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.

MLK: Creating The Beloved Community

MLK

 

I find this an especially poignant and an especially important Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

My guess is that I am not alone.

MLK has been a lifelong hero of mine—if you are a leadership junkie like I am, you can’t help but be fascinated by Dr. King’s immense leadership skills.

If you’ve ever spoken publicly, you marvel at MLK’s off the charts oratorical skills and if you’ve been involved in any kind of community work you stand in awe of his vision, relevance and achievements.

We throw around the word giant too easily in this strange age we live in—but if you are looking for a true example of an icon, look no further than Dr. King.

I was honored to be asked to share some thoughts on one of my heroes with young student/leaders from our community last week on a streaming TV show called “Community Conversations.” The program is produced by the Boca Raton Tribune and streams on Facebook and Youtube. Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYtp-hjvURY

 

It is a unique privilege to talk to young people these days, particularly because of the moment we are in.

America feels fragile today, our Democracy vulnerable. I just cannot shake the searing images of our Capitol being defiled by insurrectionists.

So the show was an opportunity to connect to tomorrow’s leaders–the people who will work toward a more perfect union if we are able to keep our Democracy.

Because it is only in a Democracy that we can have an advancement of civil rights. It is only in a Democracy that we can address poverty, inequality, division and racism—the life work of Dr. King.

Before I came on the program, the student hosts heard from my friend Bill Nix, a Delray resident and student of history. Mr. Nix shared a series of slides and gave a wonderful talk on MLK’s life—how he met Coretta Scott who would become his wife and how there was a divine plan for Dr. King to lead the civil rights movement.

It was a beautiful oral history given by a man who went to the same school as Dr. King—Morehouse College—and has clearly studied his history.

Watching his talk, I was reminded how important it is to share history and the stories that shape our world with the next generation. History not only repeats itself, it informs and guides us. Bill Nix is a great guide.

When it was my turn to appear on the show, the hosts —Darrel Creary and Dina Bazou (remember those names they are amazing) –asked me about why Dr. King was either loved or hated during his era, whether he was more important today or during his lifetime and about where we might go from here.

The show is wonderful and I’d like to give a shout out to another friend C. Ron Allen and his Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network for his role in helping to produce the show. Mr. C. Ron empowers our young people and I am endlessly impressed with the quality of our youth in this community.

I thought it was important to tell the students listening on the show that they were doing a good job and that they are well equipped to lead us into a better future.

We would be wise to follow the principles employed by MLK.

Dr. King talked about the  “Urgency of Creating the Beloved Community.”

And in 2021, there is no better nor more important mission.

The Beloved Community, as described by Dr. King, is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it.

Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.

In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.

As I watched the violence engulf our Capitol and I see troops deployed in Washington as we get ready to inaugurate a new president and vice president it is plain that we are far from achieving Dr. King’s vision of beloved community.

Right here at home, I see division in our city. People feel estranged from their neighbors, not heard by their leaders and put on a shelf by the powers that be. It is unsustainable and should not be ignored.

Dr. King gives us all a roadmap for effective leadership.

Non-violence is a way of life for courageous people.

We should seek to win friendship and understanding. Division does not work.

Love and empathy does work.

The end result is reconciliation. That reconciliation redeems us all.

Dr. King’s enduring lesson is to choose love instead of hate.

In 2021, we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

This Cannot Be America

This is not America….

A little piece of you,

the little peace in me,

will die. For this is not America.

Snowman melting from the inside

Falcon spirals to,

the ground

(this could be the biggest sky)

So bloody red, tomorrow’s clouds—David Bowie

 

In my heart, America has always represented a glorious destination.

America was the land of milk and honey. The place/ideal where my grandparents risked it all to come so that my parents and their children and grandchildren could have an limitless future—free from violence and hatred.

Free….that was the operative word.

Free to be safe.

Free to pursue dreams.

But not free of obligations.

In my heart, Americans are called to build community.

We have an obligation to take care of our own.

We have to pay our civic rent.

It cannot be all about us and our needs and beliefs or we will cease to exist.

Last week, we saw visual evidence of what many of us have long suspected. The Promised Land is breaking. The dream that is America is slipping through our hands.

We need to wake up because we are coming apart at the seams.

Here’s the state of our union.

–The pandemic is raging.

Real people are dying and our health care system is buckling under the weight of cases.

—We are struggling to distribute a vaccine—and people are suffering and dying as a result.

–We couldn’t secure our own seat of government.

—It took us half a year to pass a stimulus bill (that both sides wanted) while people suffered, businesses closed, families were evicted etc.

The bill our feckless Congress finally passed is deeply flawed. I know people who got $600 who don’t need it and I know people who need more help. You would think we’d be able to figure out how to target aid so that ‘we the people’ get the most for our buck. Or in this case–$900 billion.

–We can’t agree on election results—the very table stakes of Democracy.

We can’t even have an orderly or peaceful transfer of power after an election that wasn’t particularly close as Mitch McConnell noted on the Senate floor.

A significant number of us deny climate change even as we see the seas rise, wildfires rage and 100 hundred year storms batter us multiple times every year.

Nearly 400,000 people have died from Covid and yet when I scroll through my Facebook feed people I know are calling it a hoax, a bad flu, a government conspiracy and a plot to take our freedoms away.

This lunacy takes a toll on those of us who respect scientists, respect election officials (my goodness Wendy Sartory Link did a great job in Palm Beach County), feel deeply for families who have lost loved ones to a deadly virus and revere those front line health care workers who are true heroes.

Our beautiful country is in peril.

Russian hackers looted our computer systems, put bounties on the heads of our soldiers and have bullied our allies.

