Thursday, November 24, 2011

Friday November 25, 9:39 a.m.

Spending another 8-hour session at the I-Cafe since my lone student, Swank, decided to cancel once more. I'm supposed to be meeting The Acupuncturist later this evening for dinner in Azabu-Juban (I hope he IS treating....I cannot afford the prices there). The Acupuncturist is an interesting fellow...whereas even with my closest friends, I see them perhaps once a month, I only see him once every 2~3 years...and yet on hearing of my departure from Japan, he wanted to see me for dinner. As his moniker states, he is indeed a trained acupuncturist who has plied his trade in Toronto and Tokyo. In fact, he once told me that one of his clients was a famous kabuki actor who had been in some hot water last year due to his wayward son. He even gave me a souvenir needle....which I later accidentally punctured my finger with when I was reaching for something in my bag; it did give me this rather odd electric sensation in my index.

Yesterday, I was supposed to have 3 lessons in what was another one of those all-day, all-cafe days. I met The New Yorker at our usual haunt of Shinjuku Starbucks....probably our very last session. She didn't seem too enthused about having one more lesson since she kinda demured when I asked her about it...which is fine with me since we have finished the textbook. Then I was off to the Tameike-Sanno Tully's to see both The Godfather and The Carolinan. The former was no problem; he came like clockwork and we had a discussion on all things American and political. However, when it came to the Carolinan, there was a bit of a snafu. Usually, I teach her at Speedy's and occasionally at the Shinjuku Starbucks but because of The Godfather's request for a 5 p.m., I had decided to ask The Carolinan if she could come down to Tameike-Sanno Station since she's always at 6:30, and she assented. Well, Tameike-Sanno is a pretty wide station so I went down to the gates to look out for her and waited for 10 minutes but she didn't show up. As usual, I started worrying that I may have kerfuffled my instructions or that she may have ended up at Speedy's due to force of habit. In any case, I phoned her cell, and she finally managed to whisper in a rather tense and haggard way that she couldn't make it down due to problems at work. She sent an e-mail of apology this morning and I'll see her and her sister next Tuesday for a farewell dinner in Ebisu. The Carolinan is still scheduled for one more lesson on the 1st.

Friday November 25, 9:32 a.m.

Currently with all of the corporate malfeasances taking place in Japan such as the scandals involving TEPCO and Olympus, it's nice to find out that good service and responsibility can still exist in this country.

Case in point, last Saturday, as I may have mentioned, I had ordered a Giga Meat pizza (yes, dieticians, it is as bad as you think) from Domino's which took about 90 minutes to get to my place. Now, I didn't make a huge fuss about it since the weather was absolutely horrible out there with the rains coming down in an animal shelter's worth of dogs and cats. In fact, I even wondered if I'd made an error by risking some poor delivery boy's life by having him rush around in his scooter in the maelstrom. When the guy finally arrived, he looked rather pathetic and bedraggled so I didn't take him to task at all.

Well, last night, I got a letter from Domino's with a profuse letter of apology for the delay (the order taker on the phone had promised the pizza there within 50 minutes), and a 1,000-yen coupon...for something that really wasn't a mistake. I may just try for that one last pizza before I head home.
Friday November 25, 9:15 a.m.

On the holiday Wednesday, I met up with The Bohemian in Naka-Meguro, which is one of the minor commercial hubs in Tokyo and the location of the Speedy kids' school. The Bohemian had found this place called "Konan Gyougou" (just slips off the tongue, doesn't it?....try saying that 3 times fast) off the main strip. Of course, being perpetually unemployed meant that he was gonna make use of Groupon and the all-you-can-drink option.

We had a course meal in which, due to the 62% off deal with Groupon, meant that we only had to pay just 1890 yen. Not too bad....but half of the 6 courses were gyoza. I like my gyoza but a little more variety would've been nice. Then again, the chefs probably saw us as cheapskates anyways. Anyways, this is the classic gyoza here...the crescent-shaped dumpling of pork, garlic and minced onions.

This was the second plate of gyoza: flatter and longer.

And for the last round of dumplings, we got the second's hippie cousin.

