The Week: What Caught Our Eye

April 24, 2021

People whitewater rafting, with a spray of water splashing over them.It’s the season for one of the most intense adventures in the Adirondacks, whitewater rafting. (

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends:

CLICK IT:  Seriously. Click this link and you will read about two seemingly ordinary suburban moms who were driven to extraordinary action, conveyed with beautiful precision by the Times Union’s Joyce Bassett. It started after the daughter of one was told she couldn’t play ball with the boys, and gained steam a couple years later, when the same daughter came home and told her mother the girls had been kicked out of the gym at school so the football team could practice on a rainy day. It is a story of two neighbors attacking injustice and achieving lasting, transformative results, with roots in the infancy of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on gender in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. Guilderland High School might want to think about building statues for Charlotte O’Donnell and Joan Floyd.

THE SECOND HALF: Charles Blow, the fine New York Times columnist, puts aside his usual political writing to consider how he should live the second half of life.  Events that come naturally with age, combined with a lot of alone time to think during the pandemic, convinced him to re-evaluate. “And that has impressed upon me how important it is to live boldly, bravely and openly, to embrace every part of me and celebrate it, to say and write the important things: the truth and my truth.’’ He declares, “I decided to be healthier, physically, mentally and spiritually, and I decided that I needed to make my mark on the world, the biggest, boldest mark I was destined to make, while I still had time and energy, but also to be thankful for the road my life had already taken.”

WELCOME BACK: New York City tourism was crushed by the pandemic. Museums closed, Broadway dark, capacities everywhere restricted. But as more people complete their COVID-19 vaccination series, there are signs that The City That Never Sleeps is emerging from its long coronavirus slumber, with hotel occupancy, ferry boardings, and event attendance all on the rise. And the city’s great restaurants, new and old, are reopening, with Brooklyn’s Gage and Tolner, which first opened its doors in 1879, leading the way.

WATER WORKS: Imagine a sparklingly sunny summer day at a beautiful boat basin on the Hudson River along Broadway in Downtown Albany. The Capital City once had a bustling harbor, and the notion of bringing it back has been floating around for years. It would be a key to reconnecting the city and the Hudson River, separated for decades by Interstate 787. Now, the idea is gaining new momentum among influential journalists and leaders who see the transformative potential of the project and the possibility of federal funding. “We’re building the nucleus of a lobbying effort,” attorney B.J. Costello III, one of the leaders of the renewed push, told the Times Union. Success could help Albany rise in the US News rankings of best places in the U.S. to live.

PEARL OF AN OYSTER HOUSE: Six years ago, Times Union restaurant critic Susie Davidson Powell rocked the local food universe when she eviscerated Jack’s Oyster House, the fine dining landmark that called itself “Albany’s greatest restaurant legend.’’ She wrote: “Jack's has so long been fawned over as an iconic dining institution it has come to admire the emperor's new clothes — its own — but ignore the state of the food.” Steaks were leathery, shrimp freezer-burned. It was a painful comeuppance for Jack’s and a sad, if honest, appraisal for the many who loved the restaurant for what it once was. But that is all in the past. Jack’s is back, Powell writes, with a fabulous tasting menu, a fresh take on standards, oysters of all kinds, and a soon-to-debut raw bar.

BALLET MOVES: Ongoing coronavirus concerns will keep the full New York City Ballet from returning to its usual summer home at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center until 2022, but a small ensemble of the company’s dancers and musicians will perform in six shows at the venue between July 14-17. Attendees will be required to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event.

AND NATIONAL ROCK PROMOTER Live Nation is publicizing dates for the Dave Matthews Band, Chicago, The Black Crowes, Backstreet Boys, Chicago, the Doobie Brothers, Rod Stewart, Matchbox 20, Maroon 5, Alanis Morrissette and others at SPAC this summer.

