Sunday, March 29, 2015

A COLLEAGUE, A TIME

  By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@yahoo.com
     If you combined a well-composed, British statesman-like fellow, complete with ever-present smoking pipe, and a fan who could give "da" loudest Bronx cheer at a New York Rangers hockey game, that would be Dick Yerg, the late newspaper sports editor.
     Dick and I began our days at The Journal-News in Nyack, N.Y., in the earlier 1960s. I was a young photographer and he was the newly named Rockland sports chief after Joe Dineen was drafted. We worked together on many assignments, with Dick always in the field with both notebook and pipe. As a Nyack/Rockland native, he knew everyone in local sports. His father owned the village Buick dealership, and that showroom introduced Dick to even more people. Having such connections quickly paid off, with the new sports editor obtaining exclusives and adding much color to his well-written stories.
     In those 1960's and early 1970's days, The Journal-News Sports Department was a raucous group, not beyond throwing volleyballs across the room and cheering as the radio shouted out yet another baseball or football game. Dick was the mother hen in all this, letting the kiddies play but fully expecting top work. As such, he was a beloved boss, almost unflappable, very professional.
    Back when newspapers were in every home, sometimes several papers, morning and afternoon editions, the local sheet earned its bread and butter in its sports reporting. Little League games, high school football, every sport for boys and girls, in every school, in every town and community, that was news. Countless scrapbooks have been filled over the decades because of local newspaper sports departments, and Dick Yerg was among those editors directing scribes and photogs in the gathering of memories.
     Newspaper writing is often at its most colorful and descriptive in sports, because the full range of emotions is played out: victory, defeat, cheers, joy, tears, sportsmanship, the buddy system, even cheating when the sport goes dark. When Dick was in charge in Nyack, and later at the sister newspapers in Westchester, this sort of “color” writing was routine, expected. What a productive moment for both reporters and readers. Now so much less in the growing disappearance of newspapers and any writing longer than a Tweet.
    Though Dick retired and moved to Florida after decades in newspapering and in Nyack, he never forgot local sports and his hometown village, often posting on Facebook commentary about Nyack, Rockland, and, of course, his favorite team, the New York Rangers.
     Dick Yerg: A true class act.
     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A LIFE'S JOURNEY (CONTINUING)

By Arthur H. Gunther III
    There is, of course, a cycle to life — a beginning, an end and if the gods are with you, much in between. The beginning begets most of that fill-in-the-blanks, with so many tangents formed, much like the branches of a well-rooted tree. And the apples do not fall far from the tree.
     In a wink of an eye, it seems, my father, who is one of the roots of my tree, has aged, sent off to hospital with the ailments of his moment, soon to a try at rehab and then we will see. A man in his 90s, driving up to a week ago, living alone long after my mother passed, independent, cleaning his home, cooking, washing, never a complainer. An hour at OTB, the local news on TV or in the paper, short visits from his sons and my own son — that made him happy enough. Not a hermit, not a recluse, but a man of solitude, of quiet. 
    Then came “sudden” medical complaints — blood thinner overload, dehydration, an infection. And the worst ailment of all: utter helplessness when you cannot walk. You cannot stand. When you fall and it takes two hours to drag yourself to a phone just across the room and call someone, and that person, once so fearful of his father’s authoritative voice, hears instead a child-like plea. 
     You get to his home, only four miles away, but it seems to take an hour, and you find your dad wedged behind a chair. He is not hurt — doesn’t yet need medical help, doesn’t want anyone to come anyway — the independence, self-reliance still at work — so you try to get him to bed. But he is dead weight, this father once of strength, and you no longer can  lift dead weight. You drag him by the shoulders of his sweatshirt down the hall to his bed, both of you laughing at the absurdity of it all. You have not been this close physically to your father since the two of you, with your brother thrown in, wrestled in the first grade.
     Once at bedside, thankfully a low one, you manage to get a leg up and to cantilever your father onto the mattress. He is pleased enough and falls asleep. But the next day, you both realize an ambulance is a must, a hospital stay inevitable. You tell 911 it is not a dire emergency, and the Orangetown police, South Orangetown Ambulance Corps and the paramedics  are superb — understanding, so professional.
     Later that day, after your dad is settled in the emergency room and is awaiting admission, and you can do nothing for a time, you leave to do your Thursday duty, to walk two grandchildren home from the Upper Nyack Elementary School. Sam and Beatrice sing and skip, and even when you tell them that you had to take great-gramps to the doctor, that does not sink in, as innocent as their time can be and ought to be.
     You go to their house, in a beautiful old Hudson River village where so very long ago their great-grandfather at similar age walked with his dad, and you find yourself sitting in a rocking chair, the same one your father’s father bought his wife Maud so that she could comfort infant Arthur Henry Gunther Jr., my dad.
     In one day, my elderly father’s roots come full cycle, and though time is now very limited for him, and by relation and relativity for me as well, the laughter, the silliness of my dad’s great-grandchildren playing as I sat in that family chair reaffirmed that the tree continues to grow from its roots, as in the beginning, the end, as in new seasons, as in fresh apples falling not far from the tree.
Arthur H. Gunther II is a retired newspaper editor who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com