China is run by an autocratic dictator who is brutalizing Hong Kong, stealing our intellectual property, locking up dissidents and loaning money to needy countries in an effort to make them beholden to Beijing.

Iran and North Korea are threats to Americans and our allies. And the list goes on.

Here at home, Florida is a Covid tinderbox.

Small businesses have been ravaged—each empty store front comes with a story of a dream dashed, livelihoods lost and a part of the fabric of our community lost.

It takes a toll. The death and division weighs heavy on us all.

Crises—whether they affect families, businesses, communities or nations– can either bind you together or drive you apart.

In the wake of the assault on the Capitol, a friend reminded me that on 9/12—a day after we were attacked by terrorists— we were all Patriots united in our resolve to love and protect each other. Sadly, over time that feeling dissipated.

The events of January 6 could have a similar galvanizing impact or the moment could be lost. But so far, we have retreated to our respective “sides.” It’s shameful.

The real challenge will be maintaining these United States. The real challenge will be finding a way to live together and serve our nation’s needs of which there are many.

To date, a productive way forward is eluding us and if we don’t figure this out, we will pay the heaviest of prices—we already are.

It’s time to wake up America.

We don’t have to agree. Let’s face it, we will never agree. But we do have to agree to live together peacefully and mind the guardrails or we will lose it all.

Disagreement over philosophy is one thing, but what is most worrisome is we are walking around with our own set of facts. I don’t see how that works.

As Daniel Moynihan once said: “you are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Somehow we have to find our way through this fog.

We have to get to work on rebuilding the broken Promised Land.

The issues loom large.

Racism remains a sickening and very real problem.

You may not think Covid is real, great have at it.

But if there was some kind of conspiracy nobody told me about it as I was confined to a hospital bed for 39 days so sick that I was unable to lift my head. And I’m doubtful that 370K Americans agreed to die to make a hoax look real. Come on.

As kids, when we played sports, occasionally we thought the refs blew a call and we lost the game. Our parents told us to question the refs and protest respectfully. But if the referee stood by the call we were also taught to shake our opponents hands, congratulate them and wish them well. We’ll compete in the next contest. “We’ll get you next time” sure beats burning down the stadium.

As for the election…Mitch was right it wasn’t all that close. In our system, the states call the shots and if you don’t like the verdict you can go to court. But you better have evidence—allegations aren’t enough.  If you fail in court, that’s it.

We don’t want Congress overturning elections. We don’t want to insurrectionists storming the seat of government. This is not America, because if it is, we’re done.

Two thoughts went through my mind as I watched through tears the scenes from Washington D.C. last week.

I thought of 9/11 and I thought of when Jerrod Miller was shot and killed in Delray.

As many of you know, many of the 9/11 terrorists were living and training in Delray. It was a stunning revelation that added to the shock of the tragedy.

I was a City Commissioner at the time and I remember hearing from neighbors who were stunned and hurt that these monsters lived among us. I remember how we gathered as a community at Old School Square and the Community Center to pray, grieve and console one another. We were unified.

When Jerrod Miller, a 15 year-old, was killed in February 2005, we experienced anger and a level of sadness I could never adequately describe. But we came together, we tried to heal. We consciously fought our emotions to save what was good about our community and resolve to work on what was broken.

The truth is we were hard at work on race relations before the shooting—people were engaged and involved. After the shooting, we doubled down on those efforts. We went to church—together. We met in living rooms and held each other’s hands. That’s impossible in a pandemic, but we should be able to figure out how to draw each other closer—especially now.

We must find a way at every level of our society to re-engage, re-connect and remember who we are.

We remain a glorious destination. Now we have to find a way to get there together.

Try A Little Tenderness

The Delray Chamber gave the community a hug last week. We needed it.

Sometimes a simple act of kindness can make all the difference.
Last week, the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce gave the community a big hug and it felt amazing.

The hug was needed.

The hug was appreciated.

The hug showed us the immense power of kindness and community.

I hope it triggers more goodwill because we can all use an explosion of kindness as we end 2020 and look forward to a new year.

Ahh, yes a new year.
2020 has been brutal; we need to turn the page. We need a reason to believe.

2021 sits there–just over the horizon– an oasis after a long slog through a desert of despair.

Hundreds of thousands of families have lost loved ones.
Hundreds of thousands of people are struggling to overcome the lingering affects of a virus that has upended our lives and our world.

Businesses are really hurting.

Our social lives have been upended and community life has been interrupted. The best parts of our lives—human contact and interaction– have been put on hold.
There is fear and division throughout the country and right here at home. We sure need something to lift our spirits.

The Chamber of Commerce dove into that breach with a socially distant awards ceremony recognizing hometown heroes.
Teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, business owners and non-profit executives were honored for going above and beyond to get us through this crazy and tragic year. And it felt great.

It was needed. It was appreciated and it reminds us of the possibilities that exist in Delray Beach if we just can find a way to be kind and work together. It’s not rocket science folks, but yet that simple concept of being kind and having empathy seems elusive these days.

The Chamber showed remarkable leadership at a critical time—the tail end of a year in which we have all suffered perhaps more than we can fully comprehend in the moment.

It reminded me and others of the “old days” when we made it a point to celebrate success and to come together during hard times.

But as much as it reminded us of happier times, the Hometown Heroes event showed us a path forward. We can do this again. And again.
There is much to be grateful for in America and in Delray Beach.
The winners and nominees are examples of our strength and resilience. We become a happier place when we stop and think about how much we have to be thankful for.

Emanuel “Dupree” Jackson, Marcus Darrisaw and the EJS Project were honored for the non-profit’s stellar work with young people. They are developing our future leaders while exhibiting grace in these trying times.
The Chamber honored the nursing staffs at Bethesda Hospital and Delray Medical Center who are busy saving lives and giving comfort to those battling a deadly virus. There are 900 nurses at Delray Medical alone, 900 heroes staying strong during the worst medical crisis of our lives.

