Friday, October 22, 2010

Saturday October 23, 10:26 a.m.

The first truly sunny morning I've seen in about a week. Nice to view.

Gonna be a busy weekend both professionally and socially. Today, I've got my usual Saturday folks...Miss Prissy and The Intellectual. Both are up for renewal which presents a bit of a quandary...should I tell them that I will no longer be teaching them in a few months? Or should I just keep my trap shut?

Later on, I have my first face-to-face with Ms. Vivacious, the Mixi buddy I've known for the past several months. I hope she's quite the foodie...I've always been looking for a fellow foodie buddy. Skippy is probably the closest one but she's got her own life on weekends. Vivacious has been long divorced and a nurse, so she should be a very patient person.

On Sunday, I've got The Jyuppies for one of their last lessons for this year since Mrs. Jyuppie will be delivering her second child in about a month. Then, I meet up with MB and The Satyr for "The Expendables" either in Shibuya or Shinjuku. I kinda wonder if MB will want to go to Foo Foo for ramen...that's where Viva and I are going this afternoon.
Friday October 22, 8:13 p.m.

Well, some developments in the last 6 hours. First off, it looks like Swank will be away from me for at least a couple of weeks for some reason. I got the word from Miss London, so I'll have a big hole in the schedule for at least next Monday between Cozy and the Speedy night classes. I also gave some advance good wishes to Miss London since she won't be leaving til mid-November.

Also, I'm gonna be meeting my first Mixi friend that I hadn't known previously from other things. Folks like Cozy, Mr. TOEFL and Bay are on Mixi but I had met them in person some time before their entry into the Japanese equivalent of Facebook. But Miss Vivacious (not her Mixi moniker) is one that I've only known via the SNS...and for some time, so I think she should be OK. We're gonna be meeting for an early dinner at my fave ramen place in Shinjuku, Foo Foo.

I did make that potato gratin because I have that bag of spuds from Mrs. Tee. Well, it was OK but there is absolutely room for improvement...too much salt, too many onions and too little cheese. But an hour ago, the juku boss was kind enough to give me her recipe for white sauce, a necessary ingredient for gratin of any sort.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Friday October 22, 11:32 a.m.

Over here at the I-Cafe today since I've got virtually no lessons except for that 1-hour split of the juku boss and The Restauranteur at 9 p.m. tonight. Can't complain about that. I listened to one of 3 discs from a set of Steely Dan's best stuff. There were a few songs that were instantly recognizable to me as tunes that I'd heard on AM radio back in Toronto as a lad such as "Peg" and "Reelin' In The Years". I also found out from the liner notes about the derivation of the band's's say that William Burroughs had quite an imagination. In any case, nice music to listen to on a day off.

Back on Tuesday, I received an omiyage of sorts from Mrs. Tee of The Beehive. It was a big bag of Hokkaido potatoes. Sapporo spuds. I must admit at first that I was a little surprised since souvenirs from the ladies usually consist of chocolates or Japanese sweets. But taters? However, I gratefully received what the Incas used to call "the perfect food". And I intend to make use of some of the tubers today by whipping a cheap and easy gratin from tuna, cheese and onions.

Things at Speedy's are slightly tense at the moment. It all happened a few days ago when the bossman stood up his wife for a few hours since he just had to take care of some advertising stuff concerning the new kids' school. Miss Efficiency and Mrs Schmooze implored him to get going and assured him that they would take care of it...but Mr. Hands-On wouldn't have any of that. Of course, I didn't see Mrs. Speedy but I could only imagine that she had a nice doghouse ready for her hubby. But I do know that Miss Efficiency wasn't too happy...she thought that the bossman showed blatant disrespect to his wife. And yesterday, while the bossman was out, Speedy's major domo kinda vented about the boss to me.

We both agreed that the bossman has a certain personality that can and has irked current and previous staff. He's a bit KY...the slangy abbreviation for kuki yomenai that got into The Catchphrases of the Year a few years back...basically, in English, it can translate as "can't see the forest for the trees" or "can't read the tea leaves" or to be blunt, he's a bit dense. During Miss Efficiency's mild tirade, she also touched on why her predecessor, Ray, really left the place; apparently, she couldn't really take the stress of him and his stubbornness, although he wasn't the only source of the stress. However, I have figured out that previous staffers who were the point men such as AK and The Admin also left in part due to him. And I've found out that Miss London, who will be leaving us in mid-November, has not been too fond of him.

