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Ralph Gardner Jr.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Are The Mosquitos As Bad At Your House?

14 hours ago
Aedes aegypti mosquito

Behold the mosquito. Actually about a dozen of them. Or was it fifty or a hundred swarming me one evening this week? It’s hard to tell with these pests. Part of their power is that it takes just a single determined individual to ruin your lunch or nap or hike in the woods; it’s not only their bite, it’s the fear they instill even before they land a punch. So it’s difficult to determine how many opponents you’re facing, your mind magnifying the threat, probably giving them more credit than they deserve.

Ralph Gardner Jr: And Now For Some Good News

Jul 24, 2021
Fresh corn in a frying pan
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Is America better off today than it was one year ago, in July 2020. Absolutely! Prove it you say. This time last year I was glued to my TV, glued being a relative term. Anybody watching TV on a warm summer night, rather than dining al fresco to a chorus of crickets and tree frogs meets the dictionary definition of a loser. Still, it was challenging to go cold turkey completely on the Trump Administration’s nightly ratings grab.

Ralph Gardner Jr: My Swimming Pool At Forty

Jul 10, 2021
Ralph's pool
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Just because you’re getting old doesn’t mean you can’t change and improve. I’m not talking about myself. I’m referring to our swimming pool. The pool, built in the early 1980’s, was my mother’s idea, though it also bore distinct resemblance to a folly.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Rewards Trap

Jul 3, 2021
Online rewards notification
Ralph Gardner Jr.

“You have $6.00 in rewards to spend at your local Staples store!” the email said. Six bucks isn’t a lot of money these days unless you’re a cheapskate. I proudly plead guilty to that description, though I prefer to think of the impulse in more morally defensible terms. Why let a good reward go to waste? If you spotted six dollar bills on the street or even a five and a one would you ignore them? Of course not.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Space Of One's Own

Jun 26, 2021
The writer’s former storage locker
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Tuesday was bittersweet. I bid farewell to my storage locker, the one I’ve rented since May 2019. That’s more than forty-eight months. I required the space for approximately sixty-five boxes of stuff I’d assembled after cleaning out the apartment where I grew up and my parents lived for sixty years.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Just A Bulb

Jun 19, 2021
The deceased light bulb
Ralph Gardner Jr.

The strange, unrecognizable sound was something that bore resemblance to both a fizzle and a sizzle, if you’ll allow me that distinction. Whatever it was, my reaction once I did identify the source, was disbelief followed by grief. The cause of the noise, and the ensuing darkness, was an expensive light bulb I’d invested in back in 2013 under the premise that it might outlive me. It was, for its time, cutting edge illumination technology: an LED bulb that promised to shed warm, cozy light for 22.8 years when employed an average of three hours a day. If you can remember that far back cold, harsh light better adapted to an interrogation room than a living room was the norm for pretenders to the incandescent throne.

Ralph Gardner Jr: I Want To Be Kind Of Like Jeff Bezos

Jun 12, 2021
The Apollo 7/Saturn IB space vehicle is launched from the Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 11, 1968
NASA on The Commons / NASA on The Commons @ Flickr Commons

Two stories about Amazon founder and Earth’s richest person Jeff Bezos recently caught my eye. One of them, by ProPublica, revealed that the megabillionaire, along with several other members of his rarefied class, paid little if any taxes in a couple of recent years. In one of them Bezos declared a loss as his wealth soared into the double-digit billions and even received a $4,000 child care tax credit. The other story that piqued my interest said he’s going to be a passenger on the first crewed spaceflight offered in July by Blue Origin, his private spaceship company. Might he have also received a Covid stimulus check that he’s using to pay for gas?

Ralph Gardner Jr: Making Her Town's Garden Grow

Jun 5, 2021
Sigrid Gray at Mills Park in Kinderhook, NY
Ralph Gardner Jr.

One of the benefits of living somewhere beautiful, especially somewhere beautiful within reasonable commuting distance of New York City, is that it attracts lots of talented people. They come initially to visit friends or they’re drawn by the landscape and the tranquility. They keep returning and many of them eventually stay. Often they do so anonymously. Privacy is part of the allure of the Hudson Valley. But sometimes they can be persuaded to lend their skills to their adopted communities.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Catching Rare Air

May 29, 2021
Steven Harris and his rare Porsche 911 GT2
Steven Harris Architects LLP

