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Starry Starry Night

Vincent

“Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.” Don McLean

Awash in color, surrounded by music and lost in beauty I had a thought.

Art endures. (Yes, I know that’s not original).
A lot of other things fade over time but great art lasts forever.
That was the takeaway after attending “Beyond Van Gogh” at the Ice Palace in Miami.
It’s a hot ticket and for good reason. The exhibit is spectacular, moving and technologically impressive.
The exhibit runs through July. If you can swing it, I highly recommend you check it out.
The exhibit celebrates the life and works of Vincent Van Gogh, spotlighting not only his art, but also his struggles and his close relationship with his brother Theo.
It’s all uniquely presented, an immersive experience that is hard to describe. Let’s just say it’s quite a spectacle. You are placed “in” the art and the results are powerful. It’s worth the crazy drive to Miami.
There are lots of lessons in the life and in the art of Van Gogh.
Despite becoming one of the most influential artists in history Van Gogh was not commercially successful, and his suicide at 37 came after years of mental illness, depression and poverty.
And yet there is something powerful and exuberant in his paintings.  
Van Gogh failed at other careers including an attempt at being a preacher and while productive as an artist he just couldn’t quite make it either financially or commercially. 
He did however, have a great relationship with his younger brother Theo. The two exchanged heartfelt letters for years and they are a treasure,
In fact, the letters are a big part of the exhibit and shed light on their loyalty to each other and their philosophy on art and beauty. 
Theo was an  art dealer and his unfailing financial and emotional support allowed his brother to devote himself entirely to painting. Theo died at the age of 33, six months after his brother died at the age of 37.
One of the causes listed for his death was sadness. He kept everything his older brother sent to him, Vincent did not.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Vincent since seeing the exhibit. Been reading about him as well. 
I’ve also been mulling over the meaning of art in our lives. 
We are big music fans in our home and I’m constantly seeking out songs to sort through emotions that I experience. 
As a child of the 70s, I gravitate to rock music and count myself lucky to have lived in an era of so many great musical artists whose gifts have become the soundtrack to our lives. 
Along the way, I’ve found so many songs that have gotten me through the joys and sorrows of life. If you want to dance, cry, mourn, think, feel heartache, feel alive or smile there’s a library of great music to live by. 
Seeing the work of Van Gogh makes me hungry to explore the visual arts. Because standing in the exhibit surrounded by LED lights and digital recreations of his art, we felt moved deep inside. 
The issues of the day come and go or come and stay but great art goes deeper. Much deeper to the best parts of ourselves, where the good stuff, the real stuff exists. 
If we’re lucky, we find artists who speak to our condition; who touch our souls and express who we truly are as people. 
That’s why art endures and the rest of the stuff we deal with is ephemeral. 
We need art. It’s that simple. It’s just that beautiful.

20 Years Down The Road….

The 2001 Delray Beach All America City contingent. A quilt entitled “A Patchwork of Pride” accompanied the group which was ably led by Joe Gillie.

It’s been 20 years since Delray Beach won its second All America City Award in 2001.

It was a big deal back then.

More than 100 people made the trip from Delray Beach to Atlanta to attend a three day competition which included presentations from 30 really cool cities from across the country.

I was reminded of that magical time last week when we sat down to watch a new documentary on HBO entitled “Our Towns”—which is based on the wonderful book by James and Deborah Fallows who crisscrossed America in a small plane to learn and then share the stories of cities that rarely if ever make the news.

It’s a heartwarming documentary at a time when we need a reminder that there are places in this world and in this country that are working. There are still communities that share, care and dare to do big things—or little things together.

If you watch the documentary or read the book, you’ll want to visit Eastport, Maine, Redlands, California, Bend, Oregon and Charleston, West Virginia.

Five years ago, the Fallows who are accomplished journalists, put a call out to their readers: tell us about your towns. The responses poured in.

The writers had a hunch that beneath the headlines of division and strife that somewhere in America things were working, problems were being solved, opportunities were being created and hope was being rewarded. They were right.

They learned that developing a sense of community and a common language of change can help people and towns find a different path to a better future.

Along the way, we meet people tackling racial division, homelessness, polarization and economic despair by employing a can-do collaborative spirit.

And I thought, these are the traits celebrated by the All America City Award.

Over the years, the award itself has changed and is now focused on education. But back in 1993, when Delray won its first award and 20 years ago when it won its second before becoming the first city to win three awards with another win in 2017, the All America City Award took a broader look; education was still a component, but so was how communities worked to enhance their youth and senior populations among other topics.