Now, truth be told, I have found Speedy to be one of the better bosses I've had in my long years in the working sector. He has never lost his temper (knock on wood) in my time at the school, and he has been very accomodating when it has come to holiday requests. I've had some pretty lousy bosses in my time in Japan, and in comparison, the bossman has been pretty aces to me. But then again, my relationship with the man is quite different from the staff's relationship with him. Still, I was rather taken aback when I heard that he stood up his wife for a few hours.

When I left the school last night, I did, in passing, broached the subject with the bossman. He got somewhat resigned and sheepish, and remarked that Miss Efficiency blabbed it out. I just answered that it is a small school and there are many sources. But I just had to question him about the wisdom of basically leaving a wife to cool her heels for hours when it's difficult enough as it is for him and her to meet normally. The bossman became somewhat taciturn and just mentioned that it was just some really bad timing....that he really needed to be on base to ensure that the printing company got the pamphlets right. He didn't really apologize...not that he needed to apologize to me...but he didn't seem contrite enough about the situation. I wasn't particularly swayed by his excuse but I preferred not to end my long day with an argument on how to balance a marriage and work life, especially since I'm not any authority on the former matter. So I just left it at that. We'll have to see what happens over the next few days. I kinda think that if things are worsening in his personal life, I'll be able to pick up hints.

Thursday October 21, 6:22 p.m.
Well, it wasn't just Tom Bosley who has passed away. Another even earlier TV parent icon left this mortal coil a few days before Bosley. Barbara Billingsley, aka June Cleaver, mother of the Beaver (no snickering...this is solemn), died on Saturday. I was never a huge fan of "Leave It To Beaver", although I remember seeing the program in the late afternoon. She was pretty much the prototype for TV Moms such as Samantha Stevens and Carol Brady, and cemented the idealized wardrobe of high heels and pearl necklaces while vacuuming the carpet. But Billingsley also achieved another type of fame in the late 70s with a mere 30-second appearance in the hilarious "Airplane" as a jive-talking senior citizen.
Then, I found out on Wiki that Stephen J. Cannell, the uber-producer of 80s TV action series such as "Magnum P.I." and the original "A-Team" had died last month. Pretty much any TV show that had some sort of cool hero on it had his stamp on it. I guess at the funeral, instead of a 21-gun salute, soldiers must've flipped several jeeps in tribute.

Thursday October 21, 5:16 p.m.
Well, another TV icon has left this mortal coil. Tom Bosley was always the father figure on Tuesday nights on ABC back in the 70s as Howard Cunningham on "Happy Days". I was well under 10 years of age when that legendary show hit the airwaves but even then I'd known about Tom Bosley on shows such as "Get Smart" since he was a prolific character actor with a distinctive voice. But he would always be known as Mr. C to me, even when he became Father Dowling and the sheriff on "Murder, She Wrote." It was with some shock that I read that he'd died the other day.
The first half of my classes went pretty well. The Shareholder was actually a bit more communicative which helped things out a lot. And of course, The German was as ebullient as ever. We managed to get through one exercise before the inevitable permanent sidetracking occurred. This time, we talked on air travel and the obvious differences between flight attendants on Air Canada and JAL. I certainly hope that I can get an aisle seat on my trip home.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thursday October 21, 12:26 p.m.

It's pretty nice not having to haul my sorry ass out of bed at 6 a.m. on a Thursday. Not that I have anything against The Patent Attorney or Grandma Dynamite...believe me, I'm grateful for their patronage. Having said that, I do cherish those rare opportunities to have a bit more sleep and have a leisurely breakfast.

I've got The Shareholder in about an hour for the first time in a couple of weeks. Our PR agent, Mrs Schmooze, was asking whether it would be good to interview him for the monthly newsletter. Both Miss Efficiency and I quickly shook our heads, knowing that The Shareholder has about as much humor as a coffin. We both suggested 001 but she won't be back here at Speedy's for about 3 weeks.

