Farewells are never easy.
This month marks 15 years since I first grabbed a notebook and sat at a keyboard in this building. During that time, we’ve had our fair share of hello’s and goodbye’s (including a few of my own) in this art deco structure.
Working for a ‘small’ town paper you learn a few things as the ‘newbies’ come aboard and get settled into their work space. For some, it is a great place to get your feet wet, build your résumé and get experience. In short … it’s a stopping point as you chase something bigger. For others it’s an ideal job, with a flexible schedule, convenience of location and ties to a town one may call home. Then there’s our retired set, who find themselves post ‘real’ job looking for something to fill their time.
Colleague Rich Paloma fell into the latter. Last Friday we were given the opportunity as a staff to razz him a bit one last time and then we said ... good luck.
I’d be lying if I didn’t share the emotion that hit me at his departure caught me a bit by surprise. One who frequents our pages on a regular basis, will not be surprised to hear that Paloma (as I like to call him) and I could not be more opposite.
I’m rainbows and butterflies (he says unicorns) and he’s fact and investigation, aka hard news. He worked the beat I do my very best at staying far from. City news, the cop beat, fire and the like need to be shared with readers, I’m just not up for that task. It’s a writing style which quite simply fits some better than others. Paloma was that ‘other.’
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge his frequent recognition and admiration of my ‘gift’ – as he says – for optimism.
But Paloma … Paloma has a heart and is a kind guy, when not put to task in his day job. Sure, he’s a bit rough around the edges, perhaps a bit jaded from a career in law enforcement and investigation, but he has a soft side.
As much as I would love to use this space to roast the guy, that hardly seems fair as his pen has been removed from his hand and his journey has evolved beyond our building.
Instead, I’d like to use this space to share what I learned from Paloma, the person.
Paloma and I butted heads on a more than a regular basis. His heart beats a different way when he got a tip on a story which might break ahead of all the dailies. He loved to chase the big stories, pound the pavement and knock on the doors. Even more, he loved the calls from other publications and news stations seeking info from him, the small town news guy. Those are good kudos in this business.
He never shied away from the stories I wouldn’t touch. The unpopular pieces. The ones often written about well-known and often respected people. The tough stuff, as I like to call it.
“You’re not doing your job if someone didn’t call to complain,” he’d always grumble from his desk. And boy, did he love taking those phone calls.
As a news staff we learned a lot from Paloma, we respected him.
As a friend, yes I’d consider Paloma a friend, I learned a few things as well. Disagreement does not have to equal distance or avoidance from another. Agree to disagree is much of how we rolled in many instances. And while I shared a few times with friends, that I questioned if Paloma would ever have my back, what I came to realize in those final days is that he always did.
Sometimes we get so busy doing the hustle, chasing the story and pitching what’s next we miss what is right in front of us … friendship.
Thank you, Paloma, for your time, energy and commitment not just to this publication, but to this community, this staff and my family. Your absence will not just be felt but acknowledged as we figure how to adapt to silence (insert wink face here). Until another time … Salud.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.