Tyndall AFB

When I moved to Panama City from Delray Beach, I thought I'd have a good shot at getting on with civil service, as a technical writer, or trainer, at Tyndall AFB, or the Mine Defense Lab, at the Navy base.

It turns out you have to be a laid-off civil servant, a Bataan Death March survivor, or have adopted a mixed race, Vietnamese baby with its heart born on the outside, to get on with civil service, although you might be able to work as a contractor, project-to-project.

Once, after we lost the house on Martin Lake to the bank, in the transition to a post-Cold War economy, during the Reagan-Bush recession, and were living in the trailer behind Granny Brown and Uncle Wayne, in Parker, I was hired to write a dash one (-1) flight manual for the deHavilland E-9A aircraft and to revise a systems tech manual for the Airborne Platform/Telemetry Relay (AP/TM) System used to score weapons meets and air-to-air combat training exercises.

I worked in Hangar 5, on the flightline.


I worked for Kelly Labor and was paid $12.50 an hour.

The next job I got was in Atlanta, for $25 an hour. I had to go out of town to make a decent wage.

Wages are depressed, in Panama City. It's a tax you pay for living where you can eat fresh mullet, grow a garden with beets, kohlrabi, and Swiss chard in it, and be close to live acoustic string band music played by a hot new group like the reggae-bluegrass fusion band Dread Clampitt.

And walk on the beach.

After I moved to Atlanta, was laid off, and moved back to Panama City, I used to walk on the beach at the eastern end of Tyndall AFB, on Crooked Island.

Dread Clampitt play a Potter Brown song, "Crooked Island Girl," on their debut CD, Dread Clampitt.

* * *

I would walk along the shore with my green crab net and red Vidalia onion sack, catching speckled-speeder crabs and surf clams, the occasional cockle shell or left-handed whelk, out of which I'd make my famous scungilli marinara.

One day the Friendship steamed by, with Owen aboard. He was between jobs, seine-fishing with Captain Cooter, bringing home cobia steaks, and I was between tech writing jobs, stalking the blue-eyed scallop. The net ban put the seine fishermen out of business.

Balder played in a group called Net Ban'd once.

We are all being net ban'd out of our heritage by real estate developers, whose goal is to maximize profits. Without having to figure in the public loss, the public cost, of what they do to maximize their profit.

A new little magazine being started up by Brigid Hughes, who was George Plimpton's successor at The Paris Review, is going to be called A Public Space.

She ought to call it The Usual Suspects. Or Posted - Keep Out. No Trespassers.

La Cosa Nostra (LCN). Our Thing.

* * *

In Hangar 5, they worked on F-15s and F-16s. I loved walking by them, looking at them. I don't guess I'll ever fly one, now.

Brenda and I both read Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram.

One day Brenda and I drove over to the Air Force Armament Museum, at Eglin AFB, outside Fort Walton Beach, to look at the aircraft Coram wrote about. I was able to identify all of them for her.

* * *

Prevent foreign-object damage (FOD).

Prevent publication-on-demand (POD).

Boyd and I both got in trouble with the Zero Defects people for refusing to sign a pledge saying we would commit no errors in the coming year.

Boyd said if he didn't commit any errors he wasn't pushing the envelope.

I named a character Zelda Dork, after what the old NCOs called the program, and wrote a column called "Ask Doktor Dork," at my newsletter, KorporateKulture.Kom.

* * *

Dr. Dork said, "Go and see for yourself. Report back what you find."


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