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.

Remembering Chief Strianese

Chief Strianese

Delray Beach lost a truly good man last week; someone who made a real and lasting difference.

Retired Police Chief Anthony Strianese passed away April 12. He was only 61 years old.

Chief Strianese started his career in Delray Beach on June 12, 1989 and retired August 31, 2014.

In those 25 years of service, Tony rose through the ranks from road patrol officer to the corner office. He came to Delray after spending a few years as a New York City transit cop. He told me he worked underground in the subways and being in Florida where the sun shined was a much better place to be.

I first met Tony when he was a young officer, but we became friends when he began to move up the ranks. I remember attending his promotion party when he became a lieutenant. A large crowd gathered at Boston’s on the Beach to congratulate Tony. You could tell that he was popular with his colleagues and respected as well.

Those traits came in handy as he moved rapidly through the ranks to become chief.

Being a police officer is an immensely difficult job.

Of course, I can’t speak personally having never done the job, but I have spent many a day and night “riding along” with officers and it doesn’t take but a few minutes to realize that law enforcement is a challenging profession, probably more challenging today than ever.

Law enforcement throughout our country has been on trial of late. And I stand firmly with those who believe that we must do better. But I am just as firm in my belief that the vast majority of police officers are good at what they do and that their contributions to society are invaluable.

We are blessed in Delray to have had many exceptional officers over the years.

Those men and women—Tony prominent among them– have made all the difference.

When Chief Strianese came to Delray 32 years ago, this was a vastly different place. Delray Beach in the 1980s was circling the bowl. Sorry for the coarse imagery, but it’s the best way I know to describe what it was like.

We had rampant crime, abundant violence and a crazy amount of drugs. Some neighborhoods were literally open air drug markets. I was given the education of a lifetime in the back of cruisers and police vans by generous officers who allowed me, a young reporter at the time, to tag along as they took on the extremely difficult job of making Delray Beach safe.

Delray in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s was an ambitious place. This city wanted to be something more than what it had become which was far from charming.

Here’s a brief summary of conditions that a young officer such as Tony encountered when they went to work.

Our downtown was dead, with 40 percent vacancy.

Our gateway, West Atlantic Avenue, looked far different than it does today. Yes, I know that more needs to be done, but there has been improvement. Back in the 80s and 90s, residents spoke of the fear that kept them indoors. Until community policing took root in the 90s, many residents had no relationship or a deep fear of their own police department.

That changed, because of Chiefs like Rick Lincoln, Rick Overman, Larry Schroeder, Jeff Goldman, Javaro Sims and Tony Strianese. It also changed because of generations of great police officers who went above and beyond.

Over the years, we’ve lost more than a few; including two amazing officers I considered personal friends: Johnny Pun and Adam Rosenthal.

So in this season of unrest, I feel that we have been blessed in Delray Beach.

We’ve had some truly extraordinary public servants protecting and serving us. I wish I could name them all, because they made it safe for this city to thrive.

We owe our quality of life to these special people. They made it safe to plan, invest, grow, dream and thrive.

P.S. Our Fire Rescue department is pretty special too.

I really liked and appreciated Tony Strianese.

He wasn’t comfortable politicking or schmoozing. He was at his best with his officers and with the community too. He was a regular guy. He had seen a lot over the course of his career. He played his cards close to the vest. He was a private person with a big heart.

He served Delray Beach well.

My lasting memory will be of him standing guard in my backyard while a slew of officers, K-9’s and a helicopter searched my neighborhood’s canal for a dangerous fugitive. We were locked down until the bad guy—who had perpetrated a home invasion robbery nearby—was apprehended. Tony quietly commanded the scene and kept us safe and informed. It was quite a night for me and my neighbors. For Tony it was another day at the office; doing what officers do every day. G-d bless those who protect and serve.

Today, I am praying for Tony and his family. And for the men and women who suit up every day never assured that when they leave for work that they will be coming home.

It takes a special person to do that. Thank goodness for brave souls like Tony.

May he rest in peace.

 

 

 

Rituals, New Favorites & The Simple Pleasures

Amar is a welcome addition to the Ave.

The older I get the more I value the little rituals.

Sitting in the backyard on a cool night and watching the birds.

Taking a walk with my wife after the evening news.

Losing myself in a podcast (Tim Ferris or Guy Raz) and listening (ever so softly so as not to disturb my colleagues) to Spotify while I work.

