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Rex Baron: The New Era of Experiential Dining

Rex Baron opened in Boca last week and it’s an experience.

Last week, we had a chance to attend the opening of “Rex Baron”, a new restaurant concept at the Town Center Mall.

Aside from getting to hang out with former Giants running back Rashad Jennings (he’s terrific and an investor in the business) which was cool, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a place quite like Rex Baron.

It’s an experiential restaurant with great food (and many healthy options) and a vast array of virtual reality experiences that allow you to experience everything from Jurassic Park and NASCAR to a post-apocalyptic Boca Raton. I think I’m decent with words, but I can’t quite describe the place. You have to see for yourself and you really must. It’s amazing.

Spread out over 8,200 square feet including beautiful outdoor space, a private room with a golf simulator and a magnificent bar/dining area Rex Baron is an exciting new concept.

We asked Mr. Jennings what attracted him to Rex Baron because we figured a former football star and “Dancing with the Stars” champ must be offered a slew of investment opportunities. While he was impressed with the VR component and the uniqueness of the design, he was really taken with the quality food options as someone who eats healthy but also fancies himself a chicken wing connoisseur.

“They are the best wings I’ve ever had,” said the LA based Jennings. “The best.”

By the time my friend Marisa Herman and I were done with Rashad, we had him considering a move to Boca and a job at the newspaper we run. He is after all a New York Times best-selling author who says he loves to write.

But I digress.

Let’s just say Rex Baron is a welcome and extremely unique addition to the Boca landscape.

The new restaurant is located near Nordstrom’s and Sachs adjacent to California Pizza Kitchen.

The opening of Rex Baron got me thinking about the marvel that is Town Center.

In a world where malls are closing or distressed, Town Center continues to thrive.

Why?
Because it evolves with the times. The mall still looks fresh and modern and feels vibrant and alive. It’s hard to imagine the mall will turn 40 in 2020.

They have added some great food options—including a soon to open French Bakery that is said to be out of this world.

It manages to stay busy year-round and seems to combine the perfect blend of shopping and dining.

Town Center’s tenants are also community focused hosting special events that benefit local charities.

I remember coming to Florida for a job interview in the 80s and visiting the mall. I was blown away way back then. Town Center was so much different than the drab northeast malls I was used too. It had palm trees, natural light, a strong retail mix and was the place to people watch.

Thirty years later it is still evolving and still relevant.

Rex Baron is the latest example.

Check it out…it’s spectacular.

 

My Santa Experience

Mrs. Claus came for a visit. She’s definitely on the nice list.

A few months ago, I was asked to become a volunteer Santa at Delray’s spectacular holiday display at Old School Square.

It was an honor and one that I shared with several close friends who were also asked to put on the red suit and greet scores of children who come to “Santa’s House” located right next to the famous 100 foot Christmas tree.

It may sound silly, but playing Santa is a big deal.

My good friend Jim Nolan nailed the role for years and years and he told me how special the experience was for the children who sit on Santa’s lap and for Santa himself.

It’s a magical experience to hold a baby for a photo as they prepare for their first Christmas and watch new parents glow with joy.

It’s also very special to meet a vast array of beautiful children who believe in Santa with every ounce of love in their hearts.

But before I tell you how wonderful it all was—the hugs, the smiles, the awe you see in a child’s eyes, the offbeat questions (are Reindeer’s smarter than dogs?) and yes the ones who see you and hide in their mom’s arms —I have a confession to make.

The whole experience stressed me out.

I’m not one to put on a red suit, white wig, beard and gloves. It’s just not me.

And so I was stressed out about my four hour shift last Sunday night.

Would I make a credible Santa? Could I answer the questions? Could I ask the right ones to draw out the shy children and encourage them to share their Christmas wish lists?

We did receive training at the beautiful home of Charles and Elise Johnson that featured an actual graduate of Santa School. (There is such a thing).  We learned to “Ho Ho Ho” and how to handle difficult questions and what to do if a child was frightened by the Santa experience. Our instructor looked exactly like the real thing and during the social part of the training showed me his drivers license. It read S. Claus. Could it have really been him?

Maybe.

Anyway, let’s just say I was nervous.

Aside from the desire to deliver for the kids, there’s the logistics of the assignment.

Wearing a beard and a warm suit for several hours is not an easy thing in Florida. And I will forever sympathize with the Santa’s I encounter from here on out.

