Passport

I’m currently on my second passport. I got my first one in 2004 in order to travel to Italy with my family. I still remember the photo inside because I looked wild-eyed and slightly deranged—sort of like Jack Nicholson in The Shining when he uses an ax to chop his way through that bathroom door and goes, “Here’s Johnny!” while Shelley Duvall tries to defend herself with a knife amid a lot of shrieking and flailing.

It’s a wonder Italy let me enter the country. 

That passport expired in 2014 and I had to get a new one, which will remain valid until 2024. In the photo on its picture page I look like Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby. Not as big a star as Jack, of course, but at least the image doesn’t recall any homicidal frenzies. 

I wonder which celebrity I’ll resemble in the 2024 renewal photo. I’m pulling for Glenn Close. 

I work in the travel media biz, so I use my passport a fair amount. Well, I did before the Covid-19 pandemic, that is. I haven’t left the country for any amount of time since the fall of 2019. For most of 2020, I hardly left my apartment. I don’t know why I’m explaining the coronavirus lockdown to you as though you didn’t experience it. 

Once we were fully vaxxed, my husband, Frank, and I went to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands for his 40th birthday in May, and earlier this month we traveled to my home state of Arkansas for the July Fourth long weekend. But those were only domestic trips, even though both destinations felt, for different reasons, worlds away from where I now live (Yankeedom).  

Who knows when I’ll travel abroad again. Surely I’ll put my passport to use in 2022. If not sooner.

Back when I visited foreign locales on a regular basis, I’d sometimes have this moment during the trip where I’d be sipping a pre-dinner spritzer al fresco or taking an evening stroll through an interesting neighborhood while eating gelato—you know, doing asshole tourist crap—and I’d see a light in somebody’s second-story window and catch a glimpse of, say, a dinner party or a couple laughing or somebody tidying up or just staring at a phone, and I’d think, “Oh my word, y’all totally do this while I’m not even here, don’t you! I’m back there tidying up or having dinner or staring at my own phone thousands of miles away, and y’all are going about your lives without me!”

It’s not a feeling of outrage or delight, just surprise. I mean, I guess I always suspected other parts of the world carry on from day to day despite a distinct lack of me, but I’m a visual learner. I need to lay eyes on foreign mundanities now and then to reassure myself that life remains inane wherever it unfolds on this twirling rock.

I know that’s not a very inspiring reason to travel, but travel writing could dial back the rapture a little, if you ask me. So many views are described as “breathtaking,” for instance, you’d think there’s some kind of widespread outbreak of respiratory issues. 

Okay, that’s a bad example at the moment, but you know what I mean. And if you don’t I’m happy to explain the coronavirus lockdown again. 

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