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Ralph Gardner Jr.

Ralph Gardner Jr: My Antique Bottle Problem

Nov 28, 2020
Some antique bottles discovered in a 19th century dump at the writer’s house
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

During Phase 1 of the pandemic my wife turned her organizational skills to cleaning up our cavernous basement, a Herculean endeavor that took several weeks. For Phase 2 she’s tackling the garage.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Joys Of Winter Grilling

Nov 21, 2020
Ralph's charcoal grill
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

I’ve heard and read lots of stories lately about how to pull off Thanksgiving safely in the middle of a pandemic. I’m not sure where or whether this suggestion fits in: why not consider grilling outdoors if turkey isn’t compulsory?

Ralph Gardner Jr: Leaf Blowing Season

Nov 7, 2020
Ralph Gardner works the leaf blower
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

When we were dating my wife excelled with the creativity of her gifts. For one birthday she presented me with a scale model of our pond. It came complete with miniature trees, water, and a baby snapping turtle rented from a pet shop on 14th Street in Manhattan. The actual pond boasted an intimidating adult snapper.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Poll Worker's Proud Dad

Oct 31, 2020
campaign signs
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

I’m proud of my daughters – there are two of them – for lots of reasons, perhaps most of all at this moment because they’re politically engaged. You’d be hard pressed to find a low information voter anywhere in our household.

Ralph Gardner Jr.: Mr. Fixit

Oct 24, 2020
Repaired antique donkey figurine
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Medical experts are telling us that the next two or three months will be the most challenging of the pandemic, psychologically as well as medically. This would be a great time to acquire a pastime; an activity or hobby that can safely be done while isolating from others. Either that or attending to long neglected chores, such as finally cleaning out your basement or closets or turning the seven thousand errant photographs of your kids into engaging photo albums.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Not Just Another Tree

Oct 17, 2020
A photo circa 1930’s of a maple tree (second from left) that’s now in decline and in need of rescue
Courtesy of Ralph Gardner, Jr.

A few months ago I noticed that the large maple in front of our house was looking a bit under the weather. Compared to its cousins the canopy appeared thin and its leaves a lighter shade of green.

Ralph Gardner Jr: I’m A Yankee Doodle Dandy

Oct 10, 2020

That old typing exercise – “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” – seems relevant in a way that it never has before. With the Republic at mortal risk Donald Trump, strangely, has made me feel more patriotic than at any time since my Cold War childhood.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Tales Of The City

Oct 3, 2020
Aris Dervis

I’m here to tell you that talk of New York City’s demise is premature. Contrary to President Trump’s characterization in Tuesday night’s debate, it’s not a deserted “ghost town.” I returned to the city for several days this week and the traffic, both human and vehicular, seemed almost back to normal.

The pandemic and fears associated with it have changed our behavior in ways great and small. In my case very small. Prior to this scourge I’d return my empty bottles and cans to the supermarket at regular intervals to redeem the five-cent deposit. Extended intervals. I wasn’t one of those folks you see arriving with a plastic bag containing five or ten receptacles. By the way, who are these people who consume so little beer and soda that that’s all they have to show for their efforts? Or are so meticulous or have so little storage space that a few measly containers triggers a returnable event?

Ralph Gardner Jr: Ways To Save Autumn

Sep 19, 2020
The Empire State Rail Trail at Kinderhook NY
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

A lot of people I know – make that everyone – are apprehensive as we head into autumn and then winter with coronavirus nipping at our heels and more essential organs. So as a modest public service I thought I’d offer some of the solutions I’ve come up with for coping with the season’s stresses, psychological as well as physical.

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.