Ralph Gardner Jr. | WAMC

Ralph Gardner Jr.

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.

Ralph Gardner Jr: And A Very Happy Chinese New Year

Feb 1, 2020
Carrie Chen
Ralph Gardner Jr

My concerns about the Chinese New Year had nothing to do with the coronavirus. My fear was that nobody would invite me to celebrate the holiday.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A TV Timeout

Jan 25, 2020
Old Phillips television photographed at the museum Terug in de Tijd, Horn, The Netherlands.
Alf van Beem / Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

I couldn’t pick a worse time to take a vacation. I’m speaking only in terms of all the great TV I’m probably going to miss. The Super Bowl. The Iowa caucuses. The Oscars. The Trump Impeachment trial. And I’ll be gone for only a week.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Professional Organizer To The Rescue

Jan 18, 2020
Professional organizer Robyn Stein
Ralph Gardner Jr

Our basement is large. How large I can’t say because I never measured it. But there are two sections that we refer to as the new basement and the old basement. The new basement, fluorescently lighted, came with the addition to the house in the early 1980’s. The old, dank, dim hand dug basement dates to the mid-19th Century.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Einstein In The Adirondacks

Jan 11, 2020
Taff and Jack Fitterer
Ralph Gardner Jr

My wife proposed calling it a staycation. But that wasn’t strictly accurate because we traveled a couple of hours north – even longer if you include the wrong turn we took, or rather the right turn we didn’t take – and the trip included an overnight. 

Ralph Gardner Jr: Things Change

Jan 4, 2020
A Christmas Carol, Christmas dinner at the Cratchits', published by Harper's Magazine
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes your kids get married and move away. Sometimes they move away and then get married. Occasionally they move away and don’t get married. Or they get married and stay put.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Thanks A Latke

Dec 28, 2019
Sylvia Center participants at the 11th Annual Latke Festival.
Sylvia Center

How often must you do something for it to qualify as a family tradition? Obviously, once isn’t enough because you don’t know if you’ll ever do it again.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Scents And Sensibility

Dec 21, 2019
Carolyn Mix (left) and Darcy Doniger of 2 Note in Hudson,NY
Ralph Gardner Jr.

I was walking through Greenwich Village – after scoring stocking stuffers at Myers of Keswick, a store that specializes in British treats -- when I observed what seemed like contradictory trends. On the one hand, there were lots of empty storefronts; the forces at work said to be landlords asking exorbitant rents as well as the demise of brick and mortar stores as more and more shopping moves online.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Time For The Tree

Dec 14, 2019
The 2019 Gardner Christmas tree
Ralph Gardner Jr.

We have this road trip game we play in our family that I like to think we invented – actually my wife invented it – but lots of other families probably play it, too.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Perfect Storm

Dec 7, 2019
Lucy Gardner and Malcom St Clair stacking wood.
Ralph Gardner Jr.

One tries not to repeat oneself. And I did a commentary about snow and snowstorms less than a year ago. But the one that hit us last Sunday and continued into Monday and early Tuesday morning deserves congratulations. It was about as good as it gets. At least if you didn’t have to get anywhere.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Holiday Gift Ideas

Nov 30, 2019
Ralph Gardner Jr.

This year’s holiday shopping season – that hectic wallet-emptying interval between Thanksgiving and Christmas – is about as short as it gets. So I thought I’d share a recent gift that’s made a major difference in my life. You may want to consider getting one for yourself or a friend or family member.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Thanksgiving Without The Parade

Nov 23, 2019
Central Park West View of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Ralph Gardner Jr

Do I or don’t I watch this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV? I may be one of the few people in America for whom this is an emotionally fraught question.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Is That Old Rake In Your Barn Art?

Nov 16, 2019
Early Hand Tools at the Columbia County Historical Society
Ralph Gardner Jr

One might think that someone with Lisa Weilbacker’s pedigree – she’s the former executive director of Historic Hudson, an organization dedicated to preserving Hudson, New York’s heritage; she was also curator at the 7th Regiment Armory on Park Avenue in New York City and has a master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania – would have better things to do than rummage around old barns and tool boxes.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Generating Music

Nov 9, 2019
House concert at the Gardners
Ralph Gardner Jr

That does it. We’re getting a generator. We’ve been saying that for years, approximately every time the lights go out, which in our neck of the woods is pretty much when the wind does much beyond whisper through the woods.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Strange Magic Of A Favorite Mug

Nov 2, 2019
Ralph's favorite cup
Ralph Gardner Jr

There was nothing remarkable about my mug. It was white and tapered – wider at the top than the bottom – with a sturdy handle that offered a comfortable, confident grip as I sipped my morning coffee.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Getting In Tune

Oct 26, 2019
Piano tuner Richard Lapo
Ralph Gardner Jr

I was reluctant to ask Richard Lapo too many questions since he was in the process of tuning my piano. It was an inherited Steinway baby grand that we recently decided to put to better, more strenuous use than during the previous seventy or so years that it shared my parents’ apartment.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Guarding The Herd

Oct 19, 2019
Georgia Rainey of Kinderhook Farm with Wink and Sarge
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Our dog is a dismal guard dog. She barks all right, but at all the wrong times. For example, in the middle of the night, set off by sounds such as the furnace. On the other hand, a burglar could walk through the front door and she’d barely bat an eyelash.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Botswana Behind The Scenes

Oct 12, 2019

If things like impeachment inquiries, trade wars and climate change are getting you down I’d like to suggest a good nature documentary. Actually a three-part miniseries that PBS is airing starting October 23rd.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Who Says Cities Are More Civilized?

Oct 5, 2019
Ralph Gardner

The word civilization is related to “civitas,” the Latin word for city. It’s one of the few things I remember from 7th grade Latin, that and my grade point average – hovering somewhere in the mid-sixties. Flunking out territory.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Moby Dick In Performance

Sep 28, 2019
Ros Kavanagh

There’s no need to feel inadequate if you haven’t read Moby Dick. And now you don’t have to in any case. Conor Lovett, Judy Hegarty Lovett and Ireland’s Gare St. Lazare theater company are bringing their adaptation of Herman Melville’s epic whaling novel to Hudson, NY’s Hudson Hall next Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Tennis, Anyone?

Sep 21, 2019

There’s the official, legal, annual, I don’t know what you call it calendar. The one that starts on January 1st. And then there’s my personal calendar. Call it the academic year calendar even though it’s years since I’ve been in school. That calendar starts on or about a week after Labor Day.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Milestones You Don't See Coming

Sep 14, 2019

There are all those well-known milestones – births, marriages, deaths. But then there are the ones that come upon you suddenly, that you hadn’t given any thought to, that nobody warned you about.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Crimes Against The Earth

Aug 31, 2019
Workers using high-pressure, hot-water washing to clean an oiled shoreline. In this treatment method, used on many Prince William Sound beaches, oil is hosed from beaches, collected within floating boom, then skimmed from the water surface
NOAA / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

I recently clicked on a CNN.com opinion piece by Jeffrey Sachs, the director of Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development. The title of the story was, “Trump’s Failure to Fight Climate Change is a Crime Against Humanity.”

Ralph Gardner Jr: I'm Honored

Aug 24, 2019
Great Stone Barn
Lisa Malone Jackson / Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon

The clouds were low and billowing, and that apocalyptic steel grey color that in science fiction movies portends the arrival of alien invaders and the end of life as we know it.