As of today, we have three weeks left of fundraising for Shot: The Book and only need to raise another $2,800 to meet our goal! What this meansis that I will likely be traveling to El Salvador in November to do research and Paul will be coming with me.
Last Thursday, we decided to fetch our dusty passports out of the drawer where they’ve been hiding for the last several years. Upon close examination, we found they had both expired and would need to undergo the 4-6 week renewal process, which meant we would really be cutting it close to the date of our trip.
Our first order of business was to get those tiny square photos taken, and much to my chagrin, Walmart had the cheapest price. We headed to their location in Downtown Long Beach, and on the journey from the parking structure to the store entrance, we encountered a sickly pigeon lying on the sidewalk. Its eyes had lost their luster and I thought for a moment it was dead. There was something disturbing about this sad pigeon lying next to an empty bag of Doritos and a mysterious splattering of liquid across the pavement that might have been pink at some point, but was now a dusty shade of black.
What does one do about a dying pigeon? Touching it seemed out of the question. Was there a shelter to call? We didn’t know, and in hindsight I should have seen it as an omen for the way the rest of our day was headed.
Paul and I proceeded onward through the entrance of Walmart and were greeted by an endless maze of white plaster walls, which we later learned where part of a renovation project. In fact, because of this renovation their photo center was not in operation and we were told they couldn’t take any passport photos for us.
“So, if I drive to the Walmart off Carson in the Long Beach Town Center, will they have a photo center there?” I asked.
“Yes,” I was assured by the Walmart employee. “Yes, they would.”
We got back in the car and resigned ourselves to making the drive from downtown to the outskirts of Lakewood -- a drive which is only 9 miles, but requires no less than three freeway changes.
This Walmart was not undergoing any renovations and it even had a sign that said “Photo Center” with an arrow pointing toward it. Paul and I followed these signs, followed the arrows, and after a series of aimless turns we finally approached an employee and asked, “Where is your photo center?”
“Oh, we don’t have one,” she said. “You’ll have to go to our Cerritos location for that.”
At this point, I was verging on a breakdown and greatly lamenting the fact that we didn’t pay double the price and get our photos taken at the Auto Club. Nevertheless, we were only a few miles away from Cerritos and since we’d come so far, we figured we might as well proceed.
Back on the freeway we went. Only this time, there was a car accident on the 605 North and traffic was at a standstill. The empty light for my gas gauge had also been glowing solid yellow since we left our apartment because I have this habit of trying to squeeze as many miles as possible out of every tank of gas. It’s a challenge, if you will.
Paul could live without this challenge. Especially at that particular moment when we were in bumper to bumper traffic on a 95-degree day and I mentioned that we might need to turn off the air conditioning because if we didn’t, we would run out of gas.
Sweaty and frustrated, we finally arrived at Walmart location #3 where they did indeed have a photo center and it was actually in operation. We got our photos, got that much needed tank of gas, and just barely made it to the post office to send out our applications before closing time. But still. Our completed passport applications are now en route and we are one step closer to getting to El Salvador.