Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Last week, I went out for a beer.

That’s a big accomplishment around here these days considering my recent travails.
I sat outside at Beer Trade with a friend far away from any other patron on a rainy evening.
I figured I deserved a beer after a summer spent battling Covid.
So I poured a cold glass of Salty Crew ale and relished every drop.
My buddy and I  talked about the presidential debate (train wreck, horrific and sad), local politics (sad, depressing and soap operaish), the economy (scary, volatile and uncertain), Covid (scary, depressing and politicized) and dogs (cute, cuddly and happy).

I relished being out and about in this year of Zoom meetings, remote work and a lengthy stay at Bethesda Hospital.

While the streets were empty due to the gloomy night, we saw local architect Jess Sowards walk by.
Jess is a terrific guy, a talented architect and someone who has quietly done a lot for Delray.
He stopped by—staying socially distant— to greet us, inquire about my health and chat.
It was great to see him.
Simple pleasures.
I appreciate these moments all the more now.
And it got me to thinking about all the special people who make up this magical place we call home.
We talked about Jess’ partner Bob Currie who passed a year ago this month. Bob did so much for this town, especially Pineapple Grove and Old School Square.
Around the same time that we lost Bob, we lost Elizabeth Wesley, a mentor of mine and a heroine to so many. Oh, how we miss Mrs. Wesley.
“Libby” was love. It was just that simple.

She touched so many lives in Delray with her Roots Cultural Festival and by being warm, smart and well… by just being Libby.
Earlier in the day, I was able to speak to Perry DonFrancisco, the former longtime proprietor of Boston’s on the Beach.
Perry makes me laugh and right now it hurts to laugh but it’s also good to experience joy and humor.
Perry delivers both.
He’s an amazing man and I love him.
When I met him more than 30 years ago we were both young guys. Perry gave me hard earned life advice and has always had my back.
 When I was on my back in the ICU, he sent me a series of videos—each related to our friendship and every last one of them kept me going when it was very hard to breathe.
Books can be written about what Perry has meant to the people of Delray. He has done more than anyone could ever quantify.
The best description I ever heard of Perry came from Joe Dragon, who used to be our assistant parks director.
Here’s what he said at a City Commission meeting.
“If we didn’t have a Perry in Delray, we would have to invent him.”
What a great quote.
It’s also true.

Because without Perry, we wouldn’t be Delray.
Which reminds me of my friend former Fire Chief Kerry Koen.
Kerry is so special.
A gifted photographer, well-read, so thoughtful.
Honestly, our conversations inspire half of these blogs.
So if you like them, Chief Koen gets the credit. And if I fall short, it’s because I’m not a good enough writer to capture the richness of the ideas we talk about.
Speaking of rich conversation, there’s a happy hour gang at Caffe Luna Rosa that meets every Friday to discuss the world’s events. Those guys are great gentlemen and over glasses of Johnny Walker Black and delicious food they make this town a richer place.
From parking and sea grapes to presidential politics and the latest movies on Netflix these guys really cover the landscape of life.
There’s also a breakfast crew that I know about that consists of some amazing Delray denizens, the super smart Brian Cheslack, the wonderfully talented Joe Gillie and in pre-Covid times our former assistant city manager Bob Barcinski and former mayors Jay Alperin and Tom Carney.
It’s a very accomplished group. Friends, there is no village as we know it without them.
It’s the special people who make our towns so rich and unique. The concept of a village by the sea has always been about people and how we treat and interact with each other.

These days my mornings are enriched by daily texts I get from retired police officer John Evans. There are no words for John. Every morning, he greets me with a saying, psalm or prayer. He is a big part of my healing. And a great contributor to Delray who is still giving back even eight years into retirement.
John recently went to Tallahassee to celebrate a full clemency for a young man he mentored who will now train to become a Delray police officer. If that young man emulates my friend John Evans, this city will be all the safer and richer as a result. John is the best.

