The Climate Like The Times Are A Changin’

I saw an old friend the other day and she told me she was considering moving back to the northeast.

“Why?” I asked. “I thought you loved South Florida.”

“I do, but I just can’t take the heat anymore,” she said.

I get it. So do the lonely unworn sweaters that sit in the dark recesses of my closet. They long to be seen.

We are coming off the hottest October since record keeping began 127 years ago and temps nearing 90 degrees continued into early November.

I’ve lived here 32 years and you don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand that the weather is changing. I don’t remember worrying about King Tides or even talking about them until recently.

As for hurricanes, well we’ve always lived in fear of them but now we are told that they will be stronger, more frequent and will move more slowly in the future which means more havoc and destruction.

But let’s back up a tad.

There are those who deny climate change despite the overwhelming science and the evidence we are seeing with our own eyes. But pick up any newspaper or tune into any news station and it sure seems like the climate is making a lot of noise these days.

Freak fall snowstorms. Record droughts. Wildfires. Super storms. Heat waves and rising seas are there for all to see or I suppose deny.

Luckily, in Florida anyway, most of the public seems to get it.

A recent survey by Florida Atlantic University reveals that most Floridians are concerned about climate change but don’t feel government is doing enough to address the problem.

Two-thirds of Floridians are concerned about the well-being of future generations due to climate change and that Florida state government is not doing enough to address climate change impacts, according to the first-ever Florida Climate Resilience Survey conducted by the Florida Atlantic University Center for Environmental Studies (CES).

The statewide survey shows that 68% of Floridians either agree or strongly agree that climate change has them concerned about the well-being of future generations in Florida. Only 28% said that Florida’s government (state, county and municipal) is already doing enough to address the impacts of climate change.

Here are some of the highlights of the survey:

  • A majority of respondents support future solar energy production in Florida (51%).
  • Almost half of respondents are willing to pay $10 per month to strengthen Florida’s infrastructure (such as bridges, roads, stormwater systems) to weather hazards (47%).
  • A majority of respondents are in favor teaching climate change causes, consequences, and solutions in Florida K-12 classrooms (68%).
  • More than half of Floridians (56%) state that climate change is real and that it is largely caused by human activity, including 44% of Republicans, and 59% of Independents, and 70% of Democrats.
  • Nearly 6 in 10 Floridians (59%) believe their household to be well-prepared for climate hazards, with survival supplies such as food, water, power generators, phone chargers and radios.
  • Most Floridians are moderately or extremely concerned about hurricanes becoming stronger or more frequent (65%), temperatures rising (61%), and rising sea levels (59%).

“Florida’s prosperity is strongly influenced by its climate,” said Colin Polsky, Ph.D., director of the FAU Center for Environmental Studies and lead author of the study. “Our warm

temperatures and abundant rainfall support our top-tier tourism, agriculture and other industries. But our weather patterns also present Floridians with risks, such as flooding and high winds.

Today, the prospect of climate change adds to our risk profile in ways we are only starting to understand. The results from this first quarterly statewide survey paint a picture of how resilient

Floridians are to the climate risks we face.”

Younger Floridians ages 18-49 are more likely to agree with the scientific consensus on climate change and its attribution to human activities (60 percent) than those ages 50-64 and 65 and over (51 and 52 percent, respectively).

“Since the early 1990s, the climate change question at the national-level has become increasingly polarized along party lines,” Polsky said. “Yet in recent years a growing number of

states and cities have taken meaningful actions to recognize, study, and address climate change. These actions are largely consolidated in blue-leaning states, unlike Florida, and the national level discourse remains polarized along partisan lines.”

Yet, the business community is viewed by a large swath of the electorate (45 percent) as the group who will, through innovation and entrepreneurship, lead Floridians to successfully adapt to weather hazards.

“In my experience in southeast Florida for the past five years, the private sector leaders are, regardless of party affiliation, are not only actively concerned about challenges linked with our

changing climate, but also committed to meaningful actions,” Polsky said. “They’re even getting impatient. Now through this survey, we may be seeing similar support statewide for climate

solutions grounded in innovation and entrepreneurship.”

It’s about time.

Or maybe it’s too late. I sure hope not.

So much is riding on how we meet this challenge.

Much of our tax base sits along the coast. So much of our population is vulnerable.

We have no choice but to try and figure things out.

Awareness is important, but taking action is critical.

P.S. Sprawl like development isn’t the answer.