We saw several educators honored as well: the principal of Village Academy, the founder of Space of Mind and a young teacher at Plumosa Elementary School finding creative ways to connect with students during the pandemic. Bless you La Toya Dixon, Ali Kaufman and Cassidee Boylston.

First responders were honored as well. Can you imagine an already stressful and dangerous job that has gotten even more dangerous? What does it take to suit up every day and risk it all to protect and serve? Thank goodness for our police officers and firefighter/paramedics.

The Chamber honored small business owners all of whom have had to dig deep to try and survive a crisis nobody saw coming or had any experience with.

The immensely talented Amanda Perna of The House of Perna, was recognized for donating thousands of masks to first responders and for giving jobs to seamstresses who were furloughed. They worked days and nights to help protect the community. Isn’t that beautiful?

A plaque doesn’t pay the bills or heal someone infected with Covid, but it’s important nonetheless.
It’s important to recognize, honor and appreciate each other. That simple act is healing.

So the Chamber  performed a very valuable service.

The organization itself has been tested by the pandemic. Largely event driven, the Chamber has had to re-invent itself on the fly.
In the capable hands of President Stephanie Immelman and Chair Noreen Payne– two extraordinarily gifted leaders–the chamber has stayed relevant, visible and has showed us once again why we need a strong chamber.

It’s important for business to have a voice but when the Delray Chamber is hitting on all cylinders it is much more than an advocate for commerce. It is an advocate for the entire community.
Through virtual events, webinars and round tables, the Chamber has made it through a brutal year.

They have reached out to members in need and urged us to stay connected and informed. That’s leadership . And a template for a bright future.

I am excited to see where the Chamber will go as my former commission colleague Dave Schmidt takes the chairman’s role.
Mayor Dave is a proven leader. We are in great hands.

So here’s to 2021.
Thank you Delray Chamber for shining the light of positivity at the end of a dark year.

Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.

It’s not the turkey—that I can take or leave. It’s the meaning behind the holiday—gratitude and the time you get to spend with family.

This year, of course, will be different for many American families. We are being told not to gather because of coronavirus. We are also mourning the loss of more than 250,000 plus people , more than twice the number of American soldiers who died in World War I. It’s a staggering number and it’s increasing.

Yes, 2020 has been a terrible year, and it’s not over yet.

 

Still, if we look there is usually something we can be thankful for. For me, I’m grateful to be alive after a bruising battle with Covid-19.

I had a close call and peered over the edge before thankfully recovering and rejoining my family, friends and work colleagues.

So this year I am thankful for a lot. I hope by sharing my thoughts I will inspire you to think about what your thankful for in your life.

Here’s a brief list. If I miss anything it’s because the list is long (also something to be thankful for) and maybe I do have a touch of Covid fog.

I’m thankful for, in no particular order:

—Community: This year, I have felt the warm embrace of our community. The outpouring of support during my battle with Covid helped me heal and my family cope. When the call went out for plasma, the community responded. I will be forever thankful.

—Prayer: This year, I  learned about the power of prayer. Prayer has been a part of my life for a long time, but this year the appreciation went deeper. When I learned that prayer groups were praying for me, I was deeply touched. I believe those prayers made a huge difference and for that I am thankful.

—Family: I have always been grateful for my wonderful family. I’ve been blessed. Faced with the prospect of never seeing them again my love for them deepened. I saw their faces in my dreams and I was driven to come home.

—Friends: I am thankful for old friends and new ones too. During this trying year, relationships became more meaningful. I have been given a gift; the magic of friendship. Our ability to laugh, talk, share and show appreciation for each other has enriched my life and saved it too.

—Acts of Kindness: 2020 has been a year where I have been given innumerable acts of kindness. A retired police officer who sends me inspirational texts every single morning, a business colleague who shook the trees for plasma donations, the 9 pm prayers that warmed my heart, the E Street Band legend who personally delivered the new Springsteen album to my home, our chamber of commerce which enabled me to share my story on a webinar and then honored me with a nomination for a nice award, the endless texts from friends that included videos, songs, prayers, jokes and general messages of good cheer, the cooking of friends bringing over delicious dishes, the kindness of my amazing neighbors, Dave Wasserman’s zoom calls, Zoom happy hours arranged by Connor Lynch, Scott Savodnik’s lifelong friendship, Scott Porten’s endless generosity, Sandra Allen’s love, Gina and Mike’s prayers, Perry Don Francisco’s videos and Dave Reeves’ extra special phone calls. And the list goes on.  I’m so thankful. If I didn’t mention you—please, please know I did not and will not ever forget you.

—Work: Millions of Americans are out of work. Businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries are struggling. I’m thankful I have work and benefits to weather the storm.

—Medical Heroes: I can’t say enough about the doctors and nurses at Bethesda Hospital. They saved my life and the lives of many, many others. For them, I am grateful also beyond words. My doctor Paige Morris and my pulmonologist Nevine Carp are beyond talented. We are truly lucky to have this level of medical talent serving our community.

Yes, 2020 has been a handful.

We all know the litany of woes. They are real and they are serious.

But amidst the sadness and division, the illness and the economic despair, there’s beauty. There’s hope. There’s love. There’s life. And there is a future.

It will be a brighter one—if we wish for it and if we work for it.

Meantime, I wish you and yours a Happy and safe Thanksgiving. And I pray for your safety and health.

