The New Abnormal

Ahhh quarantine life.

When you can’t wait to take the garbage out because it’s your outing for the day.
I’m hoping that you are trying to be productive as you work from home or shelter in place.
I’m trying.
But yes it’s trying.
I miss life as we knew it.
I don’t like the new abnormal.
I do appreciate the need to do what we’re doing and I really love the texts, emails and phone calls from concerned friends and family. It’s been great to catch up.
But I miss my life. I know I’m not alone.
I have been working. But I miss my co-workers. I’ve been writing but I feel blocked. I’ve been exercising but I miss the gym.
I have been reading and can recommend some good books.
“Golden Gates” is an amazing book about the lack of attainable housing in America. Most of the book’s action is centered in California which is wrestling with a major homeless crisis. The book chronicles the rise of the YIMBY movement which stands for Yes in My Back Yard and how they battle NIMBYS (Not in My Back Yard) in a never ending series of clashes. It’s a great read.
I also started “Call Sign Chaos’ the autobiography of General Jim Mattis who  served as Secretary of Defense. It’s an interesting treatise on leadership, the Marine Corps, foreign policy and national defense.
On TV, I can recommend “The Plot Against America” on HBO which is so  well done and “Unorthodox” on Netflix.
If you love rock music, don’t miss Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live at Hyde Park. It’s a tour de force performance in front of a huge crowd. It will get you off your feet. And keep a close eye out for Delray’s Max Weinberg who gives an amazing performance on the drums. Max is the best.
Speaking of rock music, if
you love Bob Dylan—and I do—his new song “Murder Most Foul” is a can’t miss listen. It is 17 minutes long so prepare. But it will haunt you for days.
I know, I know, you don’t want to be haunted right about now.
I can’t blame you. But this is a good kind of haunting. Dylan is a gift. We can all use one right about now.

Riot, Redemption & Rock n’ Roll

Great documentary with a guest appearance by Delray’s own Max Weinberg.

We went to Ipic last week to see a new documentary Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock n’ Roll.

Nestled in our cozy “pod” with a pillow, blanket and a glass of wine after a long day,  it would have been tempting to nod off but the movie grabbed us from the opening frame and held us through the mini concert at the end.

Having been to Asbury Park last summer it was extra interesting because we recognized streets,  buildings and iconic landmarks.

Asbury Park—all of one square mile—looms large in our national consciousness because of its history and musical roots. This little town punches far above its weight.

In the 60s, the place crackled with amazing music. All of the big acts—The Stones, Hendrix, The Who, The Byrds—played the convention hall sometimes on the same bill all for $5 a ticket.
Can you imagine?

But just as compelling was the local music scene with clubs like the Upstage, The Stone Pony and the Wonder Bar attracting local legends such as Bruce Springsteen, Miami Steve Van Zandt and Southside Johnny.

It was a special and magical time that came to a crashing end with the riots of  July 1970.
The redemption comes later, with the redevelopment of Asbury again driven in large part driven by music.

It’s a great story. And if you love cities and music this is a must see film.

I’ve been thinking about the documentary ever since and the instant attachment I felt to the area when we visited. I’m a Springsteen fanatic and to walk the boardwalk and see the sights that inspired my favorite songwriter was a real thrill.
As a student of cities, I also admire how Asbury leveraged its strengths and brand to launch an impressive comeback.

The riots took a huge toll on the town’s economy and soul and was sparked by racial tensions that seethed between east Asbury and the west side of town. Because despite the vibrant music scene and the throngs of tourists who were flocking to the shore the people on the west side of town were lacking jobs, quality housing and recreational opportunities. Tensions may build slowly, but when they explode the impacts can last years. In Asbury’s case, the damage caused by the riots lasted decades.

The documentary confronts the issues head on and also shows the terrible toll that violence, inequality, racism and poverty takes on a town until one day, sparked by something minor it all unravels.
There are lessons there.

Springsteen, sitting in the ruins of a former club where he played, talks about the riots as something that perhaps “had to happen.”
Maybe, I suppose.

