Looking back and thinking forward

Month: June, 2007

Leaving …

On a Jet Plane

Before I leave, I heard fom Joe early this morning. He sent me this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer. He said: "We acted at the right time, because now the word is out about how early you have to get there … A bullet has been dodged, and it is just now sinking in how fortunate we are to have our passports." It says in the article: … it practically requires a miracle

… I guess my trip has turned into a miracle!

I will be back in about ten days. I will surely not have access to Internet during the hike, but who knows what may happen before or after.

With regards to our bloggers’ meeting on Saturday perhaps Jean, Natalie, Andy or Ernesto will write something to keep you posted. Check them out during the week!

If I do find a computer somewhere along the way, I’ll drop a line. Otherwise, I hope you will stop by when I return.

I will miss you.

But rest assured, I take all of you with me, for as adventures rise up to greet me, I will be thinking about how to describe them to you later.

I received this quote in my e-mail today and, after sharing it with you, have decided to take it with me on my trip:

Your life is the one place you have to spend yourself fully – wild, generous, drastic – in an unrationed profligacy of selfRobin Morgan

Bye bye!

Quote of the day

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. Anne Frank

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Self-Portrait

“Success is within reach,” (Update)

… said Joe as we prepared to enter the Passport building this morning at 8:10 a.m. We had been standing in line for almost three hours and the moment of truth had arrived.


[click on the photos to enlarge]

Joe and I met standing in line around the side of the building extending to the back, yesterday at about one in the afternoon. Understanding that we would never get called in at that time we planned to rendez-vous at 5:00 a.m. today and travel into the city together. That way as we stood in line we could watch each other’s place if we needed bathroom, stretching or coffee breaks. Joe was hoping to fly out to Italy this Friday, had applied in April and was experiencing the exact same telephonic hell I had been going through these past few weeks. We spoke the same language. We knew exactly what: "Your call is important to us, please stay on the line," meant, as well as: "Press 1; press 3; press 1; press 9; press 3; press 1." We had both arrived outside the Passport building yesterday on the off chance. We knew, or at least had been clearly told time and again, that we would not be allowed in without an appointment. We had both experienced the frustration of being unable to make an appointment on the automatic phone line we were directed to time and again. And so, at almost the exact same moment in time, he from his home outside Philadelphia, and me from mine, decided to take a chance and check out what was happening downtown, and what, if anything, we could do about our passport nightmare.

What a surprise! We heard people tell tales about finalizing an appointment after hours on the telephone, only to arrive at the Passport Office to be told that they were no longer honoring appointments. It was first come, first served. We were in luck! A hole in the system. An opening for hope. A new day would dawn.

And so it did. The day, I mean. Dawn. Today. I awoke at 3:45, prepared every piece of paperwork I have ever had: birth, marriage, naturalization certificates, new form, photographs, airline ticket … grabbed a bottle of water and my wallet, stuffed it all into a pack and headed out to meet my new found passport buddy for our 5:00 a.m. trip to bureaucracy-land. We pulled up outside the building at 5:25 a.m. and I jumped out to hold our spot. We were third in line. Joe drove off to find parking. And our day began.


8:15 a.m. outside the Passport Office, downtown Philadelphia, just before they called for the first twenty or so people to head in.


8:16 a.m. The front of the line, which started to form at 5:11 a.m. Can you pick out Joe? He is talking to our new friend, Al, waiting for his passport so he could travel to Greece. I am standing on a concrete slab/seat taking the pictures.

By 9:15 a.m. or so we were through: we had told our stories, had them verified with the data they pulled up on their computer screens, signed the new forms, delivered the photographs and even had a laugh or two with the agent. I was flawed! In fact I had actually got through to the person on the phone yesterday, and discovered that New Hampshire, four months later, was preparing to overnight my passport. Who would have thought? Who would have known? The Philadelphia agent told me that I might still receive the first passport, in which case, when I returned from my trip I will need to send back both passports so that they can choose which will be my final one. "But," she said with a smile, "Hopefully, I will be able to intercept it in time." She went on, "Come back at 11:30 or 11:45 and your passport will be ready at window number one." I stared at her. Could this be true? Tears filled my eyes and I stared and stared. She laughed, "Don’t cry, honey," she said, "Just have a great trip!"

