The Week: What Caught Our Eye

July 24, 2021

A hazy pink sun silhouetted against a dead treeA fire and rain summer: ferocious heat and drought in the West, record rain in the East.  (John Bulmer)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

Today we’re thinking about kindness, and not just because it’s the birthday of a loyal Facing Out reader for whom kindness is a defining characteristic and guiding light (we won’t embarrass her by naming her here, but she knows who she is).

To the long list of things in short supply in this post-pandemic world, add kindness, patience and understanding.

Restaurants across the country — the ones that survived the pandemic — are struggling to get back on their feet and dealing with abusive treatment from customers irritated by higher prices and longer waits due to staff shortages. Restaurant workers are quitting in huge numbers. After a patron reduced young employees to tears, the owners of a restaurant in beautiful Brewster on Cape Cod shut their doors for a day of kindness to the staff.

In Saratoga Springs, often seen as a bastion of white privilege with horse racing and wealthy fans, we are watching with alarm as tensions simmer between Black Lives Matter activists and local officials. The rhetoric is heated, with no hint of kindness or understanding to lower the temperature enough for the honest, respectful conversation that’s needed.

No act of kindness is ever wasted. And no act of kindness is ever small.

Each day, we see inspiring acts of kindness in word and deed, so many we could never recap them all. For example, in Columbia County, N.Y., southeast of Albany, Adam Moon runs a food truck, Moon Dog’s, that invites customers to pay what they can. Turns out, a lot of people are covering for their less-fortunate neighbors. And the food truck isn’t the only way Moon helps those who need it.

In Western Canada, a man was heartbroken when his beloved Darla, a Chinese Shar-Pei, was stolen off his deck. A few days later, a young woman called him, weeping. She was the thief. His response: an offer to take the money he had put up as a reward and use it to pay for her drug rehab.

And you can feel the kindness of the people who tore apart a basement wall to rescue a stranded dog, collaborated to chase off a mama bear long enough to free her cub’s head from a chicken feeder (another New York Environmental Conservation Police officer rescued an abandoned baby owl), and pleaded with motorists to slow down in a heartfelt response to a bear cub’s death and its mother’s (and the writer’s) obvious agony.

As one Twitter user put it: “If you heard about every human act of genuine kindness or generosity or compassion from the media in the same manner that you hear about every dramatic murder or act of violence, we would all have a better attitude and be less fearful.”

We’re not sure that’s entirely fair — nearly all of the items above were, after all, reported by the news media — but it’s worth remembering: there’s still a lot of goodness and kindness among us.

SMOKE AND THE WATER: Wildfires are exploding in the West, floods are rampaging in the East. Smoke from the more than 80 large fires burning  across 13 U.S. states drifted toward the East Coast this week, producing eerie orange sunsets and air quality problems in New York and elsewhere. Soot from fires in Western Canada was recorded at 17 times the normal level at Whiteface Mountain; carbon monoxide levels were up, too.

Meanwhile, some Upstate New York areas have been drenched in two months of rain in two weeks, as the heat dome in the West pushing against a high-pressure system in the Atlantic Ocean sucks Gulf of Mexico moisture into the Northeast. At the same time, the largest lake in the western hemisphere is drying up. Utah’s Great Salt Lake is called that because it is a shallow plate with no outlet. Its tributaries deliver salt into the fresh water and, when the water evaporates, salt is left behind. The lake is 75 miles long, 35 wide. This summer it’s down 11 feet to a 58-year low. Water flowing in from the tributaries has been diverted to help farms, ranches and cities for generations. Now, in the midst of a historic drought, the Great Salt Lake resembles Death Valley, calamitous for wildlife and people.

BARRIER BREAKER: Dewey Brown wasn’t one to let discrimination dissuade him. A light-skinned Black man, he joined the Professional Golfers’ Association in 1928, when membership was restricted to white people, only to have the membership revoked without explanation in 1934. He started caddying at a New Jersey golf course when he was 8, and when he had trouble finding work after moving to New York’s North Country, he bought and managed the Cedar River Golf Club in Indian Lake. The Adirondack Explorer recalls his legacy. 

BEHOLDING BIGFOOT: Michael Guimond of Massena, N.Y., near the Canadian border, was driving late one night last month when a large beast darted across the road in front of him. He’s pretty sure it was a sasquatch. A lot of people agree. Dean Gleason, who runs a Facebook page called Seaway Valley Bigfoot Research, told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, “There’s a lot of credible evidence, and as DNA technology advances, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised.”

A LIFE-SAVING BILL: New York State is poised to join the other 49 states in permitting air ambulance crews to carry and transfuse blood at trauma scenes. A similar proposal last year never made it to a vote of the Legislature, which unanimously passed this year’s version in the wake of reporting about the life-saving measures a Southern Tier man received when, by a stroke of luck, a helicopter was dispatched from Pennsylvania to rescue him.

NATIONAL BREWS: Last week we told you about Bolton Landing Brewery Co.’s creative Help Wanted New England IPA. Now it’s getting national attention.  

HOLD THE CHEF: Saratoga Springs’ Siro’s restaurant — a celebrated after-race hangout for the bling and cha-ching crowd — is stumbling out of the starting gate again. It never opened in 2020 because there were no fans at the track. Its previous owner was charged with stealing funds from Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s political campaign and also was arrested on forgery charges. And now its new chef has been arrested as a fugitive

The sun over a lake and mountains in a hazy skyA hazy sunrise over Lake George is captured by gifted photographer Jeff Killeen, chairman of the Lake George Association.

