By Arthur H. Gunther III

I am a self-discovered “painter” of limited ability, but there is satisfaction nonetheless, especially in a retirement where no longer are there the now-cherished deadlines of my newspaper past. It is more than something to do, for I assign myself, and I hit the job just like I was once paid to do. Molting’s not my thing.

There are unexpected benefits to this activity. Much — just about all — of newspaper writing and photography is keyed to observation — of people, of things, events. The human animal is endlessly fascinating and interesting, even the sadness and the darker side.

If you were a clockmaker and you could take apart a sophisticated piece to see the relationship between gears and springs, that would get your goose bumps rising. So it is, too, with those who have yet another chance to observe humanity, etc. And you get paid to do it?

In retirement, for some anyway, the bent continues, and you keep observing if only for yourself.

Painting is a way of observing. There are colors, which are shades of emotion. There is form, and what is the world without that? There is line, which is basically direction, where the mood is going, where it came from. And all this is from creation, though observed by the painter, and as with the writer, recorded.

The viewer then reacts, and his/her own buttons get pushed, or not, accordingly. How deep the touch is, is not unlike friends who connect deeply or, in the opposite, mere, short-time acquaintances who are passers-by. If there is real movement, a deep touch, then, as in life, lovers are found.

When my own work is seen, I stand stage left and watch the reaction: “Hmm…,” staring, “Aah,” indifference, maybe ho-hum, a range of emotion perhaps.

And then there is what the individual sees in a painting. One person may notice structure in an abstract, form that goes  beyond its shape, which presents the elements, the parts of something taken apart, never reassembled in original form. That can be existence itself.

An individual can look at a realism piece and see beyond what the painter did or thought he/she did, if the painter gave it thought above intuitive at all. Painting, like writing, for me anyway,  is dipping into a stream of consciousness and taking out the fish you catch. A minute later, it’s different fish or none at all.

It may be with that way when someone looks at your work, say a realistic piece. A while back, I painted my take of a detail of the 1858 cellar door and its lock set at Hopper House in Nyack, N.Y., the birthplace of Edward Hopper, the foremost American realism painter (1882-1967). It sold to a fine, original Nyacker who, with her mother and husband, have long volunteered at what is now a preserved historic house, art center and museum. The connection in the painting was obvious to her, and it was reward enough.

That’s one view. Since I usually photograph and copy paintings onto canvas, I sent one of “Lock at Hopper House” to a fond friend and mentioned its origin.

Her immediate take, she wrote me, was that the wood grain, the lines and the setting reminded her of her childhood home. She has strong  memories of that time, so another connection was made from what one human creates and another relates to. Rewarding, again.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via



