October 25, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther IIII

     Autumn arrives as a state of mind, prompted by the foliage change to wonderful hues or by memories of fall’s past that tug at your senses. 

     The light is different, incrementally as the weeks pass, but soon the imperceptibility becomes noticeable, and sitting in your living room chair or at a kitchen table, your mind wanders, you look at the incoming window light, and there it is, fall.

     Somehow, that signals body change — mental surely, as you begin to think of coming winter and the fortification that will require physically when you get ready for warmer garments carried on your frame. That is  natural to all, since the cave days.

     Then there is the emotional switching of gears. You have come down the pike either hellbent in a fast-paced summer or you have had the cruise control set at 20 mph for a lazy, hazy, hot season, relieved by the beach. Now you see color, beautiful color, as you near the bend, and you get a whiff of cool air, not quite winter’s breath, but enough that you know where you are headed.

     The journey is made all the easier by the appearance of nature’s tapestry, a light show outside, overflowing to the innards of both your home and yourself.

     Fortification, there she comes, this autumnal change, this brilliance of light in hues meant to tell you that though the heat of summer is gone and the cold of winter is approaching, fall’s color will be your cloak into the change. Nature’s mental protection, as it were.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier one.




October 18, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

About this time of year comes the memory of the apple smell, sweet fragrance that for me opened the door a bit to Heaven when I was a child at my grandmother’s house. She made apple pies, as many nanas did and do, from scratch.

 My grandfather would peel the apples, quite slowly and deftly, within a few millimeters of the skin so as not to waste anything. I never have had the patience for that, my own pared apples probably about two-thirds of the original product. My gramps sat on an upturned apple crate to do the job, outside, of course. And that is where the apple fragrance came from.

Making an apple pie brings its own wonderful, delicious smells, especially when the spices are added to the mix and, of course, when the pie is baking. And when that pie just seems to sit forever on the windowsill awaiting our tasting.

Perhaps the real eau d’apple came from the drops, those decaying, over-ripened, never-picked discards from my grandfather’s small tree. The drops always landed near his 1900s garage, its old, wooden floor soaked with the car oil of decades gone by. The garage, particularly when it was warmish, offered its own beckoning smell — of automobiles, wrenches, human labor, all a promise of what was to come for a future motorist, even at age 5.

When I visited my grandparents, a few miles from my own home, the whiff of the garage in fall made me feel extra welcome, not that it was difficult to achieve at that house, at that home. And when I also smelled the drops, all was extra sweet, and my fingers almost crossed that my grandmother was making a pie.

She usually was, and on those days, at that time of year, even without introduction to any of God’s religions, I knew there was a Heaven.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier one.



October 11, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     There is the unordinary cat, thank heavens.

     Remember kindergarten? Teachers encouraging individuality. Playing games together but drawing separately. Come the next grade and the ones afterward there are desks, increasing structure, necessary standards, all for progress, yes, but much more for the collective than the individual. Society cannot otherwise maintain and advance.

     But in the process, the cats come to look alike, even as some are as round pegs squeezed into square holes. 

     Some cats, like Tom Edison and Nikola Tesla, Steve Jobs and that odd girl or fellow sitting in the back row deliberately do not get aboard. They are not ordinary cats, and the real progress comes from them. Were it not for such individuality, there would be no train, no tracks ahead for the rest of us.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. 



October 2, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     The cadence of life is the music we exist by, live by, endure by, thrill by, emote by, give birth by, laugh and cry by, die by. It is to each a unique song. Some sing better, some are almost tone deaf. Some never set the volume right. Others are a full orchestra. Some are simple notes. Others are complex chords.

     Once, a long time ago – time is relative, though, so the moment could be now – a particular rhythm caught my step, and I was on top of the world, four beats then two repeated as the riff for the full melody. Plans and worries did not exist in the young world – the future would play out; somehow matters would fall in place. For now, for then, it was the music of romance.

     Little things gave sustenance – a car ride; the goose bumps of just talking and listening when there seemed to be sync between two; she borrowed your jacket in the cold; moments of silence that were not uneasy but rather proof that two could chill, could let the 4/2 riff continue before the next conversation.

     In time, the music changed, at least the tune. It never died, but other scores were written elsewhere, with new songwriters.

     As with any mix of notes, melodies, the mind can replay a certain tune from a certain time, especially when the special riff pops into your head.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



September 27, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Once in my parts, a section of the Northeast where as yet not all the woods have been bulldozed by “Progress,” we measured fall’s coming by morning humidity on the side of a white clapboard garage. The glisten was subtle, almost like a fine spray of matte lacquer, not the obvious, invasive, sweating droplets of August dog days. Accompanied by brisk air and the first whiff of turning leaves, those who enjoy changes in season were pleased.

Today, such dew still hits “Novelty-style” siding on the fewer white garages standing, but more often the glisten must endure co-ownership with an intensifying  summer ravage: green and black mold.

Summers in the Northeast seem much more humid (whether that be a condition of Progress or not), and the moist air particularly likes vinyl siding, which is Progress’ answer to repainting garages. Even the embossed woodgrain look provides shelter for water to tarry and invites mold to come stay a spell. Most of this mold is green, though it goes to dangerous black on some really humid sites. And while the north side is favored, mold creeps around buildings, cheered on by tree and shrub overgrowth that come to the Progress celebration.

Now if all this seems a metaphor for what comes in the swath of growth, of Progress, it surely is. The building lot, the raw material for Progress, includes centuries of trees, meadows and other vegetation, lowlands and highlands that the bulldozer often does not respect as to intended contour for good water runoff and proper land use. A house built on it may eventually be overgrown by poorly trimmed trees and close-foundation shrubs, and then the inevitable mold. Storms arrive and basement flooding or downed power lines result, the collateral of the march of Progress.

Of course, Progress can go in for annual check-ups, for maintenance, so that the quality of living in a nice home can be protected for both homeowners and the neighbors affected downstream. And not every property – in suburbia, in Gotham, in rural scape – is visited by mold, this metaphor for the general house cleaning required as homeowner responsibility. But, still, there’s more mold out there these days, it seems.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier one.




September 20, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

If true readers were the only people newspapers and Internet information providers had to be concerned about, there would be little reason for this essay. They are hooked on the news, educated and brought up and matured to understand the value of a free press in a free society, warts and all. An imperfect world, but what would be the alternative? No news, super-biased news? Gossip? So-called “fake news”?

Since printing began and the first sheets of paper brought news to individuals, private companies could count on people to buy enough dailies and weeklies to keep the print profession going; to support advertisers; to hold circulation stable. Now there are too few of these readers, who instead take to smart phones for word bites, no details please.

The Computer Age and the Internet, the cell phone, video games and the many morphings of television all snatch concentration time away from people, who seem busier than ever with seemingly endless schedules. There are fewer lunches spent with a newspaper; fewer evenings after dinner in an easy chair with the editorial page or columnists; fewer open pages of The Daily This or That spread across the kitchen table.

Now it’s the constantly-on computer or smart phone and Google. In milliseconds, much information appears —  too much, too quickly. News is read in headlines and short paragraphs, barely digested. Photographs and other images steal viewer time, reducing the brain’s word count.

This means fewer print readers and fewer newspapers sold, putting many out of business. What were once cash-cow operations that left the newsroom to do its job without interference are profit-driven companies that enact cuts everywhere and which call their papers “products” that require front-office managing by non-newspapermen so as to guarantee the bottom line. Once the city room was a church of sorts, an information sanctuary, left unsullied by businessmen who could never understand news people anyway. But they made money for the bosses. Now they don’t make enough.

More than ever, newspapers are decided by profit, and that affects what to cover; how deeply reporting goes; how thorough the editing is; and whether the traditional “who, what, when, where, how and why” of journalism will continue as creed or whether one or two of the pillars of fact-gathering fall to cost-cutting, thereby weakening the story and journalism itself. And democracy. Because democracy dies in darkness, in not questioning government and society.

The Computer Age, with its great but flawed ability to offer “facts” and commentary so quickly; to spread such information around the globe; and to keep it in reference form that eventually can out the wrong-doers presents an opportunity to add to individual knowledge and so empower him or her to self-educate. And since education leads to questioning, the hope is that the Internet’s ever more vast store of words, data and images will make our younger people more like the newspaper readers of other years — those who question, those who think.

The challenge for newspapers with digital sites is to present Internet information in such a way as to make the reader interactive, to want more details, to then ask questions in e-mail letters, in Internet forums and blogs.

There will always be a thirst for information. Humans have craved news since the first of us scrawled something on a rock wall. And businessmen will always want to make a profit. If they can do that in the information delivery business, fine. Might even make some of them feel a lofty goal is being met.

What we all must do, whether we are the kind who grew up with three newspapers a day in the house seven days a week or if we are online perusers of news, is to support information delivery. Buy newspapers. Read them. Turn on the Internet but truly seek information and understand it, and then question. The “who, what, when, where, why and how”  still must be satisfied.  We must read, in print or online, then question, then react. And most of all, if there is no “why” or “how,” if any key word in the pursuit of a free and open press is missing, we must let the bean counters in the media know.

Otherwise, the free press will lose the ammunition it needs to keep us safe from individuals and groups seeking to control the information flow for their own anti-democratic, greedy purposes. They would rather not have the media watching them.


The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier version.




Twin Towers steel at Haverstraw Bay Park, Rockland County, N.Y./gunther photo


September 11, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     There is rhythm to our lives, and when it is seriously interrupted, the beat changes forever. And so it was with September 11, 2001.

When  9/11 hit in terroristic horror 20 years ago, I was at the former Rockland Journal-News building in West Nyack, N.Y., just 20 miles from the World Trade Center. As Editorial Page Editor, I had been at my desk since 4 a.m., getting advance pages and copy ready. My day, like any of us then, quickly changed. So did thousands of lives, forever.

The newspaper, as all media, scrambled at 8:45 a.m., even as we shook our heads and kept glancing at the TV images of the Twin Towers ablaze, the tragedy at the Pentagon, the smoking field in Pennsylvania when United Flight 93 crashed after courageous passengers diverted the plane from its D.C. target.

Later that Tuesday, there would be much crying in Rockland County over the loss of area civilians, New York City firefighters and NYPD and Port Authority police officers who were among the dead in the attacks.

About 3,000 individuals of all race and creed, economic and immigrant background and political persuasion were killed in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. 

Funerals after funerals followed, many for those whose bodies could not be found, and they continue today for the 9/11 responders who developed cancer from building debris.

Communities noted hometown heroes like Welles Remy Crowther, an equity trader and “The Man in the Red Bandana,” who selflessly rescued people in the Twin Towers and died as the Upper Nyack, N.Y., volunteer firefighter he proudly was.

Area municipalities now have memorials and annual observances.

The War on Terror began, and the U.S. became another of the countries which have invaded Afghanistan over the centuries, America hoping to rout evil but finding that quest illusive as we now see in the latest failure in Afghanistan.

Trillions have been spent on the battle against terrorism, not all of it accounted for.  Sadly, some have profited either financially or by using this long moment of national, human tragedy to push the prejudice of painting all of one kind with a single brush.

Few commentators have noted that hatred helped bring on 9/11, and that such crop is fertilized if democracies lose their moral compass and encourage citizen neglect elsewhere by supporting dictators when that is convenient; if countries do not speak out for decency and act according to their stated creed. Hate grows then, with the hungry easily persuaded through false promise.

At my old newspaper on that fateful day, we did what we were trained to do – present the who, what, when, where, how, why of the terrorist attacks. We wrote the stories, including the sad but uplifting human reports, presented graphic images and offered commentary.

The Journal-News, and much media, had done this before, of course, covering world wars, natural disasters, death and destruction. That is the beat of information delivery.

What we in the newsroom of my time did not expect was that our heartbeats would change, our rhythm would be different after Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The newsroom of December 7, 1941, had its own blips on the oscilloscope, and now we understood, too, about the horror of sudden attack on a nation but also the reaffirming heroism of so many of its people.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is based on an earlier report.

                              – 30-



By Arthur H. Gunther III



America’s Labor Day has morphed beyond the usual public time off — picnics and other respite — that recognizes workers. Now it is also 24 hours of heightened uncertainty. There is worry over whether the job you have now, if you are working, will be there next year. And if the part-time spot will ever turn into full time. And if health benefits will continue, if they exist. Pensions? Forget them — they have largely disappeared. Instead, you go it almost alone with a 401K, without much help from employers, and you will probably deplete that long-term investment to pay bills along the way. Retirement may mean poverty. Then there is the Covid decimation of life, economy and hope.

Yet past Labor Days have been tough, too. The Great Depression brought extreme unemployment, and some men held no job until they were drafted for World War II. That conflict ended the economic malaise, and America, not battle-ravaged Europe or Asia, was ready to restart civilian goods factories. Times boomed and prosperity brought us suburbs, super highways and a large middle class. Enduring the deep, dark hopelessness of the Depression and a number of recessions in every decade since were part of the trudging journey.

Today, just a little more than a decade after the nation narrowly avoided another depression in the irresponsible greed of the mortgage/banking crisis, our jitters, the undermining of confidence in the American Dream, are bone-deep. We trudge again. 

The light at the end of the tunnel is remembering that America, our great America, began long before the Boston Tea Party, Lexington and Concord and the Revolution. It grew from the footsteps of those men, women and children who landed at Plymouth Rock and in the Virginias and then spread in every direction, especially west, which metaphorically is our never-ending frontier. The self-reliance, independence and  ingenuity, the can-do, survival, make-it-happen attitude set us apart from old Europe. Our Declaration of Independence celebrates all this in stirring, inspired language that defines the ground rules for government of the people, by the people, for the people. But how many of us in this increasingly politically polarized country know of and understand the “experiment” in democracy begun by our founders? The January 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol is proof of ignorance.

We must admit to terrible racism, the horrors of the Civil War, mistakes like the World War I Sedition Acts and the 1940s internment of the Japanese, and, most of all, the long-ago forced relocation of the only people in this nation who do not need a Green Card — our Native Americans. Yet the instruments of our success, the intent and fulfillment of at least some bedrock principles in Declaration and the Constitution, have also righted many wrongs while so many others await remediation.

It is in America’s greatness, in its original intent, derived from the DNA of its peoples, native and immigrant, that our oratory can steer us straight once again. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech were born of us all.

So, on this workers’ holiday in our great America, we recall the beginning and know our source of strength, purpose, direction. This is a worrisome Labor Day, with a disappearing middle class and all that means for economic stability and progress; with a worldwide killing virus that has battered families, economies and hope; with the threat of more war; with Washington polarization seemingly set on party ideology but truly well-directed by greedy, even sinister special interests. We Americans must again be revolutionary and demand of the government that is us, that it truly be us once more.


The writer is a retired newspaperman.



August 30, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     I have now over-saturated my ears in tribute to Charlie Watts, last week late of the Rolling Stones, who must be rockin’ Heaven. Don’t care for Mick Jagger’s on-stage theater but Charlie, the classy, low-keyed drummer, was the yang to that yin, and his steady beat with so many detours down alleys of improvisation constantly fertilized the great lyrics and the Stones’ group performance. Charlie is owed by Mick, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. Also past members Ian Richards, Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor.

     There have been many great drummers over the decades in this century and before, all with the key backbeat job so the performers out front could strut and shine. Just as drums mark cadence in the military, the band drummer’s beat is the metronome for the rest of the crew.

     Hail Charlie, Ringo, Baby Dodds of the Jazz Age, Buddy Rich of the Big Band era, Cindy Blackman of jazz and so many others who have and do keep the steady while the house rocks.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



August 23, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

One of the qualifications of “progress” is that as new technology replaces the old, or brings it on in the first place, tried and true habits honed by trial, error, ingenuity, make-do and survival are lost.

For example, in this age of air conditioning, a simple concept like hot air circulation is forgotten. Recently, I was in an old New York village on a very warm day attending a gathering in a late-1800s building, three stories high. No AC, and it was stifling with perhaps 100 people there. The windows were open, but they were awning types, so there was no circulation like you get with double-hung windows. Wiping away the sweat, I looked up, and at about three stories there were other windows, all shut but with long chains dangling. It was soon obvious that the chains were meant to open the upper windows so that the heat could escape, replaced by cooler ground-level air.

Once upon a time this building would have had a sexton whose job it was to open those upper windows, or there would have been a fellow who understood the common sense of air circulation and who would have pulled on those chains. An art lost, it seems, in the modern AC age.

You can extend this thinking to other things: When I was younger, there was a neighborhood carpenter who would fix furniture so that you didn’t have to throw it out. Someone brought him a large table, probably 100 years old, most likely made from wood that was 200 years in the growing. The table had split after decades of drying, and it looked lost by today’s standards. But this crafty fellow, after scratching his head a bit, reached into his coveralls’ upper pocket, took out his folding rule, measured in three places along the table’s 8-foot length, went over to an old woodpile, pulled out some oak scraps similar to the table’s stock, hand-cut these pieces into wedge shapes, traced them on the table, cut holes and then glued everything together with huge pipe clamps. He saved the day, and to boot, the clamps were also made from scrap – old plumbing.

That table is still in my friend’s house. Today it would be on the junk pile, replaced by a new one much younger and perhaps less beautiful.

The point of the story is that in a faster-paced world, on the quicker journey, we have forgotten to bring along some of the skills that once allowed us to survive, those efforts that also instilled pride in what we could accomplish.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier version.




August 16, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

It may seem hilarious and even back-woodsy, but there was a moment, a long one, when at 2 a.m. in a diner, say Hogan’s in West Nyack, N.Y., when you instinctively pulled up your feet as the floor guy came by, splashing Clorox and water at the terrazzo floor. Hey, if he hit your shoes, they were washed too — for free.

Hogan’s, the old one, the place that looked like Edward Hopper’s image of a diner, was not fancy, although the food, short order mostly, was so well practiced a craft there that it could have been cordon bleu. Hogan’s would not be fancy — it’s clientele would not have that. It was just a down-to-earth comfortable joint, and joint was OK. It connected the dots in your life.

I’d hit the place, sometimes, after my photographer shift at the also old Rockland Journal-News in nearby Nyack. I might sit at the counter, where stools were placed on a bulkhead, so you didn’t worry about the floor guy. Other times I was too tired for that and needed a rest at my back, so I took to one of the 8 or 10 booths along the defining front windows of the railway car-like diner.

Also at about 2 a.m., the waitress would come by and toss a fresh bottle of ketchup across the table, and you hardly noticed that either, reflexively reaching for it with left hand while grabbing the near-empty with the right and then swinging that back to her in a return shot. You did this with the sugar, too.

It was life in an old diner, and if you were a regular like me, you were family, so you helped out. You may not have known the cook, the waitress, the floor guy by name, but a wink or nod was all you needed to keep in touch anyway. Diners weren’t much about talking.

Ketchup was a quality marker in the old diners. Hogan’s used fresh stock to refill, but some others watered the mix. Aficionados, and they went to old diners, too, understood that ketchup, a freshly filled bottle, had to be slapped at the bottom to get the flow going. Or you could use the old slide-in-the-table-knife trick. If a full bottle poured easily, it wasn’t choice.