In 2001, Delray Beach won the award by spotlighting three programs.

The Youth Enrichment Vocational Program provided high-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 23 with opportunities to learn job skills. The program was founded by Officer Johnny Pun and Community Service Officer Fred Glass. It was a bold and ambitious effort that led to the Delray Beach Police Department becoming the first PD in Florida to charter a school.

Community Neighbors Helping helped minority senior citizens living in one of the city’s poorest areas to improve their health, receive services and meet people outside their established environment. Finally, the city, in conjunction with the school district and community, had developed The Village Academy, a public school regulated by members of the community instead of a school board. The vision was to address the needs of at-risk elementary students living in low-income neighborhoods. This too was a bold and ambitious vision and was spearheaded by a community planning process known as the Southwest Plan.

Today, a mere 20 years later, only The Village Academy remains.

The charter school had a nice run before finally closing its doors. Johnny Pun, the energetic young officer, who dreamed of teaching kids to fix cars instead of stealing them died tragically in a motorcycle crash. Those who knew and loved Johnny —and if you knew Johnny you loved him— will never forget where they were when they received word of his accident. His bright light went out without warning. Some losses are just incalculable. I remember hearing the news and being unable to catch my breath. How can someone so alive be gone from us and his family forever? His loss leveled so many.

I’m not sure what happened with Community Neighbors Helping or its founder Edith Thompson, who was a full-time postal worker who spent her off hours tending to her neighbors. I remember Edith going to a local Publix to collect bread which she would give out to people who stopped by the National Church of God on Southwest 13th Street every morning. That initial effort grew to more than 20 local churches and senior centers.

Running a non-profit on a shoe string while working full time and raising three children is almost impossible to fathom.

I searched for Ms. Thompson and found her on Facebook. I’m not sure what happened to Community Neighbors Helping.  The last news story was written 19 years ago. Efforts and people come and go. That’s life I suppose.

The world is a constant whirlwind of change. People and efforts can be lasting or ephemeral, but they all matter.

The stories in “Our Towns” and in Our Town matter too.

We tend to get wound up about the latest project or passing controversy and I get it. Change can be difficult. It’s also a constant.

But these other efforts matter too. They are often lost and forgotten and that’s not good and it’s not healthy.

It can be easy to forget that communities can work.

America is not just talking heads screaming at each other on cable news or blowhard politicians pandering to the base.

Its neighbors taking bread to church so the hungry can have something to eat. Its officers looking at crime stats and saying there’s got to be a better way than just making arrests and throwing away the key.

It’s a community gathering in a A/C deprived church and dreaming of a different kind of school and making it happen.

That’s America. That’s also the real Delray.

So if you ask me what I miss, it’s not necessarily the old-time businesses that sometimes close—that happens. Although, I wish I could have one more breakfast at the counter of Ken and Hazel’s. I also wish I could go inside Boston’s on The Beach and be greeted by my friend Perry just one more time.

What I miss are the special people, the can-do spirit and the community based efforts that made me and so many others fall in love with Delray.

I miss the sense of community and of possibility—the belief that every year would be better than the last. For years and years that’s how it went.

The progress you see today has its roots in those special days. The problems you see today are because we have strayed from the formula that made this place so special.

The ingredients were simple:

Put Delray first.

Take your ego elsewhere.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Don’t be afraid to say yes, to seek out new voices and to try. That spirit gave us Old School Square, a revitalized downtown, historic districts, new schools and some cool special events.

Somewhere beneath the vitriol and division, that heart still beats.

It’s the part of our DNA we would be wise to rediscover. Until then, let’s find the magic wherever we can. And let’s separate the signal from the noise—don’t let the naysayers get you down.

I’m reminded of the old song That’s life.

“And as funny as it may seem some people get their kicks

stomping on a dream.  But I don’t let it, let it get me down

Cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around.”

Yes it does. Thank goodness.

 

I wanted to note the loss of two very special people in recent weeks.

Dr. Henrietta Smith passed April 21. She was 98 and extraordinary.
Dr. Smith was an educator, librarian and storyteller. She edited four editions of the Coretta Scott King Award Collection published by the American Library Association. She won the 2011 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement for her body of work and lasting literary contributions.

She taught at FAU and later became the first Black professor at USF in Tampa. In 2006, at age 84, she accompanied a medical team on a trip down the Amazon River telling stories to the children in the small villages they visited. Like I said, she was something.

She was also the mother of retired Delray Police Officer Robin Smith, who had a fine career in our city.

