The Week: What Caught Our Eye

November 21, 2020

A quiet two-lane highway surrounded by trees with a dusting of snowThough fewer will be going over the river and through the woods this year, let’s take kindness wherever we travel. (Kevin Kelly, Crown Focus Media)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends.

We’ve been thinking a lot about kindness lately, and not just because World Kindness Day was about a week ago and Thanksgiving is coming up. In these divided and separated times, it’s easy to forget the kindness that surrounds us, or the satisfaction that we get from being kind to others. Kindness can be a cure for a lot of what ails us.

This Thanksgiving the people whose job is to keep us healthy deserve an extra helping of kindness. Consider this first-person account from a Missouri county health director who has endured threats, stalking and harassment because she has communicated public health advice to people who no longer want to hear it. Speaking about contact tracing, she says, “Every time you get on the phone, you’re hoping you don’t get cussed at. Probably half of the people we call are skeptical or combative. They refuse to talk. They deny their own positive test results. They hang up. They say they’re going to hire a lawyer. They give you fake people they’ve spent time with and fake numbers. They lie and tell you they’re quarantining alone at home, but then in the background you can hear the beeping of a scanner at Walmart. … I know in my heart these are good people, but it’s like we’re living on different planets.”

Let’s all be better than that, shall we?

THANKSGIVING, HOLD THE COVID: Speaking of public health, officials in the U.S. are urging families and other large groups to reconsider their traditional Thanksgiving plans with the coronavirus still raging. They need only point to Canada, which celebrates its Thanksgiving in October, for an example of what to expect.

I’LL BE HOME: There was so much to be thankful for on that Thanksgiving Day, 1945. The war had ended. Turkeys and gasoline were no longer being rationed. Fear and stress were dissipating, and people were back on the streets. And then the doorbell rang at 28 McIntyre Street. Writer Maury Thompson picks up the story.

OWL BE HOME: Unbeknownst to Al Dick of Daddy Al’s General Store in Oneonta, the towering spruce he dispatched to New York to be the Rockefeller Center  Christmas tree this week had a cute little hitchhiker aboard. Sadly, the tree took a beating on social media – then the adorable owl poked his head out.

ALPINE INDULGENCE: Skiing and snowboarding, like other outdoor pursuits during the pandemic, are hoping to see an increase in participation this year, assuming the weather cooperates. And you don’t have to leave the Northeast to find some of the best ski hotels in the country.

VIRTUAL TURKEY TROT: The Troy Turkey Trot, founded in 1916, is America’s 12th-oldest road race and a beloved tradition. This year it’s virtual. So Troy Mayor Patrick Madden invited the mayors of nine other Troys in the U.S., as well as town leaders in five more, to trot along.

A CHICKEN IN EVERY SPA POT: Saratoga’s Broadway Deli, a relative newcomer to the excellent restaurant scene in Saratoga Springs, is offering a chicken to anyone who needs one this holiday season. No questions asked. Owner Daniel Chessare says he’s had a good year when many others did not. “The community has been generous to us. We would like to be generous back.”

IN LOVE WITH OUR CITIES: Amazon Prime’s “Modern Love” series has settled into a comfortable relationship with the Capital Region. The series is based on the popular New York Times column featuring love stories of every kind in New York City. But it’s been filmed on the beautiful old streets of Albany and Troy, and recently Academy Award winner and “X-Men” and “True Blood” star Anna Paquin was spotted filming in Schenectady.

SIGNING OFF: The airwaves won’t be the same. Two Capital Region broadcasting veterans and genuinely nice people — anchor Jim Kambrich, who has spent 26 years at Albany’s WNYT NewsChannel 13, and Chuck Custer, who with Kelly Lynch has held down the all-important morning slot at WGY Radio — are retiring. While Kambrich plays it straight as a newsman, he’s a hilarious impressionist and gifted musician and actor (he makes an appearance in “Radium Girls,” the just-released movie filmed in Glens Falls.) Custer grew up in Pittsfield listening to the 50,000-watt news and information powerhouse WGY. He joined the station’s venerable news team on Memorial Day 1984. He and Lynch took over the morning drive slot long occupied by WGY legend Don Weeks in 2010, creating what has often been the most-listened-to morning radio show in the Capital Region.