After spending six weeks in an ICU/Covid unit flat on my back with a mask glued to my face, I’m finding that it’s the little pleasures that are giving me the greatest joy these days.

So I’d thought I’d share a few and I hope you share some of your favorites with me and others.

–Amar, a new Mediterranean restaurant, is a solid addition to Atlantic Avenue. Delicious Middle Eastern dishes and attentive service. Don’t miss the appetizers and the kebabs.

–I’m finding I get more joy these days from Instagram than Facebook. The golden retriever videos and photos of nature never fail to brighten my mood.

But if you do find yourself on Facebook,  don’t miss Gaetlyn Rae, an adorable monkey who bakes, whips up salads and opens packages in the most entertaining way imaginable. For me, a few moments with the monkey is almost as good as a meditation video whenever I need to relax. (P.S. I never thought I would ever write the previous sentence).

Streaming gems“Imposters” a dark comedy on Netflix, “Allen v. Farrow” a very dark documentary on HBO and  “I Care A Lot” a dark drama with great performances. I just realized I have a “dark” theme going so if you can recommend anything light please let me know.

I also recommend “Tina” about the amazing Tina Turner and the “Last Cruise” about the now infamous Diamond Princess cruise ship which experienced a Covid outbreak in the early days of the pandemic. Both are on HBO and well worth your time.

—Hillsboro El Rio Park in Boca just celebrated its first birthday. This park on Southwest 18th Street was once home to the city’s landfill. It’s now an idyllic escape with walking paths, a playground, pickleball and picnic pavilions. It’s a great place to picnic before the heat sets in.

–We recently peaked our heads out and visited the Living Room Theater at FAU, a pre-pandemic favorite. With only 10 seats available for sale when we went and masks required, we felt safe and saw “Nomadland” on the big screen. Nomadland is a majestic film that was made for the big screen.

Only five seats were occupied on the Friday afternoon we snuck away, but we enjoyed the experience and were reminded about the magic of the movies. Seeing a movie in a theater is an immersive experience. As good as streaming can be, the big screen is still magical.

We really like Wood & Fire restaurant in west Delray. The food is good (the Delray salad is awesome), the service is excellent and the ambience is very appealing. In this era of Covid, we like how the restaurant is open on two sides with ample ventilation and two large outdoor dining areas. Things are really picking up in the western part of our community.

As for books, I’ve got a few recommendations: Delray’s own Steve Leveen has written “America’s Bilingual Century” which I deeply enjoyed. I remember talking to Steve about the merits of bilingualism at a Christmas Party so to see the book come to life is very cool.

“How I Built This” by Guy Raz is a quick read based on the stories covered on his amazing podcast chronicling the journey of some very talented entrepreneurs. If you dream of starting a business, currently run a business or just want some inspiration this is the book for you.

“Who is Michael Ovitz?” is the autobiography of the super-agent who once ran Hollywood. Lots of insider tales of how the entertainment biz works and sometimes doesn’t.

“How to Change Your Mind” by Michael Pollan is the story of how psychedelics affect us. I was turned onto this fascinating read by a childhood friend who sent me an article in Fortune magazine about the growing research into how psychedelics might treat anxiety, depression and PTSD.

“Unreasonable Success” by Richard Koch came to me from the Tim Ferris podcast. It’s a great character study of people throughout history who leave an outsize mark on the world. That book led me to “The Hidden Habits of Genius” by music professor Craig Wright who teaches a very popular Yale course of the same name. I learned that I might be the opposite of a genius—but at least I have self-awareness.

I’d also like to give a plug to the vaccination site at the South County Civic Center where my wife and I recently received our first doses of the Moderna vaccine. The site was so well-run, the vaccinators so kind and the location and parking is very convenient. Get the shot wherever and whenever you can, but if you are lucky enough to score a slot at the Civic Center you’ll be delighted by how well it is run.

Hope you had a great Easter and Passover. Stay safe this spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful For The Vaccine

The Health Care District did a great job.

On the day I got my first vaccine, Florida reported 5,093 new Covid cases and 94 more deaths bringing the death toll to 33,219 and the total case count to almost 2 million.

By the time you read this, those numbers will have increased. But we know that the numbers only tell part of the Covid story.

