Friday, October 02, 2009

Saturday October 3, 10:07 a.m.

The feeling among some Tokyoites today might be similar to the tone of "Casey at the Bat", in which The Big Sushi must feel like Mudville. Yep, after years of hoopla and having to hear Governor Shintaro Ishihara's stentorian and strident demands for an Olympics in 2016 in his fair city, the largest city on the planet got the ultimate thumbs-down from the IOC early this morning in Copenhagen.

To be honest, there was no surprise from me on that point. Tokyo's support rate for The Games from its own citizens was the lowest of the 4 cities bidding for 2016 at 72%. But even that percentage seemed quite a bit overinflated considering the very from their own residents. There was never a huge upswell of emotion for The Games in the past few years, and it only seemed within the last couple of weeks that even the media and any athletes showed any real passion to get them. In the last couple of days, I saw Sydney 2000 Women's Marathon winner Naoko Takahashi and Hammer Throw champ Murofushi finally come out to cheer on the bid...where were they months or years ago?

Back in the early 60s, when Tokyo did host The Games, the metropolis, and the entire country for that matter, had something to prove by getting The Olympics. Japan had spent nearly 2 decades in getting out of the shadow of World War II, and the '64 Games were the debutante ball. There isn't really anything for this metropolis to prove today...outside of slapping on some solar panels on a stadium. Tokyo continues to metamorphasize, with or without a major sports event as impetus, and the country's athletes show up at just about every international competition around the planet. As for the lack of passion within the city...well, that's just comes with the territory, societally speaking. Japanese on an individual level can be just as berating, weeping and explosively humourous as anyone else. But when it comes to the society at large, they become the equivalent of the polite, demure spinster at a tea party. It would take something on the level of a stinging defeat from a war to shake societal passion from them.

I didn't wait until the 1:50 a.m. JST announcement of Rio getting the Olympics. Have classes to teach, y'know. However, I did get one of two surprises live at about 11:30 p.m. Chicago got ousted in the very first round. The media had been reporting that The Windy City was one of the two favourites. And there was nothing like the Obama Factor to help kick in a bit more juice into the bidding. But President Jacques Rogge didn't feel the love from The City of Da Bulls, deep-dish pizza and jazz, and it got the bum's rush. One of the truly rare sights is to see a crowd in a major American city left speechless...I got that sight last night on CNN. I found out this morning from its website that the support rate there had probably always been inflated, too. I'd heard percentages like 92%...but it was actually more like 55%. Ouch!

The only other surprise was finding out that Governor Ishihara could actually speak fluent English. I'm sure the next week will have me finding some sympathy for his direct staff as he probably mutters and screams in two languages at City Hall.

So, all those banners that had been hanging throughout Tokyo for the past several months will come on down....perhaps to become someone's dusty memento in a closet along with Nagoya's 1988 poster and the one for Osaka some years ago. There is no joy in Tokyo today...for some people. But the rest of us will go on quite well without the Olympics, thank you.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thursday October 1, 8:23 p.m.

Looks like my ode to Chudleigh's got some notice from one of my Mixi friends...the one who's the huge "Doctor Who" fan. It was a pretty rich description, rich enough to match the consistency of a Chudleigh's pie crust. I did get my compliments from her. She couldn't quite understand my phrase of a burstworthy apple pie so I sent her the web address of the Chudleigh's website showing one of their magnificent pies; she should get a pretty good idea from that.

When it rains, it pours...I now not only have a rental contract to translate by next Wednesday for Shrek, but The Corner has just sent me an e-mail after several weeks to ask me to translate one page from their own site. Luckily, that page is nowhere near the monster that the ceramics project was. Still, I can't get upset about the increase in work, especially that powwow earlier today with Speedy about the declining fortunes of the school. And speaking about the boss, he gave me the direction I needed with that Eiken 1 project. I also now have inherited his two students, The Magician and The German, who I've taught in the past.

Saw The New Yorker. May have to think more about having her classes in the late afternoon rather than in the mid-afternoon. The Tully's there seems to be more amenable for conversation classes at 5. The only problem is that getting back to Speedy's on the Shinjuku and Oedo Lines is an exercise in Hell.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thursday October 1, 3:29 p.m.

Well, it didn't quite come out right but at least the object is still showing. That might look like a dish of sliced peaches, but it sure ain't. That, my friends, is a plate of hoya plain English, it's Sea Squirt Innards. Perhaps if you haven't gagged, then you don't know what it is. Let me elucidate. Sea Squirt is basically an upright Sea Cucumber....just a living tube from the bottom of the ocean.

