Events and Things to Do in Delray Beach and Boca Raton

Boca Raton and Delray Beach are among the most vibrant communities you’ll ever find.

Both cities feature a vast array of events year-round that are sure to interest people of all ages and interests. From arts festivals and music events to a vibrant food scene and cultural landscape Boca-Delray has it all.

At YourDelrayBoca.com we strive to curate the best events and give you insider’s tips to make your experience the best it can be.

Choosing Love

Shoponebuffalo.com is raising funds for victims of the mass shooting at Tops supermarket.

When I first started my journalism career, I worked for a small newspaper outside Binghamton N.Y called “The Country Courier.”

The paper was based in a town called Conklin. It was a little speck of a place, and I was just passing through. I hadn’t thought much about Conklin until we learned that the racist murderer who killed 10 people in Buffalo came from there.

There are so many mass shootings in America that it has become easy to grow numb. But this mass murder broke through and hit us square in the heart….until the next one. And there always seems to be a next one.

When I heard that the shooter came from Conklin, it just seemed hard to fathom.

My memories are hazy, but I remember a small bucolic town in the southern part of Broome County near the Pennsylvania border. It has been described as a “Mayberry” kind of place. The 2020 census says a little over 5,000 people live there. Conklin is about 200 miles from Buffalo. It is nearly 98 percent white and less than one percent African American.

I remember covering town meetings and being bored beyond belief. There weren’t a lot of exciting issues in Conklin to write about and I surmise that the people liked it that way. I remember driving home late at night after a council meeting through country roads back to Binghamton and encountering a cow in the middle of the road. We scared each other and I remember thinking how lucky I was to see it before it was too late. I would soon move on and forget all about Conklin until last weekend.

I checked the local coverage of the shooting, knowing that reporters would beat a path to the hometown of the shooter trying to determine if “place” somehow contributed to the hatred and depravity needed to coldly murder 10 innocent people. I had tried the town’s website, but its bandwidth was overwhelmed by people looking for answers. I couldn’t get access.

So, I turned to the local newspapers that I used to know.

The reporters went to a local diner for answers, like I used to do when I moved to Delray and got a job at the old Monday-Thursday Papers. We used to go to Ken & Hazel’s or the Green Owl for the local scoop. In Conklin, that source of local sentiment would be Jane’s, a local landmark.

From the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin:

“Who would think, at age 18, growing up in such a beautiful community, to have such hate?” said Jane Lazaros, who’s owned the restaurant on Conklin Road for 28 years. “What is all this hate?”

That’s the question many in town had on Sunday: Where did the hate come from?

A small town outside Binghamton, Conklin captures the grittiness of much of rural upstate New York. The greater Binghamton area, with about 195,000 residents, has seen better days, with major employers such as IBM long gone from the region, although Dick’s Sporting Goods and Amazon have opened massive warehouses in recent years to provide some relief.”

What is all this hate? It’s a good question, awkwardly phrased, but we know what she means when she says it.

It’s also a question that is sadly familiar for the Conklin community. It was only 13 years ago when a gunman walked into the American Civic Association immigration center in Binghamton and killed 13 people, wounding four others. I had forgotten about that and that me surprised me. Having lived in Binghamton, that shooting should have resonated with me, but there are simply too many heinous acts to remember them all. That’s sickening.

In that incident, the shooter was Vietnamese American, but investigators determined that he was motivated by racism and hatred for immigrants.

Racism and hatred….it’s an affliction we can’t seem to shake.

There’s a coarseness to our society these days that is having an impact. Words are important. They tend to leave marks when loaded with hate. And hateful messages tend to manifest into actions.

And this week I can’t shake the image of Celestine Chaney, 65. She was shopping at Tops with her sister for some shortcake to go with the strawberries she had sliced at home.

Her sister says they were giggling as they decided to make a shrimp salad and picked out rolls, lamenting the high price of food these days. Just two sisters out on a Sunday enjoying what is usually a mundane chore.

It was an impromptu visit to a neighborhood store. Little did they know that 200 miles away a hate-filled murderer, barely an adult, was plotting to kill as many Black people as he could find….

He found Celestine Chaney and 9 others.

It’s hard to find words that can heal this kind of pain.

We also know that our politicians won’t do anything to address the situation. This time, we are not even hearing a whole lot about steps we can take to stop this kind of thing. We know better now. We know our so-called “leaders” won’t do a damn thing except stoke more hatred in an endless cycle that when taken to an extreme leads to bloodshed.

Meanwhile, the hate keeps coming at us. And it’s armed.

Give us strength.

 

Audience B. Goode

Colin Hay is a master storyteller.

 

We went to see Colin Hay in concert recently. He was a revelation; just a special, special talent.We bought the tickets a few years ago and thanks to Covid we couldn’t see the former “Men at Work” frontman until now.Since his 1980s heyday, Mr. Hay has carved out a nice solo career. His acoustic music is beautiful and I much prefer it to his better known and much better selling 80s material. In short, he’s a master songwriter and storyteller.He tells humorous tales  in between songs and his voice is so clear you can really appreciate the lyrics—that is if you don’t happen to be sitting near a rude patron.Unfortunately, Diane and I are magnets for the stereotypical rude concert goer.  We attract them just about everywhere we venture.

You know the type: sings badly (to every song), cracks their plastic cup during quiet songs, shakes his ice in his cup so you can’t hear the lyrics and talks incessantly with zero regard for anyone else.Yes, we’ve been exposed to a boorish greatest hits.

The litany of rude is long and sorrowful.Drunks at a David Byrne show, a wack job who threatened a woman seated next to me at an Eagles show, a guy who streamed a college football game during a concert, yet another guy who pointed a light at a performer and was admonished from the stage and various other rude behaviors.

We’ve also noticed—so have the performers—that a slew of people spend their time taping shows on their phones. Very few people seem to be actually present. In a large venue, I may take some video, but I’ve learned to save my photos for the end when the lights go up and the performer is taking a bow.Now mind you we are not going to shows that attract young people who may still be learning to temper their enthusiasm. We are going to many farewell shows that tend to draw fans who were young when Nixon was president.You would think the older set would know better. They don’t. Yeah, I know I sound cranky.