Several of the toddlers I met enjoyed touching the beard and then had trouble getting untangled. Good thing it wasn’t real hair or it might have hurt.

Anyway, I absolutely loved the experience. And it was an experience.

My excellent helper/photographer Rachel  and I met with children of all ages including several grandmas (one wanted a grandpa for Christmas), 20 somethings (one asked for a 1965 Chevy Impala and the other asked for world peace) and a homeless woman who just wanted a hug—that wish was granted.

All in all it was a magical experience. Not sure I will repeat it, but if you haven’t tried it I highly recommend it. Just make sure you can find an air-conditioned space to sit and a comfortable white beard.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dangers of Ego & The Value of Good Stewards

You can still move the big rocks without breaking everything.

I’m fascinated by the strange tale of WeWork.

The seemingly innovative co-working company with the brilliant branding and patina of cool has imploded before our very eyes.

First, the company abandoned its long anticipated IPO, then it fired its high-flying CEO Adam Neumann, then it cost its largest investor Softbank billions of dollars and now comes the human fall-out with one-third of its employees—about 4,000 people—being laid off just in time for the holidays.

Merry Christmas.

Bah humbug.

It was only a short time ago that those people were working for the most publicized start-up in the world, a company once valued in the tens of billions for a boss who flew around the world in a $60 million jet and summoned the heads of stock exchanges to his home so they could audition for his business.

Now he’s gone– albeit with a platinum $1.7 billion parachute— a huge reward for an egomaniac who hurt a whole lot of people on his team by serving his ego and ambition over the bottom line.

It’s quite a tale, but sadly not an unfamiliar one.

We all know examples of people who crash into our lives, businesses and organizations armed with bravado, ego, bold ideas and often a whole lot of charisma.

Some actually have the goods and deliver. But many crash and burn and sadly take a slew of people with them.

A few years back, I was asked to talk to a wonderful group called Creative Mornings. The topic I was assigned was genius, a challenging topic to distill.

Since giving that talk, my feelings have evolved somewhat on the topic of genius.

While I still admire those who are blessed with genius, I have become more acutely aware of its darker side.

Mr. Neumann of WeWork is clearly a genius— on some level at least. He took an idea—co-working—and made it so cool that cities that were able to attract a WeWork saw it as validation that they were an “it” place.

Softbank poured billions into Neumann’s vision which went beyond co-working to a fully fleshed out lifestyle brand. And then it crashed, under a tsunami of hubris.

A similar fate happened to the founder of Uber, whose ride-sharing idea, swept the world but whose arrogance and over the top “bro” culture ultimately forced his dismissal.

Another good example of a supreme talent who wore out his welcome is Antonio Brown, who recently gave a pep talk to the Atlantic High School football team. I’ve been told the talk was great, but Mr. Brown went from being a top wide receiver making millions to unemployed after a series of bizarre incidents which ultimately led him to being bounced from the NFL. The descent was really fast.

When egomaniacs fail, they fail fast.

There are other examples too.

Mark Zuckerberg is undoubtedly a genius, but his creation Facebook, has suffered from issues as a result of privacy lapses, data breaches and the spread of misinformation.

His formidable technical genius is often undermined by a personality that is often unwilling to own issues of his own creation. Or maybe it’s the realization that even he is not smart enough to fix what’s dangerous about his own platform.

Regardless, while I remain a fan of genuine genius and appreciate its presence in art, song, design, business etc., I’ve come to appreciate the concept of stewardship and the importance of good stewards.

Sure there is a place for the game changers and disruptive mavericks. There is also a time when the dishes need to be shattered, but there is also a real need for people who are responsible and talented stewards.

A good steward knows they are in their position for a set period of time. They know that many have come before them and that many will follow them. They have respect for the past, seek to understand it and do their best to shape a brighter future knowing someday they will hand off to another leader.

They may not get the attention of the maverick change agent or genius, but they understand their job is to protect, enhance and position their organization for future success.

Sometimes I wonder whether that concept is lost on politicians.

So when a Senator blocks a Supreme Court pick or a President ignores Congress or attacks institutions are they unaware that they have now normalized those behaviors and therefore those “favors” will be returned? When we act as if we are the last people who will steer the ship, we risk sliding into a cycle of bad behaviors and reprisals. What gets lost in the cycle of rewarding friends and punishing enemies is the actual job of governing—or any sense of stewardship. Yes, someday you will pass the baton so please don’t break it in pieces.

