Acrylic on canvas/gunther


September 16, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

CHANGE OF PACE: Song lyrics (mine) instead of an essay…


I locked the door last night, though it never had a key. You are gone, and I must forget.

Forget the soulful moments, the depth we reached without a word said.

Forget you in my arms, so well-fitted that your heart was in mine, my soul with yours, facing eternity.

Forget our plans together, though I never cared for detail as long as you were here.

Forget your eyes were blue and magnetic, that looking into them made me feel weak but so warm.

I locked the door last night, though it never had a key. You are gone, and I must forget.

Forget the calm we were at, our silence speaking for us.

Forget that being together was a book of understanding. 

Forget I came upon old doubt and could not trust real emotion. I left the embrace and could not return. 

Now I have locked the door, and there is no key.

You have gone away, and I must forget.



The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com His work can be republished in any form, with credit given.



September 9, 2019

‘Lean on Me’/photograph/gunther

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)


     Depending on the individual, “pride” is a variable. Some are too proud to accept help of any sort. Others extend their hands in need.

     Truth is, this is an interdependent world, more so every day, and despite the success, even necessity,  of rugged individualism, the idea that it “takes a village to …” is increasingly evident.

    “Lean on me” sometimes not a bad idea.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com, Facebook Messenger.

‘MEDIA’ and discourse today

     Recently, the writer/artist Bill Batson wonderfully cajoled me into speaking before his great Learning Collaborative class of inquisitive adults, at the New City, N.Y., Jewish Center. He asked that my remarks be posted via my essay site. Thanks, Bill, for the invite.

     The topic was “The Changing Role of the ‘Media’ in Social and Civic Discourse Today.”

     Well — “media,” first we have to describe that word, that term. It’s one I have never used, for to lump all information sources under one umbrella blurs individual assets.

 I toiled quite happily for 42 years at the now-defunct Rockland Journal-News out of Nyack, first as a copyboy, then as a photographer, at various editorships, then 20 years as editorial page editor and 25 as a columnist. I continue my column online. I was a newspaperman, I still am, period. Irreverent, rough hewn at times, distrusting of all “facts,” but as sentimental as my mother would want me to be. Never did I think of myself as “media,” nor do I recall that term being used to describe news services until perhaps the 1990s when ever-bigger corporations, many without newspaper portfolio, began to buy news outlets for profit only, involving themselves in newsrooms that publishers generally used to leave alone. And for good reason — it was so as not to disturb fact-gathering.

My friends at magazines were magazine journalists. In radio, then still a strong medium, they were broadcasters but journalists first. People like Ed Murrow and Walt Cronkite. Those types moved to TV where they were newscasters but remained journalists. They were not news readers nor pretty “talking heads.” None of those people back then would have said they were in the “media.”

 They were in their professions to get the facts as they observed them, the journalists’ biblical requirement of “who, what, where, when, how and why.” There was bias then, of course, and newspapers, magazines, radio and TV all reflected that. Yet by reporting relentlessly, the education process continued, affecting social and civic discourse. There was light in darkness, and so progress in civic and social discourse.

When they did the job right, when I did it right, and maybe that was on average 60 percent without luck and 80 with, and despite blatant prejudices of the time, reflected in our work, we helped shape the national and local social and civic discourse of the time simply by reporting on everything we could, from international/national concerns like war, dictatorships, the economy, to local matters such as spot zoning, crooked politicians, wasted taxpayer money, school sports, community doings, so-called “good news.”

Editorialists and other commentators took the facts as reported and presented and offered opinion, which also shaped mores, social and civic discourse.

That was then, the better part of the last half century. Now, with  threats to the

 must-have search for truth that is the spotlight against democracy dying in darkness, we must all be worried. Not only about social/civic discourse but about deliberately planted misinformation, disinformation, prejudice and jingoism, citing media sources as “enemy of the people,” as two world leaders have done in the last 90 years. One was Hitler, the other Trump. 

“Media” — back to that term — has become a lump-them-all-in-one term describing means of communication, yes, but 

seemingly assuming that every information outlet cherishes the same purpose: to inform. Not so. Now  special interests are at work, too. And, without going over to a “deep-state conspiracy,” there is an ever-increasing effort to limit information, controlling the flow through so-called public relations set-ups, through Internet restriction, through dropping press conferences at the present White House. They don’t want questions asked. Even the decline of newspapers is taking advantage of by special interests that do not want the people to know what is happening.

With the increasing loss of print journalism, especially local newspapers and invaluable college sheets, too, with social media such as Twitter offering twits a chance to espouse as well as those who seek to inform, with foreign powers like the Russians, and who knows, with perhaps even embedded nationalists in our government trying to shape opinion in what is becoming an oligarchy, with ever-larger public relations firms blocking access to top executives, school administrators and public officials, we must be concerned about the management of news and the effect on social and civic discourse. Big Brother, with siblings, is in the house.

     What to do?

    The role of news and information-gathering going forward is as it has always been, media label or not. They must inform as much as possible on as much as possible, with no bias, no opinion allowed into the reports. And there must be recognition that the media cannot be the parent. Civility in particular must come from our institutions — religious houses, schools  and the home. And from the standards that communities must insist upon.

We in news-gathering/reporting, and that includes “citizen journalists” today who take to Facebook, Medium, Twitter and other social media, must be the “mirror” of what is happening in social/civic discourse.

And we must do this job relentlessly because even as we speak there are sinister people seeking to tear away the First Amendment draping on Lady Liberty. For our own good, you see.

We readers/viewers must police ourselves, being the buyer who knows to beware, who questions even to the point of the old newspaperman’s irreverence. That is vital given the deliberate planting of falsehoods and social media posts dredging up past comments by journalists and re-quoting out of context.

We must not let up on key issues, such as mass shootings, which fade in the seven-day news cycle. The sinister ones count on that.

They court distraction. We must be an example of civility and open discourse.

We must demand that social media such as Facebook vet their advertisers, to determine if there is dark money behind undue influence-buying. The postings must have disclaimers.  We must press all information sources to cover key issues, not just those that are tabloid sexy or that grab attention for the moment.

(An example of this might be the recent lack of coverage over the mass burning of the invaluable Amazon rain forest versus the short-lived but intensive spotlight on the sad fire at Notre Dame.)

Find news sources you can trust and support them through paid circulation, paid digital, and urge taxpayer-funded national and local news-gathering that is operated in blind trust to avoid government influence. Every county should have such an information source. An ombudsman for unfettered information-gathering, you could say.

Poison spreads in gossip, deliberate or otherwise. Reject it. Know the sources.

Reject, too, insults, half-truths, showboating. This is not who we are.

This great American experiment was initially given nerve juice by such writings as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” Over the centuries, newspapers have reported on the doings of the experiment, its failures, its hopes. Letters to the editor have added the voice  of the people. Radio, TV, magazines have joined the march. Now there is social media.

But no matter what you use to obtain information, no matter what opinion you absorb, it is up to the individual to apply common sense to set social and civic discourse.

And do that every day. Demand information. Question. Express yourself. Be responsible. Show class.

Remember, the baddies are multiplying like cockroaches, led by a pied piper. Don’t  be baited. We are all the “media” now, and we must guard the beliefs of the nation’s Founders, working toward a “more perfect union.” Seek the facts. Digest with care. Think for yourselves.



LETTER TO LIA’/acrylic/gunther


September 2, 2019

 By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)


     How many have received the letter Lia has let slip to the floor, her thoughts now focused beyond that red window?

     She has not dropped the envelope, perhaps unable to completely part from the moment. Is the message a sad break or is it offering joy? Is Lia mad — “seeing red” — or is this the red of romance?

     The window is big, the room is wide with blank space, and there is a hallway. All in Lia’s life, too.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com. 



‘BARN DOOR’/acrylic/gunther

August 26, 2019

 By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     There probably is a barn in most people’s youth, whether you live on a farm, or you pass the iconic red structures as you grow up. Barns mean work for farmers’ kids but also a distinct playground for childhood imagination, and, later, an irreplaceable repository for memories.

     Those who just pass by can conjure up their own thoughts about throwing hay at one another or boarding animals. You do not have to own a barn to experience the imagination. 

     Barns make a nation, for we cannot exist without food, without farms, without the practicality and essential ingredient that as a barn is to a farm, a farm is to life.

    Barns are usually red because the color was once easiest to mix and durable, but there are other hues, too, just like people. 

Just like emotions.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com. 


‘WASH IN THE FIELD’/acrylic/gunther

August 19, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Imagine all the conversations at the clothesline that women have had in urban/suburban/rural areas; count the dreams/thoughts of so many women hanging wash by themselves. Now you have more talk, more dreams/thought than clothes left to dry.

    There is work in hanging wash, relieved for some today by clothes dryers, but there is escape, too, away from the indoor household routine, even in this routine.

     Words shared over urban clotheslines tethered to a common pole, women pulling the day’s wash on squeaky pulleys from tenement windows; the solitary thought of a woman, or man, or child gathering a wind and cold-stiffened shirt from a line, clothespins reset one after another, all this: reaffirming existence itself.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com, Facebook Messenger.   




‘WHITE ON RED VASE’/acrylic/gunther

August 12, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     What is it about white hair?  Mark of maturity, gathered wisdom? Life having lived in depth now aging toward its natural finish? Distinction? 

     Grandma? Encouragement for the young that they, too, can achieve?

     Sacrifice? Selflessness? The lady who bakes great cookies? The man who can fix anything?

     Yes, a topping well-earned, it is hoped. Yet, below the mane can remain the brilliant color of youthful vigor, exuberance, enthusiasm. Life is not over until the finish.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com, Facebook Messenger.


In the corner

‘IN THE CORNER’/acrylic/gunther


August 5, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


No one should be pushed into a corner — by anyone or even yourself — because that is not the place to make the best decisions. Instead, corners should be of welcome and mystery, of imagination and whimsey, of curiosity and adventure. And not only for children playing games.

     Maybe that is why corners should have cabinets. Open the door and. ….

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com




July 29, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     These two women are in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home. One is white, prosperous. One is black, African-American, a slave. Presumably, they speak to one another.

   They are at the dawn of a new age, this political, social, economic, human experiment called the American republic, in which “all men are created equal.”

     But not blacks, still slaves. Not women. Not Indians, Native Americans, increasingly dispossessed of their ancient lands in the continuing march of “progress” and manifest destiny. Not the coming waves of immigrants, from whom most of us descend. Not the elderly. Not the addicted.

     The women at the window in 1800 see beyond the Virginia landscape toward a frontier hardly begun. If they were seers, they would also see violence, bloodshed, prejudice, crooked politicians in special interest, human abuse even as the ever-proud, ever-changing flag of a new, emerging nation goes forth, held high, but just for some.

     They know, these two women then of unequal standing, but each unequal to men, that there is already proclaimed justification for the ceaseless frontier and its mistakes as well as its achievements, in the very language of the revolutionary men who by the skin of their teeth won independence. “Toward a more perfect union,” the Preamble to the Constitution reads. There is no second line: “Yet progress must not be so rapid that people are bulldozed aside.”

     The women who stand at this Jefferson window, in the home of the brilliant man who employed his mastery at writing to set the nation’s mission statement but who was also a slaveholder and flawed as leaders are, these women of the nurturing sex in 1800 are in place today, challenging an incomplete march to achieve equality, not only for females but for men, for all races, for the poor, for the forgotten middle class, for immigrants, for the sick and the infirm, for those shoved aside one way or another.

      They will not long remain at the window of 2019 and beyond. They will go forth and become the masters of the American republic’s true manifest destiny. Their time has come.     

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com, Facebook Messenger.



July 22, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     This is Sarah, but it could be you. She could anyone — of any sex, age, ethnicity, race, belief. Sarah is alone, but not alone. She is with her thoughts, her “me time,” in her space beyond a door.

     There is no competition for her moment alone, no distractions, no need for a lock on the door. No paintings on the wall to detour her imagination. Sarah simply can be with herself — in neutral while the rest of her world is in gear.

     She comes to her room often, even when she is away, for it also exists in her mind, a necessary refuge, when necessary.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman, ahgunther@yahoo.com, Facebook Messenger. 


‘Detail at South Truro’/gunther


By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

           There is music in this old house, though there is no electricity — disconnected decades ago. There is no radio, no record player, no iTunes. In fact, there are no people.

But once, even before electricity, there was much music. Fiddles, banjos, carved wooden sticks offering the cadence of Irish/Scot heritage but in a new land. So, added notes.

And there was the music of children, the best sounds in any home. And the whistling of the father as he whittled, a respite from the long day’s hard work. The women had their tunes, taught by mothers whose mothers taught them — music with a survival rhythm, deep graciousness, and reference to the glory of the Kingdom and what follows lifelong nurturing, endurance.

The house is empty now for it is no longer a home. Yet the music that helped make it so echoes and echoes and echoes.. 

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com, Facebook messenger.


Gunther painting/acrylic on canvas

July 9, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Open a window, and you might get fresh air. Or fresh perspective. Depends on what’s out there, what you see, what you want to see.

     The window frames a scene, and you are in control because you can shut the glass. Or you can open it more and almost jump into the scene.

     You can look out, daydream of people, things, events past, how there has been change, think about what is ahead.

     Some days you are brave enough, adventurous enough, inquisitive enough to open the window. Other times, even the curtain is not parted.

    Yet to have the choice, to have a window that you can open, might be the best way to start the day. You can paint your own picture.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman, ahgunther@yahoo.com, Facebook Messenger



July 1, 2019

STAIR LANDING/Edward Hopper House, Nyack, N.Y./gunther

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     The vestibule, the foyer, the landing of any house is initially what makes it a home. Visitors — family, friends, strangers — enter there, introduced/reintroduced to what else is in the house that makes it a home.

     Goodbyes, some to last forever like lost love,  are said there, in words, perhaps. Perhaps not.

     Memories are made in the vestibule, the foyer, the landing, many to exist and exist as if never leaving the space.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com, Facebook Messenger.



June 24, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     There is your ancestry, whether you visit it, know it, appreciate it or not. It is in your DNA, in your features, perhaps in mannerisms, speech, beliefs. Ancestry may affect the genes in the way you are gifted with this ability or that.

     You may never meet your ancestry by visiting a country, seeing, tasting its flavor. You may not have the means, or the interest or the ability to travel. 

     Yet be assured that who you are has a foot in the past somewhere. You may not know the language of your ancestors nor their ways, but in the same journey in which all modern humans probably are descended from the Africa of 2,000 generations ago, we each have reference points on the long trip.   

     Somewhere else, separate from your life as you know it, is an ancestor’s village — a house there — and you have a key to its door. Your own key. 

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



‘TOP OF STAIRS’/gunther

June 17, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     NYACK, N.Y. — Once there was a door at the top of the steep steps in the 1858 birthplace home of Edward Hopper, the foremost American realist painter. It was not there in his childhood, 1887 birth-on, nor did the family need such closure. 

     The door, rescued from several originals kept in the basement, was attached in the early 1970s rescue of the then deteriorating, once handsome, modest home of a Baptist minister, Edward’s grandfather (John Smith), then his father Garret, a shopkeeper, then the artist himself. Edward passed in 1967, his sister Marion in 1965, and Josephine Nivison, the painter’s wife, also an artist, in 1968.

     A door at the top of the stairs was needed in the house renovation so that income-producing space for studio renters and a handyman could be had, assuring that the almost total volunteer effort to save a historic home, that of a famous artist as well, could continue.

     In time, the Edward Hopper House was able to open up to the public the upstairs room where Marion, Edward and their mother Elizabeth were born, and so, the door was removed. Visitors to the bedroom are taken by the brilliant Hudson River light that shoots up Second Avenue straight onto the walls. Surely this painter of light was touched from infancy.

     Doors give us privacy, guard the quiet. Sometimes — valuable times — they must be closed. In other moments, they should be wide open or exist not at all. 

     At the Hopper House, now 82 North Broadway, the opened door at the top of the steep stairs gives visitors deeper insight into an artist who never tells the story in his paintings but who opens a door to our own tale(s).

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com





June 10, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     You think of New York City “canyons,” the long alleys created by ever-taller buildings that eat light and cast shadow, and you think starkness, loneliness, monoliths of isolation. 

     But, no. All that, yes, yet there is color in everything. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Gothamites and visitors alike will see architectural beauty, construction accomplishment and “progress” in those dark, gray canyons — all the hues  of living.

     Photographers capturing canyon images will deliberately use black and white film or set digital cameras to no color  to document the magnificence of architectural contrast and the particular “light” in Gotham alleys. The iconic cityscape is written for posterity.

     Isn’t this all “color” of a sort?

    The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com




June 3, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     In this time of overdue recognition of women, the root of all existence really, the essential nurturer, the balancer, the multi-tasker, the comforter, the rock upon which there is always a mooring when any of us must re-anchor, in this time when we see neglect, lack of respect, taking women for granted and otherwise being content that they are there but not recognizing their full voice and their right to it, we all — men and women, boys and girls — must set forth to change our ways.

     Women — this must be their time, now, henceforth. Their voice. We all must listen. 

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com

‘VOICE,’ a tribute to women, part of the related ‘UNMASKED/The Men Among Us’ art exhibit at Bel-Ans, Orangeburg, N.Y., June 1-July 28.


‘HOUSE IN FIELD’/gunther

May 27, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     There is no driveway to our childhood home, immersed as it is in dreams and fantasies and those anchor memories which help keep sanity in adult life.

     There is no driveway because within the house we are safe, the straw field engulfing as if a moat around our castle. All the humming inside — the rhythm of our youth — is protected even as we grow older.

     There’s a single light in the window to remind us when, all grown up, we wish to return to the warmth, the bright colors, the cozy home.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



May 20, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

the column rule

(also on Facebook)


Individualism builds the world as the genius within the person — the particular moxie — moves at its own speed and direction. Yet there is always a time when one joins another, and another, and the group becomes its own dynamic.
It is then that a blending takes place, and the structure of society rises from the group effort of adding individual building blocks.
There then stands a group of people in community, blended so that colors merge and overlap. Yet the individual remains recognizable.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com








May 13, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     We all turn a corner somewhere, perhaps every day, maybe in a month, or just once a year. Maybe only in a lifetime.

     The view straight ahead might be cloudy, and perhaps that’s why we go to the left or to the right and then turn the corner. Or the scene on the life wall just in front of you is so crystal clear that you could scream, and so you hustle off, to turn that corner to something new.