 

 

 

 

Veterans Day

 

Many years ago– it was 1987 to be exact–I drove a blue ‘78 Toyota Corolla 1,328 miles from Binghamton N.Y to South Florida to take a newspaper job in Boca Raton.

I worked for the Monday-Thursday papers which were pretty famous in those days in a warehouse type office on East Rogers Circle.

The newsroom was populated with amazing characters. Talented writers, editors and photographers.

The managing editor’s name was Tom Sawyer. He took me to lunch on my first day at work at the restaurant also named Tom Sawyer.

He looked me in the eye and told me the place was named after him. I think I believed him. I was young and naïve. He was grizzled and experienced. He was also tough and gruff and would help me grow up fast in the business.

In the newsroom they sat me next to a sportswriter named Jim Baker.
He was a good writer, about 20 years my senior.  Jim was experienced and wore sweaters every day even in summer.
We quickly became friends and he sort of served as a mentor for me even though I was writing news  and he was covering locals sports. I shared a lot of what I was covering in a rip roaring 1980s era Delray Beach and we talked about sports, music and politics.

Jim was a Vietnam Veteran. And I’m thinking about him today which is Veterans Day.

I’ve long lost track of him and have tried periodically to find him. To date, I haven’t.
But even if I never do, he made an impression on my life.

I hadn’t really known a Vietnam Veteran before and over the course of my brief friendship with Jim he would occasionally open up about his experiences over beers at a bowling alley we would frequent off of Cypress Creek Road.

The bowling alley is long gone but I was told it was once owned by tennis hustler Bobby Riggs. I’m not sure if that was true or just an urban legend. South Florida was different back then. Less built up and we found ourselves driving south for amusement because there was nothing much to do in my new hometown Delray. Jim lived in Sunrise and so Cypress Creek was on his way home.

Jim liked the bowling alley bar because the beer was cold and cheap and the bartender looked like Elvira. Google her if you must. But she was a big name back then.
One day, the Oliver Stone movie “Platoon” was playing over the bar and I could see Jim’s demeanor change.
The color drained from his face, the man who wore sweaters in 90 degree heat started to sweat and slowly he began to tell me more about his experiences in Vietnam.
He was a medic. He saw a lot. Things were never the same for him he said. There were more details and he told me the movie was a very accurate depiction of what life was like in the jungles of Vietnam. He spoke softly and slowly his eyes never leaving the screen. I remember his face looked very pale as if the color was drained from it.

I just sat and listened. I may have thanked him for sharing. It’s hard to know what to say. I was 22 or 23 at the time. I really hadn’t lived much yet, but I remember recalling that Jim had seen a whole lot more when he was my age. What he saw changed him because there is just no way to experience war and not have it change you.

Since then, I have known and talked to several other Vietnam vets, a few World War II vets and a few Korean War veterans. I have also met some brave soldiers, men and women, who went to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I hope you have also had a chance to know and talk to people who have served.

They are special people. We enjoy America because of their service and their sacrifices.
There is no America without them. It’s just that simple.

And yet, how often do we think of those who serve and have served?
How many veterans suffer health and mental issues as a result of their service? How many are homeless?
The statistics are alarming.
My old newsroom neighbor Jim was clearly affected by his service. I learned a lot from him that day. It wouldn’t be long before he left the newspaper for a new life in Denver. We promised to stay in touch but we didn’t. Sometimes that happens. But I will never forget Jim. How he took me under his wing when I was the young guy in the newsroom, how he befriended me and then confided in me.
Today, I will toast my old friend and all the veterans and active duty service members and thank them for keeping us safe and free.
We should honor them each and every day.

A House Divided

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”—Abraham Lincoln.

I was thinking of Lincoln last week as I watched news coverage of the historic House vote on impeachment.

As member after member rose and went on record for or against, we saw the stark and dark divisions in our country laid bare for all to see. Of course, it was nothing new. We see it every single day and have seen it for years.

And I thought of Lincoln. And whether our better angels have departed for good.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham reminds us that we have been through worse and have always come back and for sure we have. But I have this nagging feeling that somehow what we’re seeing is different.

And I thought of Lincoln.

I went to the Internet to re-read his “House Divided” speech. I hadn’t read it in decades, since I was in school.

The House Divided Speech was delivered on June 16, 1858, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, after Lincoln had accepted the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination to run for the U.S. Senate.

