Guess what? Diane von Austinburg and I are going to Europe in the spring, Paris and Venice, to be specific. I haven't been to Europe in decades; after R Man died, it just didn't seem appealing to try a trip like that without him. And then by the time I became resigned enough to life without him, my back had degenerated to the point that I couldn't face the idea of a 10 or 12-hour flight.
But coincidentally, my trip back from Houston was on a plane with seats that converted into flat beds, full sized comfortable beds. A whole new world of possibilities opened before me. If I could lie down for the bulk of the flight, flying to Paris suddenly seemed very doable. Sleeping for a 12-hour stretch is no great effort for me, I have been training for this for years.
Plus since then, I got my trigger point injection which has dealt very handily with the pain in my back. The injections last about 6 to 8 weeks so I will be able to get another one right before we go and should be pretty much pain-free. What a concept.
Convincing Diane was a snap, god love her, she is such a sport, game for anything. So that only left one hurdle, renewing my passport.
A career of working for the federal government has left me permanently leery of being entangled in any part of their web. Nevertheless, I wasn't going to revel in fresh croissants in Paris and strolling along canals in Venice without a passport and so I dove into the very murky waters of travel documents.
The State Department handles passports and they used to have an office devoted entirely to that across the alley from where I worked, so handy. But that was before decades of Republican attacks on the size of the government did away with all that customer friendly nonsense and instead moved the whole function of accepting passport applications over to, drumroll please, the US Post Office. I suppose they thought moving passports to the most reviled agency in the government would discourage citizens from fleeing the country.
First I got my passport photo taken (Diane said it did not make me look like a serial killer, which would've been sweetly supportive, I suppose, if I had made any reference to thinking that it did make me look serial killer-ish. Hmmm.) I made an appointment, showed up on time (amazingly) only to be confronted with a locked door and a scrawled message to use the regular post office window instead, because what's the point of going to the specific level of hell that is a post office if you are going to duck out on dealing with the exquisitely surly postal employees.
During our lengthy time together, the clerk never once looked me in the eye, not even when she was trying to say my birth certificate was invalid. Bitch, what do you want for me? That paper is more than 60 years old, has gone through several hurricanes as well as my erratic youth, and it's all I've got. There was a tense couple of moments when it was not clear if I was going to be able to stuff my face avec croissants in Paris after all, but she finally shrugged and stapled it to the passport form.
The clerk asked me if I wanted the form rushed and I said no, which immediately seem to raise all sorts of red flags. I guess I was the only customer who had ever declined their idea of a rush job. She was so suspicious of me that she kept kind of circling back to that point throughout the rest of the process. We would be sailing along on some random other part of the questionnaire and she would again spring "Do do you want this rushed?" like she was hoping to be able to trip me up.
I was finally able to totter out of there, past all the people in line behind me who had been making sotto voice, passive aggressive complaints about how long I was hogging the window. I considered hissing at them as I passed, but I was so glad to escape I decided not to.
Anyway, a little more than six weeks later, my passport showed up in the mail months before I needed it and with my waterlogged birth certificate stapled firmly to it because, honestly I don't know why, it's the post office, maybe they have a staple fetish.
So come April, Diane and I will be winging our way to the glories of Paris and Venice. I have cleverly scheduled us so that on my birthday, I will have breakfast in Paris and dinner in Venice. Doesn't that sound fabulous?
Naked dudes who are also fabulous: