it fairly clear that I wasn't exactly welcome, although it was a student (not the student who sent me today's message) who had invited me to her seijinshiki (adulthood day ceremony) in January 1995. Since then, I've had no contact. And so here we are. Not sure what to make of the situation. Today's message read quite well; obviously, she'd had much better education since junior high school. Well, I guess I'll just do the Facebook equivalent of

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tuesday June 23, 12:15 p.m.

Spring may have come in with a whimper, but Summer has certainly come in with all guns blazing. It's going up to 32 degrees C today. Just about time to turn on the AC but I'm gonna see if I can hold off for at least one more week...just until Canada Day comes around.

Medicine Man got a nearly perfect score on the test last night. And he seemed to be more forthcoming in his answers in class. We were doing the chapter on wealth...considering his profession, I think we were well within his income bracket. Speaking about my more medically-inclined students, The Nurse is coming back next Monday after well more than 6 months away. Hope she's doing OK. Now, if The Yogist makes it back, it'll truly be ol' Home Week.

The Entrepreneur and his wife are making their big move into a house out in Mississauga next week. Ah...must be nice to have the funds to do that sorta thing.

I was wrapping up things in the main lounge after Medicine Man's class when I heard a shriek from one of our staffers from the kitchen. Another roach decided to make an unwelcome appearance. Pretty big critter, too, as they all are in this country...could be the water. Anyways, since I have no fear of roaches, I just nonchalantly picked it up in my hands and let it go out the window. It'll be back, probably.

The Admin has cancelled her class tomorrow which means that my schedule is getting even lighter. So, it'll be another night-class-only session for midweek. Can't complain since I still have another batch of translation assignments from The Cornerette.
Monday June 22, 9:00 p.m.

Good golly. We are officially in summer now. Outside of the air conditioned zone in Speedy's, it feels like someone has been perpetually spraying warm mist into the air. Not quite ready to throw on the AC quite yet but I bet within a week or so, I'll be crazed enough to throw away some yen for it.

Mr. TOEIC came in tonight...smelling rather rank as he usually does after a day on the job. He spoke a bit on the Orquesta De La Luz CD I'd lent him last week. He said it was pretty interesting although he didn't mention about the Keisuke Kuwata-penned final song.

Just have Medicine Man. I have to check his test. And hopefully, he's passed with flying colours.
Monday June 22, 6:32 p.m.

Well, just one of those things, I guess. The Full-Timer never made it to the station though I waited til 6:15. She called up the school and then I got an e-mail from her saying that there had been a schedule change in her interview which meant that she was still at another subway station when I'd already got back here. No big problems, though. She's already earned her trust from me.

I got some emergency translations into The Cornerette just now so I hope that she will give me a bit of leeway with those two remaining articles from last week. However, I have a third batch in my e-mail right now.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Monday June 22, 2:39 p.m.

Humid as all hell out there. Just a prototypically moist day in Rainy Season. However, it looks like my week won't be too busy although I've spent a fairly hectic 3 hours at the I-Cafe once again trying to get those never-ending translations done for The Cornerette. I've only got three tonight: The Full-Timer, Mr. TOEIC and The Medicine Man. And I've also got a very late start for tomorrow as well with just the juku classes.