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

Thursday, January 18, 2018



Country Walkers is located in Williston Vermont. We signed up for two weeks with other guests who were total strangers. They were from Vancouver, Carmel, DC, New Jersey, and even Missouri. There were fourteen in all. It’s probably like going on a cruise with no boat. Not the way we typically travel. For the same money we can stay in Mexico for fifty days but Sicily sounds fascinating.

Do not get me wrong. It was perfect. Five star hotels and thousand year old farmhouses. Mauricio and Orietta, our guides, were just perfect also. Dad called me Also, mostly when he was mad at me. I think it was Also. Sicily is simply stunning. Mount Etna, the Greek/Roman ruins, the resort towns of Taormina and Cefalu. Arab castles and Arab palm trees.

Dale Carnegie said, “Talk in the other person’s interest.” Tried it. It didn’t work. On a hike, one woman said that divorce was a sin. She went on and on. Did she know that Sandy and I were on a trip celebrating fifty years of marriage?

Word passed around that one of the guests was a retired Colonel in the United States Army. She was erect, friendly enough, but a little shy or guarded. One night I am sitting across from her at one of the first class dinners, which is not my style. Hmm what to talk about? Finally I say, “During your service, did you happen to come across any Navy Seabees?” She gets this big smile on her face and says, “I love the Seabees.” He turns, he shoots . . . OK then, but with the other guests, nothing much developed. Please no more eggplant, but gracia.

The other guests were certainly well traveled. For one woman this was her sixteenth Country Walkers trip. Another had just done the Amalfi Coast and then came south to join us in Syracusa for two weeks in sunny Sicily, making it a four week vacation for her. When I say well traveled I mean Europe. Mexico got the cold stare look. Louisiana -- Say what? Colombia, nada, nothing. What is a national park? Nothing in common. Dale Carnegie would have been hard pressed in this situation. He would have just given up.  How To Win Friends and Influence People just was not working. If he did this trip he would NOT have written his book.

When it comes to the fancy dinners every night, I am clearly out of my element and I tense up wondering what are they going to serve me. It was sort of like wondering what the galley was serving in Boot Camp in freezing Chicago. Shocking, I know, but painful for me. I am pretty sure that grinders and french fries were out of the question. I have common sense on stuff like this. After more than fifty years being in cold weather, when the smell of food is in the air I am eighteen again, in ranks, waiting outside for our company’s turn at the mess hall.  
On the next to the last night, I just cannot small talk about college or banking or religion anymore, and bow out gracefully from the winery tour and the dinner with seventeen utensils and even more entrees and waiters.

We are at a lovely hotel that is also, -- there’s that word again -- a winery and olive farm. I decide to go to dinner with myself for the highly misunderstood and maligned pasta and meatballs. Red wine, please. For my dinner partner I will choose a book from the hotel’s extensive library. The library is great, but only if you speak Italian. I find an Eatalian map book and actually get lost in it for over an hour. Italy is fascinating. There are so very many town names that ring bells for me. Rappolo, an ensign from the Navy; Corleone from some movie, Pachino, Croce, Lazzaro, my financial guy. Island of Women or in Italian, Isola delle Femmine, where the three baseball Dimaggios came from. 

The town that the family Viscariello is from is called Compana. They have the Mamma Mias restaurant chain in our South Shore. Aiello the name of a thriving food store in Quincy. Donna Buccheri’s family emigrated from Buccheri. Rich Busa’s mother and father came from little towns around Messina but never met until they both settled in Everett Massachusetts. YCMTS up. Messina is also a large construction company in the northern Berkshires. Puerto Vanari means Port of Venus at the southern end of the Cinque Terras. My Polish Cioci Blanche married an Italian with the first name of Pelligrino. The village of Potenza -- Sarah Potenza rocked the Ninigret Festival in Rhode Island. Albano, a name from Adams. Falcone, a builder in Marshfield. Floridia -- close enough. The town of Nicosia. Years ago I built a pool in Weymouth for Mrs. Nicosia who couldn’t swim.

