Friday, January 28, 2011

Saturday January 29, 2:14 p.m.

Almost done with my blogging for the day. Yesterday, I had been expecting to meet Swank for her first Friday session at Espresso Americano in Roppongi Hills. I waited 45 minutes past our appointed time of 10:30 before I decided that she was gonna be a no-show. Swank had always been dependable so I figured something was up. And sure enough, once I called her up on her cell, a profusely apologetic Swank informed me that she'd completely forgotten about the date since she was so accustomed to her old regular meeting day of Mondays. Still, I enjoyed my time at the cafe although the blueberry muffin was dry as dust.
My internal decision to leave Speedy's in June must be having some psychic effects. I've had quite a few cancellations over the past couple of weeks. The Grandmas are largely gone from the picture, Medicine Man will be AWOL for at least a month, and Miss Sony didn't renew. Also, I've been getting a couple of requests for private lessons from different sources. One of them, an acquaintance of Mr. Jyuppie, has started a dialogue with me via e-mail for lessons. If everything works out, I will be meeting him this Friday in Akasaka. The other potential new student is an acquaintance of Mr. TOEFL. Like him, he's also a veterinarian. Pretty interesting.
That little televised exposure of us last Saturday on "The King's Brunch" has had some mild benefits in that one new person had come for the one-coin session on Friday. However, that possible appearance of comedian Sanma Akashiya is looking pretty unlikely now. Thought that one was looking rather too good to be true.
I had another good session with The Journo last night at the juku. He's been coming up with the war stories. A couple of days ago, Mt. Shin-Moe on the border of Miyazaki and Kagoshima Prefectures blew up spewing so much ash and sand. The Journo had just come back from covering the volcanic eruption and even admitted that there had been a chance that he wouldn't have been able to get back due to the tie-up in traffic there.
Currently, the big news eruption is the crisis in Egypt. Looks like Hosni Mubarak is living on borrowed time. Tunisia should re-name itself Tinderbox. I'm wondering what the Final between Japan and Australia for the Asia Cup will be like tonight since they're playing not too far away from the revolutions.

Saturday January 29, 2:07 p.m.
This would have sent any nutritionist heading for the cliff like a lemming. The above is my breakfast from yesterday. I still had a hunk of cooked rice left over which I needed to polish off. And so when I hit the 24-hour supermarket around midnight Thursday evening, I came across 300 g of American beef. Well, I also had some tangy tare which also needed to be expended, so I decided to make a huge bowl of gyudon....a megadon (sounds like one of Godzilla's enemies), to be cute. The final ingredient was just a package of stir-fry veggies.
Now, beef bowls have become de rigueur even in US airports. My portion was about 3 times as big. And just like the Yoshinoya variety, it was a snap to make. Just threw in the beef with a bit of oil, added salt, pepper and sake, even some consomme bits into a frypan before adding the veggies. I heated up the rice and then just unloaded the pan's contents onto the warm rice. Of course, before I did that, I poured the remaining tare all over the beef and veg. Delish...and it basically tied me over until Idaho Burger time in the early evening.
Saturday January 29, 1:51 p.m.

There have been all sorts of plot points in my life over the past few days.

The saga of the mercurial Ms. Efficiency has continued. On Thursday, La Fille was the latest staffer at Speedy's to be victimized by the Hyde side of Ray's replacement. I was sitting at my post when La Fille was trying to give some guidance to Efficiency on the ways of the computer. Efficiency took her kind efforts to be some sort of insult on her abilities (or lack of them) and then sagely pointed out La Fille's supposed weaknesses. The exchange was less intense than my own arguments with Efficiency late last year but it was enough to rattle La Fille. La Fille, who could usually absorb any trial or tribulation with aplomb, turned to me a couple of hours after Efficiency had left for the day and asked me with some frustration whether she had really insulted Efficiency. I reassured La Fille that Efficiency was clearly in the wrong and explained that Efficiency has some emotional issues....ah, heck, let's be honest here...Efficiency's a bit mental.