July 25, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

With all the sadness in the land over the deliberate targeting and killing of police officers as well as the harming of citizens by law enforcement, I will tell you of two local encounters that perhaps simplify but also articulate the issues today.
Last week, at about 2:30 a.m. in the once small village where I grew up, where my dad did, too, where my family knew many, and they knew us, where in my generation and before, we especially knew the local police since the officers came from among us, and we saw these men every day and every night walking on Main Street; in this village now grown so large and in these times beset with poverty, crime, irresponsible, even gouging landlords and a government seemingly incapable of dealing with matters; in this community at 2:30 a.m the police came knocking at my door.
Not my house, no, but the building where I am a volunteer cook in a free morning breakfast program. The officer at first startled me because I am alone in the old church at that time, and someone has to rap on a basement-style window to draw attention. “Police,” said the officer. “Let me in.”  I went up to the door and opened it. The fellow entered cautiously and said the police like to check on the building from time to time. In fact, the church had recently requested that though I had seen an officer only once in my 15 years at the building at that hour of the morning. But OK. Nice to be looked after.
The officer did not come down the stairs but instead asked me who I was, my birth date, my cell phone number. The fellow was polite and efficient, professional I guess you would call it, a bit more polished than the gruff but friendly neighborhood cop I met so long ago in this same village of my youth — when  I was in seventh grade and was stopped on Main Street because the movie got out late and it was just pass the then 9 p.m. curfew. Gruff but friendly like a family member. That “beat” officer, a now almost disappeared job description, who walked Main Street until midnight and checked every storefront lock by hand, simply told me to keep heading home. A human encounter with no posturing on either side. Mutual respect.
Now I want to contrast the helpful attitudes of the officer of my youth and the fellow who came to the church at 2:30 a.m. last week with a village cop who perhaps should be in another line of work. (And doesn’t that happen in all jobs?)
About a year ago, one of the food program participants telephoned police because he was having words with another guy. The food program did not call — we rarely have such need — and, frankly, there was no dispute that required the police.
But they were called, and so they responded. I went outside when I saw the officer, told him that there was no problem, that a participant had called, not the food program. The officer not only ignored me twice and did not answer but instead deliberately, it seemed, stared straight into my eyes with a look of contempt that I had not seen in years. Then he walked away. It was not professional; it was bizarre.
Why didn’t this officer, who is employed by the citizenry to protect and serve, answer a polite fellow? Worse, did he think, from the way a volunteer cook like me dresses for a few hours at a greasy flattop grill, that I was among the homeless and so, in his view, not deserving respect? How awful.
So, tales of two very different encounters with village police — one where the officers were clearly doing their job, one where the public was disrespected, not served.
If I were the police chief in this village, I would require all officers to walk street beats and interact with this mostly minority community, though it must be added that officers do know the homeless street regulars.
In this village, in communities across the nation, a line has been drawn between the police and the people they must serve. There are suspicions on both sides, suspicions that could — would — end if the police quickly returned to interact with their communities and not disappear from the streets to dark-window patrol SUVs that increasingly look like military vehicles. Why the beat cop went away  is a mystery, but it was the beginning of “us vs. them.” To have had the neighborhood officer in the patrol vehicle and not on the street at a time of rising racial tension in America, when cities were being abandoned, when immigration woes mounted, was a strike against humanity, one that continues. If anything, law enforcement needed — need — to be in the community, to understand people, to be part of the brotherhood of humankind.
The recent targeted killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge were the work of two deranged people who had sophisticated military weapons and killer-instinct training. They may have used the present hyped anti-police atmosphere as rationale, but they were sick people, not the average citizen with legitimate concerns about policing. The shootings were terrible acts toward 99 percent good people doing a dangerous job under difficult conditions.
However, harm, including death, inflicted on citizens by some police, such as in traffic stops, is equally troubling since obvious racial prejudice is involved as well as distrust of individuals and community, not unlike the distrust of the officer who stared this writer down when he was trying to be helpful.
God bless the police, who serve us because we cannot police ourselves. Heaven protect them. They do such good — saving lives, delivering babies, etc. But get out into the community, officers. Leave the SUVs. Walk a beat again. Talk to the black man, the Hispanic, the immigrant, the kid looking for trouble. Talk to everyone, especially those you may feel uneasy about,  and your prejudices will lessen, your work made easier by people who want to show respect but only if earned by politeness and genuinely honest engagement and caring, even heroism like that of the two New York City officers who last week sped off with what they thought was a bomb, to protect the public. Get out among the people and do good service, as did that cop who sent me home after curfew time.
Stop militarizing yourselves, which is not allowed constitutionally anyway since a police force cannot be paramilitary.  Stop being so insular in a brotherhood that you forget your brothers and sisters in the community. Realize you are citizens, too. Realize most people are good, friendly, giving.
Maybe then this wall of mutual suspicion will fall. Maybe then more of us — more police, too — will be safe.

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


July 18, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Just before the pre-suburban explosion of the 1950s in my part of lower New York State, in a fruit orchard area fittingly off Cherry Lane, a young fellow, second grader, had just left a dream world adjacent to his backyard, a former polo field and then still a riding track for stabled horses. The kid would easily pretend it was the Wild West, what with the rustic fences and all, and his cap pistol reaffirmed that in noise. There weren’t many other children about, and a Saturday afternoon had to unwind somehow.

The youngster was almost home when he came upon a bow saw, a sturdy, oddly shaped wooden contraption with a cable at the top to tighten the blade. He picked it up and found an old piece of wood that he set between two rocks. And then, with ease, though the second grader was obviously without teenager strength, he cut the wood.

