WAMC Midday Magazine – “Ralph Gardner Jr: Doing Well Making Due”


Beth Rundquist, “View from Olana”, 2019, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches

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.

The challenge is that the decrees seem in contradict each other. How can you stay home and shop simultaneously?

Some of my favorite stores are online. Others aren’t. And sometimes you just need an excuse to hop in your car. So I suppose the answer is — very carefully.

I refused to let Covid-19 thwart a visit from, or rather to, the Easter bunny a few weeks back and was encouraged to see that Vasilow’s, an old-fashioned candy store in Hudson, NY was still operating. So I placed a phone order for three substantial solid chocolate rabbits – one each for my daughters, the other for me, and also chocolate Easter eggs and jelly beans for all of us.

When I showed up at the store my order was waiting in a shopping bag on a table at the front of the shop. No human interaction required. Of course, it was disappointing not to hang out and luxuriate in the fragrance and scenery and impulse buy but the most important thing was securing my chocolate fix and celebrating the holiday in style.

One of my daughters and her husband are sheltering with us – he commandeered the jelly beans Easter morning — but the other is in Western Canada with her boyfriend. Nonetheless, I considered maintaining tradition so important, especially these days, that I packed her bunny and several face masks my wife had made and delivered them to the Kinderhook, NY post office.

I might have reconsidered, the health risks aside, if I’d realized how much it costs to send candy across national borders. The chocolate cost a fraction of the postage. But to quote that noted philosopher Horton the elephant, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent.”

The Polish deli on Fairview Avenue in Hudson is another important source of comfort food and also available by dropping by or calling in advance. Their hot dogs, ham and sausages are some of the best around, their soups can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned, and their prices are eminently reasonable. Who thought that sauerkraut soup, laden with smoky bacon, is something I’d want to stockpile? And I don’t love sauerkraut.

Another source of comfort, especially given the delayed spring we’re having in the Northeast and the generally apocalyptic nature of things at the moment are several reliable pair of warm, fluffy socks to wear during the day and to bed at night. So I called Fluff, my favorite purveyor of alpaca products on Warren Street in Hudson to see how they were doing.

The store is currently closed but Fluff’s website is doing substantial business – orders flowing in from as far away as California and Australia – and Suzanne Werner, Fluff’s owner, has managed to avoid laying off any of her employees. Almost as impressive, my favorite alpaca socks are twenty-percent off.

You might assume among the hardest hit of retailers would be an art gallery, especially an art gallery that opened days before the pandemic struck and the world shut down. But Pamela Salisbury, the owner of the eponymous Pamela Salisbury Gallery at 362 ½ Warren Street in Hudson, came up with an inspired idea when she was forced to close the space days after her successful inaugural show of bold, colorful works by Gregory Amenoff, and Instagram offered a temporary solution.

“I thought, ‘What can live happily on that platform?’” Pamela explained over the phone. “Small works, accessibly priced. Let’s price everything at $362.50.”

That was a nod to the gallery’s address, obviously.

Half the money — $181.25 — goes to the gallery to keep the lights on, half to such talented artists as Maud Bryt, Ron Milewicz, Lois Dickson and Beth Rundquist. A new, surprise work is posted on Instagram every day at noon.

Pamela said that the most popular pieces, perhaps unsurprisingly since many of us are more or less confined indoors these days, are those that depict nature, trees and wide open spaces.

“Fun is a word I don’t use very often these days, “Pamela acknowledged. “But it’s been a pure joy.

Ralph Gardner, Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found at ralphgardner.com

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.


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