what it could be

I started researching what the ache in my cheek could be...I know, a bad idea but that is the bittersweet benefit to the Internet.

what it could be:


something is happening to me, i think. as sure as the weakness I feel in my body, the cold clamminess in my hand, and as real as the not feeling of numbness on the right side of my face has my eye feeling tired, my cheek numb with a feeling of Novocain--and all of it has me thoroughly spooked. 

the numbness has been irregularly occurring over the last 8-10 months. it sometimes appears with a headache, or migraine, sometimes without. it lasts a few days then disappears into the ether. 

it's hard to explain how it feels. it has varying degrees of 'texture': a rough numbness that comes from a dose of Novocain, as if my skin has been pulled taut--like how the surface of your skin feels after a Vitamin C enriched facial or I suppose if one had a face lift.  my eyelid feels heavier, my face on that side warmer. it's unsettling to say the least. 

after a stupid move searching my symptoms on the web, i am trying my best not to freak out...at least until i know something more than, well, nothing--which is what I know right now. at the advisement of my internist (update: blood test results show no unusual activity: kidneys and blood count ok; anemia ok; negative for lupus and lime disease; recommendation to add a multi-vitamin to my daily intake due to low presence of B-12, currently at 304) i have a preliminary appointment with a neurologist on the 7th. 

until then i'll be taking it easy, and taking notes on how i feel, how it feels on the other side of my face.


T-minus 8 hours to showtime

Initially, I had planned to perform solo with a CD accompaniment. The coordinator of the talent show was able to locate a co-worker and pianist in the local DC area also attending the conference who had agreed to play for and with me on stage.  Many thanks in advance to Peter Cherukuri for his talent on the keys.

T-minus 8 hours to rehearsal....11 hours to showtime...

break a leg but catch a star first

24 hours from now I will have accomplished one of my new year's resolutions to sing in front of a live audience. A live willing audience, as opposed to say an inebriated karaoke-enamored one. It's an exciting idea to realize, and I am both filled with anticipation and anxiety; am thrilled yet hesitant. I find myself typing these words when I should be sleeping, and yet it is as if someone else were sharing this with you instead of me. I have that slightly disoriented, outside of myself feeling.


The idea was suggested on a weekend getaway with the girls. My co-worker and friend, Maryse planted the seed when she challenged me to participate in the annual talent show at our company's sales conference. Last year I had entertained the idea but couldn't quite work up the nerve. Maryse and Claire (who's birthday we were celebrating that weekend) were both encouraging and I promised to give it some serious thought. 

A few days after our return from Beantown, the invitation to Accelerate 2012 arrived via email. As I sat down to fill out the submission form, I remembered the promise I made myself last summer and decided to commit to performing at AOL's Got Talent, a short four weeks away. 

Twenty-eight days isn't a whole lot of time to prepare especially with Christmas and New Year obligations just around the corner. I gave myself an ambitious goal: find a vocal coach before the holidays. I had been collecting recommendations for a coach for awhile and reached out to 2-3 with high hopes. I wasn't certain what kind of options would present themselves, but then the universe delivered and within a few days I had a lesson scheduled with coach Matthew Deming

The first lesson was on December 21st. The song I had chosen was a loftier goal, a piece I had seen performed at a recent charity benefit. Together we worked on the arrangement and Matt's expertise was invaluable as we determined the best key for me to sing the finished piece. I practiced in between our lessons using the Garage Band program on my Mac (and when I seriously have more time I need to plant myself at the Genius Bar and really learn how to use the program). 

My last lesson was on Wednesday, January 18th. I brought my friend Aimee to play the part as an impartial audience. My voice had made significant improvements in 4 weeks, now I just had to work on my presence. An integral part of the performance (and any story we tell) is connecting with the audience, it was time for me to share my story through song. 
(...to be continued...)


six steps

Everything happens for a reason, even waking up with a start at midnight. It took me a minute to remember, actually 35 minutes to be exact. There are some memories you can't escape, they permeate your thoughts, and your feelings like a historical time stamp. 

The room was still much like it is now. The television was turned to an old Lauren Bacall movie about a journey by train across the desert. The furniture was out of place, any thought of feng shui cast aside to make room for the hospital bed. It was positioned along the window so she could watch the falling snow. The television sat in between us, like a room divider with Dad and I sitting on the sofa, perhaps this is why I cannot imagine living in a one room studio. 

It was a Monday night, the 22nd day of January, Mom was at home in hospice care and we were waiting. There is nothing else anyone can do at this stage in a terminal illness; not for the patient and not for their loved ones. Dad was resting, his eyes closed. It was my turn to check on Mom, to make sure she was comfortable, and administer a dose of morphine, if needed.

