The Week: What Caught Our Eye

April 11, 2020

Sunrise over a mountain with an open field in the foregroundHello, Sunshine, my old friend, we’ve come to sing with you again. (Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel). “Radiating Rays of Sunrise Near Lake Placid.” (Mark Bowie)

Good Morning, Friends and Colleagues:

The sacred traditions of Passover and Easter, the lengthening of the days, the strengthening of the sun — eternal rhythms in an annual dance, cast together just when we all could use a little reassurance. We were here before; we’re here now; we’ll always be here. We wish all of you, your families and friends strength and good health. A special thank you to all who work and serve on the front lines during this pandemic – the doctors, nurses and hospital support staff, police and other first responders, public officials and mail carriers, food servers, pharmacists, bank staff, grocery store workers, retail employees, delivery drivers and, of course, the folks keeping the liquor stores open, and others we’re sure we’ve missed. We are deeply grateful.

ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have won plaudits for their leadership and management during the COVID-19 pandemic response, having moved swiftly to enact emergency measures and communicating frequently and forthrightly with their constituents. That includes their youngest constituents, who were reassured by both leaders that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were officially considered essential workers. After all, both have long traditions of take- out and delivery.

HOW WE’VE CHANGED: The pandemic has changed our world and, in some ways, brought out the best in us. In Saratoga Springs, homeless people have been moved into private rooms in the Holiday Inn to reduce the risks associated with the close quarters of a shelter. Albany Medical Center has become one of the first hospitals in America to use convalescent blood plasma therapy, the experimental treatment for patients critically ill with COVID-19. New York’s storied Four Seasons Hotel has been turned into a dormitory dedicated exclusively to keeping doctors, nurses and other medical professionals well rested and safe, its $1,000-a-night rooms now free. Columbia University has converted a soccer stadium into a pop-up hospital for 288 patients. Raise a glass to Max Oswalt and five of his fellow beer brewers for an initiative they’re calling We Are Brewnited, with profits to benefit jobless hospitality workers in Saratoga and Washington counties. Château on the Lake, well known for superb lakeside fine dining in Bolton Landing, is offering discounted groceries to restaurant workers throughout the area. In Flint, Mich., elderly residents of an apartment complex had no way to get food when the municipal bus service stopped, so a host of organizations came together to gather and deliver food to their neighbors. In Middle Grove, a grateful cancer survivor, wanting to protect the physicians and nurses who treated her, turned to sewing skills she learned as a child and has already made 200 masks. Siena lacrosse player Megan Power, on the other hand, had no such skills, but does have a mother who suggested she take the family sewing machine and teach herself to use it. You guessed it

Rescue workers practicing on a snow-covered mountain slope.RESCUERS THROUGH AND THROUGH: Every year, in the tough and unforgiving terrain of the most remote corners of New York State, hikers get lost or are seriously injured. The call goes out to the highly skilled volunteers at Clifton Park-based Adirondack Mountain Rescue. This spring, Adirondack Mountain Rescue is on another mission: To rescue our front-line health care workers. Twenty AMR volunteers, working with 3D printer volunteers, have built a production and delivery pipeline to distribute face shields in the Capital Region, western Massachusetts and New York City. More than 700 units have been distributed free of charge. One group produces the shields, another races them to the hospitals. AMR is asking for the community’s help to buy materials. (Photo: John Bulmer)

CAN YOU HEAR US NOW? In a huge, head-rattling show of support, Glens Falls said thanks to its hometown health care heroes at Glens Falls Hospital this week. Hundreds of honking cars and trucks paraded through a downtown that had been almost empty minutes before, led by emergency vehicles with red lights flashing, sirens blaring, air horns blasting, the cacophonous noise that grateful hearts make.

TALKING TO YOUR KIDS: How do worried parents calm the natural fears of their young children about COVID-19? How do you reassure them they will be safe while encouraging them to take all the new precautions? Glens Falls Hospital Clinical Psychologist Dr. Gerard Florio offers advice.

FEELINGS TRUMP FACTS UNDER DURESS: A study conducted by two associate professors of marketing at The University of Texas at Arlington shows that people are more likely to base decisions on anecdotal information instead of facts when they feel anxious and vulnerable, especially when it comes to medical emergencies like the current pandemic. One pointed to the run on toilet paper as an example of how consumers who feel vulnerable to a particular problem may rely more heavily on subjective, anecdotal information instead of objective, statistical facts to make decisions.