Like everything else at Hogan’s, the ketchup passed mustard. In that, and in the place itself, the new day’s anchor was set at its mooring for night newspaper stiffs like me.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This piece is adapted from an earlier column.




By Arthur H. Gunther III

If you could capture images of the past and store them as memory files that could be flashed on a computer screen, then I would show you what my bedroom in Hillcrest, N.Y., looked like at age 19, in another century literally. 

My room – almost 60 percent of the Cape Cod-style attic – was cavernous enough so that the Armstrong cork tile floor, in shades of dark, medium and light brown, could accommodate layers of newspapers, simply dropped there by a teen who thirsted after the ink sheets and who did not have to pay for them since the daily rags were bought by my father. 

There was the morning Daily News and Mirror, the afternoon New York Journal-American and the New York World Telegram & Sun, all out of New York City, and the local Rockland Journal-News, the original 1889 daily that was absorbed into a three-county paper in 1998. I liked features in every edition: the gritty tabloid reports in the Mirror and Daily News; the “double-truck” (two pages, facing) photo spread in the News; the numerous columnists in the Journal-American and the World-Telegram; the financials and society news of the Telegram; and the local reports of my growing suburbs. 

I would look over these papers in favorite position – reclining on a “Hollywood-style” single bed – on and off through the day and into the evening. I should have been at my studies, but I was not. I also should have been keeping the room, really a luxury for a young fellow because of its size and privacy, neat, but I did not. A few years back, my mother had refused to clean it anymore or to straighten up, since I was supposedly a big boy and could do that on my own. Well, I didn’t. 

Not that there was food about or other unsightly stuff that might bring bugs or the Health Department. I was simply lazy, didn’t get checked on it, didn’t have the right conscience about it and utterly enjoyed my sanctuary. The sight of those papers lying there was like walking into a private library. 

And I loved libraries – formal places such as the Finkelstein in Spring Valley, near Hillcrest. But often the books were “untouchable.” I had difficulty reading at length, actually concentrating, which was discovered some years later and which I learned to compensate for based on a speed-reading technique. 

Yet I had no trouble scanning newspapers. The photos were interesting, and I greatly enjoyed the forceful speech in the News editorials. The opinion cartoons there, especially C.D. Batchelor’s on the dangers of drunken driving (wow, in 1961?) were great. The columnists in these papers were at times poetic, strong, emotional, charmingly aloof, and all-in-all interesting. They were my kind of reading. 

I did not know it, but poring over the papers every day, even in the “mess” I created, was my first post-high school education. In a few years, without deliberate intent, I actually found myself working for a newspaper, The Rockland Journal-News, and in my 42 years there would photograph, report, edit and write what I think were forceful editorials as well as pen a weekly column much like this one. 

So, Mom, I did make a mess, but it turned out to be for a reason, praise be. 

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier one.



‘COLOR’/gunther 2021

August 2, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     In these colors – black, white, brown, red, yellow – there is humanity and inhumanity. We do not see clear colors, untouched by others – that is impossible no matter the prejudice. You can live and die in one color, but your eternity is in the mix.

     The painting might just as well be fully black for that is the root of all human pigment. It is not because as in a brown planting field in season, the colors of the rainbow abound, giving beauty but then sustenance. 

     And variety. There are different tastes in the various hues of vegetables and fruits, preferable to individuals. In the finish, the compost pile has them all, mingled into stimulant for the next crop.

     In the end, no color stands alone forever, no gender is paramount, no political philosophy survives but in the mix. As the dying Indian says in “High Tor,” the 1936 Maxwell Anderson play, “Nothing is made by men but makes, in the end, good ruins.”

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



July 25, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

One recent day, I took a car ride with an intriguing woman (all are), and we had conversation. Never sure where those mutual talks lead, as I draw from a stream of consciousness, and the partner usually does the same. That means you are in the current, and it can be fast-moving; it can swirl into a placid pond and linger a bit; it can go over rocks, even waterfalls and lead to lakes, even an ocean. Much like relationships.

The lady and I were riding past part of the lower Hudson River Valley mountain range. I have had other such conversations in this region, and the description already given about how both water and relationships proceed or stumble or end or diverge fits. Somehow you never forget the journey.

My lady, though I am not sure she is truly mine, is actually a painting, an acrylic on wood panel, 24 x 24, and we were headed for the members’ show at an art center about five miles from Anthony’s Nose, the mountain that looks across the Hudson at its brother, Bear Mt.

The woman in the painting will no doubt be shy among stronger work from far better artists, but she’s to be the room, and her friend is happy about that. Good enough.

Who is the lady? Maybe my remembered conversation with her will tell me more in a discovery that leads somewhere, even to tributaries that do not extend very far.

The painting, and so the woman, began as a search for color. I deliberately chose her green coat, or perhaps blouse, and her red Irish lass’s hair. She is a stand-out lady, against a background of yellow ochre and similar color mixed and applied to show the stain of the wood, a medium preferable to me than canvas for this piece.

Her expression was painted last, for that is her soul. We only find that in exquisite moments, if we ever see the within at all. I drew her sharp nose, mouth and chin first, guided by the well of prior observation. I have seen such line before. When her eye was finished and the rouge of her face applied, she was there.

I like her. I may even love the lady, not as an art piece, for it may not be that at all, but for the feeling.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier piece.






July 19, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III


Every home has its entrance, perhaps a front porch or steps or inside foyer. So it is with places, usually introduced by paths, then roads.

In Rockland County, N.Y., close to Gotham but oh so many miles away ifrom urbanity there is a winding, quite old road from Pomona to Haverstraw, through New City.

It is the road of artists, writers, thespians. So much creativity has begun there over centuries, fiiting experience to the annual birth of apples and peaches at the 1700s Concklin Orchards in the Ramapo hamlet of Pomona, named after the Goddess of Fruit

South Mountain Road, Pomona to Haverstraw, the route of artists and fruit farmers, of thespians and writers, of High Tor ghosts, also has a magic tree in the Concklin orchard. It is the doorman to this enchanted land.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.



July 12, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     Stare at a door long enough, and it will open by itself. No, this isn’t telekinesis, merely but sometimes profoundly, a memory trip.

     We open and close, leave open and close doors throughout our existence, letting people, thoughts and life itself in or ushered out or kept out. We are at times hermits and social butterflies, frowns and smiles, sadness, exhilaration.

     Yet, if at all possible, and it must prove so if individuality is kept, we are the masters of the door. It hangs on hinges so that we can open or close, though others, sometimes uninvited, do the same.

     The locks on our doors are psychological keys to our personality, though obviously tempered by time and place. The multiple locks in urban setting speak to safety. The smart phone-connected cameras that accompany locks and doors today are about safety, yes, but also mistrust and worry in a vastly different age. Many, many doors of the past had long lost their keys, the welcome mat in place, even for the near stranger.

     The teen who stares at his of her childhood door, noticing the same paint chips, the remnants of posters and the lower smudges of the elementary school years is now in anticipation of going through that passage for the last time, off to college, off to life and other doors.

     Life drawing to a close sees the individual remembering in flashes of memory what happened as the door opened and closed, opened and closed.

     New to a house, to a room, memories begin for others as they glance, maybe stare at doors soon to be companions to life, to memories.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. 



Painting by gunther

July 4, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     TAPPAN, N.Y. – “When in the course of human events” begins the document crafted for July 4, 1776, a federal holiday now recognized as Independence Day. That the American Experiment has barely begun is as obvious as fireworks. As explosive too.

     This particular area of the nation that I write from gave birth to the Declaration of Independence in the Orangetown Resolutions posted two years before – to the day – on July 4, 1774. Those were the first organized stirrings protesting the extent of the British Crown’s claimed, over-reaching authority.

     Now, 245 years after 1776, on a day that is beach-going, includes parades, fireworks and, yes, the jingoism that is the politicians’ ever delight, the American Experiment which included the mission statement “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness …” is yet to flower in a field open to all. All are not equal. Many are kept from being so.

     The poor are not free from economic shackles held tight by greed and uncaring; minorities are largely unable to climb the ladder of progress; so many children face a life of under-education, crime and prejudice; there is yet no fair system of immigration that recognizes the many nationalities which built – and build – the nation; Native Americans who were herded onto reservations in our claimed manifest destiny are owed reaffirming recognition; the middle class, so vibrant that post-war it grew exponentially and brought the stability of home ownership is shrinking; gender facts of life become prejudice labels; forgotten factory workers, small farmers and salt-of-the-earth folk are manipulated into fear by political agenda that would never give them their due nor a roof over their heads. 

     All this and more await address and redress in the American Experiment. Yet the country, this America, this USA, has the potential to work magic, as has happened, to provide opportunity, to pay it forward.

     Note July 4 for its still-unfulfilled possibilities. Continue the experiment.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


June 28, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     I did not have to look up, as I was arranging my pocket money, to know the age of the fellow counting my change. He had to be about 62 or older. The clue? The bill was $11, and I gave him $21. Quickly, I was given $10.

There was no electronic register in this farm store, just a man in work jeans who moments before was hauling plants off a skid and, looking over at the check-out counter, saw me waiting. He just ambled by, nodded hello, added up the cost of my items in his head and said “$11.”

I had no $10 bill, just a $20 and some singles but did not want a bunch of singles back, so I gave him $21, which of course meant that he would flip back a ten spot. I had another motive, and that was to see if people really could still add in their heads and also recall how such common sense currency exchanges as $21 against $11 was the norm.

The fellow came through with flying colors — never hesitated, though I think he was a bit surprised by my old-fashioned move. Until he looked up himself and saw his contemporary.

Today’s electronic registers will also instruct cashiers to give $11 in change after the operator inputs $21, but I can tell you, when I have tried to give some clerks $21, they have handed back the $1 bill, saying “You gave me too much.”

This isn’t a complaint about electronic registers. Progress happens.  It’s just that my generation and the ones before and perhaps for a few years after, had to use their heads to add and subtract, divide and multiply. You could grab a piece of paper, yes, but at least in my fourth-grade class with Mrs. Still, we had to do the arithmetic in our heads. It was a challenge, and I still do it today as a brain exercise.

Countermen and women of years back did it in their heads, too, or added the bill on the same paper bag that would contain your goods, the fellow or gal pulling a pencil from between the ear and head, sometimes wetting the tip out of habit, as if to sharpen skills and be precise, and then do the bill.

A lost art. Quaint perhaps, but also somehow an intimate connection in an ordinary shopping experience. One that came even if you and the counterperson didn’t exchange a word.


The writer is a retired newspaperman.


June 21, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     While away from the daily deadline of the newspaper business (regrettably), I forever remain one of the irreverent, questioning, doubting souls with a heart that melts. So in this born-again era of claimed “fake news,” once termed, “You can’t believe everything you read in the newspaper,” I stand stage left, in the wings cheering on working colleagues.

     I tell them they are not “civilians”  and that they should thank the gods daily, for they belong to a group many like to hate, even plan deviously to dislike. They are the messengers.

     Without them, there would be no search for truth. They are not gods; in fact they are so Damon Runyonesque that at best all they can hope for is a long stay in purgatory before reaching heaven. Yet, as charged with reporting the “who, what, when, why, where and how,” they present facts that save lives, expose wrong-doers and celebrate the better side of humanity along with exposing its horrors.

     It matters not how they offer reporting – on a stone tablet, nailed to a board in the meeting square, via the telegraph, the telephone, the printing press, the Internet, by the jungle tom toms – people salivate for news, and the scribes must deliver.

    Others in the trade, distinctly separate from the reporters, are those who take facts and then offer analysis. 

     Yes, great and small mistakes are made – injecting opinion in reporting, emoting when presenting facts, hyping stories, working for news outlets that have an agenda. Yet, “leaders” and governments have fallen, advances for humanity have been achieved and ignorance has been revealed by those who have holes in shoe leather from pounding the pavement.

     “Fake news” is sometimes that and is generally shown for what it is. But no news at all is to pull covers over our heads and walk to cliff’s edge.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



The McCullers home, South Broadway, South Nyack, N.Y. /gunther photo

June 14, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

In a coincidence, if there is such, recently I walked past the late writer Carson McCullers’ Broadway house in South Nyack, N.Y., went home, and on TV was the film of her 1940 first novel, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” Now I know there is no such thing as an accident of talent. Nor of heartbreak and suffering that bring us explanation and beg our understanding. Nor of soulful givers to humanity.

     The Southern-based novel, set in real time, sweats with what the Civil War did not end and which the nation must still face or perish, in every corner of America.

     Carson McCullers walked Broadway in the village described in her sentence: “I was always homesick for a place I had never seen.” She wrote two last novels and the short-story collection “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe” there. Her passing in 1967 at 50, after strokes and other affliction, did not quiet a voice the vowels and consonants of which today would have us look at ourselves as the nation sits at precipice, democracy pushed to the edge.      



June 7, 2021


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Envelopes — legal sized or not — may be an anachronism in the digital world, in this morphing time of Tweets, Facebook posts and cell phone text shorthand, but using them can prompt memories that probably will not happen if you hit the smartphone in 20 years.

For example, I cannot fold a letter, a piece of paper, to place in a legal-sized envelope without recalling a near magical trick by someone I was in touch with years ago. She was one of the responsible “Distributive Education” students when high schools once actually had Business Departments and prepared legions of secretaries, bookkeepers and office managers for commercial work. (Imagine that most useful approach to post-high school life?)

Part of the course of instruction was to write various types of business letters, and I am certain that went just fine, for this classmate was quite good at whatever she turned her hand to. But she offered an added twist, one which I cannot duplicate no matter how many times I try.

Magically, as noted, the lady could fold a letter, a single or multi-layered effort, exactly along two lines so that the top and bottom of the paper(s) met exactly. Then it could be put in the envelope, as neatly presented as was the final, flawless typing, with proper grammar and spelling. It was all part of the package, this precision.

On letters to be put in envelopes, once writing them was a social grace, a courting effort, a vacation must, a keep-in-touch activity that linked people across town, the nation, the world. Can you imagine the emotions at play if we could read any sampling? Actually, we have, when PBS or someone finds letters sent home from soldiers in the Civil War, or Woodrow Wilson’s love notes (he was quite a writer) or various other missives from the famous, from ordinary people.

No one is saving the Tweets, though.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is modified from an earlier version.




By Arthur H. Gunther III

No Memorial Day, USA or elsewhere, is without heartfelt words and tribute, parades, wreaths, re-mourning. What is missing are the voices of the fallen. Would that we could hear them. What would they say?

“Mom, I was as scared as you, but I could not show that with you there. So I never really said ‘goodbye’. …”

“Dad, you told me about your ‘war stories,’ and I figured we’d swap them when I came back. …”

“Mary (any sweetheart’s name), I was crying inside when you were showing tears, and we both felt that we had been pulled from our door to the future so that I could enter another, for a time. …”

“Mr. Gram (any teacher’s name), I know you expected me to be the same distracted fellow day-dreaming in the back row, but I was really awake that final day, and I remembered you telling me to pay attention. It helped my pals in the squad, the ones who survived. …”

“Mayor Jones (any public official), there are speeches every Memorial Day, and parades and gun salutes and tears and then the barbecues, fireworks, leisure. Understand that all this is fine with me. I’d be there, too, if I could. But also believe that the man who fell next to me, the ‘enemy,’  isn’t one for me any longer, and he has mourners, too. …”

“I read the ‘Red Badge of Courage’ in Miss Rouy’s literature course and could not understand then the fine line between courage, the chance of it, the millisecond for choice, and the instant when cowardice could win. I thought it was black and white but now understand it is not really so, that military training and society’s expectation may of necessity set it up as clear choice, but in the moment of decision, there is fear, opportunity and the possibility of both heroism and cowardice. There is much more humanity to it. …”

“It is for humanity that I am ‘gone,’ the hope of it anyway. I am not truly ‘gone,’ of course, since I have not died in vain. The sacrifices of any of us, dead or living, are for betterment, for that continual ‘thirst’ for the world’s possibilities. Otherwise, why did you all lose me? …”

The writer is a retired newspaperman.




May 24, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — In the birthplace village of Edward Hopper, the famed American realist artist (1882-1967), it is a simple thing to note the early morning Hudson River light that he bottled and used in all the paintings of his long career. That was his gift, and it is has been shared with generations, especially in his present, continuing renaissance in America, Europe, elsewhere. Yet we humans, and Hopper was that, too, also have the most ordinary of moments, no matter the ability. Some even suffer in the ordinary for the ability.

When the artist was studying in France and also living in Nyack and in the lower New York City neighborhood where he would spend most of his life, he received short letters — almost conversational tidbits — from a friend, Alta Hilsdale, whom he seems to have loved in the way that you do just once in life. But the emotion was unrequited, and reading the Hilsdale letters, 1904-1914, is a sad experience. It is a classic relationship in which expectations are not shared and are in fact so different that you wonder how it could have lasted a decade.

But it is also a known tale, and that is why romance novels are written in hoped-for explanation. But Hopper did not write, not often anyway (unfortunately, we don’t have his letters to Alta). Nor did he speak much. He painted. That was his language, his expression.

Now, writer Beth Thompson Colleary offers Hopper fans, and actually anyone who explores human interaction, a chance to look into Hopper’s art and mind in her Hilsdale letters collection, “My Dear Mr. Hopper” (Yale University Press). The book is scholarly in that it presents primary source material, allowing the reader to enter the Hopper-Hilsdale relationship. Perhaps the last two letters between artist and the one loved are the most compelling and revealing. The first, Sept. 18, 1914, just two paragraphs long, informs Hopper: “I suppose I shall have to begin to tell some of my friends that I am to be married soon to Mr. Bleecker … We are to live in Brooklyn, at 42 Sidney Place … and if you should care to come over, I would be glad to see you. Always your friend, Alta Hilsdale.”

Imagine, after 10 years of “relationship,” such a short and explosive letter. Hopper may have assumed a developing romance when he should not have done so, but, still, the letter is way too cold. The second letter, written from Brooklyn on Oct. 14, is a bit longer though still short. More a note than a letter. It begins, “I cannot tell you how sorry I am to have made you unhappy.” And it ends with, “I thank you with all my heart for all you have done for me and offered me, and beg you to forgive me for causing you unhappiness. Most sincerely, Alta Hilsdale Bleecker.” That last letter is probably her most emotional one in all the 10 years. (The assumption is Hopper wrote back between Sept. 18 and when she penned the letter on Oct. 14.)

Who knows how the artist handled this loss. He married painter Josephine Nivision 10 years later, and that less-than-romantic union obviously informed his art, since he became most productive and, finally, sellable, with sacrificing cheerleader Jo at his side. And, surely, Alta is in the artistic effort, even if a painful memory.

