The Art Of Racing In The Rain

Our golden Teddy

Editor’s Note: It’s movie week on the blog. Check out our Blinded by the Light post on yourdelrayboca.com

If you love dogs don’t miss the new movie “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”

Bring Kleenex though.

The movie is beautifully shot, features an adorable Golden Retriever named Enzo and has some scenes that will tear at your heart strings. It also features some great music by George Harrison.

The movie is based on the book of the same name by Garth Stein.

I think my friend Jim Nolan gave me that book several years ago. I remember liking it very much.

Jim is a dog lover, like I am. He used to take his dog Goober to the Delray Green Market. The big old Bassett Hound with the soulful expression would auction off kisses for a few bucks. He was quite the guy.

But Goober got old and passed. To me and others the Green Market is not quite the same without old Goober. But that’s what a good dog will do. They work their way into your heart and never quite leave. That’s a good thing.

Dogs are having a moment as they say.

They are everywhere—movies, Subaru ads and all over social media.

One of my favorite Instagram accounts is called UPS Dogs, which features dogs that UPS drivers encounter as they deliver our parcels. Check it out, it’s great.

Anyway, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a two-hour marketing campaign for golden retrievers.

As if they need any help.

Folks, golden retrievers are truly terrific dogs.

I’ve had four—one mix and three purebreds.

All have been exceptional companions—and three were rescues so it is possible to adopt this popular breed if you so desire. I hope you do, because they rescue us too.

They rescue us from our self-indulgence and our anxiety.

The movie notes that dogs never think about the past or the future, they live in the present and that’s a good thing to be reminded of if you’re a person. Fixating on the past can hold us back, worrying about the future can also be harmful but being present in the moment is always a good thing.

The Art of Racing in the Rain really got to me. I felt this movie viscerally. It may be a tad predictable and melodramatic and it’s likely that dogs don’t have quite the inner life that Enzo does in the movie. It’s also unlikely that their inner voice sounds like a grizzled Kevin Costner. But maybe, just maybe, dogs do have this rich inner life.

I have two dogs—a golden named Teddy and a Chihuahua mix named Randy who we adopted 15 years ago at the Delray Affair.

The CRA used to let the Animal Rescue Force set up shop in its parking lot. One of the main volunteers from ARF (a terrific organization) worked in Delray’s Code Enforcement Department at the time. Randy is 16 and a half now, blind and losing his hearing. He’s been a great dog and a loyal friend.

But the sniffles I tried hard to stifle at The Art of Racing in the Rain were mostly because Enzo the star of the film looked exactly like our Teddy.

Teddy—like many goldens—is fighting cancer. This year he has endured surgery, radiation and chemo. The treatment left him with osteoarthritis which seems to flare when the weather gets wet which is often these days. Seeing him limp and struggle tugs at our hearts. Looking into his beautiful eyes and petting his soft hair often brings a lump to my throat. There’s something about this dog that resonates very deep. He touches something in my heart and has from the moment that Linda Ripps from Golden Retrievals in Boca Raton brought him over so that we could adopt him.

I can’t quite place why. I’ve loved all of my dogs similarly and have been grateful for their presence in my life.

Dogs enliven a house, comfort you when you’re down and love you unconditionally and completely. Yes, they are a major responsibility and a heartache waiting to happen but I wouldn’t want to change a thing—unless of course we could find a way to make them live longer and healthier lives.

In the movie, Enzo longs to be a human so he can better communicate with those he loves.

Enzo is frustrated that he can’t visit a loved one in the hospital or race cars which he believes he was born to do.

He finds himself fascinated by human rituals, abilities and beliefs.

I think Teddy may have the same thoughts—still waters run deep.

Randy…let’s just say Randy is pretty wrapped up in being a dog. He thinks he’s bigger than he is, but he seems content to be what he is.

Anyway, The Art of Racing in the Rain is laden with messages, lessons and wisdom.

And if you have a dog like Enzo–as I do— it will make you want to come home and love him or her even more.

That’s always a good option—to love more. That’s what dogs do so well.

 

 

 

 

Blinded By The Light

Blinded By The Light is based on a true story.

If you haven’t seen the movie “Blinded By The Light” do yourself and your mood a favor and see it on the big screen.

Make sure the theater has a good sound system because the music is sublime and the story makes you want to conquer the world.