The speech became the launching point for his unsuccessful campaign for the seat, held by Stephen A. Douglas; the campaign would climax with the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.

At the time, even Lincoln’s friends regarded his speech as too radical for the occasion.

But when you read it, you can’t help but feel that it is tame by today’s standards. The language is almost poetic, the writing is outstanding and while he argues passionately against slavery it is devoid of personal attacks. Instead it is full of ideas and optimism.

It concludes with the following line: “We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail.”

It is vintage Lincoln, acknowledging the high stakes and the possibility of failure, but ultimately ending on an optimistic note.

I don’t see that optimism today. That belief that things are going to get better, that problems are going to be solved and divisions will be repaired.

Not on the international stage where a teenager chastises the world’s leaders for doing nothing to save the environment and not on the national stage where we see a constant barrage of attacks, lies and accusations. Even locally, we see a ton of negativity especially on social media which can be a cesspool.

In such a world, is there a place for our better angels to make a stand?
Are people willing to put the world, nation and their own community ahead of their tribe?

What will it take for good people to rise up and say enough is enough?
Do we sit idly by as standards and rules that seemed to work for so long get obliterated?

Or will we continue to bicker and watch the heat and anger rise and take us to ever more dangerous places?

It’s a fundamental choice to make, but the path to something better is not clear.

As a hyperlocal blog, I invite you to cruise some local Facebook pages and see what you find.

It seems like almost every post that has to do with local government attracts a large share of cynicism and snark.

Pebb Capital, a fine firm with a deep track record of success in real estate, ponies up a whopping $40 million to buy the Sundy House and the first comment you see is a cynical prediction that the historic structures will be bulldozed and the historic neighborhood trashed. Followed by comments such as “Delray is shot,” no longer charming or in the least appealing. Really? Is that true?

Should we be concerned about historic properties? Of course. But there doesn’t seem to be any trust in the process or in the officials responsible for enforcing the city’s codes and land development rules.

In reality, with Pebb Capital in town, we will actually see the long-awaited investment promised. We won’t ever see 10 story buildings downtown and if you want to see real traffic try navigating Glades Road after 4 p.m.

To be sure, there is plenty to be concerned about in Delray and I have written extensively on those topics. I will note that you only spend time on the things you care about. So when we see columns on instability at City Hall, poor leadership, a lack of long term thinking, incivility, the lack of talent attracted to public service and rising rents downtown it’s not coming from a nasty place but from a love of this community and a desire to see it thrive and be a happy place. I hope the other comments I referenced on Facebook come from that place too. Sometimes I have my doubts.

While fixing the national scene may be a bridge too far, we can always start at home.

Groups like WiseTribe offer a great template for building community.

Another suggestion is to go back to the old playbook.

Delray made significant strides beginning in the late 80s when the city began to offer a slew of ways for citizens to get engaged. From citizen police academies and resident academies to visioning charrettes and neighborhood dinners, there was a concerted effort to find, recruit and bring citizens to the public square so they could work together and building a better city.

It worked.

As important as those initiatives were, they may be even more important today. We cannot let social media be the only or even the primary way for citizens to engage. For sure, there is a place for Facebook. But it is a poor replacement for face to face meetings and social media does not provide a meaningful way to facilitate important conversations.

It’s hard to demonize someone sitting across a table from you, but very easy to do so on Facebook, especially since the platform allows for the use of fake identities.

Sometimes the old fashioned ways are best; face to face conversations still have a place in our hyper connected world. If we lose the ability to relate to our neighbors we will lose the common ground that builds community and with it our sense of belonging.

 

Honoring Two Very Special Public Servants

Larry Garito had a memorable career at Delray Beach Fire Rescue.