This brings me to the point of my essay. Hopper appears to have painted just one work set in Brooklyn, where Alta moved in early marriage. Most of his works are about Manhattan or Cape Cod, Maine and Vermont, with some western U.S. scenes. “Room in Brooklyn” (1932) is quite an emotional piece, as Hopper’s paintings are, but this one is very different. Almost all Hopper women are voluptuous or at least sensual, many nude or nearly so. The woman in Brooklyn is fully clothed in a modest dress, sitting in a rocking chair and looking out the window while also apparently reading. We do not see her face, but the brown hair is set in the exact style Alta wore in an early 1900’s portrait of her, perhaps by Hopper. The Brooklyn room is sparse, with an unset table behind the woman. The view is toward what some Hopper scholars see as Hopper himself, that long row of brick tenements, such as in “Early Sunday Morning.” (It is repeated in many paintings.) On the floor near the woman is a shaft of light, the traditional Hopper pointer, as if he were a teacher revealing knowledge.

Is “Room in Brooklyn” a look at Alta 18 years after her last letter? Is she alone for a reason? Is she looking at Edward or the memory of him? Is she re-reading his letter? Is she clothed as the virgin he remembers, or as a woman not fulfilled? Who knows? Hopper is a mystery that even he spent a lifetime exploring.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay is based on an earlier version.



gunther photo

May 17, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

In the virus time many have found the slower pace and solitude that eluded them in the ordinary hustle-bustle of making a living, holding things together, joining the masses on the ever-more-crowded commuter highway. Not exactly lemmings to the sea, but a march nonetheless.

The synonym for such is “progress,” which means two steps and one step back. There are sacrifices.

In this pandemic, in the stay-at-home months, sitting at computer and Zooming our work hours sitting in casual dress, children “going to class” in the same manner, there also have been the many minutes, then hours where individuals found sanctuary, even that small corner of the attic or basement where we could escape the others, who also wanted to escape us. Close living can be too close.

If we have been lucky, there have been rooms dedicated to sanctuary, maybe a small at-home library where our friends can be books or magazines or newspapers or iPads or laptops. Or nothing but a soft light, a comfortable chair and absolute quiet. Time to think, time not to think at all.

Many lessons will be noted, hopefully taken, in this time of virus: vastly better preparation for the next health crisis; new ways of educating, including virtual; more at-home office work rather than hustling off daily to cubicles; the need to slow down to save the soul.

History moves in dynamics — war, depression, plague. The horrors of all that also bring chances to have those times not happen again. That would be the real “progress.”

Perhaps in those quiet moments in our individual sanctuaries of the virus time, the seeds of that commonsense have sprouted. Solitude (not loneliness) can also be progress.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. 



May 10, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Royal Clinton Taplin or RCT, as this longtime newspaperman was either admiringly or derisively called by reader, public official and wrong-doer, has hit the last keys on -30-, the traditional end for a story, joining the irreverent ones in whatever heaven, hell or purgatory awaits those who try to offer the who, what, when, where, how and why of things.

     RCT, my colleague and friend, was a reporter for the former Rockland Journal-News in Nyack, N.Y., and then for The Record in Hackensack, N.J. He never wore socks, but his shoes were worn from his old-style beat reporting as he hit the bricks, particularly on investigative pieces. 

     Taplin was used to seeing his name in print — bylines mean you make deadline, you file your story, take the photograph, do the graphics. You get credit, you earn your keep in the daily rush. Now do it again, from scratch. RCT did that even when not paid for his time.

     A newspaper woman or man, a staff photographer, a graphics designer, are only as good as the last effort, and most times, even if the individual does a boffo job — finds wrongdoing, gets the man-bites-dog story, describes humanity at its worse, then its best, he or she gets no time to eat the celebratory cake. You never find the cherry on top because there is always more news out there. The city editor bellows out another gig for you; it is really “Front Page” out there.

     Thank god. People thirst for information; it has been ever so. The public wants gossip; seeks facts; salivates over tabloid-like pieces on crime, murder and mayhem; cries reading human-interest pieces; and, unfortunately, can cozy up to so-called “fake news,” which means slanting, deliberately misleading, skewing the facts, even inventing facts, all for an agenda.

     Today, it is more difficult than ever to work for a newspaper, because there are so few, because staff has been reduced 80 percent, because hedge-hunter investors buy newspapers to kill them, to sell off assets, kicking free speech and democracy’s foundation in the ass.

      All this means society fumbles in the dark; local government isn’t watched; big government tries to manage coverage, as in embedding journalists in wartime.

     Readers always want to shoot the messenger; time forever they have claimed that you “cannot believe what you read in the newspaper.” And, yes, responsible publishers and editors would agree — always take things with a grain of salt; question, write letters to the paper; but, for god’s sake, engage. Stories must be reported if society is to have a chance to be free and stay that way.

    Royal Clinton Taplin, as irreverent as can be, a true Damon Runyon character out of Hollywood casting, knew that. 

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



May 3, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III


      When you go to an art museum, the standard pose of course has you pondering in front of a particular work, perhaps stepping back, putting one hand under chin, tilting head, moving forward, all in a studious attempt to “get” the painting, photograph, sculpture, woodcut, print, collage, whatever. Some of us do this studiously, some in affectation, some because we are simply joining the crowd. Others don’t have any pose and are just tagging along, with a spouse or friend, even under mild protest.

       The point, whether there is a workable pose or not, is that what is in the eye of the beholder is central to the art experience. The person who just tags along but who might take a glance up at, say, Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” the well-known film-noir painting of a night diner scene in 1940 lower Manhattan, might in that instant understand more about the work than the fellow who has stood before this wide horizontal piece 20 times with hand under chin.

      There is a dialogue going on between artist and viewer, and the language and its comprehension come from that simple but deep-in-subtlety well of “going beyond” understanding that Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about. In “Nighthawks,” the viewer “transcends” any actual experience in a diner to understand beyond.

      Hopper, the famed American realist painter, uses the bright inside light of the corner diner to contrast with night darkness. The light reveals the faces of the four figures – the counterman, the couple (perhaps Edward and his wife, artist Jo Nivison) and a man opposite. This light is transcendental – beyond ordinary perception – a realism that we normally do not notice. Hopper’s paintings are infused with that light. Even the shadows are functions of it, as are the people.

       That’s my take on “Nighthawks” and on Hopper, a painter well received in his time but much more so in his revival, which began two decades or so ago. This is the artist most often characterized as the “lonely painter,” whose urban oils are painted with figures who do not look at one another, who instead seem in isolated thought or which have no people in them at all. His Cape Cod summer works – oils and watercolors – are brighter than the city ones, yet are as transcendental in the use of light, a metaphor for revelation and understanding. But you, the viewer, the self-reliant as Hopper would have you be, has to do the work. He will not instruct you.

     I do see not loneliness in “Nighthawks” but urban alienation, which is the cityite’s cautious way of bonding. Three people sit on diner stools, two may be strangers to the third; they each need some degree of company (because they are human) but cannot speak to one another readily, as is the urbanite’s apprehensive, even suspicious way, so they sit in silence, not looking at one another but surely knowing another human being is next to them. That is not loneliness but the gothamite’s survival, his self-reliance.

     So, “Nighthawks” becomes Emerson-like, taking the viewer, whether he has the standard pose or not, to the inner, spiritual and/or mental essence of us living creatures. There is also, like Emerson, utter simplicity, so reduced, but yet saying so much. The individual exists even in the big city and the broad summer experience. There is the dignity of each of us, going beyond ordinary description.

      There is art everywhere – in old architecture, in sunlight rooms, in a pre-war diner – and to me that is what Hopper is all about. The art museum pose, certainly useful, isn’t necessary to understand that.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. 



The Königsee in Bavaria was crystal clear when I took this photograph, free of many of the ravages of climate change, fed by the waters of the Bavarian and Austrian Alps, as nature intended. May the rest of the earth have that good fortune as well.

The Germans are quite strict on protecting natural waterways. No motorboats. No invasive human activity that would pollute the water. The goal is to pay forward nature’s beauty for the next generations.

This was the intention, too, of the Native Americans and of other cultures, who, of course, have always fought against the ravages of “progress.” Necessary for human advancement and betterment, progress can also be fueled by greed and profit and abandoned by  commonsense planning. — Art Gunther



April 19, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther

The half pirouette that the young woman made as she stood on a street corner mimicked a movement many of us have performed, waiting for a school bus, another ride, a friend. It is akin to looking at our watch, staring at our shoes, whistling in the wind.

It is life itself, one of those awfully small but reaffirming heartbeats that keep the current moving through the routine of a day. A pirouette, like looking at your shoes, happens only in the ordinary, not when you are climbing one day’s mountain or descending another’s steep hill. Your pulse is normal, your expectations routine, you know you are breathing, and you expect to continue.

A pirouette – spinning a bit on one foot – is perhaps a subconscious test that you are still here, not that you are worried you are not, but simply a check of the status quo, like a watchman pausing at stations on his tour. The key goes in, it is turned, and life for the watchman is as ordinary as it is supposed to be. No surprise.

I was driving in a small town when I saw the woman do her half-pirouette, spinning on one leg, not in a staged ballet style or serious affectation, but in passing time. I saw her only for an instant, but you could read a life in that time.

She seemed happy, content, life humming along, and whoever, whatever was next in her day was more than acceptable. It, he, or she would be the next watch station, and the lady with the pirouette had the key. She could safely lift one foot off the ground and spin, for there was more than enough trust for that.

We all have our scary days – going to the dentist or the doctor, taking a school exam, facing the boss, getting older – and there are no half-pirouettes on those days. For most of us, thankfully, life does not consist of scary moments, and the motor runs without misfiring. It is in such security that we can lift one foot off this mortal coil and know we will not come crashing down.

I knew that the lady I saw in this small town – and she could have been in a big city or in a rural cornfield – was having a good day.


The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier version.




April,12, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     There are memory moments for every grade in life, whether that is literally first grade, or making the grade or existing on any level for a particular time. The moments become part of language unique to the individual, and you can go back and use the words again when you must, for whatever reason. They are anchors set to mooring in each of our foundations.

     I actually have such a memory moment from first grade, which was in the still-existing Sloatsburg, N.Y., elementary school. Perhaps the school was encouraging wee young ones to be responsible by giving us hall lockers, extras that you don’t usually get until middle school, if not high school. But there they were, a long line in the hallway. No locks, of course, because most first graders, at least in my time, at least me anyway, would not have fathomed a combination lock, and any key would have to be kept on a lanyard around our necks.

     Each morning, we would, as instructed, find our locker by number, itself a learning exercise, and then hang up our coats and put our bag lunches inside. No books, no homework then. We might have a pencil or two.

     To this day I associate my first-grade locker with a shiny yellow raincoat that my parents bought my brother and me. Inside was fabric that had traffic stoplights on it, and I can recall staring at those momentarily as I quickly hung up the slicker and hustled off to class.

     Don’t recall too much else about that first grade, except the paintings we did with the palms of our hands and the planter on the windowsill that looked like a head and was filled with dirt and grass seed that sprouted green hair. 

     My parents soon moved us to another school district that did not have lockers for first graders, just the usual cloakroom in the back of the classroom. So where I hung my yellow raincoat with its amazing fabric I do not know. Perhaps I left it in the Sloatsburg locker. Maybe it is still there.

      But I took the memory moment with me, and I’ve used it to pull me back to shore when that has been needed. There was a sort of security in that locker, a place of my own, where I stashed my coat with stoplights on the way toward growing up.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.




April 5, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

      He shuffles in his twilight, this once robust newspaper compositor who could knock someone out with one punch, dance for hours at a ballroom and bellow obscenities in very bad temper, all with a charm that oddly attracted. He could also be giving, loyal and compelling in conversation. Now he is a mouse, in his later 90s, dependent on six pharmaceuticals and the care of the children he often ignored.

Tables turn in life, and because this old fellow has no more fight and no longer has the strength to be the family godfather, the field advantage has passed to his three children: a son who would rather place him in an assisted living facility, one daughter whom he berates – albeit in weakness – as he did his wife, and another daughter who has always reminded him of his beloved mother.

The children could conspire to use their combined leverage and get this man out of the suburban tract home where he has lived for more than half a century. They could exact revenge for some parental neglect, for the man’s selfishness, heave him into a home and be done with it. No more required weekend stays at one home, then another. No more filling prescriptions. No more watching his diet. No more blues when he sits in the dark staring ahead like a zombie.

But they will not free themselves. They will not leave this father in even the best nursing home. They will not force him from the house that was rarely a warm home in their childhood. They will not turn the tables. Blood is indeed thicker than water, and the old man’s children are good people.

So they continue living in guilt, in fear, on the edge, silently praying that the father’s end comes peacefully, in his sleep, not from the cancer or heart trouble or senility which, by luck or design, has escaped this particular human.

Until then, they will endure, waiting for a prayer’s answer, with a gnawing pit in the stomach because they have called for death.

There are sparks of old, times when a light blinks on in this old man, and he recalls moments spent with family and friends and workers that bring a smile to his face and a gleam in his eye, in turn encouraging the same look in his caring children. Such moments are like the rare ones of their youth, when a father suddenly took the family for a spin in the new car, and there were smiles and laughter. We all want parents, and we all want to be happy with them. We all want good memories.

Sometimes, during the nights of his stay-overs, the man cannot sleep, and his children hear him get up and shuffle to the bathroom. It is a long walk, for the steps are small, but even longer, for this is the old age of a man who once bounded into the house and who chased someone down the street after a motorists’ fight.  The morning’s walk in the hall reminds them of not only the father’s own mortality but theirs as well, and such revelation in the early hours of a dark morning are particularly frightening.

The children think, at such times, will I be the same burden to my children? Will they be as obligated to take care of me as I am with my dad?

The weekend gathering includes a dinner that takes twice as long to get through because the old man eats slowly. No conversation at all. Then it is TV — 1930s movies or cowboy shoot-em ups the necessary fare, and, sometimes, some recognition of added awakening in the aged fellow. The children feel comfortable in this setting, in a 10 by 12 room with couch and chairs and heat and light and, well, a family gathered. For a time anyway. That lessens the guilt, even as the child chases away thoughts of the inevitable next day, when the father will return home via a 20-mile drive that seems to last as long as a trip to Boston 200 miles away.

There is no talking in the car, the dead-silence tension eased only by Benny Goodman CDs. Most everything has been said in this lifetime, and what was left unsaid probably will remain that way. If conversation comes, it is one-sided: “How is your sister?” “Is your friend coming this week?” “Are you looking forward to a visit with my brother?” One-word answers to these questions. The same answers to the same questions.

Arriving at the old house, left untouched since the death of a saintly, long-serving wife almost 10 years ago, the old man takes three minutes to get his unsteady feet out of the car, leans on his cane, walks to the front door and uses five more minutes of life to find his keys and correctly insert them in a door opened many thousands of times, including hundreds when the father’s own dad was elderly and also shuffled.

But today’s father never thought old age would happen to him, that he would lose a wife too soon, a wife to whom he rarely gave credit but whom he misses so much today in great and constant regret. Now it is his twilight, and he cannot escape. His prayers, too, are for a peaceful end.

The door now opened, the old man profusely thanks a daughter for being so kind, for talking him in for another weekend, for driving back and forth, for getting his pills, for going to the doctor’s, for calling to see if he is all right, and, most of all, though he does not say it, for not throwing him to the wind. He knows he deserves that.

The daughter, her sister and the son, all very different people with varied emotions and needs, share this man as their father. They make their individual judgments about what he should have done, could have done. They wish he had been a much better dad, a decent husband. But they are the products of the mother, too, and they are the good people who are now the father’s angels. Knowing his end is near, and their own judgment, too, soon enough in the quick spiral of time that is earthly life, they see enough of the good in him to squeeze his hand and say their prayers.

The door closes. The old man shuffles to his easy chair, his own judgment seat, for there he is to be lost in thought, in sorrow, for another day, another week, until the next weekend’s visit.

This essay is from earlier writing, re-published because the theme is universal. The writer is a retired newspaperman.




March 29, 2021


    When I came off the crest of the hill heading down Spring Valley’s Main Street at 1 a.m. Tuesday, March 23,  just 8 minutes after the alarm for the fatal Evergreen Court Home For Adults fire in the village, I could see the lights of the responding Columbian Fire Engine Co. No. 1 trucks. A few hours later, Jared Lloyd, one of their volunteer firefighters, would be gone, perishing in a hellish blaze in an old hotel. 

     Oddly, I saw the Columbian rigs just as I passed the old Ramapo Trust Co. building site at Main and Lawrence where another Valley volunteer gave his life some decades ago, rushing on foot from a nearby event dinner to jump into the fire scene.

     This time, in that selfless dashing to save lives, it was Lloyd, a 15-year fire service veteran with the Columbians, the oldest of three Valley fire companies (1861). Jared leapt  into action, immediately responding while everyone slept. Because of his bravery, his life was given. He gave it. Because of him and his fellow firefighters from Rockland’s many departments, as well as police, EMT, Evergreen staff and community members, all 112 residents were rescued with an unfortunate but single fatality among them.

     Training for Rockland volunteer firefighters, men and women, is rigorous, scientific and on-going, the county’s special academy at the Fire Training Center in Pomona so well-respected that some cities and states have sent trainees.

     So, when firefighters like Jared Lloyd hear the fire tone and jump out of bed or leave work to report to the station house or fire call site, they do so with an adrenalin rush, yes, but also with clicked-in super, smart training. Both save lives — courage and education.

     All that bravery, study and practice, though, cannot always keep the firefighter alive. Hellish fire, with flaming lips that change direction like a serpent, smoke that is not gray but black and so acrid that it challenges face masks and air packs; and the disorientation that comes from not knowing the fire scene’s floor plans, door and window exits and actual construction materials can make a crapshoot of firefighting, however well-trained the firefighter is.

     There will be services for the latest Rockland fallen fire volunteer; his name will be added to memorials. There will be studied reviews of the Evergreen fire, and lessons will be learned and then taught in Pomona and at many fire academies.

     But the intangible of any bravery such as Jared Lloyd’s is the greatest lesson, the most significant tribute of all: that one willingly gives a life for others.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.




March 15, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     No longer are there country lanes in this life, grateful though as one must be for having once traveled in the heady quiet of a summer night, windows open in non-air conditioned car but the heat of July dissipated both by a sun finally down and the hope of youth taking its place in the brightness of a horizon seemingly without limit.

     Yet it proves just partially reachable as years pass, mostly because the demands of moving on require practicality for the ordinary of us. Life happens.

     No complaints; in fact, grateful again. What flowers bloom in fields where you never expected to be. Much luck, awfully good people, some talents nurtured and opportunities  bring a harvest not deserved. Not everyone is so fortunate.

     In the night of the passing years, after the hustle and bustle and the required routine are done, the country lanes appear in a flash, and you get the summer evening scent immediately, the hair that is now gone catches the cooler breeze in the hollow. You feel what was for a second — those youthful stirrings before you had to grow up.

     Yet you were on the lane once, and as you fall asleep so long after, the car is moving in third gear, the windows open, the summer date over, the goose pimples visible.

     Life happens.



March 8, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Way back in my time, in my small village where a Saturday morning might begin with a long walk through town to an old schoolyard or a field of winter straw, the settings for thoughts of nothing in particular but sometimes more than that simply came and lingered a bit. It wasn’t a school day.

