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Ralph Gardner Jr.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Earl Show

Sep 12, 2020
Linda Mussmann, founder of Time & Space Limited with her portrait by Earl Swanigan
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

I didn’t know Earl Swanigan. Apparently, I’m one of the few people who frequents Hudson, NY who didn’t. Earl, an artist and local presence who died last year, is the subject of a major retrospective that runs through the end of October at Time and Space Limited, an arts organization in Hudson. He’d probably be described as an outsider or naïve artist, one who’s self-taught.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Back To The Museum

Sep 11, 2020
The recently reopened Impressionist wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

I was able to answer one question Thursday afternoon that I’ve been asking myself for years: why do I get giddy visiting museums filled with art, whether those I’ve visited a dozen times before or for the first time? Because when you think about it most of them are populated with works by the same painters, from Old Masters to modern artists that you’ve seen a thousand times before?

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Mask Makers Of Columbia County

Aug 29, 2020
Mighty Masketeers of Columbia County members Carol Frederick, left, Deena Pewtherer, center, and Dan Barufaldi
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

If the pandemic has taught us anything at all it’s this: it’s really hard to look good in a mask. Doesn’t matter how attractive you are, if half your face is obscured behind fabric, you’re probably not improving your appearance.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Art Of Heroism

Aug 22, 2020
Author Justus Rosenberg
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

House calls may not be the wisest move in the middle of a pandemic, especially when your host is ninety-nine years old. But I wasn’t content to meet Justus Rosenberg – that’s not Justice as in Sonia Sotomayor or John Roberts but J…U…S…T…U...S – on Zoom or some similar video chat service. Especially while I was in the throes of his memoir, “The Art of Resistance; My Four Years in the French Underground.” It’s published by William Morrow.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Saving Family History From The Dumpster

Aug 8, 2020
Photo contributed by Ralph Gardner Jr.

What’s our responsibility to our elders once they’re gone? That’s something I’ve been wrestling with over the last few months. It has nothing to do with the pandemic, at least not directly; even though mortality can’t help but focus the imagination. However, my mother passed away in 2019, my father fourteen years before that. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: John Homans

Aug 1, 2020
John Homans
Marilynne Herbert

Writers sometimes become famous; their editors rarely do. The reasons are obvious. It’s the writer’s name or byline on the book or magazine article or newspaper story. It’s generally their words, but not always. Also, it’s fairly easy to understand what writers do since we all write in one form or another.

Ralph Gardner Jr: It's Corn Season!

Jul 25, 2020
field of corn, ready for harvest
United Soybean Board / Wikimedia Commons

There’s a lot of grim news out there. But here’s some good news. Some very good news: it’s corn season again.

Ralph Gardner Jr : What's That Plant?

Jul 18, 2020
Bull thistle plant
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Imagine if there was a way to make yourself more intelligent. A pill you could take without side effects – except, perhaps, to make you insufferable – or a breakfast drink after whose consumption you’d actually know what you were talking about.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Lost Sports Of Summer

Jul 11, 2020
Final of the ladies' lawn tennis single tournament at the 1908 Summer Olympics, at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon. Dorothea Douglass vs. Dora Boothby.
Illustration in the "Fourth Olympiad 1908 London Official Report" published by the British Olympic Association in 1909 / Public Domain - Wikimedia Commons

A year ago today, or yesterday or tomorrow I’d be doing what I always did on a beautiful summer day during the first couple of weeks of July. I’d be indoors, glued to the TV – with occasional fresh air breaks – watching Wimbledon.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Watching The Seasons Go By

Jul 4, 2020

Before this March the longest uninterrupted stretch of time I spent at our home in Columbia County – dating back to childhood when my grandparents owned the place – was a week or two at a time.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Let's Hear It For Customer Support

Jun 27, 2020
A Ring security system selfie
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Placing an online order, or calling for technical support only to be asked to fill out a customer satisfaction survey seconds later can be annoying. What am I saying? Typically these days you’re asked whether you’d be willing to take their survey even before they connect you to a representative.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Pandemic Birthday Party

Jun 20, 2020
A socially distanced birthday party.
Lucy Gardner

I’ve always believed in celebrating one’s birthday. The basic reason is that life gives us ample opportunity to be sad and disappointed so why not seize any excuse to have a party?

Ralph Gardner Jr: Reusable Community Activism

Jun 13, 2020
Tom Plumb at Middlebury College in the 1970’s
Tom Plumb

My wife and I have the same disagreement around this time every year. She wants to buy a case of bottled water for guests. I say our tap water is great and, besides, plastic bottles, even if they’re recyclable aren’t good for the environment.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Graduation For The Ages

Jun 6, 2020
A Zoom college reunion
Ralph Gardner Jr

My college reunion’s this weekend. Or it would have been this weekend if a pandemic hadn’t interceded. I won’t say which reunion it is on the grounds that I’ll be deluged with offers for walk-in bathtubs and medical alert devices. Suffice it to say I don’t feel a day over fifty, except for my lower back.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Call In The Experts

May 30, 2020
Julie Cerny, author of the Little Gardener
Ralph Gardner Jr,

Ours is not a victory garden unless your idea of victory is just enough lettuce to eke out a salad, grape tomatoes sufficient to garnish cocktail hour, or the random sprig of rosemary to add some interest to roast chicken or lamb.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Taking A Pond's Temperature

