THE IMAGINARY THINGS

February 22, 2022

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

ahgunther@yahoo.com

     At the end of instruction, some of our elementary school teachers used to read from classic books and stories, perhaps to decompress us after the hectic day, maybe even sedate us for the school bus driver. The effect on many, though, was not only to soothe but to open the imaginary door to imaginary travel, places, people.

     We all like to be read to, and that starts with mom or dad and then the teacher. It is like the purring cat on your lap, your feet in slippers, the warm fire nearby. Tucked in, you close your eyes or stare out the window or at the fire and hold on as you go wherever the story goes, wherever the characters go.

    I remember “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” that way, even recalling that I inhaled L. Frank Baum’s words while seating at the sixth desk back, left side of classroom, first floor, southeast side of the South Main Street Elementary School, Miss Helen Rouy, teacher and reader.

     Each day until the book was finished, she would read us a chapter or two, and there wasn’t a noise in the classroom, not even the antsy shuffling you would expect from young people toward the end of a school day.

    Now, when the movie is played on TV, and we see Judy Garland and others in this classic, it is Miss Rouy’s words that I hear. Warm memory that, and thank you, teach.

     There were other books and stories that hit the mark in their own way, some not so specific as the plot line in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” There you would really let the mind wander, using your own frame of reference. For example, take a story about children playing in a field, maybe near an empty cottage. When the teacher read such  a piece, I — any of us — could imagine the fields we played in after school, the old homes no longer lived in. There were many of those in my countrified youth. For others, street scenes and city sights might be the reference.

    The important thing was the connection, and the words read to you so well that they had you draw colors, things, people, emotion, places, conversation in your mind.

     It was a veritable daydream factory, there to be recalled even decades later.

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

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A VALENTINE

February 14, 2022

thecolumnrule.com

By Arthur H. Gunther III

ahgunther@yahoo.com

Valentine’s Day is many things to many people and absolutely nothing to just as many. It is recognition of emotion, “love,” which in itself offers varied definition and application, and gathered appreciation. It is also overdue for so many.

     The natural inclination for humans is to be next to someone who appreciates you, and then you perhaps respond. There is a bloom, accumulated trust and respect and increased emotion, all of which can be exemplified by clever writing on a Hallmark card.

     But then there are the unwritten cards, emotion never expressed – for early crushes, even girlfriends and boyfriends, even spouses. In the elementary grades, we were encouraged to swap paper hearts with pre-printed sayings. This was warm and fuzzy child’s play, a way to spread common emotion to all on a happy day, but there were the boys and girls who really meant what was written and sent to a classmate who never knew. Such are childhood crushes.

     That happens in real life too, and so many unsung valentines are never delivered.

People move on, lives, relationships, families are built, and the world, the individuals, are better for that overall.

     Yet, in the fast pace of generations, the love notes never whispered or shouted from the roof top are testimony to what should have been said. Many valentines unsent, unopened. 

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. 

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GROWING OUT OF IGNORANCE

February 7, 2022

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

ahgunther@yahoo.com

     The search for truth needs a full vocabulary.

     I’m am not certain the 8th grader I often noticed at the very small but powerfully packed village library understood that as a flashing neon light against ignorance, but this constant reader was on her way to such knowledge.

     She read, this child of parents busy with four other children, because she wanted to. For inner quiet? To get out of the crowded house? To take that seasonal one-mile walk, dodging snow, kicking leaves, spotting emerging daffodils, sweating from hot sun so as to experience all that but also to arrive at the beautifully wood-paneled library where the window seat awaited?

     The young girl, of mid-teen years and heading for the changes that they and early adulthood would bring, was already a world traveler. Her books – short stories, novels, fiction, non-fiction, histories, biographies – gave her a first-class ticket even if the ride was sometimes in steerage. And good for that.

     The books were varied – she read of grit and determination, of grittiness and misfortune, of love and hate, of hopes and dreams. The words of living, of life.

     Her little village library did not hide these books from her or anyone else, and the librarians, constant readers themselves, had  wide-open taste, their full accumulation of titles as extensive as the card catalogs in the polished wooden cabinets.

     I never spoke to the 8th grader, just noticed her deep in concentration and dreams, comfy on the window seat, on yet another journey in which the raw facts of life, not censored from her eyes, brain and heart, as well as the hopes and achievement of humankind were hers for the reading.

     What a vocabulary for truth and against ignorance she was accumulating in the small village library. 

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.

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NO FAST LANE

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

ahgunther@yahoo.com

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, and I drive enough locally to hit 16,000 miles yearly, so, on a decent day, with sun out and the temperature in the 30s, 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 on my section and motorists who think they are heading in a race 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 to get to the hullabaloo of noise, commerce and people that is the 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. This essay is adapted from an earlier one.

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WHO WILL TELL US?

 

January 24, 2022

By Arthur H. Gunther III

ahgunther@yahoo.com

     The newspaper brotherhood is losing its working members, and that will make orphans of all who depend on information delivery as a public trust. Papers are dying, shot by a lessened  appetite for reading anything longer than a Tweet and the high cost of putting out a daily sheet when there isn’t enough advertising. Crushed also by hedge funds that buy up declining newspapers and sell off assets for quick profit. 