     Perhaps the wall is abstract, yet there is meaning for you as you extract its meaning. And that has you staying put — no corner to turn. For now. …

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



‘Seven A.M./gunther

May 6, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     UPPER NYACK, N.Y. — On the charming corner of School Street and Broadway, in this charming village 24 miles north of Gotham, there is a charming former store made famous in an iconic 1948 painting — “Seven A.M.” — by the foremost American realist, local native Edward Hopper. 

     The artist captured a small-town American scene, the store’s wall clock hitting seven in the morning, an awakening time for work, for commerce, but also for a changing America in the post-war years.

     What would lie ahead in social/economic/political changes? Would small towns thrive or decline? Would the clock’s hands move forward?

     The look of the storefront is classic. Once there were many, many thousands across the nation. By 1948, the Upper Nyack store had already been many things, offering goods and books and the gatherings-for-sale by the Perry Family and others. 

    Now, in 2019, the store is empty, though the building has been rescued by a good neighbor who now lives there. She is already advancing the clock hands on fine but oh-so-careful restoration to assure that we never forget, never forget in small-town America the time that came before seven a.m.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


‘TALL HOUSES’/gunther

April 29, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     In dense forests, trees grow tall in competition for light. Yet each stands straight and proud, keeping the species together. Though the single tree seeks its majesty, it is also there as a buttress against storms that might take down its neighbor.

     Such dense forests are a natural collective in joint security while each tree competes as a rugged individualist.  

     Tall houses, too, become the neighborhood collective, offering the hum of daily existence while each structure reaches for the sky, a particular color giving the individual due.

     Move on to humans, and do we not see both the collective and the rugged individualist reaching high and above?

     The writer is a retired newspaperman, ahgunther@yahoo.com




By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)  

There’s this thing about color — it’s supposed to be this or that, according to scene. You know, bright blue sky, white sun, green mountains, straw fields. Every hue in its place, and the world’s clock keeps perfect time.  

But who decides? Where is the democracy in an “expected” color scene? Why not a darkish sky, an orange sun, a field of lime, yellow, white? Why not any color in any scene?  In a landscape. In life as well.  

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



April 15, 2019 (in advance)

‘HER ROOM’/gunther

By Arthur H. Gunther III

(also on Facebook)

     There can never be full existence for any of us if we do not have our space. It is even truer if you are a woman — every woman must have a room of her own.

     Virginia Woolf, in an extended 1929 essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” argued that women writers require space (and money) in a field dominated by men. But her argument was metaphorical as well.

     Women, who bear more than children, lifelong carry the world’s rhythms, progress, hopes, defeats and emotional nourishment. They constantly do and do, and do — for others. 

     When do women escape to go beyond their given, assumed, taken roles? When do they just be “me”?

      Women must have a room of their own.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



‘VERSO,’ gunther

April 8, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Perhaps this column should have been written for April Fool’s Day because the accompanying painting seems a joke. But it is not.

     The piece, titled “Verso,” Latin for reverse of a painting or document, looks like the other side of a framed painting. Yet it is really the painting itself, unframed, acrylic on a 24-inch-square wood panel.

     The idea was to be different, to spotlight what is hidden, even neglected, to show the strength, the character, the meaning, the substance of what we usually do not see.

     Everything — everyone — has value. Just have to look beyond the obvious. 

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com




April 1, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     There is a literal “hook” to the Hudson River shore just 25 miles north of New York City. It is Hook Mountain, its high cliffs dwarfing the mighty waterway. Subject of countless photographs, drawings and paintings, it was saved from disfiguring as a quarry about 1900 by the Rockefeller family and is now part of the state park system.

     Hendrick Hudson saw the Hook on his river journey; Native Americans fished the river and set caves in the sandstone long before that. 

     The trail below is a magical tour for the spirit and soul, every step taking you away from all that bustles, keeping you safe in the arms of such a high place that you feel utterly protected.

     That the Hook was rescued is a tribute to the rich who would go beyond profit to make a mark. That the cliffs and the river path below dispense their salve daily is a blessing.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. angunther@yahoo.com




March 25, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Porches are the soul’s resting spot. They are also the teaching sit-a-spell for one generation to the next. Whether it’s a traditional American small-town front porch, a Southern veranda or an urban stoop, there is emotional gold in tarrying there.

     The newborn child is rocked on such porches. The old while away the sunset in their memories. Young, budding love greets each other.  A kindergartener leaves for the first day of school from that porch, and, suddenly, he/she is going to college.

     A grandmother imparts wisdom and encouragement to her family; neighbors stop to talk; someone in need is given care. 

The porch is a thresh hold to the minutes, the hours, days and years of life.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com





‘IRISH TEA’/gunther

March 17, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     (For St. Patrick’s Day) 

     There cannot be the Irish without tea. When the person holds a cup, it is the soul that comes to visit, both to nourish and to be nourished. Every sadness, every joy, every birth, every passing, every harvest, every leaving home of a once child, all that is before you, in reflection, in that cup of tea.

     My own mother, of pure Irish out of Donegal and an English father from Hartlepool, never had a morning or an afternoon or an evening without her strong tea. During the world war, she gave up rationed sugar and saved on milk by using a canned condensed mix. But the tea she would not be without.

     There are moments when you have tea. If you stir quickly, you might be nervous. If you sip with two hands on the cup, you may be enjoying your company. If you are a woman in love, you may leave a bit more lipstick on the edge.

     Tea is that friend who never leaves, never ages, never talks back. It is the wisdom, the lessons, the sacrifices of generations there, in that cup. And the future, too.


     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



March 11, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     A very long time ago, a young fellow staying overnight at his grandma’s house would get up before his brother so he could put one of those small, individualized cereal boxes on the kitchen table. There might be just one package of raisin bran, and he wanted it.

     Every memory of that brings me back to 14 Ternure Ave., Spring Valley, N.Y., and age 5. The home itself, a charming federal/mixed style built in the early 1900s by the Haera family, was inviting for its comfort, and my grandmother made it even more so with her homemade treats.

     She kept ingredients, especially spices, in a tallish cabinet at the top of the cellar stairs, where the small cereal boxes were also tucked in. You could not open the cabinet without a whiff of cinnamon, all spice, etc. Just getting near the top of the stairs was enough to make your insides warm in anticipation of something tasty.

      Actually, in hope of something more: assurance that life could be safe and secure, with accomplished living ahead. Grandma made it so.

     Recalling that cabinet today — its fragrance — renews that assurance.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



March 4, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     On the South Mountain, in Pomona, N.Y., named for the goddess of fruit, there came in 1711 Nicholas Concklin, a descendant of an English family arriving in 1637. Nicholas bought 400 acres and began the orchards that continue today. Looking toward the rise from South Mountain Road, you can feel the magical pull on your soul. The view is magnetic over the apple trees and old family barn. It makes you linger though the speeding vehicles of “progress” push you to the side of the road.

     You can feel the strain that hit so many farming muscles over the generations, lifting the endless rocks in tilled soil, the wind hitting your face as it swirls in the valley as if a small tornado, the sweet smell of spring and the fruit tree budding.

     Harvest time brings its own emotion, reinforced by what a father/mother saw, a grandfather/grandmother, those forebears in the early 20th, the 19th, the 18th   centuries. Endurance, though change has proven inevitable.

     In the 1936 Broadway play written by South Mountain resident Maxwell Andersen to help save the High Tor cliffs from quarrying, the Indian in greatcoat who is the wise man of the story notes that there is nothing made by succeeding land owners  “that will not make good ruins.” This has been true as all America continues to develop in its manifest destiny, certainly in once-rural Rockland County where Pomona lies.

     Yet, as sure as fruit matures from the pink and white blossoms that are the underpainting of South Mountain Road’s  beauty, the “ruins” are far off, “progress” so far unable to bulldoze the leprechaun-like magic of South Mountain Road, from the Concklin Orchards at state road 45 to the drop of High Tor at state road 9W.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com 



‘FLAG,’ acrylic on canvas/Gunther

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     The flag of the United States of America is a sacred cloth consisting of a field of 13 equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, with a blue rectangle or “canton” proclaiming (since 1960) 50 states. The stripes recognize the original British colonies that declared independence. The flag is a bold and dynamic statement that conjures up images of sacrifice, pride and patriotism as well as protest as inimitable to the republic as was the Boston Tea Party.

      Indeed, no American flag could have been raised on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, World War II if it did not represent both unity in cause and difference of opinion. We are all one, and we also are free to be independent, as per the rights of humankind.

As Lincoln said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” It is our differences, and the tolerance of such, that grow the national family. We can walk hand-in-hand as different people.

    If you were to take the red, white and blue of our American flag heritage and add the God-given hues of the original dispersed, displaced Native Americans, the original enslaved African Americans who gave the South its economy, the original Chinese and other Asians who built our railroads, the original Sicilians and other Italians and the original Russian and other Jews who crafted the garment industry, the original Latinos who populated and grew Texas, California and elsewhere, the original people this and original people that — if we took all these and added them to the whites who landed at Plymouth Rock and those in our manifest destiny — the Germans, the Irish, the Swedes, the French, the whoever, what a flag of color that would be. And it is.

     We have long added those colors; we have been doing so every day since the beginning of a unique nation born in both dissent and union. Our flag  is that of constantly gathered humanity in the republic, a sheltering, protective cloth of many colors.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



‘BARN IN NYACK’/gunther

February 18, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther


(also on Facebook) 

    The thing about barns is that many of us have a thing for them.

      Barns are America. Well, they are also Germany, the Netherlands, the British Isles, Spain, varieties almost anywhere in the world. In the United States, with its Yankee, English, prairie, round, Dutch, bank and other barns, you see the history of the nation, its decades and centuries, its progress toward manifest destiny and, most of all, the incredible diversity of the people.

     They built the barns with post and beam, with native timber, rough hewn. They built the nation with the learning of their foreign forebears and the acquired spirit and shared lessons of the new world. They used Native-American construction ways as well.

     Both have endured, these barns, these people because as with barn styles the purposes may be similar but perhaps not the style. All can stand proud.

     Barns are instant nostalgia, their worn red color or nature’s coat after so much time pulling us back to simpler times though we forget the before-dawn labor that lasted past dusk.

     Today, people recycle barn post and beam, the side planks, too, for houses most beautiful but perhaps way too grand for the old farmer or the dairyman. 

     Passing by in the passing parade that is America’s generations we the people momentarily drop the pulse rate, lower the blood pressure as we glance over at the barns that built us. We are home again, if only for a quick moment.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com or on Facebook Messenger.




Light emerging from Edward Hopper’s childhood birthplace/room in Nyack, N.Y. (Gunther photo)

February 11, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)


     Imagine being born into light, not necessarily spiritual though it cannot be denied. The first opening of the child’s eyes, then awakening each morning into young adulthood with strong, white/yellow luminescence bathing the room, moving along the walls, onto the bed, a life of its own as the sun rises.

     This was the daily world of Edward Hopper, the famed American realist painter born July 22, 1882, in Nyack, N.Y.

     The son of a village shop owner and a mother who was artistic, the young Hopper was uncharacteristically encouraged to be creative, to draw, his parents simply insisting that he attend an art school that would prepare him for a living in illustration.

     But the young Hopper, who would hatch himself from long gestation to give the world such classics as “Nighthawks” and “Early Sunday Morning,” did not enjoy the working world. 

     Doubtless he was always thinking back to the utter brightness of his childhood room, the magnificent Hudson River light shooting up Second Avenue through two front windows to awaken him to dreams not yet realized.

     The man who said “… what I wanted to do was paint sunlight on the side of a house” was swaddled, then reared and always infused with light. He gave us that visibility in his extraordinary paintings.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com or Facebook Messenger.




February 4, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     You do not have to be a painter to appreciate line, form and color. They are part of the staff of life — not staples like grain — but humankind does not live by bread alone.

     “Line,” for example, is how we view the world, in a vertical or horizontal or angular way. It defines our taste in clothes, houses, other people, art, how neatly we keep our penmanship in a straight row, probably whether we yearn to live in a city high-rise or the wide expanse of the countryside. Line helps us choose our cars, tools, partners.

     “Form” is related to line because it is an extension of it, the 3D of it. We unconsciously and then in learned ways choose form for taste, need, to make us purr in relationships — all that, as in painting, to give depth, substance, the yin/yang of breathing, living our lives.

   “Color” is sun itself on line and form, also as in a piece of art. It is the spotlight, even in black and white, officially not color but life is full of nuance, and there are few absolutes. Who is to say there is no blue in black, no yellow in white, no sunlight in a seemingly mundane existence? There is color to be found.

     So, line, form, color, all part of the staff — the necessity — of living.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com or Facebook Messenger.

‘All was right in his world’


January 28, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Amidst the world’s troubles, a reassuring sight on a train: A busy mom, returning with a three-year-old from a trip to Gotham, him jabbering away, calling for “Mommy, Mommy” as she checked her smart phone. He tugged at her jacket, too.

     As in time memorial, the young have pulled at mom, the invisible umbilical cord still connected, the nurturing of human nature. Reassurance is what the child wants as he/she calls out “Mommy.” There must always be an answer.

      And there was on this train. It was obvious that the little fellow had enjoyed his day in New York but that he was also wound-up, fidgeting and tugging a bit extra, Mom noticed, instinctively pulling from her bag of necessities and tricks a book. Down went the smartphone and out came one of many, many, many books about children and the moon. “We will read,” said mom.

      As instinctively, the little one cozied up next to her and listened as mom described another young person’s fascination with that far-off object, of which dreams are made and to which mothers across the globe shoot a string of words that come back with such soothing cadence that no three year old can resist falling asleep. Maybe some adults, too.

     And that’s just what the little boy did, his face buried in mom’s lap once again.

     All was right in his world.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo. com or thecolumnrule.com

48 RUE DE LA …

January 21, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     It is Paris, 48 rue de la … “Madeleine?” “Paix?” The street name does not matter. No. 48 does, that appartement not far from the street artists, who are ubiquitous. Umbrella left on the door handle for walks that take you everywhere, abstract paintings on the panels from the last young artist to live in hope at 48. This is Paris. This is art. This is a stirring of the soul.

     It may all be over in a year, the “artist” moving on through that tough tunnel of reality to a staid existence, earning the cash for  “adulting.”

     But for a time, dreams and the rushing of blood, each red cell telling you have the stamina to do it, to make it. 

      By day, you are at Montmarte or la tour Eiffel. By night, along the Seine. You watch people, you draw them in charcoal. You hear the street sounds, you inhale the scents, you get the rhythm. It all shows in the line, form and color of the evening palette. You paint until dawn.

     You are young. You are full of possibilities. Paris, or the metaphor of the place (so you can be elsewhere), welcomes your search for identity, fertilizes your dream with the elixir of hope.

     Few will stay long at 48 rue de la … . The gifted might buy a studio with their success, but they are not many.

    No, the return trip awaits the majority, moving on to what life does, what it brings.

    Whether you go to Paris, whether you paint or write or day dream, the hope is that for a time anyway, you tarry at 48 Rue de la … .



January 14, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     My grandmother in Spring Valley, N.Y., was a wonderful apple pie maker. In September particularly, she and my grandfather would take a country drive on meandering roads to Pomona where the Concklins offered a new crop of apples so fresh that the skin would still snap when you bit into them. If my brother or I were with them, there would also be the free apple from the bushel basket slid way back on a wooden floor trod since who knows when. Some cider, too, with your own glass jug refilled on the spot.

     The ride back to the village was always calm, serene, with nearing-fall wafts of turned-color leaves, little traffic, the 1950 Plymouth hugging turns on McNamara Road, my grandparents quietly talking as Craig and I sat in the back, swallowed up by old-fashioned big seats.

     Back home, my grandfather would take some of the apples, washed first in the old kitchen sink, out to his garage, the one with a wooden floor with its own history of long use, oil dripped from cars, planks heated by summer sun. A special smell that is recalled forever, a key to memories.

     Gramps would carefully peel the apples in a manner that would make an army sergeant on KP watch proud. Very little waste, his special knife — always kept in the garage — separating the skin as he twisted the apple, one long peel dripping into a basket, the contents later fed to the birds.

     My grandmother, this nana of German heritage, would take the apples, add sugars and spice and whatever secrets from the old country that were passed on and mound the fruit in her own crust, a bit of sweetness added to make it have a slight butter-cookie taste.

     It wasn’t long before the pies baked, the fragrance so inviting and reassuring that a youngster felt very safe and happy. A window shelf for cooling awaited, and we did too. It seemed an endless one.

     Combined with ice cream and coffee for the adults, we all dug with satisfaction into the finished product on a late-summer afternoon in my old hometown.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com





January 7, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     The tree stands alone, but there is enough evidence in the fog that others are in the background. It is sturdy, seemingly well-rooted, still with leaves and in a field of  pleasing color. Of optimism, this photograph.

     A metaphor, perhaps, for durability in turbulent, uncertain times when roots cannot always be planted, when there may be no one to have your back, when color is reduced to a limited spectrum chosen by the few.

     Yet the tree survives and promises continued growth despite pessimism, for it is the opposite.

     The fog is thick and does not suggest a quick retreat. And that may be to the good, the fog a reflector for the infinite variety of color keeping the tree company.

     Cozy, too, such a scene, for the invitation is to sit a spell, to chill, to forget the commute, the to-do list, the endless appointments. 

     Sunday in the park with a tree. Optimism.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



‘December 31, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     The painting shows an old colonial house, still occupied and happily, I suggest. There is cozy warmth from the fireplace, as you can see from the smoke. The windows are dark, so it is daylight. Set in a green field and under a blue sky, the home appears to be thriving.

      But one thing is missing: The power line is not connected — transmission is at the pole but not to the colonial.

     Is that deliberate? Is this a “Twilight Zone” episode of old? Is the painting both of the past and of the future? Is the house to enter the modern age with electricity?

     Will the chimney then lose its smoke trail and be used for the central heating afforded by electricity? Will the dark windows light up in daytime?

     Ah, and what of the people inside? What will connecting their cozy abode to the grid do to them? It will make life easier but also more complicated. There will be a utility bill and never-ending rate hikes. Appliances will be added at cost, with future repair. Good grief, next will come a telephone line, the Internet, smartphones that do not need the utility pole.

      No one will look at the old fireplace, except as a background for a selfie. The green field surrounding the colonial might go brown because no one is cutting the grass — too busy using electrons.

     “Twilight Zone?” Could paint out the pole and start all over.