     This was before computers, smart phones, video games, weekend organized activity for kids. It was “get-lost-for-awhile day,” directive from mom so she could clean the house, that after working all week. So, a walk fit in just right, or maybe some time in the huts we could build in the many woods of our countrified area.

     Such a walk was for all seasons, literally. In all kinds of weather. In any year, from third grade through high school and a bit beyond, until the routine of being employed changed life in its next stage.

     The walk, itself leisurely, no hurry-up steps as when you are late for school or for the dentist, was of nothingness but also of everything, for it was on the two-mile-there, two-mile-back that dreams were made — what would you do in life? Would you have girlfriends? Would you leave your village? 

     Perhaps the thoughts would be more immediate. Would you like sixth grade? A new school, yet filled with the same classmates? Or was the day, that particular Saturday, so nicely warm — but not hot — and the quiet accompanied by an occasional drone from a Piper Cub circling from the airpark as to make all semi-serious thought disappear?

     Walking back home seemed to make you a bit stronger, more confident. For you had solved the world’s problems, you see. And your mom was ready to let you back in the house.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.

     — 30 —



March 1, 2021

Arthur H. Gunther III

     America doesn’t smile as much these days. The virus. Jobs gone, debt, deficit, taxes, disappointing “leaders,” the greedy, less spirit, confused purpose, lost understanding of how, why the nation was founded  — not much to be happy about. 

     Until you see a child’s face.

     Not talking about my own grandchildren, for I am prejudiced. Nor the smiles of any particular kids I know. As with so much of life, it is the anonymous who are seen most acutely, most honestly. We have no direct stake in who they are, where they have been, where they are going. There are no ties, no responsibilities in the seconds it takes to glance at their openness, the smile from non-cluttered thinking in childhood expression.

     Where are they, the young who smile? In innocence, surely. In curiosity, yes. In mile-a-minute thinking as their fertile, inquisitive minds begin to collect and catalog sights, sounds, smells, emotions. Most of all, in imagination, in that magical world where there are few limits, where super heroes are made and trusted, where Cinderella can meet her fella, where right can win out, where the frontier is the jump over the moon into the cosmos.

     And, of course any child can do that. He/she has not been taught otherwise.

     We adults forget so much of a child’s world and come to tolerate it as a growing phase worthy of a nice pat on the head as we plan for college way too soon, not remembering that the best education in our own lives was when we were young and few boundaries had been set. 

     Who is the wisest in the set? The youth in imagination or the “accomplished” adult who has made a mess of things in today’s America?

     The nation no longer smiles as much, but the young still do, in almost any circumstance. All things seem possible in such early time, anything.

     Pity that we grow up.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay was adapted from an earlier writing.



February 22, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Don’t each oranges much any more, or tangerines, as the march of time has made the delectable juice the foe of my system. But once just the peeling of the fruit, with tangy whiff as you pressed the north or south pole to open it made the mouth water. Better than a Three Musketeers bar. Not better than a Tancos Bakery jelly donut, granulated.

     My father, who did the grocery shopping since my mother did not drive and also had a 9-5 job, kept the household supplied with fruit, especially the oranges and tangerines of the winter season. Fall would bring Concklin’s apples; summer Hudson Valley peaches.

     You began evening television, channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and the partial on-air 13 out of Newark with an orange or tangerine, pressing your thumb into the pole, maybe getting squirted, taking in the rind’s fragrance, setting the scene for taking apart the fruit, section by section.

     My brother did not care for the stringy part covering tangerines in particular, but I enjoyed that, mixing with the juice once you popped a section, much like topping on cereal. Yin and yang.

     You would watch a cowboy movie or “I Love Lucy” or whatever was a regular TV staple, orange eaten but rind still on a napkin in your lap. Too many times, on my way to the kitchen, I’d gather up the bits, roll up the napkin and put in my pocket. Then I’d get a glass of water and completely forget about the drying rind.

     Almost no problem since the fruit remainder kept its fragrance, and finding the rind the next day was sort of like washing your clothes with the high-priced detergent you get today, orange scent, of course.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



February 15, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     I recall a particularly down day way, way back when a combination of disappointment, inaction, frustration and inertia had me idling in neutral. Could not see the road ahead. It would normally be one of those times when you just didn’t get out of bed. But fortune stepped in. I had to go with a friend to pick up his 1959 Austin Healey 3000 from a great mechanic on East Willow Tree Road in what was then rural Pomona, N.Y. I was to drive the sports car home. It took my moment out of neutral.

     My own car was a staid and unreliable VW beetle, though most of that make were OK. This one had an inherently bad engine that kept blowing valves. Lack of maintenance did not help.

     In contrast, the friend’s white Healey was in great tune, and I wasn’t going to spend enough time to change its image. Yet it changed my day.

      When I left the shop, revving the 3-litre BMC C-Series motor a bit in first gear, clutch down, clear country road ahead, bright day, whatever mood I was stuck in vanished in tailpipe smoke between shifts. Had it to 60 mph in 11 seconds on the straight Pomona Road run, not fast by today’s standards, but it felt as if I were driving Mr. G at Daytona.

     Left on Route 306, back to East Willow Tree to McNamara, the twists and turns  conquered in numerous shifting and downshifting, gripped  steering wheel aiming the vehicle along the crest of the road (best place to be), that fine machine, its finicky carbs newly ear-tuned by a master in sync like a full orchestra as we revved our way through those great turns. Nothing else mattered. It turned out to be a good day.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


February 1, 2021

 ‘AMERICAN PROMISE’/acrylic, gunther

  By Arthur H. Gunther III


     This House, isolated in American vastness, no chimney seen, no doorknob, no curtains, yet it is a sturdy home, not abandoned, people within, green, fertile fields, blue sky floating on rich, yellow, warming sun. Picture of endurance, fortitude, independence, can-do. Not urban, not suburban, not wilderness. All that exists, too, all that celebrates as well. American Promise.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



January 25, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     If I had a real conversation with Sara, who is in a room during this virus, as so many of us are, her face not seen though we can imagine her thoughts, it would come after our eyes met. I would wait for that, brush in hand, and then let a quiet rhythm begin in my speech but say few words. 

     I would want her to talk, and I would build on that, she in the painting, me beyond the frame. The conversation would be not so much what she says but what she thinks. That would make the ordinary of this unusual long moment come alive. It surely would direct the brushwork.

     Has this been a time of deeper reflection? We all reflect no matter what, but usually it is on the go, the wavelength competing with other frequencies, like radio stations jumping on your favorite network.  Now there is quiet, utterly so at times, and sitting in a room as Sara is doing, the place very simple, with a strong upright standard lamp assuring light, the heartbeat can slow, and you amble rather than race through your thoughts. 

     More doors open into your inner mind, and you make connections to memory, to unsolved dilemma, to happy thoughts not regularly visited when we are in the hustle-bustle world.

     As I paint, I know Sara will turn — just for an instant, for the piece is about every woman, and so we cannot “see” just one person.

     But I will look deeply into Sara’s eyes, which means everything. And I will understand. So will she. It’s my painting, after all.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. 




January 18, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III


When you wrote your first letter, no matter how old you were, or sent away a quarter with three box tops to a cereal company to get a baking soda-powered plastic toy submarine that you could throw in the bath water, you took what became a familiar journey: the walk to the street corner mailbox.

My first trip to what seemed a place of magic was in the Spring Valley, N.Y., of my youth, in the 1940s. The mailboxes in those days were small and olive colored, decorative cast-iron affairs attached to sculpted concrete stanchions or to lampposts. They offered a bit of elegance to government.

My grandfather took me to the mailbox at the corner of Ternure and Summit avenues and had to lift me up so that I could open the mailbox lid, which swung on heavy bolts, and then drop the letter in. He told me to reopen it to make sure the letter had fallen in and for good luck, too. The lid came down with a clank, a solid sound, twice.

As we walked back home, I could not help wondering how my mail would arrive where I sent it, in this case, Battle Creek, Mich. Was there a huge underground pipe with air in it that sucked the mail all the way to the post office?

When the battleship arrived five or six weeks later at Box 74 in the Spring Valley Post Office, where my father got his home mail, I was amazed, and assured that government worked. I believed in the U.S. Post Office.

This mailing of the letter, the curiosity about how it got where it supposed to go and the return mail with the treasured item I requested as an eight year old was a wonderful moment of freedom, of opportunity, of growing up, of success, and it encouraged me to use the mailbox — any mailbox — on the corner again and again.

It also instilled trust in government.

Over the decades since, those small mailboxes that introduced youngsters to the mail service’s possibilities, those cast-iron portals of mystery on street corner America where moms and sweethearts posted letters to men and women at war, those durable metal boxes which seemed as strong and dependable as our nation, have disappeared, replaced with larger and many, many fewer mailboxes with rounded tops, a now patented design.

Fewer boxes has made pickup easier and cheaper for the renamed and redefined U.S. Postal Service, whose workers I hail, though leadership — driven by politics — sometimes doesn’t rate a stamp of approval (as we recently found.)

In the later 1950s, the olive mailbox look gave way to red, white and blue, a design encouraged by a citizen’s suggestion. Around 1971, that appropriate, even patriotic, look was changed, unfortunately, to the all-blue, cheaper-to-paint design that we now see. 

Citing reduced letter writing, an overall decline in first-class mail, use of the Internet to write messages and pay bills and the ever-higher cost of running the Postal Service, the people in charge will further reduce the number of street mailboxes. That walk to a corner won’t happen, no satisfying stroll to say you can trust the government, beginning on a corner in your very own American community.

In my own hamlet of Blauvelt, N.Y., in Rockland County in lower New York State, there are no street-corner mailboxes where once there were four or five. You can drop mail in the one box that exists, and not on a street corner but in front of the post office. You can also leave it with the “rural free delivery” mailman, who actually serves built-up suburbia on a motor route that once would have been converted to door-to-door walking delivery given the number of people who now live here. But ever-higher costs prevented that changeover.

I applaud the mailman who usually comes despite the sleet, the snow, the rain, the hail, and it is a bargain that we can send a first-class letter for the present cost of 55 cents.  

Eventually, though, the Internet, however unreliable in power outages and poor signal areas, may take over, and traditional mail service will be gone. And what will also disappear is the walk with your grandfather to mail three cereal box tops for a toy submarine. Guess Gramps can then sit next to his grandchild at the computer, though both could use the walk and the priceless opportunity to go off together on an important life journey.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. This column was adapted from an earlier essay.



January 11, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     The painting accompanying this essay is titled “Storm” and is a reworked piece following the tumult of 2020, now spilled into early 2021. It is, despite the movement and color, a work of hope.

     The painting is based in part on “Lydia,” the 1941 Merle Oberon film that refers to an earlier French movie by director Julien Duvivier. The film is set in flashback and looks at the five men in never-married Lydia MacMillan’s life. It features a windswept house by a stormy sea where one love affair was set to sail but never anchored.

    The film affected me in several ways,  particularly the emotion of the seashore house surrounded by churning waters and high winds. A port in a storm.

      Then came January 6 and the invasion of the U.S. Capitol, and again we saw a storm but in the end, the lights stayed on and the historic place of democracy, last assaulted by the British in 1812, endured. Another port in a storm, however challenging the moment.

     So that’s how a painting came to be.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



‘AT THE ASTOR’/gunther

January 4, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     Sometime in 2021, the Astor sign will again be lit metaphorically in tourist spots across the globe; we will no longer just stare at paintings on the walls; but we will remember the quiet, the great gifting quiet of 2020 that slowed the frenetic pace and tilled fertile ground for the seeds of necessary thought. A very Happy, Healthy, Giving, Forgiving, Thankful, Reaffirming New Year to all.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact or FB Messenger.


December 28, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     If the world were a tree, and we brought forth water and pruning and, most of all appreciation no matter the shape, the variety, the location, the age, there would be enough shade for everyone, enough fruit, enough beauty.

     And if the paragraph just written were a metaphor, it would be a description of the life service of a more than decent human who just passed. Chris Murray was a nurturer, and his trees were the homeless, the afflicted, the poor and hungry, the abandoned in a world with individuals too involved with this and that to notice.

     In my time, I knew Chris as the social worker active in the Rockland Interfaith Breakfast Program out of Spring Valley, N.Y., and with the Helping Hands organization assisting the homeless. A “Longgg-Gilander,” as he often and proudly referred to himself, Chris was both a liberal’s dream and a Conservative’s wish.     

     He felt the pain and saw into the dark tunnels of the drug-afflicted, of those officially forgotten veterans whose long nights forever echo with gunfire and bloody screams, the depressed, the mentally ill, those unable to cope.

       Chris Murray also deeply understood that you cannot just offer tears but also the tougher love of giving to some who cannot or will not be thankful. In this mix of compassion and call for responsibility, he was both liberal and conservative.

     That is a lesson for the rest of us, particularly in what may become a new political world in the United States.

     Chris Murray died. But his look-you-in-the-eye compassion is re-born in his memory.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


December 20, 2020

     Each winter holiday season, this space is reserved for my son Arthur, a teacher and writer who has been offering stories for two decades.

By Arthur H. Gunther IV


The couple had taken to nightly drives right after the clocks had fallen back in October.  Spring and summer had been filled with early evening walks to escape the house but the early darkness had put an end to that.  At first, they drove simple loops throughout their town and the neighboring villages, sometimes talking, sometimes listening to music on the radio.   Never the news.  As the temperature dropped and the darkness deepened, they fought back by heading out on longer routes through unfamiliar towns.  They had fallen into a pattern of taking turns choosing an album to soundtrack the trip.  They had an eclectic collection to choose from and this lent a bit of surprise to the drive.  Mostly they chose albums long neglected.  Songs they hadn’t heard in too long a time. In a way it was like when they were younger, when it was a nightly ritual to fall asleep as a cd played.

The stretch of the last nine months had given everything pause.  Even the things never taken for granted weren’t spared.  The year laughed in the face of tradition.  In some ways, this was fine.  If all you had lost was tradition you should probably count yourself lucky.  Maybe alongside all the suffering was a lesson on the what to truly hold on to.  There was hope around the corner.  As the year drew to a close, ignorance was on the run once again.  The resilience of science and optimism had temporarily laid low those given to wielding fear as a weapon, as a barrier to evolution of thought.

This was heartening.  Sometimes this is where the conversation went.  Other times things grew quiet.  The couple knew each other well enough to revel in the warmth of the silences, the only sound the cd their partner had chosen filling the spaces.  It was then that his thoughts wandered the most.  He thought about the years past and the illusion of time.  How something sixty years before could be vivid in his mind while last week was nothing more than a blur.  He thought of how, in a way, he depended on the rhythms of the year.  Rhythms that had largely been shattered recently.  This was how he appreciated the smallest changes.  This allowed him to hone in and focus on what was precious and new when everything moved too fast.  Like changing one photo in a frame on a wall filled with many, his mind could now absorb the beauty of what was new.  A shooting star in an otherwise static night sky. This was how he appreciated.  This was how he remembered.

His wife was different.  She never had had the need for repetition.  Her mind worked in different ways, never dependent on rhythms to sustain her.  She reveled in the novel.

There was, however, a yearly practice that filled the space in the middle ground between the couple’s two philosophies.  Each year since their children were young, they had gone to see the Nutcracker in December.  At first, they would save up and head to New York City and Lincoln Center, but somewhere along the way this changed.  They started to seek out other performances of the ballet to attend.  It was amazing how many different groups performing different versions could be found within a day or two’s driving distance of their home.  Jazz variations, hip hop, guitar trio, all drums, high school, college.  Once they even found the Nutcracker performed by the characters from Peanuts.  It became a fun challenge to find a new way to do something they did every year.  They never ran out of choices.

Until this year.  He knew, in the grade scheme of things it was no big deal.  This was not life or death.  It just made him a bit sad.  Especially so for his wife who loved this unusual tradition.  He had accepted that this would just be another change in a year filled with many.

The first night of winter it had fallen dark by 4:30 so the couple set out early on their drive.  It had snowed several days before and stayed cold.  Ice sparkled beneath the holiday lights as the car glided up the road.  They drove north and then circled back over the mountain and down toward the river.  He decided to head back along the mountain road that bordered the park, a park finally appreciated this year after a generation of visits solely from neighbors.  Looking to the right past the large wooden sign, he noticed the gate, normally locked at dusk, was open.  The road was even plowed, a practice that in previous years had fallen by the wayside.  Maybe the park now had night hours to give people more of a chance to get out.  He quickly turned into the park road to see.  There were several cars parked in the lot and a few people walking up the path to the old cinder track and stone amphitheater.

Guiding the car into a parking space, the man and his wife buttoned up their coats and got out to see that the track was lit up.  Not a normal occurrence for this time of day and season.  Walking up the hill, they began to hear music playing and occasional clapping.  The lack of voices seemed odd.

Clearing the rise of the hill the scene was revealed before them.  On the grass field, still covered with snow, about twenty people of various ages were spread out, dressed in brightly colored winter clothes.  An evergreen tree that bordered the stone seating had been decorated with lights and ornaments.  The performers, because that is what they appeared to be, moved with varying degrees of grace around the field.  It couldn’t quite be called dancing, but it wasn’t quite walking either.

It was then that the man heard the music.  Out of a speaker that had been set up on one of the stone steps came a sound that he had heard during many Decembers previous.  A sound both familiar and new at the same time.  It was the Nutcracker, the scene where Clara is whisked off to the Land of Snow.  The couple stood frozen, watching as the performers moved, danced, and walked to the rhythm of imaginary falling snowflakes.  The scene ended, there was a pause, and then, rather than moving on to the next scene, the Land of Snow started up again.

The couple stood transfixed at what played out before them.  They must have seen the Land of Snow performed three or four times before the performers stopped, took a bow, and left the snowy stage.  It didn’t appear that the group planned on performing any other scenes.  Grabbing each other’s mittened hand, the couple began to navigate the icy path back to the car.  They didn’t talk.  They didn’t need to.

     The writer lives in Upper Nyack, N.Y.





December 14, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     Gotta tell you a very human story. 

     The other day, in the middle of this awful virus time, I got a call from a friend who needed help replacing an electrical switch, something not beyond me.

     “OK, I replied, what’s wrong?” The fellow answered, “It’s a three-way switch, and I cannot figure out how to wire it.” “Be right over” was my answer as I suited up with mask and hand cleaner, gathered tools and cast off.

     When I got to the man’s house, he had already pulled out wires from a location upstairs, never a good thing because you invite a mystery: what wire goes where?

     We checked that the power was still off, I looked at his replacement switch and found the right wires. Flipped on the circuit breaker but no overhead vestibule light. I asked the friend why he thought the original switch was broken, and he said that it seemed wobbly and that the light was out.

     Not to make this story complicated, but I told him that 3-way switches, despite the name, control a light from two locations, and that he might have guessed wrong — that the other switch was the malfunctioning one, and besides, you should replace both devices at the same time.

     So, I got another switch and put it in. Still no illumination. Ah, that is when the lightbulb went off in my head. “Did you check the bulb to see if it was OK,” I asked? One new energy-efficient 75-watt equivalent later, let there be light reigned.

     There were two dense people here — myself and my friend, both of whom did not look for the obvious. It was like changing the fuel pump in your car because you ran out of gas.