That one piece of log was followed by another, then others until the boy and his younger brother had enough to build the first of several huts in their lives, with cracks filled by using the winter straw found in the many fields before Progress came to town.

The hut building became a weekend past-time for a while, and it added to the western scene the old polo field afforded. It kept the boys out of the house, out of their mother’s way, forged confidence in their ability to do things on their own, to keep occupied, to take imaginary trips. And it cost nothing.

Once, that young boy’s backyard and the old bow saw were a metaphor for the seemingly endless American frontier, whether that be the West or advances in science, in better living conditions, in improving the way humans treat one another, in growing the Founders’ democracy.

These were just two boys of many thousands, with opportunity that cost little or nothing except sweat and drive and imagination. They made enough mistakes after their “frontier” days, yes, and it was the grace of many and the beyond that truly pushed them forward. But it began in imagination. For many thousands of others, too.

Today, in a confused, lost America, there seems no frontier, and even if one were in sight, the typical college debt of $50,000 is a millstone as the fellow or gal tries to move ahead.

Perhaps the nation needs some old-fashioned bow saws and weekends in which the young can dream and have a real chance that the dream will be realized. Time for our youth now seems overbooked or stolen by the negativity of rundown neighborhoods, and the bow saws cost too much, the old factories having closed and the saws made by huge, profitable conglomerates on other shores.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at



July 11, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Equal time for Hillary in an unequal presidential race, in a time of sad national inequality.

The last mildly satirical column suggested The Donald doesn’t want the presidency, that he never thought his sales job would connect, that he’ll give up the nation’s highest office after a round of golf at Trump White House. He sealed the deal, and that was what counted.

This week the satire, however grave the national moment, is aimed at Hillary Clinton, who does want to sit again in the Oval Office, with Bill bringing the morning java.

I met Hillary once, in 2000 at a Journal News combined Editorial Board session when she was running for the U.S. Senate from New York though a native Chicagoan.

We each asked questions of Hillary, and mine was where she saw herself in 20 years — would she be a respected, revered figure, a career senator who could make things happen for the public good? It was a naive query, immediately realized, for the soon-to-be senator-elect quickly and forcefully answered that she would be influential but gave no term of service.

The Senate and long service to the country in that body were not her end goal. Indeed, Hillary resigned in January 2009 to become Obama’s secretary of state, having lost her own first try for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Now there is no sin in wanting to be president and in crafting a long-term bid, but there has to be a candidate platform, too, one that is not, in these times especially, jingoistic, same-old and not tied to Wall Street or other big money no matter how much you protest that it is not. Seeking the highest office is not enough. A true plan of action to restore hope in America is a must. That means solid jobs, guaranteed educational equality, including college tuition, sensible immigration, ending frightening, utter racism and assuring freedom from want, from fear, freedom of speech and religion. There has to be a second revolution, really, a return trip to the Founders’ ideals, which have been taking so long to implement, inch by inch, but which now so dangerously have been forgotten in a rising sea of ignorance, prejudice, hate and deliberate falsehood. There are those who manipulate the people, who try to hijack national policy by lies, falsehood.

Donald Trump is not the person to unite us, to stop shootings, to celebrate the possibilities of America. He may not have wanted the job, but if he gets it, he may forge ahead as a bull running over the pages of our Constitution. And while Hillary is focused on getting back the White House keys, she has so far offered no creative, forceful, dynamic agenda that would approach the greatness of America. Yet she is not the fuzzy brain of her presumed opponent. A clear though unwelcome choice awaits America.

The presidency is the seat held by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt in grave and challenging times, and it cannot go to a fellow who wants to close the deal more than guide the world’s most influential nation. But there is failure, too, in granting what is now a king’s lifestyle to someone who may simply want the White House keys back and who may obfuscate to win.

November 2016 could bring the most important vote ever in this still-emerging democratic experiment. Do we pick a man who so far spouts racist and scary, non-sensical slogans and offers shallow understanding about how the system works, who may leave reasoning and conclusions to un-elected  others before he signs off on a deal? Or do  we choose a woman who may basically want a sandwich made at 2 a.m. by the White House kitchen? Where is either candidate’s assured and fully detailed investment in the presidency, that vaulted office we came to revere through our social studies classes and via actual leaders who set forward agendas? Whom are we voting for?