We caught the movie recently at iPic and it exceeded my already high expectations.

For me, the movie ticked a lot of boxes:

I love a good coming of age story.

I love stories about fathers and sons.

I love movies that take place in the 1980s—because I remember the 80s. (It’s a little fuzzy but MTV actually played music videos and there was a lot of big hair).

Oh and it features the story of a teenage boy who tackles life’s challenges inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen.

I like Bruce. A lot.

So while I expected to enjoy a light hearted story powered by Springsteen’s music I discovered that the movie had so many other layers.

It’s not a “Mamma Mia” type movie (as good as that was) it’s more socially conscious and raises issues that we are dealing with today namely race, class, inequality and our unique human ability to hate others simply because they look or worship differently than we do.

Of course, the film’s worldview is balanced by the strength of friendship, love, family, romance and some amazing lyrics from a poet who emerged from Asbury Park, New Jersey and was able to touch people all over the world with a message of hope despite how hard life can be.

“Blow away the dreams that tear you apart

Blow away the dreams that break your heart

Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted.”

Bruce Springsteen, The Promised Land.

It’s a message I think we all need to hear. Because this world can be harsh—political division, mass shootings, opioid abuse, racism, misogyny, environmental degradation, homelessness, hacking and hostility. It’s a lot to digest.

And to quote Bruce, it can leave you lost and broken-hearted.

We’re not immune here in affluent Boca and #alwaysavillage Delray.

Nope.

There’s crime, drug abuse, violence, tension and division.

I’ve long contended that Delray is America in 16 square miles. The diversity is what makes our city a fascinating place.

We are a city of contrasts—great wealth and deep poverty. We are diverse and yet deeply segregated.

People in our community struggle mightily. Some struggle to stay, others struggle to get out and still others long to be here.

In the movie, our hero Javid, is a Pakistani teenager regularly bullied by his English neighbors.

The National Front marches in his town of Luton and attacks his family. His Pakistani neighbors suffer from degrading and demoralizing vandalism.

The local auto plant lays off half of its workforce and jobs are scarce.

America is also wrestling with some of these issues as hate, job insecurity and violence are unfortunately a part of our daily lives and discourse.

But often answers –or at least some respite —can be found in art, in this case music.

Great lyrics can inspire and motivate. Words matter. They can be used to harm people by telling them to “go back home” or they can heal by offering a way out or a way forward.

As Bruce says…

“The highway’s jammed with broken heroes

On a last chance power drive

Everybody’s out on the run tonight

But there’s no place left to hide

Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness

I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul

Oh, someday, girl, I don’t know when

We’re gonna get to that place

Where we really wanna go and we’ll walk in the sun

But ’til then, tramps like us

Baby, we were born to run.”

Check out Blinded By the Light it’s the feel good movie of the summer.

9/11 We Will Never Forget

9/11 will always be a somber day for our country.

It’s hard to imagine that 18 years have passed since that fateful day when terrorists killed  nearly 3,000 Americans with strikes on the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and United Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA.
I think all Americans who were alive that day have personal memories of 9/11.

As a native New Yorker it stung badly to see the Twin Towers fall. We had gone there on a school field trip, visited the Windows on the World restaurant and I had known some people who worked in the iconic buildings.

I would later learn that a childhood friend, Mike Boyle, an off duty New York City firefighter would perish in the towers. He sped to the scene when he saw what was happening. I would later find his name at the memorial and I think of him often as I am sure others do. He was a special guy.

We lost lots of special people that horrible day.

I watched the Towers get hit while in the newsroom at the old Boca News. I had sold my publication to the News two years before and they kept me on board.
September 11 fell on a Tuesday. I was on the City Commission for a little over a year at the time. At first, we did not grasp the enormity of the day and I remember we held a meeting or a workshop—as if life could go on as normal. We had no conception of how much life would change.

As the days and weeks unfolded so much had changed.
We discovered that many of the terrorist plotters had lived in our community. At the Hamlet and Laver’s…working out at World Gym, going to Huber Drugs, conducting research at the old city library.
I had friends who had encounters with what they now realized were strange men, murderers. We had police officers who stopped them for traffic violations and one who responded to calls of a dog bite where they saw the men who were plotting. Nobody knew  that  they brushed up against pure evil. These were the days before national databases so there was no way to cross check or to know.