I’ve seen this dynamic play out locally when newly elected leaders question past decisions without the benefit hindsight and context. What might have made sense in 1991 may not make sense in 2001 or in 2019. Or it just may— if you take the time to understand and look at the big picture.

None of this is to say we shouldn’t try and do big things. We need to move the big rocks, as we used to say in Delray.

But just make sure that when you move them you don’t crush what’s underneath. And always strive to keep your humility. Because, even if you are a genius, you don’t have all the answers.

Adam Neumann built a great brand at WeWork. But it crashed and burned and cost thousands of families and investors dearly. It crashed because the genius whiz kid thought he could do no wrong.

That’s a sure recipe for disaster whether you are a CEO or run the corner store.

A better mindset is to wake up a little scared and try and anticipate what can go wrong. A better way to lead is to try and protect the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mingling With Some Mayors

Lots of stories inside this building.

Recently, six Delray Beach mayors had lunch with the new class of Leadership Delray at the Delray Beach Golf Club.

The mayors spent 90 minutes sharing, listening and answering questions from the next generation of local leaders. It was a lot of fun.

Leadership Delray is a program of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce.

I graduated many moons ago and the program has included future commissioners, mayors, business, city and non-profit leaders. It’s a good program. And an important one because we desperately need leadership in our community.

The mayors brought a perspective from 1990 to the present, but since all were active in local affairs before being elected, the history represented really dates to the late 1960s and early 70s.

Considering the city is still young–the town was incorporated in October 1911—so covering 50 plus years of local history is pretty significant.

Which means we were here for the tumultuous 80s—which was marked by political division, crime and drugs —but also by great vision and the establishment of important institutions such as the CRA and Old School Square.

Tom Lynch and Jay Alperin, who led our city through the Decade of Excellence, were in the room to tell the Leadership class about their triumphs and struggles as they beautified the downtown, laying the ground work for the renaissance that came as a result of a lot of hard work and immense public investment.

David Schmidt and I were there to share stories about the Downtown Master Plan, the move of Atlantic High School, the rezoning of Congress Avenue and our desire to improve schools and race relations.

More recent history was covered by Tom Carney and our current Mayor Shelly Petrolia.

Tom Lynch and I were seated together at a table with an engaging group of emerging leaders who worked for the city, CRA and Police Department. Many were fairly new to Delray but they asked really great questions.

I think the mayors who attended would agree that it is important to share local history and the context that informed certain key decisions.

It’s also important to listen to the views of emerging leaders and so we asked our lunch table for one word that they felt was essential for successful leadership. We heard words like integrity, courage, commitment and compassion. Those words sum it up.

As we ended the lunch, I was sad to see the Leadership Delray class go and the mayors—my predecessors and successors— scatter back to their lives.

I think that history can be used as an educational and community building tool.

We don’t have to look far for a great example: Boca.

The same week the Delray mayors gathered, the Downtown Boca Raton Rotary Club held its 5th annual “Mayors Ball.”

Here’s how the Boca Rotary describes the event.

“The Boca Raton Mayors Ball is the one of the signature annual fundraising events of the Rotary Club Downtown Boca Raton. This enchanting black-tie event celebrates all that is great about Boca Raton. Through our partnership with the Boca Raton Historical Society we highlight the storied history of our favorite Florida small town. Each year at the Mayors Ball we present the George Long Awards to individuals and institutions that have gone above and beyond to make Boca Raton the greatest place to live, work and play.

 Proceeds from the Boca Raton Mayors Ball are directed to local nonprofits focused on health and wellness initiatives through our “Service Above Self” grant program. “

I’m told that the event raises six figures for charity. Six figures!

I know Delray has the need. Maybe, we ought to do our own event and support Delray charities.

Twice before, Delray Mayors past and present gathered for an evening to raise money for the Delray Public Library and the Delray Beach Historical Society. These “Mingle With the Mayors” events were staged kind of the like the TV show “Inside the Actor’s Studio” allowing audience members to ask questions. They were fun events and well attended.

The concept doesn’t have to be limited to mayors—but could include evenings with locals who can provide a historical perspective on past and current issues.

These are bonding and educational opportunities. These types of celebrations build community—which is never a bad thing.

