CIUDAD DEL CARMEN, Mexico — George Plimpton is the person who really made me realize how many things there are to do in life. Following his example, I am right now part of an unexpected and exciting adventure.
Christopher Scott, Body Worry physiologist, and Paul Mockler, a well-known Canadian underwater photographer, flew to Mexico with me three days ago to be part of a dramatic oceanographic experiment with Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins. We hope to train a pod of about six dolphins in "open release work"--the dolphins will roam free in the ocean in the day, if the project is successful, giving us a chance to interact with them in the open rather than in captivity.
I am honored and excited to be a part of the project and had hoped to tell you about it in detail this week.
Ciudad del Carmen is a beautiful barrier island about 300 miles southwest of Merida, Mexico, and a mile offthe coast of the Yucatan peninsula itself.
From my hotel window I can see some of the 400 large shrimping boats that ply the gulf's waters and unload more than 9,000 tons of shrimp every year.
And it is with los camarones, those innocent little creatures, a healthy food under almost all circumstances, that my fall from the clean and godly life began and even now continues. For the sake of simplicity, I will henceforth refer to the eaters and drinkers in this tale as the "Four Amigos" (me, Paul Mockler, Chris Scott and our guide, Luis Rodrigues).
For our first dinner in Ciudad del Carmen, the Four Amigos went to a thatch-roofed, completely open waterfront restaurant called El Marino and ordered a dish called meriscada. Composed of shrimp in garlic, shrimp in curry, fried shrimp, broiled shrimp, steamed shrimp, marinated vegetables, steamed vegetables, tacos, refried beans, octopus, crab and three types of fish all displayed with the beauty of a brightly woven Mexican blanket, the dish cost slightly under $12. It is designed to feed eight.
Since food is cooked to order here, the Four Amigos innocently ordered beers to while away the time.
The average waiting time is about two beers--enter the second temptation, las cervezas, delicious Mexican beer.
On the way back to the hotel, Paul Mockler decided we should drink only beer, a health precaution he emphasized with a wicked tweak of his full mustache. Chris Scott, seconded Paul's suggestion.
Things went downhill from there. We had shrimp and eggs for breakfast at our hotel the next morning. At 11:40 a.m. we went to lunch at the elegant Okay Restaurant.
There was some confusion in our order, even though Luis was translating. Six rather than four dishes were delivered to us: shrimp marinated in mustard sauce, stuffed with crab meat, marinated with peppers and broiled, fried in coconut flakes, sauteed in sweet butter and shallots, and baked with vegetables.
We did not send back the extras, nor did we say no when the waiter cleared away our empty margarita glasses and said, "Quatro mas. " Attempting civility, the Four Amigos switched to Spanish coffee with our crepe suzettes for dessert. To our credit, we walked rather than rode the mile to our hotel and took a siesta until 3 o'clock.
Many Margaritas Later . . .
But the slide down the slippery slope continued. Though we skipped a formal dinner, we had large bowls of lime soup filled with tortilla chips, chicken, avocado and cheese instead. We then spent the evening drinking margaritas at local bars, ordering individual shrimp dishes as appetizers and planning today's eating schedule.
The Four Amigos are giving some thought to reform. Tomorrow we plan a hard workout at Gymnasio Janez, where all the equipment is homemade, most of it from old automobile parts.
Then we plan to work on the overeating. Though it has been heavenly, we have broken the simplest equation in weight control--our caloric intake has greatly exceeded our caloric expenditure. That extra energy is stored as fat.
Not a Simple Life
You may think our problem could have been solved by skipping breakfast and lunch and simply enjoying dinner, but life is not that simple. Even if we eat all the calories in one big meal, our bodies handle it as an overload; fat literally overflows into our blood.
Paul decided therefore that we should fast for a day or two to correct our gluttony. But that won't work either. Prolonged fasting also creates disturbances in our metabolism. Unless you are under the care of a doctor, do not fast.
So we will climb back on the wagon of moderation. Tomorrow.
By the afternoon we hope to be on the way to meet the dolphins. All my life I have wanted an opportunity to meet those gentle creatures, and I am excited enough to swear off margaritas and shrimp for the duration.
If you, however, have dreamed of an exotic gastronomic vacation without shame, yet don't like the idea of traveling alone in a foreign country, do not worry. Call us. The Four Amigos have no fear and travel cheap.
Beginning 24th Week Waist: 43 inches 35 inches Right biceps: 12 3/4 inches 12 5/8 inches Flexed: 13 inches 13 3/8 inches Weight: 201 pounds 175 pounds Height: 6' 1" Blood pressure: 128/68 120/66 Pulse: 64 60 Bench press: 55 130 Hunk factor: .00 .33