In the early 1950's a young woman from a poor family in western Nebraska joined the Navy to escape a short, abusive marriage. Her older brothers (she was the eleventh of twelve siblings) had served in World War II and were dead-set against her joining, so she got a young cousin to drive her to Chicago to enlist on the sly.


She became a hospital corpsman and among the first WAVES to serve aboard ship. One of those ships was the USNS General William O. Darby, a troopship operated by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS).


She met a handsome junior officer, a young man from a poor family in eastern Alabama who had served in the Navy and fought in the Battle of Okinawa. Ever after, he would joke that they had to lead him up the gangway of this first ship by making him hold on to plow handles.


They fell in love, got married, had three sons, raised their family far from their home states in places like New Jersey and the Panama Canal Zone before retiring to the old farmstead in Alabama. This is what they looked like shortly before the old man died in 2013.


Their life together was not one of sweet wedded bliss, of course. It was more like one of those ships that has its share of rust and corrosion, of crew grumblings occasionally bordering on mutiny, of close calls in storms and traffic. But the vessel was seaworthy and, like the Darby, its cargo was human, and infinitely precious to them.


Their vow was "til death do you part," and so it was. The point is not to be perfect. It is to be seaworthy.

Somewhere in the bowels of the Zuckerborg, an assembly line of Facebots running on the company's proprietary LOLGF operating system produces memes with grotesquely mismatched images and text to make all its meme-slinging meat-puppet datasets look even more foolish than they would on their own. To wit:


Feeling crushed? Need an injection of spirit to brighten your prospects? Grab yourself a little uplift from a gang of thugs haunting the mean streets of Birmingham, England circa 1890. The lads of Peaky Blinders found inspiration in using a shiv, a garrote, a blackjack to relieve their unsuspecting victims of a few quid. So if you're feeling down and low, go on, be transformed. Take on that cool, menacing, self confident look of a transgangster.


It's a powerful place, the Farcebook news feed, innit?

called a place "home" that is not a place anymore


made pea shooters from the long, hollow stems of papaya leaves, and cut long stalks of yellow bamboo with a machete to build forts that could withstand papaya bombs


Boy Scouted on a trail built by the conquistador Vasco Nunez de Balboa, camped in old Army surplus canvas pup tents with bullet holes from unknown WWII battles, and dined on k rations, complete with little packs of chocolates and cigarettes


kicked huge venomous toads across the lawn until they were skin-bags of bones and mush, back into the sewer from which they came


ate bunches of guinups and boxes of Chinese plums, never worrying about the rat hairs the mothers warned were in there


had a nice little Panamanian maid who spoke no English and made big pots of arroz con pollo while stirring a hormonal stew that could only be eaten by hand


paddled a cayuco in Gatun Lake and surfed at Rio Mar and Tits Beach, so named for its voluptuous break, only to find the car trunk burgled and unwarranted blame laid on his skinny shoulders


ran barefoot across blistering black iron sand that you could pick up with a magnet


saw both oceans on a clear day from the top of Baru


got wasted on lil green devils and Panama Red and yearned for that girl, you know the one, the blond with the heavenly rack and the horned rim glasses


saw a friend, no more than a budding teen, run off into the slummy wilds of Panama City, never to come back, because he got wasted on Manchild in the Promised Land


waited for the little Panamanian pin boys to set up the pins before bowling the next frame


never considered the strange blessing of it all