The Week: What Caught Our Eye

June 5, 2021

Lake George with clouds and a sunset, and a cruise ship on the waterSara Mannix is a marketing and tourism expert. Put a camera in her hands and she becomes an artist. Her recent early-morning view from of the southern end of Lake George. (Sara Mannix)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends.

Summer may have missed her traditional Memorial Day Weekend debut, at least for those of us up north, but she’s making up for it and then some over the next few days. While we wait to see if we’ll sweat through the June 1944 record of 100 degrees in Albany, N.Y., stay cool and stay safe out there.

AMERICANS ARE FLOCKING to the Adirondacks. The reasons are many: Health, safety, respite, relaxation – perhaps the desire to be calm and cool and to collect one’s thoughts in a place of extraordinary beauty and tranquility. The great migration began even before COVID. The Adirondack Council reports that 12.4 million people visited the Adirondacks in 2018. And that number increased dramatically during 2020. Hotels reported they were busier than they were during the 1980 Winter Olympics; people are buying houses unseen for cash. All of this in a year when Canadians, normally about 30 percent of the visitor population, were absent. The pressure on the Adirondack Park’s natural resources, especially its trails and summits, has been well documented, and the Adirondack Council is commending Basil Seggos, the commissioner of Environmental Conservation, for his thoughtful and systematic approach to managing the influx of human beings while protecting the natural resources and public access.

WELCOME HOME: Even as they welcome more visitors, small communities in the Adirondacks have worried for years about the steady decline in their populations. Now, four of them are banding together to find innovative ways to attract new residents without compromising the charm and open space that makes their towns so attractive. They don’t want big development; they’d rather attract individuals and families who might purchase existing housing and be willing, let’s say, to serve on the school board or volunteer fire department. They’re interested in entrepreneurs, artisans, writers and inventors who work remotely. They’re interested in professionals in high-tech, higher education and health care who can pursue high-level career opportunities in the Capital Region and come home at night to a sleepy small town with world-class recreational opportunities and brew pubs, great restaurants and art venues only a short drive away.

FOR A NUCLEAR FAMILY: If you have your heart set on a second home, consider this: The control center of an Atlas nuclear missile silo is for sale in Lewis, N.Y., about 50 miles south of the Canadian Border. This is the place where, during the Cold War, defense workers awaited orders to fire intercontinental ballistic missiles. The accommodations are rather spartan: There’s just one bath and one bedroom and the walls are adorned with control panels and clocks that display the time on three continents. The kitchen table is emblazoned with the international hazard symbol for radiation.  

PAY IT FORWARD: Rob Hale Jr., the billionaire founder of a telecommunications company, focused his commencement speech at Quincy College in Massachusetts on themes of not fearing failure, following your own path and giving more than you get. Pretty standard stuff. What wasn’t standard is how he reinforced the message for the 270 graduates in attendance — an envelope for each containing $1,000 in cash, and a caveat.

WISDOM FOR THE AGES: “Our generation nourished racial prejudices until they came to flower; your generation cannot be so foolish,” said the graduation speaker. “Our generation brought our democracy to a point where people wondered if democracy could continue; your generation has to clear up that mistake.” The year was 1946. Maury Thompson looks back.

HISTORIC LOSS: It’s bad enough that a fire raced through two structures in downtown Albany, N.Y., in late May, displacing 13 people, including seven children, and damaging the buildings beyond repair. Thankfully, no one was injured, but among the losses were the collected books, documents, maps and research of well-known Albany historian and activist John Wolcott. “It was a huge loss to Albany's history,” Gregg Bell, like Wolcott a founding member of Save the Pine Bush, told the Times Union’s Chris Churchill.

JUST IN NEED: Why are we out of everything? First, there was the shortage of PPE. Now, carmakers can’t get computer chips. Pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood and Grape Nuts are scarce. We’re even running short of sneakers. Just In Time may be an idea that just went too far.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK: How could I have messed that up? What’s wrong with me? If the boss finds out how dumb I am, I’m done. Sound familiar? Negative self-talk is both destructive and a hard habit to break, often leading to a loss of motivation, worse self-control and greater procrastination as the mind rebels and shuts down. Fortunately, there are techniques to help you move past beating yourself up. If managing stress is a challenge, consider the advice of Dr. Srini Pillay, a psychiatrist and author of books on human behavior. And if happiness is what you’re after, says the program director of the Center for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, make that choice and create it.

WORLD CLASS: Putnam Market, a mainstay in downtown Saratoga Springs, N.Y., known for its gourmet fare and selection of sandwiches, was named one of the 50 Greatest Food Stores in the World by the Financial Times. It’s ranked among markets from Milan to Mumbai, including a handful of selections that can be reached in a day trip from the Capital Region.

GROWING JOBS: Food for little people was once big business in in Canajoharie, N.Y. Now, it looks like an old Beech-Nut baby food factory is about to become a factory for the production of commercial cannabis, with the potential of some good-paying manufacturing jobs.

NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET: You can take the ranger out of the woods, but ... Scott van Laer’s life as a New York State ranger may have ended, but not his life in the woods. At a tender age, he learned how to read a map and a compass from his forest ranger dad, Dick van Laer, and knew he wanted to follow his dad into public service. He’s retiring after 22 years and a career filled with forest fires, rescues, the easy camaraderie of other rangers, and friendly encounters with novice hikers. But he’s staying close to the forest as the new director of the Visitor Interpretive Center at Paul Smith’s College.

