The Week: What Caught Our Eye

October 24, 2020

View of Lake George from a hillside with colorful autumn leaves and treesAutumn is still holding her own at Northwest Bay on Lake George.

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

A strange and spectacularly beautiful summer has drawn to a close and now October is reaching a warm and colorful crescendo. Despite, or perhaps because of, the awful losses and heartaches of COVID-19 and the political and social turbulence, America has discovered anew the cardinal beauty and blessed solitude of our region. The new norms of social distancing, the desire for wide-open space, outdoor recreation, the promise of blissful escape – they’ve all been good to Lake George, the Adirondacks and the Capital Region. More evidence: TravelAge West, the voice of the travel industry in the western United States, recommends a cross-country trip: “Lake George and the Adirondacks region of New York (are) credited with being the original American vacation destination, thanks to William H.H. Murray’s 1869 book ‘Adventures in the Wilderness; or Camp-Life in the Adirondacks.’ Travelers flock to the Adirondacks year-round, but especially for the spectacular autumn colors.’’ Next stop: Winter.  Early word is that mild weather should stick around a while. The Climate Prediction Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says the region should expect above-average temperatures through February. Let’s hope by m-i-l-d they mean s-n-o-w — and lots of it.

INTO THE UNKNOWN: All around him, Christopher Solomon experiences the familiar patterns and swirls of autumn in the mountains, where “what is not gracefully dying is desperate to live,” and “The soft ovation of the cottonwoods sends another round of leaves adrift on the water.” But this autumn of the pandemic feels different, more urgent, more foreboding, the sense of community that prevails in the cold, dark months threatened. So he clings to — and writes movingly about — moments of connection.

LOVABLE NORTH COUNTRY PEOPLE: Speaking of a sense of community: There’s just one road in and out. There’s no cell service. In the winter, only about 60 people are around. They don’t look alike or vote alike or think alike. And yet, in this era of polarization, the Town of Wanakena in one of the most remote corners of the Adirondacks is a model of welcome and acceptance, community civility, neighborly cooperation and beautifully restored homes.

VOGUE LOVES UPSTATE NY: Vogue magazine, the official journal of hip since 1892, is — in these COVID-19, travel-restricted days — in love with Upstate New York. “Here’s the thing about upstate New York: every season has its merits … and fall just so happens to be a really great time to lap up so much of what the area has to offer. There’s farmers markets and hikes, apple picking and gourd collecting, plus a handful of really terrific places to grab a bite …” 

NOT ALL GUESTS WELCOME: Mild weather and ample food supplies created ideal conditions for mice in the Adirondacks, and now that winter is approaching, they’re making their way indoors, creating lots of agita for homeowners – and brisk business for exterminators.

GUIDED BY THE LIGHT: People who live in Upstate New York and like to hike, or who keep tabs on issues in the Adirondacks, are generally aware that overuse of the trails, particularly in the High Peaks, is a matter of growing concern to conservationists, landowners, outdoors groups and others. A growing number of hikers is finding ways to beat the crowds on even the most popular trails — they’re going at night.

THOUGHTS AND WORDS

BOOSTING GREATNESS: Drew Bundini Brown’s was a prominent voice in the ears of Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali, though he never boxed. In fact, there’s a case to be made that Brown, a cornerman who coined the term “Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee,” helped inspire and create the personality of Ali, among the topics explored in “Bundini: Believe the Hype,” a biography by Siena associate professor Todd Snyder.

PULITZER PRIZED: In this season of Pulitzers, we remember a red-haired Irish kid from Albany who, in his first job after college, was learning the craft of journalism in Glens Falls when readers complained he was telling way too many Albany stories. O! Billy! That was just the beginning for the legendary William Kennedy. Writer and historian Maury Thompson remembers. 

BOOKS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS: An elementary school in western Michigan has turned to a familiar reward system — the vending machine — to encourage students to read. The school has installed two vending machines that students can use to select the book of their choice. They earn tokens by achieving attendance, behavior and achievement goals, or if it’s their birthday.

BUY NOW, OR THERE’S NO LATER: Local independent bookstores across the nation have hustled to reinvent themselves during the pandemic, but now they’re issuing a collective plea: There’s only so much we can do; we need our customers. In The Bookshop on the Corner, Jenny Colgan says: “I am of the old-fashioned conviction that reading is a pleasure to be carefully guarded at all times.” Indeed, to treasure reading is to treasure a good bookstore.

A SECRET LIBRARY: You’re tromping through the cold woods on a dark fall afternoon when suddenly there emerges a strangely simple and stylish black box, exuding the yellow light of warmth and welcome. Should you enter? Yes, that’s a library.

TELL YOUR STORY: Telling a compelling story, writes author, executive coach and consultant Jeff Gothelf, “is how you build credibility for yourself and your ideas. It’s how you inspire an audience and lead an organization. Whether you need to win over a colleague, a team, an executive, a recruiter, or an entire conference audience, effective storytelling is key.”