 

 

 

Things We Loved in November

Marie Horenburger was a Delray city commissioner, Tri-Rail board member and former Boynton CRA commissioner.

Things we loved in November 
Well it was a busy month and this month will only be busier. We wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season…
Good to see former 32 East and Tryst chef John Thomas resurface at a new restaurant in West Palm Beach.
While he will be missed in Delray, it looks like his latest concept Sassafras, which features southern cuisine has great potential.
It’s the latest offering from the always interesting Sub Culture Group and is located on Narcisssus Avenue.
Sassafras also features sous chefs who have worked at Dada, Farmer’s Table and 32 East. 
The first and hopefully annual 65 Roses on the Avenue event to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was a smashing success.
The event was held at the Old School Square Fieldhouse and featured catering by Jimmy’s Bistro.
I’m proud to note that our companies; CDS International Holdings and Celsius were presenting sponsors.
The event was an eye opener about a disease that affects tens of thousands of people. Researchers recently made a major breakthrough which is validation that support of the foundation’s efforts makes a big difference.
Kudos to the Delray Chamber of Commerce for featuring western businesses.
The 2019 West Delray Business Expo held in November at the Big Apple Shopping Bazaar is an important step as the chamber has long sought to include and represent businesses in the greater Delray area. Bravo.
Welcome aboard Shannon Eadon.
Eadon took the reigns as the new CEO of Old School Square after a successful stint as Development Director at the Bergen Performing Arts Center.
OSS has been without a CEO since May 2018 when Rob Steele resigned.
We’re looking forward to seeing Ms. Eadon take Old School Square to new heights.
Congratulations to Joe Hart on his retirement after 30 terrific years as a Delray Beach Police Officer.
Joe has made a tremendous difference in our community and will be missed. Just a nice guy and a super cop. We wish him well on his future endeavors.

Congratulations to Ron Tarro for being awarded Maverick Mentor of the year at FAU Tech Runway, a startup incubator in Boca Raton.

Ron is a tech veteran, Delray resident and all around nice guy.

We continue to be impressed with Elisabetta’s.
We celebrated several birthdays there this month. Excellent service, great food and the atmosphere can’t be beat.
Congratulations to the three newest members of Boca’s Walk of Fame. 
Philanthropist Arthur Adler, former Fire Chief Kerry Koen (who also served as Delray’s Chief) and Florida Atlantic University which was represented by President John Kelly are the newest honorees.
There are now 81 members of the Walk of Fame which is truly a terrific idea.
We were terribly saddened to learn about the passing of former City Commissioner Marie Horenberger.
Marie was a bright light, always so friendly and positive.
She was deeply interested in local government and was a fixture at the Palm Beach County League of Cities. She was deeply involved in both Delray and Boynton Beach serving on that city’s CRA.
She was also a lobbyist with a gentle touch. A kind woman who always asked about your children and family. Regardless of what was going on in her world she always found something positive to focus on.
We will miss her smile and kindness.
We were also touched by the loss of a special young man that we learned about. Here’s the story from a gofundme campaign set up in his memory.
“On Wednesday, November 13th at around 7 am the world lost a truly special soul. Rodney Cox Jr. passed away just feet away from his bus stop as he was on his way to school. Before he could make it, he was tragically struck and killed by the Brightline Train. We will miss his joyful spirit and his contagious smile will remain in our hearts forever.

To show our Love for Rodney and his family Directors from 505 Teen Center, EJS Project and Milagro Teen Center came together to create this GoFundMe to assist with expenses while allowing the family the opportunity to support each other during this difficult time.

Rodney was such a talented and kind young man with an infectious positive attitude towards life. His family held a candlelight vigil and a large crowd showed up to pay tribute to his life and to support his loved ones. There were so many great memories shared about the type of person Rodney was and the lifelong impressions’ he left during his short time here in the physical.

Rodney aka @foreign.rich3 (his artist name) was an extremely talented artist with a gift of turning his lived experiences into stories through his music. He always talked of being a star one day to share these stories but most importantly he wanted to “Take care of my family, we are going to be Rich one day”. To know him was to believe him because he put in the work and stayed committed toimproving his craft.

Even though we all mourn during this difficult time we must reflect on his memory and smile because that’s is exactly what he would have wanted!

