What We Often Don’t See Is What Matters

the-iceberg-of-successI saw a great graphic the other day. (Look above).

The picture depicts success as an iceberg with only the good stuff visible on the surface.
But just below is what it took to achieve success. The trials, tribulations, setbacks, false starts, hard work, good habits and more that few see. But it’s the struggle that is essential for achieving success.
While the graphic is probably aimed at individuals, I think it also holds true for cities and other things we strive to build.
There are so many things that don’t appear on the surface. So many hurdles that few get to see.
And so it has been with Delray Beach and Boca Raton.
First Boca.
I moved here in 1987 and I remember the old mall on US 1. It wasn’t a very nice mall, but it had a bookstore and so I went there often.
I worked for a newspaper at the time headquartered on East Rogers Circle and it was a fairly desolate place back then. There were few places to eat, we had to drive to Tom Sawyer’s or into Delray where there was a restaurant sort of underground at Linton Towers. We sometimes went to Rosie’s Raw Bar, Dirty Moe’s  or to a barbecue joint on Linton and Congress.
Boca was always pretty with beautiful parks. But there was really no downtown. The best restaurant may have been La Vielle Maison. West Boca began to boom and often we would venture to Wilt’s or Pete Rose’s Ballpark Cafe and yes we saw Wilt a few times and Pete a whole lot. He did his radio show from the cafe which was attached to a Holiday Inn on west Glades.
Boca was a pretty nice place back then but at the risk of offending some folks, I like it now too.
Although I knew many of the city folks and elected officials through the years I wasn’t privy to the struggles they most surely dealt with.
I was too absorbed with Delray’s journey first as a reporter and later as an elected official.
And dear reader, there were some titanic struggles and make or break decisions to make.
When I think of the 80s, the first thought that comes to mind is crime. The town felt dangerous.
I remember walking into the old Phoenix at Atlantic and A1A as a naive 22 year old new to town hoping to shoot some pool and grab a beer. I actually wondered whether I would make it out intact.
Then there was the time I was assigned a “man on the street” interview and when I stopped a guy on Atlantic Avenue he turned around and ripped the sleeve of my shirt clean off. We both stood there shocked. It was a perfect tear, not sure how he did it and I guess he surprised too, because he ran off. I can’t remember whether he answered my question. Probably not.
I went to police briefings and neighborhood crime watch meetings and heard a litany of horror stories.
Back then, there was a major drug dealer in town named Deniz Fernandez. His network of dealers were brazen and actually hung a pig’s head off a street sign as a warning to cops. When he finally went down as a result of a task force consisting of Delray police and federal agents, the scope of his astonishing empire was revealed: 10 homes, acres and acres of property, a few businesses and duffel bags full of drugs were seized.

 Fernandez owned a place locals called “The Hole,“ a notorious crack house on Southwest Ninth Avenue in Delray Beach.

During the summer of 1987, the group`s business reaped an estimated $50,000 a day in gross profits by selling individual doses of crack cocaine for $10 a rock, according to federal agents and police  who worked on the investigation.

Check out that number, $50,000 a day in $10 increments.

When undercover Delray officers closed in on him on a dirt road wear of town, he brandished a blue steel revolver and pointed it at them before ditching the weapon. Germantown Road, steps from a popular Ford dealership, was Fernandez’ turf and drivers were brazenly hailed to pull over and buy crack rocks. When  officers showed up the dealers dispersed in seconds disappearing into the darkness. Our city was literally an open air drug market.

