The Week: What Caught Our Eye

May 30, 2020

Photo of a bright orange sky over a lake and mountain amid sunriseA sky aflame conveys the wild beauty and mystery of Lake George at sunrise.  (Mike Borgos)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends.

We’ve passed the first big milestone on the road to summer, and what a spectacular holiday weekend it was in upstate New York: Hot and sunny at a time of year when a little rain is the norm. In this of all years, dare we say, it felt like we earned it.

Business was off, of course, in the resort communities that count on summer tourism, though the news about boat and RV sales shows people remain eager to get out and explore.

Visitors flocked to the Adirondack High Peaks in numbers sufficient to offer a new twist on an old debate — how much is too much?

The Adirondack Almanack put a variation of that question to its readers, and the responses revealed both the depth of concern that persists and the belief that the Adirondacks should never turn away from those who come for respite. As one respondent wrote, “The Adirondacks has a treasured history of being a place of well-being and cure. … The Adirondack wilderness and clear air should also now provide opportunity for people to get fresh air and exercise through hiking and other no-contact activities.”

Our verdict: Enjoy the outdoors as much as you can, wherever you are and wherever you choose to be, but be mindful of those around you and of our shared duty to help each other stay safe.

In the meantime, wash those hands, keep your distance and don’t forget your mask; it’s the best way to show respect for other people. 


THE LIFE HE SAVED: Deirdre Taylor is an Emergency Room nurse who traveled from Virginia to volunteer in a New York City hospital during the pandemic, and before that was a captain and helicopter pilot in the United States Army. But she wouldn’t have been any of those things if not for the quick thinking and selfless actions of the FDNY’s Eugene Pugliese, who rushed up to the 6th floor of a smoke-filled building four days after Christmas 1979 with only a helmet and an ax. He found 4-year-old Deirdre and her mother and, after breathing life into the child, hustled them to safety. This week, Deirdre said thank you.

SMALL BUT MIGHTY: Chris Otto had purchased the Otto Cadillac dealership near Albany only a week before. On a trip to meet the GM brass in Detroit, he realized the coronavirus might devastate the business his uncle started 44 years ago. Hunt Cos. in Argyle planned for a downturn in construction they knew might come at some point; it just came much sooner than they expected. President Amy Gonzales took to the phones to call spouses of employees to reassure them their husbands were safe and everyone would be paid whether he worked or not. City Business Journals, the parent of the Albany Business Review, asks leaders of 247 American businesses what they’re doing to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. If adversity reveals character, this dramatic piece reveals the strength, resiliency, ingenuity and beating heart of small businesses.

PART OF THE SOLUTION: A new survey by the Albany-based Center for Economic Growth finds that Capital Region companies are involved in more than a dozen initiatives targeting the COVID-19 pandemic. The report credits the region’s sciences sector for 5,800 jobs, and a $2.8 billion impact on the local economy.

LEANING ON LOCAL LEADERS: In Dayton, a line of tornadoes ravaged her city, then 17 people died in a mass shooting. Mayor Nan Whaley thought she was used to leading in crisis. Then the coronavirus showed up. In Albany, Mayor Kathy Sheehan stopped taking her salary as she manages an $18 million revenue shortfall and potential devastating impact on the capital city’s services. They don’t get nearly as much airtime as the president or governors, but mayors have emerged as the most trusted sources of information about the coronavirus in their communities, even as some endure verbal abuse and threats for their stay-home orders.

LIFELINE TO SMALL BUSINESS: The Hudson Business Coalition has launched an innovative pitch to support the many small businesses in that rebuilding community that have been hammered by the pandemic. It has created the Hudson Bonds program, enabling supporters to make a donation and purchase a voucher for use at any participating merchant.

Photo of fog on a lake, with an island of trees and mountains in the background.On any other summer evening, the deck of the Algonquin Restaurant would be teeming with a festive cocktail hour crowd. On a recent evening, a thin blanket of fog is all that was present. (Bill Callen)

FOR THE BIRDS: The pandemic is igniting new interest in socially distant outdoor pursuits, and as more people get outside, they’re tuning in to nature’s soundtrack and liking what they hear.