Amen…
We finally went up on the roof, with a visit to the rooftop bar at the new Courtyard Marriott on US 1 just south of Atlantic Avenue.
The rooftop features a great happy hour from 4-7, picturesque views looking west, fire pits and friendly bartenders.
Really cool addition and they make great margaritas.
Dishes We Dig
We remain fans of the pecan crusted chicken at Sazio. It has been too long.
Love the southern chicken sandwich at Granger’s, which is fast becoming my go-to place. Great food, wonderful service, easy parking and fair prices. Bravo.
Three vegetarians and three carnivores walked into Harvest…
Sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s a true story and all six of us came away happy with our meals.
Harvest on Linton and US 1 remains a really great and healthy dining option for palates of all persuasions.
We enjoyed an amazing Thanksgiving at the wonderful La Cigale.
Great food, attentive service and a wonderful ambience made for a terrific holiday. P.S. There is no better biscotti in all the land.
We also recommend Baciami in Boynton Beach.
The Italian restaurant is owned by a Delray family and features a large menu, great service and ridiculously good cannoli cheesecake. Just a fabulous experience.
We also dined with friends at City Oyster and enjoyed the ambience of the avenue a few steps away not to mention some really great food. It’s good to rediscover a long time favorite.
Have a great December and thanks for reading.

The Arts Garage: Fulfilling Its Vast Promise

Unique experiences such as a reading and “playwright talk back” distinguish Delray’s Arts Garage.

When Marjorie Waldo took the reigns of The Arts Garage three years ago the organization was in crisis.

While The Arts Garage had earned a lot of applause  for its edgy programming and for presenting a wide range of jazz and blues artists in an intimate setting, the organization had become a political lightning rod with messy finances.
Enter Ms. Waldo.

Thanks to her leadership, a stellar board of directors and a dedicated corps of volunteers today the Arts Garage is on solid footing and is no longer a political punching bag.

When Ms. Waldo, a former school administrator, came aboard one of the initial “fixes” was to cancel  the theater season, a necessary financial decision but not an easy one for someone who has a degree in theater from the University of Virginia and is passionate about the magic of the stage.

So I was intrigued when I saw tickets go on sale for “The Monroe Doctrine”, a new play by Mark Scharf (remember that name) a celebrated American playwright.
Was theater making a comeback at the Arts Garage?
Yes, but in a wise move, the Arts Garage will dip it’s toes back into the theater world in a measured and financially sustainable way.

“The Monroe Doctrine” was a play reading, featuring a very talented cast of local actors. It was not a full fledged production with sets, producers, a full run etc.
The reading was a great success. The play is wonderful, the audience was engaged and the playwright was there to answer questions and share insights. In short, it was a unique experience. Intimate, unique and special.
This is how theater could work at the Arts Garage.

Perhaps readings, new works, playwright “talk backs” and opportunities to talk to the cast is the formula for success.

The Arts Garage has a wonderful “black box” theater nd there is clearly an audience for smart plays and readings.

So keep your eye on The Arts Garage. The organization remains an important player in Delray’s arts and cultural scene.

Many of the people in the audience were acting students at the Arts Garage which was a cool footnote. (I always wanted to act, but I have a face for radio).
After all the turmoil and tumult, it’s heartening to see The Arts Garage emerge on sound footing and firmly focused on the mission with an engaged leader who clearly loves her job.

Ms. Waldo is a former school administrator, I got to know her when she ran the Youth Enrichment Vocational Center, an innovative charter school founded by two close friends from the Delray Beach Police Department Johnny Pun and Fred Glass. As an educator, Marjorie has the requisite mix of warmth and passion mixed with an ability to manage what can be at times an unruly environment. It’s a great skill set to run an arts organization.

Still, while the finances have improved, this is a non-profit we are talking about. One that relies on the good graces of our Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the city and generous patrons.

So if you’re looking for a cool and important place to invest your time and charitable dollars, you may want to consider this wonderful organization.

A Legacy & An Ecosystem

BDB President Kelly Smallridge honors Brendan, Tom and Connor Lynch for their business leadership as Plastridge Insurance celebrates its 100th year.

Eight years ago, while serving on the board of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, I had the opportunity to co-chair a brand new task force focused on entrepreneurship in our community.

