Lightly Seasoned With A Pinch of Salt

Apr 25, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

The crabapple tree certainly thinks it’s spring! (Click on any image to enlarge)

With regard to this week’s headline, I shall get to the salt part in a bit. Bear with me. It’s worth the wait, especially if you suffer from severe allergies and lived through a childhood that featured chronic asthma, like me.

What we shall start with is the very Minnesotan fact that just two blogs ago, so two weeks ago, I wrote about and shared photos of our dastardly mid-April blizzard. A week later, nearly all signs of it were gone. This week, we’ve been in the 70s, all the buds are popping on the trees, the grass is starting to grow as the lawns green up, and it feels like we’ve turned the corner. There you go, I’ve done it again. It will no doubt snow within 15 minutes.

I don’t think we’re in any danger of more snow. The temperature would need to drop about 40 degrees for that to happen. So take that Mother Nature. I don’t think you’ve got that in you until next November or December. In literary terms, this is what’s called “issuing a challenge.”

And, as you can see in the first photo (you’ll probably have to enlarge it by clicking on it) our crabapple tree is totally on-board with the whole “it’s really spring this time” mantra. Those buds weren’t there yesterday.

The Daryl Stuermer Duo, at The Dakota

OK, back to a chronological string of news. Last Thursday, I wrote about the fact we were going to see Daryl Stuermer at The Dakota in Minneapolis that night. I also wrote that I greatly admired his virtuoso guitar playing, but I had no idea what the concert was going to be like. Daryl’s roots are in jazz/fusion music. When Genesis auditioned him for the role of stage guitarist for live shows, he was expertly playing with jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, who revolutionized the use of the violin in the jazz format. Basically, violin was never seen as a jazz instrument until Ponty came along and changed the way it was played. Moving over to play for Genesis was quite an adaptation for Daryl.

As it turned out, the adaptation went very well. Daryl was the perfect fit for the band, and his stage performances were incredibly impressive. I’m guessing I saw him play with Genesis at least six or seven times.

And the show at The Dakota was phenomenal. I’d say about half the songs were Daryl’s own compositions, from his seven different solo albums. They were very jazzy, which isn’t always my thing, but Barbara and I loved every second of them. His playing is so far “off the charts” we were mesmerized. He also played some cover songs, tunes by Jeff Beck, Peter Gabriel, and The Police, and they were all incredible too. The Police song was “Message In A Bottle” and it could not have been played better. The rest of the songs were Genesis tunes, some of which were quite well known and a few of which only a real Genesis fan would know.

And all this was done with just Daryl on his guitar while an accomplished keyboard player, Kostia Efimov (who immigrated to the US from Russia in the late 1980s without knowing a word of English) accompanied him. No vocals. So, that gave Daryl two options. He could play the Genesis songs straight, using the same chords and notes he used on stage, and we’d have to imagine the vocals, or he could seamlessly switch from the instrumental parts to the vocal parts with his guitar. In effect, he made his guitar sing the vocals. Yeah. It was that good.

The Dakota is a small club, but I still wasn’t sure how many tickets Daryl could sell. After all, he was never an official part of Genesis as a songwriting entity. He was just the “hired hand” stage guitarist they needed to play the songs in concert. When we got there, around 6:15 for a 7:00 show, the room was nearly empty. Barbara looked around a bit aghast and said “There’s nobody here.” I was more than a little worried that Daryl would take the stage to the sound of five people clapping. But then, more and more folks showed up and the room nearly filled. It wasn’t as totally packed as it was for Cowboy Junkies and Southside Johnny, but it filled up nicely. And it was clear, from the conversations going on around us, that most of these people were Genesis fans who knew him well. That was a relief.

Daryl was a great story teller between songs, and the show was nonstop fun. He’s just a down-to-earth guy from Milwaukee (he still lives there) who loves the guitar and ended up playing 30+ years with one of the biggest groups in the world. No big deal. Truly a great show, and the encore ended it with a rocking version of “Turn It On Again” that had everyone on their feet. See him if you love great musicianship, some incredible jazz stuff, and great Genesis songs. Well worth it.

It really helps

OK, enough waiting. Let’s get to the “salty” part of this story. A couple of years ago, Barbara and I discovered the place in this photo. It’s literally two minutes from home. I was skeptical and had no idea what she was trying to get me into.

Basically, you’re there to get salted. You enter a room that is totally made of salt. Salt on the floor, salt on the walls, and salt on the ceiling. It’s all salt, all the time. And you take a seat in one of the reclining lounge chairs. They do provide booties and blankets, and after each session you put your booties in the Ziploc bag they give you with your name written on it, and then put it in the correct alphabetized drawer. So I put mine in the W drawer. That’s how the alphabet works.

When it’s time for the session to begin (they all start at the 30-minute mark and last until 15 minutes after the hour) they turn on the salt machine that blows salty air into the room. For 45 minutes, you just relax and breathe deeply.

My skepticism was alleviated after one visit, back then. The next morning I woke up feeling about 80 percent better than usual. My mornings, no matter the time of year, usually consist of a good hour of getting through the same unpleasant process in order to feel human and normal. Lots of congestion, thanks to those allergies (yes, I’m actually allergic to cats, but that’s a nonstarter as an issue) and the asthma that plagued me until I was nearly 20. As I’m getting older, I can feel the vestiges of that asthma again, and I’ve never had the lung capacity of a normal person. I wouldn’t have gotten very far as a distance runner. Hey, that’s a pun. You’re welcome.