It was a weekend of love, affection and appreciation in Delray Beach.
Two well-known and beloved community servants were honored: one at a memorial at the Elks Club and one at a retirement party at the Delray Beach Golf Club.
We attended both events and came  away with a feeling that The Beatles were right: “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
Indeed.
Retired Delray Beach Fire Rescue Lt. Larry Garito was remembered as someone who was devoted to two families; his real one and his extended family at Delray Fire Rescue.
In cruising the room and talking to old friends gathered at The Elks Club, it seemed that everyone remembered Larry’s warm smile, friendly personality and desire to bring people together.
He found a great outlet at Delray Fire Rescue where he was one of the more visible firefighters working in the community and teaching children and adults about fire safety. He was a great ambassador to the outside world and did his best to take new firefighters under his wing.
Larry and his late wife Barbara, the former city clerk, were devoted to Delray. His son, son in law and grandchildren work or have worked at Delray Fire Rescue creating a legacy of service that few families can match.
Larry mentored younger firefighters and was well known by generations of elected officials who welcomed his advice and insights.
I valued our conversations and the many laughs we shared over the years and I absolutely adored his wife Barbara, one of the warmest people I’ve ever met. During my years in office, if I ever needed a pick me up or a dose of happiness, I would wander over to the City Clerk’s office where you could count on kindness and smiles.
I admired the closeness of the Garito family and when I lived in Sabal Lakes, Larry would often ride his bike to my house so we could talk shop. He loved his city and his fire department.
A wide cross section of Delray turned out to pay respects to this kind man: active duty firefighters, retirees, fire chiefs, the retired assistant city manager and retired city attorney, a former commissioner, business leaders, neighbors and of course a slew of Elks.
Larry Garito was a special man. He loved his city, his job, his family and his friends and they loved him back.

Dorothy Ellington led the Delray Beach Housing Authority with kindness and a passion for people,

Later that night, a large crowd filled a banquet room at the Golf Club to celebrate the retirement of Dorothy Ellington after 32 years of service to Delray Beach including more than two decades as head of the Delray Beach Housing Authority.
Dorothy cleaned up a troubled agency and  positively impacted the lives of so many by providing affordable housing to families she genuinely cared for and took the time to know. She also enriched the lives of her staff whose outpouring of love was truly touching to see.

Dorothy got along with everyone. She cared deeply about housing and was passionate about the people she served.
She had an extraordinary career in a tough field rife with regulations and challenges.
She led with love.
She left us wanting more.
The great ones always do.
They also lead with love, have passion for the mission and touch lives.
When they pass that doesn’t go away. And when they retire they are remembered. They leave a legacy for all who follow.
Delray has been blessed with some extraordinary people who have given this town their all.
That’s our  secret sauce.
It isn’t about buildings or the issue du jour. It’s about loving and serving your community.
And it’s vitally important to thank those who do.

Things We Loved (And People We Lost) in October

Congratulations to Scuola Vecchia on East Atlantic Avenue for cooking up some of America’s best pizza.

Things We Loved in October

Well, it has been an interesting month.

Sadly, we lost several community icons in October. These were people who made a difference in our lives and left an enduring legacy. Their influence will last, but we will miss them.

Among the notables whose lives we celebrate this month: Elizabeth “Libby” Wesley, founder of the Roots Cultural Festival, noted architect Bob Currie, Lt. (retired) Larry Garito of Delray Beach Fire Rescue, retired firefighter/paramedic Bernie Paul and former city manager Don Cooper. We’re sure there are others and if we’ve missed anyone we mean no harm. Condolences and prayers for all.

 

A Community Icon

Great to see Tony Allerton honored with a special event celebrating his contributions to Delray and The Crossroads Club.

We adore Tony. He’s an inspiration to so many and just a terrific guy.

 

 

Cocomania Continues

Delray’s own Coco Gauff won her first WTA event in October. We have a feeling there will be many, many more. Her first singles win came in Linz, Austria.

 

A New “It” Restaurant

Rose’s Daughter is a great addition to Pineapple Grove.

Delicious pastas, a great flat iron steak, wonderful pizzas and delicious shrimp diablo. Check it out.

 

Happy Retirement Roger!

Nelson Lazo, a veteran chief executive at Baptist Health South Florida, has been named CEO of Bethesda Hospital East and Bethesda Hospital West in Boynton Beach. The hospitals merged with Baptist Health in 2017.

Mr. Lazo will succeed our longtime friend Roger Kirk, who will retire as CEO in December. Lazo will oversee the continued integration of the hospitals with Baptist Health, as well as expansion of services to support growth in Palm Beach County. Bethesda Hospital East was recently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as among the best regional hospitals. Expansion plans are underway at Bethesda West for an ambulatory surgery center, additional beds and more operating rooms to better serve the growing community.

As for Mr. Kirk, he will be missed. He was deeply involved in the community and is just a terrific guy. We wish him well in his next chapter.

 

Pizza

We all know that a great pizza is so much more than bread, sauce and cheese.

That’s why we anxiously await the Daily Meal’s annual list of the 101 best pizzas in America.

This year a local restaurant made the list.

Delray’s Scuola Vecchia placed 97th, which is incredibly cool.

