Friday, December 11, 2009

Saturday December 12, 2:08 p.m.

Anyways, my final instalment of the Ruiko Experience. All in all, as I've reiterated, it was finally good to see the face behind the voice. Not sure if I would be willing to go see her again since any future appearances would have her singing her old hits again and I'm not sure if I can really afford shucking out 4,000 yen a pop. Still, I can say that I had a good time at an Aoyama nightclub.

Well, I'm done here since I finished my three students. The PA informed me that "Public Enemies" is getting hammered here and abroad by critics. Not sure how all of us will be reacting tomorrow when MB, me and Skippy see it at the Picadilly. I recall that our last Johnny Depp movie, "Sweeney Todd" had us racing for the exits in horror.

The PA also talked our mutual like for the series "Criminal Minds" with Mandy Pantinkin. I was rather shocked to learn that Thomas "Hotch" Gibson was once the one and only Greg on "Greg & Dharma". Although the sitcom ran on NHK some years ago, I never became a fan so I didn't even know who had been portraying Greg. On "Criminal Minds", Agent Hotchner is probably only beaten by Sgt. Joe Friday as the stoniest face on TV.

Anyways, I gotta make another run to Akihabara to see if I can actually complete The Anime King's request and find something for this "Dream C Club" game.

Yesterday, I had what I'd thought would be my final Spicy Chicken Sandwich Set at the neighbourhood Wendy's, only to find out that it would be my final Spicy Chicken Sandwich Set ever. Wendy's is pulling out stakes and heading home by the end of the year...victim of the hamburger wars between McDonalds and Burger King, which ironically had its own exile for several years in the 90s before coming back strong a few years ago. To be honest, I was never a big fan of Wendy's burgers due to their overall greasiness but their chicken sandwiches managed to pull me in whenever I finished my stint with The Class Act on Mondays, but I guess that was about it for me.
Saturday December 12, 12:42 p.m.

So at 7:30 last night, Ms. Kurahashi appeared in the flesh as it were, dressed in a tartan jacket and blue jeans, looking very much like a middle-aged Shirogane woman. It was amazing to finally see a face mouthing those lyrics to those songs that I've been listening to for 25 years. My image of her had always been disjointed...hearing her whispery delivery while seeing her cover pictures. She was never much of an aidoru-like smiler; she always seemed rather depressed (such as in this picture here), or perhaps the proper words here would be "...esconced in ennui..."; even in those rare pictures where she did give a smile, she seemed rather melancholy.

Well, the voice and the face were finally made whole some 10 metres in front of me. And Ruiko Kurahashi seemed a much more happier person in person. I could actually see her singing all those hits like "Glass no Yesterday" or her cover of the Neil Diamond "Hello, Again". And not only did she sing, but she also bantered with the audience like any woman running into friends at the supermarket. She did have that Judy Garland moment when she started speaking about the Pixar picture, "Up"; let us say that her life has some parallels with that of Uncle Carl, but basically she happily chatted away and made a few jokes. Not sure what she was like during the 80s, but it was fairly apparent that she was now at peace with herself and with the world.

As for the concert itself, the set went for a solid 2 hours with no intermission. It was mostly a rendition of her old hits; as a first-timer, I was quite happy with it. The audience was very well-heeled like any audience in Japan. There were very few shoutouts...more like speak-out-outs.

Ah, The Publicity Assistant is here...