 

Sharing My Covid Experience With The Chamber

Note: Earlier this week, the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted a webinar on Covid featuring a panel of distinguished health care professionals. I was asked to share my experiences which I was happy and honored to do. We need to raise awareness as this disease continues to run rampant. I want to thank Chamber President Stephanie Immelman, Angelica Vasquez of the Chamber and my good friend Dr. Craig Spodak for their efforts and for including me. The response was terrific and I was asked to share my comments by those who missed the broadcast. I’ve included a transcript below, but I urge you to watch the webinar because there is a ton of great information to help keep you safe. The webinar is available on youtube, Facebook (Chamber page) and the www.delraybeach.com.

I want to thank the Chamber for giving me the opportunity to share my story with everyone today…

It’s a privilege for me to share my experience because I hope that by raising awareness maybe we can—in a small way—do our part to save lives and keep the people we love safe and healthy.

My goal today…is to give you a glimpse of my Covid experience.

I’m just one of almost 10 million plus cases in America—my hope is that I can make those statistics we are bombarded with a little more real. They are more than numbers on a TV screen—they are real people.

I did not have a common case—I had a severe one. But while my experience may be statistically unlikely— it is possible to get very sick. This virus is real and it is dangerous.

But as bad as it was for me….it could have been worse. We have lost more than 230,000 Americans to this virus.

That is a staggering number.

And while I got sick in the July surge, we are in the midst of an even worse outbreak now.

So I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be careful and to follow the advice of the experts.

Because while I survived and am feeling much better…..I do have lingering problems. Like me, there are potentially millions of others who continue to suffer symptoms and long haul impacts to their health.

My friends, you don’t want this virus.

 

My Covid experience, was a nightmare. There’s really no other word for it.

There were entire days and nights where I did not believe that I was going to survive. And that is an emotional experience that I never anticipated, don’t wish on anyone and am still trying to process.

I want to paint a picture of where I was pre-Covid….

I had been working remotely for months. I wore a mask. I socially distanced. I washed my hands—a lot. I stopped going to the gym but did work out with a trainer in a friend’s garage. I did go to restaurants—I wanted to support our local businesses.

 

I was a month and a half short of my 56th birthday when I went to Bethesda Hospital on Friday, July 10 to get a rapid test because I was feeling tired and was running a slight fever. I had actually gone into my office that day for the first time for a brief meeting where I sat six feet away from a colleague.

Those who saw me said I looked very tired….I went home and took a nap. When I woke up I felt warm. My wife Diane took my temperature and I was running a slight fever. I wanted to take a Tylenol and go back to bed—my wife insisted that I call my doctor. She didn’t want take a chance since we were heading into the weekend.

That was my first break. I called Doctor Paige Morris and she insisted that I go to Bethesda for a rapid test. I said a quick goodbye to Diane and left for the hospital—not knowing that I wouldn’t see her for 39 days.

At Bethesda, I was diagnosed with Covid-19 and told that I had double pneumonia. Within hours, I was struggling to breathe. I am convinced that had I not gone to the hospital, I would not have made the night.

I was that sick.

Getting a bad case of Covid—one that spreads to your lungs is like getting hit by a truck that repeatedly backs over you.

That night began a nearly 6-week battle to survive—with every breath labored, every part of your body weak and in pain and a feeling that there is no way out…no way back to your life and your loved ones.

I had what was described as a violent case of pneumonia that was ravaging my lungs. I have mild asthma and this virus seems to attack where you are most vulnerable.

There were at least two times where I felt I was going to die and I had this one recurring thought and it was about my late mother who we lost to cancer at 59.

In the 22 years since her passing, as my children grew up, as birthdays passed, as good and not so good things happened to those she loved—I always thought about how much she missed.

She never met my wife Diane, the love of my life.

She didn’t get to see her grandchildren grow up and she didn’t get to meet Diane’s boys.

In short, she was robbed of our greatest gift—time. And now here I was four years younger thinking that I won’t even make it to her age. And how much of life I will miss. I thought of all the people I love—many on this call—and how I never got to say goodbye or to sit down with each and every one of them and tell them what a gift they have been to my life.

 

There was a night in the ICU—where I could tell by the sense of urgency that my nurses seem to have as they hovered over me—that I was in real trouble. I don’t remember too much, I was very weak, but I remember this urge to let go.

It was as if the virus was beckoning to me—I can’t explain it, but it was palpable. And I felt that I needed to make a choice—I could let go, that seemed to be the easy route. Or I could fight. And I decided to fight. I wasn’t sure that I could win, but I wasn’t going to let go. I just wasn’t going to let go.

I prayed—a lot. And I concentrated on every breath, Breathe in, breathe out.

I felt like I was suffocating. I just couldn’t get air. And that is a horrifying experience.

As the days and weeks passed, I was on a variety of oxygen—including a bipap mask—that felt like putting a hurricane on your face. They strap it on tight and it forces air into your lungs.

My eyes burned, I ended up with blood clots and bladder spasms and pain I cannot describe. They gave me morphine and it didn’t really dull the pain. The masks are very claustrophobic—and I wore the most restrictive ones for up to 7 hours at a time.

I feared going to sleep because I wasn’t sure I was going to wake up. I only slept when I was exhausted and couldn’t stay up anymore.

I had some really strange dreams—which is common with Covid. I dreamt that I was wandering Delray at night with my golden retriever Teddy who recently passed and I dreamt that I was hiding in the hospital. When I awoke, the steroids that I was on would sometimes leave me unable to figure out where I was in the room. I thought the TV was on the ceiling. I was completely disoriented.

I often was awakened by screams from my neighbor whose Covid affected her brain and gave her hallucinations. Those screams ended up haunting me, because it’s just hard to hear a human being going through that—and not be able to offer comfort.