     Sad day, and ink-stained wretches might be excused for wanting to seek liquid solace during high mass at the old Hi-Ho bar in Nyack, N.Y., but it ain’t there any more, either.

     Nor is the village newspaper of my stained years in its old home at 53 Hudson, Nyack, where daily the Rockland Journal-News presses shook foundations before it shook political leaders. In that simple building, for some 52 years and since 1850 in three other village fortresses of irreverence and truth, came fourth an enlightenment of sorts. 

     Sure, it was a local rag, that old Journal-News, the 1932 merger of the Nyack Evening Journal and the Nyack Daily News, and its always limited and sometimes green staff offered typos and other industry faux pas, but over the decades there were enough truly inspired scribes and photogs and layout people and city editors and composing room guys and pressmen and circulation people that every day, six times a week, attempt was made to give local government news, crime reports, high school and Little League sports results, PTA notices and commentary on the pulse off the veins of the ordinary man, woman and child in the Rockland County community. And the readers bought us, at 10 cents a copy, for a long time.

     Along the way, things got costly, and newspaper families could not own the sheets any longer. The big national publishing outfits rescued many a community newspaper, but in the long run decided to make profit and the bottom line the gold standard instead of the who, what, when, where, why and how of whatever was happening.

     Now the digital world and its immediacy and its thousands of attention-grabbing, distracting screen flashes off smart phones, tablets and computers is making newspaper profit slide. With it goes major information delivery. Democracy goes deeper into that dark tunnel when there is less news. The baddies count on that.

     The danger in all this is that what passes for news will not be worthy of trust, sitting on innuendo and hearsay without fact checking. Not to say that there haven’t always been axes to grind and editorializing in newspapering, but by and large, accurate news has gotten out. Every reader must always take things with a grain of salt anyway, must always think things through in the God-given brain. 

     Who will watch government in the new age? Who will investigate anything?

     High mass at the Hi-Ho was the usual end-of-shift in Nyack, when both the bar and the newspaper were there. Just a short walk up Broadway to the Marsilios, who gave the fraternity more drinks than bought. Celebration was had for putting another daily sheet to bed, sometimes a rough birth. Journal-Newsers weren’t paid that well and weren’t N.Y. Times, but each helped get the news out, and that can be an indescribable feeling. Yeah, public trust, for sure, no matter how flawed.

     My old workplace, that 53 Hudson wonder, eventually moved on to West Nyack and then in the later 1990s was absorbed into a new publication, The Journal News of Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties. It will, I am predicting, become part of further consolidation with area newspapers the Bergen Record,  the Times-Herald Record and the Poughkeepsie Journal. Stalwarts will continue to seek out the news as best they can with limited staff, and kudos to my colleagues for that, but there will never be anything better serving than the hometown daily. It was family, quirks, love/hate and all.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. 

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PAVLOVIAN IN NYACK

January 17, 2022

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

ahgunther@yahoo.com

There used to be a bakery in Nyack, N.Y., name of Luleich. It was the typical but oh-so-welcome village fixture. Sometimes communities had more than one, German-style, Italian-style, etc. Depended on the neighborhood.

Nyack, in the 1950s, my time there when my parents shopped in the busy downtown before the New Jersey malls opened, Luleich’s was the only bakery we went to on Main Street. There may have been other palaces of treats though.

Accompanying parents on shopping trips could be a bore, of course, so knowing that Luleich’s was in Nyack made me get in the car.

My parents would drop my brother Craig and me off at the Nyack Library or Memorial Park, where adventures could be found. And warmth, too, in the great library main room.

Eventually, we made our way to Main Street, and as soon as we spotted the shiny black tiles below the bakery window, the Pavlovian effect kicked in, and saliva began to flow.

A custard donut with white icing for me, please.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.

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TREE OF LIFE

January 10, 2022

By Arthur H.Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

ahgunther@yahoo.com

There is a tree on the South Mountain in my Hudson Valley, N.Y., area that has looked at me since I was a young fellow. And that is a long time ago.

It has – does – look at others, too. But its glance, perhaps even its lingering gaze, is suited to the individual and his/her circumstance, beliefs, age, outlook, well everything human and emotional. 

Trees have their way of drawing us in, of taking us to dreams when we look at them. Yes, they are not animate as humans are, but they are living. You sit under a tree, you climb a tree, you look at a tree in the rising or setting sun, in snow, in rain, in ice, in moonlight.

The tree at South Mountain, in the Concklin orchards off the road of the same name, in Pomona, N.Y., has been a friend for so very long. I took my first photo of it with a box camera, then as a professional newspaper lensman. I now paint it in my retirement.

If I could write down all the emotions experienced over the many decades looking at the tree, walking by it, driving by it, in youthful romance and adult living, in sadness and joy, the total text would read as a biography.

The tree on the South Mountain will no doubt survive me, and we will part with great gratitude and the certainty that it is a friend to others, now and to come.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.

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AUTUMN

‘FALL’/gunther

October 25, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther IIII

thecolumnrule.com

ahgunther@yahoo.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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APPLES

October 18, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

ahgunther@yahoo.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                       -30-

THE UNORDINARY CAT

October 11, 2021

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

ahgunther@yahoo.com

     There is the unordinary cat, thank heavens.

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

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

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

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. 

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