But I’m really not the equivalent of the fun police. I love to laugh and have a good time but I also know that my fellow attendees do not attend concerts to hear me talk, play with my ice or sing poorly to every single song. We get that your a fan, but please –FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY– let us listen to the artist.Whew…that felt better.I should let you know that at the Colin Hay show the guy sitting next to me erupted at the two rude women sitting behind us who were participating in at least a half dozen obnoxious and distracting behaviors.

He did it toward the end of the show after fuming most of the evening. I was too…in the past I’ve said things to the boors but in the back of my mind you worry that some loon will take you out. Did you hear about the idiot who shot a guy for walking his dog on the Kings Point golf course? Wouldn’t it be ironic to survive a horrendous bout with Covid only to be taken out by someone making noise during a song about vegamite sandwiches?Anyway, my row mate’s admonishment got their attention for about half a song. They recovered, started talking and laughing again and then  mercifully disappeared before the encore which was sensational by the way.So where does this leave us?I know, when I share my experiences, that I am not alone. Many of my friends say they have had the same experiences with boorish concert goers or sports fans. As for me, I’ve thought of quitting. No more concerts.

After all, I’ve had a good run. I’ve seen two Beatles, the Boss, The Band and Buffett. I’ve seen the Rocket Man and the Rolling Stones. I’ve seen The Who, U2 and Dylan. Not too bad.But..I’m not going to let the boors slow my roll.I love music too much. Plus, my hunch is the E Street Band will be back on the road in ‘23.And Springsteen fans are the best.

Living The 4 S’s

For more information visit www.4kids.us

We just went to a great event celebrating the important work of 4 Kids, a non-profit whose mission is to help children in crisis find a safe place to live.

I’ve been impressed with the leadership of the organization for quite some time and I owe my friend Karen Granger a debt of gratitude for introducing me to the world of 4Kids. We have a lot of children in our community who desperately need our help.

Karen, who used to serve as the president of the Delray Chamber, works for 4 Kids. She’s been a wonderful ambassador for the organization and has convinced several of my friends to get involved.

My company, CDS International Holdings, helped 4 Kids find office space in Delray and we are so proud of the work they are doing which has made it easier for families in southern Palm Beach County to access critical services.

I’ve been especially impressed by 4Kids President Kevin Enders, who has run the non-profit for the past five years.

Kevin comes from the private sector and he brings a business like focus to the mission while also exhibiting a great passion for children. It’s a great combination of heart and business rigor.

At the event–held at the magnificent Waterstone Hotel in Boca Raton—Mr. Enders talked about what makes an organization work well.

Borrowing from the work of Dr. Curt Thompson, author of “Anatomy of the Soul,” Kevin reminded us that people need four things to feel whole; the 4 S’s.

They need to be “seen”, they need to feel “safe”, they need to be “secure” and they need to be “soothed”.

I was touched by that formula and it’s been on my mind ever since.

And while it applies to non-profits, I think it also works for businesses, families and communities too.

So let’s spend a moment unpacking the formula.

People need to be seen.

We have a need to feel valued, respected, loved and understood. It’s important that we take the time to do so.

But while awards and official recognition are great, it’s the daily care that matters the most. In our busy world, it’s easy to glide through the day and neglect those we love and value. We need to be conscious about “seeing” these special people and letting them know how important they are. This is a simple concept, but so often we fail. Just this morning, a friend reached out to let me know they hadn’t heard from me lately. I felt terrible about it, but I was grateful to be made aware. We need to tend to our relationships.

Likewise, we all suffer setbacks and it’s important that we are soothed by our community or organization or family when the inevitable trials occur. I can personally testify to the power of soothing to heal the body and the mind. When I was seriously ill with Covid, the messages of support I received helped me through the ordeal. Love heals.

In addition, we need to feel safe and secure in our homes, communities and careers.

The trait I most value in a teammate or a co-worker is the ability to feel that I can make a mistake or  that I can be vulnerable and say I need help.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a team that allows me to learn and doesn’t make me feel bad or in danger when I turn to them and say “I can’t figure this out, can you help?”

Organizations get in trouble when people feel that they can’t make a mistake and that they have to pretend they know it all or risk their role. In reality, there’s a lot of wisdom in saying you don’t know what you don’t know. Smart people ask for help, not so smart people pretend they know it all.

I think the 4 S’s are a good prism to assess where we are in the various parts of our lives.

What are we getting and what are we missing in our jobs, communities, volunteer efforts etc.

I think a major issue in our nation is our inability to see others, especially those who are different or hold opposing views.

Similarly, it seems like the other S’s are related. It’s hard to feel safe, secure or soothed if you are not seen. The four go together.

I’m sure there are many other things we can think of as must haves. But the four S’s seem like a solid start.

I hope you have them all—-in abundance. And if you don’t, I hope you work hard to bring these traits into the lives of others.

 

 

 

Heroes & Villains

Dropout is the mesmerizing story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

We’ve been watching two fascinating series about wayward entrepreneurs on Showtime and Hulu.

“Super Pumped” is the story of Uber and its “tech bro” founder Travis Kalanick. “TK”, as he was known,  broke a lot of dishes while disrupting the taxi business before being dumped for creating a culture more toxic than sucking on the tailpipe of a Checker cab.

“Dropout” is the fascinating story of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes who modeled herself on Apple’s Steve Jobs— except for the fraud part. She will be sentenced this fall for essentially lying her way to the top before taking a fall. Her black turtleneck didn’t save her from the fact that her company was built on…well…nothing but hype.

Yes, it seems that Hollywood is taking a dim view of entrepreneurs lately. The trend goes back a decade or so to the “Social Network” which portrayed Mark Zuckerberg as an egomaniacal, socially awkward techie who climbed over a lot of people to build Facebook into a global behemoth. In other words, the movie was spot on.

Also, a fit for the evil entrepreneur narrative: “WeCrashed”, the story of WeWork founder Adam Neumann, who ran his $47 billion company off the rails before being given his walking papers.  We can also look forward to  “Billion Dollar Whale” a soon to be released movie about Jho Low who looted the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund before disappearing somewhere in China. He remains at large. But he did take down a government and ensnared Goldman Sachs during his memorable run. In a quirk of fate, I got to know one of the major players in that scheme, but I’m saving that story for my next book. It’s a good one.