HAPPY TO SEE YOU: A botanist whose Twitter handle includes the delightful phrase Fronds with Benefits posted a remarkable photo of a blade of grass under a microscope, featuring what appears to be a bunch of smiley-face emojis. As she explains in another Twitter thread, they’re called vascular bundles.

LIVING HISTORY: New York’s Capital Region is part of the ancestral homelands of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of the Mohican Indians, which is headquartered in Wisconsin but has maintained a low-key presence in the Northeast. It’s getting a bit more attention lately, with the acquisition of a 156-acre preserve on the east side of the Hudson River and other efforts to drive public understanding of the region’s importance to Mohican heritage. “Just because we’re not there anymore doesn’t make it any less a part of our history. It makes it more of a part of our history,” Heather Bruegl, cultural affairs director for the Mohican nation, told the Times Union. “And we need to work to make sure that people understand that just because we might not be there anymore doesn’t make that area less of a home for us.”

The Champlain Canal, under gray skies, with trees on either sideEven on a cloudy day, the Champlain Canal beckons boaters for a summer adventure.

LIFE SAVER: Debby Neal-Strickland knows the heartache of what happens when someone in need of an organ doesn’t get a match in time — she watched as her brother died of cystic fibrosis while awaiting a double-lung transplant. So when someone she knew needed a kidney and Neal-Strickland was a match, she didn’t hesitate to offer it to save her new husband’s former wife.

NEW DIRECTION AT WEST: A five-acre aerial adventure park. Six high ropes courses. An outdoor camp for kids. And picnics at the summit. The ski center at West Mountain in Queensbury has been completely revitalized; now it’s going year-round, with big plans for a ski and stay resort at the base of the mountain.

LANDMARK REOPENING: The Grant Cottage in Wilton, N.Y., so named because that’s where the former president and Civil War general completed his memoirs in a race against the throat cancer that would take his life, has reopened to the public following renovations and its designation as a National Historic Landmark.

GAME BREAK: Naomi Osaka, a tennis superstar and the highest-paid female athlete in the world, sparked a global conversation about athletes and mental health when she withdrew from the French Open, where she was the No. 2 seed, after tournament officials refused to allow her to skip media interviews that she said were taking a toll on her wellbeing. “It doesn’t matter if you’re number one in the world or the average Joe, anybody can go through this,” Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps, who has been open about his struggles with mental health, told Time. “It’s definitely going to be a game-changer in mental health moving forward.”

SHOT IN THE ARM: A funny thing happened after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated people could resume more or less normal routines — interest in getting the vaccine, presumed to have flatlined or gone down, spiked. Turns out a positive, concrete message about vaccine effectiveness is just what some people needed to motivate them. “This shows incentives matter,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University School of Medicine, told CNN. “People needed a carrot, and the carrot was the ability to drop the mask in most settings.”

TOO MUCH TO DRINK: America has a fraught history with alcohol, beginning long before the nation was even founded. Prohibition, after all, emerged from concerns about alcohol’s contributions to societal decay. Beverage companies constantly are coming up with new ways to blend, package and market potent potables, and more places are relaxing restrictions on where alcohol can be legally consumed. Even before COVID-19, the number of alcohol-related deaths had spiked to more 70,000 a year, making alcohol a leading driver in the decline of American life expectancy. Americans are more likely than others to binge drink, and to drink alone. Yes, America, it appears we have a drinking problem, to the point where the speaker of the Connecticut House has had to admonish members to stop drinking on the job.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Arguably the two most regal brands in basketball — one college, the other professional — made major announcements on the same day this week. Duke said its legendary coach, Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski, will retire at the end of next season and pass the reins to former player and longtime assistant Jon Scheyer. In Boston, Danny Ainge is stepping down after 18 years as the Celtics’ team president, replaced by Brad Stevens, who’s leaving the bench after eight seasons as head coach.

SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS: What this has to do with lawn care we don’t understand. National lawn care service Lawn Starter has put out its 2021 list of America’s horniest cities. Judging by the results, Rochester, Buffalo, Yonkers and New York will be embracing a summer of love. But there’s a dry spell in The Lone Star State.


F. LEE BAILEY defended the famous and the infamous: The Boston Strangler, O.J. Simpson, Manuel Noriega, Patricia Hearst; the Army Captain implicated in the My Lai Massacre; and neurosurgeon Sam Sheppard, whose arrest after his wife’s murder inspired the television series and hit film “The Fugitive.” Then the Harvard dropout who graduated from law school with honors fell into a legal abyss of his own. The author of “The Defense Never Rests” was 87.

B.J. THOMAS placed 15 singles into the Top 40 between 1966 and 1977. By far the most popular was a song he wrote for the 1969 movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’’ The writer of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” was 78.

PETE CORRELL was the king of toilet paper as CEO of Georgia-Pacific, owner of the Quilted Northern brand. He did not shrink from the role: “Toilet paper is a wonderful product. Ninety-eight percent of the American public uses it.” In retirement, he turned to philanthropy and saved a public hospital. He was 80. (subscription required)


They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night — Edgar Allan Poe


IMMERSIVE JOURNALISM: Reporters often get accused of being in bed with certain sources, metaphorically speaking, but a reporter in Denmark went, ahem, all in for a story on a swingers club.

Thank you to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Maury Thompson, Lisa Fenwick, Sara Mannix, John Brodt, Tara Hutchins, Kelly Donahue and Katie Alessi.

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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