When it was revealed that the plotters lived In Delray the media swarmed. Our mayor Dave Schmidt appeared on national morning shows. The rest of us were contacted by national media as well.
The theory was that South Florida and Delray were chosen because the terrorists felt they could blend in here with our diversity.

At the office, we watched with fear when one of our neighboring buildings which housed AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer was sealed off when anthrax was sent through the mail killing a photographer.
Suddenly, our mail room became a source of concern. It was surreal.

It was as if the world was tilted off its axis.

When catastrophe strikes, you strive for normalcy but it’s elusive.

Back in those days, our Fire Chief Kerry Koen had started a wonderful tradition at Halloween.
Commissioners were assigned to fire trucks and we drove through neighborhoods giving treats to children who swarmed the big red trucks with excitement and joy. It was tremendous fun and a wildly popular activity.
On the Halloween after 9/11, we were on trucks that began to respond to calls from parents who feared that their children had brought anthrax back in their candy carriers.
The powder that they suspected turned out to be sugar. And in one case, a frightened man thought he was a victim when he found what turned out to be sand in his apartment.
Things had changed.

We sent firefighters to Ground Zero and I wonder and worry about their health as a result. Experts estimate that more people will end up dying from exposure to toxins after the attack than died that day.
I met someone recently vacationing in Delray who was battling cancer caused by the exposure. That’s why it was so important for Congress to fully fund health benefits for victims.

If you visit our fire headquarters on West Atlantic Avenue you will see a piece of artwork dedicated to the memory of the 343 firefighters who perished that day.
It’s worth a visit.

When I remember those days, I recall how we gathered to meet and pray at Old School Square and the Community Center and how on subsequent anniversaries we lit candles and remembered those lost that day on the front lawn of Old School Square.

I think of how we as a community and we as a nation were united by tragedy. How we grew closer, at least for awhile.
And I wonder if we will ever feel that way again and why it takes a tragedy of indescribable horror to bring us together.
And I remember my childhood friend Mike Boyle who was the fastest kid in our class and how he raced up the stairs into the fire when everyone else was fleeing.

 

The Joys & Benefits Of Optimism

We all know the type….the glass is always half empty.

The rain clouds are always coming.

Failure is around every corner.

Pessimism is a trait that is especially acute during stressful times, such when we watched incessant news coverage of Hurricane Dorian as it threated South Florida before turning north.

I know folks who predicted Armageddon and they are not crazy—we dodged a bullet and the footage that we see from The Bahamas could have easily been us. I get it and I’m grateful.

But these folks were sure—rock solid sure—- of the hurricane track even when the experts weren’t and so to my mind they lean toward the pessimistic side. They are lovable. They are well-meaning and they are caring. But if you lived with them you would need intravenous Xanax.

The sky is always falling, your ideas are always full of holes and they are always there to poke a hole in your enthusiasm.

If you are an entrepreneur, these folks—within reason—are needed and necessary. They keep you sharp, they force you to answer questions and think through solutions to the weaknesses in your ideas.

But you can’t be a pessimist and succeed.

There’s no progress without risk.

In fact, I would argue that the key to success can be found in the following sentence: “do what everyone else is not doing and be right.”

If you scratch under the surface of every business you will often stumble across the notion that nobody thinks (fill in the blank) will work.

Do you really think someone is going to rent a room from a stranger? (AIRBNB)

Do you think someone is going to hail a ride from a stranger and abandon taxis? (Lyft, Uber).

Blockbuster will be here forever, every American visits it once a week to rent a video. You think you are going to compete by mailing DVD’s? (Netflix, before streaming).

Delray is Dull Ray. It will never turn around. (Delray Beach)

Boca will never survive IBM leaving, Big Blue built that town. (Boca Raton)

Doing something that nobody thinks is right or possible is the beginning of every success story.

Pessimists make the definitive statements.

Optimists defy the naysayers.

And guess what, there is a reward for optimism and now it’s scientifically proven.

That reward is longevity.

That’s right. Optimists live longer.

But before we delve briefly into the science, what is optimism?

Optimism is a psychological attribute characterized as the general expectation that good things will happen, or the belief that the future will be favorable because one can control important outcomes.