Every “stat” is a person with a family, friends—a life. This virus is a beast—it is not the flu.

Covid can be lethal and for those who survive but suffer  from “long hauler” symptoms, it’s not something that you can just power past.

So when I got an appointment to get my first shot last week at the South County Civic Center in West Delray I was thrilled.

Sometimes you don’t realize how stressed you are until you experience relief. And truth be told, I’ve been worried about re-infection and anxious about the variants I’ve been reading about.

I was able to book an appointment with two of my co-workers so went together. Like most Americans—indeed most humans—they’ve been touched by Covid with family members suffering from the virus and with a few relatives dying as a result.

We talked about how lucky we were to be getting the vaccine and how sad it is for those who died before a vaccine was available.

I’m especially grateful because I thought this virus was it for me. So when I sat down, rolled up my sleeve and thanked the Palm Beach Fire Rescue “vaccinator” for giving me the shot, I got a little choked up.

He asked me if everything was OK and I said “oh yeah, I am so happy to be sitting here right now.”

He talked to me briefly about soreness and side effects and truth be told, I barely listened. Because a little soreness or a fever doesn’t compare with 39 days in the hospital wondering if I’d ever see my loved ones again. Bring it on, if it spares millions from the horrors of this disease I’m all in.

Yes, I’ve seen the anti-vaxxer screeds on the Internet and social media—isn’t the First Amendment grand? But I’m throwing my lot in with the scientists. I have faith in them. I am so grateful for their efforts.

These vaccines are modern day miracles, I believe they will save millions of lives.

That’s my  firm belief.

Everyone is entitled to their own views, but I’m rooting for people to take the vaccine and I’m rooting for herd immunity because I’ve felt the ferocity of this virus from inside the belly of the beast. It didn’t want to let me go and it has claimed a ridiculous amount of lives.

And every day…every single day… when I ache, experience headaches and feel some “brain fog” I am reminded that I had this thing.

I don’t say this to elicit sympathy, I know that I am a very lucky man.

I chose at the beginning of this experience to share with you the good, the bad and the ugly in the hope, that maybe my sharing would raise some awareness.

So we chronicled it all. I say we because I’ve had a lot of help all along the way.

We talked about long haul issues and the emotional aspects of Covid, because the pandemic has unleashed a lot of trauma on society.

To continue in that vein,  I wanted to come full circle and share about vaccines.

My belief: they are safe and effective.

My hope: you will get vaccinated.

After taking the shot, they ask you to stay 15 minutes to see if you have a reaction. I sat with a bunch of people who were just jubilant. You could sense the relief and the emotion in the room. A woman nearby cried softly and said she wished her mother had lived long enough to get the vaccine–Covid took her a few months before the shots were approved. Yet, amidst the sadness there was a lot of joy and a lot of relief too.

I sat there with a sense of hope and pride; hope for a better future and pride that we have the scientific chops to protect humanity. It was a very powerful moment.

Let’s do all we can to get our lives back.

Let’s do all we can to help our health care workers who have been through so much and let’s support our local businesses who have suffered mightily by doing what we can to venture out again.

That’s my hope, that’s my prayer. I hope you and your loved ones are spared now and forever.

 

 

 

 

A Year Later…..

Poignant memorials to those we lost to Covid-19 sprung up all over the nation.

Last week, we marked the one year anniversary of Covid-19.

It’s impossible to quantify what’s happened to our world since last March when the first cases of coronavirus emerged. So much has changed.

So much loss.

So much pain.

We watched the various tributes and news reports recounting the last year’s toll in stunned silence. We have lost more than 534,000 Americans. It’s just staggering.

Covid has touched all of us in so many ways.

We’ve experienced fear, grief, anxiety and frustration.

Then there’s the economic devastation.

The closed and damaged businesses, the lost jobs, the social loneliness and isolation. The damage to our children’s education’s and psyches.

It’s been overwhelming and enveloping.

And terribly, terribly sad.

We miss our old lives: friends, family, travel, shows, dining out, being with other people.

Like any cataclysmic event, the pandemic has focused our hearts and minds.

A year later we revere health care professionals, marvel at science and have gained deep respect for essential workers. We’re also grateful for the technology that has allowed us to stay somewhat connected.

Our world has changed, I believe forever.

Some of it’s good; I’m so glad to see nurses and teachers getting the props they deserve.

