Wednesday, May 2, 2018

30 Right Whales

April 22: The right whales did not come last year. But they are here yesterday and today. Just cruising our Atlantic Ocean coast of Brant Rock with their mouths wide open fishing. The Brant Rock section of Marshfield is named for the Brant ducks that live here. Seagulls are flying all around them, catching what the whales miss. An airplane from the Boston Aquarium is keeping track of them and actually took a count. 

Boaters from Greene’s Harbour are out taking photos. These whales can grow to be 59 feet long. That is two telephone pole lengths, end to end. Green Harbor is named after the first mate of some ship that was called Mayflower. He was called William Greene in 1620. For 10 points, who was the captain of that ship? 

You do not even need binoculars they are blowing water as they travel and are easy to spot. 

The right whales know to come now, before our Massachusetts fishermen set their lobster traps, which the whales know they can become entangled in. Some kind of ducks follow them also. Brant Rock has hundreds of people observing from the seawalls. 

In March, this section of town was hit by waves that were twice the height of the beachfront homes. The photos made the national news. A few of those homes are totally missing now. But everyone is smiling today. It is finally a beautiful sunny mid 50’s day. Boston’s ocean water temperature is 43. Nantucket Sound is registering 45.

Marnie and Sandy were interviewed  and photographed by the Patriot Ledger News out of Quincy.

“ Here comes summer. Well go swimming every day. Here comes summer. Meet the gang  at Joe’s Cafe" (1958)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bio for my 55th High School Reunion

Class of 1963
Adams Memorial High School
Adams, Massachusetts

At Raphael’s Cuban ristorante, El Varadero, on Isla Mujeres    
Febrero 2018, on the Maxac Lagoon.

Robert "Bob" Bacon

Not being any kind of a student or having any particular talent, I had few options for the rest of my life. After graduating in 1963, and following John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November, I joined the United States Navy Seabees and grew up quickly in the following 80 days at Great Lakes boot camp. Assassination is a good spelling word. Dad was a Seabee, and I was born at the hospital on the hill in Adams while he was fighting in Okinawa. I gave my country four and a half years of my young life and loved it. I attended Navy Construction Electrician school in Port Hueneme, California. But I never wanted to work with my hands. I get no enjoyment from it. I’ll split wood, or rake, but do not hand me a tool. One of my jobs as an electrician was changing lights on runways and taxiways, water towers, and airplane and blimp hangers. I truly have no close high school friends, but I have nine close Seabee friends that still meet yearly. Comedian Stephen Wright says that he likes to reminisce with people he doesn’t know. 

I ran the coffee mess at my last naval air duty station and was told that I was good at it. I joined the Friendly Ice Cream management program right after I was honorably discharged, but after two years I quit and I drifted. I carried a pistol and drove Yellow Cab for a while. Only once was there was an attempted robbery. No shots were fired.

Reliable Fence Company of Norwell Massachusetts was hiring salesman. I chatted with a man in the showroom who turned out to be the vice president of the company. He called me back the next evening and said if I changed my eyeglasses and shaved off my mustache the job was mine. I had wire rimmed hippie glasses. In one year I was the top salesman out of twenty-eight. I finally found something that I was really good at. Seven years later the owner of a swimming pool company approached me and said I could make twice as much money working for him, and would have four months off every winter.
I took the chance and ended up selling 1181 in-ground gunite pool projects in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire in thirty years. This led me into the concrete business that I currently work in. Retirement just will not work for me.

I love numbers. Here are my numbers. Johnny H. once said, “the only thing he knew about algebra was that x equaled 3."

Married to Sandy Zabek, class of 1964, for over 50 years. I met her at a high school dance in the original Adams High gym in 1960. In 1985 we discovered Louisiana Cajun / Zydeco dancing, which certainly has shaped our leisure time and travels, and live band house parties here in Marshfield.

Built a house in Marshfield Massachusetts in 1972 that now has six additions. It is on a cranberry bog. My brother and I cleared the lot with axes.

I’ve sold stuff to over 8,000 households in 145 different towns.

Fell into running, which was a great break from selling. Gave up smoking. I have run over 54,000 miles. Google says that Mother Earth is 24,901 miles in circumference. Health magazines say that with my running history I should live to be 147.