But isn’t it sad that things have to boil over into violence and destruction before people eventually focus on what needs to be done.

The movie praises Asbury Park for its redemption and seems to strongly indicate that things are different today with care being taken to avoid and or confront some of the mistakes of the past and not repeat them.

I don’t know enough about Asbury to know whether that’s true. But it does seem that once again music is leading the way—with schools focused on bringing east and west together through music and the Asbury Film and Music Festival positioned as a major cultural force that bring tourist dollars back to town.

We loved our stay in Asbury—the restaurants were awesome, the music scene was lively and the beach was beautiful. So were the neighborhoods which seems to be attracting urban pioneers and creatives.
If you’re in the area, visit. The Jersey Shore is a lot more than Snooki and “The Situation.”
It’s a place of magical history, enduring music and cultural importance. If you can’t, check out the documentary it’s special.

A Can’t Miss Rock N’ Roll Experience

Max and me…

Do you love music?
I mean really love music.

Do you wake up with songs in your head?

Do you sing in the shower?
Do you sing all the way to work listening to a great tune on the radio?

I do.

If you love classic rock—the best music ever made (along with Motown)—you have a unique chance to hear it played live by a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and his amazing band right here in Delray Beach.

On April 11 at 8 p.m., Max Weinberg’s Jukebox will play the intimate Crest Theatre at Old School Square. You don’t want to miss the show.

Repeat: Do not miss this show.

We caught Max and his amazing band last year at the Arts Garage, where he played two sold out shows which left people breathless, singing and dancing to music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The “jukebox” format is unique. The theater is ringed with TV’s scrolling the names of hundreds of classic songs. Audience members choose from the list and Max Weinberg’s Jukebox plays a faithful version. It’s interactive, fun, high energy and showcases the talents of a great group of musicians including Max or “Mighty Max” as he’s known to legions of E Street Band fans around the world.

Max Weinberg joined Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1975 during the recording sessions for the iconic “Born to Run” album.

The rest as they say is history…but in Max’s case his legend transcends E Street to include a long stint leading the band on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, a seminal book about legendary drummers, acting roles, bandleader on the Tonight Show and several different musical bands including the Max Weinberg 7 and now the Jukebox which covers the landscape from The Beatles and the Stones to Bruce and beyond.

I got to know Max over a year ago. We met at the Arts Garage and later he joined my wife and I on a car tour through Delray where we talked about local history and future plans. Max is really into real estate and has become a student of Delray—soaking up visions and plans on the city’s websites. (P.S. we weren’t sure about the etiquette of driving him around: was it too goofy to play E Street Radio in the background? We decided to just provide narration with no background music.)

He’s also a good guy. And it’s really nice that he cares about his new home. It’s also nice when one of your heroes turns out to be a good person and someone you can talk to about ideas.

I’ve been a Springsteen fan (fanatic) since the age of 11, exactly when Max joined the band.

I still remember what it felt like to walk to the record store in Stony Brook N.Y. and buy the newest E Street Band record. The thrill of walking home and sliding the LP on my Technics turntable and hearing the first notes blast through Radio Shack speakers. Those were the days where you didn’t have instant streaming music, you had to wait for releases, listen to the radio, read rock magazines (Circus, Rolling Stone) and talk to the cool kids in home room to find out what was new and hot.

Back then, I never had enough money to buy all the albums I wanted, so I was judicious in my spending,  prioritizing my favorite musicians. Springsteen was one of the few artists that I just bought whatever they put out on day one. I knew the E Street Band  would deliver and they always did.

Darkness on the Edge of Town came out in ’78, The River in 1980, Nebraska during my senior year and the blockbuster Born in the USA in ’84 when I was in college in Oswego, N.Y.

We went to see the E Street Band at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse with a group of guys from my floor—it was the day before the “We are the World Sessions” and Bruce had a cold but the show was magnificent just like every show has been. And Max….well Max is just the best. Nobody works harder every night and nobody channels Springsteen quite like him. The music…it’s indescribable and touches so many emotions. It’s powerful and eternal. The best art endures.

So it’s a special thrill for me to know and occasionally hang with the musician who provides the driving beat for my favorite songs.