     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com

Relevance of time

December 24, 2018

     Each Christmas, for a few decades now, my son, teacher Arthur H. Gunther IV, has taken my former newspaper column and now online space to offer a holiday story. Here it is for 2018.

 By Arthur H. Gunther IV

     It had kind of consumed him, this quest to slow down time.  Where once he might have tried to possess it, his focus had gradually shifted to simply sharpening his vision.  At least, that was what he told himself.  There were certain tricks he had learned over the years.  Time lived in places that he visited with regularity, but then again, time lived in places he hadn’t yet been.  It was hard to explain, so he really didn’t bother.  He was content to just show by example.  By how he lived his days.

     The trunk of John’s VW rabbit was nothing special.  The car was a hatchback, so opening the back caused the cloth-covered platform behind the rear seats to lift up and reveal the bucket-shaped opening.  It it, he kept an old wool blanket, jumper cables for when the battery died, a lead pipe to help loosen lug nuts, a jack, a full-sized spare tire, a scarf, a few newspapers for whenever he had to wait somewhere, and a weathered gray towel.  Inside the towel, rolled up tight to protect the lens and the metal frame, was his camera.  There was always a roll of film inside, black and white, with at least a few frames left to shoot.  He never left a completed roll inside the camera.  The minute it was finished he took it out to develop the shots.

     No matter where John drove, the camera was always there.  Sometimes he would go for weeks without taking it out.  Before his kids were born, John would often drive just to wander, just to see where he would end up. This is when his camera would come out.  Portraits and sunsets didn’t interest him.  You wouldn’t find panoramic shots of any kind.  John preferred photos with little plan, taken quickly the second the beauty within the frame revealed itself.  A box in John’s basement held the results of his efforts.  There were shadows made by oak leaves on old brick walls, sunlight on side street shop windows, barns nestled beside weathered houses from the last century.  

     John would develop the photos in his basement, look at them for a time, and then put them in a box.  Sometimes he would go back to glance at the old photos, but more often than not the box is where they remained.  It was as if the act of taking the photos, the drive and the wandering, were what really mattered.  The photos in the box were almost beside the point.

     With his kids getting older and his life getting more complicated, John’s drives, his wandering photo excursions, were less frequent.  He would sometimes worry, when he had the time for such indulgence, that not taking the time for the photos actually had a role in accelerating time’s passage.  If he got out, if he took the time to wander and use his camera, everything would slow down and come into focus.  His memory sharpened once again.  Thoughts would form.  The unappreciated became appreciated once more.

     John woke up one December morning, a few days before Christmas, daydreaming about Thanksgiving, about the coming holiday, before realizing it was already past. Later that day he drove home only to find his house empty.  He checked the notepad always left on the kitchen counter and found three notes, all letting him know that his wife, daughter, and son had gone their separate ways for the afternoon.  Shocked at finding his house empty, John’s first inclination was to wash the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, or maybe to start a load of laundry.  As he was reaching to turn on the radio, his eyes fell upon a drawing his daughter had recently taped to the refrigerator of one of her old sneakers.  The pause this image gave him was all John needed to grab his coat and get in his car.  The dishes and laundry could wait.

     The wind was picking up as John drove down toward the river and then up the side of Tallman Mountain toward the end of the county and the New Jersey border.  He had stopped listening to weather reports a few years ago.  He couldn’t take the disappointment of the uneven forecasts:  rain in January, 50 degrees in July.  This way, snowstorms and the other beauty of the seasons came as a surprise.  At least he could dream.  For all John knew, a blizzard was imminent.  

     John’s initial plan was to maybe walk the cinder bike path once he got past Piermont, but as was his wont, he changed his mind and instead continued past the entrance before turning down into the maze of roads that made up Sneden’s Landing.  Parking at the old church near the beginning of the neighborhood, John got out, grabbed his camera from the trunk, and started walking.  John descended the hill, once again amazed at the quiet that always pervaded the hillside.  As he rounded a turn that was bordered by a giant elm tree, John came upon a young girl sitting on a bench.  John had seen this bench before.  It was really just a piece of wood balanced on two old stumps.  He assumed it was a place where children sat waiting for the school bus.

    “Hi.”  The girl offered John a smile.  “Going for a walk?”

     “Yes, I guess I am,”  John replied.  “What’s up?”

“Nothing at all,”  she replied.  “I’m just waiting.”

“Waiting for what?”  John couldn’t help but ask.

“Waiting for the snow.  It’s going to snow.  It’s almost Christmas.”

John almost replied with another question, but stopped himself.  He had asked too many already.  Instead, his eyes looked over to the old tree.  On it’s gnarled, imposing trunk was nailed a plain, metal thermometer.  He could see the mercury had settled right under the freezing point, where someone had drawn a red line with a pen.  Taking out his camera, John snapped a closeup of the thermometer with just enough of the elm tree showing in the frame.  Just as the click of the shutter had finished its reverberations, John heard the excited shout of the girl on the bench.          

Swinging his gaze in her direction, John could see that snow had suddenly started falling.  Flakes filled the air.  The girl looked absolutely delighted, but not the least bit surprised.  John stood for several seconds, or maybe even a minute, and then wished the girl a good night.

Walking back up the hill to his car, John’s thoughts settled upon a quote he had once heard by Aristotle:  To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.  John hugged his camera close to his side.  He couldn’t wait to get back home and see his family.

     The writer is a first-grade teacher at the William O. Schaefer School in Tappan, N.Y. Reach him via clausland@yahoo.com


 December 17, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

      There’s this tunnel thing because we all go through them at least once mentally, physically, romantically. Countries do, too. So does anything organized, such as religion. Ah, but is the journey welcome?

      Might have no choice about that. You are on the train, just like in the British mysteries, and as the steam and smoke of the locomotive first hit the tunnel entrance and pull you into the dark, you wonder how long you will be there. Do you breathe differently? Does your heart race?

     One thing you seem certain about in most such moments is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The flickering emergency train incandescent bulbs go out, and you see the countryside again. (Unless you are in the mystery, and “then there were nine …).

     If you are from the New York City area, there is another metaphor in the Brooklyn- Battery Tunnel, the longest, continuous underwater vehicular passage in North America. Children adapt it for a game with siblings — holding your breath from the famed Gotham Battery to the traffic-clogged Red Hook section of Brooklyn, a three-minute ride at 40 mph.

     We have tunnels in our dreams, which some interpreters see as facing fears and emerging victorious — the light at the end. Those who report near-death experience speak of tunnels that tumble you to glory, hopefully.

     “Alice in Wonderland” offers a rabbit hole that becomes a tunnel lined with objects and things. It leads to the Hall of Doors and so much adventure.

     My own view of a tunnel is that it is perfectly black and dark so as to reset our eyes for the full wonder of color when we emerge. Doors leading to opportunity.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


‘Light at Hopper House’

December 10, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Our ancestors, living in caves, then huts, then small cabins, all without much benefit of light — there were no Andersen double-glazed, energy-efficient windows then — must have grabbed, mentally, emotionally, at any sliver of brilliant shining as does a young child marvel at a big, dripping icicle. What power there is in light, the ancestors must have thought.

     In time, first with the light of day to hunt and then with the light of fire to cook, there began a dawn of illuminating existence. We are now all travelers of that first light though enough in humankind have always sought to extinguish it for others. 

     Nor has society fully taken the gift of light and hopped on it to our dreams. The harnessing of light could end poverty on earth through free energy, clean water, crops, but we allow the  ministers of darkness, be they greed, power, prejudice, hatred or just plain evil, to deny a share. 

     The rays of light cast through a window can be mesmerizing to a child, staring through his daydreams, the same young being decades later, a life gone by, grasping at the same light in his/her long hours of reflection.

     Dawn brings newness with the return of light just as dusk and light’s withdrawal tells us to cozy ourselves to sleep, to rest if we can, with the promise of return.

     Perhaps day-dreaming is mostly light, the horse in the sky we choose to zoom away on in a gallop or to amble in a meadow. It is a gift, our ticket to ride.


     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com    



December 3, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Before there were smartphone screens to stare into, children looked out the window, their eyes portals for real but mostly imaginary scenes.

     Cars passing, dogs chasing squirrels, a neighbor mowing. Raindrops, snow flakes, the falling sun, a full moon. Millions of kids saw all that if they were lucky to look out windows at all, in peace.

     A day off from school, maybe in a snowstorm, perhaps a hot summer night trying to catch a breath of air at the windowsill, the ledge the edge of a stage for whatever was happening.

     Usually, ordinary things were taking place — still do at the window. Even mundane. Seen before, so many times. Yet reaffirmation in that as ordinary living continues.

     Continues even in boredom, and that was — is — where the window truly could open up. How many noses have been pressed to glass, how many chins have rested on the sill as Acts I, II, III took to the footlights? How many fantasies were seen? How many fake battles? How many romances, wishes, journeys into any neverland?

     Imagination is a free ride, though you must be willing to take the bus. It can make you think, it can make you chill out, it can make you the master of your destiny.

     A window is one place to get a ticket to ride. There are others.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


By Arthur H. Gunther III

the columnrule.com

(also on Facebook)

     One of the non-dynamics of “progress” is that as new technology replaces the old, tried and true habits honed by trial, error, ingenuity, make-do and survival are sometimes cast aside, even lost.

     For example, in this age of omnipresent air conditioning, a simple concept like hot air circulation is forgotten. A few years ago, I was in an old New York village on a very hot 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 near the ceiling there were other windows, all shut but with long chains dangling. It was obvious that the chains were pulls 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 that he simply wouldvhave 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 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, the tools also made from scrap — old plumbing.

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

     The lesson of the story is that in a faster-paced world, on the quick journey, we sometimes forget to bring along the skills that once made us survive, those efforts that also instilled pride in what we could accomplish.

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


Credit: Christie’s

November 19, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Relativity isn’t confined to Einstein. It applies in the art world, too. Most recent example: the Christie’s auction sale last week of “Chop Suey,” the Edward Hopper 1929 painting, which hit a record at $91,875,000. The famed American realist artist netted $1,000 or less from his agent, the Rehn Gallery. Relativity.

     Most famous artists have to be gone from this void before their pieces are worth a fortune. Hopper never took in more than about $8,000 for any of his works, living well enough though frugally in his Washington Square, Manhattan, rental until his 1967 passing.

     Even the locale for “Chop Suey,” an upstairs Chinese restaurant, suggests living on a budget. Such places, in Hopper’s time all over Manhattan and usually on the second floor or in the basement for cheaper rent, offered inexpensive, satisfying food, with wonderful tea in sage-green cups that had no handles.

     Hopper and his wife, artist Jo Nivison, would walk to these eateries. When he returned to his Nyack, N.Y., birthplace, they went to the upstairs Chinese restaurant off North Broadway.

    A look at “Chop Suey” shows two women, neither of which have smart phones, instead having what seems to be pleasant, face-to-face conversation. The meal appears over, since there is only a teapot and a bowl that may have held nuts. A man and woman are at a rear table, she smiling, he looking down. Outside is the iconic neon sign, and in one window is an abstract design, perhaps Hopper’s reference to the then current painting style.

     What does “Chop Suey” say? That depends on what you see, what the artist meant or was looking for. For me, it’s relativity, the state of being relative to the period, the moment.

     Edward Hopper would probably be offended by the auction price, by today’s greed art market, with investors and the one percenters largely unappreciative of what he was searching for in “Chop Suey.” His currency was his interpretation of his innermost feelings and observations. That is what we see in the Hopper works, whether they cost $1,000 or $91,875,00.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


November 11, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

When, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, 100 years ago, the guns of August 1914 were finally silenced, 40 million casualties could still be heard, their plaintive cries ignored as the path to the next war was already under construction.

So, what do you say to those who sacrificed, who died in their country’s service, no matter the nation? The mechanical horrors alone of the Great War — super-big artillery, first use of tanks, mustard gas — should have been enough to thwart World War II. But no. Even the later atomic bomb and the threat of world annihilation have not ended conflict. Humankind’s thirst for power, and especially money, combined with the embers, then flames of hatred and prejudice, constantly bring us war.

So, what do you say to the soldier, sailor, marine, airman, mother, father, brother, friend of the fallen, the physically wounded, the emotionally struck of the Great War on this centennial? Wasn’t their sacrifice enough? 

One of the  last soldiers, dying in the mud in the Second Battle of Guise, November 4-5, 1918, might have had hope that his son, his baby, would see a better world. His eyes closed on that hope. But the world let him down.

There will be many tributes on November 11 to mark 100 years. Big leaders will come (or not, as Trump, the American president, was a no-show at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in Belleau, France, citing rain though the dead perished in slogging mud). 

There will be articulate speeches, great memorial wreaths. And elsewhere some dictator will be killing the innocent; some horrible people will be practicing genocide; some war-profiteer will be getting even richer.

Yet the hope for a better world persists, as it must, if those who perished shall not have died in vain.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


Nov. 5, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Tuesday, Nov. 6, will be the women’s election. 

     Females give birth to men (and women) who go on to be powerful politicians. That gender endures the pain of creation to produce us all. Given the almost karmic force of the recent focus on female abuse, disrespect and empowerment, women can turn the tide Tuesday on deliberate indecency in a nation that is collectively acting like children gone astray. Mom is needed. Women are needed.

     We are all the lifelong children of our mothers, our female teachers. We all continue to learn, if we choose to do that. Now we must. Too many Americans, too many in this America, are left behind, deliberately neglected by a system that favors the rich over opportunity to enter the middle-class and remain there. No nation survives without a middle class.   

    Appealing to the citizenry through fear, racism, anti-immigration and discriminatory nationalism means someone will get hurt. It’s a call to be a bully, and no mother wants her child to be one.

     Across the aisle, the well-meaning may offer an articulate voice against fear-mongering, against the animalism of an excited crowd but can easily patronize small-town America, the blue-collar with frayed shirts for lack of jobs. Where are the solutions?

     The mid-term elections will define America. Either we try to be the decent people most moms want us to be, or we descend into Hitlerites. We are at a precipice, at a greater height than ever before, urged to jump a chasm by the unreasonably powerful. They offer no safety net, and Hell is below.

     As Frank LoBuono, a fellow journalist from South Nyack, N.Y., puts it, “This is a struggle for the soul of America.”

     Women give birth to our bodies. Our souls are left to us, but in that choice, remember who your Mom wants you to be.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


October 29, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther  III


(also on Facebook)

Quietly done, not-fussed-about, get-it-finished moments strike deep chords in the reflections of older life, or so it appears in a Halloween memory.

More than a few seasons ago in Tallman, N.Y., then a little hamlet of fruit orchards, an equally small church offered a Halloween party, and someone told my father, who was then working at both a nearby hospital and in a nursing home. He was trying to make ends meet, though my brother and I never knew it, so kept were we from the home economy by both our working parents.

In this second-grade year, excitement was had by playing in the apple and peach orchards off Cherry Lane (never saw a cherry tree there) and watching horses train at the polo club where actor Burgess Meredith kept a steed. There was no downtown to walk to, a luxury I would come to enjoy when we again moved back to nearby Spring Valley. For this part of young life, imagination had great latitude and deep encouragement in a rural setting where sitting in a tree and day-dreaming was as good as watching “Captain Video and his Video Rangers” on TV.

My brother Craig and I did manage to get together with other boys and some girls, however, and the Halloween party was to be one of them. It was a last-minute invite,  an offer made by a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital who thought it would be fun for us.

My father left the hospital and picked us up at the Airmont and Cherry Lane schools, and we both sat in the 1939 Dodge as it made its way to the small church and its basement. When we arrived, the very nice woman organizing the party opened the door, saw us and quickly came outside. It seemed neither my brother or I had costumes, which are expected at Halloween parties. My father had had no time to get them and would have been pressed financially anyway.

The church lady who dashed out to save us embarrassment just as quickly had my dad bring us right across the street where there was another kind woman, a seamstress who worked from her home. In a jiffy, this lady whipped up two creative costumes, pinned together in flourish. We were fun-ready, my brother and I.

The memory of that 1949 Halloween party is now a blur, but its circumstances and three good people — the woman at the hospital, the one in the church and the seamstress — can never be forgotten. Nor can my father’s efforts.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com This column is adapted from an earlier version.


October 22, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III
(also on Facebook)
     Some seasons ago, quite a few really, the no. 6 red naugahyde-covered twirling stool at Tiny’s Spring Valley, N.Y., diner 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 kept under a heat lamp.
     Tiny was a big man, and as they say, with a large heart to match. He was jovial, and his diner was of the standard expected at highway stops before fast food sped up the gearing to assembly line quick-a-motion and little home-cooked flavor. My grandfather moseyed on east to Tiny’s for java on a Saturday morning, nursing it for a longish time with a 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, vanilla and butterscotch puddings and those wonderful slices of top-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. (I always avoided no. 4, which perhaps was Tiny’s favorite, for extra weight or something heavy had loosened it.)
     Planted at no. 6, I was about to order the usual, but before the overly busy counter waitress got to me, the cake case’s magnetism kicked in, the fluorescent light behind the gleaming chrome and tempered sliding-glass doors shining just right on a piece of iced lemon 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 date 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 was the kiss that ended the night, and that date, you see.
     The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier piece. ahgunther@yahoo.com


By Arthur H. Gunther III


Some of the older homes I walked into as a youngster had one- or two-bulb ceiling fixtures in the middle of the room, operated by a long pull chain that hit any tall fellow in the head. These lights, the fashion of the time when electricity first came to old houses in old villages, were literally illuminating after gas fixtures, but they were awfully harsh, directing shadows on people and furniture, as in the film noir treatment of a Raymond Chandler mystery.

So it is that I have erased any trace of ceiling fixtures in every home I’ve owned, save the kitchen. And even there task lighting not only makes for better veggie cutting but sets the mood. Kitchens, like living rooms, and certainly bedrooms, are all about mood.

My Spring Valley, N.Y., grandfather had a wonderful “standard lamp,” which others call floor lamps, but the British moniker sounds more accurate since movable lighting became common fare almost as quickly as did ceiling fixtures. It was the “standard” or normal lamp in, say, a living room. 

     Grandfather had his placed next to a large and comfy chair, and the 100-watt bulb seemed to provide the sun’s touch for many a youngster’s reading of the Saturday Evening Post or a New York City tabloid.

His lamp, like the original ceiling fixtures, had a pull chain, not a twist knob, not a push-pull contraption, both of which you fumble for in the dark, almost knocking over the fixture. Worse, still, would be the foot-operated button, which always seems to be under the couch.