We’d see Dr. Smith around town over the years at community events and she was always kind, gracious and understated. She will be missed and always remembered. A true legend.

We also lost Ben Ruby on April 25.

Ben was a wonderful man.

 Ben was married to Susan Ruby our terrific former City Attorney. I got to know Ben over the years and he was always great to talk to.

Just a nice man, with a great sense of humor and an unforgettable smile. He and Susan were married for 55 years and set a standard for us all. This was a love affair for the ages and it was great to be a witness to it.

Five years ago, we were blessed to attend a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for Ben and Susan. We were so fortunate to share in a celebration of a special marriage. It takes a lot for the spouse of a public servant to loan their loved ones to the cause of bettering the community. During late night commission meetings I would often look at Susan and think of Ben waiting for her at home.

Ben was a smart man and an accomplished technologist for DHL and the Miami Herald. He was active in the Sunrise Kiwanis Club in Delray Beach and an all-around good guy. He and Susan (whom I adore) are in our prayers.

 

Imagining A New World And The Good Stuff We Leave Behind

Remote work has the potential to upend our work lives forever.

Have you noticed how fast the world moves these days?

Big changes can creep up on you, at first you may hardly notice than all it once the ground shifts and an era is gone.

When I was a kid growing up in 1970s Long Island, malls were all the rage. It’s where we hung out week after week. There was a food court, a Herman’s Sporting Goods Store, a Walden Books, a movie theater and a Spencer’s Gifts. That’s pretty much all we needed unless there was an event that required some new duds—then we moseyed over to Chess King where the polyester flowed like Niagara Falls.

The mall, the neighborhood and school were our world.

My friends all lived within a few miles of each other. I really didn’t know too many people who weren’t from the Tri-State area. Most of our parents were born, raised and lived within the confines of the Island, Westchester, New Jersey and the five boroughs. When a kid from Pennsylvania moved into the neighborhood he seemed exotic. When a family from Oregon moved down the block we lined up to take a look—the Pacific Northwest might as well have been Timbuktu.

 

Today, that’s very different.

Thanks to tech and apps like Tik Tok, our children have friends all over the country and the world. “Friend” of course is a relative term. While my friendships were forged because of proximity and relied on me seeing my buddies every day at school, today young people may never be in the same room with their best friends. They chat, text and play video games with people from all over the world.

It happened slowly and then all it once.

As we begin to see the world post-Covid (we are still very much immersed in the virus and need to be vigilant) what might the world have in store for us?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the fate of retail and office—two big players in our physical world.

Changes in consumer behavior that seemed relatively marginal and slow-moving undermined the value of retail real estate very quickly in the U.S., especially the once beloved shopping mall. Experts believe  the same potential for disruption exists in the office sector, with changes in human behavior being massively accelerated by Covid-19.

I recently read an interview on an influential real estate blog that painted an interesting picture. Here’s what one British expert had to say.

“Offices are not dead; they are very much alive,” RealCorp Capital founder Chris Kanwei said. “But a word of caution I would sound: For most of us, we tend to look at how offices will work in the future from the perspective of our own orientation. An example, if you take UK shopping centers and look back a few years to 2006, shopping centers and retail parks were a huge deal, they were springing up left, right and center. But just on the sidelines there was Amazon. And no one figured out in 2006 where Amazon would be today, and where shopping centers would be. It is just that sort of parallel you have to look at.”

 

Kanwei said part of the inability of retail real estate to see change coming is because a group of people with very similar backgrounds and experience could not envision a future that might be radically different from their own past.

 

“There were arguments put up by mostly middle-aged people at the time: You will always love the shopping center experience, you will always want to go there with your family or your friends on the weekend. And it was a great argument, but it was being made by people to other people who saw life the same way, who had the same future aspirations.”

 

There is the potential for the same thing to happen in the office sector: an expectation that the behavior of future generations will essentially be the same as what has gone before. While the difference might not be as extreme as changes to shopping patterns, they have the possibility nonetheless to drastically alter real estate usage and value.

 

“We have a generation coming up now who are not seeing life the same way,” Kanwei said. “They are not always as interested in going out and playing with their friends. They making friends online in South America, in Russia, in Africa, playing chess games online and interacting. That is the trend: We see more and more people not wanting to engage with other humans directly. Humans collaborating will never be taken away. But we have to understand that there is a generation coming through that won’t just engage in the same way we did. This same generation will be moving in to the offices of the future, and will look to engage differently, and could see the office structure of today as archaic — why would you want to bring all of these people in to the office? And that might well change the outlook people have on offices, in the same way it has in retail. I’m not calling an apocalypse for the office. But if you are investing for the long term, you have to bear in mind, your office investment may have been worth £200M, but down the line it may be worth £5M, as we have seen with shopping centers.”