I was not a good marathoner, but excelled at much longer distances, such as 50 and 100 mile races. I did them from California to Vermont. On a whim I once ran 200 miles by myself from Zylonite to Rexhame Beach in Marshfield. It was Halloween time, and it was dark by 5:00pm so I only could run 10 hours a day, x3 days, plus four hours on the last day. April 1996 was my final Boston and my eighth finish. Eight is my very favorite number. I used it as a training run for my final Western States 100 trail run in California near Squaw Valley and Tahoe. One year at Boston I started off in Hopkinton dead last on purpose. There were some terrific 24-hour track runs. Sounds crazy, but you cannot get lost on a track and you don’t need to carry a thing. Lost at 3:00am near Red Star Ridge by yourself on a remote, rocky mule trail is no fun. There are mind games to be played while running for 24 hours. When I first thought of doing it, a friend asked, “When was the last time you were up for 24 straight hours, never mind on your legs and moving?"

Road running led to side road cleaning. I keep track of the number of cans and bottles that I pick up. In 2015 I picked up 27,000. I bought this Apple laptop with the money. Last year I bought a snow blower. Duxbury beach is one of my designated cleaning areas.

We travel a bit. We have been to Istanbul, Bogota, Portugal, Virgin Gorda, Meeteetse Wyoming, Costa Rica, and 646 other places. If you ever get a chance to go to Bogota, don’t. Mexico is a favorite, and we spend every winter on an island there. This year was our 30th at Hotel Na Balam. One of my daughters (I have two) teaches yoga internationally. Sandy I go along to assist with the golf cart tours and snorkeling trips. That has brought us to Sicily, Greece (History teacher Mr. Bolger would be shocked by this fact) Cartagena, and Mexico so far. “At times Bacon could not find his locker, but he did a sailing trip to the Greek Islands?” I had never even been to Amherst, never mind Paris. My family only traveled to Lake George, New York. Years later it dawned on me that we had no books in our little house on 90 Howland Avenue.

My first daughter is a writer, which I suppose led me to write a blog. You can find it at She edits it for me. I really enjoy writing. My e-mail address is my name in Spanish. My Mexican amigos ask “Roberto, your name in the US is Bob?”

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Holy Molé

Holy Molé!

Puerto Morelos is just south of Cancun, 20 km, and is touted as the next Isla Mujeres, but it isn’t. It has two main streets. One is called Avenue Ninos Heroes. Unlike Cancun, it has no Krispy Kreme, Hooters, McDonald's, or bull fighting ring. It does have a quant zocalo (park) where you can watch current movies for free against a white cinder block wall, or taste all the food that the vendors are cooking, frying and selling on Sabado (Saturday) night only.

Domingo is playa day, and every Mexican family is enjoying the beach. Most swim in their clothes. They bring Cokes, Orange Fanta, and Sol or Tecate cervaza, sandwiches and salty treats to eat. People-watching is fun. One year, as we were sitting on a park bench, the kind where you face one another like in Valladolid (by-a-dough-leed), a Mexican man armed with a machete brushed passed us, climbed a coconut palm, and cut down some coconuts.

Puerto Morelos is a really easy place to snorkel, with a long reef just off the white soft sand playa. It is the world’s second largest barrier reef. The signs say, even though it is a short distance, "DO NOT try to swim there." Snorkeling fuels Puerto Morelos’s economy along with some wonderful ristorantes. The pace is a slow, hot crawl.

Sandy comes back from getting her hair done at Layla’s and tells me that she has signed us up for a bird tour on the only road leading west, called the Ruta de los Cenote. The girl that colored her hair told her about it. Damn. Now the secret is out about Sandy’s hair. The hairdresser/waitress is from Milan. Of course. That makes perfect sense. A visit to a cenote is not on the schedule today. A cenote is a fresh water cave that you can swim in. The names of a few on this old chicle railroad bed are Kin Ha (I know “ha” in Mayan is “water”), Zapote, Verde Lucero (verde is green), and La Noria. There are many pantera crossing signs. It’s a jungle out there.

See these cuts? The sap runs down and is collected to make gum. Do you remember Black Jack or Double Bubble or Spearmint? Well it was. Now gum is man-made.

There are thirteen of us on this bird tour. Most are Canadians from White Horse, Alberta and Toronto, who come away from the cold the first of December and do not go back until May. You thought our 50-day Mexican vacation was excessive.

We pull over and park. Robin, our guide, walks us into the jungle. What the hell? This looks like a junkyard, but instead of cars, this Maya village has wood carvings -- started, finished and complete. Do you want a wooden bust made for you that really looks like you? Chain saws are sawing. Chainfalls abound for lifting.