CONNECTING THROUGH COMEDY: By now, you’ve probably sat through at least a couple of those awkward video conferences that have taken the place of in-person meetings. One way to improve them: Think like an improv comic.

LESSONS FOR TODAY: Kate Cohen, an Albany-based writer, tackled “War and Peace” as a pandemic reading project, and finds herself longing for the human need that Tolstoy “gently mocks … in the aftermath of this or that battle, to have it all make sense. He’s right, but I don’t care. I can’t wait to embody such foolishness.”

FOOTLIGHTS FLASHING YELLOW: Operators of live-performance venues will be alarmed by a New York Times/Siena College Research Institute poll that found widespread wariness about attending Broadway productions, a signal that people may not be ready to gather again in large numbers for quite some time.

NORTHERN SLIGHTS: Maine typically thrives on the summer tourism dollars that New Yorkers pour into the state. This year, at least for some, not so much.

STATE OF ISOLATION: Photographer Tara Wray, a Vermont transplant from Kansas by way of New York City, traveled through her community to take portraits — through windows and from a safe distance — of her older neighbors. She also spoke with them about how they're coping in the age of social distancing.

SHIFTING SANDS FOR COLLEGES: It’s a tough and uncertain time in every field, but higher education has been particularly hard hit. A member of the faculty at New York University’s Stern School of Business argues that the pandemic has scrambled the higher education landscape, providing opportunities for the nimble and the creative.


CAN’T BUY HAPPINESS: Choose a job you love, the saying goes, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Turns out, research comes pretty close to backing that up. The surest route to job satisfaction — become an expert in something you love.

RECHARGING: Happiness experts at Harvard Business School (they think of everything at Harvard) offer research-based strategies for managing stress. It’s a timely topic — 45 percent of U.S. adults say that worry and stress related to the coronavirus and the resulting economic downturn are hurting their mental health, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

FIND THE BEAUTY: Historic Fort Ticonderoga cultivates its King’s Garden to feature the important military role of the Lake Champlain location and create curated culinary experiences with sustainable agricultural practices. At the Yaddo writers’ retreat in Saratoga Springs, the gardens recall the gorgeous, twin-tiered European design they had when they opened in 1899. In these days of pandemic-induced isolation, public gardens provide a welcome respite, and Upstate New York has 10 beauties to visit.


CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’: After a long week in the recording studio or on the road, they came home to Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. Some Friday nights, they’d hang out and drink with the Monkees or gather at Mama Cass’ for her dinners. They came to play: Joni MitchellFrank ZappaJim Morrison of The DoorsCarole KingThe ByrdsBuffalo Springfield; Neil YoungJames TaylorJackson BrowneLinda RonstadtHarry Nilsson and members of The Eagles. It’s the secluded enclave that inspired “Our House.” Now, a new docu-series, Laurel Canyon, is out chronicling those epic block parties that shaped rock’n’roll.

THOMAS ON THOMAS: His grandfather was an oil truck driver once stopped by police officers because “he had too many clothes on.” Seared into the memory of the grandson: His grandfather’s fear of the law and the mistreatment he had no way to challenge. PBS presents “Created Equal:” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his own words.

HOLLYWOOD INTERMISSION: The Miami Dolphins have come up with an inventive way to fill their otherwise empty Hard Rock Stadium: They’re turning it into a drive-in theater with space for 230 cars.

Photo of a bald eagle taking off in flight from the top of a tree against a blue sky backgroundLake George has beautiful accommodations for every taste – even those who fly in.  (Mike Borgos)

SPIRIT-LIFTING SPIRIT: A Wichita man invited anyone out of a job to send his company their address so the company could deliver a complimentary bottle of tequila and a note of thanks. He expected “maybe 50” responses. By early in the week, they were approaching 2,000.

MAKING OURSELVES COMFORTABLE: All the working at home has generated a surge in business for a startup that launched just before the pandemic struck. Home office orders at Fernish rose 300% in two months. Orders for accessories and decorative items were up 90%.

CARE AND FEEDING: Restaurants are re-opening into a society that’s making it quite clear that it expects visible precautions (masks and gloves on staff), preferably for at least the next two months, and in which 45% of people say they’ll be eating out less frequently than before.

INTERLUDES OF JOY: Josh Kantor wanted to do something to cheer up friends who he knew would be missing baseball on opening day, so the organist for the Boston Red Sox played “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for 11 people who watched as his wife broadcast it on her phone. Word spread, and soon he was playing nightly concerts for as many as 19,000 viewers.

WE’LL DRINK TO THAT: Jennie Stejna, a 103-year-old resident of a nursing home in Easton, Mass., south of Boston, didn’t know much about the coronavirus, but she knew she was sick and gave a memorable answer — “Hell yes” — when her granddaughter’s husband asked if she was ready for heaven. Heaven can wait; she beat the virus and settled for a celebratory Bud Light.

CHEF SURPRISE: One of the most persistent myths to come out of World War II is that the British can’t cook. Not only can they cook (thank you, Mrs. Patmore) but they know food. Meet the 97-year-old Brit who is the queen of Mexican cuisine. A proper guac, she says, relies on serrano peppers, salt, finely chopped tomatoes and cilantro. No lime, no jalapeño. And if your guests don’t like your guac, she says, don’t invite ’em.

CAREER HONORS: Two media friends have received major professional awards in recent days. Alan Chartock, the political science professor who agreed to take over a tiny and failing public radio station and turned it into the powerhouse WAMC, received the well-deserved lifetime achievement award from the New York State Associated Press Association. And Mike Gormley, the widely respected Albany political reporter for Newsday and before that other publications, received the Legislative Correspondents Association Alumni Award for excellence in news coverage. As keen as he is as a political observer, Mike’s even more astute about baseball and has written two great books, co-authored by our friend Mark McGuire.


“I would say the world’s in terrible shape, but I’m afraid the world would say, ‘Look who’s talking!’”
—   Mama Cass Elliot


MARYLAND, MOUNTAIN MOMMA? Just, no. Besides, all those Long Island and Jersey kids who go to the University of Maryland wouldn’t sing it with nearly the same gusto.

THOSE PHOTOS: This week we celebrate Lake George in all its glory and its many moods. Glens Falls attorney Mike Borgos looks for mornings that promise light winds with a few clouds. He is up at 4:30 a.m. to capture pre-dawn ‘blue hour’ images and the sunrise from several vantage points. “I usually make my way into the Narrows and visit Paradise Bay each time out. It’s so tranquil in the early morning. If I see any boat traffic at all, it’s a few fishermen and they are usually fishing the deep water just north of Dome Island. There are reportedly up to four nesting pairs of bald eagles on Lake George and I’ve also seen many juveniles. Osprey have really made a comeback and are common. Loons are also routinely sighted, as is the Great Blue Heron. I saw a mink once but wasn’t quick enough with the camera to capture it. Calm waters and slow, quiet approaches allow for observation of all sorts of wildlife. No matter what I see, I am always refreshed and leave the lake with a sense of wonder and appreciation for how lucky we are to have this unparalleled natural beauty so accessible. The serenity and perspective I get is great therapy too — it’s a great way to start the day!”

Our colleague Bill Callen also provided a great shot of Lake George. When Bill’s not writing, he’s either kayaking on Lake George, walking the hills that surround it or looking for the key to the Jet Ski.

If you have wonderful photos of summer’s natural beauty, please send them along. We’ll look to feature as many as we can in upcoming issues. Be sure to give us some details about your shots as well.

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

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Colleen Potter, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, Emily Behan, Mike Borgos, Wendy Jause, Tara Hutchins, 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 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:

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