Ralph Gardner Jr. | WAMC

Ralph Gardner Jr.

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.

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.

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