HOME MOVIES: The just-released film “Radium Girls” tells the story of teenage sisters dreaming of a better life as they paint glow-in-the-dark watch dials at a New Jersey factory. The film was actually shot in Glens Falls and Lake George, thanks to the leadership of Andrew Meader and the Adirondack Film Commission, which promotes the region to film producers. The Commission’s other successes include “Spy Intervention,”  a 2017 romantic comedy filmed over 40 days at 30 locations in Glens Falls and Lake George; “What Lies Below,”  a feature film shot in Lake George, Bolton Landing and Huletts Landing that’s scheduled for release on December 4; “Succession,” the popular HBO series filmed in part at the Great Escape in May  2019; and a “confidential cable show” filmed at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls in October. 

PUTTING A SONG IN OUR HEARTS: Sixty years ago, two major Capital Region arts organizations were born: The Lake George Opera Festival staged its first live performance in 1962, right around the same time that Lena Spencer was opening the doors of Caffè Lena, in Saratoga Springs. As they both approach 60th anniversaries, they’re teaming up to launch America Sings, a monthly concert series featuring racially diverse, internationally acclaimed artists.

THE ART OF FINE DINING: Morgan and Co. and The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls are cooking up a fine art and fine dining collaboration this holiday season. You can order a delicious three-course meal with wine, pick it up, and enjoy it at home, knowing that you’re helping to support of the Northeast’s preeminent small art museums.

Colorful snow skis lined up along a fence.Just when you think life is going downhill, it will snow and the slopes will beckon. (Skip Dickstein)

A LITTLE POLITICS

NORTH STAR: The Atlantic is not in the habit of elevating Republicans, especially those who hail from rural areas. But the magazine sees U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik as a rising national star. She was, at 30, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress in 2014. In November, she won a resounding re-election victory for a fourth term – and led the successful effort to elect to Congress more Republican women than at any time in history. She took a lot of heat for her staunch support of President Trump, but The Atlantic says it’s done nothing to dim her star.

MODERATE IN THE EXTREME: Here’s some political news that may shock you. American voters are a lot more moderate than is widely believed: 24% of voters identify as liberal, 38% as conservative, and 38% as moderate. And we want common-sense compromises.

FLIGHT CLUB: It’s been said that you can buy just about anything at Costco, whose close to 100 million U.S. members pay an annual fee to buy discounted consumer goods in bulk. As if to prove the point, Costco is offering its members a 12-month subscription to the private jet service Wheels Up. The $17,499.99 annual fee includes a $3,500 Costco Shop Card and a $4,000 flight credit.

INNER STRENGTH: A healthy immune system is the first line of defense against all manner of maladies, including the coronavirus. There are dietary steps you can take now to boost your body’s natural defenses, and the recommendations will look familiar.

INSPIRING US

AN IRON WILL: Chris Nikic was done, his attempt to complete an Ironman triathlon fizzling with 16 miles still to go in the last grueling event, the marathon. There’s no shame in swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 and then, in the 10th mile of the final event, deciding you’ve had enough. Then his father whispered: “Are you going to let your pain win, or let your dreams win?” He decided his dreams would win, and because of that determination, Chris Nikic is the first person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman.

BASEBALL BREAKTHROUGH: Kim Ng (pronounced Ang) is accustomed to the extraordinary. In 1998, the New York Yankees made her the youngest assistant general manager in Major League Baseball, and she spent a decade as vice president and assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But nothing historically will compare to this: First woman general manager in the history of major North American men’s professional sports. She’s running the Miami Marlins.

THE POWER OF MUSIC: He was intubated, unable to speak and in the intensive care unit. Still he wanted to thank his caregivers and bring a little joy to a dark place. So, he sent for his violin and viola.

COMMENDATION OF LETTERS: Carson Swazey has a large and growing number of friends he will never meet, but whose kindness and encouragement have had profound and lasting impacts. Carson is autistic, and neither reads, writes, nor speaks, but his daily walks to the Post Office helped the 19-year-old Canadian lose 75 pounds, and the cards, letters and gifts that fill his mailbox are a big part of the reason.

A FRIEND IN NEED: Fans of the ESPN empire likely know about Dan Le Batard. A former longtime Miami Herald sports columnist, Le Batard has a popular morning sports talk show on ESPN Radio and a fun, off-beat mid-afternoon sports variety show on ESPN television. What they may not have known is what kind of guy Le Batard is. Chris Cote, a producer on Le Batard’s radio show, found out when he learned he had been laid off.

