A New Life

I have to pee.  I am perched in the widow seat of an American Airlines flight heading to La Guardia, for the first time since the Republican Convention of 2004.  I can’t think straight.  I have to pee and I have to displace two people AGAIN if I want some relief.  Funny how your mind goes back to the point of immediate suffering.


I have been in Dallas with my family.  I went to hear my niece Maddie sing in front of Dillards at NorthPark.  I had dinner and lunches with family and friends.  It was wonderful.  I made a plan to fly to NYC for a few days to see friends while Theo stays with him Mimi and Poppy.  I never thought that I would learn that my newspaper is going away if it does not sell by January 15, 2009, while sitting on a plane.  



When I came to the Rocky Mountain News, I was single and uncommitted to the paper.  I was a freelance “everything” living in Taos, NM, my beloved town that I have missed every day since I left.  I was on my way back, actually, when I met my eventual husband, Peter, on assignment, along with my future stepson, Hans.  I stayed.  I married Peter.  I had our baby, Thelonious Lee DeHaas, we fought for custody of Hans and won.  We created a life, made friends.  I relaxed a little bit.


 It seems like I have done it all in this 45 years.  I get glimpses of the past, now and then, like last night when I attended my niece Sophie’s twelfth birthday party in Dallas.  Someone brought up the fact that Sophie is reckless, not unlike her Aunt Juju, who used to cover wars.  I thought about an e-mail I had just received from my old friend Sam Kiley, who I met in Somalia many years ago. He was introducing me to a man who is starting a global journalism venture and thought I would be a good fit the company.  Sam wrote to him that I had broken the nose of a Somali who had stolen camera gear out of the pockets of my shooter’s vest during an Aideed rally in Mogidishu in 1992.  It took me a good twenty minutes to remember that incident.  When it actually happened sixteen years ago, I was so proud that I had decked the asshole.  I remembered that he came back to make sure it was really a WOMAN who had bashed his nose in.  Today, it is a distant memory of a time gone by.  Not just for me, but for many, I am sure.



 I have the staff job in my family. My husband is graduate student in the Linguistic Department at CU Boulder. Through my job, we  pay the mortgage, the insurance, the bills.  But the Rocky is terminally ill and the prognosis is not good.  I feel very scared on one level, but on another, I feel liberated.  At least I know the fate of my newspaper while others out there are going to still be waking up every morning holding their breaths, just a little bit, as I have been doing the past year.  Not breathing quite fully, whether asleep or awake.  


 “What should I do?” runs through my mind, weaving in and out of the nagging feeling that I have to pee.  I was just getting the hang of this multimedia thing.  None of the equipment is mine.  I have one month worth of bills saved.  I have 17 acres in Taos that I look at as my retirement.  I have a husband and two sons.  I have a house in Park Hill.  Should I sell it?  Should we move home to Texas and help my mom with my father while Peter finishes school?  Should we move to Brooklyn where so many of my friends live now.  No one is hiring photojournalists at newspapers. Matter of fact, Gannet just laid off 1770 people, I believe. 


 And then my mind goes out to the Managing Editor, Deb Goeken, whose mother just passed away last week.  What is going through her mind?  At least I HAVE a mother and father with a house in Dallas that I can go home to if it came to that.  There are so many people in the world today that have no one to lean on during this hard time, a time that is going to get much worse, I feel. 


 I just accepted an adjunct teaching position at Metropolitan State College of Denver that will start in January and I really would like to be in Denver to teach the intermediate photojournalism class.  But right now, while I look out of the window, and watch the clouds whiz by, I feel unattached to everything except for my beloved family.  I will do whatever I need to do to serve us.  I might have to sell our house, which really would just mean one less thing to worry about. 


 And move us one step closer to the next chapter…



8 Responses to “”

  1. 1 M.E. December 7, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Best lede ever.

  2. 2 Tom Krause December 7, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Hi Judy, I just read your wonderful, sad lament to the passing of a newspaper, in the context of having to pee. I only found out this morning (news sometimes travels slowly to Sydney) that the RMN is in serious danger of folding (while there’s life there’s hope), and it is so sad. You are a great photojournalist, and a great human being (whom I have never met, except via email, but I just read your blog, and came to that conclusion). I hope you and ME and the rest of the staff find a way to keep such a distinguished paper going. As you said, you have a beloved family to keep you going. Where are the rich benefactors now that we need them?
    Fingers crossed.
    Hang in there.

  3. 3 Carolyn Ann December 8, 2008 at 11:10 am

    We’re a family…we’re a village…we’re here for you…we’re all in this together. We love you and loved seeing you this week!

  4. 4 Todd Hartman December 8, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    Beautifully expressed Judy. I share your sense of liberation, but one mixed heavily with trepidation.

  5. 5 ant jan December 9, 2008 at 1:11 am

    one door closes….
    you are so powerful lady.
    Let’s talk after the holidays, seems like a time for brainstorming.

  6. 6 Betty Udesen December 12, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    A lovely blog, thank you.

    We’re fortunate to have lived/worked/breathed the ‘golden years’ chapter of newspaper photojournalism.

  7. 7 Christie Grothe December 13, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    What lovely writing. I love to read the writing of an open person. I know that you have the strength and resourcefulness to deal with everything that’s sent your way. It’s a mighty good thing to be able to spend so much time with your parents during this time in their lives. Call me if you have time on one of your Dallas visits – would love to have lunch with you and get to know Theo in person.

    Keep blogging. I’ve just started a blog – christiestories.blogspot.com

    Love you.

  8. 8 Ha January 10, 2009 at 12:02 am

    You were my first role model of what a photojournalist should be when I was still in high school. Some things never change. Take care.

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