Sunday, July 26, 2009


The box was heavy as I navigated my way down three flights of stairs at The Ann Arbor News last Thursday.

Why shouldn't it be? After all, 15-years of memories were stashed inside that box. Everything from business cards, to lens caps, to extra battery chargers and nearly every photo credential I'd ever been issued as a photographer for The News. It was all in there, and it was heavy.

So heavy, I stopped at the landing on the second floor, perched the box on the windowsill and readjusted my grip. Outside, the rain was coming down in buckets.

"Great," I thought, "I'll be lucky to get this box to my car before it gets completely saturated."

Knowing full well I better have the car unlocked and ready to avoid potential disaster, I set the box down, fumbled for my keys in my front pocket, then tried to unlock my car from the second floor window with my automatic key lock.

Who knew if this would work, but it was worth a shot. It seemed fitting. Not knowing what would work but giving it a shot had become a mantra for The News the last few years - reduction in pages, buyouts, new media - we tried just about everything; unfortunately, everything we tried fell short in the end. Now I was heading down the stairwell one last time, box in hand, to a parking lot being beaten into submission by a morning thunderstorm.

"So this is how it ends?" I wondered.

Well, not really. My life as a photojournalist is far from over. Starting Monday, July 27th I'll be working for, the replacement for The News, but nothing will replace to the 15-years I spent at The News. Nothing!

Behind me, on the third floor, a small group of editors and reporters were still putting the finishing touches on our final edition. The rest of the editorial staff had already made their peace with the place and drifted across the street to Bar Louie's to begin a long day of laughing and crying, drinking and toasting. 

But not me. I paused on the stairwell and rested. I'd climbed these three flights of stairs several thousand times over the past decade and a half, Lord knows how many years they've added to my life without me even knowing it, but now, maybe for the first time ever, I just stopped at the landing and thought about the stairs.

I thought about how the burn in my thighs by the third floor always let me know if I'd played golf that day, or maybe ran or biked. I thought about how I used to dash up those steps two at a time when I started at The News as a 29-year-old in 1994. But I've been taking them one step at a time for quite a while now; sometimes even taking the elevator if my camera bag was feeling particularly heavy.

As I looked out at the rain through the second floor window, I began choking up.

"What an idiot," I thought to myself, "all these great people; all these great memories, and a stairwell is what finally gets to you."

A few minutes passed without another soul going up or coming down the stairs. Finally, I decided it was time to gather both my emotions, and my box of belongings and leave The Ann Arbor News building for good.

The box was heavy, and for the first time, my legs were burning as I headed down the stairs. When I reached the ground floor, I turned around for one last glance at the three flights of history I'd traversed over and over again throughout the years. 

Then, without looking back again, I used my box of belongings to push open the door to the employee entrance. That was it, even if I wanted to go back in, I couldn't. I'd already turned in my key card. Now I was an outsider - done.

The once steady downpour of rain had slowed to a drizzle. It felt good on my head as I loaded my box into the back of my car. Across the street the sighs of relief escaping the lungs of my former co-workers gathered at Bar Louie's was intoxicating; already grabbing me up, pulling me in.

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