After The Shareholder, it's The German, Mrs. Thursday and The Music Man to wrap up...not a bad lineup at all.

It's another rainy day out there....I think October may go down as one of the cloudiest in recent memory.
Wednesday October 20, 10:38 p.m.

Just about finished with my day here. Miss Sony had an amiable lesson as we usually do. We got into the discussion of abbreviations, English and Japanese. I threw her "IBM" while she threw me her company name of "SONY". She told me it stood for "Some One Needs You". Well, I know that she's an honest lass but I still looked it up on Wiki, and apparently according to them, the name was a combination of the Latin word sonus and the old-fashioned appellation of "sonny". Well, whatever the true answer is, it was still a good lesson.

In any case, I'll be on my way out and I will be looking forward to a later wake-up call tomorrow. Still, I've got the humorless Shareholder as my first student so I'll have to be on my toes.

Wednesday October 20, 7:44 p.m.
Just some pictures from Sunday's BBQ over at The Satyr's place on his palatial balcony. Yes, even in the wilds of Japan, freshly grilled steak can be had without too much of a problem, and perhaps with only a slight lightening of the wallet. I think The Satyr's Coleman grill gives a nice tinge of nostalgia.
Well, The Overachiever and I had a nice 1-hour talk on the future of dentistry in Japan. You might say he told the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth (bwahahahahah....ah, well..). Basically, it was about his plan to inform everyone about the benefits of fluoridating the water over here...yup, you heard me, Japanese tap water is not fluouridated. Could explain the great need and supply of implanted teeth. Decades ago, it was gold and silver teeth.
The cancellations continue. Now, it's not just The Patent Attorney but also Grandma Dynamite who has confirmed her cancellation for tomorrow. Just kinda wonder how good a teacher I really am. But then I got some reassurance via a Mixi message from Mr. TOEFL who will be off for Toronto tomorrow. He was downright effusive in his praise of my help over the months which helped stroke the ego a bit. And he let me in on a bit of a bombshell in that he admitted his crush on the recently departed Ray. Unfortunately, the lass is already spoken for. And I also got news of another seems as if Miss London will also be flying the coop fairly soon. In any case, I will be able to sleep in tomorrow.
I've just completed viewing the DVD of Season 2 of the original "Get Smart". I must admit that although I'd thought a lot of the humor would age like stale bread, I found myself chuckling away at a number of the jokes....especially The Chief's reaction shots at the latest idiotic doings of Agent 86. His great performance in the series makes it all the more poignant that actor Ed Platt had left this mortal coil via suicide. I remember what was probably his final appearance on TV...actually on one of the final episodes of "Bewitched", a few years after "Get Smart" had wrapped up. He frankly looked like death warmed over...he just looked so extremely pale and haggard that I was surprised that the producers had allowed the footage to air. At today's session with Mr. Swank, I lent him the DVD for Season 1 since he seems to be a fellow fan of old American TV shows. In any case, Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Ed Platt and Bernie Kopell are to be commended for a wealth of fun and catchphrases, but I also have to tip my hat (if I had one) to the musical director Irving Szathmary since he came up with a score that has become so identified with the show. It may be an homage to the James Bond scores, but whenever I hear that distinctive combo of electric guitar and horn section, I know it's time for "Get Smart".

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wednesday October 20, 3:20 p.m.

It's been a thankfully cool week...perhaps Fall has finally come to stay. These days one can't be too sure in Tokyo. We may have a spate of cool dry weather and then suddenly comes a mini-heat wave in ambush.

Started a little later today with my first lesson being with Mr. Swank. Hmm...I may have hit a rut with him...nothing has clicked for the past couple of lessons. Oh, Mr. Swank and I have been getting along easily enough but I'm not quite satisfied with his progress. His structure in his speeches has been pretty abysmal and there's no one thing I can really focus on.

I've gotten a couple of cancellations...neither of them are big surprises. The Patent Attorney cancelled his lesson tomorrow morning; he sometimes has to pull out due to work. And the same reason goes for The Journo, so it looks like my Friday will be a virtual day off except for that one hour with the juku boss and The Restauranteur for 1 hour. Not complaining, mind you. Not sure, but I think Miss Efficiency told me that Grandma Dynamite has also decided not to come.