Yep, there sure are some cautionary tales about gifted grifters whose magnetism, vision, and ability to tap into greed makes for great books and movies and in most cases bad businesses. The jury is still out on Facebook while Uber and WeWork seek to move past the dubious behavior of their founders.

But the evil entrepreneur narrative doesn’t tell the whole story.

Yes, there are villains in the world of entrepreneurship, but there are lots of heroes too. I wish Hollywood would publicize their work as well—in many ways they are more interesting if not as salacious.

Admittedly, I am biased, but I work alongside a very kind entrepreneur named Carl DeSantis. He built Rexall Sundown from scratch into a huge vitamin manufacturer right here in Boca Raton before selling it for $1.8 billion in 2000. Rexall Sundown employees shared in the wealth they created—which is Carl’s way. While most people would have retired after such a huge exit, Carl went back to work, creating a family office and investing in companies and people. His latest hit is Celsius, a wildly popular healthy energy drink that trades on NASDAQ. Celsius started in Delray Beach before moving to larger headquarters in Boca Raton. But when Celsius rang the bell on Wall Street, Carl was onto the next thing—Tabanero Hot Sauce, which we are working hard to make a hit. Make sure to try it at Caffe Luna Rosa and Christina’s among many other restaurants.

Another good guy entrepreneur is Delray’s very own Randy Smith, who runs Heritage Flooring. Randy is a serial entrepreneur with a curious mind that I deeply admire.  I’m lucky to call him a friend because having lunch with Randy is like going to business school with salad dressing (always on the side).

Randy and his wife Lennie, have a passion for sailing (and life itself) and I’ve been taken by their devotion to an organization called Warrior Sailing (www.warriorsailing.org) which provides maritime education and outreach for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. Warrior Sailing reconnects veterans to the camaraderie and teamwork they previously found in military service.

While Randy and Lennie certainly know how to have fun, the Wolf of Wall Street has nothing to worry about from these two.  They run a much cleaner ship.

We understand it is fashionable around these parts to bash developers. But like we’ve been saying, there are good developers and there are bad ones. We need the good ones because their entrepreneurship creates the vibrancy we rely on to make our cities work.

Along the way, I’ve known a few good ones (and a few bad ones too) and my company has dabbled a little bit in this world— as investors anyway. I can say that the development business is not for the faint of heart. Yes, there are great rewards if you do a good job, your timing is right and there’s a market for your work. But there is great risk as well—and mistakes can wipe you out, so can interest rate hikes, pandemics, hurricanes, bad politics, changing tastes and construction costs.

You must be a great entrepreneur to swim—and not sink— in those waters. Still, I know several developers who are very philanthropic, community minded and work hard to serve their communities.

Meanwhile, some of the best entrepreneurs I’ve met are in the restaurant biz.

Talk about a tough road.

The competition is fierce, the margins are small, it’s hard to build and keep a staff but somehow, they figure it out.

Fran Marincola and his father started with a small gelato shop on A1A in Delray and built it into Caffe Luna Rosa, a Delray landmark. CLR— as some of us call it— offers health insurance to its employees and the restaurant has given back a lot to Delray Beach over the years.

Same goes for former Boston’s on the Beach proprietor Perry Don Francisco, co-founder of Delray Citizens for Delray Police. For 30 plus years, Perry has quietly been there for so many people while being a steadfast supporter of police, fire, and local schools. He’s one of a kind; a gifted, hardworking entrepreneur.

I can think of dozens of examples of talented entrepreneurs who are role models as well.

So, as much as we are enjoying the drama behind the creation of Uber and Theranos, we are heartened by the good guys. They are everywhere. You just have to look.

And when they cast the part of Randy Smith in the Netflix version of his story (the series should be called “Floor It”)  I hope they consider Brad Pitt for the role.

 

Facts about entrepreneurship:

America just witnessed the biggest business startup boom of our lifetimes.

  •    5.4 million people applied for small-business licenses last year — a 53% jump from 2019, pre-pandemic.
  •  Global investment in startups shattered records in 2021, hitting $643 billion — 10x what it was 10 years ago.

 

 

 

Here’s To The Game Changers

Akira Back is the newest addition to Pineapple Grove’s Ray Hotel. It’s special.

I’m intrigued by my friends at Menin Development.

I’m not alone.

Led by founder Craig Menin and President Jordana Jarjura, Menin Development is doing some truly extraordinary things in our village by the sea.

I’m interested and curious about all of it.

But I’m especially fascinated with some of their more unique projects.

  • The Ray Hotel in Pineapple Grove is a next level boutique property with a gorgeous 22,000 square foot rooftop amenity featuring an incredible pool,  three cutting edge restaurants and a design aesthetic that has reshaped the look and feel of the block.
  • The Delray Beach Market is the largest food hall in Florida, a whopping 150,000 square feet featuring 27 chefs and operators.
  • Lionfish restaurant brings a west coast sensibility to Atlantic Avenue. It just feels very different from what we’ve seen before.

So what’s next?

We went to the soft opening of Menin Development’s latest creation, Akira Back last week. It’s special. Located in The Ray Hotel, Akira Back is the namesake of a Michelin starred chef who was gracious enough to greet his guests last week as the staff served dish after dish of creative cuisine.

The food was in a word: magnificent.

Mr. Back brings a interesting back story to Delray Beach.

Born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Aspen, Colorado, Akira moved to the Rocky Mountain state at the age of 15.  He picked up snowboarding as a hobby and eventually turned pro. He was so good, he appeared in a handful of extreme sports movies. During this time, Back began working at a local Japanese restaurant to supplement his income. After seven years on the pro-snowboarding circuit, Back realized that he felt the same thrill in the kitchen as he did on his board, shaping his decision to pursue a full-time culinary career.

Back attended the International Culinary School at The Art Institute based in Colorado, where he established the framework of his technique and amplified his knowledge of Asian cooking, allowing him to incorporate his artistic vision and Korean heritage.

The rest is the stuff of culinary history—award winning restaurants inside the Bellagio in Vegas and locations in Dubai, London, Paris, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Riyadh and now Delray Beach.

