January 30, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III
Couches are for more than potatoes, of course, though in my working years it seemed I never tarried long enough on one
before falling asleep. These days a comfy sofa — davenport, chesterfield, divan by other names — near a fireplace on a coldish night, with something to read or to watch or even an iPad with which to fiddle is something of a treat. Kinda makes a nice ending of the day. A little red wine doesn’t hurt.
In other of life’s seasons, junior and sis might have been expected to sit on the aunt’s couch with hands folded and lips sealed as the adults chatted away. An ordeal perhaps worsened by those torturous plastic seat covers once so in vogue. A hot day might have you sticking closer than Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy, with the same suction release when you got up.
We had a sleeper sofa when I was a kid, because, until the family bought a house, we rented in four places, and usually there was just one bedroom. So, after TV, the cushions would come off the sleeper, the unit folded out and a bed made for my parents. Worked OK except when you got your fingers stuck in the folding mechanism.
In the short span of the teen, young adult years, your girlfriend, if you had one, might invite you over. You might be planted on the living room sofa with her closely seated to your right. Heart racing, you stole kisses in between her mom coming in from the kitchen.
The married, child-raising season might have found you horsing around with wee monsters who grew up so quickly. Their toys were always under the couch, and your age showed as the joints began to creak, looking for something.
Now, with time on my hands, the family dispersed, the old divan offers a memory station where thoughts of this or that, on sofa or not, can play out in day-dreaming. Or night.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


January 22, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I  do not know at which point you realize there is less road in front of you than behind, but for me it came on the supermarket line just the other day. I was the only Caucasian in a four-person queue, and I suddenly thought that if I do make it upstairs, and the jury may well deliberate on that, probably I will be a minority on the bus. And since there is no priority seating in the after life, whatever prejudices I may still carry, whatever relative wealth I may possess, whatever position I may have attained get me nowhere. But if you are on the bus, you are on the bus.
In that short moment on the “express line” at the supermarket, which it isn’t and that tests my great, annoying impatience, I understood the folly of earth, that possessions, status, money, awards are so very temporal. Now the man who was in front of me may be rich though a recognized minority. The lady behind me, also a minority, may be as close to a saint as this mortal coil allows. We may all be on the bus together, or some like us, and we all have to go through the checkpoint.
While whites still comprise the largest percentage of the world’s population, about 19 to 26 percent, according to various estimates, and about 75 percent in the United States if you include Hispanic whites, both percentages are declining. (The U.S. is expected to have minority whites by about 2050, if you accept some estimates.)
I do not know the percentages in Heaven. Maybe God is a black, Jewish woman, and we are all her little, happy babies. Perhaps we keep coming back to earth to live various existences in different eras, as males, females, transgender, as black, white, Asian, whatever. As rich, poor, good people, not so good. As religious this or not. And then when we get back upstairs, a bit more perfected, perhaps we continue those lives and all those relationships, spouses, lovers, friends included, all at once, however we chose to be in the moment. If it’s Heaven, it’s possible.
Now all this passed through the mind of an impatient man called me, on a supermarket line where I was the only white. Made me realize there is no superiority on earth and certainly not in Heaven. If only we fools, political and otherwise, understood that down here.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via

Modern-day Königssee


January 16, 2016


By Arthur H. Gunther III

The first photograph above this column is a 2016 shot I took of the Austrian Alps from the Königssee, Germany’s third deepest lake and with water so clear that only electric boats are allowed. What we saw was beautiful, with snow still in the mountains in summer. Uber-peaceful. The next photo is also set at the Königssee, but instead of beauty and tourist delight, we see malevolence — Adolf Hitler, visiting from his nearby Wolf’s Lair at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. How quickly the quiet can leave us.
The saying is that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but the hope is society has enough memory that there will be no new Hitlers and that the would-be ones and the nearly there types are extinguished.
The difficulty arises in recognizing who is who, for evil can come masked as promise — promise of better living for the masses. Yet if the “masses” are then defined narrowly, in prejudice, as neighbor is pitted against neighbor, soon you have walls of fear, distrust, hatred as privilege takes hold.
Then no Königssee, no beautiful lake or national park or national monument would ever be tranquil and inviting. You cannot enjoy the scenery if you must constantly look over your shoulder.
America, like Germany today, is God-given awesome, with saints and sinners but largely with the majority of ordinary good people in between. Germany was not beautiful during the Third Reich, and America has been horribly ugly in its moments — Native American resettlement, lynchings, the Civil War, Japanese-American resettlement, the near-depression of 2008 caused by some greedy banks and some Wall Street interests.
Now it is 2017, and we must know our history, here in America, out in the world. We must be vigilant even as promises of gold for all are made. The greatest promise is, as ever, to end injustice, be that economic, social, ethnic, religious, lack of opportunity.
So the dilemma in 2017: false promise or actual? Who will ply the boats on our own American Königssees? The people or the devil’s handyman?

