The Week: What Caught Our Eye

August 28, 2021

Sunlight streaming through clouds over a lake, with mountains in the backgroundAt dawn, God’s fingers draw back the curtain on a new day on Lake George. (Jeff Killeen)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

Summer, where are you going? We’ve still got another full month. Why the rush?  There are still crisp mornings and long, warm afternoons ahead. No point in pining while the sun is shining. Today, the sun (and the attention of the racing world) will shine on Saratoga where America’s oldest stakes race steps off at 6:12 p.m., televised nationally on FOX. The Travers is a $1.25-million showcase for three-year-olds, and this year Essential Quality is the horse to beat. Voted champion two-year-old male last year, EQ arrives at the 152nd Travers with seven wins in the eight starts of his career, his only loss at the Kentucky Derby. The storied Travers was first run at Saratoga in 1864, 11 years before the Kentucky Derby.

A GILDED CAGE: Imagine those colorful Olympic rings as handcuffs. Controversy attended many aspects of the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, but one issue has been virtually lost to memory: The flap over the “Olympic Prison.” Organizers needed an Olympic Village to house nearly 1,000 of the world’s most elite athletes but finding a way to finance it was a major challenge. The only party willing to help was the Federal Bureau of Prisons which wanted to build a facility in the Northeast at the time. And, so, the accommodations created for the athletes at Lake Placid had a certain Folsom Feng Shui:  8x13 foot rooms with cinderblock walls; doors of heavy steel with small peep windows, bunk beds. Single, narrow windows with steel rods running down the middle to discourage escape—or, in the case of potential Olympic terrorists, entry. Two 11-foot electrified fences around the campus. One Italian Olympic official toured the facility and declared the rooms lousy and suffocating. Today, when visitors ask to tour the Olympic Village, they are told they’ll need to commit a federal crime to see the inside.

TAYLORED TO SARATOGA: A week ago, an aging rocker used the privilege of an evening on the Saratoga Performing Arts Center stage to denounce his Albany hotel accommodations, earning easy press attention for his glib negativity. This week, another rocker for the ages, James Taylor, came to the SPAC stage overflowing with affection for Saratoga, with a lingering love song of a concert for a packed house of largely middle-aged people who remember all of the ups and downs of Taylor’s complex life and career and appreciated him all the more as a joyful survivor and a Berkshires neighbor. “Saratoga!” he must have said a dozen times. How sweet it was to see him again, joined on stage by his wife, Albany native Kim Hessberg Taylor (who worked briefly for the late, great Knickerbocker News), son Henry and old friend Jackson Browne. Both Browne and Taylor have new albums – who knew? – and Taylor characteristically gave Browne’s more attention than his own. We’ll say nice things about him when he’s gone.

THE HAIR FORCE: Human hair — collected from clippings of about 40,000 U.S. salons — is becoming a major player in ocean cleanups as a free, highly effective resource that never runs out. The idea was started by a hair stylist who was watching coverage of a massive oil spill in 1989 and knew hair had great capacity for soaking up grease. Turns out each hair adsorbs three to nine times its weight in oil.

BEATING THE SYSTEM: Communities across the U.S. have taken steps to curtail short-term property rentals, and some have even barred timeshares, arguing, among other points, that they diminish the residential character of a community. A startup is seeking a way around those regulations by buying homes, registering them as LLCs, then selling shares, with shareholders given occupancy rights that they could use themselves or share with others. A lot of people are very unhappy about it.

TRUST ISSUES: In general, most would agree, high levels of trust are a good thing — for relationships, for communities, for society as a whole. But a recent study by a Northwestern University professor and his colleagues, using data from the U.S. and Russia, suggests that high levels of trust — a tight-knit community — could encourage people to act more recklessly. In more ethnically diverse areas — where people have less trust that their neighbors will follow social-distancing guidelines — residents are more likely to stay home to avoid becoming infected. The result is an unusual example of a situation where fear — not trust — leads to a positive outcome, at least in the short term.

