Friday, June 17, 2011

Saturday June 18, 2:40 p.m.

Ol' Sam made it to my place pretty much in one piece although he was lugging 5 pieces on a rush-hour subway. My childhood friend has become somewhat of a kvetcher in his middle age, somewhat like a Nikkei Woody Allen. He often starts his opinions with a rueful grin and a slow shake of his head. As we were noshing on tonkatsu at the neighbourhood Tonki underneath my subway station, he was complaining about his health, raising a family, the ridiculous crowds of Tokyo, etc. He's gone out by himself today to get some omiyage and then roam around Shinjuku and Harajuku. I would've gone out with him but I've already got pre-made plans with MB and The Satyr for "X-Men: First Class" later today at Roppongi Hills.
The good thing about having people over is that it does force me to clean up the place, and I was surprised that I was able to get my apartment (relatively) tidy within 2 hours.

Before I started converting my pad into a hotel, I did have The Bass and Swank. The Bass gave a speech on the aftermath of the quake. Like a number of people I know such as the juku boss, March 11 hit my drummer student hard in the ledger. A lot of his customers stopped purchasing his wares since they were also in crisis mode. The last statement of his speech was heavy with meaning...we all just have to survive and wait this out and that we are not alone.
As for Swank, it turned out that the library in Arisugawa Park in Hiroo was closed for the day due to energy conservation. So, the two of us just made our way to a nearby Starbucks a minute away from the station where we mostly talked about one of her acquaintances. Neither of us could really call her a friend since she seems to have her nose permanently hooked in the air like an elitist. The way Swank described her sounds like the elitist was just born into money and probably cannot fathom that her statements could be construed as being on the wrong side of snobbish. I then confided to her about my former student, The Lady, and the rich life that I'd been exposed to for several years when I had regularly visited her mansion on Mondays.

Saw a couple of back-to-back shows of "Piers Morgan Tonight" which clearly showed opposing sides of celebrity life. Saw the whole interview with Jada Pinkett Smith. It was an exchange that both Morgan and Smith enjoyed, and it showed a lady who was obviously enjoying life with her career, her family and her even more famous husband despite coming from a very tough background. Considering that Jada was now in the stratosphere, she just seemed very down-to-earth. On the other hand, I saw the last few minutes of Morgan's interview with Tatum O'Neal the night before, and I could quickly pick up that the interview was definitely not a fun one for either interviewer and interviewee. Ironically, although Tatum seemed to have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, her life has ended up being one of drugs and abusive behaviour by father and ex-husband. Tatum looked and sounded like she was barely putting on a brave face over some very unhappy issues.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday June 16, 7:09 p.m.

Yep, folks. That is indeed an Oreo chocolate bar with a hint of matcha tea inside. Actually, it's not too bad and since even in the West, matcha ice cream is part and parcel of the Japanese dining experience in restaurants, why not? That's what the Japanese do best...take something as American as apple pie and give it the ol' Nippon twist.

Came back from seeing The Godfather in Tameike-Sanno a few hours ago. With all of the sudden cancellations, today was only the 2nd official lesson I had with him. I am starting to find my groove with him. Next month, he'll be starting up his own consulting company (I may hinted to you beforehand that he was already the president of his company, but I was wrong...he's just one of the higher-ups) and one of his first tasks will be to find solutions to get the ravaged Tohoku region up and running again. A challenge to be sure but also an opportunity. He was talking about ways to promote goods from the area not just for domestic consumption but also for the international market as well. If I can help him with his English presentation methods, then it'll go a long way in helping him sell his stuff as well.

Rain has started dripping down for the past couple of hours. I did put up my umbrella. I didn't hear any sizzling radiation but I just wonder if I'll still become my own night light and start glowing in the dark. Will save on electricity.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thursday June 16, 12:37 p.m.

Well, there's a bit of a "Casey at the Bat" feeling in Vancouver tonight after their Canucks got shellacked in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. I don't want to say it but it sounds like several members kinda choked. Speedy, who's also a big hockey fan, had to pick up his jaw when I told him. Still, better luck next year. And we've got Winnipeg back.

The only big news here for me is the ongoing unneeded cramp in my life concerning the guarantorship. I sent the fax to my real estate agency concerning the situation. I'm sure there is probably a message on my machine right now from Able. And my cable company is getting on me once again about changing one of the equipment for the television. It seems like cable companies around the world are universally annoying. I did get a message from the juku boss, commiserating with me about our respective situations. And then she asked me whether I could still remain her friend after all that has happened.