Being in ICU or a Covid unit is a very unique experience. You are essentially alone for 39 days—24 hours a day left to your thoughts. No visitors.

The only humans you see come dressed in two layers of PPE—you can’t even see their eyes. —I was in 8 different rooms, many with no windows that I could see out of. There was a lot of equipment and the rooms were something called negative pressure—the hospital air couldn’t get in and my air couldn’t get out.

It was loud and it was lonely.

Now, I had the most amazing nurses. And my Doctor, Paige Morris came to see me every single day which was amazing.

Dr. Morris served as my Quarterback and advocate, answering questions, holding my hand, reassuring me, keeping my spirits up and just chatting because the nurses are so busy and overwhelmed that when they come in they have to focus on all those wires sticking in your arms and glued to your chest. I can’t say enough about Doctor Morris and my pulmonologist Dr. Nevine Carp, who also came to my listen to my lungs every day.

The staff at Bethesda is so good. They are truly amazing. They saved me. We are so blessed to have these health care professionals in our community. They are heroes and right now and for much of this year they have been under fire and stressed to the max.

We have to—as a society—consider their needs and listen to their advice. It’s not enough to have an I Heart Nurses bumper sticker—we have to do what we can to support them and try our best to keep infections under control.

 

My case hit the news—-and it’s not because I am special. So many other cases worse than mine go unreported, but I suppose my being a former mayor of Delray was newsworthy.

We are a small town…and I knew some of the hospital staff and they knew me. A few of them came by for quick hello’s—which I loved.

I had one young nursing assistant who actually spent her breaks in my room talking to me about her boyfriend, her dreams to further study medicine and the fact that I must have seen her dance at Delray’s Cinco De Mayo festival when she was a little girl and I was mayor.

That young woman, was a gift from G-d. She raised my spirits just by allowing me to be a real person for 15 minutes here and there.

Early on, I decided that I wanted to communicate as best I could to the outside world about what Covid was like—so I saved up my strength and once a day I would post an update on Facebook.

The response was wonderful…soon prayer groups formed and I think I heard from almost everyone I’ve ever met. Old friends from childhood, former teachers, people I’ve worked with….it was wonderful and their prayers and kind words also saved me. I am so grateful and so blessed. I do believe in the power of prayer—and when prayer and medical angels get together—you get to live. You get another shot at life.

While at Bethesda, I received state of the art medical care—two doses of convalescent plasma thanks to an overwhelming response from the community to donate…I had steroids to help me breathe, I got a course of Remdeservir, lots of vitamin D and round the clock monitoring by wonderful doctors and nurses.

I made it out—after 39 days.

I came home on oxygen, weak and using a walker. Lots of therapy, hard work, love, prayers, medical skill, family and friends are helping me get back to being myself.

 

My lungs are scarred—but they are healing. I have headaches every day, I’m very sore, I have some brain fog and lots of pain in my left leg and my right arm which makes sleeping difficult.

I think it’s important to share that I am getting counseling because I have what they call “survivor’s guilt” and a touch of anxiety. Ok, more than a touch.

I know I was saved for a reason and I am working hard to figure out how I can make the best of my second chance.

I love my family and friends even more. And words cannot express what Diane has meant through my illness and my recovery. Every moment of every day I was determined to survive so I could come home to this wonderful love that we have found.

I am worried about lingering impacts—covid is a vascular disease and there is still so much that they don’t know. Sometimes I get frustrated when I am winded after a short walk, but I remember that when I came home I worried about how I was going to walk from the car into my house.

Still, I’m so grateful. I was spared….so many aren’t.

If you take anything away from my story I hope it’s this. Covid is real. Covid can be deadly. So, please, please be vigilant. Let’s follow the science, let’s employ common sense and let’s support each other during this difficult time—especially our front line medical professionals and our essential workers.

Thank you so much for this incredible opportunity to share my story.  It means the world to me and my family.

November 4 Matters

Governing matters more than campaigning.

There was a time ,when win or lose , when we accepted the outcome.

We wished the winner well and went about our lives. And if we were patriotic, we hoped that whoever won would succeed.

Elections had consequences for sure. But we accepted them and hoped for the best.
We moved on.

If the winners were smart and magnanimous (and it’s smart to be magnanimous) they reached across the aisle and assured the opposition  that their interests would matter and their voices would be heard and respected.
We don’t seem to do these things anymore and it’s killing us.

It’s killing our spirit, our sense of unity and our hopes for a better future.
It doesn’t have to be with this way.

How we treat and view each other is a choice.

We can—if we want to—summon  our ‘better angels’ as Abraham Lincoln advised.

I have friends on both sides of our national political divide.

We will remain friends although we have struggled to understand how and why we think the way we do.

For the life of me, I can’t see what they are seeing and they can’t see what I am seeing but our affection for each other trumps (no pun intended) any ill will.
That’s how it should be.

But I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that at times it has been a strain to maintain these relationships.

I think the reason is that both sides see each other as existential threats to our way of life.

Democrats fear Republicans will role back rights and ignore climate change and science to the detriment of our planet and our health.
Republicans see Democrats as hell bent on rolling back rights they enjoy and endangering our capitalist system.

Those beliefs make it hard to accept outcomes that don’t favor your side.

But somehow we have to figure out how to live together.

If we don’t, this experiment in Democracy can’t survive. A house divided cannot stand to quote Honest Abe again.

I happen to think we are at the breaking point and the next few weeks or months may well determine the future of our nation.
We can decide to stick together or we can agree to blow it apart.
That’s our choice.

Sadly, it’s easier to destroy something than it is to build and sustain.
So the easier choice will be to indulge our anger and exercise our grievances.
But the better choice is always to seek common ground, learn to compromise, listen to each other and work to keep it together.
It’s not easy.
The differences are real and they are deep. The mistrust and hatred we are experiencing is also very real.