Sitting inside Akira Back, we couldn’t help but marvel at what’s happening to Delray.

We were at the event with former City Commissioner Jon Levinson and his wife Lori. We moved here in ’87, I think the Levinson’s arrived in 79-80. We’ve seen a lot of change.

And while a generation of civic leaders, planned for, worked toward and hoped for sustainable vibrancy and economic success—it’s still hard to fathom what has happened here.

Delray is a rare story.

It really is and I sometimes feel like we take it for granted.

Now I get that not everyone is thrilled with the changes or change itself, but I like a lot of it. So do others, as witnessed by the year- round crowds, rising property values and now national reputation of Delray.

We told our server— a nice young man, from Salt Lake City—that the street we were sitting on was once anchored by a McCrory’s department store and a Piggly Wiggly. We pointed to Citywalk across the street and told him parts of that project used to be a coin operated car wash. He said that was hard to imagine.

When we cut the ribbon on Pineapple Grove Village 20 years ago, the photos showed that there was nothing to the north of us.

Those of us who were around  in the 80s remember Norm Radin (who coined the term Pineapple Grove), Tom Fleming (who led the Mainstreet approach to revitalizing the street) and architect Bob Currie talking about transforming four blocks of Second Avenue from Atlantic to Lake Ida Road. Some thought they were nuts. Nice people, but nutty. After all, at that time the city was struggling to get Atlantic Avenue going.

But you know what? Ya gotta believe (as Mets fans know). First you must see, and then you have to believe, and more importantly you have to act on those beliefs.

This blog is a paradox of sorts because I am a believer and a champion of change. I think it’s inevitable.

Our responsibility is to shape that change, but I don’t believe we can arrest it. At the same time, I cling to some things from the past that I feel are vital to our future. There are projects and buildings and values that define who we are—they identify our civic soul. Lose those things and we lose that soul and once lost….well you know the rest.

So yeah, there’s a paradox and a dance that goes on. Let’s celebrate the good changes but let’s also hold on to the tried, the true and the important pieces of our community’s fabric.

Which is why Craig Menin intrigues me. He’s showing us a new future, he’s shaking it up and making it happen. And I deeply admire that kind of drive.

I think Mr. Menin is a visionary. I know he’s an entrepreneur and I have a soft spot for both.

So, I’m rooting for him.

He sees something here and he’s willing to take big time risks to test that vision.

It’s the visionaries and the risk-taking entrepreneurs who change our world and our cities too.

They create opportunities for others; jobs, a broader tax base, a brand, a vibe and an ethos.

Those are extremely valuable assets for a city.

Mr. Menin has always been complimentary of the civic work that attracted him to Delray.

I really appreciate that about him, because I feel a lot of that work and a lot of those people have been demonized for ushering in an era of change and for failing to get out of the way.

But as the late Madeleine Albright once said, it takes a long time to discover your voice and once you find it you don’t want to give it up. Same with your community. When you find your home, you want to do all you can to make it better and sometimes that means speaking your mind.

That’s why I write these weekly messages. Thank you for reading them.

Personally, I never envisioned quite what Craig Menin and company are doing…but I did envision and hope that the work so many engaged in over the years would attract people like Craig. And Akira Back too.

Beginning in the 80s our city committed to citizen driven visioning.

It worked.

We didn’t have to offer incentives like so many other cities. We didn’t have to build or finance a major project that would “save” us.

We just asked stakeholders to come to the table to dream and we encouraged them to aspire then we got busy getting it done. That sent a message to the entrepreneurs: this is the best place to be. The best place to invest.

It’s not a perfect process.

Some stuff works better than you could have imagined and some stuff fails miserably. But you keep going. You keep working together, you keep promoting, you keep inviting people to participate and you hope that the entrepreneurs show up and take you places you could never imagine.

By the way, those entrepreneurs come in all kinds of styles. Some, like Mr. Menin, invest tens of millions of dollars and do things that make you say “wow”, others like Mark Sauer– who visited our table during the opening—start non-profits to help kids find a future. Some like Jeff and Julia Kadel make it possible for children to play baseball (see the Miracle League) and others like C. Ron Allen and Emmanuel “Dupree” Jackson devote their lives to creating the next generation of game changers.

In Delray, we also had entrepreneurs working at City Hall designing innovative programs and policies. Some of our best civic entrepreneurs wear uniforms and serve as police officers and firefighters figuring out ways to protect and serve us while making it safe for investment.

Thank goodness for all of them.

One might ask, where’s it all going?
Who knows.

I attended a webinar by a futurist last week and he said the 2020s would be the most consequential decade in human history. That’s quite a statement. We are off to an interesting start with a pandemic and war raging in Europe.

Here at home, I hope we remain safe and stay healthy. One thing we can bank on is more change. Let’s shape it, let’s embrace it but let’s not forget the values that created the opportunities we enjoy and remember to do what we can for those who need our help the most.

 

 

It’s Only Rock N’ Roll (But I Like It)

Graham Nash still rocking at 80.

“Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.” — Paul Simon.

We went to see Graham Nash in Coral Springs recently and it felt…well…it felt magical.

We bought the tickets more than two years ago only to have Covid wash everything away for a while. So, it felt extra gratifying to walk into the theater and see a live show.

I’m on a personal mission to see the legends while they’re still here. Graham Nash certainly qualifies.

At 80, he retains his distinctive tenor. He is a charming and dynamic performer.

We were swept away by the music and for two hours it might as well have been the 60s and 70s when Nash was playing arenas not small theaters in Coral Springs (which he mistakenly referred to as Coral Gables).

Most people think their generation’s music was the “best ever” made; only in our case we’re right.

Nothing beats classic rock.

Two nights before the Graham Nash show, we went with my dad and his girlfriend to see “The Liverpool Legends” a Beatles tribute band at Spanish River Church in Boca Raton. They were accompanied by the Spanish River Orchestra, and they covered the Fab Four’s catalog from “A Hard Day’s Night” to “Let it Be” with aplomb. And for just a moment, we were transformed to a better place.