 

We’ve been long time fans of Scuola Vecchia and have recommended their pizza to out of town guests for years. We’ve never had a complaint but we have heard a lot of raves.

So how does the Daily Meal choose the best pizza. We’ll let them tell you:

“To come up with the best pizzas in America, we research the newest, best places, then build a survey of great pizzas from around the country — nearly 1,000 pizzas in total were considered in 2019.

We start by defining the perfect pie. What are the essentials? Considering the varied pizza styles (Neapolitan, Sicilian, New York, Connecticut, California, Detroit, St. Louis, bar pie, deep-dish, grandma… we’ll stop ourselves there), that’s a loaded question. Suffice it to say, no matter your pizza denomination, we believe the following qualities are essential: a nuanced sauce, neither too sweet nor too salty (assuming that the pie has sauce); quality, well-distributed cheese (assuming that it has cheese); quality, sensibly combined toppings; a flavorful, savory crust; and, perhaps most importantly, a judicious, well-balanced and pleasing ratio of sauce, cheese, toppings and crust that maintains a structural integrity no matter the style.”

Whew. Sounds like exhausting work.

 

Daily Meal then called upon a blue-chip, geographically diverse list of pizza panelists — chefs, restaurant critics, bloggers, writers and other pizza authorities — asking them to take the survey and vote only for places where they’ve actually eaten.

This year, pies from 30 states and Washington D.C. were considered. Here’s what the Daily Meal said about our local champ.

“Scuola Vecchia brings a host of traditional Italian pizzas to Delray Beach, Florida, with options for every pizza lover. Guests can choose from 24 different pizzas, from the traditional Margherita to more complex pies like the capricciosa with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, Italian ham, artichokes, mushrooms and extra-virgin olive oil. But if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, there’s the option to build your own pie.”

We hope you’ll check out our local winner Scuola Vecchia on East Atlantic Avenue.

 

 What we’re listening to:

I’m listening to classic albums while working. It’s a great way to get inspired and to rediscover old favorites.

This month we listened to Abbey Road on its 50th anniversary, Gregg Allman’s “ Laid Back” and rediscovered the Go Go’s with their classic “Beauty and the Beat”. We also checked  in on Blondie’s “Parallel Lines “to mark the new Deborah Harry book and listened to The Beach Boys 1966 classic “Pet Sounds”.

We also can’t stop listening to the new Bruce Springsteen album “Western Stars.” I’ve seen the movie (twice) at the Palace and it’s just awesome.

Until next month…have a safe and fun Halloween.

 

 

 

Talking to Legends: Denny Laine Edition

Denny Laine is coming to Boca.

Editor’s note: Long time readers of this blog know that I am passionate about music.
While I like a wide variety of music, my favorite is classic rock— the music I grew up with.
As the co-owner of a local newspaper (the Delray and Boca Newspapers), we are often pitched interviews with musicians who pass through the area playing at local venues ranging from Funky Biscuit in Boca or The Arts Garage and Old School Square in Delray Beach.
When time permits– or if I simply can’t resist– I jump at the opportunity to talk to some of my musical heroes. So far that has included Martin Barre’, guitarist for Jethro Tull, Jesse Colin Young and of course the Mighty Max Weinberg of the E Street Band who has become a friend. Don’t miss Max’s upcoming show at The Arts Garage Nov. 30, it will be awesome.
Last week, I had the pleasure to talk with Denny Laine the guitarist for Wings and The Moody Blues two bands I love. I thought I’d share our conversation.

Denny Laine has had an amazing life.

He spent 10 years working with Paul and Linda McCartney as the lead guitarist for Wings, played on a bill with Jimi Hendrix, was a member of the Moody Blues, toured with Chuck Berry and sang lead vocals on a number one hit: “Go Now.”

He also was a band mate of the legendary Ginger Baker, co-wrote (with McCartney) “Mull of Kintyre” which became the best- selling single in U.K. history and has spent his entire life doing what he always wanted to do—play music.

But when you ask Laine to talk about the legends he has worked with he’s almost reluctant to talk—- not because he isn’t friendly (he is) but because he’s afraid of leaving others out of the conversation and he doesn’t want to slight musicians he knows and admires. He has worked with members of The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Hollies, ELO and more.

But he will give you some cool tidbits such as:

“Paul is great to work with. He’s easy. We knew each other for years before Wings so when he formed the group it was really easy to work together. There was a comfort level and a great rapport.”

