By Arthur H. Gunther III


Though I am a newspaper writer — editorials and essays mostly — I do verse from time to time. So, this week, with not much else to ponder about, I’ll offer three pieces, the last of which  is song verse. Thanks for reading.




I saw a love

of long ago.

She moved swiftly

between my dreams

and reality, appearing

clearly, although

the facts were otherwise.

I reached out,

grasping for a moment

never realized.

She looked at me,

then left so quickly

that I knew she was

never there. Nor was

the moment.




War drums begin, the old come alive.

Visions of battles never fought.

Now the chance to march

from the safety of a desk.

Young go to fight, marshaled

by the marshals of battle,

exacting in righteous allegiance

to what they insist is just.

Old men who pick up no weapon

beyond pen and phone

to issue this order or that.

Great destruction is their right,

these old men say, for the fight

is to save us all. Trust demanded.

Mistakes by command cannot

be undone. Limbs, psyches torn asunder,

continual dying for the lifetimes

of the once young.



#3: GONE


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, fitted like a glove, your heart 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 His work can be republished at will, in any form, with credit given.



By Arthur H. Gunther III

About this time of year comes the memory of the apple smell, sweet fragrance that for me opened the door a bit to Heaven when I was a child at my grandmother’s house. She made apple pies, as many nanas did and do, from scratch as my friend Elaine does as well in the present. And she is a grandma, too. 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, then, oh then, when that pie just seems to sit forever on the windowsill awaiting our tasting. But 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.

Contact this retired newspaperman at



By Arthur H. Gunther III


ANYWHERE, USA — It’s back-to-school, and while many cliches can be uttered about that, the fact is this is like spring planting. The renewed hope is there that the new field of fertile, young minds will see germination in gained knowledge, reasoning and a healthy outlook on life. Hope they have fun, too.

Teachers will tell you, and you will recall yourselves that each school year and each collected class is different. The feeling is not last year’s, the classroom is physically apart from others, the mix of students may have been altered and the teacher is probably new to the group.

And the world has changed, and the individual student’s self and environment, too. Likes, dislikes, friends, needs, desires, what has happened over the summer, how the community has morphed, and the state, the nation, the world — all this bears on the back-to-school moment of any particular year.

This means some students will fare better than others, and some will do very well, others not and probably the majority will be fine. The chemistry of the new school moment will help decide, though free will, as free as it may be, can turn the tide, too.

Nationwide, school budgets continue to be slammed. Inflation in supplies, health care and other benefits, utility charges and the costs of this program or that seems 50 to 100 percent against the  recorded U.S. rate (August) of 2 percent. Doing more with less is yet another challenge for teachers, students and parents in this back-to-school moment.

And then there are the tests, the push to have students meet some sort of standard, though those who set them do not seem to agree on what they should be. In-the-trenches teachers will cringe at lost time “teaching to the test” and will wonder why so many non-educators, or those so long out of the classroom, decide on the test. Yes, standards are required, goals must be in place, but the best teaching comes from teacher to student and  student to teacher. Too much gets in the way — parental over-managing, distracting environment at home and in the streets,  extra-curricular overload,  too hands-on administration. Teachers should be trusted more to teach and given the support to do so.

Good luck to those going  to school 2013, particularly the ones just beginning the journey in kindergarten. When you first get ready to sow a field, you till the soil well and then you fertilize. You don’t simply cast seed willy-nilly on hard pack. In this nation of the growing rich, the accumulating poor and the disappearing middle class, not enough attention has been paid to preparing schools and our young for the first years. Will the crop be what the children need, what the nation requires?


The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be e-mailed at



August 26, 2013

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I do not know where you live in this world or where your mind is in it, but I will tell you about the future of this planet. It could be seen clearly, not far from my Blauvelt, N.Y., home.

Driving down Western Highway, just before Dominican College, a private, Roman Catholic four-year institution, there was a “Welcome” sign on campus as volunteers directed freshman and their parents to parking areas. Vehicles filled with luggage, bedding, lamps and electronics and also jammed with adults plus young people came in an almost endless stream. You saw the anxious, sometimes puzzled, somewhat curious look on parents’ faces and, from students,  a mix of excitement and apprehension. This was a scene repeated in almost countless locales across the United States, and with varying custom, in Europe, Asia, the world. It was the setting of another field of hope, the soil plowed, the fertilizer in place, and now new seeds were to be planted.

Yet there were storm clouds, too, and hope was mixed with worry. In these United States, where super-sized student loans are necessary to get most people through ever-more expensive colleges, the last fields were harvested just a few months ago, and the ripened fruit of four or so years of labor, following on 13 years of public or private school plus pre-school have yet to sell. There are few jobs for 2013 graduates, or 2012 graduates or 2011 graduates. …

In America, the middle class is shrinking, and with it the bulwark of democracy is weakened. Greedy special interests bent on maximizing profit without re-investment in society, in our young, in workers, in the promise of life are simply not employing enough people, firing longtime workers and hiring part-timers with little or no benefits. Pensions are disappearing.

And yet fresh college fields are plowed each summer, readied for a new crop of hopefuls who face unemployment and, if they work, a change of jobs many times in their lives.