Come see the Max Weinberg Jukebox at The Crest Theatre on April 11. You’ll be glad you did. Click the link below and say hello. I’ll be in the second row singing along to the best music ever made.

https://oldschoolsquare.secure.force.com/ticket#sections_a0F0G00000SR9NqUAL

The Mighty Max

 

Greetings From Asbury Park

The boardwalk in Asbury Park, N.J.

I’ve always wanted to go to Asbury Park.

So last week we made the trip.

We loved it.

As we toured Belmar, Ocean Grove, Asbury, Allenhurst, Freehold, Neptune and Colts Neck one thought was top of mind: New Jersey might have the world’s worst PR, because the reality far, far, far outstrips the perception.

New Jersey is breathtakingly beautiful (that’s right)  with a magnificent coast, incredible neighborhoods, vibrant cities and architecture that makes you pull over and stare.

Asbury Park has always held a place in my heart and  imagination thanks to its association with my musical heroes Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.

I’ve read a few books about the boom and bust history of Asbury Park and the musicians who helped to put the place on the map.

So I was curious to explore the tiny (1.5 square miles) city.

Asbury has a pretty boardwalk, a beautiful beach, some amazing seaside bars, wonderful architecture, a hip hotel, a really nice downtown and some terrific restaurants.

But what sets it apart is its vibe.

Asbury Park is a town that seems to be built on rock n’ roll.

From rock photographer Danny Clinch’s “Transparent Gallery” and the Sound Booth lounge at the Asbury Hotel to the live music at Asbury Lanes and the renowned Wonder Bar—music is everywhere.

This weekend, Asbury expects 20,000 people for the first Sea. Hear. Now. music festival with big names like Social Distortion and Brandi Carlile coming to town to rock the shore.

Asbury is a town building on its roots—its glory days as evidenced by the Paramount Theatre and a grand boardwalk and a musical heritage which includes Springsteen, Southside Johnny and so many great bar bands.

Off the boardwalk, we found a nice downtown, especially Cookman Avenue which featured some interesting retail (a bookstore!, an adorable cinema and a tea house featuring cats—yes cats—called Catsbury Park) and some amazing restaurants. (If you visit, run don’t walk to Taka, it’s as good as it gets).

The surrounding towns feature block after block of really beautiful homes, Victorian gems that make you realize that Florida missed a golden opportunity by allowing so much cookie cutter housing to be built.

When visiting a place it’s important to consider its history and to see what’s in front of you. But it’s also important to understand its psychology, what drives a place. It’s critical to understand not only the reality but what the aspirations of a place are.

You can do this by observing who’s in town—what kinds of people do you see buying homes, opening businesses and investing in a place.

You can supplement what you see with a little reading—local newspapers, real estate publications, even what the hotels are saying about the town in their marketing materials.

And that’s where Asbury gets really interesting.

This little city with a rich history and a very cool present has aspirations.

Asbury is an ambitious place with a goal of becoming a nationally renowned cultural mecca built around music, art, festivals, great restaurants and a sense of place. Sound familiar?

The local press celebrates this ambition with profiles of entrepreneurs building web businesses, opening bakeries, planning music festivals, opening unique restaurants and creating boutique accommodations that pay homage to the area’s history and vibe.

One of the urban pioneers that seems to loom large is famed rock photographer Danny Clinch who has a very cool gallery attached to the ultra-hip Asbury Hotel. Clinch is arguably the most acclaimed music photographer around these days. He has chosen Asbury Park to not only show off his incredible portfolio but also to grow the city’s cultural brand.

The Sea. Hear. Now. festival is probably the most ambitious attempt so far. But the gallery itself is more than just a gallery. It’s a live music space where the local creative community can meet, grow and find encouragement and an outlet.

In many ways, I saw some parallels between Asbury Park and Delray Beach circa 1980s through early 2000s.

The emphasis on culture, food, beverage, festivals, tourism, entrepreneurship. The aspiration and hunger to fix and invest in neighborhoods and commercial districts. The willingness to take some risks. The presence of visionary pioneers with dreams and ambitions. The passion to make something happen.