Never had the stuff before so The Bohemian and I ordered a plate of it. The stuff was so salty that we automatically ordered another couple of bottles of Asahi I know the restaurant's secret weapon to get people to drink. Not something that I would order again initially.

However, I did wax poetic over at Mixi about the wonders of one of the few consistently happy memories from my childhood...Chudleigh's Apple Farm in Milton, Ontario. If anything says Fall in Ontario, it is this place. My family used to go there like clockwork every October to pick up a ton of apples from the trees. The mornings were always the, sunny and crisp just like a Red Delicious. And then there was the visit to the local farmhouse and shop with the aromas of hot apple cider and warm apple pie wafting into our nostrils. I was virtually heady and floating in the air on that stuff. The crumble top apple pie was, and is, especially the favorite. If there is one thing I miss about Autumn in Toronto, it is these yearly visits for apple picking.

Thursday October 1, 2:23 p.m.

Speedy brought me in for a small tete-a-tete...nothing particularly new, just that the school has fallen on hard times. Apparently, the bossman got an earful from the investors on how the bottom line has been sagging this past year, so there will be a few changes in store in the foreseeable future. Obviously the economy has been a major factor but also it seems that the freelance teachers-and-cafes format has also taken a few chunks out of us...and since that would include me, the bossman shot one across my bow by asking that I ramp up my ball game whenever I'm in the school.
Thursday October 1, 9:14 a.m.

Hadn't had one of these early wake-up calls in a while. Felt like it, too. I hit the hay at about up at 5, and just felt really woozy. Had to eat a pre-breakfast of cereal and blueberry juice before I left the apartment, so my eyes were feeling pretty perky; unfortunately, the rest of my body had to wait until I got the McBreakfast near the school.

It'll be another Donut Day. I have The Nurse in about 45 minutes and then nothing til The New Yorker at 5 and finally The Music Man at 9:15 tonight. Since Miss Sedona cancelled her lesson today, the donut hole is that much wider now. But I should have plenty on my plate. Shrek sent me an entire rental contract to be translated via fax so when I got home last night, there was a bunch of fax paper reamed right out of my phone. I did a contract for The Corner last year so I have the experience; all I need to know is how fast Shrek needs the translation. Then, I've got this guy in Eastern Europe who's studying over there and needs to have some proofreading done for his thesis. He had sent a sample earlier in the week...he definitely has the vocabulary but his structure is a bit haphazard, something that theses can't afford to be. And then there is Cozy and his request for classes. He's asked for either early mornings or evenings. Well, the latter option is off the table for obvious reasons so I may be seeing McBreakfasts on a more regular basis.

Well, tomorrow (or actually, Saturday morning at 1, local time) will have the IOC decide on which city will get the 2016 Olympics. Will it be Tokyo, Chicago, Madrid or Rio de Janeiro? The good money is probably on Barack Obama's neck of the woods since it has the highest local support at 92% and of course, it just simply has Obama behind it. I've been rather ambivalent about it. Tokyo's got the lowest support rate at 72%...still not bad, almost 3 out of 4 people want the Games here. But The Big Sushi has also got the advantage that it is, bar none, the safest big city, not only of the 4 applicants, but in the world, period. Still, I think the folks here are rather leery about having to entertain the entire world for 2 weeks. A lot of folks have been talking about just vamoosing into the countryside for that fortnight in 2016.

I finally got that condolence card done up for my late uncle's wife. Man, it wasn't easy to pick out the right words and write them down in kanji, especially when I'd only met the man 2 or 3 times in my life. Still, once I finish with The Nurse today, I'll head on out to the post office.

Wednesday September 30, 8:40 p.m.

Yup, that's the fare I had with the juku boss and Cozy back on Sunday at Sazanka, that swanky restaurant up at the top of the Hotel East 21 in Toyocho. The sushi platter is on the left while there was some truly tender grilled beef on the right. I think that was the winning dish for me.

001 came in, and it was the usual fun and games. She had a fine time in Australia and she actually missed out on the orange sandstorms in Sydney by just a few days. It was quite the hike for her up Ayer's Rock, though, since she had to scale slopes as sharp as 53 degrees for the first leg. Speedy the school got some Macadamia Chocolates while I personally received some Emu Jerky...somewhat more tender than the usual beef variety. I had to relay the bad news to her that I wouldn't be coming to 002's party this coming Sunday although I didn't mention anything about the current troubles I have with 002. 001 looked disappointed but I'm just not too interested in anything to do with my former student right now.

For some reason, it would seem that I've suddenly been getting some requests for teaching and proofreading over the past few weeks. A friend of a friend has asked me for some proofreading work of his academic thesis (not sure if that's gonna come about as of yet since he's asked me for my credentials, and I told him that I'd never really tackled anything as big as a thesis before), Cozy has asked me to teach him from next month, Swank has returned to the fold, and even Shrek has asked for my translation services (also iffy since it's legalese and his minders want it quick). I wonder if that means that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I've got that card of condolences all made up and ready to go; just have to address the envelope.

Wednesday September 30, 4:53 p.m.

Getting some steady rain...a bit of a relief since this month has been rather dry. Nice to get some precip.

Not exactly back to Hump Day levels, but I do have 001 back from Australia. And that will be all she wrote for today's lessons. However, it should be interesting to find out if she had been engulfed in all that red dust which choked Sydney last week.

My SOS to my Mixi friends about what to write for my late uncle brought in a number of useful replies. I've actually written a rough draft which should be good enough to transcribe into good onto the card. The juku boss told me last night that even native Japanese sweat blood trying to think up of the best words to put down in such situations. In a way, I am glad that I didn't have to go to the funeral.

Miss Sedona has once again cancelled her lesson for tomorrow morning. I have a feeling that she wants to cut her final class as close as possible to her departure date in October so she doesn't have to put herself under any pressure about renewing for a few more lessons.

We had tsunami alerts all along the Pacific coast this morning due to that massive quake in American Samoa. It's pretty rare to get tsunami warnings here and at this point, the rise in water levels should only get up to 50 cm at most.

I had The Milds for their last lesson before Mr. Mild has his debut as a chorus singer this Sunday in Urayasu. He's got his fair share of butterflies in his stomach...a slang term that I did dutifully teach in last night's lesson.

Anyways, I should finish up that card of condolence.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Monday September 28, 3:29 p.m.

It was a dinner-out weekend. Saturday was with The Bohemian; it was the first time having dinner with him in over 6 months. The Bohemian has on-and-off days. On his off days, he can be cheerfully (to him) and offensively (to me) racist, anti-Semitic, sexist and borderline pedophilic after which I would rather not see him for a very long time. Luckily, Saturday night was him on his on day. He was better, although some of his anti-Semitism did manage to leak out. We had dinner in Shibuya near the new Yamada Denki in a basement izakaya. Of course, The Bohemian chose a place that had an all-you-can-drink option for 2 hours. The food there was pretty good, although the hoya shiokara (sea squirt in innards sauce) was way too salty. There was also the ad running about the 10th being an anniversary celebration so that there will be a 2,000-yen all-you-can-eat as well. Since The Bohemian behaved himself, I may take him up on his offer to head there again with him. He also said that he would like to bring over some of his other Mixi friends.

The other outing last night was with more stable folks: the juku boss and Cozy. Like last year, it was at the East 21 Hotel near Toyocho Station. Unlike last year, Cozy took us to the very top of the hotel to a great Japanese restaurant called Sazanka. Since Fall has come, all of the dishes were seasonal including something could never be brought over to Japanese restaurants overseas: dobinmushi. It consists of seasonal favorites such as shrimp, matsutake mushrooms and other ingredients steeped in a light broth in an iron teapot. And the broth is poured out into teacups and drunk as such. Once the broth has been completely drunk, I just ate the ingredients from the pot. Absolutely delicious. Strangely, just like The Bohemian on Saturday, Cozy also suggested inviting me to some sort of food critic enclave event so that I could imbue myself with some gourmet cuisine and make friends at the same time. I don't think I feel anywhere near quite that lonely.

This morning, I met up with Swank for the first time in several months. We met in an outdoor plaza right by Roppongi Hills. Still very pleasant and fluent although she doesn't think least not nearly as much as I do. Still, it looks like I've patched that hole in my Monday schedule that The Class Act has now vacated. And maybe Grandma Dynamite will be coming back into the fold as of next Thursday. That's a big if since she tends to cancel at the last minute.

And that is basically it for me for the rest of today since The Medicine Man has cancelled his class for tonight. So, I'm just enjoying my time at the neighbourhood I-cafe and will have a rare Monday night at home.