Previous scientific studies reported that more optimistic individuals are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases and die prematurely. But new results further suggest that optimism is specifically related to an 11 percent to 15 percent longer life span, on average, and to greater odds of achieving “exceptional longevity,” that is, living to the age of 85 or beyond. These relations were independent of socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, social integration, and health behaviors (e.g., smoking, diet, and alcohol use).

Hey, I didn’t make that up. That info comes from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

So bottom line: try to be optimistic. And if you have any trouble deciphering which side of the optimist/pessimist divide you might fall on try answering this simple question.

What’s the difference between a pessimist and an optimist?

A pessimist says “things can’t get any worse”

And optimist says “sure they can!”

We’re kidding with that one of course. A pessimist would say we did that on purpose, an optimist would see the humor in the line and forward this blog to everyone they know.

 

Hurricane Relief Efforts Underway

After a major hurricane, there is an overwhelming desire to do something to help those who were most impacted by the event.

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, there is a great need to help our neighbors in The Bahamas.

There are a lot of efforts being organized and it can be confusing if you want to donate.

While there are scores of reputable organizations rushing to meet the needs of The Bahamas, I can safely recommend BahamasStrong.org because I know many of its principals including Kirsten Stevens, Danny Alberttis and Sarah Crane. All three and have extensive non-profit experience, deep community ties and big hearts.

Using their long established community connections in The Bahamas, Bahamas Strong will coordinate the receipt, storage and distribution of donated supplies. Through their fiscal sponsor, Enterprise Palm Beach, a registered 501(C)(3), they are able to collect funds and distribute them directly to the agencies on the ground.

Bahamas Strong is leading an awareness campaign to drive donations of hard goods to collection points. This includes supplies of food, water, first aid, and construction materials. They are also collecting funds to be distributed to agencies who are conducting relief operations. Another focus will be organizing the Florida boating and aviation communities to coordinate safe transportation of goods collected.

Visit Bahamasstrong.org for a wish list of items and drop off locations. The Delray drop off is at the Chamber of Commerce at 140 NE First Street.

You can also donate by texting Dorian to 21000.

Again, there are many fine efforts underway, this is just one that I know will do a great job.

Stay safe and remain vigilant, there’s plenty of the hurricane season left.

 

Things We Loved In August

Things We Loved in August

Hawkers
Good to see a new restaurant coming to the long vacated space that used to house Sonoma on East Atlantic Avenue.
Hawkers, which features southeast Asian street food, looks awfully  interesting. Can’t wait to try it.
Coco Part 1
Some great photos on social media of Delray tennis sensation Coco Gauff and her family meeting Michelle Obama.
The meeting occurred after Coco competed in the Citi Open in Washington D.C. She won the doubles title with Caty McNally. Her first WTA title.  Pretty impressive. Oh and she made the cover of Teen Vogue too. Not to mention a cover story in USA Today and an appearance on Good Morning America. And a first grand slam singles win on the stadium court  at the U.S. Open.
 Not a bad month.
Mazel Tov
Congratulations to Dupree and Janay Jackson on their wedding. We wish this special couple health and happiness now and forever. They are doing great things in Delray.
Movies around town
We saw “Echo in The Canyon” at the Living Room Theater and it was in a word: wonderful.
The documentary , starring and executive produced by Jakob Dylan, is a loving look back at the amazing music produced by denizens of Laurel Canyon in Southern California in the 60s.
The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Beach Boys, Mamas and The Papas, The Association and Crosby Still Nash are among the musical giants celebrated in the film.
Interviews with Michelle Phillips, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Lou Adler and Eric Clapton add color to the timeless music covered by Dylan, Fiona Apple, Jade, Norah Jones, Beck and others.
It’s truly terrific. A can’t miss if you love classic rock.
Another cant miss is David Crosby: Remember My Name also at the Living Room.
Produced by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) Remember My Name is an unflinching look at Crosby’s life, loves, addictions and broken friendships. It’s powerful and honest but leaves you with more questions than answers.
We also saw The Art of Racing in the Rain. It was wonderful. But bring a box of tissues. You will need it. A must see for dog lovers and those who cherish a good story, well told.
Also outstanding: Blinded By The Light. The feel good movie of the summer.
Caridad
Kudos to the Caridad Center. The nonprofit’s “Back to School Bash” provided 1,000 Deserving Children with Much-Needed School Supplies.
Well done.
A Promising Debut & Other Restaurant Doings
We checked out the new Elisabetta’s on Atlantic Avenue and it was worth the wait.
Located in the former space occupied by the classic 32 East, Elisabetta’s is an Italian restaurant with a huge menu, two bars, a gorgeous terrace, great pasta and truly special pizza.
The restaurant is very beautiful, the build out is really something to see.
We continue to be impressed by the Driftwood on US 1 in Boynton Beach.
Excellent service and an innovative menu makes for a very good experience.
The short rib is as good as I’ve ever had.
Check it out. Don’t miss the yuca tots, they are delicious.
 