Which brings me full circle—back to the socially distant table at Beer Trade on Fourth Avenue —where I sit talking about all things under the sun with my friend Scott Porten.
He says I never mention him in my writing. Well this is a test to see if he reads to the end.
Will he pass?
I sure hope so, because dear readers Scott is an exceptional guy and a wonderful friend.
Does he make fun of my taste in beer? Of course, he does. So I like beer that tastes like grapefruit? Is that a sin?
And yes, he chafes when I insist on sitting on the left hand side of the table, because I happen to be left handed and don’t want to bother my neighbor with a stray elbow. I think it’s called being courteous.
Does he wince when someone notices a certain someone’s eyelashes? Why, yes he does.
But I’m sure he understands that glaucoma drops can lead to magnificent lashes. After all, he’s  an understanding guy. And very complimentary too. Recently, he called me “the LeBron James of communicable disease.”
In all seriousness, when you face adversity in life—such as fighting a vicious virus—you find out who your friends are.
I learned, happily, that I have many in this town and beyond.
I’m so grateful to write that sentence. I’m so thankful to be alive to write about those friends and share with you how great they are.
I’m proud of them and all they have accomplished.
Running cities, protecting and serving us, giving to charities, volunteering their time to civic endeavors, raising children, adopting dogs, enriching our culture, making sure kids have holiday gifts, designing buildings, running businesses and creating jobs and on and on it goes in a very interesting village on the southeast coast of Florida we call home.

Comments

  1. Lainie Lewis says:

    I miss my Delray of old and people like you.

  2. Robert J Wieder says:

    HFY = Happy For YOU!!!!!!!

    That beer and this short story and YOUR healing make living life all the more worth it!!!!

    Tabañero on Mayor Jeff
    Tabañero on

    Best,
    Bobby Delray

  3. Stephen Greene says:

    Happy to see you are up and about. Thank you for all your stories. I find them heartwarming.

  4. Scott Porten says:

    I almost didn’t make it to the end. Thank you for finally mentioning me. I too, am happy that you are still alive so that you can write about your friend.

    Thank you!

  5. Carl C. Carter says:

    Hey Jeff , Enjoy your insight and comments. I came to Delray Beach in 1970 and joined Tom Shoaf in the practice of Optometry for 45 years. Tom, Monroe Farber, Ken Jacoby and Paul Spiecher played tennis together and began the
    Delray Beach Tennis Center. Bob Miller brought me into Kiwanis and Ken Ellingsworth put me to work in the Chamber of Commerce. Many Membership Drives and Service projects later I joined Tom Lynch and many others on Doak Campbell’s Atlantic Avenue Improvement Committee. This initiated the CRA and our beautiful downtown areas. Tom Lynch of course went on to serve many years as mayor followed by Dr Jay Alperin, you, and a host of other civic minded folks . We have all seen many changes and improvements but miss the local involvement in an all volunteer Delray Affair Committee and civic projects. Just thought I fill in some ancient history share your feelings . Thanks
    Carl Carter

    • Jeff Perlman says:

      Hi Dr. Carter. What great memories you shared. Thank you. The Atlantic Avenue Task Force was so important. It was so nice to hear from you. Thanks again, Jeff.

  6. Jeff – so glad to hear you are out and about! Please stay well and stay strong…

  7. Craig spodak says:

    Love this. Scott; you’re too funny

  8. I can almost taste that beer and feel the damp breeze.

    I’ll bet that had to be one of the best beers you’ve ever tasted.

    Reminds me of when Arnold was asked by a fan in the Pumping Iron movie…

    Fan: ”You drink skim milk don’t you?”
    Arnold:”I drink no milk.”
    Fan:”You don’t drink any milk at all?”
    Arnold:”No milk. Milk is for babies. When you grow up, you have to drink beer.“

    Drink up and get stronger Jeff.

  9. Ron Gilinsky says:

    Jeff,
    You’re the Leader & The Inspiration that made Delray.
    Stay Healthy My Special Friend 👌🌞💋🇺🇲

  10. Annette Smith says:

    So glad you are recovering and feeling better!
    Yes in reference to Bob Currie he was an amazing Architect and and a wonderful human being who’s contributions to Delray will be forever remembered thru time.

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.