BUSINESS LESSONS FOR A LAKE: Jeff Killeen was a senior vice president with Dun & Bradstreet. He helped barnesandnoble.com grow from zero to $250 million in sales in less than two years. And he served as the founding chief executive of forbes.com before leading GlobalSpec, a search engine for engineers, for 11 years. Now, he’s leveraging all that business experience to protect Lake George.

OPIOIDS AND ANTI-VAX: Could the opioid epidemic that ravaged many rural parts of the United States and the resulting distrust of drug makers be responsible, in part, for low vaccination rates in those areas? The Times Union’s Chris Churchill explores that intriguing theory.

FISH STORIES: Lake trout are majestic beasts that are prized as sportfish and patrol the deep, cool waters of about 100 Adirondack lakes and streams, but that number could be significantly curtailed as a result of warming temperatures.

ILLNESSES ATTACKING WILDLIFE: A fatal skin disease known as snake fungal disease is spreading throughout the eastern U.S., leaving the snakes hideously deformed and nearly unrecognizable. Scientists are racing for figure out why and how to stop it. Scientists also are grappling with a mystery illness that is killing songbirds in the Mid-Atlantic.

IRONMAN FLEXIBILITY: It’s rare to see a community re-evaluate its relationship with a longstanding event, especially one as high-profile as an Ironman Triathlon. But after 22 years,  thousands of participants and millions in tourism revenue, that’s exactly what officials in Lake Placid, N.Y., are doing. Jim McKenna, CEO of the Regional Office for Sustainable Development, was candid in discussing the matter with North Country Public Radio’s Emily Russell. “There's a feeling that half the community loves it, half the community is unsure about it. … We thought it was quite important to get as much engagement and information from the community at large before we commit to another multi-year contract.”

BANKING ON BUDDY: Newly able earn money from commercial endorsements, Syracuse basketball star Buddy Boeheim is making Cameo videos and selling T-shirts and soon will appear in a cereal commercial. He also pledged to donate a week’s worth of his Cameo earnings to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

LIFE’S TOO SHORT: Average life expectancy in the U.S. dropped by 1.5 years to 77.3 in 2020, the largest single-year decline since World War II and the lowest average life expectancy since 2003. Heart disease and cancer continue to be the leading causes of death, but the 385,201 American deaths that were attributable in some measure to COVID-19 were a major factor in the decline. In addition, more than 93,000 Americans died of drug overdoses during pandemic lockdowns, a record and an increase of more than 20,000 from the previous year.

FIGHTING WORDS: New York Mets games are a pleasure to watch or listen to because the team’s TV and radio broadcast crews are so entertaining. You might forgive the people of Cincinnati, though, if they weren’t amused upon hearing what SNY play-by-play voice Gary Cohen had to say about their town’s “local delicacy.” Hint: It includes the word “disgusting.”

SPACE MEN: In all the chatter about billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos rocketing to the edge of space and returning to Earth — was it “a tragically wasteful ego contest” or did it herald a new age of innovation that will benefit us all? — it was easy to overlook the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Glenn, a fighter pilot in two wars, an astronaut who was a pioneer in testing the bounds of spaceflight and a true American icon.

CAKE FROSTS CUSTOMER: A bakery in suburban Philadelphia is apologizing profusely and saying it was an honest mistake when a decorator finishing a cake honoring a police officer’s 25th work anniversary used a doctored image of a Philadelphia police badge that replaced the words “Honor, Integrity, Service” with “Coffee, Corruption, Donuts.”

LIVES

R. MIHRAN MOORADIAN and his brothers built a business their father started into a successful eponymous furniture franchise with several stores in the Albany, N.Y., area. He was active in several civic and service organizations, and maintained close ties to his alma mater, Troy High. He was 89.

GLORIA RICHARDSON was not as well-known as other Civil Rights activists of the 1960s, but she was no less fierce and committed. The first woman to lead a prolonged grassroots civil rights movement outside the Deep South, in 1962 she helped organize and led the Cambridge Movement on Maryland's Eastern Shore with sit-ins to desegregate restaurants, bowling alleys and movie theaters, and advocated for the rights of demonstrators to defend themselves if attacked. She was photographed in 1963 casually pushing aside a National Guardsman’s bayonet during one demonstration. She was 99.

DR. PAUL AUERBACH pioneered the field of wilderness medicine in the 1980s, using experience he gained as a medical student while working on a Native American reservation in Montana. Unable to find much information about treating medical emergencies in the wilderness, he started researching and assigning topics to colleagues who shared his interest in the outdoors, publishing a book in 1983 that is considered the definitive text in the field. It’s now in its seventh edition. He died of brain cancer at 70.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

EASY MONEY (?): A Craigslist ad has people in the Hudson Valley buzzing: $1,000 plus meals, travel expenses and a hotel room for a weekend of work. The job: escorting the advertiser’s mother-in-law to an August wedding. The person chosen must own his own suit, be a good dancer and pass a background check. “Experience with narcissists a plus.”

THE SIGNOFF

It’s an old saw that mothers love children more than fathers do because they’re more certain of the parentage. Ice T doesn’t have that excuse.

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Lisa Fenwick, Jeff Killeen, John Bulmer, Claire P. Tuttle, 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.  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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