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Escape to Panama


I spend most of my growing up years on Naval Bases and Navy Towns in the old Canal Zone.


My uncle had served in the Coast Guard and in the Navy during WWII. So, for me it was a logical choice to join the US Navy out of Balboa High School. Besides I live on Tamarind Avenue in Cocoli, a Navy Town in my day, and just a few houses up from me lived a Navy Recruiter.


So, in my last year at BHS we talked and a year later I enlisted at Rodman Naval Station and went on to Camp Moffet, Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center (Boot Camp). I am glad I did.


During the time I was there I kept meeting Cocolians coming through. We had a Ge-Dunk Hall (something like a day room) where boots would gather after the day's work was completed.


It was usually for an hour just before evening chow. One day I met 3 guys who had live on Sago Avenue in Cocoli. That is how it has been until I retired. CZ Brats seem to pop up in the strangest places.


Once at the YMCA-USO in Istanbul, Turkey I ran into a few other guys from Rodman Naval Station. For me the call of the sea has always been strong... one can not sit in the Canal Zone 24/7/365 and see ships locking through the Panama Canal and not wonder what if I was onboard one of those ships. Then as others have said, Just do it! One day I did and enlisted in the US Navy. I can tell you that when you leave your ship on your first liberty in your cracker jacks and strut your stuff up the pier...You can only think, Wow, Life is Good!  Yes, that is how it was in my day!


One thing about living in Panama... You are at the crossroads of world commerce and in the heart of the universe. Panama like the IPAT, the tourism agency of Panama is always saying, Panama is more than just a canal.


Then you consider what flows through your genes... from the early Canal Digger to the engineers and later to all of those who felt that Panama was the place to be working for Yankee Dollar and drinking rum and coca-cola at the BYC on a hot tropical night.


Yes adventure nurtures our sense of exploration into new avenues. This adventurous spirit is what separates us all from most of the people you meet on the street in these United States.


In my case I was lucky! I have the benefits of both worlds... How? Well, I was born in Panama and grew up in the Canal Zone and until I joined the US Navy I lived in Panama. When I reflect as I often do; I call all my vacation trips to Panamaas an escape to the land of milk and honey. For a while I was going back to Panama almost every other year.

Now, I have sort of hit a dry spell but like in the past I feel an "Escape" building. I can now understand why the red Salmon goes back! Now have I been happy in other places, I have lived around the world and in many states of this wonderful land called the United States?


 For me I can say yes. For having married a Panama Girl, Panama is always with me. You know the food, the music and just the feeling. Have I been Happier than when I lived in Panama?


Well, I never try to dwelt on that aspect too long or I would miss the fun and the happiness of the moment and the here and now! Much of what we call happiness is really temporary in the big scheme of things.


When I start feeling a bit out of sorts I put on some Lucho music. I also try to have a cup of cafe Duran as often as I can. For there is nothing except maybe sex that will top a great cup of Cafe Duran.


But again happiness is something that comes from within and it is something you can do a lot about. Some call it attitude. I also add a bit of laughter every day to the sancocho and then let it simmer. Then after a daily siesta you'll awaken refreshed. 


When time and funds permit I again escape to Panama. Why? Because it is in the genes and you are a Red Panamanian Salmon who must go back from time to time or go completely out of your mind...