Thursday, September 08, 2011

Thursday September 8, 8:21 p.m.

Mrs. Speedy has finally come home so I can get ready to head on out. I'm hoping that The Egg will be able to contact me either late tonight or early tomorrow morning. I've decided that I will indeed be going over to Good Day Books in Ebisu to hand over some unneeded tomes before I head on out to see The OL for her lesson. The Bohemian has responded to my mail and he'll be awaiting the follow-up about what the plans are for tomorrow night.

Dinner....looks like it'll be McDonalds. I hear that they've got a 150 yen sale on French Fries all sizes. Good for me.
Thursday September 8, 7:52 p.m.

Well, did the dirty deed and informed my 2nd-longest student, The Carolinan, that I would be heading home permanently. I have to admit that it was a little tough getting the words out, especially since she initially had that deer-in-headlights look that Yajima had taken on when I told him nearly a couple of weeks ago. She gave a surprised but calm "a-ra-ra-ra..." which translates as "Oh, dear..." and gave her regrets about seeing me go.
I thought that Mrs. Speedy would have already arrived by now, but I'm still here by myself. Speedy himself has taken off for his corporate class after dropping by briefly during my lesson with The Carolinan. With no Mrs. Speedy present, I have to mind the store until Ms. Schmooze comes back from TOEIC monitoring duty since she doesn't have the key to the place.
I have gotten word from The Egg. It looks like Friday night is a go but I've got to nail down time and place tomorrow. I also have to get the word out to The Bohemian.
Thursday September 8, 6:12 p.m.

Yup, it's basically my show for the past several hours. The Bossa Novan did come in for her 90 minutes; I'm wondering how long she'll stay with us. Basically we're just going through the text pretty steadily, but I noticed that she didn't do her homework. I'm not a fire-and-brimstone teacher when it comes to non-compliance with homework and she did say that she was rather busy, but I often find that not doing the homework often doesn't bode well.
About a couple of hours later, Ms. Schmooze dropped by to pick up the TOEIC materials to test some of our corporate clients down the street. And The Carolinan should be here in about 15 minutes. Then I'm done for the day. Not quite sure what I'll have for dinner. Could be ramen.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Thursday September 8, 12:38 p.m.

The weather has been actually quite pleasant today. Slightly breezy, warm and dry....Drew Barrymore in a good mood. In fact, I even put on a tie for the first time in several weeks in a break from Cool Biz. I hope that this a sign of things to come for the coming Autumn. I just have a couple of students today: The Bossa Novan and The Carolinan. I'm just by myself here at the school since the bossman has had to head off to the kids' school and there is no staff on duty. Miss Schmooze will be dropping by just before The Carolinan to pick up some TOEIC stuff.

It's been a pretty sad summer for the NHL. Hockey means little to bupkiss in this country, but for The Great White North, it's a religion. And so it's been a time of mourning...we've had a couple of players commit suicide due to depression this past summer, and then comes the news of that plane crash in Moscow which has killed most of a hockey team. The two names that I know are Brad McCrimmon and Igor Korolev. I wouldn't be surprised if all opening night games in October had a minute of silence before the puck drops.

The Egg and his wife should be landing at Narita sometime today, so I am expecting a phone call. Mrs. Thursday has cancelled so I can go home early and pick up if he does call. Also, I just heard that Swank has also canned her lesson tomorrow so I just have The OL in the mid-afternoon. I've decided then to take some more books to Good Day Books in Ebisu to get some more vouchers and make some more space in my apartment. Then, I will probably drop by Shibuya's Tokyu Hands to see if I can pick up a tool kit...I've still got that satellite dish on my railing although I've been on cable for almost 2 years. And that attempted arson/murder by that psycho kid last week took place at a nightclub just across street from Tokyu Hands.

Wednesday September 6, 5:30 p.m.

