By Paul Ford
Going to offices, riding on trains.
It is possible in New York City to obtain a passport in a single day. I pay $200 to a fair-skinned woman in an office on 48th
St - call Passport Plus, somewhere in the phone book, if you need this for yourself. She needs to see my airplane ticket,
birth certificate, driver's license, and two photos of my face. The office is small, a single room about the size of my apartment.
Her name is Susan. She is Jewish, average height, with brown hair. Near her are: a fat man in his late 40s or early 50s; a
young Anglo woman with a nose ring; and a middle-aged black woman speaking patois-inflected English. I judge them by their
faces and bodies.
Their business is getting people out of the country as quickly as possible. Susan asks for cash only. I count out 10 20s.
The walls are solid with signed photos of celebrities. Frank Sinatra and the Village People smile next to one another. Alan
Alda has written out a florid statement of grateful praise to the right of his warm, even grin.
“You have an appointment at 8:30 at Hudson St. Don't be late. What you do is go down there tomorrow morning. You take a number.
Give them your paperwork and $95 cash. Make sure to give them the ticket. That is $35 extra for the rush. They will take your
birth certificate. Then come back here on the 1 train and give us your receipt. We will pick up the passport and birth certificate
after 3pm. You return here and the passport is in the office by 5. We close at 5:30. I have written this on your envelope.
The passport agents will speak to you from behind thick sheets of plexiglas, thick enough to stop exploding bullets and small
explosives. You will respond in the affirmative and sign your name. In this agency I will have helped you. You will hover
over an ocean, cramped into a seat designed for the smaller and shorter. 7 miles between your body and the floor of the sea.
This system for acquiring passports is a machine and the airplanes are machines,” she said, “but you are the most delicate,
paying cargo, no machine at all.”
Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some
There is a Facebook group.
You will regret following me on Twitter here.
About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit
things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.
If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at email@example.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am
glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.
: RSS1.0, RSS2.0
© 1974-2011 Paul Ford
Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose.
As a hobby I write.
Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out.
Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley.
Welcome to the Company.
“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”.
Forgot to tell you about this.
“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”.
An essay for TheMorningNews.org.
People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately.
Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford.
Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford.
Nanolaw with Daughter.
Why privacy mattered.
0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford.
It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so
that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So:
Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand
below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every
Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came
unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...)
That Shaggy Feeling.
Antilunchism, by Paul Ford.
Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford.
I'll have no one to blame but future me.
Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford.
(1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and
the historical fallacy.
The Moral Superiority of the Streetcar.
(1) Long-form journalism fixes everything. (2) The moral superiority of the streetcar. (3) I like big bus and I cannot lie.