Thursday, July 24, 2008

That Little Blue Book

Two weeks ago, I handed over my most treasured possession to an employee at the post office, a bit reluctantly (although, it was never really my possession, as the small text so firmly states: This passport is the property of the United States (Title 22, Code of Federal Regulation, Section 51.9). It must be surrendered upon demand made by an authorized representative of the United States Government.)

(Photo from Wikimedia)

I was both sad and apprehensive.

Apprehensive because my passport has been so important to me over the years and to be without it felt sort of like going out on a boat in a storm with no life jacket. Unsettling. Uncomfortable. Maybe it will all work out just fine, but who knows?

Sad because, although the State Department usually happily punches a hole in outdated or used passports and returns them so you can keep all those pretty stamps and visas, I knew I probably wouldn't get this one back, because it was fairly mangled (the State Department uses the word "mutilated") and I was told they don't give those passports back. I don't know why. Maybe they think I'm going to mangle it more? Or I don't deserve to get it back because I let it get mangled in the first place?

I say, "Hey, that thing traveled thousands of miles with me, 21,000 in one week, as a matter of fact, and a zillion different climates. Of course it's a little worse for the wear, like my wrinkled skin."

And they say, "You're not allowed to play with it any more because you broke it."

So unfair.

And that wasn't my first passport (I think it was my third), but I went through a lot to get it, after my previous passport was stolen in Munich, presumably by the same person who bought $900 in perfume, $400 in beer and $50 in gas on my also-stolen credit cards (these being 2000 prices, $50 in gas was a lot back then, even in Europe). So this passport said, oh-so-sophisticatedly, "issued in Munich," and it had so many stamps: Hong Kong, Cambodia, Jamaica, Canada. I'm one of those travelers who insists that the customs officials stamp my passport, even if it makes them roll their eyes and they have to brush the cobwebs off the stamp before they can touch it.

Finally, it was my last piece of identification with my maiden name. Which brings up all sorts of psychological issues and plain old nostalgia.

But that's precisely why I had to get a new one, manglement aside. A passport is not usable if it doesn't have the right name. Unless you're a spy, of course, but since I'm not and have no wish to be mistaken for one, I needed a new one.

Today, most of my sadness and and all my apprehension faded when I picked up my new passport. I forgot how exciting it is. A new passport represents my favorite concept: possibility. All those blank pages waiting for stamps and visas, all those places I can go, all those adventures to be had. (All you international bloggers I can visit someday.)

(Photo by Jim Wilson/ The New York Times)

Not only that, but U.S. passports are way, way prettier than they were eight years ago, with engravings of American scenes on every pages, lots of stuff to look at until I can fill up all the pages, although the New York Times might disagree about the prettiness part. But whatever. It's my passport.

I can't wait to beat it up a little.

UPDATED: They DID send me my old passport back. Hurray!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Razzle Zazzle

Do you sit at work dreaming of places you'd rather be? Like sailing in your gorgeous yacht across the Mediterranean, as the sea sparkles around you? Or hiking through the Rocky Mountains with crisp, cool air filling your lungs and pine needles crunching under foot?

While you sit at your desk, poring over reports instead of navigational charts, or crunching numbers instead of pine needles, keep this close at hand for a little inspiration:

I am pleased to announce my first Zazzle product. One of my strongest hopes is that my artwork will inspire other people to follow their dreams, and this is one more venue for me to achieve that. I'm very excited, and in the coming weeks, I hope to have many more products for your enjoyment, including, especially, things with maps and ships on them.

In the meantime, thank you so much for all of your lovely comments, e-mails and Etsy conversations. The past few weeks have been an incredible confirmation that I am on the right path, and have been filled with extraordinary joy. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my family and friends, old and new, who've showed such tremendous support along the way. I couldn't have made it this far without you.