Yikes.

Still, that scenario is entirely possible.

My 28-year-old son works for a large publicly traded corporation with offices in Palm Beach County. He got the job during Covid, which means he has never worked in the home office. Instead, he’s working out of his living room and thinking of finding bigger digs because his remote working arrangement may prove permanent. He also realizes that he can live anywhere and dial into the office.

He doesn’t seem bothered at all by the situation. As his boomer dad, I can see his point but wonder if he will miss out on the camaraderie, friendship and esprit de corps of working side by side with co-workers instead of screen by screen.

I happen to like the office.

I’ve worked in newsrooms (which are the best)—chock full of characters working on interesting stories and more “corporate” environments where I was able to make some lasting friendships.

As someone who values collaboration and who always has lots of questions for my colleagues the idea of working remotely forever doesn’t appeal to me.

I like the collision of ideas, the rhythm of the day, the ‘hey what are we doing for lunch’ routine that makes the day fly by.

As Seth Godin says: “The optimism and possibility that come from training and learning in groups is a miracle. It means that, with a little effort, we can level up, become more productive and enjoy the work more tomorrow than we did yesterday.”

So as we gradually emerge from our Covid cocoons, I hope we slow down and make some conscious decisions. Do we really want to give up the office?

After all, while millions enjoy the convenience of Amazon and a “one-click” society, didn’t we lose something by putting all those neighborhood retailers out of business?
Trade-offs.

Convenience versus camaraderie. Price versus personal service. Digital versus experience.

There’s no holding back the future—it will come. That’s the law. But we can and should choose wisely.

Here’s hoping we do.

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.

 

 

 

Good Begets Good

Carl DeSantis

What do Kim Kardashian, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett have in common with the gentleman I share Jimmy John sandwiches with every Monday and Wednesday?

I asked myself that question last week when the annual Forbes Billionaires List was released and my friend Carl DeSantis’ name appeared alongside a who’s who of international business icons.

Unlike many flamboyant titans on the list, Carl is a quiet and private person. You won’t catch him tweeting, showing off or bragging about his accomplishments which are many. His modesty is why we were so thrilled to see Forbes include Carl and do a feature story on him as well. We feel strongly that he deserves the recognition he works hard to avoid.

After all, very few business leaders have helped steered two companies to multi billion dollar valuations like my friend Carl.

He founded Rexall Sundown which became the world’s biggest vitamin company and he’s been a guiding force for Celsius which is rapidly becoming one of the hottest beverage brands in the world.

It’s a staggering achievement in a career that started modestly as a store manager for Walgreens.

Along the way, he has changed lives, nurtured careers, delighted investors in his companies and given generously to causes and organizations he believes in. In a word, he’s a mensch.

When we got the call from Forbes, those of us who work at his family office CDS International Holdings in Boca Raton, were more excited than Carl was. In fact, he wasn’t excited at all. As I mentioned, he doesn’t really like the attention but we were thrilled that such a prestigious publication was recognizing our friend and mentor. When we made contact with the editor of the project, he told us that not only did Carl make the list for his ownership stake in Celsius (NASDAQ: Celh) but they were interested in doing a feature on his one of a kind career.

With some gentle cajoling, we convinced him to do an interview and I promised to sit along side him for our phone call with Forbes. Joining us was Carl’s long time friend and assistant Jim Steinhauser who has been at Carl’s side for 34 years.

That’s how Carl rolls—loyalty, family, collaboration. He promotes a culture of input from everyone and lives by a simple credo: “good begets good.”

In short, he has been a blessing to so many lives.

Wealth and riches are not the true measure of a life well lived and while Carl certainly has both, he knows that the only scorecard that really matters is how we treat people and how we use our gifts to benefit the communities we touch. We can all attest that he lives up those ideals. He’s kind, gentle, compassionate and extremely generous. He’s also very unique.

Carl’s innate talent is his uncanny ability to discern whether a product will resonate in the hearts and minds of consumers. He can look at an idea or a brand and tell you with certainty whether it will succeed.

He believes the gift is innate or G-d given; refusing to take credit for a special ability or talent.

In the case of Celsius, he was a steadfast believer even when, especially when, the brand was left for dead a number of years ago after being delisted from NASDAQ and when product was shipped back off the shelves of stores nationwide.