Wooden benches carved in the jungle, at Mango's.

Wooden beams from the jungle at the restaurant at Na Balam.

We are in a Maya village that gets no sunlight. There are no bugs. A man who seems to be the village chief greets us. Robin says his name is Braulio Poc Chuc. He is a fourth generation wood carver and artist. His Spanish sounds Mayan. He points out macaws in the tall trees.

Macaws were high in the trees over the Maya village.

A group of green parrots fly by. Across the road where we are parked, there are many spider monkeys putting on a show, hanging from their arms and legs and really long tails. We are not that far from busy route 307 which takes you south down to Chetumal and the Belize border. So close to a major highway, yet the animal life is amazing.

We saw many of these parrots flying freely, in a group.
 Sandy kept it a secret from me that this is also a food tour. A woman introduced as Adalita has a huge pot of molé heating under an outside wood fire.

None of us understand the words she is saying, but we know the foods that she is adding. Plantains, pollo (chicken), tomato, hot peppers, azucar (sugar), and animal crackers to thicken. Mexico introduced tomato, White Owl cigars, chocolate, and tequila to the world. The original recipe in molé was stale bread. She slides in three of those big chocolate hockey pucks of Abuelita Mexican bitter sweets into the boiling cauldron. 

 I counted seventeen ingredients. Her mother, the abuela, stands to her side just silently watching. Yogi Berra said you can observing a lot by watching.

This original recipe is from the west side of Mexico at Puebla. Rumor has it that 16th century nuns of the convent Santa Rosa, upon learning that the archbishop was visiting, went into panic mode because they had nothing to serve him. Nada. The nuns started praying desperately and an angel came to inspire them. They basically threw everything they had into the pot. What they served him is today called molé poblano. Do you believe in angels? I do.

We go into the kitchen to make the tortillas. Adalita has a refrigerator covered in rust. She even has a blender and a microwave. The roof is of rusty corrugated tin. The floor is dirt. There are no walls. Somehow this works in the jungle.

We sit on outside picnic tables and are served some kind of jungle bebida. There are no knives or forks. Think about it. Mexican food was made to eat with your hands. Tacos, tortillas, pico de gallo (beak of the rooster), chile rellenos. Maybe not chile rellenos. Perhaps, at an all inclusive, they will mash some avocados at your table while making guacamole. Do not pronounce the “G.”  Oh and when you say salt, do not pronounce the “T.” Gracias.  

Bob with jungle bebida.
This was an awesome experience -- one of the best of this vacation.  Wish you had been there.

We say hasta la bye bye.

Hasta la juego, see you later alligator, via con dios (may god be with you). He was.

While writing this I am listening to our amigo Chucho's (Jesus, he plays saxophone) band’s CD, recorded in Puerto Morelos. Chucho and Melania met at college in es-Spain, at Salamanca University. She is Basque. He is from Mexico City. His mother’s father was Chinese. Do you still want me to read fiction?

Chucho, Melania and their niñas.

The band plays a lot of reggae. My favorite is “Tree little birds by my door step, singing sweet songs, the melody pure and good. Don’t worry bout a ting. Cause every little tings gonna be alright.” It is by Bob Marley. Chucho's esposa, our friend Melania, says, “Sometimes the lead singer / guitarist shows up, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he shows up without his guitar.” Right now they are singing, “I’m still in love with you girl.” I am.

Chucho plays the same instrument,
 They play for tips on Playa Norte (North Beach) on Domingo. You just sit in the warm sand and sip your mescal sour, rimmed with chile pepper and sal, while the sun sets. Comedian / drinker W.C. Fields once said, “We lost our corkscrew and had to live on food and water for the next several days."

Life is muy bien in Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Mexico.

- Tocino   


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Home . . .

Armando Gutierrez, the singer on the Ultra Mar ferry.

March 26, 2018

HOME . . . late last night after 50 glorious sunny days all over the Yucatan. We ate at 38 different restaurants and stayed at 7 hotels in 4 different towns and islas. YCMTstuff . . . So much to share. Blogs? Did someone say blogs?

On Sabado (Saturday), yesterday, we crossed over the warm turquoise water to Puerto Juarez with five suitcases that we saw stowed in a pile on the blue y yellow Ultra Mar ferry boat. We, along with our friend Braulio, sat topside in the hot sun. We propinoed Armando to sing “Welcome to de hotel California,” and things were running sooo smoothly. Check out Armando Gutierrez on YouTube. The whole trip had run smoothly. Then when we went to retrieve our 5 bags of luggage they were GONE. As in, “Where the hell did they go?!!! They were just here.” GONE.