Outside the beautiful church, our world is a mess.  Missiles are being fired at innocent Ukrainians an ocean away, gas prices are skyrocketing and Covid—that damn virus– was still claiming victims and threatening yet another surge. Even though we are done with the virus, I’m not sure the virus is done with us.

Yes, it’s quite a world.

It’s during these times that we seek solace, answers, and sustenance. We get it from music.

Are there words profound enough to describe the brilliance of The Beatles?
Not likely.

What it is about their music that 60 years down the road we are still dancing in the aisles and singing along?

Same with Graham Nash.

My high school friends and I saw Crosby, Stills & Nash, 40 years ago at the Nassau Coliseum. CSN were sort of an oldies act even then—a 60s era band but still making music that resonated.

The song “Wasted on the Way”  broke through for me. The song was released in 1982. It was senior year and despite being 17 years old, I was already experiencing regret for not taking more chances. Why was I so scared of talking to that brilliant brunette in my English class? What’s the worst that could have happened if I asked her to grab a pizza at Mario’s in East Setauket?

The lyrics to “Wasted on the Way” challenged me to think differently.

“Look around me

I can see my life before me

Running rings around the way

It used to be

I am older now

I have more than what I wanted

But I wish that I had started

Long before I did

And there’s so much time to make up

Everywhere you turn

Time we have wasted on the way

So much water moving

Underneath the bridge

Let the water come and carry us away

Oh when you were young

Did you question all the answers

Did you envy all the dancers

Who had all the nerve

Look around you now

You must go for what you wanted

Look at all my friends who did and got what they deserved.”

 

Yes, I envied all the “dancers” who had all the nerve but this song—in 2 minutes and 52 seconds—gave me hope. It told me that life could be different. That we can “go” for what we wanted, question all the answers and find a better world that would run rings around the way things used to be.

That song—among so many—provides hope, inspiration, and joy.

There is something about music that makes us feel fully alive.

The other day I left work dragging. I sat in a chair for 8 hours, answered endless emails and was all “zoomed” out.

But when I got to the car bracing myself for the rush hour traffic, I turned on Sirius and “Jumping Jack Flash” came through the speakers— the distinctive riff instantly lifted my mood. I turned it up—way up— and the worries of the day melted away. When that song ended, the opening notes of “A Hard Days Night” so ingrained that they feel a part of my DNA blasted through the speakers.

I was no longer tired. I was no longer beleaguered. I was renewed.

That’s what good music does to you.

Whether its Bieber or The Beatles.

Beyonce or the The Band.

We’ll let Bob Marley have the last word:

“One good thing about music,” he said. “When it hits you, you feel no pain.”

 

 

Change The World

From heavyweight champ to fighting Putin, who could have known what history had in store.

“We can change the world rearrange the world
It’s dying – to get better” -Graham Nash

 

“I’m sorry, where should we go? This is our home… we defend it”—Wladimir Klitschko, former heavyweight champion.

Ten years ago, I went to Burbank, California with a colleague to film a commercial for Celsius, the beverage company that we worked for and believed in with all our hearts when few others felt the same way.

We were there to film a commercial with Mario Lopez, our first celebrity spokesman. Mario was also an evangelist for Celsius.  He didn’t need to get paid to drink Celsius. But we wanted him to promote the brand.

A few months earlier, that same colleague, Irina Lorenzi, and I had gone to LA to negotiate a deal for Mario to represent Celsius.

We felt beat up by the experience, but later learned it was all part of the game. Mario loved the brand, and it was his passion for our mission that sealed the deal. After all, we weren’t exactly Coca-Cola. (Today, we have a multibillion dollar market cap, so the lesson is believe!).

So here we were a few months later, filming a commercial based on a concept that Mario had conceived.

We went to a boxing gym in downtown Burbank, a place where Mario– an ardent fan of the “sweet science”– trained. The ad was cute but simple. Mario would be sparring with an older gentleman who was being pummeled until he took a swig of Celsius and turned the tables on Mr. Lopez.

During the filming, a very large, very muscular man stepped into the gym. It was heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. He was 6’6” and looked like he was chiseled from granite. He came by to see Mario, his friend.

After a few moments of chit chat, it was decided that we would write Wladimir into the script. He didn’t charge us (we couldn’t have afforded him) but he was gracious, a good sport and willing to help the cause, which is apparently a character trait.

Irina and I were elated. So was Mario. The commercial was better than we had imagined.

Here it is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fnivh8rg2BY

I was so taken by Mr. Klitschko’s kindness, that I read up on him. He was born in the Soviet Union and his father was a General who was one of the commanders in charge of cleaning up the effects of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. His dad was later diagnosed with cancer. His brother is Vitali, also a former heavyweight champion and the current Mayor Kyiv. Both Wladmir and Vitali hold PhDs in sports science. They are not your typical boxers.

I’ve been thinking about Wladimir, his brother and of course the Ukrainian people since the Russian invasion.

The brothers are together in Kyiv bravely facing the brutal assault of a ruthless dictator hellbent on death and destruction. I have been following the brothers on social media and praying for their safety and the safety of their citizens.

Both Klitschko’s made a fortune because of their boxing prowess.

They could be in any exotic location enjoying their riches and the opportunities that their fame and their education’s would afford them. Instead they are in Ukraine defending their home and their freedom.

Wladimir signs his twitter posts with the hashtags “we are all Ukrainians”, “stay with Ukraine” and “stand together.”

And we will.

I hope we will.

For the love of Ukraine.

Sand in His Shoes

On a happier note, legendary journalist David Lawrence Jr., received a major award last week from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

It’s aptly titled the “Sand in my Shoes” award and it is given to a Miamian who has added value to the community and to our state.

I can think of no better person than Mr. Lawrence, who is a hero to journalists nationwide and those of us who value public service. He used to work for the Palm Beach Post.

I had a chance to meet Mr. Lawrence a few years ago after he led a discussion with former Governor and Senator Bob Graham at the annual meeting of Leadership Florida. It was a thrill to see two legends trade stories. I bought Mr. Lawrence’s book “A Dedicated Life: Journalism, Justice and a Chance for Every Child.” It was inspiring.

A friend posted 12 lessons that Mr. Lawrence shared after receiving the award last week. I thought I would print them here.

