To: The National Passport Processing Center, Philadelphia

Re: The photo in question


Dear Folks,

I have your letter here, informing me that the photograph of myself I submitted for my passport renewal will not do. I couldn’t agree more, but what can we do against the machinations of time? At least I still have hair, is the way I feel about it, and you’ll find that you don’t care so much about the color of your hair when you get past the half-century mark. You’ll see. The same is true with the beard. You know and I know that it’s more salt than pepper, but, you know, what do we care? At least there are no crumbs or birds or invoices caught in it, am I right? The weary mein, the general air of not having slept properly since the First George Bush—I have three children, so there you go. Also I am an editor and an essayist, so money is always … well, I won’t say a pressing concern, but it’s something to think about. I do actually check parking meters for uncollected change, and no man has stolen more notepads from the hotels of America than I have. That’s just between us, of course. Because if you use the first page or two of a notepad, and your pen has pressed down into the next few pages, leaving the ghostly spoor of your thoughts, don’t you think the housekeeping professionals will recycle the whole pad? Of course they will. So I feel that I am recycling for them, so to speak. Saving them a little time and work. You would do the same, I’m sure. In a real sense, any photograph of a face is much like the ghostly trails on the under-pages of a notepad, isn’t that so? It’s not quite accurate from the first moment after it was taken, and it’s only the shell of the soul, in any case. So I couldn’t agree more that the photograph you have will not do. How perceptive of you to say so.


Brian Doyle

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Brian Doyle, an essayist and novelist, died on May 27, 2017. To read Epiphanies, his longtime blog for the Scholar, please go here.


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