The standard lamp in Spring Valley had a longish pull chain with a glass bauble at its end, which swung and hit the lamp’s upright pole three or four times. The light was easy to locate because of the glass and the chain itself. Its action was smooth, and during the 15 or so years I sat next to that standard lamp, the chain never failed. I can still hear the sound.

There was certainty in its action, yes, and also sureness that I would soon be comfortable in a chair where while others in the family talked, I could get lost in a tabloid or magazine.

Contrast that pull chain, which turned on a world of delight, to the dangling ones from ceiling fixtures that cast harsh light, the mysterious mood of which was dreary.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. Reach him at ahgunther@yahoo.com This essay is adapted from an earlier version.


April 13, 2009

     There is no workplace rhythm – this necessary, life-sustaining tempo, this melody, this song – without the interplay of people. Bosses, the ordinary grunts, specialists, the guys and gals who do the job, or who do the job better than others, the slackers, the prima donnas, the ego-feeders and the ego-needers, the rear kissers, the independents, the saints, the sinners, the long-termers and the in-and-outs – all are essential to what makes a particular shop or store or business sing its anthem. Success, the name and reputation, the lasting memory ride on this music.

     In the old-style newspaper business, my craft, when editors “dummied” or sketched pages of stories, photos and graphics on style sheets that printers would try to follow in the upstairs composing room or the “backshop,” usually making corrections that resulted in a much better newspaper, we editorial types soon learned to “make a friend of a printer,” for you were sunk if you did not. No matter how accurate you thought your story lengths were, or how tight the pictures were cropped, and especially if you believed your headlines would fit the column space, once you stood next to the printer, that compositor making up your page in cast hot metal, you soon realized you weren’t worth a pot of ink.

     That’s when printers like Tom D’Auria and “Big John” DeSevo saved your ass, particularly on deadline. Tom, who was close in age when we worked together in the 1970s, and Big John, who was a bit older as we toiled in the 1970s-’90s, were originally linotypists or typesetters at a country then suburban newspaper named the  Rockland Journal-News in the 1950s and ’60s. They also did page makeup, placing type cast from molten metal in “chases” or forms, with photographic and advertising “cuts,” locking that heavy mass  with a special wrench and then sending the form to a “mat” maker. The mats were filled with cast lead in half-cylindrical shape to be placed on rotary presses for printing.

     That precision work gave way to photo-offset printing in the 1970s, and Tom and Big John became “paste-up artists” who laid down columns of type, photos, graphics and ads on full-size heavy-paper sheets, which were then photographed to produce offset printing plates made of tin. It was a less precise process than hot type and eventually was replaced by computer design direct to printing plate, the standard in newspapers today.

    In their time, printers like Tom and Big John, the former always making a joke and the latter puffing away on a cigar and working quickly, were your friends in composing, deftly trimming stories, rearranging the layout to make it jump, helping fill out headlines, etc. They assisted you in making deadline and getting the work done in what is the daily birth of a newspaper.

     Both Tom and Big John were affable people, two of the songbirds in the wonderful rhythm of the old and then changing newspaper composing room. Their banter, their yells for trims, for more type, set against the clank-clank of the Linotypes and then the whirring of the offset cameras, gave cadence to a craft.

     Few who read the old Journal-News out of 53 Hudson Ave. in Nyack, N.Y. knew Tom D’Auria or Big John DeSevo, for as in most jobs, the staff was unsung. Yet like the mason who sets the first block best, the foundation for any one day’s newspaper was assured by their presence. Gone now, both of them, as surely as is their style of newspaper composing, but I can still hear their music.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com This essay is adapted from an earlier column.


October 1, 2018

 By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Friendship recalled can be like the whiff of old wood that reminds you of your grandfather’s garage, or you come across a country farm stand and you remember apple-buying at the Concklin place, or you simply have a flash of memory that gives you goose bumps.

     Not all friendships last long enough, so they require some connection to bring recall. Some are lost on the way — life happens — and you would rather not have the memory return to your senses. Other friendships are best left to a short time, even a day, for the gem there, soon discovered and admired, cannot be kept polished. Too good to be true.

     And then there are those friendships that, once bonded, are in place for life, with frequent visits, family gathering shared, phone calls, now texts. The friend becomes a sister, a brother.

     The most undefinable friendships are the ships passing in the night, affecting those who almost bond with another but do not. Hands reaching out but not touching. If you believed in reincarnation, you might say the individuals had met before, perhaps were the deepest of friends, but in this life there is no need to do that again. Or maybe a future life will have you together, and the passing-by is just a taste of things to come.

     Once made, a friendship can give to each, take from each, share the other’s emotions, even the very being. 

    In some special friendships there is poetry, a reassuring hum, like when conversation flows easily and the silences, too, are reinforcing. Those are the friendships that cannot leave memory though there may be no contact. Even if there was hurt, which can happen in the truest of friendships because of ignorance, selfishness, immaturity, there is acknowledgement that there was a song, a reassuring rhythm in comforting routine; there was understanding that could bring goosebumps. You are forever grateful.


     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: ahgunther@yahoo.com



View Toward Gotham from the old Tappan Zee (Gunther)

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     The mighty Hudson River in New York, not a western route to Asia through the Northwest Passage as Hendrick Hudson hoped it would be in 1609, but to the great port of Albany, is now relatively beautiful, as the explorer found it. Once assaulted by industrial discharge, its waters are these days enjoyed by boaters and those who live in expensive housing along the shore as well as those who can get to the river’s edge and view sights from New York City to the Palisades escarpment, to Hook and Bear mountains, to West Point, enjoying many of nature’s gifts on both the eastern and western shores.

     The river is crossed by several bridges, including the newly opened twin-span Mario M. Cuomo, replacing the historically named Tappan Zee, built in 1955.  Both river crossings, from South Nyack to Tarrytown, were — are — controversial, and not only because the new one is named by a sitting governor, Andrew, for his father, also a former New York chief executive.

     There were two principal players in the decades-long buildup of the old Tappan Zee Bridge, which is an essential part pf the New York state Thruway, from Buffalo to the Bronx: the “progress” people, including land speculators, and, on the other side, those who sought to keep Rockland County semi-rural. The preservationists lost, and many of the old ways and more than 100 other homes and the South Nyack village downtown are long gone. But the “progress” people did not win, either, since hurried, poorly planned development has brought drainage, traffic, infrastructure and quality-of-life problems. And now there is the “graying” of Rockland, with an older population, development homes requiring renovation and perhaps not enough tax money going forward. No one knows what the future will bring, especially with the continuing decline of the middle class. Who will step up to rebuild and reinvigorate overbuilt Rockland?

     Yet interstate travel, especially trucks, the real winner in the construction of the Thruway and the Tappan Zee Bridge, will continue, and even a shiny new set of crossings across the Dutch “zee” or sea will not solve Rockland’s woes nor the growing traffic concerns and the utter need to renovate the Thruway in the county. The new spans may well prove to be bridges “too far.”

     The original $80 million Tappan Zee — $668 million in today’s dollars — camemto be because in the later 1940s New York Gov. Thomas Dewey proposed a super highway in the German “Autobahn” style, from Suffern/Hillburn, at the New Jersey border, to upstate New York, to foster commerce. But it soon became apparent that the Thruway bond holders could not be paid off without a big revenue source, and so the idea of extending the road to New York City via a Hudson crossing at South Nyack was quickly adopted, thus providing a nicely ringing “cash register.”

    Trouble was that non-quality materials and a cheap design were used to construct the Tappan Zee. Eventual overuse put the bridge in danger of major failure, and in October 2011, at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Thruway Authority and the New York State Department of Transportation jointly proposed the two new spans, which eventually will include pedestrian and biking lanes and lookouts for viewers.

     The “progress” legacy of the first crossing has not proven nearly as grand as first advertised, since rapid suburban growth has overtaxed local planners, zoners and the infrastructure. The new crossings will bring even more interstate travelers through geographically small Rockland, and there seems no benefit to residents. The interstate network will still have major flaws in the lower Hudson Valley region, and though a poorly planned and built 1955 crossing has been replaced by wonderfully engineered, safe structures, they will connect to overworked interstates on both sides of the Hudson.

     The first Tappan Zee was built as a “cash register,” not as a well-planned conduit for progress.” It witransfer that legacy to the new spans.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: ahgunther@yahoo.com


“IN THE FALL,” painting by AHG

By Arthur H. Gunther IIII


(also on Facebook)

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 and nudge you to “do it again.”

The light is different, incrementally as the weeks pass, but soon the imperceptibility loses its subtlety, 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 as you get ready for warmer garments carried on your frame. That is natural to all, since the cave days.

But 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 who can be reached via ahgunther@yahoo.com This essay is adapted from an earlier work.


September 10, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     If I were a woman and it was Nov. 6, 2018, I would vote as if it were as important as childbirth, a fulfilling career, a great relationship or just being happy with whatever lifestyle was desirable. Those wishes aside, this is the time for women — it has arrived. We Americans require the strongest of female conviction and action — now.

     Suffrage is nearing its 100-year anniversary, at least for white women. The me-too movement is outing out boors and worse. Women with articulation are winning congressional nomination primaries in Boston and New York City. There are increasing revelations in male bastions such as the Catholic Church of abuses hidden by men. And there is a man in the highest office of the land who should have been kneed decades ago.

     Would that more women were in powerful seats. Would that more women were heard in their commonsense voice. Would that more women were recognized as not only equal to men but often superior. Would this were all so, and the nation, the world would not be so deeply in the horror it is.

    Some faiths honor the mother of renewed humankind. Children’s books hail the mom. Women are often the remembered teachers. Who tells us how to tie our shoes? Who wipes the tears?

     Then why do we — men, sometimes women — abandon their wisdom, their learned ways, their ingenuity, their gifts?

     Vote Nov, 6, men and women, but especially women. Vote for candidates, hopefully many female, who will insist on ordinary decency, who will push us all to our better side.

     It’s as if Mom is getting us ready for the first day of school. Clean clothes, lunch made and packed, and, most of all, the greatest, reassuring hug that carries us through the last day of school, even life. Women rock, and we all need more of their mojo now.


     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



September 3, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     “Ghost lights” are the incandescents traditionally left on in darkened theaters, perhaps for safety though the superstition is more romantic, that the lit bulbs are for the ghosts  surely in every theatrical house.

     There isn’t an actor worth her/his emoting who won’t admit to that. Whatever well the thespian pulls from must include those who played the part before, or something like it; who uttered the very lines and showed the very expressions that become another’s because, though we are individuals, we also are products of others. Ghost lights, behind the open curtain during performance, cast upon the stage nevertheless, you see.

     So it is, too, in great buildings, like museums, like the White House where Abraham Lincoln, honest or not, has been seen by many occupants and visitors, including Winston Churchill. That the triumphs, the awful mistakes, the probable criminality, the end runs around democracy, even to save a republic, yet soaring, hopeful rhetoric and deed, too, are to be forever dismissed without karma is foolish thought. The ghosts are there, in that great house of the people, in this place where the elected leader is but temporary in a remarkable, continuing experiment.

     Though the ghost light at 1600 Pennsylvania is at present long off stage, for today’s performance is seeming endless with the light from smart phone tweets at 2 a.m., it will return. The lead actor will leave. The house will go dark, the light again left on. We will all get a good night’s sleep.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


August 27, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also on Facebook)

     Whether a teacher would have made the schwachkopf write “I will think before I tweet” 100 times on the blackboard; whether a mother might have put soap in his mouth for his anti-humanity words; whether a woman would have kneed him for pushing himself as a barbaric lout, the verdict would be the same: There is no justification for a person of indecency as the leader of the free world.

     Forget political views; all have a place for debate and compromise and action in the White House. Forget that there have been other oafs, cheaters, liars, etc., at 1600 Pennsylvania. The entire point of a progressive nation, specifically this experiment of a republic, is to learn from mistakes and not repeat them.

     That the dummkopf-in-chief still occupies his position, after a tainted election, yes, but more so after racist, ignorant, false comment about government officials, ethnic groups, immigrants and almost everyone, defies reason. Resignation should have come instead of too many resigned to someone who would be long gone in private-business America.

     Those who believe in him are overlooking indecency because it is convenient to their views. Yet, no matter how strongly felt the loyalty, it is grossly, ashamedly misplaced, as surely as it was in 1933 for another fellow. 

     A strong economy may make one smile, even if the guy waving the flag does not admit the groundwork was laid before he came on the scene. The stock market may be soaring though the sand underneath may be slipping in regulation rollback. There may be low unemployment, though the jobs are relatively low-paid without pension and not enough health insurance. But exalt, if that is the cry in the stadium. 

      Just don’t let this fellow at the podium lead in the chanting. Chose another to rally your cry, as others of different political persuasion do the same this Nov. 6. The American way.

     The present indecency must be faced by a turning-away, an abandonment of the oaf, or we become that person in complicity. We sell our soul for a shiny set of clothes. What happens when we take them off?  

    Hawk  beliefs, surely, fight for them in the way the late John McCain did. But keep the principles of decency, as he showed us. 

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com




August 20, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


(also appears on Facebook)

     A small room in Brooklyn, an old, cheap-to-rent apartment not far from the docks where a seaman could find work but today so expensive a neighborhood that one year’s pay in 1918 would not cover a week’s fancy dining; in that small room a child, a girl, was born to my Grandmother Mary Bonner Lyons. Patricia would live just months, the victim of the terrible worldwide Spanish flu epidemic.

     The pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people — about one-third of the planet’s population—and killed  20 million to 50 million, including about 675,000 Americans. There were no drugs or preventive vaccines. Public places, including schools, closed, people wore masks and funeral homes and cemeteries were overwhelmed.

     This just as the world was nearing the end of the Great War with its own unbelievable loss of life. More than a few probably thought “apocalypse.” Then a decade of heady, greedy false “prosperity,” followed by the awful Great Depression, which ended only because another world war created defense jobs.

     That the Aunt Patricia I never knew also did not live to see and interact with all that history, and some of what has come after is more than effect of circumstance. She may have helped discover a wonder drug. She may have raised children who were good people. Patricia might have made her younger sister, also named Patricia — my mother — smile.

     Pandemics, war, economic depression and very poor, even evil leadership take away promise, and that is why those living must seize the day.

     In a time when war, greed, challenges to the economy, unconquered disease and denial of human rights remain, actually a moment when there are strong forces determined to reverse progress, there is an imperative to do some good. Not as a do-gooder but as someone afforded air to breathe.

     Societies must advance in decency, and the way to do that is in the enlightenment of being alive.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


August 13, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     Fluorescent lights never fit cafes where a small corner table has a lady sitting without fidget, staring a bit into space, her hands holding tight a hot cup of tea. A moment of reflection? Simply a shopping break? Waiting for someone? Has a romance ended? Did it fail to start? Or is it just a coldish day, and the stronger Irish tea available at this place suits a relative non-moment? Whatever the story, garish lighting will not do, in the cafe, in life.

     Ambiance is vital, a must, if there is to be purring, if the day can coast without hills, without downshifting, without gunning it. Special atmosphere is rare enough, and it can never come in a place with fluorescent lighting or the metaphor of that.

     Maybe a walk on a trail will do the trick, or some old-fashioned motoring,  conversation with another or with silence that is not uncomfortable, far from it, reassuring actually.

     It may be that a fire on a chilly night, tea at hand, maybe a small drink, something to read, alone but immersed in imagination. No fluorescent lighting.

    You’ve met up with a former colleague, from the days when daily output on the job, in the career, was steady, coming from a well-oiled machine, together. Recalling that mutual success brings calm, its own purring.

     The family is grown, moved away, even if just a few miles. You have done your job, they are good, giving people. Warming your hands around a cup of Barry’s tea is your reward. It’s more than enough.

     These are turbulent times, as has always been, though the present angst seems overwhelming, as if we have all been herded into a large holding area under harsh fluorescent lights.

     But teatime comes, you know. As the Irish proverb goes, “Life is like a cup of tea, it’s all in how you make it.”

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: ahgunther@yahoo.com


August 6, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


Impoliteness and incivility are what they are these days, which generally means watered-down manners, some to the point of not being recognizable social behavior. It’s as if no one taught some clowns how to act toward others. And this is from someone who has been a clown himself, though not so much recently.

In my parts, north of New York City in the burbs, some public meetings become shouting matches and physical altercations as if town hall were the place for a street rumble. And there is always the incivility of the street, with impatient drivers, including myself.

But the lack of manners, the impoliteness most distressing is in communication, or the absence of it. Too many people, “important” ones, too, fail to answer letters and e-mails, even when they solicit same. I have written or emailed (on required forms) to the governor, to Ford Motors headquarters, to Ford engineers, to Dunkin’ Donuts and to others. All these business and people pay big bucks to solicit your opinion and some have flashy websites announcing just how “valuable” your view is. Yet write a constructive, balanced criticism with helpful suggestions, and not only do you not get a form-letter reply when you should receive at least a considered, individual response, but you receive a reply at all. None of my letters or emails in the past few years have been acknowledged. That is bad manners, and it is not polite.

The individual writer may have a harebrained idea, but if he or she presents it in a non-shouting, well-considered, non-offensive way, it should get a reply.

If people do not listen, do not pay attention to others, there is no communication, and that is sloppy for society, especially today when emotions, not clear-headedness, often rules.

Adding to this social incivility are some tradesmen. I recently considered having construction work done in my home and requested quotes from three businesses, all local. Two never replied, though they run ads shouting for trade. One firm sent a fellow who never got back to me, despite several calls to his office.

The bottom line is that my project is probably too small for their effort — the companies could use their staff on bigger jobs, with more profit. Not polite behavior, though. Bad business, too, as I won’t speak well of these outfits.

When some of us went to school, we were taught to write personal and business letters. We also penned replies. The point was not only to learn how to compose such missives but to reinforce the standard that in a civil society, communication — the back and forth of it —  is necessary and expected. (Tweets don’t count.)

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com. This essay is adapted from an earlier version. 


July 30, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     A “human” story, of which there have been too little in this age of orchestrated hate, prejudice, judgment and punishment. …

     I have not shed a tear in my hometown of Spring Valley, N.Y., in many decades, but Tuesday last the drought ended for a brief but soul-touching moment.

     Volunteers were doing their remarkable thing, as they and their forebears have done since 1985 in a free breakfast program, no questions asked. We work out of the old gym/meal-gathering room of the 1865 United Church building, a place where I attended Boy Scouts in the 1950s, at an age when it was easier to cry, though there was no reason to.