I have The Overachiever and Miss Sony later on today. Not bad at all...both are some of my best students.

Had my lunch over at Foo Foo in JR Shinjuku. One of my dependable good restaurants with their pai ko tan tan men. Never a bad meal least in terms of taste. Calorically, I'm not gonna comment.
Tuesday October 19, 6:55 p.m.

It's been a while.

The weekend was a foodie's delight. Once again, I went over to MB's neighbourhood of Jiyugaoka that paean to good dining in the Kanto area. He, The Sylph and I headed over to that tiny ramen joint about half a kilo away from his apartment. I always end up forgetting the name but the lone operator of the place can really whip up his dishes. We had Japanese-style chicken wings, fried rice and my personal fave, maitake mushroom tempura. Of course, I proved again that I still had the glutton in me, despite my 45 years, and finished off with the restaurant's cha siu ramen. And when we got back to the apartment, the three of us dug into some cups of Haagen-Daas. Strangely enough, I still have feeling in both sides of my body.

Since being at MB's automatically means DVD Night, the three of us viewed a couple of blockbusters from last year. The first one was the one MB and I had been itching to see..."The Hangover". We'd been hearing all about how much folks were heaving up their internal organs in laughter from this one. But frankly speaking, The Sylph ironically was doing most of the laughing. I had been expecting a lot more in the humour department but it just seemed as if the movie was one big setup that really never paid off. There were some smirkworthy scenes and one "Holy Cow!" scene with that naked Chinese gangster but I can't really say that I got my money's worth on it.

The other flick was "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time". This one we really had no hope for and as it turned out, our non-hopes were non-realized. It just struck me as one of any number of sword-and-sorcery flicks that have passed around the world for the decade since "Lord of the Rings". Ben Kingsley got his paycheck by playing the usual villain.

The next day, it was basically a continuation of the foodie weekend with MB and The Sylph with just a 2-hour interruption for Yajima's lesson over at the next station. Once again, the three of us went out to try a new Italian place near Jiyugaoka Station called Mocco. Good pasta bolognese.

Then it was the highlight of that Sunday by heading over a few stations to Todoroki Station. Several years ago, it had been my regular late-night Monday duty to head over there to teach a student and her boyfriend. Thankfully, that was a rather brief tour since I always had to run to catch the last train back to Chiba. Well, now, Todoroki is the home of The Satyr and Miss Ivory. Since The Satyr's birthday is close to mine, it was decided that we would have a birthday BBQ of sorts over at his apartment. And indeed, it was a true Canadian barbeque on his huge balcony with marinated steak and veggie kebabs. We even had Feist playing on the stereo for some true Canuck content. The Satyr, as the host grillmaster, got down on himself for allegedly overcooking the meat but MB and I ressured him that everything was fine. Skippy's contribution to the party was Waffle Cake from the Ikebukuro Seibu department store. She brought over 24 of these small waffles filled with a variety of creams such as strawberry or mocha. They were all good to me.

Monday had some interesting turns. Swank did a true dotakyan by leaving a message on the machine early in the morning...after I had left for Cozy's lesson since she was ailing with the flu. And when I got to Speedy's, the staff had left me a cake and cookies for my birthday. Since I was already munching away at the chinsuko that The New Yorker had given me from her trip to Okinawa, as well as some Reese's peanut butter cups from The Satyr, after his trip to Toronto, I felt rather obligated to share my good culinary fortune so I split the cream-filled Tea Chiffon Cake with the staffers.

And Tuesday was no less interesting. I had my usual kaffeeklatsch with The Beehive. Mrs. Travel once again relayed the latest fight she'd had with her husband. But the big news was finding out that our home of 2 years, the Tsudanuma Beckers in JR Tsudanuma, will be closing down in a couple of weeks since the station will be undergoing several months of renovation. So it's been rather timely that we've found a new home at the Tobu Community Centre nearby.

Mr. White has cancelled his lesson once again due to his stresses from his education regiment so I've only got The Milds. I hope that Mrs. Mild is in a better frame of mind.