I do not know if we Americans have ever been informed enough or savvy enough to choose a president based on both revealed and perceived character, but we must finally try to do that. The democracy depends on it. The world does. Your children do.

Today’s entrenched government, with its long-seated “leaders” puppeted by big money, has let the jobs disappear, the middle class decline and added massive military and other debt. It threatens our grandchildren with 1900s living standards. It offers nothing sensible on immigration policy in a nation built by immigrants. It will not quiet horrible racism and prejudice. The times utterly require a shake-up akin to peaceful revolution.

The same common-man despair and fear, manipulated in ignorance, led to Brexit. It must not become Amerexit, for the only way to better the world is to spread the wealth, to share opportunity,  but absolutely not by going backward in once forward-looking countries, not by neglecting anyone, not the former factory worker, not those welcomed by the Lady in the Harbor. That betterment could come — in America, in Britain, in the Third World and in nations where terrorism thrives on a loss of hope — but only IF greed shares the money.  It will take a U.S. president and other national and world leaders of caliber not seen in decades to do that. This does not seem to be this election.

Maybe the run-up to November will give us a clue. Maybe. You cannot just want to close a deal. And you cannot just wish to sit behind the Rutherford B. Hayes Oval Office desk (interestingly Queen Victoria’s gift from pre-European Union Great Britain).

In 2016, there has to be a plan to save the nation and in that the world.  We have not seen that plan. Someone, some day will be  — we hope — our “real” president, an individual who finally understands what has been developing in America since 1776.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.



July 4, 2016, weekend

By Arthur H. Gunther

So, “The Donald” won the presidency, and now we all wear red baseball-style caps with  the imperial slogan (“Let’s Make America Great Again”), purchased exclusively through the Trump Store.

Seriously, if the former TV reality star, casino operator,  office space builder and bankruptcy court attendee wanted to sell hats, to “make the deal,” to get his Trump moniker out there once again, any number of us ordinary folk would have lent him the start-up cash. No need to fly to all those places, play golf in Scotland and invent new catch phrases that stir emotions, not brain cells. Trump could have stayed in his gold Manhattan Tower and raked in the moola and spotlight. Done deal.

That probably was his initial intention, but events carried him away. People, enough of them anyway, liked his red hats and the slogan. It fit on the cap, didn’t have too many words to pronounce and no big ones, just right for the times. And who would object to the saying? Americans naturally believe ‘America is Great,’ so adding “Again” is like the second orgasm. “Hoo-rah!” America underlined. Senses satisfied, no need to explain, to question, to prove the validity of the statement.  Feel good.

The Donald then began selling so many red hats that he had to make sure they were made in the USA, not in Mexico, perhaps by Mexicans who hopped over the border, yes, but the label read “USA,” so no mention of Mexican complicity. He even had to wear a red cap every day, though it mussed his swept-to-the-right hair comb.

Things simply got out of hand. The people, his people anyway, wanted more slogans, maybe for wall plaques or bumper stickers. Or dare we say, tattoos? Trump had them ready. He even proclaimed one in Belgium. “Belgium is a Beautiful Place,” he said. Um, yeah. Sure is. Who can argue? Not much to think about there.

Somehow, The Donald offered enough slogans to win the presidency, and the people in red hats were pleased. The first Cabinet meeting began with a common chant, red hats removed in reverence: “Make America Great Again.” Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, now Minister of the Red Hats, was tasked to come up with the next emotionally satisfying but blank-headed slogan. The masses need that, to keep from thinking. Even non-thinkers understand the mojo.

The Donald, in red hat hitting golf balls on the green at Trump White House a few days after the inauguration but utterly bored with the job, which he never wanted, was heard to offer a non-slogan thought: “Did I have to sell all these caps? I could have avoided this real work and still made the deal. I never needed the presidency to do it.

“Eureeka!” the sloganeer extraordinaire  exclaimed. “I  have it! In 10 days I will proclaim that all hats will be brown, carrying the quote ‘America IS Great Again.’ I will close the deal. Then I will resign and go home to my Tower. Hey, Chris, clear the George Washington Bridge!”

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at