By Jerry Zezima
People who know me and are willing to admit it (which narrows the field considerably) will gladly tell you that I have frequent bouts of brain freeze and that everything I say should be taken with a million grains of salt.
Aside from margaritas, which I like because they’re cold and salty, and have been known to reduce my brain cells to practically zero, never has this sensational combination been more welcome than when I recently spent time in a salt cave and later was flash-frozen in a cryotherapy chamber.
The place to enjoy these invigorating experiences (not including margaritas) is Port Jeff Salt Cave in Port Jefferson, New York. Billed as “an integrative wellness center,” it’s owned by the husband-and-wife team of Rich and Marcy Guzman, both of whom are nurses who know that laughter is the best medicine.
As Marcy told me before I sat in a group session in the cave, “Salt doesn’t cure anything but ham.”
“I’m a ham,” I replied.
“Then you’ll be cured,” she said.
Inhaling salt air can decrease inflammation (good news for my big head), detox the blood (I’m not type O, but I do occasionally have a typo) and send nutrients to my organs (too bad I don’t play the piano).
I joined seven other people, ranging in age from 12 to 84, in the salt cave, which looks just like — you guessed it — a hockey arena.
No, actually, it looks like a cave. It also looks like a beach because it contains 10 beach chairs, arranged in a circle, but instead of sand, the floor is covered with salt crystals. The room is dimly lit with twinkling ceiling lights that resemble the night sky. There also are vents that release salt air and a sound system that pipes in a soothing recording by Marcy.
At the beginning of the 45-minute session, which costs $45 per person, Marcy said the salt air would open our sinuses.
“My sinuses are already open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays,” I said.
The other customers shifted nervously in their beach chairs.
But everyone relaxed when Marcy closed the door and started the recording, which took us vicariously on a nature walk, over the river and through the woods, where we bypassed Grandmother’s house and encountered several creatures that evidently had escaped from either a zoo or “The Jungle Book” but proved to be good omens that led us back to where we started, safe, sound and satisfied.
“How do you feel?” Marcy asked afterward.
“Salty,” I responded. “And peppery. It was wonderful. I have an inner warmth.”
I had an outer cold when I went back a week later for my own version of the movie “Frozen.”
I was greeted by Rich, who asked me to strip to my skivvies and don a pair of socks and gloves before entering the small, cylindrical chamber, where the temperature would drop to 265 degrees below zero.
“I’ll end up being like a Mrs. Paul’s fish stick,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” Rich replied. “Your wife can thaw you out in the microwave.”
He added that during the three-minute session, which costs $40, I’d be enveloped by a nitrogen vapor that would, among other benefits, help my body release endorphins, kill fat cells and block pain.
“The first minute is refreshing,” Rich told me as I stood in the one-person chamber with my hands at my side and my head peering over the closed door. “The second minute is invigorating. And the third minute is ‘talk me through this.’ Ready?”
I gulped and nodded. Rich turned on the machine. Vapor started to rise and caress my skin, invading my pores and turning my body into what seemed like a block of dry ice. I felt, as Rich promised, refreshed and invigorated.
“Talk me through this,” I said as he counted down the last minute.
“No need,” he said. “You’re doing great.”
When it was over, I stepped out of the chamber, the coolest guy on earth.
“Between the two sessions,” I told Rich and Marcy after I got dressed, “I feel like a new man.”
“The salt air and the cold air really help,” Marcy noted.
“The only thing cryotherapy couldn’t help is my brain,” I said. “It’s already frozen.”
Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima