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Ralph Gardner Jr.

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.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Coming Home

Dec 26, 2020
Gracie Gardner
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

I pride myself on not being taken by surprise – physically, emotionally, existentially. You may forfeit some of life’s magic in the process. But the tendency also offers benefits during a pandemic when advance preparation provides you the opportunity to get a jump on appliances like freezers and patio heaters before they sell out.

Ralph Gardner Jr: Our Holiday Newsletter

Dec 19, 2020
Ralph's Christmas tree and dog
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

My wife asked me to write this year’s holiday newsletter. Why me I’m not sure except that I suppose I am the alleged writer in the family. But I rarely read other people’s missives when they include them in their holiday cards. I frankly don’t care that Johnny graduated Michigan State cum laude. That friends have welcomed a beautiful new grandchild named Liam into the family. Or that Susan mastered the paddleboard in her fifties.

Ralph Gardner Jr: The Pleasures Of A Winter Bath

Dec 12, 2020
Ralph's bathtub, ready to go
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

As we descend into what’s predicted to be the darkest days of the pandemic here’s a low-cost, safe and convenient suggestion guaranteed to brighten your mood: take a bath.

Ralph Gardner Jr: To See Tanzania Shop Local

Dec 4, 2020
Fahari Wambura at Fahari Bazaar in Chatham, NY
Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Shopping local is to be encouraged. It’s obviously harder during a pandemic, especially if you’re a merchant with the likes of Amazon breathing down your neck. But Fahari Wambura seems to be succeeding at Fahari Bazaar. That’s her store on Hudson Avenue in Chatham, NY." class="wysiwyg-break drupal-content" src="/sites/all/modules/contrib/wysiwyg/plugins/break/images/spacer.gif" title="<--break-->">

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.