At Sleep Medicine Services, Snoring Sleepers Get Help

The Resmed Airsense 10 is the latest in devices that prevent sleep apnea.

The Resmed Airsense 10 is the latest in devices that prevent sleep apnea.

I have always been a noisy sleeper–snoring like a banchee and known for falling asleep while sitting in my favorite chair.  To many people, this might indicate that I have sleep apnea, and with this in mind I met today with a friendly nurse practitioner named Cathy Burbank at Sleep Medicine Services in Amherst.   I play music with Cathy’s husband John, so she knew I was coming in, and I shared my various issues including waking up four and five times a night and my loud snoring reputation.

Cathy has a calm and steady demeanor, the way you hope medical people will be when you interact with them. We talked about snoring and about apnea, and on her desk was a 10″ wide device that looked a bit like a clock radio.  It was the latest CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device, which you hook up to your nose with a small nostril fitting, and it keeps you breathing at night. This model, which goes for about $800, has a humidifier built in, so it gives you a bit of heated steam, helping the process.  Cathie also showed some other devices, like a molded wearable dental device that keeps  you from snoring.  Nobody is sure that I have apnea until I take a sleep test, so we were not sure which road will be taken.

I have been told that I make alarming noises while I sleep–and I’ve had dreams where I wake up in a start, thinking that I cannot breathe. All of this makes me think that this device might help, but nobody knows until I take this home sleep test.  I left the offices of Sleep Medicine Services with a little device that I’ll hook up to my nose and my finger tonight, and they can download data about my sleep patterns.   I’ll wear the device and tomorrow, drop it off with them and they can analyze how I slept and what the best treatment is.

I look forward to sound sleeping and less napping, if all goes as planned.

MEET: Destinations Where Eco-tourism Will Soon Flourish

 My journey to the Mediterranean is looming on Monday. I’m happy to say that I’m NOT flying to Rome via Moscow, nor am I returning from Provence via Turkey. I have adjusted my flight plans and all seems pretty good right now. I’m going to take two separate eco-tours, both in very beautiful parts of Italy and France with an organization called MEET.

The intention of my hosts is to get more tour operators and travelers to know about the many eco-tours that take place in countries around the Mediterranean, and they’ve crafted a roster of ten pretty exciting trips.  I’ll hop on a train in Sardinia’s capital city of Cagliari, and head for the island’s west coast, our destination the small village of Cabras.  The next day we’ll board a sailboat and begin to discover the Sinis Peninsula, which is famous for its natural beauty and a long history dating back to the Phoenicians.

Tharros is an archeological site we’ll explore, and in San Giovanni di Sinis, we’ll climb a Spanish tower and see some of the terrain we’ll be hiking through toward the San Marco Cape.  Both of the trips involve transport across water, train travel, kayaking and lots of hiking. This is just the kind of activity that’s readers and I especially enjoy. I also like meeting interesting people–and one of them will be a boatbuilder who will explain how he builds ‘is fassonis’, the name for the pointed boats used in Sardinia.

In Provence, the following week, the theme is ‘the Undiscovered French Riviera,” in Port Cros National Park.  We will walk and take buses to most of the destinations, one of which is an old copper mine museum. We will be meeting the owners of a bio dynamic vineyard and meeting a chef who will teach us how to make tapenade and pastis.  We’ll jump on bikes, riding the salt route along the Giens Peninsula where salt was once harvested–today it’s a place where more than 250 species of birds make their homes.

Sardinia and Provence Are My Next Destinations for Eco-tour Exploration

Sinis Peninsula, Sardinia Italy, a protected marine sanctuary where tourism is being developed.

Sinis Peninsula, Sardinia Italy, a protected marine sanctuary where tourism is being developed.

I have nailed down a fantastic  trip–in fact, back to back trips–that I am very excited about.  On September 27, I’ll fly to Rome and then to Sardinia, the big island over Corsica that’s famous for being the home to some of the longest-living people on Earth.  I visited the island way back in 2008, with the Italian Tourism commission, and at that time I enjoyed what I called “the 50-foot meal” where all of the ingredients were from one local farm.  The town of Orroli has just 2700 residents, and boasts an amazing 35 citizens over the age of 100!

On this trip, our focus will be eco-tourism, the trip is being set up by MEET, which stands for Mediterranean Experience of Eco-Tourism. We will be visiting Sinis Marine Protected Area, on the western coast of this big island with so few people living there.

After this trip, I will fly down to Provence, France where another undiscovered region awaits.  Here I will visit Port-Cros National Park, where hiking, kayaking, in fact anything but driving will be how we’ll get around!   The park is part of the coastal archipelago of the islands of Hyeres. It’s the oldest marine park in Europe, and it’s filled with whales, turtles, and even puffins!  We will be trying to show how eco-tourism can benefit the region and how you can live with a light footprint even in a touristy area such as the south of Provence.

Leader Home Center Makes Room for Expansion…Eventually

This old yellow house has stood next to the Leader Home Center in Deerfield for decades. Today it was torn down, to make way for a new store building.

This old yellow house has stood next to the Leader Home Center in Deerfield for decades. Today it was torn down, to make way for a new store building.

For as long as I remember, there has been an old yellow house right next to Leader Home Center in South Deerfield. This is one of the most important businesses in our small downtown and they have an interesting history. Back in the 1990s, the owner, Grant Gagnon, called the store Elder Lumber, and he had the idea that expanding to a very large space would be a good idea. So the little narrow store moved into what was once the Yankee Candle Car Museum, and it expanded to about ten times its current size. Today, Millitech and another businesses occupy this giant metal building.