Saturday December 12, 11:16 a.m.
To continue the odyssey of Seeing Ruiko, the staff of Minami-Aoyama Mandala are to be commended as representatives of the much-vaunted Japanese efficiency. When I had first seen the middle-aged mob at the bottom of the stairs, I thought ruefully "Well, I guess it will be every man and woman for himself/herself." Nothing was further from the truth. Every ticket had a seiri bango, an "organizing number"; I was 32. The staffers of the live house had everyone come in by number, so the first few lucky ones had the choice of where to sit. As the masses entered the underground club, they showed their tickets and the receptionist asked for a drink order from the menu on the table (everyone was allowed to have one free drink); I went for the Cassis Orange...I got a slip of paper with the order written on it. And then we all went down single file into the club itself where we each had our order made up by a trio of bartenders. Once we got our drinks, then we were free to take over a seat.
The club itself wasn't too big...somewhat cozy but still a nice-sized establishment with a small stage in front and a combination of chairs, tables, and sofas. I went right for the back corner since my chivalry dictated that I shouldn't be taking any tables away from groups, and I don't think too many people would come stag...just me. I sipped away at my Cassis while the throngs were getting themselves settled for about the hour before showtime.
Then at 7:30, it was lights down and curtains up. More on that in the 3rd installment.
I just had Mr. TOEIC. He had the best excuse to divert us away from the fate of his make-up test. In a "the-dog-ate-my-homework" alibi, he sheepishly said that he had lost the test possibly amongst the reams of paperwork from his company. In other words, he rendered the entire matter moot. It will now be on Speedy's lap since his next lesson will be when I'm back over in the old country.
Now, within a few minutes, The Intellectual should be arriving.

Saturday December 12, 9:33 a.m.
Wish I didn't have to teach 3 classes today....especially I got Mr. TOEIC first at bat since he flubbed his last test. I hope he succeeded on the make-up.
But I digress....last night, I went to see a performance by a singer who I've long sought to see...probably on the order of a quarter-century since I bought her album in a Toronto Chinatown record shop back in university. Her name is Ruiko Kurahashi, a self-confessed balladeer from the 80s.
In a way, the horrible weather last night kinda fit the mood. Not to say that she's a horrible singer by any means. Not at all. But her mix of AOR ballads, chanson and light jazz has that relaxed air which actually enhances the weather outside. This is the type of music that I would like to hear when I come in from a steady cold rain...the stuff that I could warm up to with a cup of java.
It was basically a lousy day turning into night as I arrived in Gaienmae. And I spent several minutes looking for the Minami-Aoyama Mandala, the venue for Ruiko's concert. I was once again the typical addled male who had forgotten to write down the address and the map for the place. Finally, after brooding half-drenched over a Big Mac set in the nearest Golden Arches, I decided to give the place a call. Luckily, my Japanese was good enough so that I could find out that the Mandala was located just down the hill going towards swanky Nishi-Azabu away from the main intersection where Aoyama Bell Commons was. Y'know when things are getting swanky when the neighbourhood has that touch of France in its architecture and shops. I couldn't see a Starbucks or a Tully's to save my caffeine addiction along that street. I was still an hour early for the official opening of the doors but I passed by the club and I thought I did see Ms. Kurahashi herself downstairs in the basement where the nightclub was. She had that short haircut she's famous for and was wearing a gigantic fur coat that I couldn't imagine anyone but a celeb wearing...she looked not unlike a giant tribble. After a half-hour in a Starbucks nursing a latte and quietly deflating from the tension of searching for the place, I returned to the club.
Within that half-hour, a good bunch of fellow Ruiko fans had shown up. The average age of the mass seemed to float around the late 40s and early 50s, so I guess I was the baby of the group. I certainly didn't see anything that remotely looked like the typical Shibuya gal or even the well-to-do young couple of Omotesando. Still, a lot of them looked like they came from a higher income tax bracket than me. Glad that I kept my mouth shut.
I'll have to let you know about the concert itself in the next entry but I gotta boil the water for Mr. TOEIC....maybe a lot more if he's flunked the make-up.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday December 10, 10:38 p.m.

And thus we have once again come to the end of our programming day. Managed to last through 7 hours of lessons, including the official first one with Mr. TOEFL. I wasn't too satisfied with it, though the lad seemed to be OK. I need to streamline things down a bit. Just like an Olympic swimming coach, I have to get his times down as much as I can.

Also had the Sisters of State earlier in the evening. The New Yorker was OK, but The Carolinan has been pretty moody of late; not sure what is up with her aside from the fact that she's been brooding about her job. Hopefully, the month-long absence may do me and her some good.