Anyways, I've got The Shareholder, The Godfather and Mrs. Thursday on the slate today. Plus, I got some stuff done for Swank's lesson tomorrow.
Wednesday June 15, 8:21 p.m.

Saw 001 for the first time in almost a month. It was good seeing her, especially with some of the kerfuffle surrounding the juku boss. I'm still keeping it all together for now, but I can feel a layer of stress forming underneath. The worst thing I can imagine is that a long friendship gets torn asunder because of this guarantorship mess. But going back to 001, talk was back on Arashi; apparently, she and her compatriot will be going to some sort of Arashi-backed charity event next Friday. I, never one to let an opportunity for homework go by, assigned her to give me a report on the event for next time.

Well, Grandma FON has cancelled her lesson for tomorrow yet again. So I'm starting with The Shareholder before I have to dart out to Tameike-Sanno to see The Godfather (providing that he doesn't dotakyan again) before coming back to Speedy's to teach Mrs. Thursday. I'm sure she'll have lots to say about last week's season premiere of "NCIS".

Tuesday April 12, 10:25 a.m.

Yesterday, I got together with The Egg and The Wild Guy for lunch. We decided to go for The Memphis Smokehouse again on Sheppard and Yonge where I had the Sausage Sandwich with some mighty hot cayenne peppers. The Wild Guy showed some of his old heat, ranting on some political matter, of course. I've got one more get-together with him on Saturday.

Then The Egg took me all the way to the border of Mississauga where his theatre is located. The Queensway is one of the biggest cineplexes in the city and raked in the 2nd-largest box office in the country last year. He was kind enough to show me around his kingdom including the VIP Room and an IMAX-lite system.

The movie we caught was "Hanna", a rather strange thriller starring Saorise Ronan. Instead of being a typical Michael Bay Hollywood explode-a-rama, it was distinctly European in tone...kinda like the Bourne trilogy distilled through an Ingmar Bergmann prism. The Egg likened it to "The American", the quiet George Clooney flick set in Italy. The quirkiness factor was furthe enhanced by the fact that the star was a 16-year-old Scottish actress, supported by 2 arguably higher-profile Aussie thespians playing a German rogue spy and an American spymaster. I don't think it'll get much repeat business but the movie will make for a conversation piece in film classes for a while.

10:57 a.m.

After the movie, the Egg and I took the long commute back to midtown for dinner. The Egg has gained a well-earned reputation for knowing some of the best eats in town, and Yonge-Eglinton seems to be one of the hubs in Toronto for fine dining. A couple of weeks ago, The Egg took me to a splendid Italian place in the area. Last night was a trendy eatery called Quince. Quince had all the hallmarks of upscale dining: dim lighting, post-modern decor, happy happy service and the appropriate pricing. As The Egg put it, no kids would ever come to this place. To enter a similar place in Tokyo is beyond my tax bracket. However, here in my hometown, I have a chance. and I was quite well rewarded for my rare foray into a restaurant that doesn't automatically have ketchup close at hand. There were fries but they were called frites.

In any case, Mrs. Egg arrived. As usual, she griped mightily about the private hell that is her workplace. Unintentionally, she reassured me about my choice of career.

So my day yesterday was an amalgam of businessman's lunch, an afternoon movie and a 3-hour evening of urban culinary delight.

And that was all I did write for my 1 month in Toronto. There is still that matter of the final Saturday brunch to talk about.
Wednesday June 15, 5:29 p.m.

The last hour or so have been a bit stressful since I had been crafting a letter to fax over to my real estate agency in Gyotoku. Now I know how President Obama's speechwriter must feel. And I'm doing this in polite business there's a lot of keigo to put down. For those who don't know, keigo is the polite expressions...the more formal versions of various words that are used in business letters. Plus, there's the undesired dimension that I don't want to have the guys there going into panic mode and throwing me out of my apartment since I cannot find a guarantor.

As for the juku boss, I'm not quite sure what her reason is for pulling out as guarantor for my apartment. At first, she says it was because of the quake and her husband's financial situation. Now she says it's because of her illness. I'm not sure if she's just gone into panic mode herself.

It seems like I'm just by myself again. I came in at 3 and the bossman's wife was in the apartment. Just to remind you folks, Speedy's is now both the school and the abode for the bossman and the missus. I'm just hoping that I'm not cramping her style by coming in too early. I try not to be too intrusive.

The Godfather contacted me to see if I can teach (or talk with) him tomorrow afternoon. Seeing that I can't really afford financially to say No, I said Yes. Not that he's a bad guy or anything, but I had been hoping to use some of the time to get some more worksheets typed up for Swank's lesson on Friday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wednesday June 15, 3:16 p.m.

Not the best picture but I've been reading this book called "Japanese City Pop" by Yutaka Kimura. Considering it's in Japanese, I haven't had too much of a problem going through it since it's basically a catalog of 500 CDs which are included in this sub-genre of J-Pop. City Pop is the Japanese equivalent of American AOR or soft rock, and includes artists like Tatsuro Yamashita, Mariya Takeuchi and the members of The Yellow Magic Orchestra, a few years before they went techno back in the mid-70s. It's probably the segment of J-Pop that I have related most to in my 30 years as an aficionado of Japanese music. City Pop is named as such since the music kinda gives that "Bright Lights, Big City" feeling. And you can't get more "BLBC" than Tokyo. The music has all the genre touches such as a horn section (especially fluegelhorn....hail to Chuck Mangione) and some Fender Rhodes. For you kids out there who have been weaned on stuff like Arashi and AKB48, give some City Pop a try. I would definitely recommend EPO's "Downtown" and Akira Terao's "Ruby no yubiwa" (A Ruby Ring) as classics. Just check them out on YouTube.

Now, as for my life, things are pretty nuts with the juku boss these days. I spoke with Cozy this morning and asked him point blank on whether our mutual friend was OK. When she called up last Saturday to cancel our get-together for Sunday, she said that her husband was in some sort of "accident" and couldn't or wouldn't elaborate. This morning, Cozy told me that when she had called him, she wanted to divorce her husband. I kinda wonder if that "accident" of his involved any sort of flying object aimed at his head. Cozy informed me that the boss has often complained loudly and threatened to leave the guy, so he wasn't particularly worried. And I know that the boss has been having some panic attacks over the past few years since her operation.

Then, I got an e-mail from her right now asking me if I could hurry up with the guarantorship cancellation; I had been expecting that she would start getting a bit antsy about it. But this time, she did give me some useful information. Strangely enough, my real estate agency, Able, actually has some sort of guarantor agency of its own. So I'll be sending some mail over to them in the next few hours. The boss also told me that Mr. White will be bailing from his lessons in July as well so I guess my Tuesday nights will remain empty.

I have to remember that Ol' Sam is not exactly the sharpest ball on the billiard table when it comes to traveling. He called me several minutes past midnight this morning, after I'd already gone to bed to talk about his stay with me on Friday and Saturday night. I had asked him by e-mail to give me a call last would've been nice if he had called me earlier. In any case, he will probably be my final guest in my apartment before I leave the place forever. I told him that I'd already made plans with the Movie Gang (well, just MB and The Satyr) on Saturday since he had initially told me that he was only coming for Friday night, and he was apologetic and OK with that.

I just have 001 to come in about a couple of hours.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tuesday June 14, 2:59 p.m.

Yep, I'm still relaying my diary entries during Toronto. It won't be much longer.

Sunday April 19, 10:15 a.m.

Just waiting for The Dancer's husband to pick me up for lunch. The weather doesn't look too good for BBQ, but it may be the warmest day so far this year.
I'm entering my final full week in Toronto. If it were the usual vacation, I'd be leaving this week but instead I still have 10 days. If it were the usual vacation, I'd be fretting about getting the usual omiyage for everybody but under various circumstances, I'll get just a couple of boxes for the juku and Speedy, and even that I'm wavering on. I've never been a big fan of the Japanese tradition, and I think millions of Japanese share my feelings but tradition there sticks better than Super Glue.
However, things in Japan seem to be further normalizing....outside of the immediately affected disaster zone. NHK, over the past several days, has started to variegate its news coverage. This morning, I found out that the regional gubernatorial/mayoral elections, including for that of Tokyo, had taken place. Governor Shintaro Ishihara has won a 4th term as the chief of Tokyo; I don't like him very much but I think it was a case of preferring the devil you know over the devil you don't. To be honest, his competitors didn't exactly inspire, even the former popular governor of Miyazaki Prefecture, Hideo Higashikokubaru. His star dipped somewhat since he opted to fly from his home province rather abruptly which may have revealed a little too much naked ambition. So we now once again have a governor with the opinions of Rob Ford and the longevity of Hazel McCallion. I just wonder if we may have a political death on the order of Franklin Roosevelt considering Ishihara's age.

Monday April 11, 9:17 a.m.

