The Week: What Caught Our Eye

October 31, 2020

View of snow falling at dawn near a pedestrian bridge over a small river.Early light reveals a mantle of white on the historic footbridge in Washington Park, Albany.  (John Bulmer)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends, and Happy Halloween.

May small children in costumes (and masks) be the scariest thing we all encounter over the next few days.

Remember when we had to urge people to vote? Remember when political scientists worried about voter apathy and low turnout? Turns out, polarization and a pandemic have an upside: More than 80 million Americans – more than a third of all enrolled voters – already had voted by Thursday.

Right now, America needs a darn good, clean, full-participation election. Let’s hope we get it. Charlie Woodruff and his wife Arlene own Fleet Feet franchises in Albany and Malta. They informed customers that both locations would be closed on Election Day “to make sure our entire team has the time and the impetus to cast their votes.” They’re not alone. The CEOs of more than 500 companies issued a joint statement calling for safe access to the polls, and many are offering staff time off to vote.

We may not have certainty about the voting results for a time, and whenever they arrive, whatever they are, they’re likely to be disbelieved and disputed. For a time, this may even drive us further apart. But in this historic moment of national choice, let’s hope we can rescue clarity from the chaos. The nation needs a direction. An America that is adrift is an America that is not leading, and that’s not good for America or the world.

*****

The news emerged toward the end of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: State Sen. Betty Little, who is retiring this year after 18 years in the Senate and 25 years representing Glens Falls and the Adirondacks in the Legislature, is battling breast cancer.

Senator Little shared the news publicly for the first time in an interview with WNYT’s Mark Mulholland. After six children, 18 grandchildren and more than four decades in politics, not much rattles Betty Little. She’s never one to complain and, characteristically, kept her diagnosis private until her hairdresser suggested a public statement by the senator might inspire other women to get a mammogram, something many — the senator included — put off during the pandemic.

She was warm and gracious as usual, expressing gratitude to the staff at Glens Falls Hospital for their care and treatment, and encouraging women to schedule mammograms — which, to show she’s on top of her game, she reminded them were free thanks to state legislation.

Even as she prepares to retire, Betty Little is still leading.

Get well soon, Senator Little.

SOME SCARY NATIONAL ATTENTION: It’s reputed to be one of the Capital Region’s most haunted places. The old Saratoga County Homestead in Middle Grove was a tuberculosis sanatorium and nursing home that opened in 1914 and treated patients until 1960. As many as 1,000 people may have died there. It’s thought that the abandoned structure is haunted, and last weekend it made its national debut on the paranormal stage. The Travel Channel’s Destination Fear” series featured an overnight ghost hunt there — as well as an interview with paranormal investigator Steven Brodt, son of our very own John Brodt. Steven, who co-founded the South Glens Falls Paranormal Society with his mom, Lisa, is serving as caretaker of the property and arranged for the Destination Fear cast to visit. Steven and some friends spent hours cleaning up the site for its new owner with a goal of someday making it a paranormal tour destination. For now, Steven is running periodic daytime photography tours through his Haunted Nights paranormal events company for those who love the mystique and architectural intricacies of long-abandoned properties. You can watch the full Destination Fear episode here.

LOCAL ROOTS, NATIONAL PROFILE: The Albany Times Union’s Joyce Bassett has always had an eye for, and a passion to tell the stories of, the teams and athletes who play most of the time before friends and family. This week she catches up with Kayla Treanor of Niskayuna, who after four first-team All-America selections at Syracuse and a World Championship has become the face of women’s professional lacrosse in the U.S.

BAKED GOOD: Saratoga Springs entrepreneur Ed Mitzen, founder of the successful marketing firm Fingerpaint, and his family discovered last summer that the popular Bread Basket bakery in Saratoga Springs was for sale. They snapped up the popular spot for sandwiches and baked goods near Congress Park. They’re keeping all the staff and donating all future profits to charity. https://saratogaliving.com/fingerpaint-ed-mitzen-bread-basket/

ON THE ATTACK: Keep an eye on this. There were multiple cyberattacks last week across the country on voter registration data bases, government agencies and hospitals, including an attack on the University of Vermont Health Network that affected hospitals in Vermont and New York.

SWEET TRICK-OR-TREAT: The pandemic definitely is changing how people celebrate Halloween, but it has had no effect on their determination to celebrate it somehow — while consuming prodigious volumes of chocolate. Halloween chocolate and candy sales are up more than 8% from last year, according to a trade group. Of course, sales of sweets have trended up since mid-March, for some reason.

BY THE BOARD: Families have adapted to new pandemic-driven home realities in countless ways, but one way that can be counted: they’re buying more board games. Hasbro, the maker of classics like Monopoly and Magic: The Gathering, reported a 21% quarterly jump in gaming sales.

A sunlit view of a lake with a dock and gazebo covered in a light coating of snow.The slightest touch of winter white glimmers at Rogers Memorial Park in Bolton. (Kevin Kelly/Crown Focus Media)

OUR TOWNS

WINTER HIDEOUTS: The best way to socially distance this winter may be to escape to a secluded chalet in the Adirondacks for a weekend of skiing, wood fires and stunning views from floor-to-ceiling windows.

A TOWN FOR ALL SEASONS: You can find a four-seasons destination in just about every corner of Upstate New York. From Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks to Ellicottville out west, take a narrative tour of 10 of the best upstate has to offer.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? The Adirondacks and Catskills of Upstate New York saw high volumes of hikers throughout the summer and fall, drawn, no doubt, by the allure of open spaces and the limits to long-distance travel. The crowds were such that organizations devoted to the protection of both have become increasingly concerned, and a variety of protective measures are on the table.