DIVIDED WE STAND: An anthropologist and college professor authored a raw and revealing essay about life on the two sides of the political divide that has come to define our times. The authenticity is striking, the anecdotal bits of conversation and text messages illuminating. The professor watches videos of maskless partiers and thinks nihilism. His foil, a business owner in Michigan, looks at people wearing masks and sees an acceptance of totalitarian rule. “We face each other across the chasm of polarization, the growing tendency to disparage those across the political aisle as enemies and villains,” the professor writes. “Vaccines and face masks have been turned into highly partisan commitments, making it hard to see those who choose otherwise as anything but senseless and unhinged.”

Scooters sitting outside an arcadeWhat’s the coolest thing about a Lake George summer? You can grab a scooter and race to the arcade. No need to lock it up. (Matt Behan)

GAMES

FIGHTING WORDS: An Illinois printing company published a survey that found the University of Notre Dame’s leprechaun mascot the fourth-most offensive in college football, behind three schools that still use Native American mascots or imagery. Notre Dame explained that the nickname was, in fact, used by other schools to mock Notre Dame’s athletic teams at a time of deep anti-Catholic sentiment, and that ND supporters embraced it, “turning what once was an epithet into an 'in-your-face' expression of triumph.” But trifle not with Irish mascots. Shortly after publication, the survey disappeared.

BACK TO SCHOOL: A few weeks ago we told you former NBA star J.R. Smith, who skipped college to turn pro after high school, was hoping to play intercollegiate golf for North Carolina A&T University. The NCAA has granted his wish. Good news for Smith, who’s 35, and other golfers: a 2009 study from Sweden suggests those who play may live as many as five years longer than nongolfers, all else being equal, of course.

ELECTRIC STUFF: A pitcher who’s capable of throwing the ball past hitters consistently is said to have electric stuff. Think Jacob de Grom of the Mets, when he’s healthy, or Max Scherzer of the Dodgers. A century ago, Ray Caldwell had that kind of stuff, a talent so prodigious that, when the Yankees were considering trading Caldwell to the Washington Senators for the great Walter Johnson, the American League president advised against it because of Caldwell’s potential. But Caldwell was a heavy drinker, and on the verge of washing out of the league entirely when the Cleveland Indians gave him a chance in 1920. It was there, near the shores of Lake Erie, that Caldwell was struck by lightning while on the mound. His teammates thought he was dead. Then he got up and finished the inning.

BUSINESS DECISIONS: Large majorities of Americans support businesses refusing to serve unvaccinated customers or employ unvaccinated workers, though the vehemence of those who oppose such public health measures, concern about losing good employees and reluctance to wade into treacherous waters, is creating a great deal of hand-wringing over the role businesses should play in combatting the pandemic. Nevertheless, “From a business management perspective, no masks and no vaccinations ultimately may lead to major economic and financial risk for any company,” one medical expert told Forbes.

A SUMMER TRADITION: Camp Atwater in Central Massachusetts has welcomed generations of teenagers and other youth to the peaceful shores of Lake Lashaway, inviting them to spend their summers in judgment-free tranquility, away from the racism and stresses that too often are a part of daily life for Black children and families in America. Scholars believe the camp, founded 100 years ago, might have been the first of its kind in America — a summer camp specifically for Black youth, whose attendees include a future U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts; the first Black chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court; and media mogul Wendy Williams. Groundskeeper Buck Gee, who was a camper in the '70s and a counselor in the '80s, told NPR the magic of Camp Atwater is the freedom it allows Black kids to be themselves.

NOT BUYING IT: Patagonia, the high-end outdoor clothing and lifestyle brand, said it no longer would supply apparel and other merchandise to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming after the resort’s owner co-hosted a fundraiser for the House Freedom Caucus, many of whose members have perpetuated baseless claims about fraud in the 2020 election. “We will continue to use our business to advocate for policies to protect our planet, support thriving communities and a strong democracy,” the company’s head of communications and policy said.

GOD’S WORK ON EARTH:  Sister Doris, 72, and a Franciscan nun, believes deeply in two things: The God who loves and accepts her as she is. And the beer she’s brewed for 50 years at the Mallersdorf Abbey brewery in northeastern Bavaria. The cloisters there were founded in the 12th century and are home today to 400 nuns. In 1881, the nuns were caring for hundreds of poor children and decided to open the brewery to raise money to fund their mission. Sister Doris is the last brewmeister nun in Bavaria and is looking for a successor.