I'm not sure if I should've done it without La Fille's permission, but I decided to report the exchange to the bossman after the final class of the day. The bossman had that look of resignation that he only gets whenever Efficiency's involved in the topic of conversation. Perhaps I may have jumped the gun but I figure I was in the room when the exchange happened and that the bossman should be given as much information as possible about this lady's problems. The bossman explained that he couldn't just fire a person for having a paranoid personality, but it was obviously evident that he was just looking for an excuse, any excuse, to let her go. And he even admitted that he made a huge mistake by hiring Efficiency...which is quite something when I consider that he doesn't like to concede arguments.

Not surprisingly, Efficiency brought her Lucy Van Pelt self during the actual move from the old place to the new place over The Holidays and bossed around the two volunteers who had come to help out. The bossman even confided that his own wife, who's probably the most patient wife any husband can ever have (and knowing the bossman, my statement has weight), won't even be in the same room with her.

Just like a certain presidential dictator of Egypt, I think Miss Efficiency is now on borrowed time.

Saturday January 29, 1:44 p.m.
Back at the I-Cafe.
The 2nd of the Big America 2 series at McDonalds has landed, and it's a live one. The Idaho Burger has arrived, and true to those wacky Japanese pop cultural sensibilities, the burger comes with a topping of a giant Hash Brown, since all American potatoes reside in Idaho, of course. I can just imagine Fuad from "Family Guy" laughing up his lungs at this sight.
Compared to The Texas Burger 2 which was quite zesty, The Idaho Burger has a more peppery BBQ sauce which was frankly a little too gelly for my tastes. That sauce along with the hot mustard pretty much rendered the addition of the giant Hash Brown rather moot; only from the texture could I recognize that there was a potato in there.
Apparently, in February, we've got The Miami Burger and the Manhattan Burger to look forward to. I can only imagine what kinda ingredients might go onto the patties for those ones.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday January 27, 6:07 p.m.

Spent a few hours in the South Shinjuku area. Had my lunch in that Szechuan place under the Maynds Tower. Yep, they really whipped up a spicy number with that chicken and bamboo shoot dish today. I was afraid that my breath was gonna be a lethal weapon as far as The New Yorker was concerned. However, thanks to a lot of time between lunch and her lesson, my mouth was able to correct itself of any potential halitosis assault. Just went through Kinokuniya for about an hour before spending two more in the Starbucks before The New Yorker arrived.

I'd been having an internal battle (no, not because of the Szechuan although there were a few repercussions after I'd gotten back to Speedy's) at Starbucks over whether to indulge in their Zacher Torte; common sense prevailed. And it was a good thing, too, since when I got back, La Fille gave me some omiyage in the form of Sweet Potato Tarts. Cute little things with a lot of fibre....kinda like Linda Hunt from "NCIS: Los Angeles".

The student fallout continues. After hearing about the disappearance of the Grandmas from the permanent schedule and Miss Sony's intention to not renew, Miss Efficiency informed me that The Medicine Man, whom I have yet to see since I got back from Toronto, will not only be cancelling next week's lesson but would be unavailable for all of February. According to his current contract, he only has a few lessons left so I'm wondering if this is the beginning of the slow fadeout. With all of these students leaving, I'm also wondering if this is fate emphasizing that it is time for me to leave Speedy...I've already made the decision to go in June; still haven't told the bossman quite yet but with Medicine Man's cancellation, I'll have to time to talk with him on Monday.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thursday January 27, 11:06 a.m.

Well, my Mega Hump Day has gotten downgraded to a mere Hump Day with The Artist's sudden cancellation this morning. Apparently, her mother had called during my lesson with Grandma FON about an hour ago stating that The Artist has come down with some sort of virus (the usual symptoms of vomiting and other expulsions). The Artist had come in yesterday, and she did look rather ruddy although I'd thought it was because of the heat of the classroom. The Artist told me one rather remarkable fact about her life....she apparently has some sort of committed Peeping Tom who regularly "looks in on" her and leaves a, not that mark...but just a marker scrawl of some sort on her door. She's currently engaged in a cold war of sorts by repeatedly erasing said mark.