May 23, 2020
Ralph's new pool thermometer
Ralph Gardner Jr,

During a pandemic you have to take your pleasure where you can. So I was probably more excited than I should or would have been in a normal world as I anticipated the arrival of a swimming pool thermometer that I’d purchased over the Internet.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Some Of My Favorite NYC Things

May 16, 2020
Central Park, May 2019
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Cities in general and New York City in particular are facing an existential crisis, if they’re not completely doomed. That’s what some of the news, opinion and navel gazing I’ve been reading lately would have us believe. The approximate cause is that once people realize they can work from home, in their slippers, they’ll be loath to return to the office. The reasons people have congregated in New York for the last four hundred years and the services that followed to feed, house and entertain them will become superfluous.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Columbia County's Family Meal

May 9, 2020
Chefs Jaime Parry (left) and Jon Carr
Carole Clark

One of the most compelling but I suspect overlooked reasons that people enter the cooking profession and the restaurant world is because they’re drawn to doing things for other people; to give their guests an experience that might bring a little joy to their lives.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Doing Well Making Due

May 2, 2020

Some important instructions to follow to ease the pain of the current moment. The first, obviously, is to stay home if your life and work allows, so that you reduce your risk of exposing yourself or others to the virus. Another is to support your favorite local merchants so their businesses don’t go under.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Into The Woods

Apr 25, 2020
The woods
Ralph Gardner Jr

It’s taken a pandemic and its attendant isolation to make a lot of us realize that we’re social animals. I’m not suggesting that this comes as a shock. Only that most of us consider ourselves independent thinkers and actors, some of us even loners, rather than happy members of a herd.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Koreatown On My Mind

Apr 18, 2020
Korean dishes on display in Koreatown of Manhattan, New York City
Alexisrael / Wikimedia Commons

It took me a full month upstate before I started to feel homesick for New York City. It happened when I searched the Internet for a recipe for tofu dressing. Don’t get me wrong. Given the choice between a strip steak and a hunk of tofu, no matter how artfully garnished, I’ll take the steak every time.

Ralph Gardner Jr: An Adequate Matzo Ball

Apr 11, 2020
Virtual family Seder at the Gardner house
Ralph Gardner Jr

The current crisis has caused all of us to improvise in ways both great and small.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Lots Of Time For Chores

Apr 4, 2020
A selection of Gardner family memorabilia to be filed
Ralph Gardner Jr

I’m reluctant to describe the coronavirus as having a silver lining. But I am finding time to get chores done that I doubted I’d accomplish in this or several subsequent lifetimes. They present such a plethora of opportunities that I’m not sure where one starts; perhaps by listing them. I’m thinking of them as indoor and outdoor – those that can be accomplished when it’s bright and sunny and those that can wait until rain or cold drive you inside your home.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Cocktails In The Age Of Coronavirus

Mar 28, 2020
Cocktail hour at the Gardner house
Ralph Gardner Jr

We’ve held four cocktail parties this week and counting. Don’t panic. These aren’t in-person events. They’ve been conducted from the safety of our living room over the Zoom video-conferencing app.

Ralph Gardner Jr: One Quick Visit

Mar 21, 2020
A potted plant
Ralph Gardner Jr.

I paid a quick visit to New York City this week to pick up the mail, clothes and some prescriptions. And when I say quick I mean quick. Fifteen minutes from the time we rolled up to our apartment, collected the things we needed, and headed back upstate.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Stockpiling In Style

Mar 14, 2020

I’m not sure what it says about my priorities – but I hope something pleasant – that two of my first purchases, addressing the current crisis, were birdseed and alcohol; while I suppose the alcohol could double as a disinfectant that’s not its intended purpose.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Missing Maria Sharapova

Mar 9, 2020
Maria Sharapova, during the semi final game with Alisa Klaybanova, Toronto, Canada, 2009
WIkimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

My sadness, though modest, came as a surprise when I learned last week that Maria Sharapova was retiring from tennis. My reaction surprised me because I never much liked Sharapova as a player or a personality.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Bring Your Own Bag

Feb 29, 2020
Plastic shopping bags caught in trees along Central Avenue in Albany, New York.
Dave Lucas / WAMC

Dealing with guilt can be a long drawn out affair, occasionally requiring professional assistance. So when government steps in to help address the issue you’ve got to give them credit. The guilt I’m referring to is using flimsy single-use plastic bags, the kind that end up in trees and whale bellies and are used over 23 billion, yes billion, times a year in New York State alone.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Take A Tree To Lunch

Feb 22, 2020
Tree on Central Avenue in Albany, NY
Jackie Orchard / WAMC

Maybe it’s because of the book I’m reading at the moment – The Overstory by Richard Powers – as well as the current transgressions against life in general and nature in particular but when I saw a bunch of mature trees slayed to make way for new, bigger power lines near our home in Columbia County it hit me hard.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The News From Over The Rainbow

Feb 15, 2020
Lucy Gardner
Ralph Gardner Jr

For a news junkie, I picked one heck of a week to go away. Trump got acquitted. The coronavirus, since named COVID-19, continued to spread. The Iowa caucuses imploded, with no clear winner emerging from the dust and debris. If I were one of the leading candidates I’d be upset, too. So much for the importance of a good ground game.