DISOVERING HY: Hy Rosen lived by his wits, his pen and a bottle of ink. The Albany Times Union’s first and most famous editorial cartoonist was a man of twinkly eyes, salty tongue, kindly touch — and a wicked sense of humor used daily to skewer the powerful and the pompous. After all, he had grown up the son of a ragman in Albany’s South End where, now, a treasure trove of his work has just been discovered.

TRAIL BLAZER: Harvey Sutton just hiked nearly 2,200 miles in seven months, the time it took him to walk the length of the Appalachian Trail from south to north. That he completed the trail is noteworthy enough; that he did with a week to spare before he started kindergarten makes it national news. “It’s going to change his life forever, and his parents’ lives, too. The kid went through some hardships, but don’t we all? Hardships make us stronger,” Dale “Greybeard” Sanders, the oldest person to hike the trail, told The Associated Press. “That kid is going to smile through life.”

COUGHLIN, FROM THE HEART: Tom Coughlin was a no-nonsense disciplinarian who commanded respect, preached toughness and twice beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowls as head coach of the New York Giants. He’s also a loving and devoted husband coming to grips with the agonizing and unstoppable decline of his wife, Judy. “I am not seeking sympathy. It’s the last thing I want. It’s the last thing that most caregivers want,” Coughlin wrote in a poignant essay for The New York Times. “Taking care of Judy is a promise I made 54 years ago when she was crazy enough to say, ‘I do.’ I do want the players I coached in college and in the N.F.L. who thought all my crazy ideas about discipline, commitment and accountability ended when they left the field to know that is not the case. The truth is that is when those qualities matter most. A friend said we don’t get to choose our sunset, and that’s true, but I am so blessed to get to hold Judy’s hand through hers.”

LIVES

TWITTY J. STYLES was the first Black tenured faculty member at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., an immunologist who specialized in infectious diseases and became a professor of biology at Union. A product of the segregated South, he was active in regional AIDS awareness programs and, in retirement, helped launch UNITAS, describing it as “a campus-wide organization whose primary mission is to support and encourage diversity, acceptance and the celebration of cultural differences.” He was 94.

DON EVERLY was half of the hitmaking duo the Everly Brothers, whose harmonizing in songs such as “Bye Bye Love,” “Let It Be Me,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Wake Up Little Susie” influenced a generation of performers. His partnership with his brother, the late Phil Everly, ended in 1973, but they reunited 10 years later and had successful concert tours in the U.S. and Europe. He was 84.

PHIL VALENTINE was a conservative talk radio host in Nashville who downplayed the need for coronavirus vaccines and said on the air that if he got the virus, he figured his chances of dying were “probably way less than one percent.” He changed his tune after contracting the virus in late July. He died of COVID-19 at 61. 

ROD GILBERT played his entire 18-year NHL career with the New York Rangers, averaging nearly a point a game over his career, appearing in eight All-Star Games and becoming, in 1979, the first Rangers player ever to have his jersey number (7) retired. Known as Mr. Ranger, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982. He was 80.

CHARLIE WATTS was at heart a jazzman, a solitary and eccentric artist who favored bespoke Savile Row suits, collected antique cars he did not drive, stayed married to his wife, and generally felt uncomfortable with his day job as the longest serving drummer for the Rolling Stones. He was 80.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

(To mark the week that Kathy Hochul became New York’s first female governor)

Ah, happy he who, knowing how to wait, 
Knows also how to watch and work and stand
On Life’s broad deck alert, and at the prow
To seize the passing moment, big with fate, 
From opportunity’s extended hand, 
When the great clock of destiny strikes Now! 
- Mary A. Townsend

THE SIGNOFF

A HERO’S WELCOME: Martin Adler was a 20-year-old U.S. soldier on patrol in Italy late in World War II when he came upon a house he thought was empty. Hearing a sound coming from a huge wicker basket, he was moments from shredding the basket, and what he presumed was a hiding German solider, with his machine gun when a woman jumped in front of him, pleading for the children she had hidden inside. Last week, he traveled back to Italy, where he met the three siblings he saved — now octogenarians themselves — in person for the first time since the war.

Thank you to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Lisa Fenwick, Matt Behan, Jeff Killeen, 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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