During my perfect dinner, at one point loud and clear, I hear a man’s voice from across the room say in English, “It took me three months to complete my swimming pool.” Are you kidding me? I ask Carmen for another glass of wine.

From the very same table, a little bit later, a woman’s voice, probably Italian, says, “In Spanish breakfast is desayuno. In New York it is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Diamonds for breakfast?”

Then even later, the Eatalian woman trying to push the Mount Etna tour on the man and woman that are obviously a tourist couple. More than likely they are from the States.

I am now warm inside and outside and am heading back to our lovely room. As I cross the room I hear a woman say, “Sir.” I keep walking but she says it again. She motions for me to come to their table of four. She is the significant other of the couple that I think are a couple. They are the same people that I overhear every once in a while.

The woman of the couple says to me, “I was waiting for dinner and observed you seemingly lost in a book. Stopping to take notes. May I ask you what you were reading?”

I answer her question and then tell them all the short bursts of talk that I have been pleasantly overhearing for the past hour or so. I explain the connections.

“You, sir, spoke about how it took three months to complete your swimming pool.” In the Boston area, I built 1181 of them. They cannot believe that with Boston weather families are building that many pools.

Next I turn to the Italian woman and talk about diamonds for breakfast. I cannot believe that I overheard that statement. On Clarke’s Island off the coast of the town south of us is where Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I am rolling after two weeks of blind stares, yawns and blank looks.

Next the Italian woman says, “These folks are from Denver, and are wondering if they should explore Mount Etna.”

“Oh my god,” I reply, “By all means YES.”

I take my leave and stroll back to our room smiling.
He turns, he shoots, he scores.       
Thanks Dale.


Perhaps the longest hike/walk the Country Walkers took was between Isola delle Femmine (Island of Women) and the city of Palermo. Roll your rr’s when you say Palrrrrmo. It was fun to learn that the baseball and fishing DiMaggios migrated from here to San Francisco, and that there is more than one Isla Mujeres. Our hike was along the coast, right along the Tyrrhenian Sea. It looked very much like the Greek Islands, but without the pure white buildings. It was eight or ten miles long.

Seventy nine year old Anne from Carmel was lagging behind. I was in no rush, and besides, she and her sister Carla Dean were fun to talk to. So I stayed with them. For further safety, our guide Mauricio stayed with us also. We were constantly reminded that Anne is fourteen months older than Carla. We came in last but why hurry. This photo was taken along the route to give you an idea of what it looked like.

Later at dinner I was asked if I had found the hike difficult, having come in last of the fourteen of us. DIFFICULT! I was caught off guard. Having over 54,000 running miles plus on these old legs, including many 26.2’s (. . . including 8 Bostons -- my last one was in 1996 was the 100th BAA) and a few 100’s and 50’s, with a ton of 30-40 mile training runs, and compared to my solo 200 miler across Massachusetts, “Did I find an eight mile hike DIFFICULT?” Did I fail to mention that Anne is fourteen months older than Carla Dean?

I read stickers on cars. They tell you all about people. Where did they send their children to college: “My $$ and my child goes to blah blah college.” Where have they traveled: “Aruba.” I would always, when on sales calls for swimming pools, check out the future clients’ cars. That gave me an idea of their financial status and told me a lot about them -- size of familia, etc. Refrigerator calendars also tell you things such as who else are they having over for their other bids, if any, and when. Back to car stickers. Have they been to the Nantucket Airport or Alaska? What kind of dog do they have? Do they hug trees? Did they vote for Hillary? Who invented liquid soap? And why? OK, OK, I made the last one up, but after all it is my blog, and there is no law against it. Is there?

In Palerrrmo I asked a shopkeeper on Via Emanuelle what time the opera across the street started. He did not understand English so I pointed to the opera house and sang “la la la.” He said, “Oh! OPE-er-ahh.” Not “ah-pera.” but as in Opera Winfrey.

