My Passport & Why I Love It.

My new passport and passport card came in the mail yesterday. I didn’t realize how much I was sweating this out until I felt that wash of cold relief on opening the envelope.  I have no travel plans, but my old passport expired in 2015; I didn’t realize that until recently.

There is, of course, a story.

The Empress, Victoria BC

In 1985 I was invited to attend a small SF convention in Victoria, BC, at the Empress Hotel (now the Fairmont Empress). I believe Vonda McIntyre was also invited.  I readily accepted; I love Vancouver Island and was eager to see the place again, staying at the Empress would be a real treat, and it would be good to catch up with Vonda. So on the appropriate day I boarded a plane, flew to Vancouver, shuttled to the Island and … was met by a couple of rumpled teens, who apologetically told me that the con was cancelled except it wasn’t, depending on which side of a internecine fannish  war you talked to. The “other side” had canceled the hotel; the reservations could not be reinstated. So I was taken to the home of the parents of one of the boys, and to the couch in the den, and told that the con itself would be held in the basement of a local church.

I won’t bore you with more of that. The point is that at the end of the weekend, feeling more than a little rumpled myself, I flew back to Vancouver. The layover was a long one, so I diddled around the stores and got something to eat. My flight to Oakland was called. I presented myself and my carry-on at the appropriate gate and waited to go through customs. I was sure this would be a piece of cake. I had been in and out of Canada before with no problem.

At the head of the line an ugly, overweight, supercilious, pimply, ogerish bastard with a US Immigration badge checked my ticket, asked what I had been doing in Canada and asked where I was born. I’m compulsively honest, so I told him “Mexico City.” He looked at me with his piggy little eyes and asked if I was a citizen, to which I answered “Yes.”

The airline issued their second call for passengers. He said, “Prove it.”

I showed him my driver’s license, my credit cards, my social security card. He dismissed them all with “We have those numbers.” I told him that I was a citizen because I was born within two years of my dad’s honorable discharge from the US Army (before he was drafted, he had been a resident of Mexico for quite some time). He waved this away. By now I was in a panic.  He was going to keep me from going home! The contents of my purse was spread out over his table, I didn’t know how I was going to convince him to let me go,  and the airline issued their last boarding call. The bastard waited one more minute, then turned away and said, over his shoulder, that I could go. I shoved everything into my purse and fled down the boarding ramp just before they closed the door.

The first thing I did when I got back to Oakland, after hugging my husband and little girl, was to locate the Federal code that backed up my citizenship, get a copy of Dad’s army discharge, get a copy of my birth certificate and a copy of the registration of my birth at the US Embassy in Mexico City, get a passport application and two photos, dress in one of my Official Law Office Three-Piece Suits, and take the papers to the Immigration Office in San Francisco. They didn’t quite know what to do with me, so I sat on one of the government’s famously uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room while superiors were consulted and papers examined (periodically a head would pop up to look at me, which didn’t make me feel very confident). After what may have been half an hour but felt more like half a lifetime, they told me that everything was in order and I’d receive my passport in the mail.  Since then I have not traveled without it, even if I was only going to LA. You can’t be too sure.

When Trump was elected, I convinced myself that once they started deporting legal immigrants (which they have) they could come after me — there was some heated rhetoric going around about how “real Americans” were born in the U.S. and those who weren’t, were not “real Americans,” nor were those who held dual citizenship, as I do. I dug out my passport and, to my horror, discovered that it had lapsed in 2015.

But now I have a new one, all tidy and official, and I may staple it to my shoulder. Just to be on the safe side. I am, for better or worse, an American citizen. I was raised as an American citizen. I’m a big fan of the US Constitution and believe in its protections. Yes, I have issues with things my government has done and proposes doing, but I’m an American citizen and that is one of my rights. My dad’s people started drifting to these shores in 1610 and while that is no protection from anything, no supercilious bastard Immigration sadist is ever going to keep me from going home again.


Sleep study? Is there no end to this enforced education?

Follow the blue line!

During the most recent HawaiiCon I shared a room with a friend, who mentioned that I sometimes stop breathing when I sleep. Apnea. Since I live alone and my bedmates are of the four-legged variety, nobody had told me before. (Nobody told me that I snore, either, but as of last night it seems apparent that I do.) So I checked the Mayo Clinic’s website for the symptom list for apnea and discovered that a majority of them apply, and told my primary care doc, who said he’d recommend a sleep study. I could have this done in Honolulu or Hilo. I chose Hilo, of course, and yesterday I made sure the beasts were fed, watered, and walked, as needed, early. The appointment was for 8:30pm. It’s a two-hour drive. I don’t know my way around Hilo very well, so I left home at 6:00pm, just before sunset.