I can’t comment on the politics of Asbury. But the truth is you need both the private sector and the public sector rowing in the same direction to make change and realize ambitions. It doesn’t work if volunteers, business owners and residents are out of step with local government or vice versa.

Towns need their Danny Clinch’s for sure. But they also need their elected officials and city government’s help too.

 

 

 

 

Things We Love: December Edition

Things we loved in December

December was a blur for many of us. But we didn’t want to let the month pass without pointing out some gems.

We enjoyed a great dinner with close friends at Fries to Caviar in Boca. The intimate spot which features a nice bar, great outdoor space and a varied menu has a sister restaurant in Delray, the excellent Jimmy’s Bistro. We highly recommend both places.

Speaking of great meals, we had a terrific “wine” dinner at Caffe Luna Rosa in December with special guest Max Weinberg of the legendary E Street Band. For me, that’s like having dinner with a Beatle.
I mention this because Max is playing a benefit show at the Arts Garage February 17.
Max Weinberg’s Jukebox has been playing several venues to big crowds and rave reviews. If you love great music from the 60s, 70s and 80s, don’t miss this show. And it benefits a great cause —our Arts Garage.

If you haven’t been to Beer Trade Company you really should give it a try.
This cool little spot on 4th Avenue is a nice locals spot with a vast array of craft beers and cider and the world’s best risotto balls.
There’s a companion location in Boca as well.

December is typically a philanthropic month with successful toy drives, food drives, and last minute charitable donations.
Those who organize and contribute to these efforts deserve our thanks.
Still, let’s try and remember that the immense needs of our community don’t disappear in January. If you are in a position to help, you are needed. It feels good to pay our civic rent.

Finally, we truly enjoyed December and it was gratifying to see Delray and Boca abuzz with people.
We shouldn’t take it for granted. Yes, finding a parking space is a little challenging, but you know what the alternative is; empty streets, vacant stores and not much to do.
We are truly blessed.

We didn’t have a chance to do a year end list but this was the year I put down the phone long enough to start reading books (actual physical books again) and it was great.
I’ve been a lifelong voracious reader: books, magazines, newspapers and later blogs.
But somewhere along the way, books fell by the wayside. This despite having written my own book. I was embarrassed. And I made a conscious effort to get back to reading books.
The effort was worth it. First, I figured out that I had the attention span to finish a book, something that I had begun to doubt.

I really believe that the barrage of media and content coming at us has compromised our ability to focus—at least it has impacted my attention span. But I’m happy to report that with a concentrated effort it’s possible to overcome.
So here’s a list of my 10 favorite books of 2017. In no particular order.
1. Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. Ferris is a best selling author, successful blogger and popular podcaster. Tools is a huge compilation of his podcast interviews and he has talked to a who’s who from every conceivable walk of life. The book is a collection of valuable advice from world class performers.
2. Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris. Tribe is a great companion piece to Tools of Titans featuring more interviews with amazing people who answer questions about their favorite books (Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is a favorite of many), failures and best practices. The big reveal: it seems like nearly everyone who performs at a peak level is meditating.
3. What I found in a Thousand Towns by Dar Williams. We blogged about this book a few months ago. Williams is a folk singer who has travelled the country and has managed to get out of her hotel room to study the cities she plays in. Her insights are spot on and her writing is sublime. She knows what makes towns work. A great primer for those who love cities.
4. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. The Boss’ autobiography is a delight. Beautifully written, bravely revealing and always entertaining this fan came away with even more love and respect for this musical legend.
5. The New Brooklyn by Kay Hymowitz. I’m not from Brooklyn nor have I been lucky enough to live there. But my grandparents, aunt and cousin lived there and I spent a lot of time in the borough in the 70s and 80s. So I have been curious about Brooklyn’s history and how it became synonymous with cool. This book answered those questions. A great read.
6. Within Walking Distance by Philip Langdon. This charming book focuses on several neighborhoods in places as varied as Philadelphia and small town Vermont. It focuses on walkability and community building and the towns that get it right. It made me want to visit Brattleboro, Vt. But not in the wintertime.
7. The Content Trap by Bharat Anand. May be the most insightful business book I’ve read in recent memory. A blurb can’t do it justice but let’s just say the book provides answers for businesses that care about not being disrupted into oblivion.
8. Hooked by Nir Eyal. A sobering look at how technology hooks us.
9. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday. A terrific book that examines what it takes to create work and art that lasts.
10. The Amazing City by James Hunt. I bought this book after seeing Mr. Hunt speak at a League of Cities luncheon. A former president of the National League of Cities and former City Councilman in a small West Virginia town, Hunt’s book explores the elements that cities need to succeed. It’s a good list. We will share in a future blog.
Tied  for #10. Principles by Ray Dalio. This book (more like a tome) outlines the principles that Dalio used to build Bridgewater Associates into the world’s largest hedge fund. He believes in radical transparency and it worked for Bridgewater—spectacularly. An interesting book that also addresses life.