The formula to turn this around is not readily apparent. It is the leadership challenge of a lifetime.
But we need to meet that challenge. Or at least try.

In my opinion, whoever is elected —if they are serious about bridging the divisions, or if they even want to—should start by reminding us about what binds us. There are things we all agree on and we need to insist that those issues be addressed.
Our national leadership—both Democrats and Republicans—have let us down by failing to address problems or seize opportunities.
Washington is dysfunctional and the fact that we can’t find a way to work together to address health care, infrastructure, immigration and environmental issues is a disgrace. So is our response to COVID which is not going away November 4. Oh, how I wish it would.
There are scores of other issues that have gone unaddressed.
Most of these issues can be solved– but only if we work together. A good leader will focus on what binds us, not what divides us.

Still, this blog focuses on local life so here goes.

There are parallels between our toxic national scene and what we are seeing right here  in Delray.

I can and maybe will write a book about how we went astray. How we went all the way up the mountain and then decided to give it back.

And it was a decision. Or rather a slew of decisions that threaten to undo a whole lot of good work.

Imagine, if you will, a quilt. Then imagine pulling a thread and then another and another and all of sudden your quilt falls apart.
Cities are like quilts—pull a thread here and a thread there and suddenly you don’t know why your reclaimed water project is a mess or your reputation has gone from best run town in Florida to a place where every headline seems to scream scandal and dysfunction.

The parallels with our national scene are eerie and rooted in divides.
One faction thinks the other will or has ruined Delray.
Again, this kind of division is dangerous and unproductive.

The battle doesn’t play out on Cable TV like it does nationally but on social media with charges lobbed like bombs on a daily basis.
It gets us nowhere.

It creates a mess and it prevents us from solving problems or seizing opportunities.

It also plays on our mood. Civic pride, once strong ,weakens. Trust in local government also weakens and with it we lose something very fundamental.

We lose respect for the past, hope for the present. and faith in the future.
Sound familiar?
Sounds like America.

If you love your country and your city—as many of us do; you want to see us fulfill our vast potential. You want to see progress, jobs, opportunity, safety and happiness.
Cities and nations need North Stars. We need a common set of values that we fight for, cherish and protect.

When you lose your North Star, you get lost at sea. You drift, you fight and you waste time and resources.

We need leaders who understand the importance of values and a North Star. We need leaders who strive to bring us together. We don’t need to be labeled, libeled and let down. We need to be inspired, motivated and united.
Yes, that’s a very tall order. And it can’t be accomplished easily or readily. But it needs to start somewhere.

We put a lot of burden on our leaders, but we citizens have an even more important role.
We have a responsibility to vote and vote wisely. We have a responsibility to be informed on the issues and to speak truth to power.

Remember, we stand for what we tolerate. We have a responsibility to work for a better tomorrow and to insist on performance and accountability.
Our lives depend on it and future generations are depending on us to do better.

We need to do better.

And we can.

200,000 lives: A Grim Milestone

This park in Detroit honors those lost to Covid-19.

 

“Breath is life. When the stakes are high and the challenge is hard, I come to my foundation for answers — breath.” Circus Performer LadyBeast. 
 
I stumbled on this quote while reading a blog about Creative Mornings and it hit me. 
Breath is our foundation.  We stop breathing and we cease to exist. 
I’ve been conscious of breathing for most of my life because I have asthma. So sometimes  breathing can be difficult. 
Every now and then, especially when I’m nervous, I have found myself short of breath. But I have never felt endangered. My asthma was mild. I knew I would feel better quickly. 
But my recent bout with Coronavirus changed my relationship with breathing.

At the height of my illness, I struggled with every breath. My lungs hurt and they weren’t working very well. 
Laying on my back, attached to leads to monitor my heart, a port in my arm and a mask strapped tight over my face I felt like I was drowning. 
I was working hard to get air and it felt as if the virus was suffocating me. Every breath was accompanied  by a painful sharpness. It’s hard to explain but when I inhaled I felt a cutting type pain. 
While I was frightened and afraid to sleep because I didn’t think I’d wake up, I was also keenly aware that I had to fight. 
I couldn’t really speak, but I wanted to yell out and say “no, I’m not letting go.”  
My mind raced from thought to thought. 
“No, I won’t let this be the end” and then “I can’t believe this is the end. I’m only 55. I have a wife and kids and a career and friends. I never said goodbye and I have so much more I want to do.”
I thought of my late mother and my beloved grandparents. I asked them for help. I prayed for G-d’s mercy and I wondered if I was in some sort of dream. 
My mind kept coming back to my mother. She passed at age 59 and missed so much. Now here I was four years younger. I would miss seeing my kids get married, I would miss having grandkids and I would lose all the things I wanted to do once I retired. While tempted to give in and let go, I just refused. 
Breathe. Just breathe. Keep breathing. 
And I did. 
 
 

I’m a little over two months into my Covid odyssey and here’s where I stand (or mostly sit).