Once a month, the Sheriff’s fugitive task force came to town and teamed up with our officers to round up literally scores of felons who failed to show up in court or were on the run.
We rode with Charlie Comfort of PBSO, Lt. Jeff Rancour and the late Johnny Pun in an effort to find as many of the  worst offenders before word spread on the street that the warrant task force was out and about.
Augmenting those efforts, was the legendary or infamous–depending on what side of the law you were on–tact team also known as the jump out crew. They were tasked with fighting and disturbing street level drug sales which was rampant in parts of Delray. This is where I first met a young Jeff Goldman, now our chief and really amazing officers such as Mike Swigert, Don West, Eddie Robinson, Chuck Jeroloman, Toby Rubin and John Battiloro.
Mad Dads was active back then. They were citizens determined to reclaim their streets from drug dealers.
I saw K-9 officers like Skip Brown and Geoff Williams deploy their dogs in pursuit of dangerous criminals and a slew of incredible detectives solving one horrific crime after another. Legends like Bob Brand, Robert Stevens, Tom Whatley, Craig Hartmann, Dwayne Fernandes, Casey Thume, Brian Bollan were only a few of the people who labored long hours below the success iceberg.
John Evans, Terrance Scott, Robyn Smith, Tom Judge, Shirley Palmer, Randy Wilson, Marc Woods and Jeff Miller were road patrol cops who made a big difference. Vinny Mintus was a fixture in Pineapple Grove which was far from gentrified in those days. Very far. Tom Quinlan and Glenn Rashkind kept our beach safe and everybody knew their names.  There were more. So many more.
While police and fire lived most dangerously, in every department at City Hall there were people toiling below the success iceberg struggling with financial issues, code enforcement challenges and even zoning problems–all trying to find a formula to  unlock success. They found it. And that should give us comfort as we read about today’s challenges, which include a crushing heroin epidemic.
Our community has risen to challenges before, they will again.
Meanwhile, I appreciate the present because I saw the hungry years. And that’s what gives me and others civic pride.

September Song

cancer

“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you
These precious days I’ll spend with you

September Song

My ex sister in law died last week. She was 51.

About three weeks ago my friend’s wife passed. She was 47.

Both brave women had cancer. The same disease that took my mother 17 years ago at the age of 59.

My “second dad”, my best friend’s father lost his battle with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Last week marked the 10th anniversary of his passing.

To say I hate cancer is an understatement. I also fear it, support charities that fight it and pray every day for a cure.

I also pray for families struggling with the disease.

We get caught up in the little stuff. We all do.

We shouldn’t.

Cancer is awful, but it will focus you in a hurry; make you concentrate on the things that really matter. Like love. Like friendship. Like family.

The week before last wasn’t an easy one. On Sunday, on my way to a Rosh Hashanah dinner, I learned that my credit card was compromised. Again. A day later while driving on US 1 in Boca I was struck by a driver who just slammed into me near Spanish River Boulevard. He sped off. Nice.

But when you get a call that a loved one has passed at such a young age it floors you. And just like that the little things seem trifling.

You get another credit card. You fix the scrapes on your car door. These are little things.

My former sister in law, a beloved aunt to my children and a friend of mine and just about everyone she ever met, had passed at age 51 after a brave bout with cancer. There are no words.

We are fortunate in Boca and Delray to live in a community with strong hospitals and cancer support services.

All of our hospitals, Delray, Boca, Bethesda and West Boca, provide oncology services. FAU and several local bio tech institutes are engaged in meaningful research related to cancer.

These efforts and other charitable endeavors deserve our attention and support.

Progress is being made in the fight to find a cure, but we are still losing far too many people to this awful disease. Way, way too many.

 

Water Cooler Wednesday: Perspective

perspective

Just this week…

One of my favorite people lost her dad to cancer and one of my childhood friends called to tell me his dad was just diagnosed.

In Pakistan, the Taliban butchered 141 people, mostly children at a school. In Yemen, 26 children were killed by terrorists—it barely made the news.

In Newtown, Connecticut, parents marked the second anniversary of the Newtown Massacre and face another holiday season without their children.

In suburban Philadelphia, an Iraq War Veteran killed six family members before taking his own life. It is said that the soldier suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I don’t list these items to depress you, but merely to ask that we exercise some perspective as we navigate the daily inconveniences of our lives.

Last I looked, the sun was shining, gas prices are low, we are using dollars not rubles and the temperature is just delightful.

Downtown Delray Beach is abuzz with activity and people seem happy as they stroll Atlantic Avenue and snap family pictures in front of holiday displays.

We visited Mizner Park this week and it was packed with shoppers and diners. I saw a lot of smiles, despite the long lines at the valet. If waiting for a valet is your biggest concern, you have it pretty good.

Life is fragile.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Clichés, but true nonetheless.

Your world can be rocked by one phone call or simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Here are some of the greats on perspective:

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

― Abraham Lincoln

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty.

I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”

― George Carlin

“The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.”

― Oscar Wilde