He and Paul went to a London club to see Hendrix play and came away impressed. But did he ever talk to Jimi about the guitar? You know two great guitarists just talking shop?

“Not really, Jimi was very nice but knew his band mates Mitch (Mitchell) and Noel (Redding) better . Jimi was shy but friendly. But no we never did get around to talking music.”

As for the mercurial Ginger Baker, the legendary Cream drummer, Laine knew him well and performed in a group called Air Force with Ginger.

“He was a great band mate,” he says. “I know he has a reputation, but he had a big heart and was great to work with. He was good person once you got to know him.”

Laine who will turn 75 at the end of the month is still playing, writing and touring.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer will visit Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, Saturday, Nov. 16 for a show at 8 p.m.

For tickets visit https://www.funkybiscuit.com/e/denny-laine-trio-74178440713/

Denny in his Wings days.

We spoke to Laine recently from his home in New Jersey. He told us he will be moving to Florida this winter in search of sunshine and warmth.

He also mentioned that South Floridians will be able to catch him live more often now that he’s relocating. He plays three types of shows: a solo act which includes songs and stories, as the Denny Laine Trio (the Funky Biscuit show) and as part of a band called the Moody Wings, a nod to his two most famous bands.

While he’s written a slew of songs and still writes, Laine sees himself first and foremost as a guitarist. His distinctive sound can be heard on classic albums including Band on the Run, Back to the Egg, London Town and early Moody Blues material, work that earned him entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

“I’ve been playing in bands since I was 12 and I still feel like I’m growing as a musician,” he says. “I always have a guitar with me and I still have the drive to improve and evolve.”

Laine says he listens to a wide variety of music—jazz, blues, rock and that he’s exactly where he wants to be:  playing music in front of fans.

“I’ve had a great life,” he says. “Lots of things just seem to come to me which is great because I didn’t want to do anything else with my life.”

As for hit songs, he says there’s some magic involved.

“The songs have to be good and as musicians we know when they are,” he says. “But there’s so much more that must happen. There needs to be promotion, you have to know what do with the song in the studio and when you perform it. I knew ‘Go Now’ was a great song, but a hit? I don’t know. We were touring with Chuck Berry when that song came out. All of Chuck’s fans must have bought it, because they heard it and it became number one. It was a thrill for us.”

So what can the fans in Boca expect?
A variety of songs spanning Denny Laine’s career—Wings material, Moody Blues songs and solo material as well.

“It’s a fun night,” says Laine. “Because we just love playing live.”

 

 

 

A Golden Age For Restaurants

Suzanne Perrotto has been cooking up magic in Delray since 2008. First Brule’ and now Rose’s Daughter.

We went to Rose’s Daughter, a new restaurant in Pineapple Grove recently.

In a word, it was amazing.

Inventive dishes, fresh ingredients, cool vibe: check, check, check.

A few weeks before, we ventured to Elisabetta’s, the new restaurant that now inhabits the space once occupied by the acclaimed 32 East.

The Delray/Boca culinary scene is something to savor and taste.

We are chock full of great restaurants featuring the work of innovative chefs who ply their magic in spaces that are often breathtaking.

But I often wonder if we take full advantage of the culinary talent in our midst. Despite being relatively small cities,  Boca and Delray is a foodie paradise. Scores of truly terrific restaurants dot the landscape.

Yet, whenever I see a national magazine or web story about “foodie” destinations I tend to see yet another story about Asheville’s farm to table scene or Nashville’s culinary innovators.

We have our own culinary talent and we ought to celebrate them.

Rose’s Daughter and Brule’s Suzanne Perrotto, Caffe Luna Rosa’s Ernie DeBlasi, Michael Haycock at The Grove, Ron and Rhonda Weisheit of the TwentyTwenty Grille, the brilliant chefs at La Nouvelle Maison and the list goes on and on. I  also must give special recognition to Frances Touboul for consistent excellence at La Cigale.

It’s a golden age—especially for those of us who have been around long enough to remember when there wasn’t much around.

Personally, I have deep appreciation for the entrepreneurs driving some interesting concepts. The group behind El Camino, Park Tavern and Cut 432 and the creative team behind Elisabetta’s, Louie Bossi and City Oyster are to be commended. It can’t be easy to develop restaurants around such varied cuisine.

So we have a lot to be thankful for and a whole lot to build on.