My first reaction when I saw Rare Air, an exhibition of iconic air-cooled Porsches continuing through the summer at the Saratoga Automobile Museum, was that I needed to return home immediately and detail my 2017 Honda CR-V after a rough winter. A reverence for dust-free cleanliness, for spotless dashboards, may be the only thing that Steven Harris, sixteen of whose Porsches are one display in the show, and I have in common, at least when it comes to cars.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Our Local Flower Fairy

May 22, 2021
Denise Pizzini at Damsel Garden in Stuyvesant, NY
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Whenever you’re tempted to believe that civilization is going down the tubes something happens to restore your faith in the future; to persuade you that we’re not on an accelerating downward trajectory; that peace, justice and beauty will eventually triumph. Such an event occurred last year when Damsel Garden, a Stuyvesant, NY flower farm, began selling stems and bouquets, arranged on the spot, at the Saturday morning Kinderhook farmer’s market.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Mushroom Debrief

May 15, 2021
Lucy’s morel and ramp haul
Ralph Gardner Jr.

To describe the mushroom outing I took last Saturday with my daughter Lucy and our friend Susan – both fungus aficionados -- as a walk would defile the conventional definition of a walk. Sure we walked. But we spent more time stopping, stooping and searching the underbrush than moving in anything that might be described as a straight line.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Learning To Navigate The Subway Again

May 8, 2021
New York City subway tunnel
Gwen Norton

New York City’s subway system is one of its undersung glories. Yes, that subway system. It may not be Earth’s most aesthetically pleasing environment but when the trains are running smoothly – I realize that’s a big “if” – there’s no speedier way to get from one part of town to another. Drop into the subway on the Upper East or West Side and you can be on Wall Street, at the lower tip of Manhattan, twenty minutes later.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Reading The Tea Leaves In Trash

May 1, 2021
A clean country road
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Good news arrived with Earth Day 2021’s trash collection ritual.  Every year, on or about Earth Day, I don a pair of gloves, nab my EZ reach professional claw grabber, line a shopping cart with a heavy duty contractor bag, and travel up and down our road collecting the previous twelve months’ litter.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Birding For Mental Health

Apr 24, 2021
The spring’s first Rose-breasted grosbeak in 2020
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Perhaps you’re familiar with eBird. It’s an online database run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where you can record the birds you’ve observed and check out what your neighbors have been seeing. I know bird watching isn’t for everyone. Society has become increasingly riven and not just between Democrats and Republicans. But also between those who are passionate about birds and those who aren’t.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Farewell To An Old Friend

Apr 17, 2021
The writer’s dearly departed American Crown range
Ralph Gardner Jr.

We lost a friend, almost a family member, Tuesday afternoon. It’s not what you’re probably thinking. It wasn’t a person. It wasn’t even a pet. It was an appliance – our loyal, broad shouldered early Eighties 40” six-burner, double oven, double broiler American Crown gas range.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Live Performance, Finally

Apr 10, 2021
Irina Muresanu, Max Levinson and Yehuda Hanani performing at the Mahaiwe theater in April 7, 2021
Ralph Gardner Jr.

When opera comes back it’s going to be big. I’m not even a particular opera fan but that thought crossed my mind as I watched cellist Yehuda Hanani and his fellow musicians perform several works, among them Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2, at Great Barrington’s beautifully restored Mahaiwe Theater Wednesday afternoon. That’s the piece whose third movement includes Chopin’s famous funeral march.

Ralph Gardner Jr: What Do You Do With Bronze Booties?

Apr 3, 2021
Four pair of bronze booties belonging to the writer and his brothers
Ralph Gardner Jr.

It’s been said that we’re in the midst of the greatest transfer of wealth in history, from one generation to the next. In our family that inheritance includes bronze booties. When my mother passed away in 2019 we moved over sixty boxes of stuff to a storage locker upstate. I’m finally down to unpacking the final few boxes and I was well aware that one of them included bronze booties. And not just mine. Also those worn and then metal-coated belonging to my three younger brothers.

Ralph Gardner: Hail Wallie!

Mar 27, 2021
Wallie enjoying her cupcake party
Ralph Gardner Jr.