Out into the sunshine we walked, Joe and I, almost in disbelief at how easy it all had been, not noticing that we had just stood for almost four hours in line, and forgetting the weeks of torturous phone calls. We stumbled into the nearest diner and had ourselves a fine breakfast. And then out we strolled to see a bit of the city, Penn’s Landing, and we even found our local Philadelphia "Ben Franklin" impersonator sitting near his courtyard chatting to children and telling them his stories.


Here is Joe, showing off the postcard Ben Franklin has just given him. Ben is sitting there behind him. One of the many things I like about my new passport pal Joe from Philly, is his ability to pose for a photograph.

We returned to the Passport office to find yet another line … a different line … a quicker and easier, tiny bit more relaxed line …


10:58: some people waiting for the finished product. Hot day.

11:45: We re-enter the passport office hallway. Tens of people sitting in rows and rows of chairs. Tired, hot, silently waiting people. Above on the board number 97 is lit up. Thank goodness we are not part of that side of the room. This time we are privileged. We get to stand in a short line on the left-hand side and are called one by one to receive it … you know it … you have guessed it …

12:00 noon today … the finished product in my hands:


Joe and I high-fived it and left the building.

The moral of my tale?


Find the hole in the system.

Or, at the very least, find Joe from Philly. For he turned the day into a fun and entertaining experience. His kindness and concern for others, constant reassurance that we would succeed in our endeavor, kept me laughing and smiling, even enjoying the long hours in the sun with hundreds of others.

And so, dear readers. I only have to pack and prepare, and I think I will sleep very well tonight. Thanks so much for all your support and encouragement through this surreal, bureaucratic or, as Frank calls it, Kafka story.

Hey, Natalie, Ernesto, Andy, and dear, dear Jean … here I come!

Update: The Saga continues

Today, the second … or is it the first? … passport arrived Federal Express. So, now, when I return from my trip to England I can look forward to another day at the Passport Agency. For they have asked that I return both passports so that they may choose which one will be rightfully mine in the end! Of course, they recommended I mail in both passports … but I cannot imagine being too trusting of the system yet … in which case I probably will have to go downtown one bright and shining morning at 5:00 a.m. (this time, though, without Joe from Philly) and do it all again …

A year ago at Tamarika (final Tamarika entry): Am Back (Update)

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Inclusion of strangers

Early morning conversation

6:30 a.m.

1-877-487-2778 … the phone rings, the usual automated messages: "press 1, press 3, press 1 …" and then, "Your call is important to us, please stay on the line." This time an automated voice tells me the wait will be fifteen minutes. Hurray! I whisper to myself. Usually it is 40 or 50 and on Saturday it was 55 minutes. Progress!

A man’s voice … a real man’s voice appears on the line:

"What is your travel date?"

"June 22, " I reply, "This Friday."

"Is your passport application in the system?" he asks. I start to smile …

"Since March," I say.

"Oh," pause, "What is your social security number?"

We go back and forth as he checks my name, number, state, birthday information.

"Your passport is still in the finishing up stages of being processed," he says. [Is he lying?, I think to myself. And what does that mean … "finishing up stages?" It has been in the system for four months] "When do you think you need it by?" he asks. [I am yelling inside my head now: "think?!" "think?!" I just told you 22nd of June … so what do you think?] I maintain a calm and rational voice, as neutral and automated as his, and I reply:

"Definitely by 21st because I fly out on 22nd."

"Well, if you don’t receive it by tomorrow [19th], call us and we will have it upgraded to same day, overnight," the man’s voice says. [I am thinking, well if you can do that tomorrow, why not do that today?]

I say, "Tell me. Honestly. Do you think there is any chance I will receive my passport?"

"Oh yes. There is a very good possibility you will receive your passport in time to travel," he replies – as stoic and calm as always.

I start to laugh … a little hysterically now?

"Oh wow!," I giggle, trying not to sound like a complete lunatic, "You are the first person to give me hope these past two weeks."


"I’m glad to be of service, Ma’am," comes the dead-pan reply.

I click off the phone and burst into tears.

I wonder, are there hundreds of thousands of people out there all over the country who are rapidly becoming hysterical lunatics this morning?

Or is it just me?