Public health is in the spotlight and hopefully will get the investment it so sorely needs.

I’m hoping that when we get back to normal we will have a deep appreciation for the little things, which by the way, are really the big things.

The year anniversary of the start of the pandemic marks seven months since I left the hospital after my bout with the virus.

And I can share that my life is not the same.

Everything feels more precious.

Every little thing.

And fragile too.

I used to think in years and decades, now I think in terms of moments. I’m not sure I’m saying that quite right but let’s just say that the simplest things are filling me up these days.

A lazy afternoon sitting outside with friends and reminiscing, a text from a childhood friend linking me to a great article, a short weekend away to see our son play hockey and meet a new girlfriend, time with family, listening to music and reading is suddenly more appealing to me than any exotic experience I can imagine.

And I don’t think I’m alone.

I believe COVID has focused many of us on what’s important and while we miss “normal” we also realize that normal was very hectic and maybe not as appealing as we thought it was.

But oh my has this damn virus extracted a price.

Having experienced Covid’s insidious power, I find myself very moved by the stories I read, see and hear.

The heroism of health care workers, the loss of special people —each soul indispensable.

The pain of long haulers, those still experiencing symptoms months after their infections. I am one of those people. It hasn’t been fun.

But we’re alive. So many aren’t. We can enjoy those special moments. And for that and a million other reasons I’m grateful.

Please stay safe. We have lots more to do and a better world to create.

 

One year stats:

29.2 million cases in the United States

534k deaths.

32,254 deaths in Florida

126k cases in Palm Beach County

2,546 deaths in Palm Beach County

120mm cases worldwide

2.65 million deaths worldwide

Pre-Election Thoughts

One day, I hope the arena will be safer. We will all benefit.

In my fantasy world, election cycles would be uplifting events in which we debate issues, weigh competing visions and cast ballots for candidates that we admire.

Sadly, the reality often doesn’t quite live up to the fantasy.

Our national scene is a toxic cesspool in which billions of dollars are spent to convince a very thin slice of undecided voters to turnout for candidates who almost always leave us scratching our heads and asking the question: “is this really the best we can do?”

It has been that way for a long time now. But there was a time when local politics was an exception. There was a time when local candidates ran on the merits of their ideas and their civic and career track records.

Sadly, those days are in the rear view mirror. Too often, local contests become mud-slinging exercises instead of a debate over vision, voting records and performance.

I hope someday that we can return to a more civil discourse and create an atmosphere that may attract our best and brightest because as we have noted on many occasions— leadership is important. And local leadership is especially important because city government touches so many aspects of our lives.

When I moved to Delray Beach in the 80s, our politics were very reminiscent of today. If the past is prologue, then we can look forward to a golden age in Delray because the strife of the 80s was followed by the 90s “Decade of Excellence.”

By that, I mean that the turnover we saw in the 1980s in the city manager’s office and staff ranks was followed by a long run of stability and progress.

But there was a difference back then—citizens as a whole stood up and said “no more.” No more infighting. No more intrigue. No more factions. No more nonsense.

Today, we seem to tolerate division. It’s not healthy or productive—citizens get lost in the muck.

Back in the 90s, our leaders heard the call and they stepped up and made things happen.

A series of solid candidates took a risk and entered the arena. They promised and delivered on a wide range of policy proposals that surfaced during visioning exercises held in the 80s and again in the early 2000s.

The benefits of those community driven efforts gave us today’s Delray Beach.

We are far from perfect and far from a finished product (city building is never done) but we have a lot to be proud of: a rocking downtown, historic districts, cultural facilities, parking infrastructure, a tennis stadium, public art, a land trust, a healthy beach and other amenities. These accomplishments and more are a direct result of local leadership that enabled city staff to execute on the community’s dreams and aspirations.

It’s not a difficult formula.

Ask the community to share their aspirations, prioritize and budget for those ideas so they can come to life, task the staff with getting it done, hold them accountable and get out of the way. This isn’t exactly nuclear fusion my friends.

But yet, from my vantage point, we begin 2021 with a lot of challenges to address.

Our politics have grown ever more toxic and vastly more personal over the years.

This poisonous “culture” doesn’t serve our community. Problems go unsolved, opportunities vanish and over time the sense of community we treasure gets eroded.