     Back in the day, in my hometown village of Spring Valley, N.Y., there was an astute, community-friendly, well-known radio/TV expert repairman who often received calls that someone’s radio or TV was completely dead.

     Taking one such call as he leaned on his own Philco radio set in the living room, one leg crossed over the other, John Romaine would calmly tell the anxious caller, who did not want to miss a favorite program, that he would be right over.

     More than once, he found that the power cord had been pulled out when someone plugged a vacuum cleaner in, etc. 

     The fellow never charged for his visit. 

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.     




December 7, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III


  Just a few words here. After posting a recent painting without text except for the title “HISTORY,” on various internet sites, I was asked to provide a narrative.

     Truth is, we write our own when we look at art work — paintings, drawings, sculpture, collages, etc. Even artists cannot always tell you what their work “means.” And any particular piece is reinterpreted over time, if it’s ever seen again.

     On reflection, though, I humbly think the painting pictured above represents America, its history of barns, grain elevators, industrial chimneys, homes. No windows, so as not to be specific as to region, ownership, period. We all own the structures, our history. Maybe it’s all of us trying to find America after what few can deny has been tumult. 

     Or, perhaps it’s just a bunch of buildings. Maybe just a gathering of colors.

     You can decide, or not. Thank you.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



November 29, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

We all have our time and mood anchors, those moments of memory that moor us in the ordinary as well as during the storms that hit our lives. Stress of any sort — financial, emotional, health — drive us to port, and we are grateful for the safe harbor. 

 When I was a youngster, one of my safer slips was early morning in winter, about 6:30, when the house heat had started to come up and I was rousing to get ready for elementary school. My working mother was already off, and my father, on the night shift, would be getting breakfast for my brother and me, a simple affair of Rice Krispies or hot oatmeal, as well as making our lunches. 

 In those years, when there might be a new school to attend (we moved around a bit), friends to make, classes to get used to, different woods to explore in the semi-rural areas in which we lived, having the routine of a small breakfast prepared by a busy dad, in a house just getting nice and warm, with the dark of winter yet to raise its nightshade on dawn, with the wonderful smell of my father’s fresh-brewed coffee and the sound of New York radio’s Martin Block on 1130 AM, there was reassurance that the day would proceed in good-enough fashion. 

 The scene was the same, you see, no matter where we lived, so it was one of those safe harbors. The available anchorage continued through high school, and the memory of it still comforts today. 

 When I was older but not far beyond my teen years, yet some seasons removed from my father’s breakfast morning routine, another early-day moment came my way and also reassured. 

 In that time, I drove a friend daily to a New York City college, and since one of my many faults happily did not include honking the horn for someone to come out, I was invited in to wait a short while. In the winter, the same sort as my youth, in the dark, I again felt the rising heat of a household and the strong whiff of coffee brewing as my friend’s mother prepared breakfast for her daughter. 

 Not much conversation passed between me, shy enough, and the mother, though it was more than what was said between father and son just 10 years or so before. Yet nothing had to be spoken. It was the reassurance of the moment. The memory of this woman’s welcome, as with my dad’s morning routine, was one of those small treasures available in the box that you open to begin your day. 

 A polished jewel, really.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier piece.


November 23, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     “Gimme rewrite!”

     Once, there was a “Front Page” in every community, newspapers and characters straight out of the famous 1928 play/movie by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht, but now the city rooms are fast shutting their lights as the roar of the presses gives way to smart phone clicks and word/visual bites, blared gossip and falsehoods on social media instead of informed articles that can thwart democracy dying in darkness.

     Newspapers continue to disappear, some after a century of providing the who, what, where, when, how and why that is essential to the republic, victims of fewer readers and folk who prefer the immediacy of the iPhone. Victims of advertisers who flock to the internet. Victims of hedge-hunter investors who sell off newspaper assets for quick profit.

     Town boards, school boards, planning/zoning boards are not covered in depth any more, if at all, and so many shenanigans can occur in that dark. Newspapers also help bring communities together in local sports reports, feature stories, coverage that reinforces pride, the good news counterpoint to the crime news of imperfect humanity.

     The recent presidential election and Trump’s dictator-like assault on facts, his reliance on cultivating fear and worry and change and stroking it with false promise, was the swollen river difficult to cross as far fewer newspapers could offer facts. The depth of ignorance he mined is so very great, and the worry going forward is that it will lie like an ember until he or his like are next on the stage to ignite the real “fake news.”

     The bromide quote is that you shoot the messenger, and that’s why newspapers have always been derided. “You can’t believe what’s in the paper.” “Good to wrap the garbage in.” “Only liberals work at newspapers.” Common comment, and actually healthy, although not intended. Always question what you read, check things out, be skeptical, write a letter to the editor. Such is the forum of democracy.

     But embrace the messenger, too, for without the irreverent tribe of women and men who take names and poke and poke, only the con men will rule.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Many painters don’t title their works or provide only cryptic ones, perhaps  because they do not know what the pieces say, preferring that their “language” speak for itself. Maybe even tell the artist what “it” means. And, besides, it may be in the eye of the beholder anyway. 

     Is a painting ever finished?

     Take this piece. I can offer various stories for my “Woman on the Stairs,” as can anyone. 

     When I paint, I usually do it from a “flash” — something I’ve seen quickly, on the street, in a film, in a magazine or on social media. It’s like writing these columns. A flash of thought comes, and I build a narrative. In that, as in my newspapering days, I “make deadline” and move on to the next cycle. Some of the output is better than others, as are newspaper days. It all gets done — and forgotten. Wrap the fish in newsprint.

     Since I am trying to get better at painting, I usually post an image for comment on Facebook and Instagram. Typically receiving a handful of replies, some prove critical, which is great. Humility can be a kick in the rear, but it is instructive. After the wounds are licked.

     And the comments show varied interpretation, which is also great.

     For example, the painting with this column had some viewers seeing a woman on the edge of a bed, not the top of stairs; one said it was “racy,” to which I replied, “Hope so” since the physical is present in everything; “She looks like she can’t take it any more” offered another viewer; a “non-political piece about pure beauty,” said another, and yes, the woman is beautiful, as all women are; and “alluring.” Yes, that too. What woman isn’t if you care to find out?

      My take is that the woman in the painting is just thinking, in quiet, in her space. She’s happy. You can fill in the blanks should you care to.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ANY COMMENT TO:



November 10, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Joe is in, so is Kamala. Next, it’s gotta be the people.

     Kamala Harris cannot have her office in Washington, where the K-Street lobbyists and other special interests buy elections and pull strings for clients from domestic to foreign, from the military to the industrial.

No, the first female vice president, the first person of color in that office, must establish rotating offices in the heartland, in the inner cities, in those suburbs that are decaying. She must help push the right buttons to restore dignity to those who have lost manufacturing and other jobs; she must help address the lack of job retraining and affordable health care, the scourge of substance abuse, the loss of hope. Harris must hug beyond red tape those who face despair, even suicide. Do all this from a regional vice-presidential office with direct access to the president, agencies and officials who can make progress happen.

     What must Joe Biden do? Many things, of course, since a president must lead the nation in all matters domestic and foreign. And he has an even stiffer job since such presidential action and example have not been seen for four years.

     Biden must get the people “in,” in the war room of actual change, by creating a new cabinet post, “Secretary of the People,” as powerful as the Secretary of State. It would be filled by someone who advises the president, who can bring to that person’s ears the drowned-out voices of all the diverse people.

     If there were such a secretary sitting with other counselors of government, perhaps the White House cocoon that is inaccessible these days to ordinary folk would at long last have an inside person to get to the president.

     To prevent special-interest wooing of the Secretary of the People, the post would be held for just one year, with the president appointing each successor from somewhere in ordinary America. The chief executive would not select the individual himself, but rather an independent, volunteer group would search the nation far and wide and make a recommendation. Senate ratification would be almost a given, in the spirit of cooperation and to avoid lobbying by groups sure to be hurt by “common sense.”

     Special interests already have their counselors, appointed and otherwise. Why not the people? Perhaps there is no other way to gain access to the White House for them.

     Joe and Kamala are in; now the people, too.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at 



      November 2, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     It should be un-American to hate, to be a bigot, to let fear and want from loss of job and community change to bully others from speaking, to let your religion tell you it is right to exclude non-believers. It should be un-American, but it is not.

     Trump has said such thought, such behavior, IS American, a not-so-subtle reaffirmation that white is good, and only white is good. And his way of boosting his ego. Trump is only about Trump.

     No matter that except for Native Americans, we are all immigrants on stolen land, paved over in the march for “progress” and white manifest destiny.

     It has been wholly convenient in our short U.S. history to deny our racism. Cities were built. Industries rose. Opportunity increased. Great advances were made in technology, medicine, the standard of living. And, admittedly, in human relations. But all at the cost of ghettos, the poor, the disenfranchised, the drug-addicted, the mentally afflicted, chased from sight so we could live the white version of “progress.”

     When, in the course of growing maturity in this American democratic experiment, the one envisioned by the founders, we saw leaders like Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy trying to cast light on the neglected, telling us the debt must be paid for paving over paradise and putting in a parking lot, we shot them.

     Now in the age of Trump, who would never sit down at Mar-A-Lago with the white victims of job loss and poverty, the crowds he lies to in false promise, there must be a reckoning. We must face our sins.

     Far-right, greed-driven politicians, long-removed from the Dwight Eisenhower era of progressives and compromisers, today join special-interest lobbies ruling from K-Street offices in D.C., deliberately obstructing change that would help the middle class, the generational poor, minorities and the fully forgotten. While this influence is at work in both political parties, it is truly sinister in the hijacked GOP. The Democrats are flawed, yes, but they are currently capable of seeing the error of their ways.

     The nation’s bleeding offers perhaps the last moment to turn the tide in special-interest influence, in a Republican Party that has lost its way, in a Democratic Party that offers decency, and thus hope, in Joe Biden.

     We must, in this election, begin to reclaim government for the people, to defeat racism, to educate, train and provide jobs for forever-neglected African-Americans, Native Americans and other minorities, including poor whites.

     The money is there — in the vaults of the super-rich. The “hope” is there in articulate voices, particularly women today.  The means are there in this nation that overcame a civil war, the Great Depression and led the world 1941-’45. We can devise a plan of action, as FDR did, as the Marshall Plan did for post-war Europe.

     The timing is right. Flip the switch Tuesday. Begin the gathering of decency.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



Hugh Bonner’s funeral, St. Patrick’s Day, 1908, NYC

October 26, 2020


By Arthur H. Gunther III

     I am partly of Bonner heritage, Irish through my grandmother Mary and also Scot as the family was Bonnar there before some went to Donegal. This matters to me mostly, in 2020 especially,  because I am distantly related to Mary’s Great-Uncle Hugh Bonner, the first chief of department of the newly formed Fire Department of New York and later the sixth fire commissioner. It matters because this is a dramatic, pivotal election year, and this is the United States, the nation that has the “welcoming” Statue of Liberty in New York’s harbor. It matters because I want to see more Hugh Bonners — white, black, brown, red, yellow, female, transgender, gay, straight in humble service.

     And it matters because Bonner, who passed of pneumonia in March 1908, after working a job — yet another Gotham blaze — was a man of humble service who rose from immigrant roots in the Irish Great Hunger and the poverty of crime-ridden Five Points in Manhattan to help direct the heroism of the fire department and to offer lifesaving tools without claiming patent. He also authored a  treatise on fighting fires in tenements with central light shafts that acted as chimneys when there was a blaze. Those shafts were banned in future construction, saving many lives.

     The New York Times’ report of Bonner’s passing noted that he “owed his position in the department to his high sense of duty.”  A Times editorial read: “In Hugh Bonner this community has lost a man who placed its Fire Department at the head of similar organizations in the service of the world’s great cities. He ran New York’s first self-propelling fire engine and its first chemical engine; he operated the first water tower ever used; he invented the life net and various devices for reaching the heart of a fire more quickly … New York proudly mourns his death.”

     It is the accident of birth that brings this humble man of service to my lineage, but knowing his history makes me more deeply bow to the great possibilities of people rising from hunger and want who grow to serve through stacked odds. That’s my kind of nation, and I tremble that it will disappear in the current indecency of false prophets. 

     Today, so many potential Hugh Bonners  do not survive to achieve; so many are pushed aside, wounded and killed by racism, prejudice, by the greedy who send their jobs away, by the elected who don’t walk the talk of equal opportunity, by the fakers who proclaim rescue while picking the pockets of the gullible.

      Hugh Bonner is why I voted so proudly in this presidential election.


     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



October 19, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     In another century, it seems, there were conversations about everything yet nothing of great import. Those two were not going to solve the world’s problems nor were they going to impress each other with pontification. Even the exact words did not matter, for it was the expectation that long drives and long talks would be a Friday and Saturday evening routine that counted most. It was that and the rhythm of it all.

     And the silences between many spoken — and heard — paragraphs were welcome as well, accepted not as moments where either had nothing more to say but as a minute or two or five to savor what already was said, much like you do in a several-course dinner.

     Now all this may seem remote, unimportant and unconnected to the reader, but you have been there. Recall when you were with someone and felt more than comfortable. There was trust, reinforcing habit and a feeling of mutual worthiness. 

     I guess for some in such situations the conversations and their routine might be the stuff of romance, though in that case perhaps fewer words the better. But goose bumps can come from talk alone.

     Even if the romantic is never reached or even proves impractical, it cannot be denied that two people purred in common language for a long moment, once upon a time.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


October 12, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     There is a road on the South Mountain, a winding, hilly journey that has long defined the lives of farmers and artists. It is the plan of the gods for there is little difference between the two nurturers who plant and harvest that which is from nature.

     In life there is also such a road for us, though the actual route may simply be a metaphor. Windings, hills, downward slopes, fertile ground, seeds sown, watched over, the harvest — all are part of life in degrees. Storms, too. Drought, poor soil, inattention, that “reap what you sow” whisper from off-stage.

     Then there is what some call the divine, or at least intended, meant to be. The road comes into your life. It takes you for a ride. You leave for other byways, but you return in moments of reflection to the original route.

     There is an actual South Mountain Road near me, in New York State, descending from the Concklin Orchards at Pomona to the slopes of High Tor mountain across from Dutch Town in Haverstraw. “The Road” has been home to playwright Maxwell Anderson, artist Henry Varnum Poor, actors and others gifted as those who describe the human void. There is magic in such creation, as there is atop the hill in the 1700s Concklin farm spread.

     My father would drive us along South Mountain, my brother and I rolling side to side in a 1939 Dodge as Dad maneuvered the turns. In high school, I rode a bike there in great effort. In early romance, there were walks and talks and silence and hope and goose bumps of a summer.

     In the working years as a newspaper stiff there were the photographs I took of road celebrities, the writing, the commentary.

     In retirement there have been stylized photos and paintings.

     All in all, quite a few decades of pull from The Road at South Mountain. I thank the gods.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



October 5, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Curiosity, we are warned, killed the cat, but the naysayers never tell you about the nine lives.

Curiosity was a welcome trait for Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, who thought out of the box, who applied independent, non-conformist learning skills to their journey.

Einstein’s son Hans Albert said that his father was “withdrawn from the world even as a boy.” Had he been the traditionalist, he might have ended up a fine professor instead of spending 10 years daydreaming about gravity and the speed of light and whether a fellow saw himself in a mirror the same way traveling through space as he would moored to earth. His E=MC squared formula might not have been written. And, so, the good, and as Einstein noted, the bad in “progress.”

Thomas Edison tinkered in his lab with a similarly inspired staff, trying this and that out of curiosity much more than straight applied science. Had he followed strict dictum, he and his people might have given up. If they had let curiosity kill the cat the first time out on light bulb filaments, there would have been no ninth life, no pushed curiosity that found carbonized thread as the winner. And then there was light, literally.

Edward Hopper, the famed American realist painter whose works of solitude are so especially defining to the crazy world right now, spent long, non-painting months in utter curiosity, going to 1930s movies, peering out his Washington Square studio window, looking away from the sea at South Truro, Mass., walking Gotham’s streets and reaching into his file cabinet of a mind for human and architectural sketches filed on so many trips of curiosity. He took what he needed, and when the time was right, he brushed in strokes of interpretation that make us shiver.

So, I say to all of you, especially the young yet unspoiled by too many limiting rules: Go for it – be curious, day dream, move to a different, unique place in your mind. Be independent, dare to “go to infinity.” This America, in particular, this nation right now in a time of virus, in this suffering moment of wrongs and inequalities, needs your innovation.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier one.


September 28, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

The “American Dream” has always been “just white,” and until the nation admits that, some of those who have arrived will keep people of color and immigrants from success. And some of those who do achieve the dream, no matter the ethnicity, the skin tone, become “just white” in their thinking, unconsciously or not. Until that, too, is recognized, strong areas of white superiority, with all the hatred, racism and fear, will rule — by whites and non-whites — on the “right side of the tracks.” Harsh truth.
Securing the American Dream in our earlier history was in part a horror story because it brought the displacement and genocide of Native Americans and was built on slavery as well, yet there is also the undeniable human advancement in this great experiment set by our founders, which has given the full world benefits as well. This movement was born out of old European religious persecution and non-responsive government. Its journey has assured progress, fulfilling manifest destiny in this land of always seeking a new frontier. Material and social growth, witnessed by the forging of the Civil War and after, the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the great rising of a middle class post-World War II, were possible because of the Dream. It gave us the can-do spirit of World War II. It brought us respect and leadership in the world.
But as with all such achievement, once inside the new house, the well-kept community, the land of good schools and no tenements, too many who get in close the door. You are the new white man, not even the white woman, and the kind from which you came have no seat at your table. Harsh truth.
We are not a “melting pot,” nor should we be. The “melting” reference is really saying, “become just white.” No, we absolutely must be diverse — it is the strength of humanity — but surely with the common purpose of equality, opportunity in a land of promise, a continuing experiment begun by the founders. Until that becomes the true American Dream, an inclusive one that also addresses horrible wrongs against Native Americans, we will have nightmares, as 2020 is showing us. This is the time to make the American Dream all the colors of the rainbow.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


Acrylic on canvas/gunther


September 21, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     There is at least a single incomplete umbrella in anyone’s life, no pole leading to canopy, a metaphor for incompleteness, perhaps something unfinished or just plain out of sight to anyone but you.

     The journey taken, the one ahead, the one under way, well that’s yours, and you alone are the master of its fate. Is rain falling on the day you are going for that job interview? Is the umbrella at hand in which to disappear as you leave a love affair? 

     Is there protection in politically divisive times when those in charge would deny you the citizen an umbrella?

      You know how to “hold”  the umbrella, denied or not, for while its pole seems missing — incomplete — you know where it is. 

     Protection in life — and that’s metaphorically an umbrella — is what you make it, complete or not.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



September 14, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Some seasons ago, quite a few really, the no. 6 red naugahyde-covered twirling diner stool at Tiny’s Spring Valley, N.Y., place offered a fine view of the glass donut and sliced cake case, which, of course, was a most tempting time, even for a 19 year old usually seated for a grilled cheese right off the facing flat-top grill with fries cooked then and there, not an hour before and then kept under a heat lamp.