OWIN’ TO HIS LOOKS?  Saratoga Springs has had a lot of experience with celebrities, minor and major, but Owen Wilson has created something of a one-man media frenzy He’s in town to film a new comedy about a popular artist protecting his turf from a young upstart. Wilson was spotted recently at James and Sons Tobacconists and Spot Coffee and in Schuylerville. Hudson Valley Casting has been seeking extras for the film. 

HBO IS STILL seeking extras for the “The Gilded Age,” which is scheduled to shoot in Troy in May and June, and “The White House Plumbers,” to be shot in Albany in late summer or early fall.

AND SPEAKING OF MOVIES, Downton Abbey 2 will be in theaters December 22, announced by none other than @DowntonAbbey.

View from a mountaintop of a lake with islands, and mountains in the background on a cloudy dayMountainous blue waves, a white cap topped with snow, as seen from Buck Mountain overlooking Lake George. (Tara Hutchins)

RAMPING UP GLAMPING: For folks who love to wake up in the wild but can live without the set-up and take-down of traditional camping, the Lake George region of Warren County is becoming the go-to place for glamping. Adirondack Safari on the Schroon River in Warrensburg offers fully furnished canvas tents, live entertainment, kayaking and river tubing, and outdoor movies. Posh Primitive in Chestertown draws rave reviews for its gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner. At Camp Orenda in Johnsburg, which drew positive national media attention as one of the first sites of its kind in the East, glampers enjoy long hikes on winding paths and mountain trails, cool off in a nearby stream, canoe on tranquil lakes, and stare into the star-filled night sky while dining by the fire. And at Huttopia Adirondacks in Lake Luzerne, after a day of hiking or fishing, glampers relax in the heated pool and savor a delicious meal at the bistro. For those interested in just the tent, try BeaverBrook Outfitters in North Creek, which offers rafting and walled-tent packages. If a rustic cabin is more your style, try Adirondack Camping Village in Lake George. And if you’re just looking for a cool place to rest your head, Upstate New York has plenty of those, too.

BREAKING NEW GROUND: The Clark Institute invited artists to create new works that speak to the beauty of its 140-acre campus in Williamstown, Mass. The exhibit that resulted — “Ground/work’’ — is, according to a leading contemporary art publication, one of the best in the world.

SIT DOWN FOR THIS ONE: The Adirondack chair is a staple on back decks and around the fire pit, but a good one isn’t cheap. Until now.

EARLY ARRIVAL: It’s natural for a parent to be a bit on edge awaiting the birth of a child. Now imagine what it’s like to be told you’re the one delivering the baby. That’s what happened one day earlier this month in the Queensbury home of Kayla Potvin and Tyrese Jabot, when Kayla’s water broke a week early and a trip to the hospital for the birth of their third child was out of the question. A calm and reassuring Warren County emergency dispatcher coached dad through it.

WINNING A RACE AGAINST TIME: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, in an essay for Harvard Business Review, writes about the challenge he and Ugur Sahin, the CEO of partner BioNTech, put to their teams during the early days of COVID-19 — to “make the impossible possible” by developing a vaccine faster than ever before — and what it took for them to deliver. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the leadership changes that positioned Pfizer to succeed, the quick decisions that were made early in the process, and the old-fashioned long hours and hard work by a lot of smart people that in fact did make the impossible possible.

GETTING TO YES: Sometimes journalism can save lives. This is one of those times. The Times Union’s Kristi Gustafson Barlette, who typically writes about day-to-day life issues and the comings and goings of Capital Region TV and radio personalities, details her struggles with whether to be vaccinated against COVID-19 — Wasn’t the vaccine approved a bit too fast? I’m young and in good health — and the conversations and considerations that led her to determine that vaccination was the right thing to do.

SILVER LINING: There’s not much good you can say about COVID-19, but there is this: masking, social distancing and other steps to combat the spread of the virus essentially made flu season disappear. Reported cases since September were down more than 99% from a typical year.