Post-World War II America prospered  because of the G.I. Bill for returning veterans, which educated professionals who could serve industry and big business, greatly enlarging a middle class withered by the Great Depression. There was strong economic growth and enough profit for many. The world benefitted as trade and commerce grew.

Today, despite the “Welcome” sign at our college campuses, even while seeds are planted in fresh fields of hope for our precious children, the storm clouds of unemployment and income grown principally for greed are ominous.

We should all show apprehension on our faces, not just freshman and their parents.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


August 19, 2013

By Arthur H. Gunther III

The price of “progress” is not always worth the results. Once, in my region of the world — “upstate, country” but just 20 miles from New York City — tasty, fresh, clear water came from underground wells, springs and fissures in the glacial rock that covers well-named Rockland County. Just dig a bit or drill a little, and for two centuries there was much supply to be had, cheaply. The water encouraged fruit and vegetable farming and the growth of villages and towns. Many people had their own wells. Rural life was pleasant enough, and communities prospered.
In the “progress” that is constant but not well-planned growth, industries and filling stations and strip highway shopping rose along with housing, bringing oil, gasoline, industrial chemical and pesticide pollution. Large parking lots and numerous paved streets put impermeable covers on the land, and rain water could not return as easily to the wells. Flood plains were eliminated to make room for the march of “progress.”
In Spring Valley, a village named for its natural water source and where the first public utility began in the 1800s, pollution was so great that the water could not be tapped. Still, the utility grew with other supply, absorbed first by an out-of-state company, then a French-owned worldwide conglomerate that treats water. There is money to be made in water — it is the next “oil” — and there is also cash to be had in treating water, which is an even bigger business than supply.
My region now has strongly treated water, so much so that we cannot use it as it comes from the tap. There is a strong chlorine smell and off-taste, and it must be filtered, at our expense, before use. When I was a boy, I could take a very cold draw from a neighbor’s well, which no longer exists. It was not treated water, no chlorine smell, no poor taste. It was free. But that was before “progress.”
In these parts, reservoirs have been constructed to aid development, and that was all right. They form pretty lakes, and green space is preserved. However, much of the original buffer land surrounding these reservoirs is now gone, sold off for new development, for additional “progress,” for more big company profit. Government, which has a good ear for lobbies, has signed off on this, advising, “Just treat the water more.” The buffers helped reduce pollution runoff, but in the name of “progress,” it is OK to use chemicals instead.
Now, there is super growth in some of my area, and there is an insatiable thirst for more aqua, so much so that the salt water in the famous Hudson River could soon be treated, at very high cost, to add to supply. This waterway is the second-largest Superfund target because of industrial PCB pollution.
Once, before “progress,” I could have a tin cup full of water free from a neighbor’s pump, super satisfying on a hot day in the rural summer. Now I pay dearly for a glass of water that has its taste obliterated by chemicals. And we face perhaps a doubling of expense to have salt removed from an commercial river.
Ah, “progress,” it can have a bitter taste.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Not all car dealers are so lucky, but one in  Blauvelt, N.Y., offers test drives over a mountain named Clausland, with winding, country-like roads  busy enough since this is built-up suburbia. And despite the bromide view, the burbs are never sleepy, especially one less than 20 miles from New York City.

Other auto hawkers must send consumer wannabes to heavy truck routes like Routes 303, 9W, 59, 45, and that can be a testing time for someone not familiar with a new or used car. In fact, the Mercedes guy in the next town, along Route 304, almost lost a salesman and a customer when a very expensive model was slammed as it left the dealership. Maybe that’s why the Ford place across the way lets you take the car by your lonesome. Salesmen can be hard to find.

For someone who likes to observe humanity, even out of the corner of the eye when you are already concentrating on a fine tune from the radio or a beautiful woman walking along the road, the Mazda dealer’s customer jaunts over Clausland are quite interesting. You see old fellows zooming along in sports cars they could not afford in their 20s and which will no longer get them a girlfriend, as if that were ever true. You watch old ladies cautiously driving a basic sedan, going ever so slowly, whether they are old or even women. Even a fellow can be a little, old lady in a car. (This isn’t to denigrate little old ladies but merely to offer observation.)

On the trip over the mountain to and from Blauvelt to Nyack, you also see the teen-ager with nervous parent in the back seat, a son or daughter with the biggest grin ever as they anticipate freedom, dates and whatever else a car brings, even if it’s a used jalopy with 153,567 miles.

Then there are the truck try-outs — fellows or gals in ever-bigger, shiny machines with back seats and extended beds that will never see manure or tools or work. Trucks not used on the job but as recreational rides are a huge seller, perhaps the biggest, in the U.S., and my section of the Northeast is no exception.

Finally, the Clausland trip offers glances at a mix of salesman types, from well-dressed to casual; from talkative to quiet; from bored to engaged. At least they get out of the office and maybe even make a sale, albeit taking their being on a potentially dangerous ride with a stranger on curved mountain roads. The scenery is beautiful and there is a chance to get a doctorate in watching people.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

BETHESDA, M.D. — Rituals in our lives change, but that does not mean they are easy to get used to, even to accept. Here I was in beautiful Bethesda, a neat D.C. suburb with all modern amenities, expecting 1961 and a few decades after to remain the ruling time. But it was 2013, and I don’t get the language.