     Lots of memories in that room, including  the emotions that rise and play out as you see humanity in all its wonderful hues, idiosyncrasies, fears, joy, hope and frustration. Sometimes it chokes you up; other times you are so very proud of your fellow human.

     Last Tuesday, having finished my part as a cook — the pancakes, sausages, soup, oatmeal, desserts seaboarded to the serving area and almost gone — I moseyed from my flattop grill sanctuary to where the ladies ladle out the soup and offer the other foods. 

     Standing behind Jane and Margaret on the pancakes/sausage, with Sally on the soup, Moucille on the oatmeal, Phyllis handing out donated and purchased clothing and toiletries from her “store,” and Christine, Ann, Olive and Maryann on standby, I looked at the serving line to see this young man, as tall as can be, as thin as all get out, plate in hand, ready for food. For whatever reason, he locked his eyes on mine and said “I’m sorry, father.” He had  tears on his face. I wanted to end the emotion right then and there because there was no need for this young fellow to apologize to me. I extended my hand, shook his tightly as he repeated, “I’m sorry father.” 

    I think I left him with reassurance that all was OK, and that if he wanted “forgiveness,” the handshake did it. Quickly, I slid back into my sanctuary, with a tear or two myself, something that rarely happens.

     I was certain that the fellow felt better. And once the emotion subsided, I was grateful that I was there to do something, which came not from me but from whatever decency almost all of us can summon when we are given the chance to do so.

     Driving home, NPR on the radio, the report was about  more claims of “fake news,” how illegal immigrants are supposedly taking jobs from Americans, how government blocks big business, why “America needs to be great again.” Lots of negativity.

     I turned off the radio and thought back to a tall, skinny, lost young man who sought forgiveness from his “father.” That was real news. 


     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: ahgunther@yahoo.com


July 23, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     In the 1939 political comedy/drama, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the naive but principled Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) is supposed to be a do-no-harm bumpkin replacement for a deceased U.S. senator from an unnamed western state who will not interfere with wheeling and dealing. Instead, he proves to be the American eagle who soars above impacted greed and graft to remind us of higher ideals.

     This classic by director Frank Capra gets the point across by involving the freshness and promise of youth (boy rangers), human kindness (the encouraging Harry Carey, Senate president) and the re-born (all-business political operative Jean Arthur). 

     War is just beginning in Europe, and its growing shadow is heading toward America, the Great Depression is still on, and democracy’s values are questioned as to practicality. 

     The film’s hero, in climax, endures a 24-hour Senate filibuster over a land grab to reaffirm the American ideals of freedom while disclosing the true motives of the greed scheme, yet none of the senators are convinced. 

     Is this the end of the American Founders’ hopes? Is the nation no longer a beacon for the world, lost in favoritism for the rich and powerful? 

     When all seems hopeless, the chief Senate wheeler-dealer, Joseph Paine (Claude Rains) realizes his guilt and affirms to all Smith’s true, unselfish nature. The bumpkin is, in his seeming naiveté, the inherent goodness of man, the hope of it anyway. 

     That was 79 years ago, in a fictional U.S. Senate. There was, as now, wrongdoing and special interest benefitting individuals and groups rather than the ordinary citizen. There were rigged votes. There were lemming-like politicians willing to be told untruths and to uphold same to stay in the club. Most of all, there were those few like Jefferson Smith, those fertile seeds in an arid wasteland of diverted moisture and nutrition, who articulated in 24 hours of growing hoarseness the values of decency to which we in America aspire even as we stumble so very greatly. It was 1939. It was fiction. 

     Or is it 2018, this time not a movie?

    The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: ahgunther@yahoo.com



July 16, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


I talk too much, can be overly gregarious, especially when there is a seemingly captive audience. That’s rude, isn’t it? Yet most of us do not listen, at least not fully, so while doing so is defensive and protective, it can be a put-off as well.

Human nature has us repeating our idiosyncracies over and over, and that at least is a marker for the friends we do keep and for the relatives and co-workers who have little choice. It’s like driving a particular car — you know what the quirks are, what buttons to push, what to ignore.

What about silence, though? If with a stranger, it can be awkward, uncomfortable. If with a talker, relief. If with someone who might often talk and talk but with whom you also share comfortable, mutual, give-and-take conversation, silence can at times produce goose bumps, understanding that needs no words. Reassuring, perhaps even a purring moment, surely reinforcement that a mutual existence continues. 

Truly, human beings do not have to jabber on to be understood. In fact, silence can tell you more, reveal more and become a hand-holder that is reachable even when those involved are not present.

Besides, the quiet that silence lives in is a true security blanket.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: ahgunther@yahoo.com


July 9, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


A recent painting, “Abstract on a Red Wall,” came about because what I had on the canvas was not working — there was nothing there that told a story or suggested one. The colors could not stand on their own. The form, the line, had no structure that beckoned. It wasn’t frustrating because it was just media and paint and a missing ingredient — inspiration. It wasn’t the end of the world.

I had other things to do: take a walk, watch a favorite British do-it-yourself show (amazing how the English build with older techniques and tools), maybe eat a donut or just chill.

     The eventual rescue, and rescues usually do come, was in letting go. The painting did not have to get done, not that day or week or month. I wasn’t earning a living at it; it wasn’t going to be recognized as exceptional. It wasn’t going to complete my soul. I would not have dreams about the painting.

     Letting go did the trick. Whatever mundane tasks I went off to complete, whatever time spent doing not much of anything, chilled me enough to return to that particular canvas.

     In its execution, I soon found I was painting a wall, with the hint of a hallway to the left. The work itself became largely red, much like the hue you see in a Piet Mondrian (though hardly approaching that artistry). 

     The upper righthand corner of the piece soon included part of a second painting, a painting within a painting, an abstract of various colors and angles in its own frame.

     There — the work was done. There was “color field,” predominant red but other colors, too, that stood on their own. Yet there was a story as well, suggested by the hallway, the angles in the painting, the overall look.

     It was, in its very own small way, art imitating life. The hallway was my walk-out from the original painting that was not working. The angles were the this and that which I did away from the work. And the red, so much of it, was renewed zest.

     A small thing overall, just a time in the life, affecting no one but affirming existence. We have all been there.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: ahgunther@yahoo.com


July 2, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     Of all that was so sorrowfully missing from the presidency on the line-of-duty deaths of five newspapermen and women in Maryland last week, the saddest was a moment of silence. Had the non-president, even before he again flew off to his Bedminster, N.J., golf course for another taxpayer-funded weekend, bowed his head and led us all in respect for the fallen, perhaps that would have been a nod toward humanity. At last.

But, no, Trump offered so little and soon will return to his fake “fake news” claim meant to smear the messengers of fact and truth, however imperfect we are.

I took his ice-cold feelings personally, for I am a retired newspaperman who also blessedly worked in an at-times cursed and cursing local newsroom, as did the five men and women killed in the offices of The Capital Gazette  in Annapolis Thursday by a gunman on a grudge mission.

Too many hate the messenger, and if you are crazed as well, and if you can easily buy weapons despite that, all journalists are in the gunsight, emboldened by a “president” who called media coverage of the North Korean peace talks “treasonous.” Joseph Goebbels, step forward.

 All we citizens should take Trump’s despicable behavior personally. Where was his empathy for the fallen, as much in the line of duty, and now in the line of fire, as our military? Tweeting that he offered prayers for the victims and then leaving it at that is not enough. This was a mourning weekend in Annapolis, in America, and he played golf.

     Bury your dead, loved ones of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Those of civility mourn with you.

     Perhaps the epitaph on all these tombstones should read, in the words of Pat Ferguson, Gazette reporter: “… buy a local newspaper.” Truth begins in covering local village and school meetings, all government doings. Cover the statehouse and the Congress. And, especially today, cover a presidency that is leaning fascist, playing representative government as fools, pushing an agenda fueled by racism, fear, hatred. Oligarchy, stand up.

     Today, those of decency bow in mourning for the five journalists. On Nov. 6, we show up at the polls to forward what the Capital Gazette Five we’re accomplishing. Do not let democracy die in darkness. Do not let their deaths be in vain.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@Yahoo.com



June 25, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     In my childhood village of Spring Valley,  not far from New York City but at the time country enough to be “upstate,” there was a protective rhythm.

     My father had grown up there. My grandfather arrived as a young man, and this was his community for decades. My brother and I went through elementary and high school with kids we knew from early childhood. They were the children of children my father played alongside.

     The stores on Main Street changed little. The 14-cent-a-ticket movie theater was my dad’s youthful hangout, too, same price. The post office on Madison where I searched through discarded junk mail pretending I had received it was dedicated in a ceremony which my dad and his mother attended. My eighth-grade history class with Miss Christina Schopper began with an admonishment that “I hope you don’t act up like your father.” My dad just laughed when I told him.

     My grandfather’s garage off Tenure and Summit had Ed White’s marriage license nailed to the wall. Ed, who had lived in the house, owned a grocery and later a hobby shop, was a village trustee, too. My brother Craig and I went to school with his sons.

     The open ground off Church Street, near the old Consolidated Laundries, was overcome annually by the circus, not a carnival, but a true three-ringer. Every kid went, and we sat as we did in the public school assemblies or the elementary school at St. Joseph’s.

     Newly built Memorial Park offered swings and a hop-on, self-propelled merry-go-round where Craig and I met George Dloughy before we both were in kindergarten, recalling our fun until his last days.

     We kids of that time, in that village, with its long-serving stores, with teachers spanning generations, with neighbors who knew neighbors who knew neighbors for decades may not have had much materially, but the five or ten cents we occasionally carried in the pockets of the two pairs of pants or dresses our parent managed to buy for each school year got us three Bachman pretzels at Roth’s or a five-cent cherry coke at Arvanite’s. 

     The walk downtown to that treat, with our minds lost in thought about school, or friends or girlfriends and boyfriends or just idled in life’s ordinary but fantastic moments was beyond monetary value.

     I hope everyone gets to live in or near a village, somewhere.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: ahgunther@yahoo.com


June 18, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     This imperfect experiment called America, conceived in great, precipice-style argument by the Framers, not fully realized as to intent and potential, nevertheless has endured. Winston Churchill, the half-American: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

     Therefore, citizens, accept the imperfection while eying the winter of our discontent, that the present time of unhappiness can and must pass. In particular, reject the great indecency of this moment because it is not American, not that of most of the republic anyway, but a re-emerging of our demonstrated racism by some, hatred by some, prejudice by some, violence by some, evil act by some. All such horror has been repudiated by those of decency.

     Slavery was part of the great indecency, as was the massacre of Native-Americans. “Irish Need Not Apply” was, too. So was jailing women urging suffrage. And the internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry. And, now, the caging of very young children, torn from the love and protection of their illegal immigrant mothers.

     That the United States is currently “led” by a person who tweets falsehood, who encourages discord, who uses the bully pulpit as a Mussolini balcony, is the greatest indecency.

     This man does not deserve to champion Republican Party views, to be successor to presidents who have led the nation in war and peace. Were he the local school principal, the town attorney, CEO of a corporation or on the school board, his resignation or ouster would already have occurred.

     Those who support him, in the name of Republican or conservative or Tea Party or nationalistic “values,” prostitute those tenets. They close their eyes and kiss the derriere, hoping for a ride on the victory wagon while not realizing what a large piece of their soul they have sullied.

     Until we in this imperfect America strongly insist on the end of this present indecency, when, according to our history we should know better, until we again walk on the rut-filled path to progress toward the Framers’ goals, we are complicit. 

Those caged children’s tears are staining our decency.



     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact him via ahgunther@yahoo.com


June 11, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III




     There is, in depression, a numbness, the nerve endings dulled by a sinisterly administered anesthetic. There is a cloud about you, as if you are in a daze. Little excites you, and if you have the energy to get up, it is the tasks of the day — brushing teeth, getting dressed, doing this and that until nightfall — that babies you along, pushes one foot in front of another. You truly “exist” not in this world or any other, but in a world of detachment. You seem without hope.

I know, I was there in my mid-40s, for two solid years and steps back for some years after. Job success (as a newspaperman), two wonderful sons, a loving and giving wife, family, friends — all kept me from falling away though they never knew it. 

     I was fortunate in that my depression was milder than most, and I could at times see rays of light toward the end of my tunnel.

As an individual, I am too self-sufficient, and I do not advertise my hurt. That locks people — loved ones — out. But it is also protective. I figure that I will mend myself so I can give to them. I prefer to give than take, which, oddly enough, is sometimes selfish. But it is me.

     “Me” was difficult to find in my depression. What had excited me about living was kept at bay by the cloud, and it was only the structure of work, with my writing coming easily, and my continuing ability to get basic tasks done at home, for the family, for my aging parents, that got me from one day to the next.

     That and a belief that there was a helper, an angel next to me. In those several moments when I thought I might be leaving, I reached out and squeezed air, though it was not that at all. Kept me alive.

     Slowly, as the months progressed, the cloud dispelled, a smile came at times, a re-invigoration developed, and living resumed. Though there were occasional pulls to darkness, I never again felt listless in a breathing body. 

     Though depression passed for me without seeing a doctor, without medication, without any consultation beyond squeezing that angel’s hand, that was my circumstance. Others similarly affected might do well seeking professional care. In fact, maybe most should.

     Having survived depression, which came as a ship in enveloping fog, not because I lost a job, or money or family, my thought is that some loss or addition in brain chemistry brought it about.

     We know so little about depression, about the brain’s chemical make-up. There is not enough research. Drugs, which make pharmaceutical companies obscenely rich, are not the answer, given the side effects. There has to be an understanding of nature, of how the body works and why it is assaulted.

     Society must also understand that suicide is not the coward’s way out but an act in a feeling of utter hopelessness. Hopelessness that somehow we must see and address. Never cast a stone here. We must note our fellow human’s pain and be that angel who offers a squeezing hand. It will save lives that can then thrive.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: ahgunther@yahoo.com 


By Arthur H. Gunther III


BETHESDA, Md. — Sometimes you have to leave home to go home again. That was the case on my last day, four days later, in this ever-expanding D.C. suburb. Government must water even the weeds here, so rapidly rise the office buildings, homes and retail space.

A bit too much for a homegrown fellow blessed with a semi-rural upbringing in Rockland County, N.Y., itself now in fast-track growth.

I was in Bethesda because No. 2 son, Andrew Edward, is relocating with Army physician wife Patricia and their two daughters from a posting in San Antonio. The replacement house requires a new kitchen, and your author has made enough home-improvement mistakes to qualify as installation/repairman. So, I spent four days doing electrical, plumbing, carpentry after a 259-mile trip that challenged my aging driving skills. Alone in the car at 3:30 a.m., God was my co-pilot.

Andrew and I managed well enough, and a considerable sum was saved. He is nearing the new kitchen.

Since we were in effect two bachelors, and there are no cooking facilities, we ate out, in places ranging from way too expensive to poor-quality offering to “home again.”

I will focus on the Tastee Diner, a 24-hour joint proud to call itself that, in downtown Bethesda.

Just wonderful. The grill guy cooks your order in front of you. It gets to the table pronto, with no stop under heat lamps until it can travel.

Old-fashioned, solid breakfast food, with coffee refilled by a “Hi, Hon” waitress. She knew the locals, of course. In fact, she probably has a degree in human psychology, earned on the job.

I thought I was back at Tiny’s Diner in the Spring Valley of my 1950’s youth, or at Billy Hogan’s or Sparky’s.

Nothing fancy. Everything reassuring. I was home again. Taxpayer-supported government, expanding outward from D.C., may be in the menu nationally, but the Tastee, serving Americana since 1935, has never gotten too big for its britches.

My kind of joint.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@Yahoo.com



May 28, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


There’s an analogy between “English” muffins and the present government of the United States, once known as “of, by and for the people’ and now an oligarchy.

In Englishman Samuel Bath Thomas’ later 1800s’ days and for most of the 20th century, the yeast-derived muffin was large, about the four-inch size of a classic donut before a leading donut chain took to profit/greed-circumcising, down to about three inches. English muffins, simply called muffins in the Queen’s realm, also used to be fork-split, because when you do not slice, you do not smoosh the yeast- or quick-bread, and those crannies capture the melting butter. But I suspect more preservatives have made that more difficult, at least in some brands.

Move on from the English muffins and you can complain about shrinking Oreos and other cookies, smaller candy bars, “one-pound” coffee tins now holding 11 ounces, not 16. Initially, years back now, the weight reduction in your tin was attributed to “vacuum-packed for freshness.”

We Americans bought that snake-oil claim and have simply numbed ourselves to shrinking products everywhere. So, we eat two English muffins or four cookies rather than one and two. We buy the smaller donut at the ubiquitous chain because it is convenient, even if it cost almost twice as much as in the supermarket next door.

Our lives, it seems, are just too busy to think about it, or we simply do not care.

So, what is the analogy between reduced-in-size English muffins, smaller anything and our disappearing republic, the once-democracy? 

In the Founders’ eyes, the thought was to build a republic that was a democracy, build it on the rights of man, in equality, away from the abuse of power. While equality and the “rights of man” did not include African-Americans or women or some others, this America, in the deliberate maturing envisioned by the Founders, had, before the corruption of power since at least John F. kennedy, ended slavery, achieved the right to right to vote for women, had recognized unions and enacted laws to protect the people. There was progress in this great American experiment. But in the past decades, both major political parties have willingly reduced the pie, cut the muffin size, by allowing our once-democracy to be dominated by corporate power, other special interest and greed. There is now lynching by Twitter of minorities, immigrants and anyone in disagreement with the powers that be. Neither party sees  the economic suffering that is eating, depression-like, at half the country. Neither fights the pharmaceutical and health insurance mega-industries. Neither addresses the voracious appetite of the military in futile, costly wars that send veterans’ minds to  PTSD nightmares while enriching the military/industrial complex.

Civil liberties are threatened by the loss of privacy, surveillance and withered due process, with the power structure counting on citizen ignorance of their basic rights.

Hidden money fuels this deepened march toward government of the few. It imprisons rather than deal with an opioid epidemic caused by pharmaceutical greed. It militarizes police,  basically selfless individuals enabled into bullying. The military motto has always been “kill or be killed,” the civilian police, “do the least harm in protecting and serving.” That is lost in militarization, and it insults both the citizens and the ordinary police.

The present paucity of U.S. leadership is the direct result of our deliberate withering, our greed-driven downsizing of the grand “muffin” that once was to be offered to all.

