So I became a British citizen last month.
But the citizenship status is effectively useless, unless you have the passport to back it up.
And now I have it. Finally. Finally, I have it.
It was hard getting a British passport. It took a long, long time to trudge through the bureaucratic hoops, the forms, the paperwork, the registered mailings. I started the process in October. Well, that's not true entirely. I actually started the process - began to ask questions, fill out forms, wait in lines - when I was back in Los Angeles. I became acquainted with the British Consulate there, in Westwood, where they have tv sets blaring CNN at you all the time, keeping you abreast of the terrible, terrible danger on all sides. And that was ... when? ... September? So, to get this passport took six months.
And actually that's exactly how long they said it would take.
But logic says it should not take that long. If you do all the math: "this process takes one month", "that takes two weeks", "this takes three weeks more", it all adds up to about three months, max. But somehow, as if through some miracle of physics - some kind of bureacratic theory of special relativity - time gets mysteriously added and ... voila ... six months.
Maybe that, like the speed of light, is the Passport Constant. It is six months. It will always equal six months, no matter how fast you complete the forms, no matter how many times you use express mail.
It was a difficult six months. My favorite part, I think, of the whole thing was after finally getting my certificate of British citizenship, having corresponded back and forth for months with the Home Office, they sent me a letter saying that they couldn't send me my passport because they needed independent verification of my mailing address - the address they had been using for five months. Trippy.
Yes. It was difficult. Hard.
Did you ever see that movie, "Touching The Void"
That's how hard it was.
But now I have my passport. And you know what that means. That means I can get my name on a bank account. And I can be officially employed by Britishers. And I can go on vacation to foreign countries and completely deny being an American and have the documents to prove it - which is handy.
My passport has an antenna in it.
Yes. It does. It's one of the special, new, high-tech "biometric" passports. It has a microchip embedded - and an antenna. When I first flipped through the burgundy-covered little treasure I saw the antenna and I joked: "Heh! Why, it looks as if they've even put an antenna in the passport! Heh!"
But then, reading my "UK New biometric passport Essential information booklet": "Your passport...contains an electronic chip and its antenna."
So it wasn't as funny after that.
I don't like having an antenna on my passport.
Unless I could broadcast from it:RADIO FREE NEAL, UK!!!
I think I'll start doing that - broadcasting good old fashioned pirate radio from my passport antenna. So if you see me at the airport, mumbling into my jacket pocket, I'm just broadcasting. You should come over and say something. Maybe we could do a live on-air interview.
The passport has lots of images of birds on it pages. Wading water birds and birds of prey.
But the coolest part is that there's a unicorn on the cover.
Is that awesome, or what?
The unicorn pictured has got kind of a limp wrist, which is not my personal preference, but still - it's a unicorn! That's pretty cool. We don't have unicorns in the United States. But here in Britain, you can turn around with running into a unicorn, swishing about, hooves flapping, dancing all night to Kylie Minogue.
Do unicorns have wrists?