An early-morning ritual is to take a walk, have some java and read the local newspaper, in this area The Washington Post. And so I sought a paper. But there was none, at 6:30 a.m., long after morning editions have gone to bed. I asked a very polite but matter-of-fact store clerk when the newspapers might arrive, and I was told,  “When the man gets here, he gets here.” In other words, the news, the information that impacts our lives, which entertains, saddens, enlightens, exposes charlatans and connects us to the full range of human emotions, and  which once would await no man’s delay, would now “get here when it got here.”

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

Now, with so many fewer print readers, information delivered in bites via Smart phones and iPads and TV, the morning newspaper no longer seems vital. Sad, for a much fuller report can be had in print, all the better to be informed in a democracy that you want to keep as such.

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

Once, we carried money in our pockets from our cashed-pay checks for a week or two. We went to the bank to cash the checks. And we used some of our pocket change to buy a newspaper.

I doubt if many of the good, hardworking people on the ATM line buy a paper after they get their bank machine cash. Probably quench their thirst for information via mobile devices or computers.

The world has changed, and so has its ways. I simply forgot to get on the train.

But I’ll never read about it in a newspaper.


The writer is a retired newspaperman.

Lessons at grandma’s

July 22, 2013

Lessons at grandma’s

By Arthur H. Gunther III

For a child staying overnight at grandma’s, the sounds of a kitchen are never forgotten. It is always an adventure to sleep away from home for a four year old, and a grandparent’s house is a special place, full of treats, nooks and crannies in which to seek adventure and a sanctuary from routine. Even a child needs to get away sometimes, if only to grow a sense of security.

And security comes at grandma’s. She has snacks for the youngster and perhaps too many hugs, but such is love, and it is reassuring and certainly remembered more fondly in later decades.

Each grandmother’s house has its idiosyncrasies, as does every child, every adult, and that’s another lesson to be learned at grandma’s. The child newly awake not in his or her regular bed hears a cupboard door creak open, and he knows that breakfast is coming. What child does not want breakfast? We wake up hungry, the child in all of us.

Then the youngster gets a whiff of pancakes grilling, and he can already taste grandma’s brown sugar, honey, vanilla and extra egg in the mix. Oh, and those blueberries, too.

The youngster is thus encouraged to get out of bed, forget the slippers that grandma is always telling him to put on — splinters on the old wooden stairs, you know — and bounce on downstairs to the kitchen where he will sit in that very big chair that will always be huge in his mind, even at age 70.

His grandma will go to the metal spice cabinet tucked away at the top of the cellar stairs and take out what she needs for a pie to be prepared as the grandson eats his pancakes. He will never forget the sweetness of that cabinet, its door held open just a quick moment. He also notices, if only out of the corner of his eye, his grandmother’s kitchen competence and confidence, another lesson.

Life unfolds on another morning in grandma’s house, one so precious that it seems it might burst into a thousand pieces of china but which actually proves so durable that all through life, grandma’s early attention is indeed a form of building security in what can be a tough world for all of us.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.

Celebration in Nyack

Celebration in Nyack

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — You would expect July Fourth fireworks — and the gathering in public area that comes with that — to be boisterous, noisy, of course, celebratory. It was all that in this village along the Hudson River just north of New York City, but this year there was an even stronger reason why America celebrates its birthday so heartily: the people who were there.

More than ever, there was a veritable league of nations in Memorial Park, partly because Rockland County, so close to the port of New York and diverse even before its 1798 founding, is becoming more so. Sitting near me in the park, with thousands attending, were women dressed in Islamic headwear, Orthodox Jews, people from India wearing red, white and blue shirts and saris, African Americans whose families who have helped build Nyack for centuries and men, women and children of so many national backgrounds that I cannot remember the total count of different countries.

And all here on July Fourth, a distinctly American holiday that was probably new or certainly newish to many in the park. Some had come from countries where no celebration is allowed save bowing to the national leader.

It is usual practice to recall America’s history on July Fourth and for politicians in particular to make note of how immigrants built the country after the almost suicidal chances taken by those at Lexington and Concord, by our Founders, by Washington and by the citizen-soldier. It is reaffirming to hear our narrative, even if over and over, even if we must accept the flowery praise of some of our speakers.

Yet nothing gives truth to the story like people — free people with many different faces — enjoying July Fourth fireworks on a majestic river, picnic at hand, family and friends there. That this is allowed — yes, allowed — is the greatness of America. It is our blessing. It is our hope. It is our present and our future, built on our past.

On July 5, Congress, the president, the Supreme Court, state and local governments and all officialdom went back to “work.” Today we question what work is being done and how democracy can thrive through special interest, political correctness without common sense and greed. We are a nation in trouble, in a troubling world. A downer if you mull on it. When I do, I switch the senses back to the Nyacks of America, where on July Fourth the people’s faces gave a different perspective.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.