But after Grant sold the chain of stores in Amherst and Deerfield to Leader Home Centers, and retired, it was decided pretty quickly that this store was just way too big. And eventually the store was moved back into the original smaller building, parallel to the railroad tracks, and it remains there today. I saw some plans a few years ago that showed a new store configured parallel with Elm Street, and this house was right where the new store would be located. Every time I go into the store, I ask the staff about the new store and the demolition plans. Nobody ever really knows anything.  The chain’s owner lives part of the year in Thailand, and is busy with four other locations so nobody ever has a clear idea of what the timeline is. But Jeff Bridges did say that for now the extra room next door will be used for storage.

But today, anyway, there is great progress on this eventuality. The yellow house has been torn down, and it will be loaded into a few gigantic semi trailers and taken down to a recycling center in West Springfield, where the metal, wood and other debris will be sorted and re-used in some way. Whether it’s a year or two before the new store is built is anyone’s guess. But at least this empty house is no longer standing in the way of progress in downtown South Deerfield.

Take Magazine Starts Out with a Bang at the Lakehouse

Michael Kusek was all smiles as he launched Take magazine at the Lakehouse.

Michael Kusek was all smiles as he launched Take magazine at the Lakehouse.

Cars lined the road leading to the Ashfield Lake House last night as rain drizzled down. Inside, the place was packed, and big stacks of magazines were piled up for all to enjoy. It was the launch party for a new magazine published by a man well-known in Northampton, Michael Kusek, and his big smile expressed how happy he must have been to have all of these people there to celebrate the debut of Take magazine.

As I signed up for a year’s subscription, I thought about the many magazines that come to my mailbox for free, using airline miles or other means…but this one was different. By signing up,  I was investing in Michael Kusek and his vision of a magazine that’s been hatched after more than a year’s labor.  I was investing in local writers, artists, and actors who would be covered in its pages.  It wasn’t a subscription, it was a commitment to support people working in publishing, and to affirm that there is a place for a new print magazine that truly covers New England’s rich art world.

Ashfield Lakehouse owner Dre Rawlings keeps up with the crowd at the bar on Saturday night at the Take launch party.

Ashfield Lakehouse owner Dre Rawlings keeps up with the crowd at the bar on Saturday night at the Take launch party.

In a corner of the Lake House, in a baseball cap, news star Rachel Maddow huddled with her many local friends and fans.  At the crowded bar, Lakehouse owner Dre Rawlings did a good job helping her bartenders keep up with the throng.  I found a seat next to architect Tristram Metcalfe and his wife Judy. They told me that many of the old timers who used to frequent this bar now go elsewhere. But they were both pleased with the changes that Dre has brought and the fact that all of these folks from ‘down south’ had made the trek up here is testament to the coolness factor that Dre’s given the place.

Soon Maureen Sullivan, from Holyoke, took a seat across from me, and a gigantic platter of nachos appeared on our table. We did our best to share them with those around us as the crowd full of people who had never set foot in this funky lakeside bar enjoyed some great music from Home Body.  This duo lit the place ablaze with funky grooves and a great woman singer.  A brilliant accompaniment to the night’s merriment.

Take Magazine is already off to a rollicking start, the first issue was printed with three different covers.  Take a look at Take, and join me in supporting Michael’s vision by becoming a subscriber.

View more photos from the party from Chattman photos.

Bo Brooks Is Cracked Crab Heaven in Charm City

A mountain of blue crabs steamed and ready to crack at Bo Brooks, Baltimore Maryland.

I trained it down to Baltimore for one reason. My friend Pam Scott, VP of Communications for Red Lion Hotels, told me her company had just opened a new hotel, and I wanted to check it out. Well, maybe there were a few other reasons too, namely, that Baltimore is a fun city and I wanted to try eating cracked crabs.

Last night we piled into the HotelRL Baltimore’s 1973 Volkswagen Bus, which is tricked out with limo-style seating and a new diesel engine (still four cylinders!) and drove over to Bo Brooks, an unscale crabhouse right on the harbor in Canton. The table was covered with a big brown paper, to make cleaning up all of that crab mess a snap.

Before the friendly server brought out our mountain of blue claw crabs, the restaurant’s manager shared some tips and details about the crustaceans. This time of year, he said, they come mostly from the Gulf of Mexico, so we wouldn’t be eating Chesapeake crabs. Those are available only in the summer.

At Bo Brooks they steam the crabs in gigantic steamers, in up to five layers. They chill down the crabs on ice so they won’t try and fight each other when they stack them up. They douse them liberally with a special spice rub (not Old Bay), kosher salt and black pepper. Then about 25 minutes of steaming in beer and water and voila the big mound is dumped in front of us.

We were handed the requisite bibs and wooden mallets, along with some small containers of garlic butter, vinegar and we set to work. First we pulled the little tab at the bottom of the male crabs, then wedged our knives in to flip open the shell. With a quick and deft maneuver, you crack the thing in half and then begin digging out the while lump crab meat from inside. For something that does not have that much meat, it was surprisingly filling–after we’d all had about three each, the mound was still pretty big but we were full.  I think it was the many appetizers we began with, not just the crab pile that made us so full!

I asked our server if most people choose this labor-intensive manner of dining. He said that some people just order crabcakes, since they don’t want to fuss with it. Others he said, have crab shucking contests and can consume as many as a dozen at one sitting. With a delicious bisque made half cream of crab and half Maryland crab, a few crabmeat-stuffed avocados, corn on the cob and Chesapeake toast, were had a true crab feast in front of us.

Lots of boaters eat dinner every night at Bo’s. Their location, with yachts tied up right outside, makes it a great stop for yachtsmen, or just locals who swear these are the best crabs in the city.