My exploration into the world of City Pop is continuing. I went through Taeko Onuki. Now my spotlight is on Hitomi Penny Tohyama. Before I came across that "Japanese City Pop" guide several weeks ago, I'd never known about this singer although she debuted all the way back in 1981. And so I went to my source for all things old-fashioned and New Music, Tacto in Jimbocho (I really have to bring The Egg there sometime in the next few days). Sure enough, there were several albums but it was her Best album that I wanted to get despite the somewhat hefty price tag of 6300 yen. However, I had my bull's-eye on it so it was a foregone conclusion that I would get my hands on it.

Listening to the 2 CDs of her hits was basically listening to American pop styles of the 1980s. She went through 80s R&B, jangly American idol power pop (a la Tiffany and Debbie Gibson), soul ballads and even some gospel. However, it was that song of hers that I came across on YouTube, "Our Lovely Days", that still stands out for me. When I looked at the liner notes, I discovered that the tune had been co-written by none other than Burt "Do You Know The Way to San Jose?" Bacharach. Pretty good lineage. It was a mixed bag for me...some of the stuff worked, some of it didn't. And I was never a huge fan of that spoken-word thing that singers, especially during the 80s, did in the middle of a tune. Tohyama does it quite a lot. Not quite sure if I'll further explore her other CDs but I'm still glad that I could get a taste of her music.

Wednesday September 7, 4:37 p.m.

On the right is a regular MOSBURGER burger. For the first time in a while, I had a set there since I was to meet The Godfather at the Monzen-Nakacho branch as our new venue. I don't get to go to Mosburger (the MOS standing for Mountain, Ocean, Sky...and not for that green fuzzy stuff on wet rocks) all that often since: 1) every burger is made fresh and therefore it's not exactly fast food, and 2) the branches for this chain are somewhat lower in number than those for McDonalds and Burger King. Still, I find the burgers at Mos higher in quality...that thick slice of tomato is a telltale sign of a Mosburger. Also, the preternaturally cute thing about noshing on burgers in this country is that a burger sleeve is provided keep one's hands and fingers clean. I usually throw the sleeve off as soon as I get the burger since I've always felt that if I'm gonna eat finger food, my fingers should feel it. However, for a Mosburger, that sleeve stays on since there is a spicy sauce that almost overwhelms the inside and threatens to splatter all over the table and my lap....and especially for today since I was teaching, I think I needed to keep my working space relatively tidy.

As for the Godfather, he was in pretty casual mode today. He was wearing one of those LaCoste alligator Polos, and we spoke about his new daughter's name which segued into the derivation of names both Japanese and English. And then we got to talking about a name for his new company. Think of it...he asked me about my thoughts on naming his millions-of-bucks company. Then again, The Journo asked me about what kind of questions would be good for Lady Gaga.

The new venue in Monzen-Nakacho is a good one although it'll only be for a few months. For one thing, the neighbourhood is pretty nice...very shitamachi. And I get an air-conditioned space with access to pretty good food. Tully's was OK but it was at the bottom of a multi-level atrium next to the main entrance of an office tower, and so the area got pretty steamy. Tully's has a decent pasta lunch but it is more expensive than a set at Mosburger. A freelance teacher has to think about these things, y'know.

I have yet to hear from The Egg about his arrival. He's still in Hong Kong with his wife but should be coming into town tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tuesday September 6, 8:44 p.m.

Finished my 2 hours with S-Low for his English presentation. Yup, it was a bit of a slog but he's a trooper. Gave him the best of my insight and experience as a fellow who gives presentations everyday. I actually enjoy teaching presentations since I know that I am helping folks get over their fears of not only public speaking but public speaking in a foreign language. Believe me, my students get my respect for doing what they have to do.
I'm done for the night. I found out from Mrs. Speedy that Mrs. Thursday has had to cancel her lesson for this Thursday so I'll be wrapping it up with The Carolinan instead. So, perhaps there might be a slim chance that I can meet The Egg and his wife in Akihabara, but most likely it'll be Friday.
Tomorrow, I've got The Godfather in our new venue at a Mosburger in Monzen-Nakacho. Not nearly as fancy as the Tully's in Tameike-Sanno but it'll be easier to access...and I'm guaranteed to get some good ol' fast food. Mosburger is one of the homegrown fast food joints in Tokyo, and it actually has a better cut of burger since it's made fresh each time...kinda like Harvey's in Canada. Afterwards, I'll be heading for Speedy's once more to teach one of the bossman's students and then it's Kirk.