  1. Tell people that you love them while they are still alive.
  2. Believe in people.
  3. Grow spiritually – believe in something.
  4. Racism is the great cancer of societies.
  5. Have the courage to speak up.
  6. Be a lifelong learner.
  7. We cannot get through life without pain – but we can grow through it.
  8. Get back to people quickly.
  9. Believe in redemption.
  10. Always vote for someone with a moral core.
  11. Love this country- help us make it better.
  12. “The purpose of life is not to be happy—but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.”-Leo Rosten

 

Quality Time Remaining….

 

Thomas Friedman has an interesting business card.

I have only just a minute,

 

Only sixty seconds in it.

 

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.

 

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.

 

But it’s up to me

 

to use it.

 

I must suffer if I lose it.

 

Give account if I abuse it.

 

Just a tiny little minute,

 

but eternity is in it. — Benjamin Mays.

 

I woke up early last Thursday and the name Benjamin Mays was in my head.

Sometimes, things like that happen to me.  It’s weird.

I’ll get an idea or wake up with a song on my mind and sometimes I’ll see a face or think of a name.

I know who Benjamin Mays is…he was the minister who gave the eulogy at MLK’s funeral. But I don’t know why I woke up thinking about him. I had to stop and think about it.

The poem above has two names “God’s Minute” and “Just a Minute.” In a few lines, Rev. Mays speaks to how fleeting life is and how we are called to make the most of the small blip of time we’re given. It makes you think and it forces you to ponder priorities.

The day before, my dad and I went to Florida Atlantic University to hear a lecture from three time Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Thomas Friedman. It was an interesting time to hear Friedman considering the state of our world and the war in Ukraine. Friedman has had a bird’s eye of view of world affairs for close to 30 years. He has known just about every player there is to know, and he has seen how our world is “flat” and therefore how trends knit together.

He spends his time thinking and writing about the big stuff.

Many of us, get lost in the small stuff. We miss the forest because we are deep in the weeds.

Friedman covered a lot of ground in his 90 minutes. He’s a remarkable thinker and deeply experienced.

But I came away with two thoughts from the Friedman experience.

First, the leaders who will make a difference in our world are those who tell the truth and build trust.

Think about that for a moment.

How many of our leaders tell us the truth and how many give us their spin or their “alternative facts?”

How many of our leaders build trust so that we can believe in our institutions and know that our values are respected and protected?

Second, the two most powerful forces in politics today are humiliation and dignity.

We all fear humiliation and we all want dignity.

Friedman believes so much in the power of those words and emotions that he often refers to himself as The New York Times’ “Humiliation and Dignity Columnist.” The title is on his business card.

Says Friedman:

“Humiliation, in my view, is the most underestimated force in politics and international relations. The poverty of dignity explains so much more behavior than the poverty of money. People will absorb hardship, hunger and pain. They will be grateful for jobs, cars and benefits. But if you make people feel humiliated, they will respond with a ferocity unlike any other emotion, or just refuse to lift a finger for you.

By contrast, if you show people respect, if you affirm their dignity, it is amazing what they will let you say to them or ask of them. Sometimes it just takes listening to them, but deep listening — not just waiting for them to stop talking. Because listening is the ultimate sign of respect. What you say when you listen speaks more than any words.”

Think about this concept in terms of Vladimir Putin, who feels deep humiliation over the collapse of the Soviet Union. And think about this concept the next time your City Commission or Council makes a mean-spirited decision and refuses to talk about it.  Was that decision driven by some desire to heal humiliation (or inflict it) and will that decision humiliate others?

In Friedman’s view, politics is the quest for dignity.

If we read the “Just A Minute” poem and absorb its profound and moving message, we are called to achieve with the little time we are given.

We are challenged to lift up, not humiliate. We are tasked with building trust and dignity.

People who divide and polarize, who invade, destroy, and seek to humiliate others are not leaders. They are the problem. And we must do our best to make sure they never get the levers of power because they will abuse not serve.

Remembering a dear friend

Bob Levinson

Last week, we sent our condolences to the family of John Gallo, a wonderful man and big contributor to Lynn University.

This week, we remember and send condolences to the family of Robert Levinson, one of Mr. Gallo’s best friends. The two—who called themselves the young and the restless—worked side by side for decades at Lynn.

Bob Levinson passed within days of his friend. He was a month shy of his 97th birthday.

Bob was a friend of mine and a wonderful man. I served on the Delray City Commission with his son Jon and Bob and I had grown close over the years.

For a few years, we shared office space and I enjoyed seeing and chatting with Bob about world affairs.

He had a curious mind, worked until he was 90, wrote several books on business and management and never stopped learning. He was an inspiring man who enjoyed success in a wide variety of businesses ranging from hotels to manufacturing.

Bob cared deeply about the world and his community. He was philanthropic, generous, smart, experienced and well read.

I will miss his smile, our conversations, his take on the world and most of all his example.

What a special man.

He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

Odds and Ends

Congratulations to the Delray Beach Public Library for a very successful (and fun) “Laughs With the Library” event at the spectacular Opal Grand last week.

Comedian Pat McGann headlined the show which was hosted by our very own Frank McKinney.

 

Congratulations also to the newly seated Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Chair David Schmidt passed the gavel to Vivian DeMille who gave a terrific speech on the importance of heart and soul in leadership.

Lord knows we can use more of both here and throughout the world.

Finally, #prayersforukraine

 

A Valentine & A Letter Too

We can sure use some can’t we?

Note: A couple of things.

First, we want to offer our heartfelt condolences to the Randolph family on the loss of their beloved matriarch Mary.

Mrs. Randolph passed last week, a day after her 64th wedding anniversary to her sweetheart David.

David and Mary Randolph are local legends. David served two stints during two different eras on the city commission and became forever known as “the commissioner” to his legions of admirers. But Mrs. Randolph was a force in her own right.  She was universally admired and known for her strength and devotion to her family and community. She will be dearly missed.

This week, I wanted to wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day and wrap up my recent obsession with the fate of Old School Square with a Valentine to its founder and an open letter to our City Manager. Unless something grabs me and compels me to write, we will let this story unfold in the courts and ultimately at the ballot box. Meanwhile, thanks for your overwhelming response to this series of essays on OSS. Your comments mean a lot and are deeply appreciated. So here goes..