ER Bradley’s remains a favorite. 
The West Palm Beach staple is always fun and we like that it’s dog friendly. 
The Impossible Burger is on the menu and the pretzel bread is always a treat. 
We wish Rick Jankee smooth sailing upon his retirement from Delray’s legendary Sail Inn.
Rick sold the sail after 30 years of running one of Delray’s favorite local bars.
So many memories. So many good times. Thanks Rick!
Brule is such a special restaurant. Despite the construction across the street, it was crowded when we went to enjoy a recent lunch.
The chicken parm panini, truffle fries, greens and chicken meatballs are just out of this world.
Welcome to the Ave!
The Wine Room opened this month. Haven’t been over there yet, but the photos online look great and they run a great store in Winter Park.
We had a great happy hour/ dinner with friends at the always wonderful Papas Tapas. With construction on The Ray closing off one lane of traffic it’s important we support the businesses affected on Pineapple Grove.
More Coco.
Coco Gauff is not just showing athletic prowess she’s showing class and leadership too.
The budding tennis star surprised students at The Village Academy on the first day of school with an impromptu visit.
Very cool move.
Boca Eco Dev
Boca keeps landing  new business headquarters.
FlexShoppers will expand by 200 jobs as it consolidates locations under one roof.
Jessica Del Vecchio, Boca‘s Economic development director is a rockstar.
Happy Birthday Bill
Finally, happy birthday to Bill Branning.
Bill who chairs our chamber of commerce has been an invaluable contributor to Delray chairing Old School Square, serving on city advisory boards and on the CRA while running a great local business- BSA Corp.
We were thrilled to celebrate his birthday with friends and family.
Have a great month and stay safe during Dorian.

Grateful: For ALL Of It

Today is my birthday.

I’m 55.

Eligible to move to 55 and over communities and edging closer to coveted senior discounts at movies and places like the Old Country Buffet.

I’m already eligible for 10 percent off at Banana Republic and 15 percent off at Bealls Outlet but only on Tuesdays, when I’m working and unable to get to an outlet.

But I digress.

Birthdays with 0’s and 5’s get progressively tougher.

Oh, 20 and 25 are cool.

But 30 and 40 and 50 are really rough. I enjoyed 35—thought that was kind of the perfect age, just the right amount of seasoning. But 45 induced a twinge of mortality and this birthday brings a mix of emotions.

When you hit your 50s you start to feel a little more comfortable with who you are. The little things don’t bother you as much and you learn to avoid toxic people. You learn not to feed negativity.

You also learn to appreciate the good times, the good people and the love in your life.

Good friends become more precious. Good times and laughter more valued.

Experiences take precedence over “things.”

It’s a good time of life.

By the time most people reach their 50s they have experienced a whole lot.

Love, loss, joy, sadness, parenthood, career successes, career setbacks and everything in between.

What makes the 50s so poignant is this feeling that in so many ways you are at the top of your game.

You have perspective, knowledge and hard fought experience. But you can also see the end game.

It sounds morbid and hopefully its decades away, but you realize how life is a blur and how time seems to fly.

My best buddy from childhood texted me some old photos while I was writing this. Some cannot be shared, taken when we were young and somewhat foolish as young men should be (within limits) which we managed to always observe.

Some were from high school graduation and others were from a trip we took to visit his parents in Arizona which dovetailed with my 30th birthday. I blinked and 25 years passed.

Looking at that photo of us standing in 100 degree plus heat at the Pima Air Museum with his dad Mickey brought a smile to my face and a catch to my throat. Mickey is gone and I really loved him. So is my mom and she was the world to all of us. Both were around back then—in fact they were about the age we are now.

In 1994, I was a father to a four year old and a two year old. Now my oldest is turning 30 and is well into a teaching career and my little boy is an accountant who advises me on my taxes.