After a frantic search, we found, through the security cameras, that they had been sent back to Isla. Braulio from Na Balam, who crossed over the 8 miles with us, saved the day by speaking to many of the dock workers in Spanish. Our bags were returned to us on the next ferry, and we (and our luggage) still managed to make our Jet Blue flight home.

Earlier in the trip, after traveling to Puerto Morelos, Akumal, Playa Del Carmen, and Isla Holbox, on our first day back to Isla, we met a frazzled Minnesota couple, Mike y Connie, during a beautiful sunset at La Joya Hotel. They had just arrived on Isla Mujeres for their very first time, but their luggage was left on the dock at Puerto Juarez. They eventually got it. We said, “We know the feeling. But in 30 years, it only happened to us once.” 

But then, yesterday, we lost those 5 bags.

Once while going back to Cancun from Merida, one of our bags decided that it wanted to break away and see Cuba (coo bah). Janis, our veteran travel agent, said, “Forget it. You will NEVER see it again.” It had all of our warm January wedding clothes from Albuquerque, including jewelry. We did eventually get it back, and with nothing missing! "Jewelry" and "turquoise" are really good spelling words.

Once while traveling to Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox (Hole bush) from Day One ALL of our luggage was lost. Our last time to use curbside check in. Later in the week, we had a call from Jet Blue. "Tocino, good news and bad news.”

“Okay, what is the good news?”

“We found your luggage. The bad news is that it is on Isla Aruba.”

So what is so bad about the bad news? Aruba will NOT ship luggage without the attached passengers.

It was transported – naturally -- from Aruba, through New York City, and on to Cancun. One day it arrived at Cabanas habitation #65 unexpectedly. That time we went 9 days without our luggage.

How was the weather while we were away in Febrero y Marza? Adventures in traveling.

"The only way to go to Mexico is to stay at one of those ALL inclusives and never leave the walled-in property."

- Tocino
A generous amigo to all the maleteros (porters) in Quintana Roo. 
On this adventure we met every single one of them.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Who Who

a male cardinal • photo by Sandy Bacon

Five degrees below freezing and I am walking the Gurnet again. I guess that I am a full-fledged New Englander. Yesterday was a GREAT bird day with a red-shouldered hawk perching within 20 feet of our eight inch light fluffy snowed in casa. We all watched the show for at least four hours. At first I told Abel that it was a red-tailed hawk but when I Googled it, I saw it was actually a red-shouldered. My very first sighting. Love is a many splendored bird. His feathers were just beautiful. They were many red-shouldered hawks in the 1950’s until the red-taileds came back big time. Sandy snapped a photo or two or three or twenty. Here is one or two or three. What a beautiful, magical bird. Si?

red-shouldered hawk • photo by Sandy Bacon
I park at the pavilion on Duxbury Beach. The tide is still high so I have to walk the gravel road south toward Saquish. The sky is blue; the snow is white. There is no wind. Mexico in less than three days, but this is spectacular Also. Dad called …. never mind. Right away I come up on three cars checking out a snowy owl. The man that catches them at Logan Airport has relocated 24 of them here this winter from the taxi and runways of Boston. A car stops. The driver asks me if that is, in fact, a snowy owl. It is the first one he and his son have ever seen. I have seen so many that I rarely stop now to eyeball them. 

As we talk, a harrier falcon with a face just like a peregrine flies right in front of us. What a sight! I see him hunting, flying, cruising, 6-10 feet over the dune grass, nearly every time I walk Duxbury Beach. 

Before the father leaves, he tells me that this very morning he spotted an eagle in the west bay. What a day we are all having.

There are loons swimming in Duxbury Bay and the Powder Point Bridge is still covered with yesterday’s snow. Just past the Second Crossover I see vehicle activity and instead of walking the beach, I continue on the gravel road. Good move. There is this face as big as a dinner plate on top of a snowed-in dune. “It is a female snowy,” the lady with the scope tells me. She has been here since 7:00am. It is now 1:00pm.

  Some days are better than others. Wow! What a day. There has to be a God.

blue jays • photo by Sandy Bacon
a male cardinal • photo by Sandy Bacon
downy woodpecker • photo by Sandy Bacon
turkeys on our deck • photo by Sandy Bacon
turkeys on the march • photo by Sandy Bacon
a junco • photo by Sandy Bacon