This Sunday morning I was playing traffic crossing guide for my daughter Kezia’s frozen yoga class. It was 1 degree at 10 am. I stood at the top of our driveway and reminded people to stay on the sanded parts on the icy, steep way down to The Treehouse. Laura, daughter of famous Marshfield storyteller Jay O’Callahan, has a 90.9 sticker on the back of her car. You see many 13.1 and 26.2 stickers on cars around here because of the Boston Marathon. Tom Donovan’s neighbor was making a statement with his sticker that says 00.0  

It turns out that Laura’s sticker is for a Boston radio station but a little farther into the conversation she casually mentioned that she had indeed run a marathon and also rode a bicycle across the USA -- twice. Wow! Awesome. Holy cow! In the service they put medals on your chest or chevrons on your sleeve. Cajun / Zydeco dancers wear tee shirts from Louisiana dances, or festivals, or New Orleans or Baton Rouge, or even Lafayette restaurants that they have been to. And then there are the Emmys and Oscars and oh yah, the Super Bowl. Some people even write personal blogs or have face books, whatever those are. I cannot afford a dog or a face book. Enough about me. How did you like my halfway complete blog?  yCANmtstuffup

Roberto Baconi  

Monday, December 4, 2017

I’m Your Man

Hello from the Gurnet again. Today is Saturday November 18th. The air temperature is 43. The ocean temperature is 55 degrees. The sky is black. There is no wind for a change. The tide was very high and it was not easy to walk in the sand full of rocks.

I did not expect to have to clean Duxbury beach again so soon. Two days ago I did a pretty good job.

There was so much to clean, that with the two fisherman lobster catch boxes that I found, I made a train and pulled them along the sandy beach all the way from beyond Tall Pines to the second crossover. I found rope from off of some of the lobster buoys and connected them. I drove my pick up down to pick every thing up after my three and one half hour eco walk.

Look at this piece of pottery that washed up. Looks like Pilgrim stuff to me.

Hey! They just found a tintype in North Carolina of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, the man who shot him dead.

Stranger things have happened . . .  such as an old man was seen Saturday morning pulling two boxes along the beach filled with litter.

Cigarette filter butts on the Kaibab at the Grand Canyon to plastic bottles in Sicily near a closed tuna factory. As Leonard Cohen used to say, “ I’m your man."

Monday, November 20, 2017


Handwritten Letter to David Bongiolatti in Round Rock, Texas - November 19, 2017

We were friends from Kindergarten until the end of high school. We played football. Dave was a tackle at 6 foot tall and 285 pounds. Albin Mosher was the center at 210 pounds and six foot tall. I played guard and linebacker at five foot eight inches and soaking wet 160 pounds. We grew up in the Italian section of the mill town of Adams, Massachusetts called Zylonite. It was a kind of plastic that I am sure was environmentally friendly.

Hi Dave,

I know! I know! We just talked twenty some years ago, and now I am back.

People say that life is a circle. Well the circle is back to Zylonite. Check out this 1904 map of Zylonite. Pretty awesome, eh?  I have almost no one to share it with. Sandy did not grow up there. Bucky Volpe and Karen Bechard are muerto.

The Adams Historical Society newsletter map is wonderful. It was originally taken off glass plates. Check out Zylonite. It was all Irish in 1904, compared to all Italian in the 50’s and 60’s. Did you know that the street we both grew up on was named after a wealthy Quaker named Abraham Howland? Remember the Arcadia? That was their house.

Recently there was a story about Apremont Street in the Historical Society news. In 1904 it was known as Kipper Avenue. Kipper Avenue was the first place my ancient family moved to, from Savoy. The street name was changed to Apremont to honor the men from Adams who fought a tough battle and won against the Germans in WWI in Apremont, France. My daughter says the name means "at the foot of the mountain," and Apremont Street does sit at the base of Adams' Mount Greylock. The beautiful elm trees that bordered Howland Avenue are all gone, and the carved-out and blasted mountain looks like hell, but Mount Greylock is still there.  Some things never change.

Who grows up with a friend named Sterling? Well that mystery was also solved in a previous Adams Historical Society newsletter.

I send an occasional e-mail to Betty Hish. I was in contact with Beverly Banas until she got bored with me. She worked for the CIA in Russia. Really!

Eileen Blanchette and Albin Mosher are still married, and have done really well. They live in Rhode Island. They both attended Brown.