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Downs and up again (Update)

Father’s Day reflections

My father was close to my age now, when I was born. Indeed, growing up I experienced him as an old man, a grandfather type figure. He was quiet and gentle and laughed nervously. He has been dead for 25 years and yet this morning when I awoke, I thought about him. My parents were divorced when I was four and from then on until I left home at eighteen, I lived with my mother and step-father, visiting my father on the weekends and sometimes taking a small trip or vacation together. My step-father was juvenile and communicated through teasing and joking. His relationship with my mother was volatile and passionate. I did not think of him as a father figure, but, rather, was afraid to bother him with my presence, how much I ate or talked, for all the teasing that would ensue. I felt trivialized and small with him. Neither man were role models or father figures for me. And so, I chose my brother. Although he was only six years older than me, he was adored by my mother and I decided, very early on, that it was wise to adore what she adored. It just made life easier somehow, or so I thought. He became for me the epitome of manhood. His beliefs became mine. Indeed, his entire way of thinking about life was imported into my brain, poured into my veins. He was my greatest influence. I spent all my life longing for him to notice and acknowledge me. Poor things – both of us. My brother was as unaware that I gave him that role as I was. What a disaster for our relationship. Me with all sorts of wild and needy expectations, and he with his life, plodding along unaware. Not a good recipe for survival!

Father’s Day is complicated for me. Split into three men from my childhood, each influencing me in different ways. In fact, I never experienced the warm, unconditional, supportive love of a father and if I yearn for it, as of course I do from time to time, I do not really know what I am actually yearning for. Is it a movie or television type father figure, or a character from a novel? Most likely. Naturally, relationships with men have been extremely complicated for me throughout my life. At first, I saw them as either prince charming or the devil. I learned very early on to be coquettish and cute, flirtatious and playful, and to sacrifice my needs in order for a man to like me. In addition I transferred the adoration of my brother to all other men. They must all be superior to me in every way: especially in intelligence, but also, and more importantly, by being more rational, and, even, more vulnerable. A trilogy of men in my childhood psyche: one, old and gentle, with large wrinkled hands, unapproachable in a way, who seemed startled, even jumping back if I tried to hug or kiss him; another teasing and distant; and the third, intelligent, rational, purist, and conditional in the extreme. None of them belonging to me or with whom I felt belonging or emotionally safe. Today, I am orphaned of all three. Father and step-father have died. And, I have lost my brother in my reinvention, re-alteration process, although I am not sure I ever had him in the first place, as many of my relationships with men in my life, were illusions, fantasies or dreams concocted in my brain to help me survive.

When I became a feminist in 1992, a world of complexity and emotional choices opened up to me. I wandered through the feminist door in wonder and relief as I began to shed the requirements I had set for myself and relearn the world of human relationships. Men became whole and complex, human and approachable, as I struggled with being authentic and myself without fear. There were, of course, years of confusion as I transitioned out of the old and into the new ways of perceiving my emotional psycho-socialization process. I explored my identity, sexuality, spirituality, in short, my entire concept of my – self. The search and struggle is not nearly over. There is still so much relearning to do because I came to this stage quite late in my life. It feels promising and hopeful to me, though, because I know – indeed, I deeply sense – that there is still more to discover and uncover about my self, and my reality, even as time is running, flying out …

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Saturday stories

Platituding me into positivity

I only wish I could have been warned sooner that there was a national passport crisis. But how ridiculous does that sound? There never are warnings for crises … that is why they are just that – crises. Oh well, I guess I just have to admit to myself that I was swept up into some kind of a national passport crisis without being warned. There just is nothing special about me. My travel plans will have to be canceled, money lost and expectations dashed, just like so many others. Of course, in the grand scheme of things it is certainly not the end of the world. It is a disappointment and very frustrating but in comparison with poverty or world peace, what is a few hundred or even a thousand dollars between friends. And, in a way, I could see it as having been given ten additional days for writing.

And so, getting my head in gear. Changing my mind and reorganizing the plans. For the next five days I will try not to race excitedly, hopefully to the mail box seeking out the passport. If it comes, well so be it and off I will fly on Friday. And if it does not arrive, which seems to be the highest probability at this point, I will settle into different plans and expectations. I will became grateful for the extra time to read, prepare interview questions for researching teachers and anger, walk in the woods and drink healthy berry shakes.