We clearly await a revolution, bloodless I pray. Without civil disobedience from decent people, this nation is doomed, the sacrifices of so many buried by lust for power and money.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com  


May 20, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


One snowy evening a long time ago, with the temperature not so low that a walker would freeze and not so high that there would be rainy ice, and with the flakes delicate and inviting, I took a lengthy walk in Hillcrest, N.Y., just to chill — not to be cold but to find a bit of calm, like the purring a contended cat might seek curled up on the couch. (I do think that’s when cats recharge.)

The walk took about two hours, and in those days not one car was met. I made the only tracks down Karnell Street to State to Hillcrest Avenue to Route 45 to Williams Avenue to Hempstead Road to Brick Church to Route 306 to Viola Road to Eckerson to State and back to 25 Karnell.

No high blood pressure in those days, but if there had been, the walk in that magnificent, fresh, descending-from-the-heavens beauty would have dropped me to 100/60. Even the pulse rate would have been low, because in the unmeasured cadence of a leisurely walk I anticipated no surprise, just a real oneness with nature, a private journey that made living worth while. 

Whatever war, poverty, horror, tragedy there was in the world, whatever personal troubles existed for anyone, including me, all would be there when I reached home and the ordinary motor of life again kicked in. There would also be the exhilaration of living, too, the highs, the good works of humankind.

For the moment, though, in those two hours of calm walking in gently falling snow, there was a reset, at least for one person.

I found that just one street into the walk but the true embrace, the needed hug, came as I passed the barn at the Brown orchard near Viola Road. It had stood a long time, it was simplistically beautiful. It especially made the walk a reaffirmation.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com 


By Arthur H. Gunther III


     Blauvelt to West Nyack, N.Y. — Along the Western Highway, simply named centuries ago because so few roads existed that there was no need to use developers’ favored children’s monikers, a three-mile walk to the great hullabaloo of suburban growth that is a major shopping center brought quiet that you can never get in a car here, even an effortless, whisper-like electric model.
I had an errand to run and someone to meet at a mall, and I drive enough locally to hit 16,000 miles yearly, so, on a decent day, with sun out and the humidity not yet oppressive even in the 70s, I combined exercise with contemplation. It was a trip of nostalgia, history, appreciation and relief. It was also hairy at times since Western Highway is a major road that has endless traffic, no sidewalks in my area and motorists who think they are racing for a pot of gold, so fast they drive.
Western Highway is as famous as many others in roads in this nation. Washington and  Lafayette went down it in wagons. It led to the major Northeast supply depot for the Continental Army. President Martin Van Buren, dining at the Clarksville Inn, came along. Long before that, of course, the original Native Americans forged the trail, and the Dutch built sandstones along it. One such house, the old Leiper manse, was a stopover for U.S. Army personnel and family during World War II, as it was near Camp Shanks, the largest Army embarkation port in the world. The Order of Battle for the D-day invasion was set at Shanks.
When I was a child of the 1940s-’50s, my father would take us to look at Shanks’ remains, then called Shanks Village as it became housing for returning GIs studying under the GI Bill at Columbia University. Situated along  Western Highway, Shanks Village was visited by university President Dwight Eisenhower, who called it “the best damn place to live in the world.”
Also along the road, the Hackensack River wanders in and out of a marsh, or what remains of one after suburban development. Species of the same birds and critters, including long-living turtles, call the marsh home. It offers the greatest peace on Western Highway, for looking at it is the reverse of studying “progress.”
It took just about 40 minutes of my Western Highway walk to get to the hullabaloo of noise, commerce and people that is the area shopping mall, but by then I was fortified enough by the appreciation of what has happened over the centuries along my old road. You see so much more on a walk than a drive.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com. This essay includes earlier writing.


May 7, 2018


By Arthur H. Gunther III


     In the tucked-away room, in the original attic, was a very tall radiator and a very small rocking chair where the ghost, quite friendly, dwelled much of the time, looking out the long window or seeing through herself in the mirror high above the radiator.

     No one saw the ghost except Ginny’s grandchildren, who, not yet educated away from imagination, knew no boundaries in flight and fancy. In playtime, in alone-time, one or two or three would run up the stairs and into the tucked-away room and exist with the ghost.

     It wasn’t that conversation was exchanged with the ghost, not back and forth-like, but that things, thoughts, feelings were understood. It was like Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, the imaginary world in which a fortifying foundation for the coming rigors of adulthood can be built. 

      The ghost, this friendly non-being, not in the world but also not out of it, was as real to the youngster(s) playing in the tucked-away room as were apple juice and brownies. The children were not afraid, for they had not yet been taught that, and the young are simply accepting.

     Ginny, though well-grown and having lived a long life of responsibility, had come to a time when the rhythm was slower and she could again hear the music of her own childhood. And, so, she put together the tucked-away room in the attic of her Clinton Avenue  home, with a very tall radiator and a very small rocking chair.

     She knew, as surely as she saw the curtain drawing, that her own reality would become something else, perhaps akin to that of unfettered childhood. Ginny herself might enter the tucked-away room and know the ghost, too.

     Her grandchildren were never in doubt there, though the door would beckon as adulthood neared, and Ginny would enter as they departed.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


“1956, Pink and Gray”

May 1, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


Art — painting — is like life: abstract, realistic or symbolic, captured fragments of what could be a full conversation or perhaps just the wisps of one. Sometimes you want the dialog, and sometimes the mystery.

Why someone morphs his/her own earthly moment into painting is probably best, maybe only, answered by a bigger force. But it is not the reason why that counts; it is the fact that the artist is there, that there  is compulsion to paint, that hands and fingers move to the rhythm of creating.

It may be — it often is — that the creation itself is not noteworthy to others, even to the artist. Yet, surely as we speak and write and draw and make facial expressions and do anything else human, painting needs no justification for its being.

In other times, perhaps ages beyond, what was dismissed may be seen in different light, and its language is then understood. So, work produced and thrown in a drawer in one era may, after decades of dust, prove worth another look. Or it may be summarily dismissed.

Artwork has its relative place anywhere, any time because it is the voice of someone, whether we want to listen, to tolerate, to ignore. But it is still there, as is every sentence uttered, every expression made.

We all creative for we are human. Some speak eloquently. Some draw. Some make things. Some hold others’ hands when necessary. Some create by a nod of approval, for that is engendering affirmation and so creating a path forward. And as with a painting, it may be years later that the gift is recognized.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


April 23, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


The decency that was Barbara Bush, the late first lady, is in sharp contrast to the White House norm these days. That has to be said whether you are the tearful liberal Democrat or the Tea Party fellow or gal swallowing an ultra-conservative energy drink. This republic, in 1776 intended to be a democracy but stumbling more than ever, needs no bad manners.

Let the political philosophies hang out. Have debate. Show each other up on the ‘facts,’ fake news, prejudice and also what is so very true and fine about elements of liberalism, conservatism and the great moderation in between where most of America would like to hum.

This country was born in controversy, in argument, in voice that was spoken by a nation ever moving toward uncharted frontier, away from the forced tradition and heavy thumb of English royalty. But this America was also conceived in decency at least the pursuit of it.

Yes, insults along the way, deliberate falsehood, by candidate and by government, but by and large there have been corrections on hatred, according to time period.

The hatred of slavery was given blessing by government. Immigration prejudice against the Chinese continued for decades. Yet the error of our collective ways was finally discovered, and actions taken toward ending discrimination.

This republic of ours, though faulted because we are living creatures of both good and bad, even evil, has made great progress in seeking decency for all.

Now, there seems a deliberate indecency, a rabble-rousing call to summon our worst fears, our deepest prejudices, our uneducated ways that have us believe gossip, fake news, so quickly.

No matter what your political philosophy, no matter what you sincerely believe will make this nation greater, we should all reject a voice that, in translation, tells us to round up and lynch certain of our fellow humans.

The nation’s founders would have us continue the debate they began on the purpose of the republic — these days on taxes, employment, social programs, immigration, foreign conflict. They would have each of us have our say, from the poorest to the richest. They would not have us mired in an indecent land of deliberate hate meant to turn one against the other, meant to dismantle the republic.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


Reading History in the Fog

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? Therein lies a great danger, because such readers are becoming rare, especially among younger people.

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.

The Computer Age and the Internet, the IPhone, video games, the many morphings of television and especially social media with gossipy, often misleading or fake word bites 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 smart phone. 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 some out of business. What were once cash-cow operations that left the newsroom to do its job without interference are stockholder-driven companies that enact cuts everywhere and which call their papers “products” requiring 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 the ink-stained wretches made money for the bosses. Now they don’t make enough for the greed coffers.

More than ever, newspapers are decided by profit, and that affects what to cover; how deep reporting goes; how thorough the editing, if any, is; and whether the traditional “who, what, when, where, how and why” of journalism will continue as necessary 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.

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 think.

The challenge for newspapers 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  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 as they dismantle democracy.


The writer is a retired newspaperman. Reach him at ahgunther@hotmail.com  ahgunther@yahoo.com


April 9, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III


Spring has not yet sprung in this part of the Northeast, a bit north geographically of New York City but with a history and flavor set distinctly apart. There may be daffodils in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, especially in the wonderful Botanical Gardens, but they do not compare to those once grown in the Burns greenhouses off Second Avenue, Spring Valley.

That was a long time ago, so many springs past but even a long winter of discontent, of snow and cold, cannot remove the scent of its moment.

Schoolchildren in that area back in the day attended either the North Main Street School or St. Joseph’s parochial. I was at the former, and come spring the walk home was sometimes changed from a straight run up Main to Hillcrest to a longer, leisurely hike up Ewing Avenue then down toward Pascack Road. This took me to the back of Slinn Avenue and the woods there, filled in early spring with daffodils, presumably from the large commercial Burns holdings.

By my time, so much of that was gone, and the “Hill” area of Spring Valley in Rockland County, N.Y., was soon to see explosive housing growth, part of the post-World War II boom. My moment with the daffodils was just two short seasons.

Appropriate, actually, as I was growing up and soon any flowers for a mom would naturally move to flowers for a girl or two. 

Yet in those two spring moments, with the beautiful emergence of seasonal renewal tempting enough to take a longer walk home, a few daffodils were picked and given to a mother who truly deserved so much more.


The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


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 sometimes hit the place after my photographer shift at the also old, original 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 swing 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. Contact him at ahgunther@hotmail.com. This essay is adapted from an earlier version.



March 26, 2018
By Arthur H. Gunther III


The “Barn Playhouse” at the original, small Rockland Community College campus in Viola, N.Y., was left over from the self-sufficiency days of the county Almshouse, the home for the aged and the poor and the near-infirm. In 1966, it had become the center for theatre arts run by the talented James Naismith. It was also where I first met Jerry Donnellan, the late director of veterans services, a properly revered man for all his accomplishment.
As a Journal-News photographer assigned to take a publicity shot for an upcoming production, Naismith brought me to a small table with a 40-watt bulb barely lighting the script. The barn itself had little illumination, and focusing my camera was difficult, but the student at the table made it easy, quickly helping me set up a shot that told the story. He was Jerry Donnellan, son of two native Irish and even then full of wit.
Not long after that assignment, Jerry would be drafted, and his biggest production would begin, this time on the stage of life.
In October 1969, Jerry was shot and hit with a grenade in Vietnam’s central highlands, leaving him barely alive, without his right leg and full of shrapnel. A long rehabilitation followed, then an amazing career as a stage manager for Frank Sinatra.
In the later 1980s, about 20 years after I took Jerry’s photograph at RCC, he, the newspaper and I would meet again when he walked into the West Nyack newsroom, asked for the Editorial Page editor and sat down with me.
Jerry had helped organize the Rockland Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America and was wondering if The Journal-News could assist in getting the word out. So, again, Jerry and I were meeting for publicity purposes, neither of us recalling the 1966 photo assignment.
The later 1980s was the beginning of a more educated look back at Vietnam, that unnecessary war driven by government that hid the facts and the need. The unpopular conflict brought protests and confused the warrior with the war. Returning military were spat upon, and for years Vietnam veterans did not get their due, as World War II vets had. Jerry was determined to change that, and fortunately, Rockland government, especially C. Scott Vanderhoef, the former county executive, saw Jerry’s potential and agreed to help.
The newspaper assisted, too, especially through the efforts of Paul Janensch, then executive editor. Stories and editorials were written. Jerry was named Rockland veterans affairs director, and in that long-serving role he created innovative programs copied across the nation, such as veterans’ clinics.
But Jerry Donnellan’s most significant achievement was in sharing his soul with his fellow vets, from all wars, all eras. That was his mission, and he knew it. The day Jerry was so severely wounded, with a lifetime of pain and night sweats ahead, the gods signed him to an enlistment he could never quit until he passed away and saw his old dad again, and his buddies.
He was among those who survived, this Jerry Donnellan, this not-sold on the Vietnam War, average RCC student with admitted warts. He lived, though he thought he would die. For that, he somehow knew there would be payback, and though Jerry spent many working years in the Sinatra days and nights, the gods finally rang the bell and said, “Jerry, time to make the doughnuts. Organize those loosely set, long-disrespected Vietnam-era brothers and sisters and help them stand tall, as they deserve to do.”
It was not their fault that a country reeling from JFK’s lost youth initiative and disillusioned by a military that did not have Ike’s understanding of war would spit at the citizen soldier who turned up at the Whitehall Street induction center and elsewhere, did his job and maybe came home. It was Jerry’s time, when he rallied those vets, and then the gift of organization became evident and he was given the county job.
It was his mission, his reason for being. Hell, maybe he was wounded and maybe he survived so he could do the job.

The gods are proud of him. Anyone who ever knew Jerry Donnellan is proud, even those you argued with him. His mojo happened.
RIP, sir. Your service has been fulfilled. May your soul be at God’s right hand, Irishman.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



By Arthur H. Gunther III

Why does war often begin with a parade and end with one? At the first, youthful excitement, naiveté, innocence, natural inclination and lack of experience and judgment as to horror fuel the adrenalin of patriotism as the quick steps of those who would save the world or avenge a wrong rush to enlistment. On the return, slow march, the wounded, the hardened, the ones now in the know, step forward arm in arm with the ghosts of the fallen, accepting the gratitude of a citizenry that can never grasp the horror of conflict for they were not there.

In each parade, organized first by fever and then on return by politicians, there is the constant cadence of background music for “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the 1930 American film based on a book the previous year by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of the First World War.

The novel, the film, describe the extreme mental and physical stress of the battleground and how civilian life is never the same for many, if not most veterans. The book and movie may be about an older war, the frightening technology of which is far surpassed today, but a young, as they now say “warrior,” mind was then as now a heartbeat from the mother’s womb and embrace. It is easily and perhaps irreparably damaged.  Read or see “All Quiet …,” and you know today’s story for post-Iraq and Afghanistan U.S. vets.

The genuine reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, events brought a surge of young people who enlisted for the cause in a parade of honest patriotism for conflicts now recognized as both debatable and mismanaged, war that put us into debt when we need investment for a shrinking middle class, infrastructure and quality of life. And certainly for veterans’ care.

Now, yet another parade is planned in Washington by a president who, like me, never saw war, as a tribute to all who serve and have served. Who can deny these vets their march down Pennsylvania Avenue? Who would not feel pride and a moment of gratefulness for the men and women who went off so willingly and quickly? But the cost alone, perhaps $10 to $30 million, could feed all homeless vetrans for several weeks.

When the parade is over, when our veterans are home alone with their nightmares, thinking of lost comrades; when so many are unable to get or hold a job; when a major national newspaper reports that one U.S. veteran commits suicide almost every hour; when brain-damaged or emotionally disturbed warriors barely exist with seizures and drugs as long waits for woefully underfunded and bureaucracy-laden care never seem to end; when we forget our veterans except to give them a parade, how “quiet”  are we the American people? Too quiet.

Rather than a parade, every American should take a vet to lunch, or buy him or her a coat, or obtain medicine or give a hug. That would be real “thanks”.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com This essay is adapted from an earlier piece..


March 5, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

When someone is asked, “What is your biggest regret?,” perhaps most would recall one particular moment, though for others it surely depends on what year, month, even day (or night) you are referencing.
For example, in the great, immature, developing years of childhood, teenage time too, there are conversations with parents, teachers, friends, even fleeting strangers that, recalled years, decades later, make you cringe. “What was I thinking?” But by then, the only voice you hear is the one in your head, for the others are not there anymore.
Other regrets surely include questions not asked, conversations not made, momentary anger that forever separated you and another, or others, when it would have been better to take a deep breath, walk away in quiet but not let go of the hand you were holding, not sever ties. Again, voices lost, never to be heard again.
In the end, what was it all worth — those silly, pointless arguments, the reasons for them now forgotten? Genuine friendship, even much more, trashed in false pride and ego, a rhythm once a promising tune left as scratched as an old 78rpm record? And it plays again and again.
Yet if you are an optimist, or get yourself busy somehow and believe that anyone’s past is simply that, past, there are new voices to be heard, perhaps listened to this time.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com





February 26, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

In a world often gray, you wish for a spot of color, because that is always there, you know, even in fog or overcast. It’s all in the eye, literally, as color is reflected or light is emitted.
But that is too technical for emotion, since a very gray day, perhaps at other times sought after for quietude and introspection or a long walk, can also be depressing or oft-putting at least. And we all have gray days. Yet color is — truly — always there.
Otherwise, what hope for humanity, for advances in fighting disease, for fewer wars, for more equality, for freedom of expression and expectation of healthy debate, for the triumph of common sense?
Just as Virginia O’Hanlon was reminded in 1897 by Francis Pharcellus Church of The Sun that “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” we must tell ourselves there is color, even exquisite hue, in the grayest canvas.
An optimist might say there is more color than gray, a pessimist just the reverse and a politician whatever the lobbyist intones. A child would almost always find color, as might the aging in the reverie of other times.
Color is volunteerism when there is need. Color is people’s humanity to people when inhumanity casts its gray. Color is not just the reflection of light as perceived by the eye and brain but the reflection of decency.