In any case, I now have some time before The New Yorker's lesson in Shinjuku so I will probably hit my favorite Chinese place in the Maynds Building.
Thursday January 27, 8:24 a.m.

I've been back for a few weeks now and I have to say that my life in 2 worlds has taken a rather bipolar aspect. When I'm here, I think Toronto is a dreamland and while I'm back over in my hometown, I think over here is a fantasy world. Air Canada provides that interdimensional gateway...with meal service and movies. I just hope AC doesn't decide to use the previous phrase as their new slogan.

The Oscar nominations have come out. I'm happy to say that I have seen three of the ten nominees for Best Picture: "Toy Story 3", "Inception" and "The Social Network". Not sure what's gonna happen next month, but I think the bets are on either "The Social Network" and "The King's Speech". The latter film will be out here sometime soon, and it is one that I would like to catch, along with "True Grit". I'm not a huge fan of Westerns but the commercials I caught back in Toronto made it quite appealing.
Thursday January 27, 8:14 a.m.

Yup, my first 5-hour sleep of the year. That's something I really want to stamp out....however, I live in a country whose people seem to excel at it. I've got my 7 hours of classes today. I love all of my students but yeah it's gonna be a grind by tonight. I've bought the two bottles of vitamin drinks to emphasize it. The lineup is: The Patent Attorney, Grandma FON, The Artist, The Sisters of State, Mrs. Thursday and The Music Man.
Wednesday January 26, 10:26 p.m.

Well, it looks like it wasn't just Grandma Fado who's flown the coop. Miss Sony has decided not to renew with us....I kinda got that feeling last week when she replied to La Fille's inquiry on whether she'll renew by saying "I'll think about that". Usually when people say that, I tend not to be too optimistic.

I'm gonna have a rather hellish schedule tomorrow with 7 hours of lessons. I was hoping that I would avoid that but it looks like it's come up on me a little earlier than I had hoped.

Finally, my cable company and I came up with a mutual day for them to come over and exchange my modem after several faxes and aborted phone calls.

Wednesday January 26, 5:50 p.m.
Last Sunday, some 2 and a half years after the Akihabara Massacre, the main street was closed off for a few hours to create the return of the hokoten, the pedestrian's paradise. But it's not quite as it was before June 2009. For one thing, there are no street performances allowed but there are plenty of police and citizen patrols. However, it's not as if street performances were physically possible on that day anyways. When I was watching NHK News that night, the news helicopter showed the street absolutely coated in pedestrians. It was just wall-to-wall people marching back and forth.
I didn't have a chance to see the proceedings for myself since I had The Jyuppies for their first lessons of the year, but I don't think I missed that much. However, I do have a chance this coming Sunday after I finish with Yajima. Perhaps although the performances will not be available as of yet, there will be those exhibitionists who will strut through in their various anime costumes. Still, I am happy for the return of what made Akihabara cool in the first place.
Wednesday January 26, 5:42 p.m.

Found out from Miss Efficiency that we've pretty much lost almost all of the Grandmas. Grandma Fado decided to stop her lessons with us...perhaps for the time being, perhaps permanently. Grandmas Fado, Tango, Enka and Dynamite are gone. I've only got Grandma FON for now. Enka and Dynamite left due to family health problems while Tango has got her own health woes. As for Fado, I think our move to the new place and the fact that we've been coasting sans textbook for weeks probably made the decision. To be honest, I'm not all that disappointed to see her go although I was the last person to "teach" her. Having a lady in her 80s with just basic English just waiting for the teacher to do something is never easy. Grandma Fado was a really nice lady but I think it's time to move on.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wednesday January 26, 2:31 p.m.