And I finally finished up with The Music Man. Both of us were pretty exhausted but he was in good humor. He admitted that he is quite into the 1st-person shooting therapy for his stress. He just imagines all of the zombies to be his boss and other hated folks.

Tomorrow, I actually have a day off. I've gotta go get my niece's present and any other remaining presents. And then tomorrow night, I'll be catching Ruiko Kurahashi live in concert in Aoyama. 25 years in the making for this. I'll be wearing my Friday best and bringing along a camera and perhaps an old album for her to sign...if she's kind enough.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Thursday December 10, 1:00 p.m.

Well, got one-third of the students out of the way today. With a 2-hour session with Grandma Dynamite, I barely made it through...basically on fumes by the last half-hour. I think one factor was the fact that I hadn't made any tea for myself. It proved to be quite restorative during the hour-long lesson with Grandma FON.

Luckily, I've now got a few hours to prep for the rest of the other lessons. Just race through The Sisters of State and The Music Man while get down to town with Mr. TOEFL. Still feeling pretty woozy from the lack of sleep.
Thursday December 10, 8:35 a.m.

Ugh! Back at Speedy's after just 5 hours of sleep due to another late class-early class. Got a really long day ahead of me. Luckily, the first two are pretty easy to plan for with The Grandmas. But I'm still happy that this will be the last such transition of this year.
Wednesday December 9, 10:34 p.m.

Well, got that sale with Mr. TOEFL...yep, that's his name now. I managed to pull one out of the hat and got him to commit for 12. Although he wasn't aware of it, there was a bit of a fly-by-the-seats-of-one's-pants nature to the model lesson. Had to put my best teacher's face on, but the important thing is I got it done. And it was a lucky thing I did, too. Speedy admitted that if I hadn't gotten the sale, my chances of getting paid before I left for home would've been close to nil.

It'll be a really busy one tomorrow, since I've got Grandma Dynamite for a double followed by Grandma FON and then some hours later I've got The Sisters of State, then Mr. TOEFL followed finally by The Music Man. I'll be ready to be poured into a bottle by that point.

Wednesday December 9, 7:37 p.m.
Just less than half an hour away from a model lesson with a fellow who'd just come in yesterday seeking help in getting his TOEFL Speaking boosted. Speedy assures me that he's pretty much a lock as long as I don't totally screw things up. I've been planning things up for a few hours, so it should be OK.
Above you see the fruits of Hokkaido: on the left is a marvelous kit of ramen which consists of 6 packets of fresh noodles and 3 pairs of representative packets of ramen stock from the northernmost prefecture.: shoyu, shio and miso. Had the second batch yesterday which was the shio. I was smarter today....didn't try to stuff myself into explosion by adding on what is in the right picture...the ikameshi. Basically a long-distance cousin of stuffed bell peppers, the stuffee happens to be made of squid flesh instead of vegetation; the stuffing itself is flavoured rice.
Yesterday morning, when I was at the Tsudanuma cafe where The Beehive and I have been having our sessions for the past couple of years, there was a somewhat unwelcome presence in the form of a boryokudan'in....a gang member, probably a chinpira or a lower-echelon hood, waiting a couple of folks in front of me. He had the Nazi buzzcut, the typically crouched stance, the sunglasses and the swagger. Strange thing, though...he actually seemed like he was trying to be friendly with the his thuggish way. The woman who was taking care of him had her charm on full blast...which probably meant that she was terrified. I wouldn't have been surprised if there had been a little puddle underneath her skirt (yes, I know, that was rather nasty of me to say). Still, he didn't come on up to the 2nd floor, so I was rather relieved.
Later on at the juku, that lady who had wanted to come in all the way from Shinagawa for a model lesson with our motley place suddenly cancelled a few hours before showtime. She complained of a cold although the boss didn't notice any problem with her voice. So, probably she came to her senses and decided that the trip for just one hour of lesson wasn't worth it. As for The Milds, their trip to Vietnam came off pretty well, aside from the food which they didn't really cotton to, due to the usage of coriander. They also got a firsthand experience of the chaos of navigating through traffic on a typical Ho Chi Minh City street; methinks that it was comparable to The Millenium Falcon going through that asteroid field in "The Empire Strikes Back". Any film that they could've taken would've come with a John Williams soundtrack.
It's been a pretty easygoing day so far. The Milds had given me some Vietnamese coffee as a souvenir, complete with that little aluminum setup. It sure took some time getting all that coffee dripped out into the cup; the condensed milk was a nice addition. However, I'd thought that Vietnamese coffee was a kicker of a brew; but I fell nicely asleep on the subway coming over here.
Just had The Do-Gooder for her 90. She seems to be coming along although she won't be coming next week and 001 has cancelled for the rest of the year so I'm probably looking at a bare Wednesday next week, unless that TOEFL guy passes muster and decides to come everyday. I'm trying to see if I can get out of having to teach in the evening, though.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Monday December 7, 8:09 p.m.

