Between the Margins

Most of us have lost someone along the way: to an out-of-state move, to divorce, to heated arguments or even death.

We know that the pain of loss is real and enduring…until time heals our wounds.

For those we’ve loved, we vow to keep them close in our hearts and in our memories. For the others, we will try to be charitable and remember something good about them, too.

I’m a “cat person.”

Cats hate change and love routines. They seek safety and security and crave attention, gobs of it.

They renew their bonds with their human caretakers (nobody truly ‘owns’ a cat) after they’ve been on a walkabout or if we’ve been on vacation.

We’re all creatures of habits. Some are major; some are minor.

For me, reading a newspaper is a big one. There’s just something wonderful about seeing it curled up in your box, held together by a rubber band.

Getting the paper is a happy ritual for me.

I drive my truck to the newspaper boxes, find my special key and voila! There it is: all snug in my special enclosure with a heap of news waiting to be savored.

I then drive a different route back to my house that takes me by three large mastiffs named Moby, Jake and Luke. All of them know me and my truck.

I slow way down, open my window and ask them how they’re doing. Jake is animated. Luke is a bit reserved and Moby, the oldest, is a bit slower but still has her impressive bark to alert me that she’s on guard, protecting her turf.

Every once in a while, I’m tempted to stop my truck and rip off the rubber band and read the paper by the side of the road. Usually, though, I wait until I get home so that I can join it with another ritual: drinking my coffee on our back deck.

Being an opinionated person myself, my first stop is the op/ed (opinion/editorial) page. After spending about 15 minutes or so, I move on to the obituaries. I want to know if any of my friends have passed away, but I am also interested to read about the newly deceased’s lives.

Reading the paper was something my father and I had in common. I remember he used to tell me that he never bought a newspaper that didn’t have any comic strips because it showed a distinct lack of humor. My dad had a wonderful sense of humor, himself, but he was also a serious man and devoured every important story with intense interest and curiosity. His generation and mine were weaned on newsprint.

In 1982, I started a newspaper of my own in Connecticut, two actually. One was a monthly tabloid “news magazine” and the other was an all-classified ad paper.

To say it was tough going from a financial point of view would be an understatement, but we somehow managed to stay solvent for a few years until it became clear that operating costs were getting too high whilst our advertisers were tightening their belts due to the recession.

Things are pretty much the same 36 years later except for the arrival of the internet and electronic reading devices like telephones and tablets and competition from online newspapers.

Community newspapers have been steadily disappearing largely because they haven’t been able to survive the triple whammy of steadily escalating operating costs, dwindling advertisers and 24/7 news coverage via the electronic media.

Today, you are reading the last issue of a wonderful community newspaper that has fought the good fight and given its all for its readers, but simply cannot continue.

I started writing regular columns for the Mountain View Telegraph eight years ago and was grateful that the paper would run my articles largely unedited, and didn’t try to influence my opinions.

To those readers who’ve wholeheartedly agreed with me or who have intensely disagreed with me, I say, “thank you” for reading my columns. It was a privilege to poke your inner bear.

So, how do you say goodbye to an old friend that has brought you news and photos of your grandson’s winning touchdown or your wife’s blue ribbon lasagna recipe, or covered a local election or weighed in on a political controversy?

The Telegraph has heralded the births and celebrated the lives of thousands of New Mexicans in the Estancia Valley and the East Mountains and points north, south, east and west for many years. It has been both an echo chamber for its readers’ opinions and an opinion leader itself.

Like a good friend, we sometimes took the Telegraph for granted, but we always knew that it would be there for us, waiting to be unwrapped every Thursday for nearly 15 years. It’s hard to say goodbye, but I, for one, will remember it and its professional, hard-working staff fondly for what it meant to me in my life, and so will Jake, Luke and Moby.

Adios, MVT.

(Stephan Helgesen is a retired career U.S. diplomat who lived and worked in over 30 countries. He is now a political analyst, strategist and author of nine books and over 850 articles on politics, economics and social trends. He can be reached at stephan@stephanhelgesen.com.)