And yet, even as I try and try to see the bright side to all of this mess, I cannot help feeling disappointed at not getting to meet Jean, Natalie, Andy and Ernesto in person. Not to mention hiking with my sister and her friends up and down dale and through fields of cows and sheep by the side of Hadrian’s Wall.

Always look on the bright side of life

You can’t come back in!

Way back in March of this year (four months ago) I sent my passport off to be renewed for my June 22 date of travel to England. During the past two weeks I realized that it might not arrive in time! And so, every day for two weeks I have been calling the Passport Service application status line desperately asking for assistance to expedite the process. Each time I call an extremely calm, rational and neutral sounding person tells me they are e-mailing the Passport Center to let them know about prioritizing and upgrading the process to expedite. And each time I call, a different calm, rational and neutral sounding person responds in exactly the same way: a) there is no record of the former person e-mailing the Passport Center; b) they tell me they will e-mail the Center; c) they say the same exact thing, namely: "There is a possibility that your passport will arrive in time."

At three o’clock this morning I decided I would use my Israeli passport to travel. And so, when it became time to do all the necessary calling I found out that I could use my Israeli passport to travel to England without needing a Visa for a short visit. I became excited, even hopeful. And then I called the United States, State Department in Washington DC.

"Hello," I said with an excited smile in my voice.

"Yes?" came the reply, dull, uninterested.

I told my story and suggested that I would use my Israeli passport thereby enabling me to travel to England and enjoy the flight and hike I had booked and paid for way back in March.

"You can’t come back in," said the voice. A slow, uncaring, tired sounding drawl.

"But surely, because I am an American citizen, they would let me back in?" I smiled again hopefully.

"You can’t come back in."

"But what could they do to me?" I asked, "Would I be put in jail?"

"I don’t know about that," said the voice, "I only know you can’t come back in."

I slouched back into my chair, despondent, trapped, resentful, frustrated, and very disappointed.

America, the Land of the Free?

More like, joyless, hopeless, unhelpful, uncaring, rational, bureaucratic, unyielding …

So, who knows? I might get to travel next week … or not … or I might try out the Israeli passport idea because …

… Hm … I wonder … would I want to come back in?

Oh yeah, and Happy Flag Day everyone …

On my way

To Pittsburgh for the PDI.

People to see, work to do.

So, farewell bloggers, twitters and my new facebook friends!

Will be back on Tuesday and who knows I might catch a post or two.


I wonder why Frank suggests turning the sound off? Although it is good that way too:

Last night was busy!

That is what Tom said to me as he left for the gym early this morning, coffee in one hand, bag over his shoulder and work clothes flung over his arm. We were looking at the potted plants on the porch and a daisy had her head bitten off, while the soil around had been dug into two small holes. At three in the morning I was woken out of my dreams by what seemed like human screams and shrieks. I bolted right up in bed and sat to attention listening to the sounds. It reminded me of the fox we had heard awhile back. Only this time it seemed more intense, urgent, high pitched. At first I looked outside the windows and seeing nothing, wandered through the living room and studies. The sound stopped and as I returned to bed, the yawping resumed. This time, more intense than the last. I just could not help it. I started to weep. It sounded too much like a human in terrible distress.

Finally, I just had to wake Tom up. How did he sleep through it anyway? We went outside to see what we could see. Nothing. Dark wooded shadows, still of the night, and yet the screams persisted. Tom set out like our courageous warrior, in his Saab of course, and headed down the valley to see what he could see. He said bravely, "I am going to see what’s happening. But you stay here." "Are you worried what I might see?" I asked. "Yes," he replied stoically. I took him seriously, gulped back my tears and watched from the window as he drove away.


When he returned he described the fox as sitting on a piece of grass and across the way a gray cat lay quietly watching. I wondered why I had not given him a camera to take pictures for the blog. All was well. Just nature. Just the warning cries of a fox in the woods, in the night. These were the sounds of a busy night in the Wissahickon. By then, I had made a cup of tea and calmed down. It was four in the morning.

We were lucky to fall asleep again and an hour later, the robins were warbling me awake.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Citizen Tamarika