And now that we have the hotels–which seem to be opening rapidly—we should drive the destination marketing and amp up the food festivals and events.

We should also strive to create opportunities for food and beverage entrepreneurs and expand the foodie footprint beyond pricey Atlantic Avenue and East Boca.

After all, according to WalletHub, the South Florida region was ranked the third best area for foodies in the United States.

We can build on this.

I think it will happen. It’s a great opportunity for our community.

 

The Art Of Continuing Education

 

A wonderful shot of the Portland Lighthouse commissioned by George Washington. One of many incredible photos of New England splendor.

Every now and then I get the chance to speak to a young person about their lives and their career aspirations.

They all seem to be in a rush and I suppose that’s good. I was too when I was twentysomething. In time, you learn to slow down. In fact, you long to slow down.

The young people I meet with all want to be connected to people who can move them ahead and that’s cool.

I did too.

And if I can, I try to help them, but with one condition: that they listen and learn from the people they meet along the way.

Careers are often described as a ladder and we are urged to climb ever higher— rung by rung.

But life is more like a meandering path, with starts, stops, new roads, a bunch of obstacles, oceans, mountains and hopefully time to stop and reflect.

So I urge those who seek my help to build relationships and be open to learning—those relationships will enrich you in ways that defy description.

It’s OK to ask for help or request that a door be opened, but if you don’t pause to learn from those around you, ultimately you are cheating yourself.

I’m fortunate and very, very grateful to have a number of special people in my orbit who I continue to learn from as I slide well into middle age. I’ve learned that you are never too old to learn and in many ways the older I get, it seems the more questions I have and the more knowledge I need to help me navigate life.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I have made a special friend in retired Delray and Boca fire chief Kerry Koen.

Chief Koen was very helpful to me during my term in office, which ended long ago. But he has been even more helpful to me as the years have passed.

I’m not sure that he knows it, but Kerry is a wonderful teacher.

He’s well-read and has traveled to places that resonate with me. He always brings back beautiful photographs for me and others to look at over long Friday afternoon lunches that cover a whole range of subjects from history and politics to cities and society. I feel special that he takes the time to show me and to teach me what he’s learned and what he’s seen. It’s a gift. And it’s priceless.

A collection of his wonderful photos—some look like paintings—are available for all to see until Friday, Oct. 25 in the front entrance of the Boca Public Library, 400 NW Second Avenue.

“Autumn in New England” depicts my favorite part of the country in all of its colorful splendor. It’s a spectacular exhibit.

Recently, members of a breakfast group that I sometimes visit, broke with routine and re-located from Ellie’s Diner to Tom Sawyer’s in Boca so that we could accompany Kerry for a personal tour of the exhibit.

Over breakfast, we talked and joked about the usual stuff before we followed Kerry to the downtown library where for 30 minutes or so we were transported to New England.

Make sure to visit, it’s worth your time. The photos are breathtaking.

Meanwhile, I made sure to schedule my next lunch with Chief Koen. I want to talk about local and national politics, history, management, cities and a whole range of things with a wonderful friend, teacher and man.

I have a whole lot left to learn and even more to do.

 

 

Mother To Son: A Poem for Libby Wesley

Ida Elizabeth Wesley

She was known by some as the “mother of Delray Beach.”

To others she was the founder of the Roots Cultural Festival, the namesake of a plaza on West Atlantic Avenue and a legendary retired educator who touched so many young lives.

To most people she was simply Libby.

To me, she was a guardian angel and I adored her.

Elizabeth Wesley passed away last week and I feel this loss deep in my bones.

It’s a big loss for Delray Beach because Libby was more than an icon, she was an inspiration, a visionary, a community leader and a role model.

She made her biggest impact on the youth of our community because she believed in them and that’s why her Roots Cultural Festival featured oratorical contests and other events that showcased the intellectual talents of local children. She was proud of her community and she wanted the world to see the potential that she saw in every child.

She was a big believer in education and was always teaching.

She was a big believer in community so she was always seeking ways to bring people together and strengthen Delray Beach.

Libby led with love, like all the great ones do.

Many people have their own Libby stories. And I’ve heard a few of them over the years. The common thread was that she made you feel special. Everyone felt special and loved in her presence. That’s what the great ones do, they move you and inspire you to do more, be more and love more.

Here’s my Libby story.

I got to know her when I was a reporter writing about the Roots Festival but our relationship deepened when I was elected to the city commission.