It took six steps to reach the bed from the sofa. A lifetime can unfold in six steps: the sound of her voice, the heartiness of her laugh, the bright smile that beamed from ear to ear, her hand reaching up to push a strand of hair away from her face, the strength of her hug filled with love--the unconditional love of a mother, wife, sister, aunt, best friend. In those six steps I felt the depth and breadth of my mother, Lucia Romano Preziotti and then she was gone. And with her a piece of my heart.

I will love you always and miss you forever Mom. ::  Lucy Romano Preziotti (1928 - 2001). 



tick tock goes the clock

puzzling, this is the third time in a week I've had trouble sleeping. Many of my friends have battled insomnia and sleeping issues in the past but this is a first for me. I can't help but wonder why...last night I definitely got my fill of sleep (nearly 11 hours) but that shouldn't have affected this REM. I had a full day filled with of vocal lessons, driving, hauling litter, cleaning and even a bit of stress with Dad (he forgot to turn off the faucet and the sink overflowed and leaked through the floor and the ceiling into my bedroom, again).

Other than the full meal this afternoon, I've not had any sweets or sugary food minus the complimentary Sambuca served with lunch. Anise yes, but no caffeine. This evening I made fresh peppermint tea, an herbal remedy to settle my stomach, and nibbled on a few crackers but nothing beyond that. It's rather unsettling really, as I was tired just before washing my face and brushing my teeth. So what changed?

I may be reaching for straws but wonder if it could be a symptom of peri-menopause? I've had some weird sensations over the last 18 months or so, and every time I search the Web (a doctor's worst enemy) it seems there is almost always a mention/possibility that relates back to premature menopause. According to WebMD, the average age of onset for "natural" menopause in the U.S. is 51. I just turned  40 in October, so that seems unlikely though it doesn't explain the occasional hot flashes, change in body temperature, current bout of insomnia and occasional numbing of the face (though this is also a known side effect of migraines--which I unfortunately inherited from my mom).

With these random notions running on the inside track of my mind is it any wonder I am still awake at 1:22am?


resolutions to self

Wine, the color of blackberries, one sip alone can level a perspective. There is nothing better than a glass of fine wine on a winter afternoon to put one’s soul at ease. It is Sunday, the 8th of January. The city is surprisingly quiet, the traffic minimal, the parking free.  I never know what to expect on the weekends, and am more than willing to cough up the money to park—as it is worth not having to deal with the frustration of slow and at times inoperable subway lines.

Early dinner at Antica Venezia, serving a regional Italian with ample selections of i primi and secondi piatti with i contorni. They serve complimentary bruschetta, Parmesan cheese and fried zucchini (with your bread basked for those who cannot live without) as you wait for your meal.

The last time I dined here was some time in the mid-2000s, when i penguini were still intact. It is as I remember it, with Italian nationals, who have chosen a career in the hospitality industry; where every man is a signor, every woman una principessa—where the art of attentiveness is still practiced. It’s a lovely restaurant, a bit out of the way for most I suppose but you can’t beat the location, on the corner of West Street and West 10th street, with an unobstructed view of the river park (providing traffic is clear). It’s a perfect off the beaten place to feel the nearby sun, to watch the sunset.

Today’s supper consists of a fresh mozzarella salad with roasted peppers, tomatoes and Portabello mushrooms. I’m not a big fan of mushrooms—their flavor is too bland for my palate; peppers on the other hand are delightful—and today’s bufala is a pleasant complement. I’ve ordered capellini vongole in a white wine sauce as my main entrĂ©e. 


Time is a moving target and it’s amazing to me that as fast as it is moving, I still feel young. Perhaps it is because I don’t allow myself time to think about age and its place in my life, because I keep myself moving toward the magic of self-accomplishment.  I hope I never lose that.

One of the ways I’ve been keeping myself in check is acknowledging the new behavior in New Year’s resolutions. If even just to keep myself invested, I tweet and post on Facebook when I’m acting them out loud:

#1 Embrace your inner child: Visit a zoo, act silly, laugh out loud.
#2 Write more, more often: check out http://bkgardenapt.blogger.om 
#3 Pursue that which touches your heart most: music, singing to be exact. I started lessons with Matt Deming late last year. 
#4 Listen to your body: take a break if you need it (i.e., last night I clocked 11 hrs sleep).
#5 If it’s weighing you down, chuck it: Long hair isn’t forever for everyone, I realized that after my trip to Memphis and on a whim chopped off 5” on Thursday night. Just. Like. That.
#6 Discover new music in my own city: Shamarr Allen and the Underdawgs - @ Brooklyn Bowl last night for the Export NOLA festival. Definitely worth checking out.
#7 Be bold, face your fears:  One of mine, singing in front of a live audience (that is not at a karaoke bar) will be realized later this month down in Maryland.  I accepted a friend/co-worker’s challenge to compete in the AOL’s Got Talent show.
#8 Be miserly with your time, spend it wisely, whether that be with a good friend: Claudia and I met for brunch at BoutiqueEat Shop yesterday to catch up on the comings and goings of life, and ended up strolling around lower Chelsea enjoying the good weather and company; or treating yourself to alone time: an afternoon retreat reading on the couch with the cat, or a one-off meal at a favorite bistro, whatever allows you to replenish your soul.#9 Resolutions are ongoing, stay tuned for additions to the list…



The average person takes 7 minutes to fall asleep...apparently I am the non-average person, as I am finding it extremely difficult to catch some Z's. It is 1 a.m. and my mind is on fire with musical notes and lyrics; concepts and ideas of resolutions to make and to keep; thoughts on where I live now and where I should live later. Visions of musical staffs, wooden floors in lofts, views of the ocean from a balcony, a glass of sweet tea beside a rocking chair play out in my mind like a flipbook.

Tigger is at the foot of the bed, purring in his sleep. The house is quiet. And hot. I place a bowl of cool water on the radiator and turn on the fan. 33 degrees outside, but not within.  I read passages from extremely loud and incredibly close, my eyes grow weary and I put the book aside only to stare at the ceiling in the dark.

With a glance at the clock a new set of lyrics, this time from Anna Nalick start dancing around in my brain:

2 AM and she calls me 'cause I'm still awake, 
can you help me unravel my latest mistake?
I don't love him. 
Winter just wasn't my season.

I wonder what has caused this sudden bout of insomnia. I had but one cup of coffee at noon, and no caffeine that I am aware of since. I spent the rest of the day cooking, making dinner and lunch for tomorrow, Might it have been the late afternoon 10-minute snippets of sleep as the pork roasted that did it? 

The evening ended with watching Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember and my shedding silly amounts of tears as the protagonist (played by Mandy Moore) succumbed to leukemia. I had brewed my favorite natural sleep remedy to help lull the mind to slumber...I wonder if I used something other than chamomile? Sigh.

At least I've kept to resolution #2, writing more, more often, 2 days in a row. I would have preferred the inspiration didn't come with sleep deprivation; and love how that just adds another resolution to the list. 



2012: It's a zoo out there

On our last day in Memphis, the temperature dropping to a low 50 degrees we find ourselves at Overton Park admiring the obelisk that marks the entryway to the Memphis Zoo & Aquarium.  The sun high, parking free and admission reduced, we eagerly make our way to the entry like a pair of 7-year olds.

The first of our 2012 resolutions take shape: Embrace our inner child. And what better way to kick it off then with a magical visiting to the zoo? We giddily make our way through the maze of cat houses and polar bear pools, in awe and wonderment over nature's wild side, in this city safari.

Highlights below:

Feeding time with the African penguins

The elusive mountain lion

The elegant cheetah

Meerkats - too cold to 'move it'!

Simiang swings from rope to rope

Panda noshing on bamboo

Panda resting post-NYE fun

Closest creature to a unicorn we'll ever see

Gotta love them stripes!


Playful giraffes :)

Sage monkey contemplates life

Cutest simian ever!

Silverback gorilla takes charge.

Retrospective: Memphis

Memphis, the largest city in Tennessee is set on the Mississippi River and best known for the "King" Elvis Presley, the kitschy souvenir roadside attraction that is Graceland, and for the live rhythm and blues performances one can find almost daily in the parks and clubs along Beale Street. There is a bit more to this sleepy outpost, and just a few days are enough to uncover its unique qualities.

As the taxi makes its way along the river, I take note of the soot-covered refinery chimneys pumping white gusts of smoke into the blue sky, the tony South Bluffs community with its beautiful homes overlooking the shores of Tennessee and Arkansas just a few miles away.

After a quick lunch at Huey's, a neighborhood diner recommended by the staff at The Madison, I find myself wandering the nearby district. It's a Wednesday afternoon just before New Year's, and the downtown area of Memphis is deserted, eerily quiet for someone used to the nonstop hustle and bustle of New York and its outer boroughs.

Luckily there is a full house of patrons at Eighty3, the hotel bar, and I settle in with an espresso martini and delve into the friendly  conversations of which there are aplenty, while waiting for Claire to arrive.