So there’s a lot of pride at this point in your life—you get to see your kids succeed and your friends do some amazing things in their lives and careers. A buddy of mine just sold his company for a mind blowing number and will be sailing the world and others are climbing the ladder of success or retiring after really making a mark.

But we’ve also lost some classmates and been touched by disease. Happy hour discussions these days range from politics, movies, sports (the usual) to prostate health and various aches and pains. Sometimes we pass mirrors and wonder who the old guy is that’s staring back at us.

But if you look closer you also see wisdom and depth. Hair lines recede but knowledge grows.

A few weeks ago, CNN’s Anderson Cooper did an interview with comedian Stephen Colbert that got quite a bit of attention.

Colbert lost his father and two brothers in an airplane crash when he was 10 years old. It was a crushing life defining loss.

“I was personally shattered,” he says. “And then you reform yourself in this quiet, grieving world that was created in [your] house.”

But as a religious man he found the strength to forge a life making other people laugh.

Cooper, who recently lost his mother, was visibly moved by Colbert’s response.

He asks Colbert, “You [once] said, ‘What punishment of God’s are not gifts?’ Do you really believe that?”

To which Colbert replies, “Yes. It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that.”

Regarding his losses, Colbert says, “I don’t want it to have happened. I want it to not have happened. But if you’re grateful for your life — and I’m not always — then you have to be grateful for all of it.”

You have to be grateful for all of it. What a wonderful belief.

Loss and the prospect of an end can make you love more deeply. It can help you develop a greater understanding of other people and life itself.

So yes, 0’s and 5’s can be tough if all you think about is aging, loss and your own mortality. But if I have learned one thing in my 55 years it is to be aware of the lessons that life is trying to teach you. The universe or a higher power sends messages all the time if we care to be alert to them.

It could be a cardinal in your backyard or it could be an interview with a comedian you admire who reminds you to be grateful for all of it.

Be grateful for all of it.

And I am.

 

 

Don’t Stop Them Now, They’re Still Having A Good Time

Queen co-founder and guitarist Brian May still rocking in his 70s.

Every generation believes their music is the best that’s ever been made.

In the case of the Baby Boomers though, it’s actually true.

Of course that’s my opinion, but many of my millennial friends agree.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been seeing more than a few 20-somethings singing along to the anthems created by the slew of icons coming through South Florida recently.

Sadly, most of these generation defining stars are on farewell tours but what’s astounding is how good they still sound and how well the music stands up 40 and 50 plus years since it was released.

Queen was the latest classic rock band to come to town.

The British band– which includes two original members guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor– is now fronted by former American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert, a talented performer who somehow pulls off the unenviable task of standing in for the late Freddie Mercury who has been gone but not forgotten since 1991.

It’s not an easy task because Freddie was larger than life. A true icon whose legend only grew after the release of last year’s hit film “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I attended the show with a group of childhood friends and some of their 20 something kids who came in from Los Angeles, New York and Pittsburgh to experience Queen live and up close.

We got our money’s worth and that’s saying a lot because the tickets weren’t cheap.

Queen followed Paul Simon, David Byrne (Talking Heads), Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel and a few other 60s and 70s legends who have toured these parts recently. Of course, the Rolling Stones are still out there playing to huge crowds and rave reviews.

The movies are also full of classic rock fare these days—”Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Rocketman”, “Echo in the Canyon”, “Remember my Name: David Crosby”, “Yesterday” and the recently released “Blinded by the Light” which celebrates my hero, the boss.

Turn on the TV and you’re sure to run into a Woodstock retrospective, a PBS pledge drive featuring classic rock or an ad for a new drug featuring a song from a bygone era.

Some of this phenomena may be the sheer size of the Baby Boomer generation and their refusal to fade away.

I just finished a book on demography and the Boomers are expected to impact society and industry for many years to come. Florida is poised to feel the impact with a “tsunami (to quote the author) of  Boomers flocking to the Sunshine State eager to flee harsh winters and high taxation in the northeast.

So if that prognosis is correct, we can expect that our neck of the woods will continue to be a great place for classic rockers to perform—at least those who choose not to retire.

Which brings me back to Queen.