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via




January 9, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — One of the givens of a Hudson River village like this is that in snow it is particularly beautiful, especially with lights on the water. But, as with all delights, karma makes you pay. I did so this weekend, gladly.
We had a five- or so inch snowfall, light enough to cover faults as meteorological makeup, but also so sticky that it took extra well to sidewalks and steps. Since one of the tasks assigned me in retirement is to shovel the walks and steps at the Edward Hopper House Art Center at 82 North Broadway, I showed up at my own appointed time (a true post-career benefit) and did the job.
Not as good as my grandfather required on his corner sidewalks at Ternure and Summit in Spring Valley, but safe enough for the many walkers who also add to Nyack’s downtown character.
With the work finished, and leaning on my shovel, it was easy to become the fellow stage left who observes the play not from the audience but from a special perspective behind the curtain. In other words, I was invisible, hidden from the street action, back next to an 1858 porch where the artist Edward and his friends and so many since probably have hidden in hide and seek, perhaps to observe the daily parade, as I was doing.
A woman with a dog walked by, then a fellow with a dog, then a teen with a dog. There may be a dog for each household in this village, and isn’t that part of a downtown, too?
Kids were already beginning to use their sleds, and how many —  so many thousands of times — has that happened in a community that has super hills leading to the river?
There were runners, too, actually only one that I saw, and this fellow relishes jogging along in the snow. My son Arthur IV was not surprised to run into me, since I am aways in this special Nyack, and he knew I would be at stage left, observing.
All this happened on a snow-after morning, January 8, 2017, about 8 a.m. A delight to notice once again in a village in America.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be emailed at



January 2, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

“The Front Page,” a reverent bow to the once more-irreverent news profession, written by Nyackers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and recently revived on Broadway, could have been staged in the 1930s-1970s city room of the original Rockland Journal-News just blocks away from Hecht and MacArthur in this Hudson River, N.Y., village.
Irreverence was key in that newsroom. Few reporters took big-deal politicos at their word without questioning. Public relations types didn’t last. Scribes went after small-town news, which is just like big-town — same misfeasance, malfeasance, graft, crime, along with the good news of humanity.
The best newspaper people I knew in my 42 years on the job were oddball characters, largely in cheap dress, smoking all the time, drinking too much, scribbling notes on unpaid parking tickets, constantly asking questions. Then, when they got back to the office or called into rewrite, crusty editors (but always brothers in ink) would ask questions of them. Nobody trusted anyone until the presses rolled with the daily birth.
And it was all done under the big city room clock that had its sweep hand in double time as the inevitable deadline loomed.
My paper was no big city daily. In the earlier days, about 10 reporters, four photographers, four desk people, a sports staff, features desk, too, and a city editor, managing editor and executive editor who wrote opinion and who made sure the people’s voice got in as well.
There were always green kids on staff, some of whom really blossomed and then went on to the big dailies. Some long-serving reporters, editors and others were so rich with local experience that their effort was as good as on any big-city sheet, even better.
Hecht and MacArthur, two former Chicago scribes, wrote about big-city reporters in The Front Page,” but the newspaper tribe offered its own well-tested stiffs on shift at 53 Hudson Avenue, too. I don’t know if, when old Charlie bid Helen Hayes, his actress wife, a good night and took a long drink at the St. George bar, whether he came across the street to the Journal-News, but if he did, the city room would be more than familiar.
Today, with far fewer newspaper readers, loss of the cash cow that is classified advertising, media downsizing and the meddling invasion of corporate businessmen into the workings of the newsroom, it’s difficult to get the job done. There seems little tolerance for irreverence and utterly no front-office understanding of its necessity. The best news-gathering comes when you leave the irreverent ones to do the reverent work of asking the who, what, why, where, when, how.

Know well, readers, that newspapermen and newspaperwomen are born to the trade, that poor pay, downsizing, corporate snafu, reader loss and their indifference and the wounds from the many arrows shot at the messenger will not kill the driven spirit.

So, hail and hearty to the few who are left to report, to comment, to shield democracy. Perhaps if the nation had had more of them and if they had been left to their jobs, accomplished in the old-fashioned sniffing way, we might have had good, not bad, reporting in the presidential campaign. All too few asked the who, what, why, where, when, how.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via