He never stopped believing in Celsius and he never stopped putting his money behind his belief.

It was going to work, he insisted and because he believed we did too. All of us.

Carl doesn’t know it but he’s inspiring in his own unique way. He doesn’t give flowery speeches but he has a special way of letting you know he believes in you and the mission we are on—and that if we stay the course we will succeed.

That’s leadership. The ability to instill that belief in a team. There is nothing more powerful.

The story of Celsius is still being written but it’s a remarkable saga of resilience, hard work, belief, investment, trial and error and a miraculous breakthrough.

The brand that was born in a small warehouse like office in downtown Delray is now sold internationally and is valued at close to $4 billion.

There have been many key players in this ongoing story and I hope someday that the full story will be told because it contains many lessons for budding entrepreneurs.

But the steady thread has been my friend Carl.

We’ve been working side by side for years now on a variety of projects and he has taught me more than I can ever adequately describe.

I adore him.

I’m not alone. Like I said earlier, he has touched a lot of lives.

And at an age when many have long retired, he continues to make some noise. I love that about him.

For all the success he has experienced, he’s never grown complacent. He still wants to win—the right way through generosity, teamwork, love and concern for others.

He knows that success is never final and failure doesn’t have to be fatal. And now we know that too.

A few years back, on the occasion of Carl’s 80th birthday, a colleague and I produced a book on some of the lessons we have learned from out friend over the years. We gave it to Carl and his family which includes those of us who work for CDS, his family office.

When the Forbes piece hit last week, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at that book. Maybe we could flesh it out, freshen it up and publish it because it might help others.

We tried to capture the wisdom and essence of a very special man. Of course, we won’t be able to come close but even if we can distill a little of what we’ve learned it would be worth it.

My friend is that special.

Here’s the link to the Forbes article. It’s awesome. So is Carl.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/hanktucker/2021/04/07/florida-octogenarian-becomes-a-billionaire-after-investing-in-celsius-energy-drink/?fbclid=IwAR0b8Hfu8AvPRIPQE3zirA3ojVAuLtR0s-Cs1VgD9kEpu0SunEWGWeXi25A&sh=3c373f562b62

 

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

Smart Capital + Vision= Transformation

Boynton Beach’s new city hall anchors an ambitious vision that includes culture and business.

Have you seen the blizzard of news coming out of Miami?
It seems like every day there’s a major announcement; one headline more exciting than the other.

–“SoftBank makes $100mm bet on Miami as next US tech hub”—Financial Times

–“Why Miami is the next hot tech hub”—Crunchbase

–“Miami is becoming a magnet for companies trying to escape high taxes”—CNBC

And the list of interesting news goes on and on.

But the headline that intrigued me the most came from the real estate site Bisnow: “Miami Billionaire Launching Downtown Innovation Hub.”

The story details how Moishe Mana has broken ground on a downtown building that he intends to make the center of a burgeoning tech and startup community.

The 13-story “Nikola Tesla Innovation Center” will have 136,000 SF of space, mostly for offices with 2% reserved for retail. It is expected to be completed at the end of this year, with occupancy to begin in Q1 of 2022.

Mana and his team assembled about 60 properties downtown; which is an impressive feat. But he has also laid out an audacious goal: make the area the “economic engine of Miami.”

While the real estate “placemaking” is an interesting part of the equation it’s only one part of the vision. Mana is also doing what he can to assemble talent and connect key players who can make the dream come true.

In January, Mana announced a partnership with California based Plug N Play, a “global innovation platform” that works to build relationships between startups and large corporations.

Also at the table is city and county government and that’s important and essential.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is getting a lot of buzz these days for using his Twitter account to talk with tech titans and sell them on the virtues of Miami. Mayor-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, was my Leadership Florida classmate, and I can say with certainty that nobody will work harder to make things happen. Daniella is the real deal.

So yes, the stars are aligning in Miami.

While vision is also important and essential so is the ability to execute.

I researched Mr. Mana’s career and learned that he has done something similar before; he played a key role in transforming Manhattan’s Meatpacking District from a derelict section of the city into a trendy area driven by art and culture.

Mr. Mana’s strategy for Miami also includes art and culture. The concept is being called “Mana Common.”

On a recent webinar discussing the projects Mana had this to say.