I went to the show after receiving a series of texts from my long time buddy Howard Cohn and his sister Linda. You may know Linda as a long time anchor on ESPN’s Sports Center. She’s an icon for female broadcasters, a true pioneer and legend in her field.

I know her as the “cool” slightly older sister who was able to drive me, her brother and our friends Scott and Dave to concerts and amusement parks. If I remember correctly, we made her laugh.

Five years ago, when we turned 50, she arranged for a sports weekend celebration in NYC. We went to the U.S. Open, a Mets game and roamed the sidelines at a Giants vs. Patriots pre-season game thanks to her connections in the world of sports. We created lifelong memories. We just made another.

This weekend, we recalled seeing a bunch of other shows together—Billy Joel, The Doobie Brothers, Styx, Foreigner and Beatlemania on Broadway.

It was nice to continue the old tradition and to add some family members—another sister and Linda’s kids who love the classics.

I was also thrilled that my friend Marisa Herman and her husband Lyle found a way to get last minute tickets. Marisa runs the Delray Newspaper and Boca Newspaper and while still very young she is what I would consider an old soul. We saw Paul Simon and Elton John together and she has also attended Jimmy Buffett, Billy Joel and Eagles concerts. I know she loves the Bee Gees and Beatles too.

One could say she has odd tastes for a 20-something. But I just think she gets great music.

And that makes this old guy happy, because it means the music will live on and on. As it should.

 

 

 

The Art & Importance Of Stories

Stories are leadership tools and build community.

“Everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”–Patrick Rothfuss, author

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” — Sue Monk Kidd, author

“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”–Dr. Howard Gardner, professor Harvard University.

 

I really like those three quotes about storytelling.

I think there is a lot of truth in all three.

The story inside our heads does have a lot to do with our identity. I think the same goes for cities. The stories cities tell about themselves create an identity and paint a portrait of that community in our minds.

For example:

Dayton Strong and Boston Strong.

Hershey, PA the “sweetest place on earth.”

And maybe my favorite: Cleveland Rocks which is sure better than ‘the mistake by the lake.’

What stories do we tell about our communities?

Do we tell good stories about Delray Beach and Boca Raton?

It’s important to know those stories because they define us and we do “build ourselves” out of the stories we tell.

As for Sue Monk Kidd’s quote—well it’s very true. And it’s one of the reasons I write this blog which is a small (very small) effort to keep some of the old stories alive. I figure if you live here and really care, you ought to know about some of the special people and events that brought us to the present day.

Newspapers used to fulfill this important mission and our newspaper (Delray Newspaper and Boca Newspaper)  does yeoman’s work with limited resources. But the community water cooler is long gone or maybe it has moved to social media; which can be a very challenging place to try and find the truth. It can however, be a great source of misinformation, half-truths, conspiracy theories and vitriol.

But I use it anyway—to stay in touch with old friends and distant relatives. Oh and to post innumerable photos of my pets and view others pets. I think that’s what Facebook is best for.

But I digress.

This post is about storytelling and the importance of storytelling if you are leader. (See the third quote by Howard Gardner).

There’s a new book out by Paul Smith, a former Procter & Gamble executive, about the 10 types of stories leaders tell and how important they are.

While Smith focuses on business, his list translates to community work.

For reference, here they are:

ONE: Where we came from (our founding story) – Nobody ever quit their job and started a company for a boring reason. Find that reason for your company’s founder and tell that story. It will infect everyone with the same sense of purpose and passion. Same goes for our communities and the key initiatives and projects that make our cities different and distinct. Knowing where you come from is critical.

 

TWO: Why we can’t stay here (a case-for-change story) – Human beings are creatures of habit. Change is an unwelcome visitor. This story provides the rationale for why change is needed and a real human reason to care. Good civic leaders frame the important issues facing their cities and make the case for change.

 

THREE: Where we’re going (a vision story) – A vision is a picture of the future so compelling, people want to go there with you. And the best way to paint that picture is with a story about what that future will look like when you achieve it.

 

FOUR: How we’re going to get there (a strategy story) – Strategy is how you’ll get from where you are now to where you want to be. In other words, strategy is a journey. And what better way to describe a journey than a story? Think about our local journey, how we went from Dull Ray to the most fun city in America is an interesting strategy story.

