It all began a little over three years ago. My frend Dave, from St Clair, Missouri, told me about a St Louis radio station called KSHE (www.kshe95.com) and i listened. Online, of course. Listened, and liked the music and started listening regularly. And a strange thing happened. Hearing the on-air personalities talking about St Louis, and hearing what goes on there, fascinated me. I did some independent investigating (a.k.a. Googling) and the more i learned about the place, the more interested i became. It looks a beautiful city and i definitely began to feel an affinity.
Maybe two years ago, i determined to go there.
It took me a while to save the money. I don't make a lot, which is fine: normally i don't need a lot. I have no debts and my monthly expenses are easily manageable. I don't need things at all – buy the occasional new CD or DVD, and i generally only buy new clothes when the old ones wear out. It took a while. But i did it.
There was another stumbling block, too: my old passport expired in 1990. (I haven't been outside Southern Ontario since the eighties!) No problem, though (i said to myself, hopefully) – i was easily able to download an application for a U.K. passport in January of 2015 and ....
Lordy mama, have i ever said how much i hate government forms? I looked at it once and decided to hibernate for the winter rather than try to deal with the bureaucratese. It was June before i girded my loins and finally tackled it, and i was in trouble right from question #1! But i struggled through it, answered what i could, and then went back to the U.K. Government website to see what to do next. Oh, i found, i could also fill out an online application and pay for it online, which i did, and which would presumably begin the process in advance of the paperwork.
Next step: passport photograph. I had one taken. The things is, though, that the last time i applied for a passport, the photograph had to be authenticated by a professional person – doctor, lawyer, priest, someone like that. I supposed, without looking into the matter, that it was still the same. I don't have a doctor at the moment – thank you, Canada's famous health care system! -- but i have a dentist (no lawyer or priest) and so i went to his office and ... the receptionist told me that he was on holidays for two weeks.
Now the time factor enters the picture. The application process is supposed to take six weeks or more. I was planning my trip for mid-September, it's now late June or early July (i forget which) and there i was, stuck spinning my wheels for two weeks. A fortnight later, back i went to see my dentist and a different receptionist told me that he wouldn't do it – he refused to share his own personal passport info, but that the rules had changed and the authenticator no longer had to be a professional person: anyone who had known me for a substantial length of time could do it. Well fuck me blind (i said to myself), two weeks wasted! I took it to the owner of my restaurant, with whom i've been friends for well over twenty years and he verified that i am, in fact, me. I sent it off, along with my old passport, by registered mail ($22.00 to the U.K!) immediately, of course.
About a week later, the fiasco began. I received an email from some functionary explaining several things i had done wrong. For instance, i had applied to renew an old passport. Wrong! My old one was so old i should have applied for a new one. Er, nowhere on the application form had i noticed anything about that. Further, i as i wasn't in their computer database, they needed a lot more information. They needed my parents' dates and places of birth, for instance, which i didn't know, and they also needed my birth certificate (which took me a few days to find). Also, they said, i hadn't enclosed my payment.
?!?! Well, of course i hadn't enclosed a payment – i'd paid online several weeks earlier (and had the statement to prove it). Unfortunately, this was one of those “noreply” emails so i couldn't reply to the geezer with this info; instead i went to the bank and said, these people say that they didn't receive this (pointing to the item on my statement), what do i do now? They said they'd look into it for me and give me a call. They didn't.
It's now August. I filled out the new form they sent me as well as i could and sent it off by registered mail ($22, as you may recall) and hoped for the best. I've decided on Sept. 22 as my departure date and i know i'm cutting it rather fine here, but that's over six weeks away and i remained hopeful.
During, i think, the second week in September, i received an email from a different functionary, informing me that the ninety days required for me to complete my application (which i hadn't known about) had elapsed, therefore they were withdrawing it (the application) and retaining my payment to cover administrative costs. Wait, what? Last i heard, they hadn't received a payment at all. WTF?
I was pretty distraught, i don't mind admitting. I had been looking forward to going to the Mississippi Valley so much. A few days later i received, by courier, my old passport back. They kept my photograph, though. Nice touch!
Distraught, discouraged, disheartened. I didn't want to think about passports at all for a while.
To be continued. Here, have a playlist.
Led Zeppelin -- Physical Graffiti
Kim Mitchell -- Rockland
Max Webster -- High Class In Borrowed Shoes
The Allman Brothers Band -- Brothers And Sisters
Oysterband -- Here I Stand
Mike Oldfield -- Music Of The Spheres
Arkells -- High Noon
Rory Gallagher -- Cradle Rock
David Gilmour -- Rattle That Lock
Led Zeppelin -- Boxed Set 2
Bruce Springsteen -- The Essential Bruce Springsteen
Joan Osborne -- Relish (20th Anniversary Edition)
Elvis Costello -- Spike
The Beatles -- With The Beatles
Siouxsie & The Banshees -- The Rapture
Billy Joel -- Turnstiles
Marillion -- Anoraknophobia
Bluehorses -- Ten Leagues Beyond The Wild World's End
Carole King -- Tapestry