Of course, ma bo do fu was part of the bargain. I would've loved some rice with it, though.

Now, this is something I haven't ever seen in Toronto's Chinatowns but it seems to be a common dish here in Tokyo; ankake fried rice. The ankake part refers to the thick sauce that's poured over the cha han. There was some hint of shark's fin in the mix. It's a tasty dish but a bit bizarre to me to have something that's usually served fluffy and dry covered with something so cloying.

Of course, The Bohemian was guzzling down the beer and a glass of sho ko shu with abandon while my one glass of the brewski was enough to light up my face for a couple of hours. After that it was the cassis orange (a very popular cocktail with the ladies [yup, go ahead and chortle away]) followed by with some oolong tea. We went into discussion about my move home...and did some good advice such as making sure I didn't go above 30 kg when packing the boxes and checking with the Canadian Embassy for a second opinion about all the forms concerning bringing mass quantities home. He was a lot more laid back about my exodus than he was when I unloaded the bombshell on him back in September. Still, I'm glad that The Hawaiian was able to get him a potential new friend who's studying here.

The last thing about Konan Gyougou is that I can see why they were more than happy to send out the Groupon options. There wasn't a whole lot of activity in the restaurant during our 3.5 hours there although it was a holiday. Being located on a very quiet side street in a usually busy section of town doesn't bode well for it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thursday November 22, 8:09 p.m.

Well, finished my lessons with The Magician and The Kimono Nurse tonight. Yep, pretty loosey-goosey. And I've told them of my departure. The Magician took it pretty well (and reserved her next lesson within the next couple of weeks...pretty unusual for her), but I think The Kimono Nurse may have a slight bone to pick with the bossman. She got a bit pouty that he hadn't informed her about my departure when she decided to renew her current contract. Well, that's the business end of things for you.

In any case, I'm about to head home. I've given in my Net application form to the recycling and disposal firm of Dustman so that they can come over to the apartment and basically take away every stitch of furniture that's remaining in my home sometime within the last couple of days before I head on back.

Tomorrow is a national holiday, the last one that I'll probably ever experience as a resident in this country. It's Labour Thanksgiving particularly significant meaning for most of the population who'll see this as an excuse to sleep as much as 7 hours. For any ex-pat Americans, it's time for Thanksgiving Day and turkey, so probably a lot of the Americo-centric restaurants such as Hard Rock Cafe and The Outback will be serving the big bird specials. However, I won't be following that path since I'll be meeting The Bohemian for dinner in Naka-Meguro. It'll be Chinese but perhaps they may have some chicken in the cold plate.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tuesday November 22, 4:19 p.m.

Tried out that Kaoru Sudo album, "Drops", last night on the old Discman. As I mentioned yesterday, Sudo is kinda like one of those pop singers who didn't quite make it big but still managed to get a small following over the years. Mr. Swank opined that Sudo is that Mariya Takeuchi wannabe who didn't quite have the same level of talent but had parents with deep pockets to keep the promotion going.

Well, I managed to listen to half of it before I nodded off in bed, but I don't consider that a failing grade. It would take an amazing album to keep me awake in the dark while listening to music. Only a Ringo Shiina disc has been able to do that. From what I've heard so far, Sudo's music comes off with that typical Japanese City Pop sheen a la Tatsuro Yamashita, and her voice sounds a bit like a higher-pitched Mariko Takahashi who was also making waves during the 80s. The reason I was interested in this album was basically because of the cover design which strikes me as being a bit Art Deco-ish. And I do have one of her later releases which came off as promising. So I'll have to give it another go tonight.
Tuesday November 22, 4:09 p.m.

Just waiting for The Magician to show up...probably for her final lesson with me.

Ahhh...the taste of a good corned beef hash. I had some of those mashed potatoes left over from the weekend so I decided to whip up a mess of them with a tin of corned beef from the supermarket. Now, I think most of you who are reading this blog are from countries where CBH is available but for that lone person from Columbia, let me elucidate. Corned beef hash is basically a hearty mix of corned beef, potatoes and chopped onions fried up in a pan, and it's usually seen as breakfast fare. I didn't bother getting the onion since I wasn't really willing to buy a whole onion for something that only requires just a tenth of a bulb.