I haven’t been comfortable driving at night for quite a while now. In my youth it never bothered me. I was happy driving at any time, through any weather, to anyplace but in the past decade my night-vision has suffered and my eyes dazzle easily. When I’m not dazzled I’m peering, and usually end up with a headache. If I can find a reasonably-driven vehicle to follow, I can relax and concentrate on keeping a sensible distance between us, while being aware of what I’m driving past. You know, practical solutions.

In order to get from here to Hilo, you drive south on the Mamalahoa Highway, past Na’alehu and Whittington Beach, then up the other side of the island through Volcanoes National Park, through the Puna district, past Kurtistown and Mountain View and the turnoff to Pahala, and at long last Hilo sits there, ready to confuse me. Until then, it’s a straight shot on Highway 11.

Unless it’s raining.

Unless it’s raining and foggy together.

Unless it’s raining and foggy and your windshield de-fogger decides to become an Object of Great Mystery.

All of which enlivened my drive through the night up one side of the volcano and down the other. I did find sensible drivers to follow, but there is, naturally, a huge distinction between a sensible leader on a clear night and the same leader on a night when visibility is, in a word, kūleʻa. The only not-awful part was near the very top, where Kīlauea is acting up and Halema’uma’u is putting on a light show that paints the foggy sky red and orange and is amazing. The calderas are not visible, so the image is even more mysterious.

Marta, Wired.

By the time I reached the sleep clinic, having lost my way the requisite number of times and called for help twice, I was ready to collapse. This was a good thing, considering how Justin, the tech, hooked me up. Electrodes on my calves, on my ribcage, on my shoulders, up my neck and across my face and on my scalp – you can’t see those very well because there’s hair in the way. Oxygen thingies in my nose.  I was, I thought, in condition to be propelled willy-nilly into some alternate universe, perhaps where politics make sense and you can eat anything without gaining or losing weight. But no, I was instead in condition to face the prospect of sleeping while wired, strapped, and as a final measure, having my finger secured into an blood-oxygen monitor. Goodnight, apnea poster. Goodnight, “soothing” artwork. Goodnight, web of wires and electrodes. Goodnight, coqui frogs. Goodnight, world.

To my surprise I was indeed able to get something approaching sleep (probably brought on by the stress and exhaustion of getting there) punctuated by trying to find a comfortable position (no sleeping on your stomach!) I slept until 2:15, when Justin re-entered the room to plug me into a CPAP machine. Not comfortable, but I am here to tell you that when Justin turned off the light and left the room, I slept deeply, happily, finally.

Up at 6:22, not of my own volition, to be unplugged from everything. Sticky tape used to hold electrodes onto my face and neck – ow! Glue used to hold electrodes to my scalp – ick! The rest of them peeled off with no problem. Into my clothes, into my car, down the dawn-lit roads through a sleeping town. I found an open gas station to refill the tank and I bought a cup of gas-station coffee, which was execrable but provided the needed caffeine punch to get me over the mountain and down the other side.

Oh yeah, down the other side. When you drive north out of the National Park you face a smooth, curvy drop to the coast, and then an entrapment, an unfairness, a deliberate method of boosting the income of Hawai’i County: a long, straight, gently undulating road, miles of visibility, decent shoulders, a seductive invitation to, well, speed. But I have been entrapped by this section of road before (did you know Hawai’i cops have radar that works in both directions? I didn’t).  Technology came to my rescue! I don’t like cruise control because I do like to drive, but this time I set it and laid my hands upon the wheel, not worrying about gas or brake until I came to lower speed limits, then could speed up again. To 60mph. The speed limit’s 55. Yeah, it’s only a two-lane road, but do you have any idea how flat-out boring 60mph is?

Home a little after nine, to a chorus of feline and canine complaints. Fed the cats, fed the kitten, walked the dogs, fed the dogs, fed myself, put dogs in dog run, showered to get the glue out of my hair, climbed into bed, and dozed until 11:00.

Apnea? A bit, enough to qualify me for a CPAP machine. I don’t know what I think about that. Maybe they make one that fits a bit better than the one at the sleep clinic – I know I’ve grown wider as I’ve aged, but my nostrils aren’t that big!