HEAD FOR THE HILLS: This week’s installment of Hot Housing Markets That Aren’t New York City takes us to the Adirondacks, where a shortage of inventory and surging demand have sellers and their agents cashing in. Can’t find what you’re looking for in the Adirondacks? There’s always Western Maine.

REGION’S MAIN STREET STRUGGLES: Wolf Road in Colonie has long been the commercial heart of the Capital Region, a straight, two-mile stretch of pavement that has hotels, offices, restaurants, stores and other businesses anchored to both sides and used to be an exercise in derring-do at rush hour. The traffic can still be a mess, but these are difficult days along what was once a dirt road through farm fields named for John Wulf Kemp.

AN ADIRONDACK LIFE: Christopher Shaw has been a ski lift operator, fishing club caretaker, whitewater guide, innkeeper, teacher of writing and editor of Adirondack Life. Indeed, he has lived an Adirondack life. His new novel, set in post-World War I Saranac Lake, blends Adirondack places, people and culture with a chaser of gangster bootlegging — and finishes with some serious reflections on changes in the region.

THE MISSING PIECE: The Metropolitan Museum’s exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’s work included a multi-panel piece re-examining the nation’s early history. But, curiously, five of the original 30 pieces were missing until a museum visitor thought she knew where one was located. Her hunch — that the masterpiece had been hanging on her friend’s wall for decades — proved correct.

A COACH AND A COP: Charles Adams was a 20-year veteran of the Minneapolis police force, whose officers this spring confronted protesters angered by the death of George Floyd. He also is the coach of a state championship football team in a poor Black neighborhood, exactly the kind of place that was on edge during those fraught days. He had to talk to his players before he hit the streets. He did. And he hasn’t stopped since.

DEEP DIVE: Seven nonprofit newsrooms spanning five of the 15 states in the Ohio River watershed combined their multi-media resources to produce Good River, a comprehensive, multi-part series about the environment, economy and culture of the watershed. An impressive, immersive piece of public service journalism, and a sum-is-greater-than-the-parts approach to a topic that the partner organizations would not have been able to tackle on their own.

DEFIANTLY OPTIMISTIC: “I can’t think of anything more forward-looking or reassuring at the moment,” writes Washington Post gardening columnist Adrian Higgins, “than planting tulip bulbs.” Always an act of hope, bulb planting this fall has become an act of therapy. There’s still time.

COVID TRACKER: William Wu, a high school sophomore in Massachusetts, was impressed by the COVID-19 dashboard maintained by Georgia Tech, where his sister is a freshman. He wondered if similar information was available for public high schools. It wasn’t. So he created it.

THAT’S COLD: McDonald’s, you may have heard, dealt with some frosty publicity last summer when a woman claiming to be a former McDonald’s employee said the McFlurry machines weren’t broken all the time, as it seemed; they were just too hard to operate. To keep the heat on, a 24-year-old software engineer has launched McBroken, a website that tracks reports of broken McFlurry machines across the country.

LIVES

WORTH REVISITING: OK, so the date on this is September 19, 2018, but the clever topic header is “Retrobituaries,” and besides, Facing Out hadn’t been born yet, so we’ll roll with this because we think you should know about Madelyn Pugh Davis, the only female writer on the iconic comedy “I Love Lucy.” She wrote for every episode during the show’s six seasons, and often performed some of the show’s most memorable physical slapstick before star Lucille Ball did to be sure the routines were safe enough. In high school, she co-edited the student newspaper with Upstate New York’s own Kurt Vonnegut. An amazing life.

TRAVIS ROY was 11 seconds into his first shift as a collegiate hockey player at Boston University in 1995, the achievement of a goal he had worked toward since he was a boy, when he tumbled into the boards at Walter Brown Arena, shattering his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. He returned to BU within a year, later becoming an inspiring motivational speaker who raised millions to help people with spinal cord injuries. He was 45.

CLEANING UP GOVERNMENT: The mayor of a tiny village in Russia had a dilemma. He was up for re-election but didn’t have an opponent. Unlike in America, where any office-holder dreams of running unopposed, they like to make a show of democracy in Russia, which means creating at least the illusion of choice. He had a hard time getting anyone to agree. Then he asked the woman who cleans city hall. You can guess what happened.

A POX ON … : Oh, never mind. Just two obnoxious couples with, as mom used to say, more dollars than sense.

LET US PLAY: In the words of the Irish dramatist and playwright George Bernard Shaw: “We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” These softball-playing friends are determined not to stop playing, even if it means taking a few risks.

ONE LONG PUB CRAWL: New York now has 200 craft breweries scattered along a 750-mile route that spans the state. They’re being promoted by the Empire State Trail, led, of course, by the aptly named Andy Beers, and New York State Brewers Association. The new virtual passport program is available through the NYSBA's New York Craft Beer App.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS: On this weekend before Election Day:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“All of us may have been created equal. But we'll never actually be equal until we all vote. So don't wait.”
— Leonardo DiCaprio

“The most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of private citizen.”
— Justice Louis Brandeis

“Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.”
— Susan B. Anthony

Let’s remember in the coming days and weeks that we are neighbors, friends and well-intentioned strangers. Give each other the gifts of grace and goodwill. No matter where you stand, we can all agree it’s been a hard enough year already.

THE SIGNOFF

GET OUT: So, you are familiar with the popular escape rooms — places where teams are locked in a room and use clues to figure out how to escape within 60 minutes? Evidently, burglars in Utrecht, The Netherlands, didn’t get the memo. They broke into an escape room and struggled to crack open a safe that, when opened, offered only clues about how to get out.

PLEASE SHARE: Feel free to pass this along to your friends and colleagues.

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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