THE MAN FOR THE MOMENT: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been earning nationwide praise for his out-front leadership and daily briefings during the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal asked five crisis communications experts to rate and react to his leadership style.

A view of the New York City skyline.The clapping began on a Friday night, a one-off event to thank doctors, nurses, first responders, people putting themselves in harm’s way to help others. And now it happens every night, a communal cheer that says while we may be isolated, we are not alone. (Photo: Ava Byer)

BE SURE YOU’RE HEARD: Political leaders aren’t the only ones the public expects to hear from in this crisis. Brands have a role to play, too, as long as the communication is comforting and reassuring to people and provides specific information about what brands are doing to respond to the pandemic. And skip the humor.

B4 YOU ORDER TONIGHT: Consider signing up for Troy Restaurant Bingo. Inventive Collar City cuisiners are making the most of our new takeout and delivery world. They’ve devised a board game to help their colleagues and customers. It’s the idea of the Franklin Alley Social Club’s Frank Sicari. With each order from any of 24 local restaurants, customers collect game pieces. When they get five down or across, they win!

FOOD FOR THE SOUL: Ina Garten, aka Barefoot Contessa, has become the Instagram star America needs right now. “Over the past two weeks,” reads a profile The Atlantic, “since much of America went into lockdown mode, one of the most comforting and wholesome places to be on the internet has been Garten’s Instagram account. While other public figures have struggled to tune their quarantine output to the national mood, Garten has always had an uncanny empathy for how people are doing, and how the emotional resonance of food might be able to help.”

NEW YORK’S STATE OF MIND: Headspace, an online platform dedicated to teaching the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, is giving people free access to some of its mindfulness exercises, meditations, and sleep experiences, and launched a landing page with New Yorkers in mind.

WISDOM FOR ANY AGE: Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer began interviewing the oldest Americans in 2003, eventually producing 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans, which was based on the premise that older people have unique and invaluable knowledge on how to live well through hard times. Their lessons are extraordinarily relevant today. Our favorite: the importance of experiencing joy and savoring small daily pleasures, especially in a time of crisis.

BRINGING THE BALLGAME TO YOU: Josh Kantor typically would be entertaining fans at Fenway Park with the upbeat notes of his organ between innings, and he’s not about to let a pandemic come between him and his audience. Each day at 3 p.m., he plays 30 minutes of songs on the organ, live from a room in his home in Cambridge, Mass. Kantor streams the show on Facebook Live, and he calls it 7th-Inning Stretch.

BEAUTIFUL SOUNDS IN THIS SILENCE: Hudson Falls native Tony DeSare is a coast-to-coast star, a critically acclaimed singer, pianist and composer who is now playing nightly gigs — quarantine concerts — for his fans at home via Facebook. You’ll love his especially timely “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Tony is the modern interpreter of the Great American Songbook. He built his early career with Sinatra stylings and now also composes fresh, original material — romantic, funny and soulful. He has written theme songs and full soundtracks for films. He’s performed with 100 symphony orchestras in the U.S. and Canada. He has not forgotten his roots, his community or his old friends. Tony and his Hudson Falls classmate, the renowned pianist and arranger Tedd Firth, opened Hudson Falls' new Strand Theatre with a blockbuster Big Band concert a few months ago, and Tedd and Tony team for duets on a new album.

ON THE DEEP WELL OF HUDSON FALLS TALENT: At less than two square miles, Hudson Falls produces more talent per inch than most places its size. Tony DeSare and Tedd Firth, for example. But also the late Judge James Gibson, who as a New York Appellate Division judge famously ruled that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance did not violate the constitutional separation of church and state, a ruling, having been upheld by higher courts, that effectively stands to this day as the law of the land. In 1977, when New York City defaulted on $1 billion in debts, Judge Gibson oversaw the settlement of 15,000 claims. William Bronk, a descendant of the man for whom the Bronx is named, ran a coal and lumber business. He also published at least 28 books and won the National Book Award for Poetry in 1982. He walked to work and never held a driver’s license but managed to travel widely and see the world. The Nation called him “America’s most significant poet.’’ Then there was Townsend Harris, the successful New York City businessman who became the United States' first consul-general to Japan and is credited as the diplomat who opened Japan to foreign trade; Henry C. Martindale, attorney and member of Congress; and Roger Skinner, a friend of President Martin Van Buren, who rose from Justice of the Peace in Sandy Hill to become a Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York.