From the beginning of my term in 2000, Libby would speak of a “covenant” between city government and its citizens. I have to admit I wasn’t totally sure what she meant, but she asked the commission not to break the covenant and told us that we needed to work together to move the city forward. As a government, we shouldn’t move forward without considering the needs of the people. All of the people.

We met frequently and at every meeting I would learn something. Our meetings were often emotional—at least they were for me. I can’t say I experienced that with too many other people but something about Libby touched me very deeply. It was her depth of feeling. Her concern for others. Her insights. Her inherent goodness. It was also the way she spoke and the way she looked at you.

She was in a word: remarkable.

And I loved her very much. We all did.

I felt privileged to spend time with her. And I knew that with every meeting she would impart a lesson and I would be better for having listened.

She was close with so many of my friends—Bill Wood at the chamber of commerce, Lula Butler at the city, Joe Gillie at Old School Square.

She inspired all of us and our friends and children too.

For places to grow and for positive change to occur, they need to be shaped by people like Libby Wesley. Communities need people who are in it for the long haul and who lead with love.

We were so lucky that Libby came here from Defuniak Springs to lead and inspire us.

When I left office in 2007, Libby came to see me and she gave me the best gift ever.

It was a cassette tape of her reciting the Langston Hughes poem “Mother to Son,” a hopeful poem about not giving up. She softly sang that poem to me two years earlier after a tragic shooting took the life of a young man. The shooting challenged our community in ways I can’t begin to describe. She held my hand during those trying times and told me it was going to be OK. I guess I looked uncertain, so she said it again and I believed her.

Two years later, as I left office she signed off on the tape by telling me that she loved me like a son and that yes I had kept the covenant.

“You know that you hold a special place in my heart,” she said in a follow up email that I looked at after she passed. “That is why you were chosen to be one of my “children by love.”

She had many, but I still feel so lucky to have been one of her children. Mrs. Wesley could have had a million sons and it still would have been special.

What a gift she gave to me.

What a gift she was to Delray Beach.

Here’s the poem.

It’s beautiful.

So was Elizabeth Wesley.

Mother to Son

BY Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—

Bare.

But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Remembering Bob Currie

Bob Currie

A number of years ago, I had lunch with a retired city employee who said something that resonated deeply with me.
She told me that while Delray was a wonderful town, we didn’t know how to say thank you to people who contributed greatly to our community.
I’m afraid that might be true.
So many good ones get away without formal recognition.
It’s not right and we should do something about it.
In fact, one of the reasons I write this blog and one of the reasons I invested in a community newspaper was to say thank you to special people who have enriched our community.
We lost Bob Currie last week and he was one of those special people. Very special.
Delray owes him a heaping debt of gratitude because his accomplishments are vast and his influence was widely felt.
If you like our public library, Bob is one of the people you should thank. He served on the library board for years and was dedicated to making sure we got a new one on West Atlantic.
He lived near the beach and was dedicated to the Beach Property Owners Association whose leadership adored and respected him.
He was passionate about Pineapple Grove and dedicated thousands of hours to the district, giving special attention to the design of projects in the neighborhood and to the gateway arch. I was with him the night it was first lit. We sat with half a dozen volunteers at a nearby restaurant and toasted the future—a future that people like Bob envisioned. He was a believer. A true believer in this town.
He was passionate about historic preservation and was immensely dedicated to the restoration and success of Old School Square.
He loved the “bones” of the place taking special delight in the Crest Theatre.
He loved the people who were similarly dedicated to Old School Square, especially founder Frances Bourque. He adored her and she loved him.
Bob gave so much of his time to the betterment of what I believe is Delray’s signature civic project.
Bob was a talented and experienced architect. His firm’s stamp can be found all over Delray and throughout South Florida and parts beyond.
Bob’s dad was an architect too and he was deeply devoted to the field.
He loved to paint, golf and travel.
He was smart, not afraid to argue for a position and earned his place as the dean of Delray’s architectural community.

Bob was a throwback to a time when dedicated volunteers made Delray Beach a very special place. They were long term players, deeply committed to Delray and able to work with others. They were interested in the big picture. Hence Bob’s interest in Pineapple Grove, the beach, OSS, the downtown and historic districts.
I miss those days.
Delray misses those days.
And Delray will miss Bob Currie.
He was a wonderful man. We were blessed that this is where he landed and that he decided to give his time and talents to Delray Beach.
Rest In Peace my friend.

Thank you….