Sunday, March 8, 2015

'SEA LEGS 'IN THE SNOW



By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Ride a bicycle and you never forget. Years, decades later, and you hop on as if you were still the eight year old though your  joints may creak more than the bicycle chain. Not that much different when you have the coldest/snowiest February in Northeast America since 1934. You get in the swing again.
       Most of us weren’t around in 1934, and even if we were, it may not have been in the Northeast, but there have been enough snowy times in most lives that while recent winters have not been so harsh in my area, at least, we can recall when snow was piled high, icicles overhung our house gutters and we could not get warm enough though we might carry 15 pounds of layered clothing.
     Of course, we all exaggerate, so it is common to hear many of us say, “When I was young, the storms were relentless. …” It’s as if there was a Blizzard of 1888 in each existence, though the individual may have been born in 1988. Or we say, “This is an old-fashioned winter” when all we ever saw of that was a Hallmark card, complete with sleigh, a Victorian home up a drive and an ice pond filled with skaters. Perhaps we all want to feel nostalgic even when we may well be tired of the snow. It surely is true that the first snow of the season brings the greatest childlike excitement, but like young love, the effect can be wearing if it continues too long.
     For me this winter has been about the survival instinct. So back to the bicycle analogy. When the first flakes fell in February, and the road had ice beneath the snow, I drove 9-20 mph on a six-mile trip at 2 a.m., with few others on the road. If I had been 16, I probably would have hit 30-40 and tried to fishtail my car. If I were 40 with kids in the car, I would have been cautious, but confident, perhaps traveling 25 mph. But as a senior and not having driven in heavy snow all that often in the past few years, I could not immediately find my sea legs. I was on the bicycle but didn’t get balanced.
     That ended quickly, right on the return trip that icy morning, when confidence returned and the “feel” of the snow road came through the tires to the brakes and to my foot. I was again at 20-25 mph, with assurance. Now, five or so storms later, I am an old hand, as if all our winters were like 2015. It’s even fun to drive a bit in the snow.
     While the false bravado of youth has not returned, recognition of experience and application of commonsense sure do truss you up and make you feel as of you can tackle the winter beast.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who is reachable at ahgunther@yahoo.com This essay may be reproduced. 
    

Sunday, March 1, 2015

CLASSROOM PSYCHOLOGY

By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@yahoo.com

     A photo of a dress from a London shop, blue and black, made its viral way around the Internet last week because some people saw it as white and gold, or hues that approached blue, gold, etc. It all has to do with how your eye accepts light exposure. No big deal, except that it was yet another of those games that you spot more and more on social media sites, some meant to test your inner psychology. (As in “What car are you like? Take the test!”) Heck, there was one good way back in anyone’s school days that is just as psychologically true today, just as relevant in a light-enough, non-earth-shattering way.
   Take the test.
     Where did you sit in class? Always near the windows? Close to the door? The third row? In the middle of any row? The last seat way in the back?
     When I was in college, this time on a renewed try while working for a living, I didn’t have many moments to spare since the combined hours of traveling, sitting in class, being a newspaper photog, helping run a household, etc., kept things tight. So, it was easier to choose the same seat in every class, if I could. I’d get to the first day of class early and hit the window row half-way back. Much easier to find my place in any class in a rush. It worked for most of my courses.
     In high school, often the seat you took on the first day was the one you had for the term, the teacher making up a seating chart, which might be amended if you talked to your neighbor. Somehow, the same people were always in the front row, the back one, the window side, the seat under the wall clock, the middle row, middle seat. I bet if high school reunions — elementary ones for that matter — were held in the old classrooms, some of us would gravitate to our old spots, no matter how many years have passed since we day-dreamed like me or sat up straight, hands folded on desk.
     Just like the social media site psychology tests (“What color are you?”) seem to be on the mark, so, too, would your chosen seat (or the assigned one, if the teacher intervened) reveal YOU. Day-dreamer near the window? Tired fellow with pre-school-hours job in the back row? Or the one who didn’t want to be noticed? The person in the middle row, middle seat, who liked to be kept secure, surrounded by classmates? The two friends near the back, against the wall, who could talk without being noticed?
     What seats are best for passing notes, flirting, getting out of class fast?
     And who disliked it when the teacher had us push the desks to the side and form a circle of chairs. Did you feel vulnerable? Did you raise your hand to be noticed? Could the day-dreamer do his (her) thing in a circle? At least rows of seats added to individuality, or joining the crowd, or sharing friendship with one or two or three other students in nearby seats.
    Finally, what about the teacher? Did he (she) have a favorite row to glance at, others to stare at, still others to ignore a bit?

     Like I said, Psychology 101.

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