THIS SMALL VILLAGE OF GIANTS and its charming collection of stately homes, churches and commercial buildings is captured beautifully in a new photographic essay by Kendall McKernon. Kendall created lovely homes as a much-in-demand interior designer but in recent years has been celebrating exteriors, the beauty of New York and New England, as he rediscovered photography. He’s opened a gallery in Hudson Falls and has been a leading light in the resurgence of his community. Even as he travels to make photos of other beautiful places, Kendall’s best work, his most sentimental and evocative, is reserved for his historic hometown, now on the rise again.

PEACEFUL PIECES: Jigsaw puzzles, a staple of dining room tables of yore, are staging a huge comeback as homebound Americans, sick of staring at screens, seek something to occupy their minds. One of the challenges in keeping up with demand, according to The New York Times: “Each puzzle piece must be uniquely shaped, to avoid one accidentally fitting into the wrong place. That means 1,000 different shapes for a 1,000-piece puzzle, each drawn by hand by workers.”

A NOSE FOR THE GAME: You can have Joe Exotic and his big cats. Give us Kiara, the beach volleyball dog who is lighting up the internet with joy. And if Kiara doesn’t do it for you, check out these little fellas on a visit to their local aquarium.

TAKE IT ON HOME: The abiding charm of Saratoga Springs’ Caffè Lena is its intimacy. It’s a place where a certain magic happens between performer and audience. Audiences “come up the stairs and enter a room where a world-class performer is only feet away … they can see every movement of fingers on frets and feel a foot-tapping rhythm on the stage.’’ Except not now, of course. So, the Home of Good Folk since 1960 is hosting nightly Stay Home Sessions, bringing great music into an even more intimate setting – your home.

MOUNTAIN MAN: Meet Michael Barrett. Former foreign language interrogator with the United States Army. Former Director of the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency. Former Director of the Missouri State Public Defender System. Avid paddler and outdoorsman. Michael Barrett is the new Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club. The Adirondack Explorer has a Q&A with this Hudson Valley native and former gubernatorial aide.


VOICES ACROSS THE DISTANCE: Last week we featured the Hallelujah Virtual Choir Concert of Hudson Falls and Queensbury students performing Leonard Cohen’s enduring composition. Their ethereal performance is an internet sensation, having now been viewed more than 12,000 times on YouTube.

WILL’S WAY: Last week we introduced you to Will Levith’s crusade to help people find jobs and freelance opportunities in this troubled economy. The Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living Editorial Director digs up interesting opportunities near and far. This week, for example, he discovered that  Oddfish Games, producer of popular Role-Playing Games (RPGs) such as Cooking with Dice and How to RPG with Your Cat, is seeking a business manager. The Albany Academies is seeking an Assistant Director of Admissions and Enrollment. Walrath Recruiting has a client in need of a paralegal to “handle visas and assist clients with documentation and filings.’’ And New York City-based startup, WayUp, is looking for a part-time TikTokker. (No, you don’t punch a clock.)


A RAY OF LIGHT: Times like these cause us to reflect. On who we truly are. How we spend our days. What we’ll leave behind. Ray Agnew, treasured friend of this firm, an extraordinary human being and gifted leader, communicator, composer and musician, is working long hours at Glens Falls Hospital but at night, at home, he reaches out to his many friends through music. He is indeed a Ray, a sunny, energetic, exuberant force of nature, which makes his “All is Said and Done” all the more powerful.


THE GO-TO TROOPERS: The call came in Wednesday afternoon. A concerned driver spotted a goat near a highway in Central New York. By the time State Police and local firefighters arrived, the elusive goat had fled to higher ground. Not to fear: Tom Brady was saved.

THAT WASN’T TOM BRADY? Our bad. Besides, it couldn’t have been; the former Patriots quarterback spent a good chunk of his Wednesday on the phone with Howard Stern for a memorable interview that revealed Brady as we had never heard him.

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

THANK YOU to our contributors: John Brodt, Bill Richmond, Bill Callen, Lisa Fenwick, Colleen Potter, Tina Suhocki, Tara Hutchins, Emily Behan, Matt Behan 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.

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. 

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