I've got The Artist in about 30 minutes. I haven't seen her since December so it'll be nice to see what she's been up to. Then it'll be the usual Wednesday night students of 001 and Miss Sony. I heard from Miss Efficiency that it looks like another TBS programme could be interested in doing a gig at our newly-minted school. Last Thursday we had a crew from the Saturday morning variety programme, "The King's Brunch" film a one-coin which flooded La Fille with tons of calls immediately after the segment aired. Now apparently, an even bigger show, called "Sanma's Karakuri TV" on Sunday nights may be curious about having its entire cast show up in our school. Sanma Akashiya is a loud brash legendary Osaka comedian who's been around for about 30 years. Like a lot of other veteran TV folks here, he's got a number of programs of which his Sunday night program is arguably the biggest one. It's basically a hodgepodge program filled with "People Say The Darndest Things"-type segments and whatnot....of course with him having his tarento buddies around him.

My feelings are that if this actually pans out next week, it's gonna be one really noisy session. I may have to give ample warning to folks like The Music Man and Mrs. Thursday, although they may get rather miha over the possibility.

As for me, I'll have to say that it might be rather interesting meeting this crowd.
Wednesday January 26, 2:09 p.m.

Saw The Bass for the first time in nearly 2 months (he was rather surprised at that fact). I gave him a tin of Maple Green Tea as his souvenir; not quite sure how he'll take to that. Apparently, he'd gotten into another accident near the end of last year; this time, it was in his car in Shinjuku when he got rear-ended. He also had his annual trip to Los Angeles for the drum convention.

He also mentioned that he'd had some problems making himself understood during his trip which made him think very aloud whether he was actually improving in his English. When I probed further, I found out that a lot of his problems happened during a performance of drums; I gently pointed out that even native English speakers would have problems making themselves heard during a sonic assault of that magnitude. But his doubts aren't the first I've heard from a student. Over the years, a number of high-intermediate students have come up to me to say that they don't feel they've improved. And for them, the fluency curve is often a lot steeper and I explain that it's gonna take a lot of practice and even more intense work into the nitty-gritty before they make that breakthrough into really fluent English. Of course, with them and The Bass, I didn't make light of their doubts. I explained to him that I can help him with his pronounciation although I warned him that this area was arguably the most difficult to reach proficiency in. And I even lightly suggested that perhaps another teacher may be the answer. This was a pretty delicate part of our conversation since I didn't want to give the impression I was being defensive and certainly I don't want to lose him as a student...especially since I've made the decision to leave Speedy's in June. However, I do want him to get the best in English training and if I'm not up to snuff, he should have the right to find someone better.

Wednesday January 26, 2:04 p.m.
Just threw up an old picture from last August when I visited the Ramen Museum near Shin-Yokohama Station. That was a mighty fine tasting bowl of Kumamoto tonkotsu. The reason I put it up is that I just got a message from The Dancer back home in Toronto confirming when she and her family will be hitting Tokyo. They'll be coming over in mid-March. Her husband is a huge fan of ramen so I offered to take them either to the Museum or to Foo Foo in Shinjuku. There could be quite a crowd of buddies coming over in March/April. The Dancer's clan is coming over, then it'll be The Anime King and possibly Automan in late March.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday January 24, 6:34 p.m.
On Saturday, the Speedy staff and I got together for our farewell dinner for our guest of honor at the Wolfgang Puck restaurant over JR Shinjuku. The problem was our guest of honor never showed up. Ray has been such a steady worker for us for the past 2 years that there had been a very good reason for her no-show. And as it turns out, her strong work ethic mandated that she take over at her other job for an ailing friend. Never a bad thing.
And that also meant that there was more food for us to eat (heh-heh). It wasn't the first time for me to try out Wolfgang Puck's although it has been more than a couple of years since my last meal there. I have to say that the absence did make my stomach grow fonder. The Roast Chicken in Honey-Mustard Sauce was very good; the meat just fell off the bone...hadn't seen anything like that on anything else except for an exceptionally good sparerib. The rest of the dishes were also excellent such as the Salade Chinoise and the Margarita Pizza. It was almost as if the namesake chef himself had been manning the kitchen. My only regret was that we couldn't have the famed Smoked Salmon Pizza that brought Puck to everlasting culinary fame.