BIG GETS: Capital Region colleges are lining up A-listers to deliver commencement addresses next month. Rensselaer landed Dr. Anthony Fauci, Siena has former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Hudson Valley will feature “The Color Purple” author Alice Walker. Rice and Walker will deliver their remarks remotely. It’s unknown whether Fauci will be at the RPI event or also speaking from elsewhere.

DIVIDED WE STAND: Former President George W. Bush, in an interview to promote his book “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants,” said he’s been struck by people’s reactions when they learn that he and former First Lady Michelle Obama are genuinely fond of each other, and he’s not happy about it. “I think it's a problem that Americans are so polarized in their thinking that they can't imagine a George W. Bush and a Michelle Obama being friends,” he told CBS News' Norah O'Donnell.

RENEWABLE HISTORY: Grant Cottage in Wilton, the mountaintop home where Ulysses S. Grant finished his memoirs shortly before his death, is the first historic site in New York State to be powered exclusively by renewable energy — specifically, a 90-panel solar array. “General Grant was fascinated by new technology and I think today he would be thrilled to see us take this new step to move this forward,” Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said in announcing the switch.

MR. DEPENDABLE: Patrick Marleau, a forward for the San Jose Sharks, this week broke Gordie Howe’s NHL record for most regular season games played. Marleau’s 1,768th game was a 3-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. Marleau made his NHL debut in 1997, and appeared in every game in 12 of his 23 seasons. He has played against or been teammates with more than one-third of the players in NHL history, and the five players who played against both Howe, who retired in 1980, and Marleau — Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe, Mike Gartner and Ray Bourque — are all in the Hall of Fame.

SUSTAINABILITY AND PROFITABILITY: Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard has flown around the world in a hot air balloon and in a solar-powered aircraft, so if you tell him something is impossible, you’d better bring receipts. Tired of excuses and foot-dragging from companies that claimed sustainable business practices would cut too much into their bottom lines, he set out to prove them wrong using real-world examples. He just reached his goal of finding 1,000 fully vetted and verified solutions, which he has shared online.


RICK EMANUEL was the publisher of The Post-Star in Glens Falls from 2008-2014, during which the newspaper’s Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. An Elmira native, he returned to the Southern Tier after leaving The Post-Star to take on a larger role with Gatehouse Media and remained an executive after Gatehouse and Gannett merged in 2019. “He made the industry a little better and the industry benefited from him having such a longstanding career in it,” Gannett CEO Mike Reed told the Elmira Star-Gazette. Emanuel died unexpectedly at 55.

HESTER FORD was born when Roosevelt was president — Theodore, not Franklin — and had the distinction of being the oldest living American. She picked cotton as a child, married at 14 and had the first of her 12 children a year after that. A widow since 1963, she continued living in the home she and her husband purchased in Charlotte, N.C., until her death last week at, depending on which record you believe, 115 or 116 years old.

FELIX SILLA’s name probably won’t ring many bells, but his most famous character almost certainly will. He played Cousin Itt, who was covered with hair from head to toe and spoke in a gibberish only the other members of The Addams Family could understand, on the original TV series in the 1960s. He appeared in 19 episodes, and had other roles suited to his small stature, including as an Ewok in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” He died of pancreatic cancer at 84.

DAN McCLELLAND, a retired sheriff in eastern Ohio, and his K-9 partner Midge were inseparable, in life and in death. Midge, a drug-sniffing Chihuahua-rat terrier mix certified by Guinness World Records in 2006 as the smallest police dog in the world, was always a hit with the schoolkids who would visit, and the star of the show when the two were together in public. McClelland died of cancer at 67, followed hours later by Midge, who was 16.


“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin any way and you see it through no matter what.’’

Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Born April 28, 1926


CHECK THE ATTIC: The family had wondered for years whether there was any truth to the rumor that a large quantity of cash was buried under the floorboards of their western Massachusetts home. So they sent for a man named Keith Wille.  

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Claire P. Tuttle, Lisa Fenwick, Matt Behan, Tara Hutchins, Kelly Donahue, Katie Alessi and John Brodt.

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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