 

FIVE: What we believe (a corporate-values story) – Values are only words on a piece of paper until they’re tested. This is a story of one of those awkward or uncomfortable moments when one of your company values was put to the test. Cities have values too. What do we stand for? What do we want to be? What do we value?

 

SIX: Who we serve (a customer story) – There’s no substitute for getting out of the office and meeting your customer face-to-face. A great mantra for those in public service. Citizens, businesses and other stakeholders are a city’s customers. City officials need to be visible, accessible and transparent.

 

SEVEN: What we do for our customers (a sales story) – A story about what you did for one of your customers that’s so impressive other people will want to buy what you’re selling as well.

What;s our unique value proposition as a community? If you move here, how will you feel? What will happen? What will you experience?

 

EIGHT: How we’re different from our competitors (a marketing story) – You probably have a list of reasons why your product or service is better than your competition. Well, guess what? Nobody remembers your list. But they will remember the story you tell them that shows them those differences as they play out in a story. A great economic development philosophy. What makes Boca and Delray different than West Palm, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano and Lake Worth Beach?

 

 

NINE: Why I lead the way I do (a leadership-philosophy story) – No series of buzzwords on a piece of paper could ever articulate the subtle, human, and complex nature of your personal leadership philosophy. If you want people to understand how to expect you to lead, you need to tell them a story about what shaped the leader you’ve become.

 

TEN: Why you should want to work here (a recruiting story) – Every company claims they offer competitive pay and benefits, challenging work, and great advancement opportunities. If you really want to attract the best talent, you need real stories about why it’s so awesome to work there.

Good advice for Delray’s next City Manager.

 

 

Many Soulful Miles

Yulia at Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park.

“Never underestimate your dreams. If there is a will, there is a way to get anything you want in life.” –Yulia

 

Did you ever want to chuck it all?
Start fresh.

Pick up and go.

Are you intrigued by adventure?

Do you admire the risk takers, the ‘go for it’ segment of our society who just seem to know how to live, really live?

I think it’s a feeling many if not most of us have experienced and while we may fantasize or even dip our toes into something different, the ties that bind tend to keep us in our place.

Not so for my friend Yulia Konovnitsyna.

She’s on a grand adventure as I write this. Or maybe that’s not the right word. Because an adventure implies a beginning, a middle and an end. My friend Yulia has changed her life and has adopted a new way of living.  I’m living vicariously through her travels with her dog Milo across our great country.

I’m having a great time doing so. Even if sometimes her posts stir a longing deep in my soul for change and transformation.

The Grand Tetons, Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Arches National Park and many, many stops along the way.

Yulia shares her photos and thoughts on social media—and they are sensational. She is a digital marketing entrepreneur and somehow she is managing to grow her business, serve her clients and live a life of adventure.

She’s sharing under the name “Many Soulful Miles” and I find that moniker fitting. Yulia is a soulful person and very much an old soul.

While she’s young in age, she positively oozes wisdom.

I started to hear about her a few years back through my friend Karen Granger, then the president of the Delray Chamber of Commerce.
“You’ve got to meet Yulia,” Karen would gush. “She’s amazing.”
Knowing Karen’s keen sense of people and her ability to spot talent I was intrigued.

So Yulia and I met at The Coffee District and I was very impressed.

My three passions are community, entrepreneurship and leadership—and Yulia ticked all three boxes. She was building a community through Creative Mornings Palm Beach,  she was clearly a leader of that movement and she was an entrepreneur with an inspiring immigration story.

We became friends. She asked me to speak to Creative Mornings (which was an honor and a thrill) and I was happy when she announced that she was hitting the road with her adorable dog Milo.

I look forward to her posts—the photos and videos are magnificent. But it’s the occasional long form posts that I relish. Her thoughts on travel, on work, solitude, narcissism, friendship, self-reliance and the beauty of the places she visits are just wonderful. Soulful too…and we all need a little more soul these days.

As I stare down my 55th birthday in a few weeks, chances are I will never quite replicate what Yulia is doing but who knows? Maybe, just maybe Diane and I will steal away with our rescue dogs for an adventure. But right now, it’s August and I’m still trying to plan a vacation.

I have a strong hunch that this is more than an adventure for Yulia. She may have found a way to live her best life, yet another reason to admire her.

Who knows where the road will lead? Nobody really does. But if you make them soulful miles, well then maybe, just maybe you’ll discover the answers to a lot of life’s mysteries.