My wife asked me a thought-provoking question as our dog’s seventh birthday approached. Do I feel Wallie and I have grown closer during the pandemic? Getting a new dog back in 2014 wasn’t my idea. Several years had passed since our previous pet, Mimi, perished and I’d grown greatly accustomed to not walking a dog at night.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Vaccinated Dinner Party

Mar 20, 2021

You’d think it was the big things you’d notice at the first dinner party you’ve thrown, indoors, in over a year. What am I talking about? Not just the first dinner party. The first anything indoors that involved anybody besides my wife and me and our strenuously tested children on their occasional visits. Our party, last Saturday night, also coincidentally marked the one-year anniversary since the last dinner party we were invited to.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Maple Sugaring For Fun If Not Profit

Mar 13, 2021
Lucy Gardner

For weekenders, there are three stages of country home-ownership. The first stage is the purchase of the property and marveling at the fact that you’re suddenly and nonsensically the master of a domain that may include trees and fields and the flora and fauna that inhabit them. If you’re fortunate your purchase may have even come with a view.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Vaccinated

Mar 6, 2021
Vaccine site at Hudson Valley Community College’s McDonough Sports Complex
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Sometimes you don’t see the patterns in life until you look back from a distance. Other times you can detect them immediately. Pandemics have a way of crystallizing things, of offering contour to an occasionally nonsensical world. Concerns about one’s demise, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, not only tends wonderfully to concentrate the mind but also to divide its existence into before, during and after.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Love At A Distance

Feb 27, 2021
The writer's daughter Gracie Gardner and her grandmother
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Disaster comes in different forms and orders of magnitude. I won’t attempt to define them here except for one: catastrophes that you’re happy your parents weren’t alive to see. That’s an admittedly personal and subjective metric. And generally more applicable to those of us of a certain age whose parents are less likely to be around. But some events are so profound and disturbing you’re glad your mother and father were spared the experience.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Pleasure Of A Well-Sharpened Pencil

Feb 20, 2021
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Life, especially these days, turns on the ability to appreciate small pleasures. But might there be pleasures too small to appreciate? And even if not, then too small to waste listeners’ time by crafting a commentary about them? My wife thought so when I told her the subject of this week’s analysis. I think not, though a bit of justification may be required because is there any more solemn responsibility than not boring people within the sound of your voice?

Ralph Gardner Jr: Hunting For A Chocolate Heart

Feb 13, 2021
Jim Levulis / WAMC

I paid a visit Monday afternoon to Vasilow’s. That’s my go-to, old-fashioned, tin ceiling candy store in Hudson, NY and yearly Valentine’s Day provisioner. I was trying to get a jump on the holiday not because I feared a run on their homemade milk and dark chocolate assortment in heart-shaped boxes, the way there was on Christmas trees over the holidays, but because I was sending the gift to my daughter in western Canada and I wanted it to arrive before Valentine’s Day.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A Modest Silver Lining

Feb 6, 2021
Ralph Gardner Jr.

The pandemic rages on, but with vaccines on the way and already in a bunch of arms, is it too soon to feel sentimental about small, discreet aspects of the plague? That thought occurred to me as I paused, while walking through the woods with our dog last week. Or was it the week before? That was, is, one of the aspects of the pandemic that might just be construed as beneficial. It’s easy to forget what day of the week it is because things like appointments feel a vestige of a different, more frantic era.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Custom Of The Country

Jan 30, 2021
A first edition cover of Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country
Ralph Gardner Jr.

The New York Times gave a nod to my good taste a few days ago. They didn’t identify me explicitly, or even obliquely. But they did so by featuring a story they headlined “How Can We Read Edith Wharton Today?” What followed was an essay by novelist Claire Mussud about Wharton’s 1913 novel “The Custom of the Country”.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Assembling History

Jan 23, 2021
A sampling of front pages from the author's NY Times collection
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Suspecting that the Trump presidency marked a rocky but historic ride for the American people I started collecting front pages of the New York Times on November 9th, 2016, the morning after Donald Trump was elected.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Where's My Package?

Jan 16, 2021
The writer’s new squirrel baffle
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

You’re probably familiar with the line in that Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi” – “Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” I’ve discovered that goes double when you’ve ordered something online, are waiting with great anticipation for the FedEx or UPS truck to come rolling down your driveway, and the item never shows up.

Ralph Gardner Jr: An American Story

Jan 9, 2021
Le Cafe Arnold postcard, 1946
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

I wrote most of this commentary on Wednesday morning before the Capitol was stormed. Such cataclysmic events have a way of dividing life into before and after. But after rereading it I think it still applies.

Ralph Gardner Jr: A January To Celebrate

Jan 2, 2021
Senator Charles Schumer and fellow Brooklynites celebrating at Grand Army Plaza on November 7, 2020
Lucy Gardner

January, from my point of view, is the cruelest month. Or certainly the most anticlimactic. The gifts have all been opened and the holidays are over. If you’re still watering your Christmas tree – we do well into the month – you feel as if you’re promoting a lost cause. It’s as if you can’t quite relinquish December and the buildup and excitement synonymous with that tinsel hung and holiday-lighted month.