So, people, yes, there is color, always.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


February 19, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

It is said that Lincoln frequently jotted words, phrases, sentences on paper scraps that were thrown in a desk drawer. When he neared writing a speech, he took the jottings and assembled his word thoughts as stitched quilt patches, with the whole the message.
That he could do so was his gift; that he did so was ours. Witness the Gettysburg Address, one of the speeches offered in November 1863 at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery at the famous Civil War battle site.
Controversy remains as to which of several copies of the address was given and from where the president mined the gem of the speech, “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The last lines, “… government of the people …,” are Lincoln’s simple but reaffirming nod to America’s founders and the journey they set the nation on, one that was to continue in restatement, commitment, fine-tuning.
How many of those vital, defining words were on paper scraps in the president’s desk, jotted down from memory or the influence of others, we will never know.
Were Lincoln alive today, what would he say about what seems to anyone of any political persuasion a great straying of the nation’s original intent?
The growing oligarchy obscenely supported by hidden, special-interest money and the indifference to the humble greatness of a land now raped by greed, lies and deliberate indifference seemingly have buried Lincoln’s words, along with the war dead of the civil conflict, the wars before and after, the dead of government neglect, the young dead of gunshots in our schools.
No matter where your politics lie, unless you are dressed and fed and tickled by the hidden, even sinister interests, within and from without in this America, you are not even close to protection as a human being with aspiration and hope. Your right to “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” secured by so much sacrifice and once articulated by a gift such as Lincoln, are now empty words.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


‘Anthony’s  Nose,’ Bear Mountain’s brother

February12, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Bear Mountain, N.Y. — I once overheard, in this verdant wonderland of forestation, an earnest fellow say to his four year old: “They call Bear Mountain that because it is bare on top.” Well, it is bare, but that’s not the reason for the moniker. We local hayseeds know that.
This beautiful part of the heavy mountain ranges off the Hudson River, so close to Gotham, is part of the New York State parks system and specifically in the Palisades Interstate Park network. Despite being underfunded for decades (in tougher times, libraries and parks always get the shaft), Bear Mt. State Park, its umbrella the Harriman State Park, and other New York parks in the Hudson Valley region are full of trails, famous stone structures crafted by Depression-era artists, some pools, quite a few lakes and the historic Bear Mountain Inn, itself long-awaiting fuller restoration when the money — perhaps better said, the will— is there. A hotel, cafe, small eating section and trading post are now at the inn.
For decades, at least since the inn’s construction in 1915, we locals have driven to or hiked to or, once upon a time, taken the West Shore Line train to Bear Mountain on weekdays, when the urban crowds were back at work. No complaint about city folk, of course — they help keep the parks going, too, and what a weekend respite, but it’s like when company goes home. You have the house to yourself once again — it is a delight.
Bear Mountain Inn was designed in the Adirondack Great Camps style, and it never goes out of style, literally. Even a poorly done 1970s retrofit with blonde wood, now removed, could not wither the great oaks and other dark woodwork of this monumental building.
My hope is that the Palisades Parks Conservancy, properly formed to aid “the improvement of and activities in the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and for the purposes of promoting and expanding the preservation of natural, historical, and cultural resources in the Park for the benefit of the public”  will some day be successful in specifically restoring Bear Mountain State Park, its parking lots, its trails, its zoo, its inn, its skating rink and many other features so that the “great masses” will continue to visit — from New York City and beyond and from local communities, too. That is what was intended so long ago in the Teddy Roosevelt-style founding of the parks nationally. May the bears continue to roam at Bear Mt., but humans, too.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@hotmail.com This column is adapted from an earlier piece.


February 5, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Enduring the flu is a cleansing experience, literally and beyond. It is also lucky triumph over what has been a killer this most unusual season as the preventive vaccine has often not worked. It did not for me.
But maybe it was not the flu, though the aches, chills, fever, sore throat, lethargy said “yes.” Maybe it was a cold/flu-like virus, of the adenovirus type. You can get a vaccine for that, but you have to join Uncle Sam’s military machine.
Whatever hit me Wednesday last as I was in usual mode, running here and there, burning one candle at three ends, had me by evening with chills, fever and onstant cough covered with enough blankets to make a polar bear leave the igloo.
The usual concerns, and the stress I bring to appointments, writings, paintings, volunteering, this and that disappeared quickly. Didn’t look at the cell phone, the iPad.
Didn’t eat, either, as appetite left faster than a Yankee fan in Beantown. Even the friend that shakes my hands all the time — arthritis — didn’t call, and for once the finger that needs to relax first thing in the day before it folds again behaved.
In an odd way, perhaps nature’s protection, I slipped into neutral. Yes, lots of aches, feeling 150 years old, disgusted, but it was a blessing not to be concerned about anything.
All I did was drink fluids, especially electrolytes, and watch the fever, which never got to the level and duration requiring a trip to the med people. The complications were few enough, too, so I could stay home.
Meanwhile, back on the treadmill, the volunteering I was supposed to handle was so superbly done by others that I now know how utterly replaceable I am. A rebalancing of the ego, another of nature’s re-tuning.
As the appetite slowly began to return after three days, I found the taste buds rejected salt and sugar as aliens. So why have I courted both so long?
I didn’t touch the cell phone for days, and when I finally looked for it, the phone was in the trash with a gazillion tissues.
Now on the full mend, slowly, I realize flu or adenovirus can be a teacher, however difficult and dangerous the lesson may be. As long as you have a mild case, and that admittedly was my good fortune, you can find peace in simple living, resting, eating minimally and wise, forgoing the constant email checks and appointment worries.
I was blessed to get better quickly, and I do not wish illness of any sort on anyone just so they can have a zen moment, but I found that peace can come in the oddest ways.
Now to maintain the equilibrium.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


January 29, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I don’t suppose people use keys to lock bathroom doors anymore, but in downtown Nyack, N.Y., one very old mortise set was stirred to life for perhaps the first time in more than 100 years.
As a volunteer at the Edward Hopper House, the birthplace in 1882 of the famed American realist artist, I was tasked by two concerned staffers with securing a door on the original bathroom, no longer used. They need it temporarily for archival space, and the room must be locked.
I was going to add a small, really non-invasive bolt latch that could be removed but was stopped — literally blocked at the bath door — by Carole Perry, the artistic director, and Jill De Vonyer, Hopper House archivist. Since I rarely seek to encounter the wrath of women (that comes anyway, without trying), I stared ahead, awaiting instruction, a long-ago-learned defensive move.
“You are NOT going to make holes in this old door, are you?” were the unspoken words as the eyes of Carole and Jill darted. I think I mumbled something about there already being a thousand pecks and blemishes in the still-unfinished though stained fir door, a standard 1880s building item.
That was when Jill, diminutive though she may be in height, focused on me as a laser would, or perhaps as a cat annoyed because it has not been fed on time. Carole, meanwhile, stood ground in the hallway with no retreat in mind.
“Ah,” I said, again in tactical defense. “I see this door has a mortised key lock.” (A mechanism set inside a hollowed-out section.) “Maybe I can take it out and make it work.” I could already hear the purring from the archivist and the director, so wonderfully protective are they of Hopper House, along with Jennifer Patton, the executive director, Joyce Byrnes and Ursula D’Auria in the office,  the trustees and the many volunteers over more than four decades.
The lock, common on inside doors back in the day, operates with a simple, “skeleton” key, turning a chunk of metal (mortise) that goes into a strike plate and tenon space on the door jamb.

The old mechanism came out easily, and as was also common back in America’s industrial age, the lock was made so that it could be quickly disassembled. I was able to clean the ancient dust from inside and lubricate the lock with the small tube of Vaseline I carry for dry hands, etc.
Back the thing went, a skeleton key was procured, and we had a working lock. All that was needed was Dave Sirois, also on the House & Grounds Committee, to add a strike plate from his collection as a contractor and old-homes restoration expert.
I hear Carole and Jill are pleased. I can relax because I did not incur wrath. Hopper House has been protected. And we can all say cheers for old-style American hardware that endures into its third century.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Small diners in my part of the world in lower New York State a few decades back were known for tasty, homemade food served by owners and their staff who seemed like family, especially for the regular customers. They were homes away from home. And they could be small theater for the characters within.
Each diner — Hogan’s, Tiny’s, Sparky’s, etc., often several in every village and town — was small enough — like an old railway dining car — that you were intimate with the other patrons but also, if you buried yourself in your newspaper, you could be by yourself. Not unlike the table at home where your siblings might be jabbering away but quiet you wanted to be, lost in your thoughts.
Our diners, like small-town eateries anywhere and even the intimate ones in cities back when they were simple, too, knew their customers. Regulars would be greeted accordingly, usually with voices loud enough so that the rest of us took notice and either said hello or mentally checked off our list that another member of the “family” was in the “house.” Reassurance, again.
Diners offered further intimacy with staff, including the waitress who knew all about you, who had your order placed even before you sat down, who kept a pencil in her hair and a check pad in her apron pocket, even if she took your order by memory.
And there was the grill cook, the fellow at the “flat top,” who had home fries simmering on low heat in the back left and who used the full surface to griddle pancakes, eggs over easy, burgers, onions, without burning anything, his hands quick to open up the left-side refrigerator where he took out American cheese or reached overhead to pull bread from the Pullman loaves left by the local commercial bakery, Ramapo or Widman’s.
The cook was truly intimate with the customers, some of whom would purposely sit in front of him to watch him work. One advantage was that you could fine-tune the time on your eggs.
Some of these grill cooks, like others in the old diner industry, were itinerant, and they came for a few months in summer and went south in the winter. But they were as regular as a clock in showing up at the right time.
The customers were regular, too, in their often quirky ways, as in any family. One fellow I recall stirred his coffee about 15 times, after loading it up with five spoons of sugar. Then he banged the spoon on the rim of the green java cup as if to wring out the last drop. Finally, with an “ah,” he began to literally slurp the coffee. Did this each and every time. Did that routine for years. And, funny as it was, it was reassuring to the other regulars in the old diner. Reassuring to him, too.
In those days, the police chief came in, the mayor, the auto mechanic, the principal. Everyone knew each other or of one another, often going back generations. So there would be nods and small questions, like “How’s the vegetable patch this year, chief?” Overall, it made for trust, especially with the police. They were your neighbors.
Maybe the world, at least parts of the American world, especially our cities and anonymous suburbs, could use a few of the old diners, their staff, their food, their patrons. They could use reassurance from “family.”

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com This essay was adapted from an earlier version.


January 15, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

It is tea time in America, whether that is your favored beverage or not. The Irish, the English know that troubled moments are best navigated with a spot of the brew, and now is our need.
So, metaphorically, let us sit a spell. It need not be 3 p.m. Indeed, it is already high noon in our nation.
In his last State of the Union address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said on Jan. 11, 1944, just months before the great invasion of Europe would extinguish the long horror of tyranny, that “People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”
Ah, yes, and also the mojo for the 2016 presidential election in which too many long-lost Democrats never saw the poverty in West Virginia or how the closing of the local Walmart forced even more into depression when their only place to socialize was gone. Bernie knew that, Clinton did not. The liberal talk of a party of the people had never gone to the walk. People were still jobless, poor, without hope, largely white and so very ripe for the false promises of the Republicans.
Perhaps the GOP’s old moderates could have led the “people who are hungry and out of a job …” to freshly fertilized pasture and its hope, but they are as neutered as liberal Democrats.
In his address, FDR said, “This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty. As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. …”
The president, in a time when that title was revered, was advocating a Second Bill of Rights to ensure jobs, food, clothing and leisure “with enough income to support them”; farmer’s rights; freedom from monopolies; good housing; medical care; and education.
What FDR did not anticipate was the growth of special-interest money, now legalized to sway elections, nor the inherently anti-democratic military/industrial complex whose profits are fed by war not peace.
So, it is tea time in America, and while the poor, good American from West Virginia or the out-of-work, college-educated businessperson or the 56-year-old laid-off factory worker or the children of promise in urban poverty, or children anywhere in America (for they are all of promise) have a tough day most days while government fiddles and even grossly insults, there is a place at the kitchen table for them.
FDR sought to protect them — all of us — from another Great Depression. He tried to prevent more war and the dictatorships that build on the down and out, but his Second Bill of Rights proposal died with him. No one since has successfully picked up the standard without being knocked down by special interest.
Tea may not prove enough to get through this darkness, but it will make the good people — and they are most of us — feel better as we hope for a national reset.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


Great-grandfather’s old stove

January 8, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

It is one degree in Blauvelt, N.Y., as I write this piece, unusual cold these days in this part of the Northeast not far from New York City but reminiscent of old winters.
In that time, though, cars did not start easily, coal furnaces had to be hand-stoked, hoping that the fire did not dissapear from the embers banked the night before, and my female schoolmates waited for buses wearing required dresses, their poor legs red from the biting cold and wind.
And that was just 50 or so years ago. Imagine back another half century with horses to saddle, wood cooking stoves to refill and a long walk to school.
So, the moment is relative, as it always is, and even without a frame of reference, say the 20 year old who knew not the world in 1968, you can appreciate some of modern technology, at least if you can afford it. Or if you are not homeless, as too many remain in this rich nation.
On this one-degree day, a Sunday in Blauvelt, there was not many errands, so no multiple trips about. Just a cozy day inside, and thanks for that. Thanks that I was not my grandfather putting coal ash on the driveway for a gritty surface. Thankful that I wasn’t my great-grandmother milking her cow at 6 a.m. And grateful that I wasn’t my triple-great-uncle responding to a fire call with a steam-fired pumper.
Yet I was thankful for a bit of nostalgia thrown my way in the cold. When I was five, living in nearby Sloatsburg, the rented house on Seven Lakes Drive had no central heating, just a large grate in the hall off the living room that sat above a hand-fed gravity coal furnace. On very frigid mornings my brother Craig and I would get dressed standing on that grate, hopping from one foot to another since the metal got hot.
Now, in 2018, that memory was reawakened on the one-degree morning when, after rising at 5:30, I brought down clothes, threw them in front of the gas fireplace, started the fire, and when it was putting out heat, got dressed in front of the fireplace. No foot-hopping this time, though.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



January 1, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

In these days of online buying, in these days of the disappeared downtown bakery, we don’t stand on long lines anymore except maybe at Motor Vehicles … and the tax office at my local town hall.
Hundreds of property owners were there in the mad dash to prepay town and county taxes before the last weekend in 2017 so they could claim the charge on their income tax returns. For most of us, it was a sayonara moment in deductions thanks to the Great Income Transfer delivered by a rightist horde that promises we will all be wearing gold after big corporations sprinkle us with trickle-down, a largesse that will keep on giving. (We shall see about that. I am keeping my plain cloth coat just in case.)
As you would expect, since most people are decent, behaved and mannerly, there was little complaint on the long tax line about waiting, even about the inefficiency of the setup after a second line was opened up but those long standing were not taken first. As in all lines where we wait, there was a commonality, a fraternity, and suddenly we all had neighbors. There was comfort in that, that you were not alone in the troubles. Queuing up, a real pain, but with benefits.
For me, an observer by newspaperman requirement, and a bit nosy, too, I found it interesting to listen in on this conversation and that.
The man in front of me, obviously of Irish descent, was spotted by a lass of such heritage, and wouldn’t you know,  not only were these strangers to each other from the same county in Ireland but they could each name the village stores.
For a long while during the 1.5-hour wait to the counter where cheerful and helpful tax collection clerks were doing their best to speed things along in an unusual situation, the line barely moved. But soon enough, a rhythm set in, as it always does in life, and gears began meshing.
We moved into a big room, the main lobby of my town hall where, befitting the area history of having hosted the largest World War II Army East Coast embarkation port, one wall carries a large collage mural of some of the 1.3 million soldiers who passed through Camp Shanks, so many never to return.
And what did we on our waiting line see in so many of those Signal Corps photos? Lines. Mess hall lines. Medical hut lines. And lines to board trains and buses to ships to England, to France, to Germany.
How humbling to notice how so many of our brave forebears waited so that in 2017, we could in peace also wait, to pay for the privilege of owning a home.
Argue we could, and can, about the unfairness and special interest of the new tax changes, but we are still in a democratic society where we can challenge and change all that.
In large measure because others waited for us first.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


Some years ago, when I was a newspaperman at the original Journal-News in Nyack, N.Y., I gave my usual weekly column slot to my son at winter holiday time. He always pens a fictional piece. Here is his writing for 2017.

