JUST ANOTHER DAY
5:30 a.m.: Woke up to a new morning…in Taipei. The three of us (Sasha, our son Nikita and I) had an early lobby call at 6:15 a.m. to be taken to Taipei's Shun Shang Airport as we were flying into Tokyo's Haneda Airport. We had just finished our performance the day before at an outdoor venue as part of an international festival, where I was billed with my band featuring Sasha. I went into the bathroom and took a look at my reflection. Yep, it was still there, and worse -- the right side of my face was swollen. And I knew what the cause was, a root canal work I had done a week before departing for Japan had gotten infected and was getting worse. The pain was considerable, and I'd left the pharmaceutical grade Motrin back in Tokyo.
As we all took our showers and got dressed, I began to formulate how I could get this dealt with. Who would know a good dentist in Tokyo? Immediately I thought of my friends in the Facebook foodie group I was in, many of the members who lived in Tokyo and could probably get me in touch with a reputable dentist. Fortunately we had packed the night before, so I had a little time before hopping into the taxi for the airport to post on my Facebook page asking for recommendations, and immediately got responses, many with names. One big hitch though: It was a Sunday and many of the dentists' offices were closed.
Fortunately, most international airports have free WiFi hotspots available to travelers, so I continued my quest in search of dentists up until we boarded. Already there were 3-4 recommendations, and a couple of links to dental clinics that were open on Sundays. I also sent an email to my manager and good friend Nyoro. The flight went smoothly as I tried to keep myself preoccupied between sleep and watching the on flight program (I watched 3 episodes of "Weeds"). By the time we landed, I could almost feel the swelling doubling in size and the tell tale throbbing of the infected area. To make matters worse, my left leg had also swollen from the flight, something that had also happened on the flight to Taiwan several days ago and left me slightly panicked as I'd never had swelling like this before. I'd borrowed Nikita's black jeans which were loose on me and fit like "boyfriend jeans" so I could be comfortable for the flight, and wondered if the leg swelling and tooth infection were connected.
We bid farewell to the other members of the band, guitarist Yoshihisa Suzuki and bassist Yoshihito Koizumi (the drummer, Akira Nakamura, had left on an earlier flight back), and had almost an hour to kill at the airport as we waited for our limousine bus to come. We found a great looking Japanese sweet shop that had matcha soft ice cream in a cone with shiratama and azuki which Nikita and Sasha ordered; Nikita was in heaven. I continued to surf the Facebook pages and emails for dentist recommendations. By then, Nyoro had responded and had sussed out two dental clinics that were open (one in Ginza, and another right next door to our hotel, the Hilton in Shinjuku). My schedule for the rest of the tour was such that today was the only day off I had, aside from dinner plans with PR agent Yuiko Tanaka who had made reservations for us at the fabulous Bice Restaurant in Shiodome, then from the 24th, I had 3 days of performances back to back in Osaka, Tokyo and Sendai, then flying back the following day to New York. If somehow I can just get to the dentist and have them stabilize the swelling, pain and infection…
As soon as we got to the Hilton, I got directions to the clinic and went. At first the receptionist at the clinic gave me a look that could wilt a flower and told me that they couldn't accept walk ins, but once I explained my situation, the fact that I was staying at the Hilton and was an out of country visitor, she softened and said I could wait until one of the dentists was available. The clinic was set to close at 5:00, and after a 45 minute wait, by 4:30, they were able to usher me in. The dentist, a petit young woman no older than 30, examined the tooth and area in question, had an X-ray done, then gave her verdict: There was a crack on the root of the tooth, and extraction was the best hope. What?!!! Pull out the tooth?!! I broke out in a cold sweat as she sat and waited for me to give the thumbs up to take the tooth out, but all I could think of was how painful the healing process would be, that as I belted out my long high note, the audience would look at a gaping hole in the back of my mouth, or, worse yet, that the infection would get worse as I was about to go through 4 days of performances and travel. I could almost hear the ticking of the clock echoing in my mind, acutely aware of the fact that the clinic was set to be closed in less than half an hour. Somehow, extraction just did not seem like the right option, and I almost felt like I was getting duped to pull out a tooth by an unknown dentist in an unknown clinic.
The dentist could obviously sense my indecisiveness and confusion, and finally offered, "…or we could open up the temporary filling on the root canal, clean it out as best as we can, as well as the area around the tooth, refill it with medicine, give you enough antibiotics and painkillers to last you the rest of the trip until you can get home to see your dentist and hope for the best." This is what I wanted to hear and relief washed over me; I just didn't want to have a tooth go missing and later find out I could have saved it, or, worse yet, have the infection get worse during the tour.
30 minutes later and still numb with novacaine, I got back to the hotel (the procedure cost a little over 20,000 yen), took a little rest, then got dressed to go out to dinner. Even though it was raining, it turning out that we were able to go through an underground walkway directly from the hotel that, after a 15 minute walk, took us to the station where we rode one subway line straight to the Shiodome station, and immediately into the Caretta building without ever stepping foot outside and getting wet. So convenient!
We got off on the 47th floor of the building into the beautiful Bice restaurant, where we were met by PR guru Yuiko Tanaka, and also her friend Ikuroh Takano. I remembered meeting him at one of my events a year or two back, very nice and fun guy and, as the evening revealed, full of interesting stories. I was introduced to Tanaka-san about 4-5 years ago by Nyoro, and since then Tanaka-san has been an incredibly supportive advocate in linking me with various jewelry and clothing designers who have kindly lent me their pieces for my performances and other public engagements. Amongst the various companies Tanaka-san represents also happens to be Bice, so we were fortunate to have been invited by her to sample the latest offerings. And what a meal we had! From start to finish, everything was top notch: a beautifully arranged ceviche, squid ink risotto topped with the most tender pieces of squid, a decadent langoustine dish as my main, and finishing with certainly the fanciest and most flavorful tiramisu I've ever had. I wish I could have enjoyed more of the wine offerings, but with all the medication I was on to tame my dental dilemma, I knew I had to behave; still, I had a sip here and there, and none disappointed.
What started as a frightening day ended with a beautiful experience. Interesting how a day can develop.