Now, corned beef hash isn't all that common, even in least not yet. I only came across it during our trip to the local Eggs N' Things last month in Omotesando. Basically, when I wanted to get CBH, I had to rely on my annual trips back to Toronto to The Sunset Grill. However, perhaps the hotel breakfast buffets will gradually get onto the bandwagon and start whipping up that mixture for the locals to discover and enjoy. Maybe it isn't the healthiest item on the menu, but boy, is it great comfort food!

For me, the best thing to do when making up a mess of CBH is to press it down on the hot pan with a spatula to get that crisp, burnt look. The exterior will have that nice crunch while the inside is tender and meaty. Kinda like how the Koreans cook up bibimpap.

Tuesday November 22, 2:18 p.m.

Yup, "Space: 1999" is back on the airwaves via Super Drama TV! on cable. This show is pretty much in my category of TV shows that aren't quite as good as I remembered them. Back in the early 70s, I was an ardent viewer of Commander Koenig and the stalwart crew of Moonbase Alpha throughout their travails through the universe. I'd thought that the special effects were absolutely top-notch, reminding me of "2001: A Space Odyssey" (remember the show happened some years before "Star Wars" blew everyone out of the water), and that whacked-out opening credits sequence with the prog rock theme. And I always loved the Eagles...even bought the original transporter and the emergency Eagles (the latter had those red stripes in the center module). I used to doodle pictures of them in my drawing pad.

However, the decades have passed. MB and I once took a look at one episode...and we just went "Oh my goodness! We actually loved THAT?!" Yup, unfortunately the years have not only lent us maturity but also the curse of what constitutes good taste. There are still a couple of decent episodes out there such as pilot "Breakaway" and "Black Sun", but a lot of the others are guilty of horrifying science and some pretty uneven acting. As I've always said about Martin Landau...and I know he's a well-respected character actor with one Oscar under his belt, and I do like him...he has to be well directed.

Of the two seasons, I've always preferred the first season. I can see the warts-and-all but there were at least attempts to pull off some decent episodes, although one of the biggest gripes about it was that there was very little in the way of a sense of humour (mind you, I guess if I were trapped on a dead former satellite careering through space, I wouldn't exactly be whistling while I worked either). Season 2, with Maya the Metamorph, decided to go into the "Star Trek" vein of things, thanks to Fred Freiberger (strangely enough, the producer for the final season of that other sci-fi show), but I wouldn't even consider that "too little, too late". It was just a bad move to graft that sort of American sci-fi onto a very British series.

Monday November 21, 7:18 p.m.

After Mr. Matsumoto had finished taking off my satellite dish, I caught something on NHK which turned out to be a rerun of the Yellow Magic Orchestra's concert at NHK Hall some months ago.
Being a fan of the legendary technopop band from way back, it was somewhat amusing to see that the trio of Sakamoto, Hosono and Takahashi has been mellowing out in their old age. In fact, they even decided to play out a skit of them just bantering dressed as oyaji kitted out in yukata as if they were at a hot spring in Hakone. Back in the 70s and 80s, the group had taken on that cool but distant look.
Of course, there were their hits such as "Rydeen" and "Absolute Ego Dance" to enjoy. But instead of the pure techno, the guys were dressed like Okinawan bandmates and there was a bit of the folk in their new arrangements. Considering that Okinawa has the oldest and probably mellowest prefectural populace within a rapidly aging country, the message wasn't lost on me or the audience there. Makes me want to put on one of their old discs.

Found out the mystery behind The Kimono Nurse's no-show last week. It seems like the bossman pulled another boner and had forgotten to send the confirmation notice to her for her next lesson....the lesson that never happened. I'm not too miffed since I still got paid, and the student will get a freebie for her next lesson which will be tomorrow night after The Magician's lesson. I have to inform both that I will be leaving in 3 weeks.
Monday November 21, 6:31 p.m.

Just that vending machine outside of Cozy's office selling 80-yen drinks...which is an absolute steal in this city of 120-yen drinks. Mind you, there are no brand names like Coke or Pepsi in the machine here.