By Arthur H. Gunther IV

She had outlived him by four years. At least so far. The time it took to get a college degree. Complete high school. The time between Olympic games. One presidential term. A time that could be short and long. She wasn’t the one who measured time. That was always him. She was sure he would have had something to say about four years. It might have annoyed her at one point, but now she missed it more than she could say.
He had had traditions. Things he liked doing again and again. The way he would return to the same books or albums, the same places, as a measure of who he was and where he was going. Who he had been. It gave him perspective. It was his way of slowing down time.  He would have been lost without it.
She had been witness to these things.  These traditions and revisits.  She accepted them and understood as much as she could, but she was different.  She didn’t need it like he did.
There were things she knew about him.  Things that she had witnessed the origin of, that she could trace to their root, but there were others that had been there from the start.  Others that she couldn’t lay claim to.  Most things she became a part of.  Others she witnessed at arm’s length.  Then there were those that were just his.  She had hers too.  She guessed that all couples did in their own way.  She never gave it that much thought.
But now, for whatever reason, she was starting to wonder.  Maybe she had spent so much time ruminating over all their shared memories that she became greedy for more of him.  Greedy for more stories.
It was December once more and she found her mind wandering back to one of her late husband’s odd traditions.  Once every year, always the week before Christmas, he would disappear for a day.  He never really explained where he went or why and, for whatever reason, she never really asked him.  He explained most everything else, almost to a fault.  There must have been a reason for his silence.  She figured this one was just his.  All she could recall was the old flannel shirt he always wore when he left.
As December continued, she found herself becoming consumed by the thought of this odd tradition.  Where before she hadn’t cared, now she found herself wondering.  Where had he gone all those years?
One day, a week before Christmas, she was rummaging through the one drawer that remained of her husband’s clothes.  The rest she had given away, but there were still a few she held on to.  On the bottom of the drawer was a shirt.  She pulled it out and considered it.  Staring at its pattern, it quickly occurred to her that this was the one he had worn on those mysterious December days.  There was nothing special about it.  It was worn thin in spots, maybe a bit of an unusual shade of blue if anything.  The kind that was never really in or out of style.  She put it on and smoothed it down over her.  It was a bit big.  Her hand found her way to the front pocket.  Reaching inside, she found a weathered piece of lined paper with an address written on it:  151 W. 34th St., 8th floor.
The next morning, she found herself boarding the train to Manhattan, suddenly intent on finding what was her husband’s connection to the address.  It must have had something to do with his yearly ritual.  She could have just looked it up, but something told her to just go and see.  That’s probably what he would have done himself if the situation were the same. She took the 45 minute train ride to the subway and then got out and walked.  She didn’t have far to go from the station before there it was, towering in front of her:  151 W 34th St:  Macy’s department store.  There was no shortage of people entering and exiting the store, along with all those who were just there looking at the holiday windows.  Entering the crowded, warm store, she took her jacket off, revealing her husband’s old shirt that she had purposely worn.  She had, of course, been here before, but it had been years, not since their children were young. She made her way over to the escalators and began to make the climb up to the 8th floor.  The modernity that stood out on the first levels slowly faded.  By the 7th floor, surprisingly, the escalator became one of the old wooden ones.  She was surprised to see that they still existed.  She got off on the 8th floor and found that the floors, like the escalator, remained all wood.  The old long wooden planks were unevenly worn.  She began walking around and found that this floor was the location of the bed department.  None of it made any sense.  She followed the wooden floor around the corner to the far side of the building and found that, nestled between beds and bedding was the Macy’s Christmas ornament shop.  She slowly remembered that the last time they had been there, this was where they went.  It was an oasis of silver and gold, tinsel and light, standing in stark contrast to the plain white mattresses that occupied the bulk of the floor.  What a magical place!  She saw a bench against one wall and sat down to take it all in.
It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes when she looked up to see a man staring at her.  He walked over and began to speak.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but is there any way you know Pete?”  Pete was her husband’s name.
“Yes…I’m his wife.”  The man looked relieved.
“Oh, that’s good news.  We were all wondering where he’s been.  We haven’t seen him in four years.”
She couldn’t imagine how confused she must’ve looked.  She managed to get out, “How do you know my husband?  How did you know to ask me about him?”
“Oh, sorry.  It’s the shirt.  Pete always wore that shirt when he came.  So how is he?  Where’s he been?”
The familiarity this stranger had with her husband threw her for a loop, but she answered anyway.  “I’m sorry to tell you, but he passed away four years ago.  He was 88.”
The man couldn’t hide the shock on his face.  He immediately sat down on the bench.  “That is terrible news.  I knew he was getting old, but he seemed so strong.  I would have never guessed his age.  He never told us.”
She let a minute or so pass with this strange man who somehow knew her husband sitting beside her.  Eventually she managed to ask, “How did you know my husband?”
The man looked surprised, “You don’t know?”  She shook her head.  “Pete had been coming here once a year the week before Christmas for 40 years.  Well before I started here.  He was a bit of a legend.  The employees from the Christmas shop would pass down his story to each other.”
Her silent gaze urged the man to say more.  “As I understood it, Pete had some arrangement with the managers of the Christmas department.  They let him come every year and work for a day selling ornaments and decorations.  He was so excited to be here.  I know he didn’t get paid.  He said it was his own tradition.  He would talk about his children.  How they had come up here once together when they were young. He would tell us about his wife.”  He stopped for a minute, “You.  He said he loved it up here where things still looked old and handmade and slow.  I actually remember exactly how he put it.  Pete said being up here, if only once a year, helped him slow down time.  Something about letting the year all catch up to him.”  He stopped for a moment.  “He seemed like a good man.”
Pete’s wife, who had been speechless for the last minute, only could nod and think, yes, yes he was.

The writer is a teacher at the William O. Schaefer School in Tappan, N.Y. He lives in Upper Nyack, N.Y. clausland@yahoo.com



WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just a short walk from the fortress that is now the White House, isolated from what its present inhabitant apparently fears is the terrorism of public opinion, are the words of a flawed but arguably great president and eloquent speech-maker, Franklin D. Roosevelt, carved in the granite of his immense and hallowed memorial.


December 11, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III
BLOG: thecolumnrule.com

NYACK, N.Y. — It has been a long time since I haunted Main Street as a shopper in this forever charming village north of New York City, a place never to be confused with Gotham. It has its own vibe — it’s not the city nor suburbia, which have their own great haunts.
Once, my parents shopped here, back when there was no suburbia nearby and downtowns were meccas with a bunch of shoe stores, several pharmacies, two five and dimes, hat shops, dress shops, a bakery, meat stores, small supermarkets and a soda fountain to relax in after hours of shopping.
But “progress” came, with strip shopping and malls and loads of cars on the roads. Downtowns could not compete.
Now, as online shopping threatens to similarly retire what progress wrought, a gentle walk through a village like Nyack takes you deja vu all over again. Some stores are back, some never left, like Koblin’s, a famed pharmacy.
I was in search of holiday cards and a watch battery. Found all four at Koblin’s and then went up Main to Herb Lack Paints, a hardware store, to buy an electrical switch that the big-box outlets have, too, but which was so much easier to pick up by just walking a few steps from one village store to another.
Herb Lack was once owned under another name, and as I gave the present people my money, I noticed I was standing above the same counter where so many years ago I had a key made to the front door of the original Journal-News at 53 Hudson where I would work for 42 years.
There was a warm feeling doing this Nyack walk, recalling when my parents shopped here with my brother and me in tow. I also remember others flooding the streets of Nyack, including a special friend who always did her Christmas shopping there with a stop at the old catacorner card store at Main and Midland. Then there is the present long-distance  correspondent who would leave rural Congers to weekend shop in the big village of Nyack.
I am guilty of not shopping enough in the Nyacks of my life, instead rushing off to the big mall or now online. I assisted in their decline and/or downsizing.
But the Nyacks are there, and is it ever so peaceful and fulfilling to mosey about.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


December 4, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I have a friend in Colorado, a former Rocklander, one whose family roots go back to before the Revolution, who would walk into a room with sun trying to pop its buttons through a brilliantly lit window shade and focus just on that, even if the sky were otherwise falling. She is an optimist, and our emails, a daily feature since 2005, add the yin to my often pessimistic yang. Thank you, friend.
It is good and necessary to have such balance if life isn’t to take you into dark tunnels with no light in sight. Such a journey seems before the Republic now in too many ways. Arising again is more national meanness, prejudice, ignorance and deliberate falsehood meant to divert our attention away from the path upon which the founders set us.
We have often stumbled and fallen for long periods on that journey — slavery, civil war, the Great Depression, inequality, greed — but the innate goodness of the general populace and the mojo set forth in our Constitution have given us the courage to get up over and over and keep walking.
But now we are in a long, deep tunnel, with the pied piper leading us God knows where, playing a tune meant to rouse our fears, to suspect each other, to distrust humanity itself.
The piper’s notes are simple, deceptive, and we harken our ears to the tune because in all of us there is ability to hate. Most of us awake from such stupor, of course, but by then the damage may be done. (Witness the Hitler years.)
Somewhere in that dark tunnel is a stage to which we are all brought, and a dim spot light focuses on the juggler, but behind the curtain unfolds the real event, the dismantling of the republic, its heralded institutions, its natural progressivism, its enlightening goodness, our better self.

Now, my Colorado friend, a former teacher who obviously still instructs, would surely see beyond the curtain, beyond the false Wizard of Oz, to a brilliantly lit window and the sun behind it popping its buttons. Others would see the dark.

I pray optimism wins this one.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


November 27, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Doors can hold fascination because they are portals and keys to the ordinary things we do each day, like leaving the house or coming home and because they are metaphors for life, such as leaving a job or coming into a new situation. No matter what, if the door closes, so does something else. If it opens, so does something else.
A door can also be likened to emotion. A stuck door, one you struggle with as you open it, can trigger reflection about ongoing difficulty at work, or in a relationship. A door that always closes smoothly may be an analogy for a friend or loved one who is
A series of doors can be a road map for a busy day, with each door closing symbolic of yet another task completed. If they all stick, maybe you should go back to bed.
Then there is the hallway, before the door, after it. Is it long? Is it bright or dark? What color is it, and does that sometimes set the day’s mood? Are there family pictures that remind you of what’s important?
How about the lock? Do you recall other doors in your youth with similar locks and how they clicked when a parent turned the
Is the door knob shiny or loose or antique? How reassuring is it to grasp it, and is that a metaphor for any other anchor in your life?
Bet some of you won’t just sail through the next door you see.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



By Arthur Henry Gunther III

Since printing began and the first sheets of paper brought information to the masses, newspapers could count on people buying enough copies to keep the profession going; to support advertisers; to hold circulation stable; most of all to protect democracy by reporting and commenting on the news. Now there are too few readers, and the republic is in jeopardy.
The Computer Age and the Internet, the smart phone, video games and the many morphings of television all snatch concentration 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 and columnists; fewer open pages of The Daily This or That spread across the kitchen table.
The constantly-on computer and its search engines are the prime information sources now. In just seconds, news is read in headlines and short paragraphs, barely digested. Photographs and other images steal viewer time, reducing the brain’s word count. And “fake news” spreads like the plague it us.
Yet, 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 expose the wrong-doers does present an opportunity to add to individual knowledge and so empower us 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 in particular more like the newspaper readers of other years — those who question, those who think.
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. Call up the Internet but truly seek information and understand it, and then question. The “who, what, when, where, why and how” must be satisfied. And 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 media know and demand answers.
Otherwise, the free press will lose the ammunition it needs to keep us safe from individuals and groups seeking to control information for their own anti-democratic purposes. What a terrible, creeping danger that is today.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. Reach him at ahgunther@hotmail.com ahgunther@yahoo.com or 845 548 7378.



September 13, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

All professions have shop talk, but that rhythm is more likely to play in tune not in the daily grind but after the job, most often in retirement. Such was the conversation the other night at an arts gathering at the Edward Hopper House in Nyack, N.Y.
The birthplace of the famed American realist painter offers “First Friday” shows for member artists in conjunction with other art exhibits in Nyack each month, and I am the wine re-filler, the fellow who opens new stock and makes sure there isn’t a dry glass in the house.
That can involve enough downtime that my feet fall asleep, but also moments when I am drawn into conversation, some of it polite, some political, some “Oh, how are you? Have not seen you for awhile.” And some about the arts or the artist Hopper.
Occasionally there will be shop talk if people I knew in the newspaper profession pop in. I will sometimes meet other scribes or editors, or in the recent moment, photographers. (I was a staff lensman for more than six years and continued that role on and off for 35 more.)
Pulling the cork on a sauvignon blanc, up walked Laurie Peek, a well-entrenched social documentary photog back in the New York City of the 1970s and ’80s. Then came Colette Fournier, a retired newspaper lenswoman.
Before we knew it, and oblivious to the crowd, we were sharing stories about camera mishaps, long sessions in the old “wet” darkrooms with their chemicals and the goose-pimply feeling of seeing a print come to life in a tray of developer.
Though the wine kept getting popped, and no one was neglected, we three, like anyone who share common work habits, became deeply immersed in our common language.
How satisfying it was to realize you can rarely, but still actually, find your comrades and communicate. Reinvigorating the bond was like meeting an old friend so special that while life continues well enough without contact, reacquaintance, however short, is locking into a special frequency.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com


November 5, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYC — A parent has the right to “kvell,” even if you are not of the Jewish faith. I am not, but having been raised in a community of so many delightful descendants of Abraham, I picked up a few words and phrases that come in handy since they are so expressive.
I use “kvell” today because when you have a 46-year-old son who achieves a 2:41 finish in the New York City Marathon, coming in 131st of many thousands of males, you have to say something that underscores the moment.
Yet my son Arthur 4th would prefer silence since he is humble, even if his daily training — he has run almost every day since eighth grade — his persistence and his dedication make him a remarkable runner.
Arthur trains while juggling a job as a school teacher, husband, co-parent of two energetic kids, and without complaint. He loves running, just as Bob Hudson, his high school coach, instilled in him. And continues to do. (In fact, Coach drove Arthur to the city to begin the race procedure at 4:30 a.m.)
Every entrant in the marathon is a winner. Just enduring a 26.2-mile run through all the boroughs is a feat beyond the normal challenge. Yes, some are the top finishers. Some suffer more than others. But we must kvell for every one, especially in a time of deliberate national divide.
The marathon is a league of nations, a race of many peoples. Emotion expressed by participants and those cheering them on Sunday made America shine. We can all kvell for that.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@hotmail.com



October 28, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

After weeks of little rain, this part of the greater patch — slightly upstate New York — is at this writing getting very wet, the bath due to a storm with its sights set more on Long Island and Cape Cod than Rockland County. Still, like the cozy coat you pull out for fall’s first chill, the sudden appearance of the wet changes the dial. All I could think of was soup.
It’s a bit of the fortunate that there is a change of seasons here, so the coat becomes reinforcement that you can get cozy in the chill, leaving behind long summer days and the fun, yes, but anticipating autumn color and the wonderful smell of fallen leaves.
Rain, especially if it has not thrown a kiss your way in too long a spell, gets the juices going for soup, whether you make it from scratch, pay way too much in a specialty store or simply open a can and have at it. When you have been missing something of a while, discerning is not usually top of agenda.
On such a day as this in my fourth-grade years, my mother, if she wasn’t concocting a red Irish stew, which was really soup with vegetables and her German noodles, had Campbell’s tomato with pepper steaming from the bowl as my brother and I came in soaking wet from the home-built huts in the backyard, our prairie.
Many a good meal begins with soup. It is the civilized way of eating, much like the proper introduction to a home via an inviting foyer: there is pause to anticipate what is next.
So, the day, this one at least, calls for the hottest of soup, simple fare that feeds so well that you could get complex about it.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com




As one of the many volunteers in the Rockland Interfaith Breakfast Program and as a strong supporter of the overnight/outreach program Helping Hands-Safe Haven, I was asked to write the following.

By Arthur H. Gunther III

It is 1940, and the Great Depression is persisting after 11 years. At Maud Gunther’s Spring Valley, N.Y., home, not far from the downtown railroad tracks where the homeless slept even then, my grandmother is on her back porch, handing out sandwiches to hobos and other hungry people, made from the meager scraps she, her husband and son must share. But Arthur Sr. has a job. Many do not. Maud does her bit, as do quite a few Valleyites in that sad national time.
At night on any of those dark days, my grandparents sit in the dining room and listen to the radio, that after Arthur Sr.  has read The Rockland Journal-News, the New York Journal-American and the Daily News. Each of those information sources offer the same stories about unique, even groundbreaking relief efforts by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration as well as continuing political opposition in Congress and elsewhere. The poor, the down and out, the homeless are always grist for the political mill. Full bellies pontificate over the hungry.
Radio news says the opposition holds fast to its belief that lesser government involvement is best, that people can pull themselves up if only the economy is rebuilt — an old argument that never gets settled because greed intervenes. People still go without. In Spring Valley. In the nation.
One 1940 presidential contender, Robert Taft, states: “Let no one say that a sound fiscal policy is too hardboiled toward the more unfortunate among our people. It is the poor who will be cared for by a solvent government. …”
America has always had “solvent” government, but the poor, the needy, remain underserved and continue to be part of a false news, “welfare-queen” debate that is really ignorance perpetuated by the judgmental and the greedy. So, even in the best of times, the poor and others in need have been put on a meager budget line. Criticism of the unfortunate,  ignorance as to circumstance and outright refusal to accept that any of us could fall into sad situations are as firmly set in the national fabric as are the often heroic kindness and charity of so many. The needy are always an abstraction, always blamed for their misfortune. They are made sinners for that.
I wish those who contend that free will, gumption and grit alone make you thrive would serve meals any week day of the year, holidays included, in the Rockland Interfaith Breakfast Program at United Church in Spring Valley. Or assist with the Helping Hands-Safe Haven seasonal overnight offering. Then they would witness the debilitating effects of joblessness, depression, substance abuse, domestic abuse and health issues. And just plain bad luck.
RIBP served 18,633 breakfasts in 2016; Helping Hands provided 5,260 meals and overnight accommodations. None of these efforts would have been possible without volunteers, some 3,000 hours given. And not one of us, beyond normal individual human prejudice, openly judged anyone. We were not part of the historical debate between “gumption” and charity, one that continues even in a county as affluent as Rockland.
I am now Maud Gunther, deliberately serving the needy for 15 years in her village, my hometown, my father’s childhood community, the neighborhood of my friends, teachers, mentors. Like all the volunteers, I am paying my own good fortune forward. Privileged to do so.
On Tuesday mornings in the RIBP, we can rustle up a breakfast of sausage better prepared than in some upscale restaurants, slow-cooked for three hours in apple juice, brown sugar, honey and spices. Pancakes are made with eggs, brown sugar, honey and a bit of strong coffee. Chicken soup is simmered for two hours with my Irish mother’s recipe of black pepper and parsley. Total cost? About $2 a serving. In a restaurant, $16, at least.
I am no exception. There are better cooks, including professionals, who work free and offer chicken and other dishes that would pull in $20 a serving in an ordinary eatery.
Lunches, free to all, include freshly made sandwiches, fruit, a treat or two. Juice and coffee, cereal, oatmeal are available at breakfast. All prepared by volunteers.
And the volunteers do more than ready food, serve it and clean up. They bring in donated clothing. They buy clothing. Volunteers purchase food now and then, and kitchen items. If an individual client has a certain need, they are assisted out of pocket.
All this in the RIBP program. Then there is the Helping Hands-Safe Haven volunteer effort that besides all-year counseling and social services, offers seasonal overnight protection from the cold and bad weather, with space long donated by various religious institutions. (Rockland will soon partner on an overnight warming center and other services, thanks to recognition of the great need by the county Legislature and County Executive Ed Day.)
Again, we do not argue whether individuals deserve what we do. Nor do we pat ourselves on the back. We are just people filling a need as best we can. Some of us also do it for the churches and synagogues and mosques we belong to. Others offer service for the religion that is called humanity.
Society has an obligation to attend to the needy, perhaps asking questions later. But only later. We sometimes see babies and other  young children at breakfast, and you can ask nothing of them.
I hope whoever reads this, most especially anyone who continues the forever debate between requiring individuals to tough it out or asking society to meet obvious need, will take away two important points:
* RIBP, Helping Hands-Safe Haven and the other giving groups in Rockland do not ask questions. We do not vet the needy. We serve the needy, as religious belief and human decency command.
* We are cost-effective, probably spending  at least one-quarter what government or private services would require.
Finally, we have many volunteers, but we need more. We operate on a shoestring budget, and while Helping Hands and RIBP are uber-efficient, we still require funding to cover such unglamorous expenses as rent, insurance, salaries for our tiny non-volunteer staff and supplies.
Consider becoming part of the Helping Hands family through the donation of your time, your talent or your treasure.
(You can contact Helping Hands Director Ya’el Williams: ywilliams@helpinghandsofrockland.org)


The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com