     “Tiny” Lazaroff was a big man, and as they say, with a large heart to match. He was jovial, and his diner was at the comfort-level standard expected of highway stops before fast food sped up the gearing to assembly line quick-a-motion. My grandfather moseyed on west to Tiny’s for java on a Saturday morning, nursing it for a longish time with a donut “sinker” from the glass case.

     What was in the case was not impressive by today’s expectations. There were no layer cakes piled high with two inches of genetically modified “whip cream” nor no “N.Y. cheese cakes” made in Sheboygan. No, just a few plain donuts, some chocolate, and wonderful slices of vanilla-iced lemon pound cake.

     I usually sat on red naugahyde stool no. 3, right opposite the grill cook, but one day Tiny’s was too busy for the regulars — a tourist bus had actually stopped in little Spring Valley — and I ended up at no. 6. 

     Planted there, I was about to order the usual grilled cheese, but before the overly busy counter waitress got to me, the cake case’s magnetism kicked in, its fluorescent light behind the gleaming chrome and tempered sliding glass doors shining just right on a piece of that pound cake, freshly cut from a true, 16-ounce loaf, unlike today’s 12.5-ounce fakers. Like a stricken young pup in a school days’ crush, I mumbled in shyness that I just had to have that slice.

     Tiny’s coffee, in a green cup on a green saucer, came along for the ride, and my time with that wonderful iced-top lemon cake was rather long and as sensuous as could be. I used a fork to parcel out 1-inch by 1-inch squares, starting at the bottom and moving ever so slowly toward the icing, which ended the night. The “kiss” as it were.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


September 7, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     On a very hot and humid day, in the New York State that now is in summer more like Georgia, don’t avoid puddles. They instantly cool your soles and so give you reason not to give up the exercise walk that is keeping you physically fit but also sane in the restricted time of virus.

     When you are young, or when some of us were, you aim for the puddles. You might also play with mud, casting little buildings not unlike Pueblo Native Americans or early settlers daubing over chinked logs to stave off a bit of the winter cold.

     So, not avoiding the puddles, really or metaphorically, helps you accomplish something: as a kid, passing time, being creative, staying out of your mom’s way; as an adult, building shelter. Either way, don’t avoid the puddles.

     Walkers will tell you the best time to do so is in light rain. Umbrella or not, there is an insulating quality about it, your own security blanket of falling water that enables you to amble even in a crowd, your being, your thoughts protected. The puddles you jump over are accomplishment.

     It is a common photo, especially now that everyone carries a camera as smart phone, that reflections of buildings are caught in puddles, as if we can contain urban life and not be overwhelmed by its impersonal hugeness. It also makes for a pretty picture. 

     As it is with all simple things in a life that can be so complicated, with worries, with challenges, with ups and downs, an ordinary puddle (are there any other kind?) can be the reset button.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


August 31, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Rituals in our lives change, but that does not mean they are easy to get used to. They are even tougher to accept. Here I was in another town, USA, the location no less important than any, communities where life begins, passes, ebbs and flows in between. I was expecting 1980 or thereabout to remain the ruling time, but it was 2020, and I just did not get it.

     An early-morning ritual is to take a walk, have java and read the local newspaper. And so I sought a paper. But there was none at 6:30 a.m., long after morning editions have gone to bed, to press. 

     I asked a very polite but matter-of-fact store clerk when the newspapers might arrive, and I was told,  “When the man gets here, he gets here.” In other words, the news, the information that impacts our lives, which entertains, saddens, enlightens, exposes charlatans and connects us to the full range of human emotions, and which once would await no man’s delay under deadline tradition, would now “get here when it got here.”

     I was an active newspaperman for four decades and remain one in soul. Never missed a deadline, thank you.  No bragging – the first rule of newspapering is to get the info out on time, quicker than that, if possible. We all did it, do it.

     Now, many deadline clocks no longer tick louder and louder at the pressman’s hour. They are still. The daily printed word, the “who, what, where, when, how, why” of public meetings, government contracts, local sports, national and world news, and, yes, oh yes, presidential elections does not make deadline. Newspapers fold and fold, victim of the long trend of fewer print readers, consequently reduced advertising revenue and information delivered in bites rather than full length via Smart phones and iPads, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and TV/radio. 

     Sad, for a much fuller report can be had in print, all the better to be informed in a democracy that you want to keep. If a foreign power sought to dumb down a nation and have its people thrive on falsehoods, misinformation and gossip; if it wanted to turn elections toward zealots who build and keep a base by fear, then it would back hedge funds and other “investors” that buy declining newspapers and close them down for asset profits. You see, democracy dies in darkness, and that is the aim of some foreign powers. It is also the goal of some within these United States.

     While I waited in a strip mall parking lot for the paper delivery guy to get there, I saw descendants of folks like me, but they were not buying papers as their dads and granddads did or still do. Instead, they were in their cars, lined up at a bank, at ATM machines, to get money for the day.

     Once, we carried cash in our pockets from our pay checks for a week or two. And we used some of our pocket change to buy a newspaper.

     I doubt if many of the good, hardworking people on the ATM line buy a paper after they get their bank machine cash. Probably quench their thirst for information — and that remains a human constant — via mobile devices or computers. What they might swallow may be deliberately slanted “news” that does not go through traditional editing and vetting.

     The world has changed, and so has its ways. I simply forgot to get on the train. But I’ll never read about it in a newspaper.


     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



August 24, 2020

By Arthur H.Gunther III

This painting of mine is rural America, where predictability, reliability, routine are the melody for living.

Conservatism, fear of government overreach service, Pony Express on, a life-stream of letters, parcels, farm equipment parts, seed, baby chicks, then medicine and whatever few checks might come in retirement.

From this house, still catching the light of awesome land, a family, then a man and wife, then perhaps just the woman, would go to the general store to mail something but also to gather a bit with far-flung neighbors in the decency of shared existence.

Now, so far away in Lobbyville, D.C., in the special-interest section at what was once the People’s House, a wink comes to make metal boxes in blue disappear from the country store, from city and suburban corners, too.

Decency no longer has first-class postage.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.




By Arthur H. Gunther III

A peach in season is like long-sought love that suddenly makes connection.  The heavens appear, but as in many a novel and short story, consumption does you in, spoils you for the ordinary. You can love no more past this time.

Until the next season.

It isn’t Adam and Eve here, forbidden taste of the fruit that brings guilt and addiction. The peach in season, freshly picked at maturity, never ripened as a green orb by gas in a truck or rail car from this place or that, is like the magical confluence of things out of this world when the tingle, heart patter and goose pimples of human bonding strike as lightning.

You are hooked for the moment. You do not question why this peach is so full of nature’s best taste, why the skin has a snap never arrived in the ordinary supermarket variety, picked weeks ago. You simply savor rich sweetness that almost makes you cry, humbles you so in the process that you thank your god or your lucky stars. You are filled with satisfaction, and that keeps the tank supplying until the next year.

Once, in this region called Rockland, the smallest New York county geographically outside Gotham’s five boroughs, tree-ripened peaches were the norm. But post-World War II development took most farms and some of the greatest fruit ever grown, given our particular climate and glacially derived rocky soil. Now, there are but a few farms, like the Concklins, the Davies family, the Van Houtens and others in the Rockland Farm Alliance, such as Bluefield, Duryea, Pfeiffer Center, Stony Point Center. In their place is what is an insult: stores in all too many highway strips on old farm land that, with some exception, sell peaches from states far away, perhaps wonderfully tasting in their own element, had they ripened there, but not in Rockland as gassed creatures that are so grainy inside that you must throw them away, even after you have paid dearly a pound in “season.” You had hoped, but. …

No, I await the homegrown, larger fruit that like the lover you recognize in the dark, has its own scent. For a few weeks there is this affair that has you coming back and back for more, even moving you to tears, for no man-made sweetness is comparable to a fresh peach, the skin of which produces a snap at first bite that is exquisite foreplay.

Once your time is finished, you will have to move on, for the fresh peaches are no more. But that is just fine, thank you. As with the deepest of love affairs, the sort that can be revisited in its season but never sustained in ordinary time, day after day, week after week, you are satisfied so deeply that routine will never do.

You await the next rendezvous. It is worth suspended time.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is derived from an earlier treatment.




August 10, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

“Religion” is no longer organized or traditional for this writer though I have respect for all beliefs and for the utter great goodness of those humanitarians found within them who as reward regularly suffer the slings and arrows and condemnation of some institutional leaders and policies. An old story, lived vividly by the Christ of the Christians.
But this is not an essay on religion. It is about angels in the room whether you believe in them or not. Call the spirits what you will if you do not cotton to any god or hereafter. Yet I challenge you to say you have not met an angel in the room, your room.
A few years ago, off the Kings Highway on Cape Cod, not far from Welfleet, my family and I were gathered at a rented home the driveway of which was deeply rutted, not paved, just like the old orchard paths I walked along as a child in Rockland County, N.Y. On the Cape, on that driveway, I quite suddenly found an absolute calm, a warming feeling much like a comfortable blanket. Others were talking, but all I heard were the chirping birds you notice in your youth on a spring day, and a quieting — and you can hear the quiet — of my soul. I was both in the mortal world of a vacation landscape but also traveling with the angels. For just a very short time, all was right. I was cozy, without fear of any sort.
On only a few occasions in a lengthened life have I noticed the angels. Once on an evening walk on South Mountain Road in my county, again in quiet, another time heading to kindergarten and climbing a small hill to get there. A strong, rising sun, more quiet and those birds. Just 5, I felt life would be OK. Only angels tell you that at such an age.
Who knows what trials any life will bring? What happiness? What is just plain ordinary?
Just expect that out of the blue, faith and prayers or not, a very rare visit of utter calm and affirmation of hope will arrive. Perhaps that is all that is needed to endure. Angels in the room.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.




August 3, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Ordinarily, birds would not attract notice in the backyard. Laissez-faire: they go about their life, and I do the same. Do like their singing, chirping, fact that they are there, which probably means no horror story like a hurricane is coming or a win by the indecent in Election 2020.

     So, birds are quite welcome, as I hope I am to the creatures, for I both respect and feed them. But now, rather than a fact of living for this human, birds have become morning companions.

     In the time of virus, with so much stay at home, the rituals, the habits, the ordinary doings have changed. No longer rushing out the door to buy the papers, grab the coffee, park the car and read in that great quiet we must all have if only for a moment, the scene has changed to reading a delivered newspaper, making what may or may not be coffee at home, sitting on the back porch and having the birds drop in to eat their morning bread at the feeder/birdhouse.

     Never knew there were so many bluebirds, and that they are hogs, repeatedly swooping in to grab. There are sparrows, too, and a few colorful birds with red heads or scarlet coloring.

     They know when you are heading out to feed them, with the word passed along in rising chatter, the bird world’s telegraph.

     All in all, delightful morning guests. Or perhaps I am the visitor.  

  The writer is a retired newspaperman.


July 29, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     When in the time of virus you are so bored that you run from the house screaming “I can’t take it any more,” how do you return to normal blood pressure?

     For me last week it was walking about the upper back yard surveying trees and rocks and some grass and more weeds that I usually do not look at. I can see the space just find from the lower lawn or a screened-in porch, so the upper yard is mostly a nice backdrop for the usual passing of time and day-dreaming.

     Walking about the place in Blauvelt, N.Y., a few days ago, I noticed something shiny, trapped by a tree root. Since my back yard was once part of a 1920s home, it is not unusual to find buried things that pop up as trees grow and the land evolves,  In the 1920s-’30s, homeowners did not always have trash pickup. They would burn paper, compost the scraps and bury tin cans and glass jars, though they might reuse the glass. My upper yard includes these items plus lots of coal cinders from the hand-stoked furnace days.

     When I saw the shiny bit, I figured it was glass, which I have occasionally dug up. I first used a small knife to carefully make my archaeological dig, then a shovel. I thought I would eventually pick out broken glass but, lo and behold, what I dislodged was a 1930s jelly glass, the kind that was meant for reuse as a drinking vessel during the Great Depression.

     Took a while to clean it up — nature had filled it with dirt, but it came out nice. Added the discarded wiring from a 1940s Mason jar.

     All in all, great respite in the time of virus.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


July 20, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     There seems a steady rhythm these days living amongst the restrictions of the time of virus, whether it be the gift of simplicity in just not doing much at home, sitting in a chair thinking or reading, perhaps tea at some hour, a cookie or fruit with that; this routine repeated daily — a steady rhythm. It can keep you sane.

     In the breakfast program where I cook in the great quiet of a large 1865 building these virus days, having a bit of guilt but not much about being alone, for there surely is music in solitude, I have found a steady rhythm, too, in making grilled cheese.

     Ah, simplicity.

     I am at about the 1,000 mark on these sandwiches, part of a breakfast kept warm for those who come after I am gone. The right hand that does the flipping has its own rhythm, as expected but different for the individual, my own modified because of some arthritis.

     But it is in the making of these sandwiches — the arranging of many slices of bread on a big surface, the pulling of sliced cheese from commercial bricks, that there is real rhythm — piecework as it were.

      There is great order in that — lay out the bread, peel off the cheese slices, put a top on the sandwich. Odd, but accomplishment, so very ordinary, absolutely nothing difficult but there it is.

     And for this writer, as always in the village of my youth, my father’s, back to my grandparents, a connection. Moons ago, my mother — now I know she was a sainted one though she chased me with a broom — was on piecework herself as a small-parts assembler at the Briarcraft Smoking Pipe factory where my grandfather was foreman. She was paid by the piece, so she didn’t tarry, though she had to be careful to avoid rejects.

     Today, just streets away from what was Briarcraft, I, too, am paid by the piece, each grilled cheese sandwich going into a hungry stomach. Hope I do not offer many rejects.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.

The Seanchaí

This is the first installment of a fictional piece that I hope offers real-life metaphors for all. The story may be continued. …

The Seanchaí


By Arthur H. Gunther

     It was a bit of an amble on the N15 that Dermont Bonner took to Killygordon from Strabane, but this gave the seanchaí time to perfect the next story, to pad it out. Dermot could stretch words as well as gab, and in Donegal he would have to fit the tale to the Ulster Irish.

     (The story teller, the seanchaí, was the people’s entertainment for centuries, especially in the very rural Irish areas without books and literacy. He was the keeper of legend, folklore and myth, the custodian of tradition, the man before there was the wireless voice and the telly talking-image. To this day there is reverence and thirst for the seanchaí — anyone who keeps the child in him has an ear cocked for the tale.)

     You can be sure Dermot had his grasp on the spoken word, and that day on the N15 he was headed to the local for some trade. The seanchaí had been in County Tipperary last, at a teach tábhairne

with a sign above that identified it as Lyon’s Pub. It doubled as a hardware store and undertaker’s, so there was much to add to the regular story just by knowing the bio, if the planned tale was not already raising the eyebrows or the hairs on the skin or pulling the tears.

     This heritage pub offered the tourist atmosphere, what with its wood paneling and worn brass bar taps, but it was the regulars, the neighborhood, that owned the place. They tarried every day and evening, absorbing the fragrant deepness in its walls of not only a million pints of Guinness but the wakes of many a passing, the taps at Lyons pouring from one generation to another. 

    At the teach tábhairne Dermot kept them hanging on his words by telling the story of Molly McGuire, who had given Kevin Shaughnessy the boot after eight months. He was climbing to Heaven then but soon would be down in purgatory at least. Kevin was intending to walk the marriage path, finally to give up the freedom and opportunity of bachelorhood, something he thought near-impossible. There had been much gaiety in that carefree life, but Molly had eyes leading to soul, and once he took the deep look, he was changed. Alas, she ended the thought, no praise be, with a gentle but firm get lost. 

     This was ordinary, of course, two people not to continue on the same road at the diverge. But Kevin was smitten, had gone past reasoning, and the abruptness of Molly’s answer saw him confined to a long but solitary life on a small farm in Portrane, pigs and all. It was better than ending it at the Cliffs of Moher, though some days Kevin was not sure. Molly? She married Sean, the Market Street butcher, had the five kids, was a good wife and all. But her Sean never saw beyond the great greenish-blue color of her eyes, as Kevin did. It was a life.

     In the booth near the road window at Lyons, Mary Ahern rubbed her cheek of a few tears, recalling her own journey with a Kevin but also tilting her head toward the shoulder of Martin, her Sean. A life.

     It was a popular tale that the seanchaí told, adding local color. It was not always to the pig farm at Portrane that Kevin exiled himself. He could instead be a hermit on the Enchanted Islands off Donegal. 

     But Dermot would not tell the Molly-Kevin story in the far North. No, he had been up there many a time, and it was different than Dublin, or Cork, Limerick or Belfast.

     Dún na nGall, “fort of the foreigners,” is a land of where it’s different. Everything. Bordered by the Republic’s County Leitrim and Counties Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh of Northern Ireland, there is distinct cultural identity. There are also long, gloriously sunny beaches and majestic mountain peaks of great beauty, trade off for some brutal weather and desolation, a place of extremes.

     And why wouldn’t it be, so far north that a quick jaunt might land you in the Atlantic Ocean headed for Iceland if you kept to port 15 degrees. It is this sense of place, perhaps, that keeps a Donegal person on top of things.

(to be continued, perhaps)

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


July 5, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Back when, and “when” is whenever you or I hold a memory about a place or someone or thing, there was a country road in Pomona, N.Y.,  named McNamara, and though the signs still proclaim it, no longer is this a rural place. 

     Nor is Pomona, named by apple farmer Nicholas Concklin in the 1700s, still wearing the robes of the goddess of fruit, for most of the trees are now 2x4s in suburban development.

     There was a ritual in youth back “when”  included a summer walk from Hillcrest, a nearby Rockland County  hamlet, to McNamara, early on before the day’s heat and humidity. It began off Eckerson Road onto State Street, to Hillcrest Avenue, across Rt .45 to Locust (sometimes it was the parallel Faist Drive) to Hempstead Road to Brick Church Road to Union to McNamara, where the hills and valleys, however light, caused young legs to stretch and the heart rate to quicken.

     It was all worth it, for along McNamara, just before the old ASPCA  animal center, were wildflowers and hay-like straw, which in the increasing warmth and bathed overnight in the wet, gave off a fragrance that Nick Concklin himself enjoyed so long ago.

     For youth a bit bored by even summer recess, a walk to McNamara with or without pals brought accomplishment as well as passing the time of day. It was also ritual, and we all want that because regularity means some things in life can be put the shelf where they ought to be, and we can count on having them there and taking them down when we need to do that.

     Back when McNamara still looked like it had for more than 100 years, a simple walk brought a trip to a friendly place, made that way by familiarity. Its many changes now in suburban growth and the equally major modifications and morphing in a youth’s growth to adulthood and its own journey toward sunset mean McNamara Road, now mostly in the Village of Hempstead, can only be a memory. But close the eyes, and a whiff of those wildflowers easily returns.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


June 29, 2020

“THE NARROW LAND,” a novel about artist Edward Hopper but really about us all

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     In this moment — perhaps age — of revisiting our past, heralded national leaders, authors, statesmen, etc., it is vital to place actions that today are deemed unacceptable in the context of their history. Society advances in steps taken forward but also by stepping backward.

