This is the photograph that will appear on CNN when I am abducted by Islamic terrorists.
That is the test I use whenever I sit for a passport or visa photograph. Some people (and I know a few of them) consider passport/visa photographs to be the equivalent of wedding shots. They want to look their nicest -- no matter the purpose.
I will admit to a bit of the same vanity. On my trips north for the two years after I moved to Mexico (and lost 30 pounds within three months), the people manning the immigration desk in Los Angeles would ask me how I had lost so much weight.
It has been years since I heard that. For obvious reasons.
This photograph is the one I chose for my Red China visa. My brother and I had a hearty laugh about it. But there is a method in my madness.
Let's assume that some organization kidnaps me in China. When the authorities start looking for me, I do not want them toting around a suit and tie photograph. I want the photograph to look as if I had been held in a dark basement for three months with nothing to eat but cockroaches and rats (even though that sounds more as if I had been nabbed by the Havana police).
I also have an ulterior motive. The first thought I had when I saw the photograph was that it looked like Nick Nolte's DUII mug shot. The authorities might not put much effort in looking for Steve Cotton. But, for Nick Nolte -- ?
And there is one other aspect of the photograph that appeals to me. I look vaguely like one of those Chinese government officials who has just confessed to some thought crime against the Party, and, having been rehabilitated after feeling utter shame, am about to be elevated to the upper rungs of celestial communist heaven. Come to think of it, that may be a mixed blessing.
Whatever my reasons, I am rather fond of these not-quite-my-best photographs. It may also explain why I do not bother with head shots of other people here at Mexpatriate. Most people do not share my things-could-be-better school of photography.
Either way, the Red Chinese accepted my photograph along with my application. I am now free to enter the Middle Kingdom whenever I like during the next ten years.
Ten years. That is even a better deal than Mexico offers.
Today I am on my way back to the house with no name in Barra de Navidad -- to spend almost two months in residence before the Red Chinese and I test each others' limits.