As a longtime observer and one time participant in all things Delray, I can state with certainty that culture is the killer app. If you have a great culture there are no limits to what you can achieve and no problem that you cannot solve or at least improve greatly. But if you lack a healthy culture—well let’s just say you’ll experience symptoms like lawsuits, investigations, rampant turnover and an inability to figure what do to with your sea grapes. (Sea grapes, for goodness sakes!)

There is so much for us to do in Delray—a partial list includes:

-Congress Avenue

-North Federal Highway

-The Old School Square Park

-Infrastructure

-Getting to work on the issues raised by The Set Implementation Plan

–Creating opportunities for our children

–Helping businesses and families recover from the Covid pandemic.

And the list goes on and on.

We have so much to build on—thanks to the hard work of generations of stakeholders— but whether we thrive or slide depends a lot on the men and women who bravely step into the arena and run for public office.

I have a long list of traits that I look for in candidates but ultimately my choice is limited to those who decide to run and qualify for the ballot. There’s an old political saying—don’t judge me against the almighty, judge me against the alternative and that is true.

So what am I looking for in the March 2021 election?

Initiative—does the candidate have ideas? Are they viable and interesting?

Kindness—can they get along well with others or will they polarize and divide?

Work ethic—will they show up and do their homework? P.S. Someone can be a hard worker but if they work hard at undermining people and good ideas they’ve lost me. I want to see candidates who will roll up their sleeves, get out in the community and make something good happen.

An open mind—do they automatically vote no or yes? Are they glued to the hip to one group or another elected official or are they independent and able to make decisions for the long term good of the city?

Consequently, I will not support candidates who are civic bullies or who are backed by civic bullies. I won’t support people who consider only the impacts not the benefits of projects, events, ideas or the like. It’s easy to say no to everything but yes opens the door to possibility.

I’m also looking for courage.

It’s easy to bend to the noisy mob but I want someone willing to risk it all to do what’s right for our town.

Sometimes the loud voices are right and sometimes they’re wrong. Also, sometimes the noisiest citizens aren’t representative of the will of the community. It’s not about counting heads at a commission meeting—there are plenty of people who can’t come to meetings and sit for hours waiting for an item.

Those folks—and they are the overwhelming majority–rely on their elected representatives to do the right thing—not just count noses at a meeting held during working hours which might exclude many who would love to be there but have to work or have child obligations.

 

After the last few years of lawsuits, dizzying turnover, longtime employees dragged through the mud and of being the punchline to jokes, I’m looking for kindness, empathy and an entrepreneurial spirit.

The stakes are huge my friends. We have a lot or repair work to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Poignant Covid Memorial

Rituals matter.
Love and empathy matters too.

We’ve lost 400,000 Americans to Covid-19, 100,000 since December.

It’s a staggering and brutal number.  And it will get worse before it gets better.

I was overcome with emotion as I watched our national Covid Memorial yesterday—seeing those beautiful lights and knowing that they represent the departed souls of our brothers and sisters.

It’s been six months since I was infected during the summer wave which pales next to our current Covid surge. I made it and am grateful for that daily and cognizant that so many have been lost.

We are living through a nightmare; a human nightmare that’s ending lives, upending families and threatening economies worldwide.

As I write this, I have friends with sick parents, friends who have lost relatives and friends who are dealing with long hauler health issues. It has been a nightmare.

While I am feeling so much better, I still wake up and go to sleep with headaches and have arm and leg pain. I looked at the 400 columns of lights and felt immense gratitude for the doctors, nurses and the prayers of friends that somehow for some reason saved me.

Others weren’t as fortunate.

And a nation aches for them. We also feel for those whose health has been compromised perhaps for the rest of their lives.

Much has been written about the politics of Covid, but not as much focus has been placed on the human toll of this virus.
That’s why it was so gratifying to see our beautiful nation’s Capitol illuminated with lights remembering those we’ve lost.

So many people of all ages and from all walks of life no longer with us. So many empty seats at the family table.
It’s important to grieve and to acknowledge the loss we have suffered.

These national rituals are reminders that we are one country—indivisible but only if we choose to be. It’s a choice.

Regardless, there is power in empathy.

Leaders look for opportunities to connect and educate.
They look for teachable moments that can move hearts and minds.

Yesterday’s Covid memorial was pitch perfect.
We needed to mourn, honor and remember—together. The together part is most important. Especially now.

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.