September 30, 2017 and Sandy Zabek and I are still very happily married for 50 years.

A writer found my blog about Russell Roulier. Did you know him? He was the second Marine killed in Viet Nam -- from our town. Thomas Edison High School in Philly lost 56 young men. He is writing a book about Russ.

Brown Street, between your house and Howland Avenue School, was where my not so great great grandfather deserted his family of seven in 1900. Remember Gumbo? I think my relatives lived in the second block that the Shepherds lived in. Closer to Billy Cairns house. He is gone also. The street was named after the paper tycoon, L.L. Brown.

My great grandfathers name was Bachand, which is my real last name.

Received a call at the end of this past June from someone claiming to be one of my brother Mike's daughters. Jack Daniels killed Mike at age 36. We learned even more about the Bacon family. But after and 23 & me, it turns out she is NOT my niece.

I have suggested to the Adams Historical Society that they do a piece on the New England Lime Company, where your grandfather had so much to do with bringing all the Italian families over to work. Was his name Louis -- the same as your dad? You really should sign up for this newsletter.

So there. Aren’t you glad we connected again? It seems we were just at your wedding in Vermont, somewhere back in the late 60’s?

Your uncle Ippol Bongiolatti treated me like a son when I worked for him in the quarry, summers between high school years. He was a first class guy.

your friend from kindergarten     
Bobby Bacon    
from Zylonite, Massachusetts

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Just One Day On Isla Mujeres

Mary from Minnesota, who we met on the ferry last year, coming home from Isla Mujeres, asked, “If you had a day to ‘see’ and experience Isla, in all its glory, what would you recommend people do?

My idea of a perfect day on Isla would be . . .

• Arrive early, arrive early, arrive early.

• On the ferry, find a seat on the top level, outside.

• Have breakfast at La Cazuela M & J. Corner of Abasolo and Guerrero. If you love eggs, this is the place.

• Then I would walk to Hotel Na Balam and rent two chairs and a sombrilla and relax on what is considered one of the 10 best beaches in the WORLD, Playa Norte. They have nice clean bathrooms, and a full menu restaurant with great margaritas. I would get one made with Herradura. When you walk through reception, tell them Tocino sent you. They will be so happy, they will probably try to give you besos y abrazos, especially Braulio. Be careful of Braulio. Ja Ja Check out the grounds. Are they not beautiful? Stay here all day, or book now for 2019.

• Treat yourselves to lunch right at your private palapa, or go inside the restaurant. Its name is Oceanas.

• Stay on Isla for dinner. Do not go back to Cancun! Shop along Hidalgo.

• You can make reservations at Olivia. It is Mediterranean. E-mail is Tell them Tocino sent you. That is my last name in Spanish.  Think labne, labne -- make sure to order some. The wine is really good here. Reservations only and closed on Sunday and Monday. My FAVORITE on Isla Mujeres. It is on Av. Matamoros, across from a burger place.

• Or . . . El Varadera Qubano (Cuban) and the freshest fish ever. The view will knock you out. It is on the lagoon, where the pirate ships used to dock. Not sure when it is closed. Hands down the BEST mojitos on Isla. Just tell the taxi driver -- it is half way down the five mile long island, El Baradero Cuban restaurante on Calle Septiembre. Do not be afraid when you first see it from the street . . . and try not to step on the chickens.

• Gelato …. did someone say gelato? Better here than in Sicily. The one near the super mercado and the vocala is the best. I would get coconut.

• My daughter does a Joga retreat every year here and the yogis’ favorite restaurant might just be Lola Valentina’s, right on the main street, Hidalgo, on the north end. Google and check out the awesome menu. Lola is really Lauri Dumm from Oregon, but the Mexicans cannot pronounce it so she became Lola. Well Iris in Spanish is Edys. Go figure.

Mary, you truly made my day, thinking about Isla. Any more questions? E-mail me, por favor. Try to enjoy this special place that we have been going to for 30 years. The ferry back to Cancun runs every half hour. Next year, stay for a week or a month, or even for 50 days.

Sandy and I, y friends, are going back in Febrero y Marzo.