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RICH IN THOUGHT An Offer I Couldn't Refuse
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My original plan for this month's column was to discuss my transition into "retired life" and the phases I went through on the path to ultimately accepting that decision. It was something parallel to the five stages of grief, starting with a denial and isolation then ending with acceptance.

Now, since I've gotten to a place in my life where I am peaceful, at ease, and enjoy reporting for The Leader and its sister papers of Riverbank and Escalon, of course I've gone and done something to shake up my psyche again.

I'll be moving on to a position in the corporate security world and this will be my last column. (Unless I've bitten off more than I can chew, at which point I'll be on my knees in front of my editor's desk with my hands clasped and a heartfelt "Pleeaasssee!" coming out of my mouth.)

I'm reminded of "The Godfather" and the quote, "Make him an offer he can't refuse."

While I wasn't threatened with having either my brains or signature on a movie contract, or woke up to find a horse head in my bed, the opportunity presented to me, or "offer," was something I couldn't pass up.

Despite going back to an atmosphere I'm familiar with and the lure of the compensation, this was a tough decision for me to make.

For those that know me away from the newsroom, I've referred to my work here as my "flipping burgers" job.

I use that reference in a positive aspect as a comparison to Kevin Spacey's character, Lester, in "American Beauty." Lester gets a lucrative severance from his company and returns to the job he was happiest doing, flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant when he was in high school.

Though I'm not fantasizing like Lester about teen-aged cheerleaders or going out to buy my dream car of a 1970 Pontiac Firebird (OK, a 1969 Camaro maybe), I did feel enthusiastic and rejuvenated while working here. Many people who knew me in my prior life made several comments about how relaxed I looked currently since leaving the department.

I felt easy-going and was truly clear of any real stress. My assignments were interesting and I engulfed myself in them. My co-workers were wonderful and helpful. I totally embraced being a staff reporter in Oakdale and everyone I met along the way.

I met some real passionate and dedicated people covering Oakdale City Hall and the Oak Valley Hospital District.

Amazingly, I noticed that those who initially appeared to be on opposite ends of the spectrum had the same intentions at heart. Whether it was council agenda items, the hospital, public safety, the airport, or some of the city commissions, those involved truly wanted what was best for Oakdale.

Over at OVH, devoted people like Tanya Glazebrook in administration and Amy Thompson of the foundation made covering their stories a breeze as they would do a majority of the legwork, supplying me with information and turning me on to the great things done by the hospital.

At City Hall, Nancy Lilly, Joe Leach, Danelle Stylos, and Mike Botto always made themselves available for any story I was working on. The same goes for the council. Even when they knew I could be covering something controversial, I was always given a quick return call.

Oakdale is very fortunate to have people like these at their service.

Mary Guardiola at the chamber and Christie Camarillo at the cowboy museum took me in as an outsider and introduced me to some of the great things about Oakdale.

Given my past, I did strike up a fondness for the police department and was able to get my "station fix" when I found myself jones'n for the camaraderie of law enforcement.

Chief West, Lt. Jenkins, and Detective Shimmel made me feel more like "one of them" rather than a reporter snooping around.

I am extremely grateful to my former detective partner Craig Macho who turned me on the field of journalism and gave me the drive to "beat The Bee" with a breaking story.

Marg Jackson, my editor, patiently and tolerantly taught me how to make an assignment read as a news article rather than a police report.

I'm going to miss everyone I met along the way. I could have seen myself staying here many years.

But, with how this new endeavor fits my background, I'm reminded of another line from "The Godfather."

"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in."

Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at 847-3021.