So how does a guy who has spent 3 nights a week for 8 weeks, successfully navigating a minefield of bloggers in quest of a once in a lifetime international adventure find himself at the end of this journey without a passport? Simple, really. It never crossed my mind. In fact, for me it was never so much about the destination--but the journey. Winning for its own sake has always been its own reward. Why else have I found myself awake at 2 am playing the dookie? The BBT's have always been a chance for the blogger community as a whole to get together and play for something a little bigger than the usual--what ever that bigger may be. (And FWIW, I played BBT1 for the express purpose of winning the Wii--true story, ask this guy).
After winning the TOC, only then did I actually check out the details of my impending trip--IMAGINE MY DELIGHT! Poker, golf, freeroll tourney, rubbin' elbows with the big guns. Clearly, this needed to happen.
So, having decided to put my entire life on hold for a couple weeks while I skip down under for a little poker, my wife--also sans passport btw--and I spent the next couple days basking in the glow of what had now become our mutual victory. L had always wanted to go to Australia, of course her dream trip was more of an outback adventure than a casino royale--but hell, it was free and it was now ours, so why quibble over the details. Our busy professional lives and our parenting responsibilities had put considerable strain on both of us, and a two week getaway seemed like, if you'll pardon the pun, just what the doctor ordered. Thankfully, my mother-in-law had agreed to come stay with the kids in our absence so we set about the business of travel preparations. The trip was just starting to take shape when a nasty fall left my mother-in-law with a broken arm and L and I with no babysitter.
Enter CJC, brother number 3 of 4 (not my poker padawan SRC1013_JD), who just so happened to have a passport--and further, had called the morning after my TOC win FROM his boss's office to (1) congratulate me (2) declare his passport status, and (3) assure me that he was available should he be needed. To her credit, L took her bad beat like a trooper with the following:
"I guess this means you'll just have to win so you can take ME next time"
Her Christmas gift to me seemed to drive this last point home, when in an as-yet-unrivaled display of confidence L gave me a watch because "I was going to need a fine timepiece to wear at the final table." Bless her naive little heart...
At the time, not having a passport didn't seem to be such a big deal--just needed to pop over the post office, smile for the camera, and BINGO--1 passport comin' right up, sir. Of course, the last time I had needed a passport was in high school when I traveled to the Soviet Union as part of a highly trained team of supergeeks (details remain classified). It seems that obtaining a passport in the post-9/11 world has become considerably more of a headache and requires several weeks of advance planning.
So 2 days after Christmas, on the recommendation of our good buddy Drraz, I sought the help of a passport expediting service. For those who don't know (as I didn't before this) expedited passports are only dispensed in select portions of the country, NONE of which were anywhere near Southwestern PA. Fortunately, there are services which can present your information to the state department in your stead, provided they have the appropriate documentation in a timely fashion. One of these is "verification of travel" which can take the form of a computer generated travel itinerary. It was about this time that I realized that the only confirmation I had regarding my trip was Al's congratulatory e-mail. Hell, I didn't even know my expected dates of travel.
Thus began a frantic stream of emails to Full Tilt explaining my situation and the time-crunch I had put myself in. During all this, I discovered that despite the tournament not starting until January 14, the plane for Melbourne actually left on January 7. So follow me on this--it's
- December 27 (a Thursday) I need to receive confirmation of a trip itinerary by
- Friday, FedEx my documents to Washington D.C. by
- Monday (New Years' Eve) for presentation to the state department on
- Wednesday (January 2) and returned to me in PA no later than
- Saturday January 5 for my departure to LA on
- Sunday where I will catch a flight to Australia on
Miraculously, email confirmation arrived at around 1AM EST on Friday and I was able to get everything in the mail that day. SIDE NOTE: Special thanks to "Chuck" at the post office who asked that I mention him should I be on TV for the tournament. (Sorry Chuck, this is the best I can do--but THANKS!)
Needless to say, I was a tad nervous about the timing of the process and the fact that I was pretty much cutting it as thin as I could on this one. But the plan was in place and seemed to be moving in the right direction. That's when I woke Friday night/Saturday AM with a fever and muscle aches the likes of which I have not experienced in some time. I'm not one who gets sick often, but when I do, I certainly do it right. As I lay shivering in my bed, I was persistently haunted by visions of countless Euro-LAGs playing trash against me and eliminating me from the tournament.
By Sunday, I was convinced that going to Melbourne was a horrific mistake and declared to my wife that I wasn't going. The timing couldn't be any worse. I was completely unprepared and miserable and really, what was the point? I was just going to lose anyway! Thankfully, by Monday I was able to get out of bed AND remain vertical for longer than 3 minutes at a time. My health and confidence restored, I resumed my preparations for the trip which was now less than a week away.
Things went relatively smoothly from that point forward. New Year's Eve was spent with my family, as T, A and J enjoyed their first Champagne Toast (Cider, actually) at midnight and 2008 was upon us. Just a couple days of work between me and the weekend, and the "Poker Trip of a Lifetime" would begin. That's when I received the following phone call:
THURSDAY January 3, 2008....approximately 5:10pm
"Mr. C...I'm sorry to be calling, but it seems there's a problem with your passport application. We won't be able to have it to you by Saturday unless you can get a replacement copy of your birth certificate to us by 9am TOMORROW."
The wheels had finally flown off. Apparently the birth certificate I had once carried in my wallet but had since retired to the bottom of a desk drawer was damaged and unacceptable to the State Department. And of course, my hometown in CT (not PA remember) didn't provide for any electronic means of obtaining the birth certificate.
It was at this moment that I almost completely lost it.
The dream was dying. The trip I had never really wanted but now wanted more than anything was slipping away. In a panic, I began dialing the city clerk's office in my hometown...and got the dog catcher's voicemail. Then I got the park and rec department's machine. It was at this point that I called in the cavalry--my grandfather.