     Accept that Teddy Roosevelt, maybe even Lincoln, will have their official portraits remade with the warts that were evident back when but ignored. Criticize anyone for supporting racism, not tackling inequality, for championing the white man as world savior. Yet also know that without the accomplishments of slaveholders Washington and Jefferson, for example, the promise that is America would not have advanced as it has, however incomplete that is.

     In fact, it is in the accomplishments of incomplete “heroes” themselves that humanity can have another chance to do it right, as should have happened in the first place. We can learn from their mistakes.

     Just don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Such progressive attitude holds for anyone, of course, including world famous artists such as my favorite, realist Edward Hopper, born in Nyack, N.Y.

     It took years for the genius and “voice” of this 20th century fellow to blossom, and it did not happen until after he met and married fellow painter Josephine Nivison. Yet it is only in recent years that her absolutely fulfilling part in Hopper’s life and works has been revealed. And she paid a price for the gig.

     Not only did Jo give up her own promising art career, but she devoted all her time building up a man who did not, as far as we can tell, appreciate that she was his booster. It was she who contacted his gallery, the Rehn in New York City; she used her inheritance to build a summer studio in South Truro, Cape Cod; she meticulously kept notes on his works; above all, Jo was the light in his dark tunnel of doubt.

     Hopper, world-revered for such works as the urban “Nighthawks” and the Cape Cod paintings, did not marry until age 42. Then his career took off. Yet he seemed unsuited to living with someone, a man “looking” for himself in his works, a loner, a person who did not easily share thoughts.  He painted instead. He ignored at will.

     Hopper has become an American hero, a worldwide artistic interpreter of the need for solitude, the search for simplicity in an ever-more-complex time. The price for his genius was wife Jo, an outgoing woman who was cloistered in the studio home of a man whose expressed being had to be extracted for the world to see, to relate to, to understand. She pulled all that out but received scant thanks.

     There was great good done in that sacrifice, drawing out the language of a gifted man, a giving for us all, but at the cost of a woman’s uncompleted being.

     This is all so very clear in a recent novel, “The Narrow Land” by Christine Dwyer Hickey. Set on Cape Cod in 1950, it brings the Hoppers into contact with two young boys, one fellow’s family and the dynamics of life shortly post-war in a summer vacation spot not yet invaded by the hordes of the 1970s-on.

     It is a journey of a season: loneliness for Jo, more doubt for Hopper in his artist’s block, everyone’s failings shown.

     “The Narrow Land” is in Dwyer’s quite descriptive words an offered puzzle that might be assembled by viewing Hopper paintings. He may have been looking for himself, but he found us all. Warts and all. Heroes fallen as well.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman and a volunteer at the Edward Hopper Museum and Study Center in Nyack, N.Y. ( 



Fathers Day 2020

 By Arthur H. Gunther III

    As my Dad lie dying in hospital and I on my way to visit his presence for the last time he could speak, not yet in the induced coma that would let him pass, already with the angels beside him, I thought, on that beautifully shaded sidewalk on a glorious spring day that he was no longer beside me. I needed to hold his hand.

     It had been ages since I did that, and not much then, fathers and sons being what they were in the 1940s, ’50s. Yet I would hold his hand many times metaphorically after young childhood: When I was sick, for one of his many careers was as a licensed practical nurse; when I had a nightmare; when my mother chased me, a teen, about the house with a broom, and he offered understanding; when I was learning to drive; most of all when I had the momentary but great desire to be very young again, without much care and appropriately nurtured.

As we grew, the two of us, distinct personalities clashed, and the wall that can rise between father and son did so. It would take decades of having my own family and two sons better than I to realize my father was truly doing his best. It would take his death and the years since to understand and absorb the fullness of his well-met responsibility.

Oh, how I would hold his hand now.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


One room, two very different windows, each of individual color and particular perspective. But they co-exist./gunther painting

      ‘TWO WINDOWS’/gunther

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     This virus stay-at-home has brought back childhood memories of being in the house an awful lot in the summer though building forts in the ever-present woods of a countryfied New York area and taking walks in the cooler parts of day were also routine.

     Yet the house was a sanctuary. It was quiet, which to me is daily sustenance. It afforded lots of moseying time to let your imagination run its little legs off, and that happened for me when I stared out the window, usually the one in the south-facing living room during the day and the attic sash at night. Both views included Karnell Street cars passing by, which though a fast route between two major roads, never had much traffic. Quiet.

     Those also were the days before weed whackers, leaf blowers and super-sized lawnmowers rendered military-like assault. Quiet.

     So, the imagination liked that, the quiet, assured that it could take you on a journey of nothingness, which, of course, can be everythingness. 

     You read a book, and you are into imagination land, encouraged and narrated by the writer and illustrator. Stare out a window, and you are the author. Works either way.

     Chose a different window, even in the same room, and there’s different fantasy, originality, perspective.

    Sometimes stay-at-home means takin really big trips — with imagination.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


June 8, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     I will tell you a story or two of neighborhood police back in my older days in Spring Valley, N.Y., a then countrified community north of Gotham. This was the time when officialdom did not have to invent the term “community policing” and seek federal grants for its spot use. Police walked a beat, period, every day. There were perhaps three radio cars at the downtown station.  Police were seen. They spoke to us, and we spoke to them.

     This does not mean everyone was an angel, police or the public. It does not mean every one of the officers was suited to the job. It does not mean police were perfect at “protecting and serving,” nor does it mean all citizens were respectful of men doing a tough job — running into nasty people, seeing the horrors of domestic abuse and other base human behavior that has to give a police officer PTSD. It does not mean officers were not killed or maimed in the line of duty somewhere in the land.

     What it does mean, this time of officers walking Main Street in Spring Valley, in Anytown USA, in the cities of old, too, is that people generally knew the neighborhood police, usually by name. They talked to Officer O’Reilly. And he talked to them. There was less of a chance of “us vs. them” escalation in any incident, and there was the greater opportunity of common sense born of human interaction and communication.

     So, one story from my time. A bunch of bored youngsters, seventh, eighth graders, a few older, a few younger, descended on an empty hotel that was to be torn down for one of the many shopping strips that pushed downtowns out of business. The fellows made their way through the hotel lobby, the bedrooms, etc. Generally speaking, no damage was done, but this was still trespassing. I was trespassing.

     In time, the Ramapo police became involved, as did Spring Valley and Hillcrest community leaders. Instead of arrests and police blotter entries, we fellows, our parents, police and officials gathered for a meeting at the Hillcrest Firehouse where it was decided that we would give up the Columbus Day holiday to clean up the hotel. That we did, and very soon after the spruced-up place was torn down.

     The point is the police were part of that  community, part of the solution for teen shenanigans that, who knows, might have gone to worse behavior if we had been arrested, finger-printed, etc. 

     Another story is of a fellow walking Main Street, Spring Valley, after the regular 9 p.m. curfew. Officer on the beat stops him, tells him to go home after the two have a friendly conversation. The officer even notes that he, too, broke curfew. No confrontation. No escalation.

     Now, these are relatively innocent stories of long ago, in simpler times. No drugs, no weapons involved. No broken homes. No horrors to relate.

     Yet, decades later, when the Ramapo officer who interviewed me after the Hillcrest Hotel adventure had retired, I was able to send him a note that I had never forgotten his fatherly, understanding humanity. Would that happen as easily today when police officers seem to be hidden behind a fortress in brotherhood, yes, but also in an isolated point of view? When escalation seems automatic, as if by military-like training? It cannot ever be “us vs. them.”  

     Black lives matter. All lives matter. Bring back the beat cop in every community, put volunteer officers in food banks, soup kitchens, community service endeavors. Take off the helmets, the military gear. Let the people know you, and they you.  It’s not the entire solution, but it’s a mighty big step. Bless our officers. Bless the people.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


JULY 4, 1966

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Decades ago, Rockland County, N.Y., faced an interracial situation that I covered as a Journal-News photographer. I offer my account and image of that July 4, 1966, event in Suffern to report on the non-violent protest and how in that situation the commonsense response from participants, the police and our volunteer fire departments unfolded. This was a day that led to great change and one which advanced race relations in the county.

     When July 4, 1966, arrived, I was nearly 24, a Journal-News photog on the job for seven months, having been promoted from copyboy/engraver. I worked the Monday shift, which including day and night assignments. That Monday was a holiday, so I had those celebrations to handle, too. I was the only one of four J-N lensmen on the street that day. 

The NAACP, CORE and others had joined the growing national conversation over civil rights, and the country, as well as Rockland, were halfway between the famous landmark 1964 Voting Rights Act and the 1967 Newark (and Nyack) riots. 

Bill Scott, an African American and Rockland Congress of Racial Equality leader, who once ran for county sheriff, was a key spokesman in trying to integrate blacks into housing, jobs and the fire departments. 

In newspapers like The Journal-News, police blotter items for such things as small street arrests always noted “negroes,” though the language would quickly change.

Rockland, which was becoming an ever-larger New York City suburb, included leaders and group spokespeople who saw opportunity to enlighten society and integrate, although prejudice surely continued.

By July 4, 1966, tensions were heightened in fire department integration in Rockland, and a Dr. Martin Luther King-type protest — non-violent — was planned for the annual county fire parade route in Suffern. A group of six young men chained themselves together and by signal lay down on Orange Avenue, blocking the route.

I was there covering for newspaper as photog, Ann Crawford as reporter. Also there was the Bergen Evening Record, whose photos printed July 5 showed me taking photos.

I had expected this demonstration, and so, though my heart was beating fast, I checked my old-fashioned 35mm and medium-format cameras for proper exposure, etc. (nothing automatic then), so that I would not lose the shots. The demonstrators did what was planned, very calmly, singing, carrying a banner, and they lay down on Orange with the banner covering them. I was facing north on Orange, just in front of the protesters, who were blocking the Hillcrest Fire Department contingent. I snapped away, and then, quickly, Suffern police and, I believe, a county Sheriff’s Department officer, came over to pull the demonstrators, including Scott, away from the line of march and to make arrests. They were charged with disorderly conduct and released without bail.

I will tell you that the officers never interfered with my work of reporting the facts photographically. They also were polite to the demonstrators. I saw no batons used, no guns drawn, no tough-handling of the protesters, who in Dr. King fashion, had gone limp.

(A July 5 article in the New York Times reported that some of the estimated 3,000 parade watchers shouted that the six and about 29 other demonstrators should be doused with firehoses.)

     I took my shots and some others of the parade itself, as that was the initial assignment, and went off to other assignments that day.

When the parade demonstration photographs were published July 5, The Journal-News was strongly criticized for showing the chained men lying in the street and not concentrating on the county fire parade.

After 1966, the fire departments began to accept  African Americans beyond the four individuals already serving among Rockland’s 3,000 volunteers, and the county morphed into a veritable league of nations, so close it is to the Port of New York.

     July 4, 1966, was perhaps not a turning point in race relations for Rockland, but it put the county on the road toward that, a route still to be trod by all, of course. It was also a day when the free speech of six peaceable demonstrators was recognized while the resulting police action and legal process took place in a peaceful, common-sense way.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.




Memorial Day weekend 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Noting Memorial Day and the many thousands of Americans and non-citizens who have sacrificed their lives in war; bowing in humility to the dying and dead — the champions of this time of virus; hailing the “Rosie Riveters” and all defense workers of the Second World War; saluting the poor, the downtrodden, the essential worker who keep the rest alive, we offer that the American flag need not appear as what we “see” but that it can be the rural window of a Kansas farmhouse, the isinglass curtains of pioneer settlers, the colored cloth covering a 1930s dustbowl window, the blue and gold stars of flags in the windows of those in service, the wet handkerchief held by a farm worker. The list is endless.
Our “flag” is us — all colors, all material, rich silk, threadbare cotton, a flag of tears, of joy, of sacrifice, of caring, of achievement, of pride, of humanity.


The writer is a retired newspaperman.


May 18, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     One of the enforced benefits of this time of the virus — sitting at home — can be good for you even though you might want to be out gallivanting. For example, watching PBS. You are the adult student in your living-room classroom, and what you might have not looked at before, or done so only in pieces by flipping channels, you now give attention, albeit helped by that glass of wine.

     Into the Roosevelt series for some Thursday evenings on PBS, we are reminded of the utter necessity of presidential leadership in deeply challenging times. Or what happens with no leadership, as has also happened. Is happening.

    Teddy Roosevelt, thrust into the place he soon called the “White House” rather than the “Executive Mansion,” itself a telling move about rejecting privilege, the man went far beyond anything assassinated William McKinley would have done. Trust-busting, a bold move against endemic greed, the “Square Deal” protecting consumers, the environment and the pocketbook, and building the Panama Canal were major accomplishments.

Foremost, though, was the attitude that the people, potential rough-riders themselves, could climb any mountain and progress. That boosted pre-World War American confidence and growth. Leadership, yes.

     Franklin D. Roosevelt, fifth cousin to TR, offered the “New Deal,” arguably influenced by wife Eleanor’s undying, unswerving humanitarian concerns and also devised by the brilliant “Brain Trust” the president assembled. Yet it was fatherly FDR, in “Fireside Chats” and constant reassuring speeches, who emotionally supported a nation and its people in depression and a world war. His four terms would change the economic and social direction of the United States, mostly in the positive. Leadership, yes.

     You can argue for and against one or both Roosevelts, TR a progressive Republican and FDR a moderate Democrat who was a solution-seeker deeply influenced by Eleanor and others. They both had warts, and each pushed presidential authority to some extreme. What you cannot deny in either presidency is their leadership, envisioned by the founding fathers, who also devised that there should be no king, and that should one begin to build a throne, be proven a wannabe dictator or show no leadership, that the voters, the courts or the impeachment/trial process could boot the person in a full, enthusiastic kick. Repudiation in full, as with Richard Nixon. 

     Today, in the time of virus, which is becoming a wake-up metaphor for ever-existing but in recent decades heightened greed, ignorance, official incompetence and prejudice, it will be a turning point this November if citizens truly see their duty and vote. There is forever in these United States a meanness born of prejudice and a sense of superiority, going beyond political persuasion. In 1930, that mindset said publicly, “Poverty is good for the soul, it will harden you.” In 1944, as selfless Eleanor Roosevelt flew to WWII combat zones, that attitude criticized her for using government airplanes. Today it is blaming all our ills on the poor, the disenfranchised, the powerless and immigrants fleeing dictatorships and conditions we have supported. And the blame is cover for more greed, more prejudice.  

     If this virus does anything positive, it must inoculate some of us against utter disregard for selected humanity.


    The writer is a retired newspaperman.



May 11, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     One of the things about staying home during the time of virus is that you have to escape. The walls can move in a bit, and suddenly the back yard where you never went except to mow the lawn becomes Central Park. But there are other places, too, if only in memory.

     Back in the day, as youth with not much money but with a one-speed, coaster-brake bicycle, or more often on foot, or later with an iffy-running car, there were many places to explore in what was then more country than suburbia. 

     First, there was the quiet of the road, a walk down Hickory over to the closed St. Vincent de Paul summer camp grounds that led to the old Erie branch to Mt. Ivy. Few cars were then about, and usually there was no one on the fields, in the marsh and at the pond. This was the view, too, of my father in his youth. What thoughts he had I cannot know, but all young, in their time, have to think and ponder in solitude. There is so much ahead, we hope.

     If you could muster the leg strength, a bike ride from Hillcrest through the Spring Valley downtown of some generations, past a former home, three old schools, up the Old Nyack Turnpike to Saddle River Road and back home through the Ukrainian and Polish neighborhoods near West Street was not only a challenge but a fortification of more than physical strength. This was a ride of emotion, too, because even younger years, with family, friends, school and varied haunts were re-visited as if watching an 8mm home movie. Reassuring for the coming journey.

     A few years later, the iffy jalopy started, you might have someone with you on the ride, say along a twisting, turning route. It could be South Mountain Road, with the 1700s Concklin orchards in early bloom, followed by the homes of artists, writers and thespians, then to a private lane leading to the Crosby Vineyards and the hike at High Tor.

     The summit always provided a seat for your thoughts. Did then, does now. You share the space with the fabled Dutch sailors lost off the Half Moon whose bowling is the thunder of the lower Hudson Valley. You also share space with your companion, proving that different directions can co-exist for the moment, and you will never forget.

     So, it is in the memories that you can, in the time of virus, leave the house, the apartment, the room.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


May 4, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     There had been many quick jumps across my childhood street in Hillcrest, N.Y., to see my friend Matthew but also to sit down with his grandmother, Molly Weissman. This bubbe, in her late 80s, a survivor of Russian pogroms and with the shared DNA of relatives lost in the Holocaust, offered few words in mixed English but wisdom as plentiful as the promised land of milk and honey. And as with Exodus 3:17, it was all in the journey.

     It was part of my journey. I was then a seventh grader, a goy, not of Molly’s faith, but because she listened to a young fellow and treated me as an equal philosopher, which clearly I was not, I sat.

     There was talk of life, of hardship, of mitzvahs and trying to do good, of respect for humanity. I was polite, I listened. But  also, perhaps unwittingly, I took some wisdom, putting it in my pockets for another day. That would take a long time to arrive.

     The seventh grader grew, there were other interests, I did not see the bubbe. One day came word that Molly Weissman had passed. There had been the quick burial, as required by her Orthodox faith. I could not mourn her.

     Matthew, her grandson, was sent to the local funeral home on State Street to buy a memorial candle, which would be lit for a year. He and I went for that as the family sat shivah for the seven days of respect. The mirrors were covered in ritual, and there were simple orange crates to sit on. 

    Today, as so many must mourn without seeing loved ones and friends after their passing in the time of the coronavirus, when even a shivah cannot easily take place, or a funeral Mass, or mosque tradition or memorial, it will have to be lingering and repeated memories that offer respect for those we lose.

     Yet perhaps that is the best recognition of lives that impact us, as Molly’s did mine.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



April 27, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Greed is the virus that never goes away, in good times, in bad ones. It is exploitive, growing exponentially with pandemic illness, for example, its handlers quickly looking to seize any opportunity to rake in more cash. It has no soul, this devil.

     An example: In a recent direct conference call to the White House (a misnomer of a name for this present dark place of non-leadership), top executives of key large restaurant chains pressed Trump on a $145 billion “aid” package . According to a N.Y. Times story April 25, these companies, though “highly profitable in recent years,” believe they need a buffer against major losses in the pandemic.

     Not explained to the White House, of course, was that these chains have not spent their high profits on setting aside a  rainy-day nest egg, nor assuring staff, many at minimum wage with little or no benefits, that they would have their back, for a time anyway, in any big crisis.

     Instead, the companies followed what banks and other large corporations did in the U.S. government bailout after the near-depression of 2008, itself caused by the constant river of greed. The banks, etc., used taxpayer money, borrowed against what will be your now-young grandchildren’s massive debt, to buy back their own stock, thus increasing share price. More yachts, vacation homes, private aircraft. The restaurant chains lobbying Trump took not a bailout but profits to buy stock, accumulating debt that now has them in a pickle during the crisis.