Well, got the bonenkai out of the way last night. Had it in this little out-of-the-way cafe called Ken's Cafe near Shinjuku-Gyoenmae Station. Apparently, it's been mentioned a number of times on the trend-happy commercial stations and has been used for location shoots. This time, it was used as the venue for our little own party with the Speedy crew.

Yup, it was OK. As I've gotten older, I've started to not enjoy these massive get-togethers too much (if you call 23 people getting together too much). I think I've just gotten too used to the work format of one-on-one conversations over the past 5 years to really feel comfortable in a party setting. I've got students all around me, and so my ears have to attune themselves to all of these conversations going on and then try to address them so it probably seemed to some of my conversational partners that I was somewhat distracted. I had The Grandmas beside me, The Intellectual in front of me and our newest member of staff, The Cockney next to him. I'd first met her several days ago but the conversation was purely in Japanese. Last night was the first time I got to hear her in English, and yep, she sounded like someone who just popped out of a London suburban pub.
Well, let's see. The icebreaker game was a bit of a bust since La Fille and The Cockney got two of the 5 prizes, and since The Grandmas kinda shrugged their shoulders at the proceedings, but then again, I shouldn't be too hard...the ages of all three of them put together would total nearly a quarter-millenium. The food came out in short order....kinda on the Italian side with two pasta dishes making up the main stuff. The dessert was in the form of the largest custard pudding I've seen in 15 years and some dense gateau chocolat. Pretty good stuff. Of course, my metabolism had to choose a night in which I couldn't really break down the alcohol so my face grew red as a beet. I'm sure folks were talking.
Had a good chance to talk with Mr. Influence for the first time in several months. He'd tied the knot some weeks earlier and spoke about his new digs in Kanagawa Prefecture....longer commute, but he's got a house and a wife now.
Of course, since Speedy the barfly is the boss, there was a second party for which virtually all of the guests, except for The Grandmas, decided to head over to an izakaya. I was the only one under 50 who demurred since I did have Cozy for his usual early class and since I didn't think I would really enjoy extending my endurance into a nijikai. So I quickly said my goodbyes at the station and sped home.
I got Cozy and SIL out of the way earlier today. SIL was once again in fine fettle conversationally. Went to Akiba between their lessons to search for The Anime King's wish list. Some thingie called Dream C Club...very otaku-ish stuff. The King assured me that it would be located just about everywhere; but I looked through the main stores of Animate and Gamers...bupkiss. At least, I had my regular doner kebab there. Then I ended up getting a calendar and card for Frodo off in England. Tried looking for a toy for my niece at the Matsuzakaya but it looks like I'm gonna have to make that trip over to Colton Plaza to secure it.
I've got The Medicine Man in another hour. Then I gotta read up on a potential model lesson student for Wednesday night. He's itching to improve his TOEFL score by the 20th so it looks like he'll be coming in pretty much every day until then. Oy vey!