 I am still on three liters of oxygen. I can go off for short periods of time, but when I dip below 92 on my pulse oximeter (always by my side) I have to go back to the O2 hose—you don’t want to starve your brain of oxygen.
For the most part my breathing is ok. But sometimes I feel like there’s something stuck deep in my chest. And  I still lack my wind.
My body is sore from what I guess is the therapy I’m doing after 39 days in a hospital bed.
But I also have a stabbing pain in my left thigh. I’ve been applying heat to the leg which also feels numb at times.
The stabbing wakes me some nights.
My neck is also stiff and my tailbone is sore which means that I need to sit on a lot of cushions. My friend Scott bought me a “donut” and I literally can’t live without it.
Best. Gift. Ever.
I’m not really sure if some of my soreness is the residual impact of the virus or the result of being in that hospital bed.
My sleep has been inconsistent, but I am not fatigued like so many Covid patients report.
I am, however, experiencing a fair amount of anxiety. There are some mornings when I feel very jittery. It fades as the day moves forward but I also experience pangs of fear and just overall dread that seems to come at me in waves.
When I get hit with the wave, I try to shift my mind to a positive thought. I’m so lucky that I can call friends or read messages and cards to lift my spirits.
I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and love I have received from family and friends. I jokingly told my wife that I feel that I attended my funeral without having to pass.
But boy did I come close and that experience is both real and surreal.
To be honest, I’m still kind of processing the whole experience.
As a news junkie, I’ve always paid attention to what’s happening in the world. But these days, stories about Covid truly affect me on a different level.
The 200,000 plus deaths in America is not just a grim statistic to me; it’s a shockingly real kick in the teeth because I’ve now seen the enormous toll this virus has enacted on our country and on the families left to grieve.
I was one of the lucky ones.
So I wonder: why I was spared?  And I  wonder what I should be doing now that I’ve been given a a second chance. I realize how fragile life is; how easy it could have been to simply stop breathing.
The last few months feels like a dream to me.
I went to get a test at Bethesda Hospital and came home 39 days later.
In between, I wore masks to breathe, had morphine to dull the pain (it barely took the edge off) and struggled to even sit up. I had odd dreams, painful spasms and felt dizzy and disoriented at times. For a few weeks, my eyes burned and there were times when I woke up and wasn’t quite sure where I was. Sometimes things seemed to move in the room. I would see the TV on the ceiling but then realized it hadn’t moved. I was just confused.
I heard screams from a nearby room and thought to myself someone has it worse than me and I prayed they would find relief.
Since coming home I’ve had extensive therapy and it’s helping.
I am slowly getting my strength and stamina back. I came home with a walker and a hospital bed.  Both are gone.
I can climb a flight of stairs but I lose my breath and need a few minutes to recover. But it’s progress.
I am so grateful.
When I wake up I am reminded how fortunate I am to be alive.
I’m more appreciative of my friends, love my wife even more (she’s been my rock), cherish my kids and family and can’t wait to get back to what life has to offer.
I write these words to raise awareness and to urge people to be vigilant and safe.
Last week, we attended a virtual fundraiser to raise money for Bethesda Hospital’s Covid efforts. I was happy to see a brief video of my departure from the hospital as part of the event. The health care heroes that were highlighted that night saved my life and the life of many others. When I left Bethesda, I promised them I would try and spread the word.
And that’s what I plan to do.
I am grateful I have the opportunity to do so.
I’m here because of prayers and the talents of amazing medical professionals. We are blessed to have these people in our community.
Thanks for reading.

Random Thoughts

Delray’s Mighty Max Weinberg shares stories and insights on Instagram and YouTube. Shows are archived.

 

Pandemic Blues
To see the numbers spike—again.
To see masks become political.
To see 13.3 percent unemployment.
To not be able to plan a summer vacation.
To worry every time you leave the house.
To worry about your loved ones getting sick.
This virus is tough stuff.
Wake up in the middle of the night tough….
Streaming and dreaming
One positive—I suppose—of life in 2020 is we are staying home more and catching up on quality content. Which is pretty much anything but 90 Day Fiancé (Diane).
A good example of quality is a documentary on the amazing Avett Brothers on Amazon Prime.
The Avett Brothers are a North Carolina based band known for their “Americana” songs featuring banjos, fiddles, stand up bass, cello and deeply personal lyrics.
The Judd Apatow documentary “May it Last” is a fabulous look at the band’s creative process and the unique relationship between band members. A must see.
We also just completed “This Much is True” a miniseries starring the incredible Mark Ruffalo.
The series covers family ties, brotherly love, mental health and the struggle to overcome family curses. Which kind of describes 90 Day Fiancé.
A tour de force for Ruffalo.
We are also addicted to E Street Band drummer, Rock Hall of Famer and Delray resident Max Weinberg’s Instagram and YouTube show “Mighty Max’s Monday Memories.”
Max has become a friend and I can listen to him tell stories for days on end.
Now he’s sharing those stories with fans every Monday at 6 pm.
Shows are archived so you can go back and hear a treasure trove of rock and roll tales.
Highly recommended. The shows are archived on YouTube and Instagram.
Speaking of documentaries
Don’t miss the ESPN documentary on Delray’s own Coco Gauff.
There’s also a great article in “The Undefeated” on Coco’s activism and passion for community.
Thanks to Coco’s wonderful grandmother Yvonne Odom for sharing.
My favorite quote from the piece from Kyla Copeland-Muse a former player:
“At 16, she’s more gutsy than Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods will ever be,” Copeland-Muse said. “I just love to see it with Coco. There’s a fearlessness with Coco and some of these younger athletes that puts out the message, ‘We’re not gonna be polite. We’re going to tell you exactly what’s happening in this world .’
Yes it is time we tell it like it is.
Coco is a generational talent but perhaps more important she’s a leader. Just like her grandmother. 😊

Father & Sons

My dad celebrates his birthday June 15 with Riley his great grand retriever.

 

My father and I have a lot in common.

We love to talk politics, like to follow current events, enjoy sports —especially tennis —and love dogs. We never run out of things to talk about, enjoy each other’s company and I feel incredibly grateful to have had a father who has been nothing short of remarkable for 55 plus years.