Relax. 45 minutes of salt cures a lot of what ails you

Anyway, we went regularly for about a year and then for some reason we just forgot to go. We got out of the habit. This winter was brutal for me, and winters really are my worst time. Winters here are often wet, snowy, and there’s always a lot of particulate matter in the air. Plus mold. Spokane was the same way, and maybe even worse. It’s brutal from time to time. I actually crave the super-cold frigid days when the sun is out. There’s not much I’m allergic to when it’s 25-below. Give us a grungy foggy winter day, though, and I’m sunk.

About three weeks ago, I was having a bad morning with a ton of coughing and hacking, and Barbara said “You should get back to The Salt Room. You need to do something.” I knew she was right.

So now I’ve been five times in the last 10 days and the difference is incredible. I feel so much better.

Why salt? I’m not really sure of the science, but it does a great job of clearing you out and it even makes your skin feel better. Put it this way, where do you go when you want to feel renewed and clear-headed? You go to the beach. Salt. It’s pretty amazing. Just don’t put too much of it on your food.

And yes, depending on which chair you choose you can come out of there with quite a bit of salt on you. You can see the vent in the photo, that little black box on the wall. That’s where the salty air comes from. If you sit in that front chair on the right, you’ll get the most salt in the room. I usually go with chair number two, right next to it. The four chairs in the back get a little less direct salt, but the whole room fills with the salty air so you get a good dose no matter where you sit.

45 minutes is about my capacity for sitting still doing nothing, but I just put my chair back, pop my ear buds in, and crank some tunes on my phone. Basically, if you think of it as just relaxing in a dimly lit room for seven or eight songs, it’s manageable. You never know how many other people are going to be in there with you for a session, and if you’re alone or the other people are sleeping, you can even put your phone on its dimmest setting and check Twitter or Facebook a few times. There’s a strict protocol though about using your phone as an actual phone. That’s more than frowned upon. Don’t do that! It’s the rule, people!!!

And now I wonder why I struggled with all this congestion throughout the winter when The Salt Room was still just up the road. I’ll try not to make that mistake again.

Want an update on my new book? I just finished another chapter (Chapter 14, I believe) and shipped it off to my editor Greg, if by “shipped it off” you mean I clicked on the Google Docs button that says “Share” so he could see it. I’m on 15 now and I’m on a good roll. I’m roughly two chapters from where my two characters actually meet. Up until now, each guy has no idea the other guy exists because they’re from vastly different backgrounds. I hope it gets as interesting as I want it to after I have them intersect. And I think it’s worth noting that I officially “hear voices in my head” these days. It’s the voices of the two characters. They’re very distinct. That doesn’t mean I’m crazy, though. Well, I guess I may very well be.

I’m taking my time with this. I don’t try to push it if the words aren’t there on any given day, or even any given week. I want to feel what the characters would feel and then put it in their words. Some days or weeks, they don’t cooperate with me. It will be done as soon as it’s done. I would think we can all have a copy in our hands within a year, but the whole publishing thing is hard to pin down in terms of timelines. And there is the plan to pitch this one to conventional publishers. That will take some time and the odds aren’t in my favor that any of them will jump on it. We’ll see. I probably need to be more confident about that.

Let’s Go Wild!  Win Twins!

Finally, because it’s really spring now I took the covers off our two Adirondack chairs on the patio. I leave the cover on the gas fire pit all the time, except of course when it’s in use. That would be real mistake to light that bad boy with the cover still on.

We love these chairs. We were at the Irish Festival on Harriet Island in St. Paul last summer, and Barbara spotted a booth where all sorts of chairs like this were on display. Manny, the guy who hand builds and paints every one of them, was there. The Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Twins logos are inlayed and the Wild logo, in particular, is made up of dozens of small pieces. It’s art!

By late in the fall, Manny showed up at our house with these two. We got to sit in them two or three times, around the fire, before winter hit. Now we get to enjoy them again. They’re cool, and they’re really comfortable. And the workmanship is impeccable. These chairs will be with us for the duration.

So that’s it for this week. I was in The Salt Room yesterday and I typically go three days a week, so I won’t be going today. Probably will tomorrow though!

On Saturday, our good friends Kristy and Mitch Martin will be celebrating the wedding of their daughter Ellen, and we’ll be thrilled to be in attendance with our other Marsh Creek friends. How the little girl who lived two doors down from us at our Marsh Creek home is even conceivably old enough to be getting married is a mystery. We haven’t gotten that much older, have we?

Sunday is Barbara’s birthday, and for the second year in a row she had the same answer when I asked what she wanted in terms of a birthday present. She said “I want to go to a Twins game. Are they in town?” They are. It’s a 1:00 game on Sunday against the Orioles. We have field level box seats just behind the visitors’ dugout. You know you’ve won the game of life when your wife wants to go to a ballgame for her birthday. I’ll buy her the best hot dog in the place.

Finally, as always, it’s all about “The Likes” around here. If you liked even one sentence of this weekly installment, please click on the “Like” button at the top. The “Like Police” are watching. I’m on probation…

See you next week.

Bob Wilber, at your service and lightly seasoned with salt.

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