     They were irresponsible. Companies are invested by shareholders who deserve a decent return, but the buck does not stop there. Their products are assembled and offered by the minions who receive comparatively small paychecks in one hand while their wallets are raided by the future instability of the firms’ focus on immediate profit and not on solidifying the companies’ foundation. Future jobs lost. Future taxpayer bailouts ahead. Greed.

     This pandemic has brought sea change — sudden, terrible passing of loved ones, closed schools and shops, greater affliction on the poor and poorer and worries by the ton as to what future life will look like. But it has also boosted profiteers in their fixated run for the money.

If anything needs remedying in this crisis and post-crisis, it is the sinister-driven greed machine. Jam the gears so our society can be rebuilt with economic fairness.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



‘SOCIAL DISTANCING’/photograph/gunther

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     “Social distancing” is not new. As kids, we were forced to go to such lengths if we had older siblings who walked faster and who ignored us anyway. Couples always have had bouts of deliberately setting themselves apart. Go to a social affair and see who discreetly moves to the other side of the room.

     In fact, sometimes social distancing is healthy. Obviously now in this most serious of times. But it can also be reaffirmation of the space we all need for ourselves. We can’t always be cozying-up or hovering or being hovered upon. 

     There’s a certain peace that comes with a bit of distance. Time to be quiet, to relish silence, to talk inwardly to yourself, to remember that you are just fine being you without someone else having to tell you.

     Perhaps the absence, even just a few feet for a short time, makes for a fonder reunion.

     My old Regents exams had social distancing. New York State required that our desks be about five feet apart so we couldn’t cheat. You would have needed Superman’s x-ray vision to read the valedictorian’s blue exam book.

     And most teachers enforced social distancing by sending Joey to the office after he threw spitballs at Marge.

     So, maybe in this moment, a bit of humor and observation about what is temporarily a serious rule will actually close the physical gap and bring us together in spirit.

    Stay safe.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


April 13, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     In this staying-at-home time, simplicity seems to have re-appeared, just as cleaner air nationwide is reported, that due to decreased vehicle movement. Not using the car as much, not running off to appointments, visits, stores, brings us back inside the house where we might usually just sleep, to the memory of youthful summers where the school clock gave way to a different, simpler day schedule. Despite the horrors of this gone-viral time, the slower pace perhaps reminds us that we don’t always have to run to the finish line, or at least not to the next hill to climb.

     For me, it has taken a few weeks to realize my pulse can be slower, and the niceness of that moment came in a bowl of cereal, not my usual breakfast these days but in staying-home, it’s been back-to-childhood things. 

     When you eat cereal, which you don’t really eat but spoon it in, crunch and swallow, you must have something to read. It’s required. At my grandfather’s house, it was the Daily News. In my childhood, the cereal box, which sometimes had little stories or drawings on them. Otherwise, you read the ingredients. You had to read something.

     I read the ingredients as I had my 2020 cereal. But then the raisin bran was soon out of the bowl, and I could see a circular pattern, like the rings of Saturn.

     Instantly, I thought of my mother’s old crockery and the patterns I stared at eating cereal. I then thought of my late Mom, heard her voice and got a whiff of the old house smell.

     Such simple but vital memories, all from a cereal bowl during a worldwide crisis. The gods can be good to us.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



April 6, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     There is understatement in almost everything British, and that may be because life’s storms are, indeed, best met by “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The Blitz, almost 15 years of war rationing, great economic and social change and now both the challenges of Brexit, and, more important the coronavirus, have demanded, demand again, a people’s resolve.

     John Lyons of Hartlepool, off the North Sea, my grandfather, set such a tone. When we visited his town, attacked during the First World War by offshore Germans who could have included some of my other European relatives, there was residual reminder of the loss of lives more than 100 years ago now. A museum dedicated to that history stands by the rail line bound north to Scotland.

     The British, especially the older lot, do not forget hardship, however stiff the upper lip. On certain Sundays in London, on war memorial days, you still see chaps with sport coats and suit jackets that have commendation medals affixed. These men, and women, proudly and with upright posture, stroll, whether in Lambeth Walk or elsewhere.

     Endurance, survival are the unseen medals on those chests, and the civilians who lost kin and home in the Blitz and later V2 rocket attacks wear them too.

     The British tradition of tea drinking also is a badge of courage and survival. Any tense moment has its cup of tea, and even a glance at the cozy or the kettle can lower the blood pressure.     My late mother, daughter of an Englishman and an Irish mom, all too soon an orphan at age 8 and with a tough life in the Great Depression, would not be without her tea in the proper Irish way, with a dash of milk (substituted by condensed, canned milk during the American war rations time).

     In this long moment of the spreading coronavirus, with the sad passing of some and the hardships, each of us has a reference to those who came before and endured. It is at least comfort to think back and nod in respect and remember that others have stayed calm and carried on.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



March 30, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     The life-sobering of young people today in this coronavirus world, already shaken to an unsteady footing by Sept. 11, other terrorism, endless military conflict and the hypocrisy shown by often ineffective, bumbling, special interest-driven leadership, is not without historical precedent.

     The Holocaust, wartime Europe 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, many nations’ civil wars, dictatorships, plagues and today’s horrific conditions in parts of the Middle East, Africa and the Americas took and continue to steal childhood. That is the greatest sin of humankind, the willowing of the future as they lack nurturing. The world is supposed to be the mother.

     Each generation, every young person, confronts obstacles, walls too high to climb, though with the progress and enlightenment that are also part of the world’s evolution, so many are matured to bring spectacular achievement, caring, kindness, giving and compassion.

     And most young in war and crisis also exhibit unbelievable sacrifice.

     In 1959, teenagers like myself, living comfortably, mostly in blue-collar families with parents who were thankful for employment after surviving the Great Depression and World War II, were presented with two films that began our sobering, albeit relatively mild compared to today.

     We saw “The Diary of Anne Frank” and placed our hearts, minds and souls in that Dutch attic with a fellow teen. Our own family dynamics of siblings battling over what to watch on TV suddenly seemed so embarrassingly small compared to that in secret space, the Frank family and shopkeeper Kraler who hid them constantly worried that the Nazis would come.

     Life played out, though, as did Anne’s destiny.

      We also watched “On the Beach,” which portrayed Australians following a global nuclear war and the coming end of all life on earth.

     Gone, suddenly, was our very limited exposure to the Cold War and the possibility of hydrogen bombs hitting America. We were never sobered by the school air-raid drills, even thankful to get out of class and put our bodies against the hall lockers instead of the earlier practice of hunkering under desks.

     We emerged from the theater in silence, not joking as usual. The walk home with friends after “On the Beach” added a few years to our growing maturity. Yes, gaiety, a blessing for some youth, those in our circle anyway in our small, typical post-war U.S. village, would continue. There would be proms, graduations, further schooling, jobs, families, but newfound seriousness joined our being, infused within.

     Today, it is not just two life-changing films. It is a pandemic, not seen since my the 1918 flu of my mother’s time, when she  lost siblings. This is as big a challenge to the world as universal war.

     Our young will be overwhelmingly sobered, and the hope is that their natural optimism, vitality and strength will, after the cataclysm, rebuild society and the earth. They can, as adults, better prepare us for another viral assault. They can work against the numbness of inefficient national leadership. They can better empathize with and care for those who have less, who even in the best of times are poor and destitute. The greed can lessen, the hypocrisy reduced.

     There can be a better world from the young who now are sobering.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.


March 23, 2020

By Arthur H.Gunther III

     In the very early hours of a Tuesday in Spring Valley, N.Y., my car rolled down Franklin Street past what was Eckerson’s blacksmith shop where during World War II my grandfather Art Sr. worked with other men to pack scrap paper and cardboard in one of millions of such home-based efforts throughout the United States. It was quiet volunteerism, not seeking praise, done almost in anonymity, rolling up sleeves to do what could be accomplished as battles raged in Europe and the Pacific.

     For my grandfather, the scrap drive was also a way to support his son Winfield, soon to lose two fingers in the Huertgen Forest battles.

     Near the smithy on Franklin was the Valley’s memorial board listing men and women in service. The family names there were repeated from the First World War, so small was the village and so little the change between conflicts.

     Also on Franklin was a small, shingled house, No. 16, where about 8 years later, the war over, the scrap drive recalled in memory and fading photographs, my fourth-grade self was able to play games with Tring Butt, my friend. The scrap drive, the selfless service of civilians and military, made that possible.

     Life picked up so quickly in peacetime, the old, realized fears of both a Second World War and the Great Depression proceeding it now pushed into the subconscious by post-war progress and optimism. The wonderful ordinariness of peacetime rapidly sang its song, once again proving the resilience of humankind.

     We are now again “at war,” fighting the coronavirus, another chapter in the story of the world: super-major challenges, suffering, inevitable death. But also the heroics of so many, the selfless-giving, the quiet duty fulfilled.

     When I drove down Franklin Street on March 17, itself a day of import for the great Irish and their knowing souls, I would arrive at a soup kitchen now 35 years old, held just two blocks away at the old Dutch Reformed Church, now Church of the Nazarene.

     Volunteers in the Rockland Interfaith Breakfast Program were preparing bagged hot breakfast and lunches for any comer, who ordinarily could sit down in the church’s meeting room. Now, social distancing.

     The giving of that moment rode on the echoes of the volunteers in my grandfather’s own World War II effort. People are good. 

     This time, too, will pass.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.   




‘RIVER THAT FLOWS TWO WAYS’/acrylic/gunther

March 16, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

This is the mighty Native-American “Muhhekunnetuk,” Henry Hudson and Verrazzano’s waterway, the Dutch North River. It has carried people, goods and services through the ages of Indian itinerant travel, white exploration, war, peace, growth, depression and both the betterment and exploitation of “progress.” It will long continue to flow to Gotham and beyond, to Albany and the tributaries of upstate rural existence. It will not give up its life, its beauty, its remaining potential come viral illness, inept governing or greed. Muhhekunnetuk will remain, in troubling times or not,  “the river that flows two ways,” apt description from those here long before anyone else.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


March 9, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

‘TOWARD THE MOUNTAIN’/acrylic on paper/gunther

2020: A republic long ago formed in living democracy yet to expand to its potential must now not stumble once again nor take steps backward. Collectively, we Americans are better than what we are, and we must climb the mountain of our original promise, individually taking every comer with us.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.

By Arthur H. Gunther III

‘TOWARD THE MOUNTAIN’/acrylic on paper/gunther

2020: A republic long ago formed in living democracy yet to expand to its potential must now not stumble once again nor take steps backward. Collectively, we Americans are better than what we are, and we must climb the mountain of our original promise, individually taking every comer with us.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.




February 17, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Edward Hopper, the famed American realist painter, was born in the family home at Nyack on July 22, 1882, in a second-floor bedroom that is often bathed in the special luminescence which bounces off the Hudson River and straight up Second Avenue.

Young Hopper saw this light on his first day of life, and it surely and deeply influenced the artist, who proclaimed, “… what I wanted to do was paint sunlight on the side of a house.

Today, at 82 North Broadway, at the Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center, the artist’s high chair can be found sitting in natural and dramatic light in the upstairs hall.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


‘HOPE’/on canvas/gunther

February 10, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

After the man left, the White House was dark, in black again as when the British set fire in 1812. But inside there was bright light, and the nation gradually returned to hope.


The writer is a retired newspaperman.


acrylic on wood/gunther

January 27, 2030

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Up or down?

Does the nation, its folk working or not, in health or not, in hope or despair, of diverse belief surely go forth from the aspirations of Roosevelt, Kennedy and King or retreat to lynchings real or implied, prejudice, inequality, intolerance and no compromise?

That may be the real trial decision in the Senate. 

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


January 20, 2020

 ‘NEVER A BLUR’/stylized photograph/gunther

     By Arthur H. Gunther III

Whenever there is war, and Washington adds horsepower to its response and a four-cylinder becomes a forever V-8; whenever there is peace yet troubles in the land are on the boil, the stove unwatched; whenever the elected and appointed think posturing and pensions and not of iJoe and Jane back home, a marble likeness, through it all, faces the Arlington Bridge and the dead who have been the currency of a nation “conceived in liberty” and offers a reminder of  “the great task remaining before us.”

    Unfinished work — conscience set in stone. 


The writer is a retired newspaperman.



‘RORSCHACH ON HUDSON’/photograph/gunther

     By Arthur H. Gunther I I I

     If Rockland County, N.Y.,  were to take its own Rorschach Test, it might look at the Hudson River pilings at Piermont that once supported a wooden pier from which more than a million men and some women left to confront Hitler in the European Theatre, World War II. 

     The horrors of that time, including the Holocaust, were born and fanned by manipulated hatred derived from prejudice, itself a product of inequality. That a madmen could freely steer the ship of state with so many willing countrymen at the oars is a reminder that the inclinations of history can repeat themselves.

     For thousands, the Piermont pilings were among the last sights of the USA, never to be seen again. Whatever was in the hearts and minds of those civilian soldiers off to lose life and limb and to suffer bruised emotion forever, this truth was certain: By and large these people were good and decent, from communities across the nation, from Rockland, too. 

     Those pilings remain at Piermont, no longer carrying the weight of men and women off to war against Hitler. Now, in approaching 2020, other good citizens stare at the pilings symbolically, knowing that Rockland, and the nation, hold mostly decent people, as before. This time their enemy is the hatred of anti-Semitism, the hatred of Muslims, the hatred of non-whites, the hatred of immigrants, the hatred of anyone “different.”

     Hatred again fanned by self-interest. Yet, as in 1945, the victory will go to those who stand up and do battle.

     The pilings will endure, as will the ultimate goodness of humanity.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman.



December 22, 2019

Each Christmas, my son Arthur 4th takes over my now 38-year-old column. Here is this year’s installment.

By Arthur H. Gunther IV

    The clothes were still piled up in the ice cream truck.  That was as far as he made it.  It had taken all his effort to actually clean out the closets in his dad’s room.  He hadn’t meant for the truck to become a de-facto museum of his father’s clothes.  It was the only place he had with enough room to contain everything.  His plan had been to gradually go through the pants, shirts, jackets, coats, hats, and gloves, keep a few things, and donate all the rest.  He had chosen a few things to keep, but the giving-away part had been too much to bear.

     The sheer volume of clothes his father owned wasn’t due to his dad being some kid of hoarder.  In fact, he had only acquired a few new items every year.  It was just that the few things he did buy were quality-made items.  His father tended toward classic styles that never seemed to be quite in or out of style.  Over the years the collection built up, and his father never seemed to quite wear anything out or give anything away.

     The only things the man did buy several of each spring, and subsequently wear out by the end of the summer, were the ice cream man uniforms he donned each morning from Memorial Day to Labor Day without fail.  There was no evidence of the 65 summers of selling ice cream anywhere in his closet.  He had made it to Labor Day this year and then that was it, for the ice cream and him.  His son had the truck packed with the clothes by Halloween, but that’s where it ceased.  Now it was Christmas Eve, and the truck just sat there in the driveway, filled with too many memories to move.  If the younger man had any delusions that Christmas, and everything that went with it, would get him to finally make a move, then time was just about out.

    Christmas morning dawned sunny and cold.  Always an early riser, the man threw on an extra layer and jumped in his car to run his usual morning errands.  Turning the key in the ignition, he was greeted by the unsettling silence of a dead battery.  He could have simply turned around and gone back inside, but being a man of routine, the notion was only a passing thought.  His only other choice, other than walking the five miles to his first stop, was to take the ice cream truck.  He grabbed the key where it hung on the hook by the side door and jumped in.  Within a minute he was rumbling up the hill in the truck with only his father’s clothes and the radio as company.

     As he drove through the center of town and headed up the hill away from the river, he noticed two men, one maybe 17 and the other twice that, walking toward the convenience store that bordered the highway overpass.  It was here that 20 or 30 men gathered each morning looking for work.  Christmas appeared to be the exception because as he passed there was no one waiting to be picked up for whatever jobs and wages awaited.  He drove on.

     About 30 minutes later, his errands completed, the man drove the same route in reverse.  Passing the convenience store, the driver noticed the two fellows from before sitting on a bench, seemingly waiting.  Letting his curiosity get the better of him, the man pulled the truck into the parking lot and got out.

     Sitting in the truck, it appeared that the two men were indeed waiting for work.  On top of that, they were underdressed for the temperature.  Without really giving it a second thought, the ice cream truck driver got out and walked toward the two men.

“Hi,” said the driver.  Both men nodded in reply.

    “Are you looking for work?”

     “Yes,” said the younger of the two, perking up a bit.  “We can do anything.”

Now, in the moments that passed before what happened next, perhaps some generalizations were made.  It’s more likely that a leap of faith was taken.  But, then again, it was Christmas, and if you couldn’t make a leap of faith today, then it wasn’t likely you ever would.

     “Here,” said the driver, handing the older man the keys. “It runs well and can make you a good living. It sent me to college.  Just do me a favor, make good use of those clothes in the back.  Merry Christmas.”

With that, the man turned and began walking downhill toward the river.  Back home. 

     The writer is a teacher at the William O. Schaefer Elementary School in Orangeburg, N.Y., and is also a writer.



‘YESTERDAY’/acrylic on wood/gunther

December 16, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

(also on Facebook)

Yesterday can be a fading memory meant to be that way, perhaps to forget, perhaps neatly set aside to pull out again as you would a favorite seasonal sweater and so enjoy a replay, perhaps because in aging time and chance you no longer remember.

A freshly painted door leads to the room since time does go on.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.



December 9, 2019

‘DOOR KNOB TO HISTORY’/photograph/gunther

By Arthur H. Gunther III

(also on Facebook)

Edward Hopper, the famous American realist painter, could not have reached this marbled 1858 door knob in his childhood bedroom until a few years after his 1882 Nyack, N.Y., birth, but once he began turning it, the door opened to a lifetime of painting and images that endure, that captivate, that draw you into stories the viewer must write.

Yet, turning that door knob was not always easy. It was decades before the gifted artist  connected with his audience, and even after that there were periods of frustration, perhaps doubt and all that comes with it.

Edward Hopper probably touched this door knob for the last time just after his sister Marion’s 1965 passing and as he approached his own death in 1967 at age 82.

Fittingly, there is now a bit of white wall paint on the bedroom knob, not from his era but there nonetheless.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. 



Dec. 2, 2019


By Arthur H. Gunther III

(also on Facebook

We are sometimes asked to look at the “black and white” of things, to assume that what appears white is just that, as well as black being black.

That is the “positive” look. What if we reversed things and flipped into the negative, white being black and vice-versa?

Would that make us more introspective, pushing us to realize that there is usually more to the story?

The writer is a retired editorialist. 






November 25, 2019

COLOR ON GRAY RIVER’/acrylic/gunther

Rivers are gray and meant to be, though some shine blue and other hues. From the shore, with life declared by our own feelings, inclinations, style and additional uniqueness, we can each set the colors of the rainbow as foreground.

It’s like dressing for the world as it is, gray perhaps, on a day anyway. So, dress as you like it, and venture forth!