It's been one month since the big quake. Hard to believe that so much time has flown by, but Japan has had plenty of reminders via aftershocks, including a M6.1 a few hours ago. The nerves of millions of people along the Pacific coast must be plenty frayed by now but the aftershocks will probably continue for several months.
Yesterday, I had lunch with The Dancer's family and The Entrepreneur's family at the former's house. Over the past month, I've had various outings but this meeeting was definitely the most homey. The Dancer's husband and I shared some war stories about the quake, since his family was at Tokyo Disneyland when all hell broke loose. For them, the exodus out of Japan had a nightmarish quality since they left during the height of the frantic scramble of foreign tourists to get out of Dodge. The Entrepreneur's son has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 3 months, not surprising for a baby.
Today will be an all-day affair with The Egg. I'll be having lunch with him and The Wild Guy up in the latter's neck of the woods. Then, it'll be a movie down at Yonge & Eglinton before dinner with his wife.

Tuesday June 14, 2:36 p.m.

Well, Happy 3,900th Entry! I think I'll make myself a grilled cheese.

Nahhh...I'll just go with the Roast Pork bento I got from the supermarket. It made for a nice change from the usual karaage that I usually cannot live on chicken alone. Not too bad...the pork had that char-siu consistency and taste although not to the same cloying level. I have noticed that I've gotten some American readers...not sure if they're from New York but I have heard that there has been a bento boom there. If so, this is the usual bento here in the local supermarkets. The meat will change of course but the rest of the sides are pretty much consistent: pink/purple pickled (say that 3 times fast) radish, some sweetened tofu skins with vegetables and the ubiquitious rice with seasonings. Makes for a good hearty and easy dinner or lunch. However, I've gotten lazy in my middle age and I don't bother with the nuking...just eat it cold. Or perhaps in these current conditions in the Kanto, I can just leave it outside for a few days and let the ambient radiation do its work.

That supposed annual dinner amongst the juku boss, Cozy and myself never came to pass after all. Not that I was especially ravenous to go for monjayaki, but it would've been good to have us come together so that the boss and I could discuss about our current shared dilemma concerning her guarantorship of my apartment. Cozy could've been a fine arbitrator. However, the night before, I got a call from the boss stating she wouldn't be able to make it out; apparently her husband had an "accident" of sorts. I asked as non-intrusively as possible about this accident. She tried to explain but after a few seconds she gave up and said that she would talk with Cozy directly by phone. I'm not sure what's up but the last few months have been rather strange on her. Again, she asked me to get her guarantorship canned and I said that I have been trying. But as we go into the summer, I'm sure the heat will go even higher on that note. In any case, Cozy contacted me a few minutes later to officially cancel the dinner. I'm seeing him tomorrow for his lesson, so I'll ask him what he thinks is up with his former classmate.

Yesterday, I had a fairly busy day with four students: The New Yorker, and then at Speedy's, The German, Miss Genki and Kirk. It was the usual struggle with The New Yorker although I did make things a lot lighter and more away from the book for her sake. My back-to-back-to-back with the final three students was also quite bouncy although more substantive. I found the respective topics of discussion interesting with each student. The German and I spoke on our favorite Japanese musicians and TV shows back 30 years, while Miss Genki spoke on her current love, "Glee" and "Spiderman: The Musical"; she positively jumped straight up when I'd told her that AK had seen it a few months ago. And with Kirk, he talked on the trials and tribulations of his job. He's definitely one cheerfully morose fellow. I get all kinds in my job.

It looks like I may have a couple of students coming back into the fold. I heard from the bossman that Mr. Swank has decided to have regular lessons starting from next Monday. I'm sure the first couple of classes will just fly by since we'll be talking on the past few months. Y'see, he, in his capacity as the owner of a tetrapod company, has been doing his part to save the ravaged Tohoku region after the quake and tsunami. I'm not even sure if we can fit any "Star Trek" into the conversation. Then, The OL contacted me to firm our first meeting for the 26th, after I finish with Yajima.

Ol' Sam has contacted me about his stay with me, and just landed me a bit of a bomb by stating that he was planning to stay at my place for 2 nights, instead of the 1. I've already made plans with The Movie Gang on Saturday so he is more than welcome to join us, but otherwise, he'll have to stay by himself watching TV. I know that sounds very cold but I distinctly remember him sending me mail asking to stay just for Friday night. In any case, I have to finish up the cleaning tomorrow morning after I finish with Cozy. I don't know what's up with 001's status. Will she come for her regular lesson tomorrow night or will I be spending most of the day at home again?