It's back to cold again in The Big Sushi after a weekend of very balmy 25-degree temperatures. In fact, we may end up having 5-degree lows from tomorrow. I can only imagine the number of folks with colds will skyrocket by the end of the week.

After Cozy's lesson, I spent about an hour at the local Veloce cafe before hitting Jimbocho to take a look at Tacto, my favourite old CD store in the bookstore area. I ended up buying a disc by Kaoru Sudo, kind of a second-string New Music singer in the early 80s. Mr. Swank told me today that she was a Yuming or Mariya Takeuchi wannabe who didn't quite have the same level of singing talent that the other had, but thanks to rich parents, the production company kept getting the cash flow to keep her career float. Not exactly a ringing endorsement but I'll give her a shot.

Stopped off at Speedy's before teaching Mr. Swank at his company. Well, truthfully, it was more chatting up a storm than actual education. The two of us just love to talk Trek and we even got into theme songs of beloved American TV classics so "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and "Combat" got the shout-out. If only all of my students were so plugged into American pop culture.

I've just got Kirk tonight since Miss Genki is off. I just realized after having seen a scene from Albert Finney's take on Hercule Poirot in "The Orient Express" last night, that Kirk reminds me a lot of Anthony Perkins who was one of the other cast members in the mystery. Of course, Perkins was immortalized (cursed?) in Hitchcock's "Psycho". Not to cast aspersions on my student, but his appearance and somewhat quirky delivery had me thinking there.

Looks like the number of farewell dinners and the like are continuing to grow. The Godfather has asked me to keep the 6th aside for a final drink and the former staff from Speedy's (AK, Ray and Miss London) are planning to take me out for coffee on the 4th. Plus, Shard's acupuncturist buddy has even asked me for a bite out...and I only see him once every few years.
Monday November 21, 6:25 p.m.

On Friday afternoon, the Nippon Express guy arrived at my place to take a once-over of the goods that I wanted shipped. I'd thought that he would be staying for about an hour, but actually Mr. Yamazaki basically got everything done within 15 minutes. He didn't give me a price quote but he told me the volume would be about 1.27 cubic metres.

That gave me some pause since as you and I can see, it certainly doesn't look like 1.27 cubic metres....more like 3 cubic metres. But I guess with efficient packing, miracles can be achieved. And if it had to happen anywhere, I would guess Japan is the master at space efficiency. The problem is, though, I'm not. In any case, I've sent the sales representative at Nippon Express an inquiry about how much 1.27 cubic metres will cost.
Monday November 21, 6:13 p.m.

It was an interesting Sunday. That English-speaking handyman showed up about a half-hour late but only because the traffic surrounding Tokyo Disneyland was pretty fierce. I met him halfway down the stairs and just greeted him in English, and he answered in fluent Australian-accented English. I'd thought the guy had spent time in America, but actually he had spent 20 years in Sydney and Hong Kong before coming back home. I can relate to that since in a cumulative sense, I've spent nearly that much here. His work area is usually in the west area of Tokyo and even Yokohama, so I was pretty grateful that he could make it out all the way to Chiba. I'm sure he was pretty grateful in getting 20,000 yen from me.

He only stuck around pretty briefly although we had a good amiable conversation. He first tackled the rusted screwplate holding down my dish with the Japanese equivalent of WD-40 but realized that it would take no less than, in his words, the GRINDER. So he brought out the circular saw and just had at it. In about a minute, he had the plate off in pieces and after several years, my dish was now officially out of action. Plus, he also took a long-dead stereo component system, VCR, stereo speakers and that wooden mattress frame that The Maiden had given me years ago.

For years, I'd always heard about the local benri-ya san, literally translated as "Man of Convenience", being somewhat of a hit-or-miss deal; some have been rumored to have organized crime ties which made me feel rather skittish. And so when I came across Mr. Matsumoto in METROPOLIS Magazine, there was a hope that I could get a good deal for money, and sure enough, I did. Not exactly cheap but if any of my foreign friends here need help, I know who I could recommend. And he did say that most of his clients now were foreigners.