I Brake for Salamanders

I Brake for Salamanders

  LISTEN HERE    Spotted salamander CREDIT RALPH GARDNER JR.  One should always exhibit caution when driving at night. But especially during March and April in these parts. That’s when some of our favorite amphibians – though I should probably speak only for myself – can be spotted crossing the road to get to the other side. And why are they crossing the road, you might ask yourself? And if you don’t you should because there are few things that…

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The Runway Less Travelled

The Runway Less Travelled

LISTEN HERE Bibhu Mohapatra fitting a model CREDIT COURTESY OF BIBHU MOHAPATRA There’s a TV commercial from a while back – I can’t remember whether it’s for a car company, cigarette manufacturer, or Metamucil – but it shows a lone automobile forking off a busy superhighway and heading off into the wilderness. It’s supposed to be a representation of rugged individualism and the ability to think for oneself rather than going with the crowd — again when it comes to…

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My Manager, George

My Manager, George

LISTEN HERE For reasons I can’t quite explain, I don’t regularly check out the obituaries in the New York Times but I do in the Columbia Paper, our local paper in Columbia County. There’s something affecting learning about the lives of the beloved but sometimes unheralded – the schools they attended, the jobs they held, those they cared for and cared for them, their favorite sports or hobbies. Those in the Times – the paid, not the news obituaries –…

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A Singular Mother

A Singular Mother

LISTEN HERE Natalie Gardner, on the Eiffel Tower, 1940’s My mother passed away a couple of weeks ago and the situation couldn’t have been kinder. I don’t mean her death. That was sad, remains so, and shall for months and perhaps years to come. But at 94 years old she’d lived a long and gracious life. What I’m talking about is the circumstances and the affection surrounding her passing among her children, grandchildren and caregivers in the final days of…

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Alpaca Fluff

Alpaca Fluff

LISTEN HERE Suzanne Werner among her alpaca CREDIT RALPH GARDNER JR.  Empty nesters typically move from the city to the country in search of a quieter, more contemplative, perhaps even more sedentary lifestyle. Suzanne Werner is not one of those people. A former C.I.A. lawyer – that would be the Central Intelligence Agency not the Culinary Institute of America – she and her husband Bob, also an attorney and an expert on money laundering who held senior positions at the…

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The Presence of Pets

The Presence of Pets

  LISTEN HERE Wallie CREDIT RALPH GARDNER JR There are words in other languages that nail aspects of the human experience and for which there are no English equivalents. For example, “Shouganai” in Japanese, apologies for my pronunciation to any Japanese speakers. It roughly means something that can’t be helped so why worry about it. Or “Komorebi,” another Japanese word. This one means the interplay of light and leaves when sunlight shines through trees. Or “Mangata,” the Swedish word for…

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A Perpetual Valentine

A Perpetual Valentine

  LISTEN HERE If a child were looking for convincing proof that magic exists in the world, and that one need never relinquish the passions of youth, that kid would have to travel no further than the local candy store. During my formative years it was a place called Schwartz’s Out of This World Chocolates. And it was located in Manhattan on 72nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.] To visit was to enter a felicitous alternate reality, a planet…

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The Art of the Croissant

The Art of the Croissant

  LISTEN HERE This part of the world has a lot going for it: verdant nature, great vistas, a world-class river. But one of the areas where it cannot pat itself on the back is an abundance of good, let alone, great bakeries. And when you think about it can a community, any community, describe itself as a truly civilized place without a storefront pumping out the transporting smell of fresh bread? Not to mention fine pastry? The cookie aisle…

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Snow Day

Snow Day

  LISTEN HERE Snowstorms are more complicated than they used to be. I’m not referring to the weather, though that, too. I read that because of global warming we can expect more balmy winters, or at least balmy Decembers, followed by blizzards and bone chilling polar vortexes, or is it vortices, later in the season. No, the complication I’m speaking of is going on Facebook or Instagram and having to suffer photographs and commentary from your friends and acquaintances of…

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The Newspaper of Record

The Newspaper of Record

  LISTEN HERE   The writer’s father and brother in the 1970’s RALPH GARDNER JR.  I was filled with sadness the other day when I got off the phone after cancelling my 94-year-old mother’s New York Times subscription. Some of my response has to do with her decline. She no longer reads the newspaper as she once did from cover to cover every day. Now, when I go over to her apartment I see the Times sitting there untouched. But…

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