 

I want to send a heartfelt  Valentine to someone who is very special to all of us.

Her name is Frances Bourque and she happens to be the founder of Old School Square.

But she is so much more than that to those of us who love her. She’s a leader. She’s an inspiration and she’s a case study in grace.

She’s also a fighter even though her first million instincts would be to seek peace before conflict.

But she’s also adept at standing her ground. When faced with adversity she summons reserves that few others possess and it is that strength that I and so many others have come to deeply admire.

Frances has not had an easy six months.

Her life’s work, Old School Square, has been threatened by three members of a City Commission who just don’t appreciate what that place means to this community. OSS had the doors locked on their generosity and creativity last week. Another mean spirited insult hurled at the community non-profit six months after a 3-2 vote terminated their lease after 32 years of dedicated service to Delray.

I can’t get in the  head space of the mayor and two commissioners who made this decision; 11,000 plus petitioners who objected can’t either, but what bothers me most is that none of the three have managed to say a kind word about Frances.

It’s shameful.

But this is a Valentine, so let me say a few kind words.

First, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

That’s why 8 former mayors jumped at the chance to sign a letter because they valued Frances’ creation and ideas.

Many of us have benefitted from Frances’ wisdom, advice and inspiration.

None more than me. Maybe a few equal, but none more.

I have adored Frances for three decades, hung on her every word and found a way forward as a result.

As someone who is passionate about leadership, I’m in awe of Frances’ affect on people. Her ability to motivate, inspire and get us to think that anything was possible.

It was those skills that enabled her to gain support to restore a dilapidated old school that catalyzed the rebirth of our city.

It’s ironic that her unique  ability to spell out and sell a vision fell on deaf ears and hardened hearts. But that’s not Frances’ fault or shortcoming. This failure to get together and save a treasured community asset is on the city.

What a sad time this is. We are so divided. We are so lost.

Some are so lost they don’t even know they are lost. Nope, just the opposite, they beat their chest as a treasured asset goes dark. Wow.

But through these last miserable months. Through all the lies. Through all the indignities that really make the city look bad, I have been watching Frances and the rest of the board and staff of Old School Square.

These are some really special people.

They have been surrounded by love and support from a great cross section of the community and that has given them strength.

They leave with their heads held high.

Nobody is giving up. Least of all Frances.

If anything, these travails have made us realize once again how much she is loved and valued.

When we lack love and empathy in our community as we do now, we value love and empathy even more.

When the darkness comes, as it did last week, when the city came with locks to make sure those who really love the place can’t have access anymore, we search for light.

Frances is the brightest of those lights.

She deserves a Valentine’s from all who value what this town was and could be again. So happy Valentine’s Day Frances. We love and appreciate you more now than ever.

Now for the letter…

Dear City Manager Moore,

We haven’t met.

I did write to welcome you to town when you got the job.

I also emailed you when you sent a letter to the community about Old School Square that I thought was “political”. I wanted to caution you that being political is the easiest way for a City Manager to lose their job. Since you are the 9th manager to serve in the post since David Harden retired in 2012 (after 22 years on the job) it’s fair to say that your role comes with a fair amount of risk.

Many of your predecessors have left on bad terms, filing lawsuits after they’ve been axed. They’ve found that road difficult and expensive. There really is something to be said about the old adage: “you can’t fight City Hall.”

After all, we have to fight with our own money, while the city gets to use the taxpayer’s money.

This sure is a good town for lawyers, especially one firm, which seems to get a great deal of business.

But I digress.

This letter is an offer to help.

It has been six months since the Commission voted 3-2 to terminate Old School Square, the community non-profit that ran that complex on the corner of Atlantic and Swinton for 32 years. 3-2, and 32—kind of ironic how that works.

Anyway, it seems like you’ve had some difficulty figuring out what to do with OSS which was programmed by volunteers right up until the city showed up with police and put locks on the doors February 10.

Question: Can we the citizens also call on our police to enforce our leases?

Just asking.

Sorry, I’m veering off topic.

Again, it seems like there’s been some puzzling over what to do with the buildings now that the folks who created the place have been kicked to the curb.

You issued a Request for Proposals that for some reason didn’t include the Cornell Museum and nobody responded.

Have you ever been to the Cornell?

It was nice, especially when Margaret Blume stepped up with a generous gift to make it look spectacular. She also made a big donation to redo the Crest Theatre and to build a much needed and long coveted commercial kitchen. That project was stopped dead in its tracks, a month before completion. Did that make sense? It was paid for, now we the taxpayers will have to pay for it. All of this is lost on me and about 11,000 others who signed a petition asking the city to slow down and talk.

Oh well. That ship has sailed.

I was in the Cornell a day before you guys put the locks on the building and the museum was stripped bare. Walls that were once adorned with beautiful art are now empty. The building seemed sad, is that possible?  I think it is. It’s as if its soul was removed and I guess it has been, hasn’t it?

I know you may not agree with me (and 11,000 others who feel that this was a terrible decision) or you’re not allowed to agree. I do understand how your job works. You’re tasked with carrying out the will of the majority of your bosses—those three elected officials who voted to terminate. That can’t be easy.

But after 6 months and an RFP that produced a goose egg, it seems like you are still fishing around for a solution so I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest one.

But before I do, I understand you are being pitched a rich consulting deal from somebody with big experience in the corporate side of entertainment. I’m sure he’s a great asset, but I would caution you about expenses and cutting the public out of this process. Losing the community non-profit is a big deal, turning the place over to a for-profit interest or an out of town non-profit would also be a blow to our community. I’d also watch for expenses, historically the non-profit you guys kicked to the curb raised 75-80 percent of the expenses. A city run facility would take on 100 percent of the costs. I guess you could raise ticket prices, but remember OSS offered free and heavily subsidized entertainment options.

Anyway, once again, here’s a thought to consider.

It’s a radical idea but I know you must get a lot of those. I was once a public official, and I actually kept a file of some of the more creative concepts that came across my desk. My favorite was from a guy who wanted to pave over the sand on the beach because it would allow for greater access to the ocean for those who didn’t want to get sand in their shoes. We passed on that one.