Tuesday September 6, 5:34 p.m.

As expected, The German and I spent an hour gabbing on all sorts of things. As I had mentioned in my last entry, the nurse had gone on a trip to Hokkaido via The Hokuto-sei, a sleeper car service which goes from Ueno Station in Tokyo all the way up to Japan's northern metropolis in about 18 hours. She basically had a good time although she felt a bit uncomfortable being stared at while she was dining alone in the dining car. But her choice in menu couldn't be beat: a fine French dinner with fish and a medallion of beef. Her bedroom came in the form of an upper deck suite....not bad there but she complained that her mattress had smelled of smoke.

I would've loved to have traveled in this way up to Hokkaido but it looks like I'll have to wait until I come back here as a tourist in the future. But I may try the Hokuto-sei's more modern sister train known as The Cassiopeia.

We also somehow got into talking about famous singers from Hokkaido of which one is one of my very favourite artists: Ruiko Kurahashi. I have mentioned her name over the years, especially when I was able to go to her concert at a Minami-Aoyama nightclub in December 2009. Her languid looks and her torch songs set her apart from her aidoru sorority 30 years ago.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Tuesday September 6, 3:33 p.m.

Over at Speedy's awaiting The German to arrive in about 30 minutes for her lesson. Well, we really just chat since that's what she really wants to do instead of the text. And she should have a pretty good topic to chat about....she's just gotten back from her vacation in Hokkaido via the Hokuto-sei train.

Had The Beehive this morning. It was a larger group with Mrs. Tee and Mrs. Jade joining Mrs. Alp and Mrs. Travel. Mrs. Jade has stayed away for the past several weeks since the heat and humidity aren't too good for her frail heart. Mrs. Tee looked rather exhausted since she couldn't really sleep. It seems that she's always having trouble with something or someone, notably someone in her immediate family.

The news has continued to focus on the damage done to Wakayama, Nara and Mie Prefectures via the Kii Peninsula due to Typhoon Talas. But there was some local drama with another one of those young loner psychos trying to burn down a Shibuya nightclub with customers inside since he just wanted to end up on Death Row. He reportedly admitted to the cops that if he had been successful with that torch job, he would have hit someplace in Osaka next.
Monday September 5, 8:22 p.m.

Miss Genki wasn't as genki as she usually is. She was somewhat tired. But I did find out that she'd had her annual physical. The ningen dokku is one of the customs that occurs for folks over 40 and one of the initiation rites is swallowing that lovely concoction called a barium shake. With all the consistency of wet cement, a patient has to down the guck in totality so that the entire gastrointestinal tract is coated for those penetrating X-rays to spot. My student was surprised that I hadn't become another addition to the barium crowd. Well, I figure that I will get that physical when I get which case, I may actually request the doc to check me out with a geiger counter as well.

Anyways, gotta go home. I've gotta get some sleep. It'll be the usual Beehive session tomorrow morning but then I have a couple of lessons here at Speedy's with The German and S-Low in the evening. The German's lesson should be fun...she has just come back from her ride on the Hokuto-sei, the miniature Japanese equivalent of The Orient Express.

Monday September 5, 6:37 p.m.

Recently, I've been listening a lot to Taeko Onuki albums...she's the one on the right with her "Romantique" album in 1980. Internationally, she may be known for her version of "Shall We Dance" from the Japanese movie of the same name with Koji Yakusho. Just above me is "Boy Soprano" made by singer Miharu Koshi...if you had read my blog last year or earlier this year, you would've known that I had also gone on a small slow spending spree of her albums for a while.