NOT THIS TIME: Thomas Boswell is an institution at The Washington Post, a columnist and author whose knowledge of baseball, especially, is unsurpassed. He had covered every World Series game since 1975 for the Post, often in wonderfully vivid, memorable prose, but gave up his streak this year because “I don’t think it’s smart for a 72-year-old man in a pandemic.” But, as he makes clear in remembering highlights from the past, he’ll deeply miss it.

Aerial view of an island with large rocks in a lakeThe view from above: Beautiful Rock Island Bay in Tupper Lake. (Kevin Kelly/Crown Focus Media)

APPLE AND PEANUTS: Charlie Brown and the gang are taking the holiday show on the road, moving to Apple TV+ and their beloved specials will be available free to non-subscribers for a period of time. As Charlie once said, “What if today we were grateful for everything?’’

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? “Fake news” gets tossed around a lot these days, generally to label a piece of news or set of facts that one disagrees with. But the problem isn’t so much that people disagree on what separates the real from the imaginary, argues Adam Waytz of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School. “The biggest danger isn’t actually fake news — it’s tribalism. Depolarization only occurs when someone has the courage to speak out against their tribe.”

FEED THE VOTE: A former restaurant owner in New York City has partnered with restaurant guides Zagat and The Infatuation to serve more than 50,000 meals to voters in food-insecure areas of major cities where lines on Election Day are expected to be long. The hope is that feeding people will encourage them to stay in line and vote.

AL FR-FR-FRESCO: Restaurants desperately fighting to stay in business will find out just how loyal — and tolerant of the cold — their customers are, with indoor seating capacities restricted and operators having adopted new strategies to encourage outdoor dining. It’s a good time to be selling space heaters, fire pits and heat lamps.

RETAIL POLITICS: Rising violence in retail stores has led the National Retail Federation, a trade group representing about 16,000 retailers, to team up with the Crisis Prevention Institute, a company focused on reducing workplace violence, to help retail workers learn how to prevent and de-escalate shopper disputes that emerge from pandemic restrictions. Read: People who refuse to wear a mask. The bottom line: Teenagers working in retail now have to be trained to be the adults in the room.

SUMMONING A WHOLE NEW LOOK: In 2015, loitering, open container violations and other low-level offenses led New York City Police to issue 250,000 summonses. But 100,000 of the people summoned failed to show up for court. So, New York City called in a design firm to modernize the look of the tickets and make them more understandable.

A MELLOW LETTERMAN: David Letterman is back after a pandemic-induced hiatus with new episodes of his Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” It’s not the Letterman you remember from his late-night days, and we’re not talking just about the beard.

COUNTRY LIVING: Drive a few minutes in any direction from even the most populated pockets of the Capital Region and you’ll find yourself surrounded by fields and farmlands, the ideal backdrop for an array of impressive rustic homes.

COASTAL LIVING: Of course, if West Florida waterfront is more your style and you have a few million to invest, you can own a piece of sports history — the house Derek Jeter built and Tom Brady lives in.

RECONSIDERING AN HONOR: For the second time, the Bethlehem School Board is being asked to remove TV news personality Megyn Kelly’s photo from the Bethlehem Central High School Hall of Fame, this time for criticisms of the Black Lives Matter movement. The board first reviewed Kelly’s status in 2018. The Times Union’s Chris Churchill says the effort “reveals a growing intolerance for free discussion and debate, and for views that run counter to orthodoxy.”

HARDY ARTISTRY: You’d be forgiven for mistaking John Van Alstine for a local construction guy, crane and pickup truck and all. But the sculptor — who has exhibited his work across the United States and in Europe and Asia — is back home in the Adirondacks of his youth, surveying the beloved landscape, marrying stone and steel to celebrate the confluence of nature and human ingenuity. He and his wife, artist Caroline Ramersdorfer, have turned an old lumber company into an artists’ workshop on the banks of the Sacandaga River.

GOT A MINUTE TO CHAT? In our work-from-home world, how many great ideas have never been pursued? How many opportunities for coffee room collaboration lost? And spontaneous blue-skying? You can’t do that on a Zoom call in your basement, to interrupt, to hang out and even throw a side-eye.

LIVES

BESS ABELL was the White House social secretary during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, earning her code name, Iron Butterfly, with her uncommon combination of grace and grit. She was at the Johnson family ranch in Texas on Nov. 22, 1963, preparing for the arrival of the Kennedys after their visit to Dallas and was to remain with the family throughout the Johnson presidency.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

Just do something. You might make a mistake, then you can fix it. But if you do nothing, you can't fix anything. And your life might turn out full of regrets.”
— Jenny Colgan, The Little Shop of Happy Ever After

THE SIGNOFF

NOTHING TO SNIFF AT: Ladies and gentleman, we present the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant in Danbury, Conn., because the world could use a little levity and good will.

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Troy Burns, Kevin Kelly, Matt Behan, Bill Richmond, Kelly Donahue, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, Tara Hutchins, and Claire P. Tuttle.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value or interest to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

Let’s make it a conversation:   mark.behan@behancom.com

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