While the BDB is well-known and highly respected for its economic development efforts and its ability to recruit, retain and help businesses expand we felt there was a gap when it came to helping and celebrating local entrepreneurs. So we created a task force and held a successful event that filled the vast ballroom at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. We clearly had tapped into something.

The task force continued on and eventually my good friend Connor Lynch, the talented and super smart CEO of Plastridge Insurance became chair. I’m proud to report that Connor, the task force and the BDB have taken the effort to a whole new level.

The recent “Entrepreneurship Luncheon” presented by JP Morgan Chase & Co., attracted a large crowd, included a hallway full of booths featuring new companies and was graphic evidence that something special is happening here. And that’s a good thing.

The entrepreneurs are here. They see Palm Beach County as fertile ground to grow their companies and they are impressed with the talent that is available in the local job market.

For sure, we aren’t Silicon Valley, Boston, New York or Austin. But we don’t have to be. We can grow something special here. Something unique. Something sustainable.

Groups like Palm Beach Tech, 1909 and yes the BDB are playing a critical role as are our universities and the FAU Research Park.

The luncheon’s two keynote speakers were two young entrepreneurs who are proving that companies can start here, grow here and thrive here using local talent and attracting talent from other markets.

Ryan Gay, CEO of Levatas, an AI solutions firm and Shay Berman, founder and president of Digital Resource were beyond impressive to listen to—they were downright inspiring.

Mr. Gay started out in 2006 with a small team: a visionary, an operator (himself) and someone with a big brain. They paid their first employee with Taco Bell meals—he was joking (I think). But from those humble beginnings, Levatas now has 80 employees and does digital work for clients such as IBM, Intel, Dell, Office Depot and Nasdaq.

Mr. Berman came from the cold of Michigan to West Palm Beach and started a company on a couch that has twice made the Inc. 500 list as one of America’s fastest growing companies. He has stayed true to his adopted hometown, growing his company while remaining in downtown West Palm.

He started the company with $5,000 and a dream. Today, at age 27, he is growing by leaps and bounds.

At the luncheon, my friend Connor, his brother Brendan (another super smart businessman) and their dad Tom, a former Delray mayor (among the very best in my opinion) were recognized for Plastridge’s 100th anniversary—an astounding achievement in today’s complex and fast changing world.

All three Lynch’s are devoted to Palm Beach County making significant marks in business, entrepreneurship, government, education, philanthropy and economic development. They are writing an amazing legacy. I’ve been fortunate to watch them and occasionally work alongside them.

Brendan and I serve on the board of a company we’ve both invested in and 30 years since meeting Tom, I still find myself seeking out his advice and counsel. Connor and I have served on several non-profit boards together and he’s always brought good ideas and insight to the table.

Kelly Smallridge, President and CEO of the BDB, noted that she if ever wrote a book about the history of economic development in Palm Beach County Tom Lynch would be at the top of the list of contributors.

It was heartening to me to hear that, because I believe that Kelly is right and that Tom is immensely responsible for so much of the good we see in Delray and also in Boca where he was also very active as a past chamber chair and School Board chair.

To see his sons run with that legacy of civic achievement makes my heart sing with gratitude.

In order to build a better community one that will support entrepreneurs and everyone else frankly—we need civic leaders. We need champions and long term thinkers who focus on the horizon and then do their best to make things happen.

It’s called leaving a legacy.

The job is never done. Success is never final. We will never arrive at the destination but we still need to commit ourselves to the journey.

Check out www.bdb.org and make sure you get tickets to next year’s entrepreneurial event. Better yet, let’s commit to helping grow entrepreneurs—whether it’s trying out a new product, spreading the word, becoming an angel or seed investor, starting your own company or encouraging someone who has done so we all have a meaningful role to play.

 

Honoring Two Very Special Public Servants

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

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

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

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

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

Talking to Legends: Denny Laine Edition

Denny Laine is coming to Boca.

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

Denny Laine has had an amazing life.

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

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

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

But he will give you some cool tidbits such as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denny in his Wings days.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Mother To Son: A Poem for Libby Wesley

Ida Elizabeth Wesley

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

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

To most people she was simply Libby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my Libby story.

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

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

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

She was in a word: remarkable.

And I loved her very much. We all did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a gift she gave to me.

What a gift she was to Delray Beach.

Here’s the poem.

It’s beautiful.

So was Elizabeth Wesley.

Mother to Son

BY Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—

Bare.

But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

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