The interesting point about these two is that both had started out firmly in the late 70s as City Pop singers with happy-go-lucky synths and guitars wailing behind them, and both had hit a wall musically not too long after. Onuki switched over to a new label with her "Mignonne" album, the first of her French titles, only to have nothing happen. She disappeared for about 2 years to do a re-think about her career. Koshi had continued a little longer in the same vein but also came to that vital fork in the road when things started getting stale for her.

It took members of the Yellow Magic Orchestra to kick-start the two singers into a whole new direction. Haruomi Hosono helped Koshi move into a virtually avant-garde or avant-pop mode which got her music emulating nearly operatic arias and the German language. Meanwhile, Oscar winner Ryuichi Sakamoto got Onuki to move into a more French idiom of pop and chanson. Arguably, Onuki's music in the early 80s was the more approachable of the two, but both took on a patina of synth-pop thanks to The YMO's influence.

I can hardly say this about other J-pop songs but I think Onuki's oeuvre approaches that of beautiful music as hard as it may be to imagine in a world of Arashi and AKB 48. I would gladly recommend any of her stuff to foreigners. Her music now spans nearly 40 years. And with me owning one of her Best albums and some of her originals, I can hear how she has changed over time. With her light and fast City Pop work to her richer and more powerful French Pop and then finally to slightly frailer but even more tenderhearted recent material, Taeko Onuki is one of those underrated geniuses in Japan.

Monday September 5, 6:22 p.m.

Just a couple of lessons today. I had Mr. Swank for the first time in several weeks at his company earlier today. He was looking a lot more sprightly than his wife did back on Friday. He had lost weight and added a pepper goatee. Obviously, his month in Hawaii did wonders for him. He did say that he was mostly eating salad although he wouldn't admit to a crash diet. He did say, though, that he and his family had gone for hamburgers and Korean BBQ a couple of times. And he gave a souvenir in the form of a Mr. Spock Christmas tree ornament. But the killer was a killer app on his iPad...he was able to download software which converted his iPad into a Geordi LaForge PADD, complete with the late Majel Barrett's voice as the Enterprise computer. He was one happy fellow.

I've got Miss Genki in about half an hour and then I'm done.

The bossman's response to my resignation of sorts was pretty good considering. He is sorry to see me go, and in fact, he related to me that one other teacher who only goes to in-company classes was heading home for basically the same reason. With that done, I can now inform the Sisters of State next about my departure.
Monday September 5, 6:15 p.m.
The day after the major pork gluttony at Otandon, I headed off to Futako-Tamagawa to teach The Jyuppies. But that ride from Otemachi to Futako-Tamagawa Station on the Hanzomon Line was one of the longest ones in my life, thanks to some sort of gastrointestinal difficulty. The stabbing pain just kept coming in waves. I'm not sure what it was....bad milk, didn't cook the pork long enough, whatever...I just knew that the minute of reckoning was coming up soon...or down...soon. By the time I got off at the destination, I was breaking out in a cold sweat and wondering if I would be able to even teach the couple. Luckily, there was the washroom in the RISE satellite building which housed the bicycle parking lot. Let's say I got a lot of stuff off my chest, so to speak, but the pain was still echoing through me. I kinda realized what women must go through with menstrual pains. I grabbed for my aspirin....which said very boldly on the label that this was good for menstrual pains...and swallowed a couple of them down. Sure enough, within 10 minutes, I was right as rain. I taught The Jyuppies as if nothing had happened. I would've gladly done a commercial for the company for no money at that point.

Monday September 5, 6:10 p.m.