Down To The River

river

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to devote a column to Bruce Springsteen who played the BB&T Center in Sunrise Tuesday night.

As you might know, Bruce and his wife Patti are part-time residents of Wellington and he has some ties to our neck of the woods through his band and some old friends.

The late great saxophonist Clarence Clemons had condo’s in Boynton Beach and Singer Island, pianist Roy Bittan has close friends in Jupiter and visits frequently and Bruce himself played a small, but pivotal role in the life of Fran Marincola, owner of two-time restaurant of the year Caffe Luna Rosa.

In Fran’s past life he was a nightclub owner on the Jersey Shore and Bruce played his club. You can read the story in a newspaper clipping posted proudly on the wall of Luna Rosa. Next time you visit CLR, ask Fran to share some stories about Bruce and the band and check out the pictures on the wall they’re great.

So it was great to see the show with Fran this week and hear the stories.

It was also transformative to spend 3.5 hours listening to what I consider the best rock/bar band on the planet. At age 66, after 50 plus years playing together, Bruce and the E Street Band remain forces of nature. If you’re sad, he’ll lift you up. If you need energy, he’s a rocket like boost. If you want to reflect on life, simply sit back  and listen.

E Street Nation—as his legion of fans worldwide are known–is a tight knit community of people who come together to celebrate music that transcends time and place.

The latest tour celebrates “The River”, a 1980 masterpiece that was an elegy to growing up, moving out, gaining distance from your parents, leaving your hometown, falling in love and coming to some understanding of life compromise’s and your own mortality.

I bought the album when I was 16 years old, way back when vinyl was king.

For me, “The River” spoke to life’s mysteries—love, the open road, independence and dreams—those that are compromised or lost. But what’s amazing about Bruce’s music-and the music of other greats—is that the material still resonates well into the audience’s AARP years. From teenage angst to middle age—the songs take on new and deeper meaning.

We went with a group—and the prevailing wisdom beyond the sheer entertainment value of the show and the marveling at the performer’s stamina– was the fact that the songs take you back and still have meaning today. That’s a rare and very unique experience.

The other takeaway is what we knew we were witnessing rare artistry and we openly wondered who if anybody would still be relevant to audience’s 40 years from today.

The Springsteen concert took place one day after The Grammy’s, so today’s hottest acts were fresh on our minds. But will any of them endure and transcend the moment? Bieber? Lady Gaga?

Our small sample thinks Ed Sheeran and Chris Stapleton may have legs, but the rest—we’re not so sure.

2016 has been a sad year for those who like the legendary artists. We lost Glenn Frey, Bowie, Paul Kantner, Natalie Cole, Lemmy and the great Maurice White and it’s only February.

We are here for a moment in time. Bruce told the audience that The River is about mortality, doing our jobs, raising our families and doing some good in the world.

Yes indeed.

From the song “Stolen Car”

“And I’m driving a stolen car.  On a pitch black night.  And I’m telling myself I’m gonna be alright.  But I ride by night and I travel in fear.  That in this darkness I will disappear.”

Hopefully not for a very long time and not without having made a difference to those we love.