Thursday, May 16, 2013

mr. gray, your pictures are ready

Mexico is getting a new 50 peso note in June.

The note is a bit more colorful than the current version.  And it has several new security measures to foil counterfeiters.  It is a credit to the Mexican economy that counterfeiter's find it worth their effort to print up money worth about $4 (US).

What has not changed is the portrait of the Mexican War of Independence hero, José María Morelos y Pavón.  Morelos remains ageless.

That is the hallmark of a republic.  The portraits on the currency are as unchanging as the principles on which the republic is founded.  At least, in theory.

The portraits of Juárez, Morelos, and Hidalgo act as the reverse of Dorian Gray's portrait -- just as constant as the portraits of Washington, Lincoln, and Jackson -- with each updated series of bank notes.

That, of course, is not true for nations ruled by monarchs.  British pound notes and coins have followed the queen's aging process.  Even if there is a little time lapse between the ravages of real time and the representations of the engraver's knife.

I recently ran across a file that contained my expired passports.  I have no idea why I retained them.  But it was amusing to see how passports have changed over time.  And how I have changed along with them.

The year was 1974.  I had been living in Greece for almost a full year.  And because I were there on NATO orders, I did not need a passport.

My cousin, Dennis, and several friends were on their way to Greece to visit me -- and to take what would be my first cruise.  A passport was in order. 

As was an unfolding war between Turkey (two of our ports) and Greece.  The passport arrived.  The war didn't.

That 24-year old guy looking back at me seems a bit too serious.  At least, for how I remember those days of pure freedom of driving around Greece as if my tail feathers were on fire.

But the passport itself speaks of another era.  A clerk in the Athens Embassy has typed in all of the information.  And the photograph is merely pasted on the page.  I am warned to avoid Cuba, North Korea, and North Viet-Nam.


That passport expired just about the time I graduated from law school.  And there was little need to renew it until 1984 when I started traveling on behalf of the Department of Defense.

I look like a junior bank executive.  But I was playing the role of  a youngish lawyer.  A role that did not assuage the difficulties I had with British Immigration during the 1980s. 

For reasons that are the elements of another story,I had ended up on an IRA watch list (the Irish terrorist group, not the retirement investment instrument).  I quickly learned patience in my hours of standing in front of Her Majesty's warders of the border.

In a mere decade, the Charlie Brown-Ziggie face you now know had started forming. 

But, in my mid-40s, I was starting to slip into the best days of my professional life.  I had narrowed down my practice to one specialty (workers' compensation) and had been hired by a company that allowed me to do a variety of work. 

When this photograph was taken, I had moved on from trial work to appellate work.  My second favorite legal position of my career.  Life was good.

And it got even better.  The photograph is from 1999.  I had just retired from the Air Force Reserve and my work style had changed from coat and tie to shirt and sweater.

Of course, times do change.  And the passport format reflects a different world.  No more paste-on photograph. 

The new photograph is so filled with holograms that scanning it is next to impossible.  Of course, that was the government's goal.  To find a way to get around the new tools of counterfeiters -- scanners and computers. 

For much the same reason that the 50 peso note is getting a facelift.  And this was before the nation (and much of the world) fell into paranoia after September 2001.

And what do I look like now?  Well, you all know the answer to that question.  Even though the photograph is a couple of years old, that is me -- up there in the right hand corner. 

Chuckling that Oscar Wilde never discovered a way to capture my aging spirit on canvas.


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