Japan seems to be emulating the United States in terms of their fates with recent storms. Most of New York City managed to escape the worst of Hurricane Irene despite the dire "Armageddon"-type hype. Tokyo also escaped the worst of Typhoon Talas despite its seeming on-target heading for the Kanto. Instead the storm slammed into central Japan instead. And the destruction was horrific. It basically ripped into Wakayama, Mie and Nara Prefectures like a gigantic water saw with several dead and dozens missing. NHK's Sunday news at 7 did the rare 1-hour newscast, almost totally devoted to one of the worst storms in recent memory. It was almost like watching a different country.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Monday September 5, 2:44 p.m.
It was the first time I'd ever been to Hatchobori in my nearly 17 years of residency in The Big Sushi. I could imagine the reason. The neighbourhood on the Hibiya Line is a commercial one and so the sidewalks are mostly lined with office buildings. And of course, on Saturday, it was pretty much dead there. However, The Bohemian invited me for a bit of shabu-shabu at this Korean place called Otandon. The kanji is right there.

These are the fixins for shabu-shabu. There is the plate filled with veggies such as tofu, Chinese cabbage and mushrooms. But the main star here is the thinly-sliced pieces of pork. The Bohemian told me more than once, as his apparently obsessive-compulsive nature forces him to, that this was the prized Yamato Pork (yes, I can hear the "Star Blazers" theme even now). Even the fat is delicious.

Although this might look more like nabe one-pot cooking, we did our shabu-shabu techniques which just meant swishing the pork slices in the boiling broth for about 5~10 seconds before dipping them into either the ponzu or sesame sauces. Both are equally delicious. I think the two of us went through about 5 or 6 plates of the pork before we both cried "Uncle!" The Bohemian, being the Bohemian, smuggled the last plate of pork along with the veggies into a plastic bag, so that his family could partake it the next day.

Finally, we wrapped up with a bowl of makgeolli, the currently trendy Korean liquor. It looks milky but it's made of fermented rice so it can be a country cousin to sake. It's very easy to drink which can be a dangerous thing. And sure enough I suffered a bit of a hangover the next day.

During our 4-hour feast, I told The Bohemian that I would be leaving for Canada permanently at the end of the year. Things got awkward for a few minutes as he took it all in. Of all of the people I had to inform, he and the bossman were the ones I was worried the most about. The Bohemian had always told me....repeatedly, as is his wont....that he always prized my friendship. Telling him my plans was a bombshell and so he told me for several minutes....again, repeatedly...that he was very sad about my decision to leave, and entreated me to call him as much as possible in the remaining weeks to go out for dinner.

I'll be honest with you. As you might guess, he likes me more than I like him. I mean he's a friend and all, but he has had those tics about him which annoy me to no end. His obsessive-compulsiveness is one thing. And he once had this rather unfortunate predilection to flirt with the waitresses at any restaurant we went to when he had absolutely no reason to do so. All he did was embarrass everyone within the blast radius: me, him and the waitress. And I think he still has the heart and mind of a 12-year-old boy...he has an underdeveloped filter when it comes to what he says. Still, he has that rather odd puppy-like devotion to me...he's even offered to help me move.

As he admits himself cheerfully/ruefully, he's a bit of a loser. He hasn't had a steady job in more than 4 years and depends on his parents for the basics. He also told me for the first time on Saturday that he doesn't get along with the vast majority of his fellow Japanese...which explains his departure from his old job at IBM. And he's been kinda ousted from various organizations: a school here, a gym there and even an Internet social group. He told me that he didn't want to belong to any group that would openly make rumours about him, but I think there's also another side to this story. Then again, I'm not exactly all that far different from him....I just have a much stronger moral compass.

Still, that Saturday night at Otandon, we probably had our deepest conversation in our long complicated relationship. We went into the motivations of my departure, the reasons behind his ostracism and our opinions on life abroad. I'd always thought that The Bohemian had a bit of a racist streak within him, and when he made a disparaging generalization about Mexicans, I put my foot down...nicely but firmly. I warned him about making overgeneralizations about different ethnic groups and he listened respectfully. I don't know if he changed his mind about his opinions...I frankly doubt it...but he has no doubt about what mine are.

Despite everything about him, though, I hope he can find some measure of satisfaction in his life. He's not that much younger than his early 40s....maybe that window of opportunity for the "good life" has closed forever, but he's gotta find some sort of balance somehow.