I hope you think this idea is a little better. Here goes.

How about we create a community-based non-profit consisting of local volunteers who love Delray? The non-profit can seek donations from philanthropists, sponsorships from businesses and can sell tickets to offset 80 percent or so of the city’s costs.

I think this business model might just work. It may be worth a try.

Delray Beach was built by dedicated citizens who are passionate about the community. Old School Square can serve as a gathering place for our community. We may want to host free Friday night concerts, program the theatre, host exhibits, offer classes and use the fieldhouse for special events. If we finish the commercial kitchen, we may attract more weddings etc., and we can train the next generation of culinary talent to serve our burgeoning restaurant scene.

It seems like the city has an urge to take on more and more these days, so maybe there can be a partnership between the city and this community non-profit where you provide some operational and financial acumen.

It may be worth a shot.

Now this may seem to be eerily similar to what has worked for 32 years, but I assure you that’s pure coincidence.

Thanks for your kind consideration.

Warmest Regards,

Jeff Perlman

 

 

The Final Chapter Yet To Be Written

Old School Square has inspired a generation of artists in Delray.

People make places special.That was the thought that went through my mind Friday night as I watched the magnificent Valerie Tyson Band wow the crowd at the Old School Square Pavilion. The event was billed as “Turn the Tide”— a last ditch effort by a group of incredible civic contributors—the best this town has to offer—to change the minds of three Delray Beach elected officials who have decided to pull the plug on the organization after 32 years of dedicated and distinguished service.

But the minds won’t change. And so the music will stop—for now anyway.

So will the arts classes, museum exhibits, speaker series, plays and shows hosted— and largely paid for— by Old School Square.After six months of pleading for  a chance to sit down and work it out,  the fight will now go to the courts and eventually the ballot box.If 11,000 plus petitioners, hundreds of emails and scores of citizens showing up at City Hall over the past six months won’t change  the minds of elected officials who are out of step with their own constituents, a magical night of music at the pavilion won’t either.How sad.What a waste of time, money and energy.

It’s tragic when the arts and community building are on the outs and the only “winners” are lawyers making a killing litigating and defending the city on this and other issues.But this is where we are these days.Yes, we are still waiting for a plan from a brand new City Manager who has been tasked with solving and budgeting for a problem manufactured by three elected officials who decided to end three decades of hard work by volunteers who love this town without consulting the community they purport to serve.Why?

On Friday night, we saw video testimonials from volunteers, Old School Square staff, donors and artists who are asking that same question.

Commissioner Juli Casale, who supposedly aspires to be our next mayor, has been telling residents that Old School Square has not produced documents, has failed to comply with city dictates and that the group has been mean and unkind after she voted to kick to them to the curb without consulting the public.Well, welcome to politics and to life. In the real world, when you kneecap someone you shouldn’t be surprised when they  defend themselves.

“Thank you sir may I have another” may be a great line in the movie Animal House after a pledge gets spanked. But this isn’t Faber College and you shouldn’t expect dedicated volunteers to slink off into the ether because you’ve decided you don’t like them and that they haven’t done a good job. Lots of others do like this group and think they have done a terrific job.

In the six months since OSS was booted for “no cause” the community non-profit has been bullied and lied about.The newly politicized CRA —also taken over without public input by the commission—has become complicit. It’s painful to see the pains the agency has gone through to deny Old School Square grant money the non-profit has earned for services already rendered.

To those keeping score at home, it’s personally painful for me to point out the bad behavior of a city government that I once led and long believed in.But it is precisely because I love this city that I do so.

Thankfully, I’m not alone.

And while more stakeholders are beginning to speak out, some are too scared to speak for fear of retribution.The biggest criticisms come from city employees who describe a a climate of fear and dysfunction at City Hall. I would respectfully suggest that our new City Manager, the 9th in recent years, has better things to do than to deploy Parks employees to produce Bar Mitzvahs in the OSS Fieldhouse. He has a lot of repairs to do in his own building.

But while I sympathize with his plight, we keep waiting for his grand plan for OSS now that his Request for Proposals to take it over yielded zero interest.He may want to take the suggestions of every living former mayor— those who were elected and served a term— to seek public input on the future of the site. That’s the true Delray way. Get the community involved. It worked for decades until this nonsense arrived on the scene. Why won’t they ask our citizens for ideas?

Is it because the public may endorse the current business model: a community based non-profit?But I digress.

Pardon me for getting emotional, but I get worked up when I see our best citizens struggle to make sense of this terrible decision. In between songs Friday night, Valerie Tyson, who has played OSS many times, stopped and addressed the audience. She talked about how much she has enjoyed performing for this community and she talked about legacy and responsibility.

We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, she said.

She was referring to the men and women who conceived and built Old School Square. They breathed new life into a struggling city.These people built community. There is nothing more valuable than that. Nothing.

We talk about being a village. We talk about creating a sense of place but being a village is about more than the height of a building downtown, it’s about how we treat each other. We expect our leaders to call on our better angels. We expect them to engage us in a discussion about the type of community we aspire to be.

This kind of leadership is absent and it is what we long for.

OSS has been referred to as a management company.

They are not.

They are a community based non-profit dedicated to this city and the arts.These are the people who had the idea to restore those buildings and breathe new life into them. They invited artists to paint on the lawn, actors to perform on the stage, residents to take classes and musicians to perform.

Old School Square became the place we turned to when we needed community the most.

We gathered at OSS to celebrate All America City wins, host Town Hall meetings and plan our downtown.  And when we were devastated by 9/11, the shooting of Jerrod Miller (17 years ago this month) and the Parkland shootings we gathered at Old School Square and found solace in one another.

If you take the community out of our gathering place, what do you have?

If you bring in the Boca Museum of Art in to run OUR cultural centerpiece what do you have? And what we will lose?

If you chase donors and volunteers away because they were late on an audit during an historic pandemic when their auditor quit on them what message are you sending?

The audits are current and clean now. Why can’t we talk about the future? It’s a question we all ought to be asking. Who’s next if we don’t stand together and turn the tide?People make places special. They also have the power to ruin them.It’s our choice. We stand for what we tolerate.