GETTING AROUND

NEW WAY TO SEE NY: The Empire State Trail, which lets you crisscross the state on a bicycle or on foot, could be completed by the end of the year. The trail links New York City to Canada and Buffalo to Albany, 750 miles in total. The east-west and north-south portions connect near Albany. In the Adirondacks, work has begun on a 34-mile multi-use trail linking Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. It’s expected to be complete in 2024.

OFF THE BEATEN TRAIL: The Adirondack High Peaks get all the glory and most of the hiking traffic, but for those looking for an immersive, in-the-wilderness feel, writer Jessica McKenzie recounted for National Geographic, it’s hard to beat the 138-mile Northville-Placid Trail.

INVESTMENT IN CONSERVATION: The Open Space Institute, the nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of open space through acquisitions and easements that has helped protect more than 151,000 undeveloped acres in Upstate New York, added 1,260 acres near the West Mountain Ski area in Warren County to its list of permanently protected lands. The land, in the Town of Lake Luzerne, includes forests and wetlands within the Hudson River watershed.

VOTER FRAUD! An update on the story we brought you last week about the casting of more than 1,500 fraudulent votes in New Zealand’s Bird of the Year contest. We have a winner: the kakapo, in an upset. No word about whether recounts or lawsuits are expected.

WHERE’S THE REMOTES? As the outflow of talented remote workers continues from major metros, the beneficiaries are the great smaller communities of the Northeast, including those in Upstate New York and Vermont. In recent years, Burlington, Vt., has become home to an invisible economy of people who work remotely for the world's most cutting-edge technology businesses — such as Apple, Google, Twitter and IBM.

WELLNESS ON THE MENU: Restaurant work was difficult and stressful before the coronavirus. Add uncertainty and lost wages to the mix and an industry whose workers already were struggling finds itself coping with ever-increasing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse. The industry is responding with programs designed to address the mental wellness of its workers.

TONGUE-TIED: Canadian officials are posting road signs warning motorists not to let moose lick their vehicles. Turns out, they like the road salt. Just one question: How, exactly, are you supposed to stop an animal that weighs 500 pounds or more from licking your car?

THE PET PATROL

EMILY SPINACH, FIRST SNAKE: In political Washington, they say, if you want a friend, get a dog. Our presidents have taken the advice and turned the White House into a virtual ark. Theodore Roosevelt had horses, dogs, a bear, a lion cub, a Hyacinth macaw parrot, kangaroo rats, five guinea pigs and a one-legged rooster. There was also a short-tempered badger named Josiah and a green garter snake named Emily Spinach. Woodrow Wilson let his sheep graze on the White House lawn. The Kennedys had a pony, the Coolidges a racoon. Which first family had an opossum?

LEARNING FROM OLD DOGS: You may think you know how old your dog is but you’re probably wrong, experts say. Figuring out a dog’s true age is more complicated than we were led to believe. It’s not years on the planet times seven. The right answer is reached by multiplying the natural logarithm of a dog’s age in human years by 16 and then adding 31. Even if they can’t do the new math, dog owners won’t be surprised to learn that dogs’ personalities change over time. There’s new research identifying their independent streaks in adolescence and confirmation that they mellow in old age in the same way we do.

DOLLY DELIVERS: Dolly Parton is an American icon, a beloved country singer, songwriter, actor and entrepreneur who has been entertaining audiences for more than half a century. She also donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University for coronavirus research, which partially funded the biotechnology firm Moderna’s experimental vaccine, which a preliminary analysis found is nearly 95% effective at preventing the illness.

HOLIDAY CHEERS: Jameson, the Irish whiskey maker, is giving away seven limited-edition Jameson Whiskey Trees, each comprised of 130 Jameson bottles. Alas, they are empty.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.”
– Erma Bombeck

THE SIGNOFF

IT’S HAILING ROMANCE IN THE FALLS: When all hail breaks loose in upstate Pebble Falls, romance blossoms. Fortunately, Albany’s fictional NewsCenter 5 is all over the story.

We’ve served up an extra helping of Facing Out this week because we’ll be taking next week off. Have a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving, and we’ll see you again on Saturday, December 5.

HERE’S WHO WE’RE THANKFUL FOR: Bill Callen, Maury Thompson, Bill Richmond, Kevin Kelly, Matt Behan, Emily Behan, 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 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 conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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