I'm personally not a big fan of BBQ but Claire is a lover and aficionado so we make our first dining experience at the renowned Rendezvous BBQ located on it's own namesake alley just behind South 2nd Street. The BBQ restaurant boasts: "Not since Adam has a rib been this famous," and though tasty, I agree with Claire in that the meat was a bit dry and didn't quite fall off the bone like one would have liked.


After a continental breakfast at The Madison, we make our way to The Peabody (sadly just missing their famous duck parade) to begin a walking tour of the downtown Memphis area.

Following the guided instructions provided by Frommer's we discover the city's most famous attractions, including an introduction of Beale Street (with our first live concert in WC Handy Park) and the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum structure incorporates the location of Martin Luther King, Jr's assassination, The Lorraine Hotel. 

I found the exhibit to be quite moving, thanks in part to the introductory film The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306--told from the point of view of Reverend Kyles, who was present on that fateful day. 

The day of touring ends with a late lunch at Gus's Hot and Spicy Chicken and a trolley ride back to the hotel for a rest before checking out some live rhythm and blues. 

Later that evening we head out for Beale Street, starting at the Blues City Cafe with Brad Birkedahl and the Burnin' Love Band followed by karaoke (signature rendition of Walking on Sunshine) at the Superior Bar, just a few doors down. Here we learn some hip hop dance moves from new friend Shae, before calling it a night early Friday morning.


We wake to another beautiful Memphis morning, and venture to the Blue Plate Cafe for a hearty Southern breakfast. We order a tasting menu that includes biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, eggs, grits, pancakes, bacon and hash browns, accompanied by juice and coffee. And even though we're not likely to finish everything, we take the leftover biscuits and deep friend green tomatoes as snacks for our day at Graceland.

The drive takes all of 20 minutes; and there's time to browse the gift shop before queuing with the other visitors for our tour. The crowd's demographic is mostly white, and young due in part to the many football fans in town for tomorrow's football match at the Autozone Liberty Bowl. We are surrounded by sweatshirts in red and gold as Bearcat and Commodore fans rally in the Memphian attractions. 

The decor of Graceland proper is quite different not quite as ostentatious as I thought. Claire and I disagree on the level of tackiness; in my experience as a child growing up amid gaudy Italian design with plastic-encased brocade couches, white faux Christmas trees and mirrors everywhere, I find Elvis' choices in most cases modest. The living room with its cream-colored couch and baby grand seems almost elegant for the 70s, and the mirrored dining room table with its black lacquer chairs and teak accents are not at all what I had expected. The famous Jungle Room, features an indoor waterfall and carved wood furniture, a "lush" forest green shag rug. Together with the tapestry ceiling in the pool room (see below) are the most 'decadent'--obvious examples of an acquired decor preference from the psychedelic decade. Though given the cribs of celebrities today, Elvis' pad somehow pales in comparison. 

The most impressive parts of Graceland, include Elvis' hall of fame walls covered with gold and platinum records, his custom-designed cars and collection of aircraft, as well as a wall of donations for all of his philanthropic efforts. 

Next stop the Gibson Beale Street Showcase for a tour of the guitar factory--the detail and care that goes into each guitar during its 3-week long creation process certainly inspires the inner musician to own one--until hearing the price tag. Gibson guitars cost anywhere from $800 to $10,000. 

We catch a light dinner at The Majestic Grill, formerly a silent picture house that entertained Memphians for three decades, before heading back to Beale Street for more live music. This time we find ourselves enjoying the sounds of James Govan and the Boogie Blues Band, the house band playing at the Rum Boogie Cafe for the past 17 years.


Brunch finds us in the Cooper-Youth district, a 1x1 block square of restaurants and bars. We take a break from the southern cuisine with pasta and pizza from Cortona, a local Italian restaurant. The last day of 2011 and there are worse ways to close out the year than with lunch al fresco in sunny 62 degrees.

We drive through Midtown and East Memphis, checking out local shops Crazy Beautiful (where Claire finds a killer pair of new jeans), the University of Memphis/Tiger bookstore (where we picked up tattoos and pom-poms for the game tonight), and Flashback, a vintage shop (where a vintage airstream is parked in the lot):

Claire & Andrea, 12.31.11
Back in Memphis, we shower and change before heading over to the FedEx Forum for the Memphis Tigers vs. Charlotte 49ers college basketball game, and our final night of fun. We head over to Bury Our Blues in WC Handy Park and stumble upon new rock band, Prosevere performing center stage. Beale Street is packed, a mini-Times Square for the annual Hard Rock Guitar Drop at midnight. Afterwards we return to Rum Boogie Cafe for an encore of the house band tunes, and then head over to Huey's for greasy grub to wash 2011 for good. We may have celebrated the new year one hour behind but we definitely felt the east coast celebration in central time!