Even today, at an age where I carry an AARP card and have had a fair amount of life experience, I wouldn’t make a major move without seeking his advice and counsel.
I’m lucky he’s still here to give it. And because he’s smart and caring, I’d be foolish not to seek out his counsel. And my dad and mom didn’t raise a fool. (Wink wink).
I’m writing about my dad, because this is his birthday week and we are fast approaching Father’s Day.
It’s a wonderful holiday; a chance to celebrate fatherhood and the important roles dad’s play in our lives and in our society.
My dad set an early and consistent example. He just seemed to always be doing the right things—taking care of our family, working hard and making my mother very happy.
He never sought the spotlight but just quietly provided for his family and served his community by running the local pharmacy.
He instilled in me and my sister a great love of Jewish culture, made sure we listened to the wonderful stories our grandparents told us and also gave us a deep appreciation for where we lived by taking on us on nice vacations where we mixed fun with history by visiting places like Gettysburg and Plymouth Rock.
He went to my Little League games, played tennis with me and took me to my first baseball game, Mets versus Pirates in 1973.
He never pushed me—like other dad’s did in sports. He wanted me to be a good sport and to enjoy the game.
That’s good advice for life by the way.
I may have rebelled a time or two (hundred) but I was listening. I paid attention. I tried to absorb what he was teaching me not through lectures but by living the right way.
I can’t speak for daughters but sons really want to earn their father’s attention and praise. My drive comes from wanting to get my father’s attention. It took me years to figure that out. I’ve been grateful for his inspiration.
I’ve lived my life way outside of my natural comfort zone as a result. Again, he never pushed. I just wanted him to be proud of me.
So much of what is wrong in   our world today can be traced to poor parenting and it’s my hunch that a whole lot of dysfunction can be traced to bad fathers or absentee ones.
So I was lucky. I had a great father and a great mother.
What an advantage.
But I’m very conscious that others weren’t as fortunate as I was.
Which is why as we approach Father’s Day I’d like to ask your indulgence to consider reaching out and helping three local non-profits—the Achievement Center for Children and Families, 4Kids and the EJS Project.
There are a slew of other great non-profits that focus on children and I don’t mean to slight any of them.
But I’ve been taken by the three I’ve mentioned because of their emphasis on helping children from homes that struggle financially or spiritually or emotionally. Or sometimes all three.
The Achievement Center started in a church basement in Delray more than 50 years ago. I became involved because I became spellbound by the talent, passion and skill of founder Nancy Hurd. I served on the board for many years and saw firsthand how the lives of the most vulnerable children in our community were transformed by the nurturing they received from a talented and committed staff. That legacy of excellence continued after Nancy retired and passed the baton to the equally amazing Stephanie Siebel. Visit www.achievementcentersfl.org.Take a deeper look, you’ll be amazed.
I’ve also been impressed by the passion and commitment of Emanuel “Dupree” Jackson whose EJS Project is working wonders in Delray. The organization is mentoring a generation of young leaders, something our community and our country sorely needs.
Check out the EJS project at www.ejsproject.org.
Readers of this blog know how we feel about 4 Kids, which does wonders with foster children.
This is an organization addressing a critical need in our community with compassion, competence and love.
Visit www.4kids.us for more information.
Meanwhile, we wish wish you all a Happy Father’s Day. I will be spending mine with my dad and the kids who live locally. It’s a day to treasure.

A Change Is Going to Come

 

George Floyd’s murder will spark change.

I had (a socially distant) lunch last week with a small group of special men.

We met to discuss the day’s events particularly the murder of George Floyd and America’s continuing struggle with racism.
We talked about policing reform, our fears for our children and our hopes that this time things will be different. Oh how I hope it’s true.
I sat a few feet away from Anquan Boldin, a former NFL superstar, and a founder of the Players Coalition which was formed to advocate for social justice. Mr. Boldin’s cousin, Corey Jones, was murdered on a Florida highway by a police officer.
Football seemed small after that tragedy so Boldin decided to devote the rest of his life to the cause of equal justice.
He’s a serious man on a serious mission. I admire him.
A few feet away from Anquan sat Abram Elam, another former NFL player. Mr. Elam has lost three siblings to gunfire. Think about that for a moment. Three siblings. You might say he yearns for change.
Across from me sat Corey Gauff,  tennis star’s Coco’s father and coach.
I first met Corey when he was a standout high school basketball player for Boca High.
He’s grown into a smart and serious man, someone who wants better for his kids and the next generation.
Also at the table were my
dear friend, Michael Coleman, a former Delray police captain, Jameal Stewart, who grew up on the streets of Delray, Atlantic High football  coach TJ Jackson, attorney Lee Cohen, youth mentor C. Ron Allen and a few others all with their own stories of tragedy and hope.

It was a powerful afternoon: a group of men sharing ideas, experiences and strategies.
I felt privileged to be there as a former mayor whose community was visited by violence; the shooting death of Jerrod Miller by an off-duty police officer who was working a security detail at a school dance.
Truth be told, while I learned a lot from the experience, I felt humbled by my company.
Their experiences, their losses, their time spent on the streets and with youth far, far, far exceed what I’ve seen.
So I listened.
And what I saw was a group of men, most of them fathers, determined  that the future will be better than the present and the past.
They want and will demand police reforms: from getting rid of qualified immunity to ensuring that standards for becoming police officers are raised and made uniform nationwide.
It was a far ranging discussion. I mostly listened and was deeply impressed.
It’s one of those afternoons you don’t recover from. You listen to these men and you change—for the better.
I think this is the moment. The moment those of us who desperately want a more perfect union have been longing for.
I think we will see needed reforms. I think we will see positive change.
And I think it will happen because of leaders like Anquan Boldin and the others I was privileged to meet.
I’m going to see them again today. We are going to talk and more importantly act.
It’s time.
In fact, it’s long overdue.