“I totally understood we needed to do something exceptional,” Mana said. “The problem is, every time there is a neighborhood built, then come the real estate funds that basically destroy the whole ecosystem. So I said, ‘We’re going to buy a big critical mass of real estate and we’re going to build a sustainable community where we do not need to trade with the real estate.’ This is a home for the brain. This is a home for creation. This is a home for changing a city.”

The operative word in that thought is exceptional—the desire to do something special and transformational.

Closer to home, I recently took a tour of Boynton Beach’s new City Hall complex, innovation center, library, children’s museum and amphitheater. If you haven’t seen this project yet, it’s well worth the drive.

The vision shown by this public private partnership is inspiring and the potential is enormous.

The City Hall— which includes ample community space— is beautiful with natural light and cozy meeting rooms available to the public.

The plan is to add a café and build out a space that will be used to grow local companies.

Post-Covid there will opportunities for art, music and events in a beautiful open space anchored by the amphitheater.

As I took the tour, I thought to myself “hey, Boynton Beach has got it going on.” I think it’s the nicest City Hall I’ve seen.

I admire cities and entrepreneurs who aspire.

Smart capital + Vision= transformation.

It’s not a sure thing. But you miss every shot you don’t take.

All Healing Is Local

“All healing is local.” – David Schmidt, former mayor and newly installed Chair of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce.

 

I had a chance to catch a replay of the Delray Chamber’s Annual Membership Luncheon and Installation of Officers on Facebook recently.

It was a nice virtual event and the Chamber is to be commended for weathering a brutal 2020. It’s important that our community have an active and strong chamber and that business in our city has a voice.

Outgoing Chair Noreen Payne is a wonderful person who did a remarkable job alongside President Stephanie Immelman and a small but dedicated staff.  Not only did they keep the chamber alive during a pandemic, but they kept the organization relevant too. We should all be grateful.

For more than 90 years, the Delray Chamber has been a leader in our community producing Delray’s signature event, The Delray Affair, advocating for business and supporting all aspects of community life.

It’s an important institution; a pillar in a disposable world in which pillars are rare and needed more than ever.

That’s why I am thrilled to have seen the installation of my friend Dave Schmidt as the chair for 2021.

Mayor Dave —as I call him— is a steady, capable and intelligent leader at a time when we crave those traits.

He’s also correct when he says that all healing is local, a take-off on Speaker Tip O’Neill’s old adage that all politics is local.

Friends, our little village by the sea has become a pretty toxic place at least during election season.

If you swing by Facebook and spend five minutes perusing the pages devoted to Delray Beach, you will witness the social media version of Chernobyl. Warning: prolonged exposure will give you hives and make you want to pack your bags and leave our perfect weather for Antarctica.

At least nobody is trying to turn Antarctica into Fort Lauderdale.

In case you don’t know, we are in the middle of an election season in Delray with the mayor’s seat and two commission seats up for grabs on March 9.

We have the usual accusations of stolen signs and the tired and false narratives about evil developers and behind the scenes power brokers. I’ve been accused of being a power broker myself…someone who controls events from behind the scenes. It’s insulting because truth be told— if I were doing so— I’d be doing a better job because the city is a hot mess and that’s not my modus operandi.

I like progress, vision, outcomes and aspiration. I think we all do, but from where I sit, we’re sorely lacking in all of those areas. And I also value good relations with city staff, local organizations and our police, fire and general employees. We’re having some “challenges” there as well.

A few days from our election, candidates are being accused of anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, crimes, corruption, extremism, bullying and all-around thuggery.

Yes, we are going to need some healing after the dust settles. Check that, we are going to need a whole lot of healing.

And I would hope some reflection too because temperatures don’t get this hot in a healthy town.

I write this while still recovering from watching graphic video of traitorous thugs who violently attacked the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. Watching the footage made me physically ill.

What’s going on?

Really, what’s going on?

The Capitol Building—built by slaves, where so many American heroes worked to create Democracy, was desecrated. If you are a true patriot, not some guy with a headdress dressed like a shaman, but someone who loves America, that footage levels you. You just can’t shake the images.

Unbridled social media, unchecked meanness and years of incitement leads to violence. In hindsight, it seems inevitable.

I can see this dynamic unfolding right here if we don’t take a deep breath and check ourselves.

I’m hoping—regardless of who wins—that we can have a reset after the March 9 election. We desperately need one. We have to learn to be a community again.

Right now, we are terribly and dangerously divided.

I’m not the only who feels this way. Many long time contributors to Delray have similar feelings.

The fact that we feel this way annoys some people who would just rather continue down this ruinous path of insult and division.

Over the years, whenever I and others have ventured an opinion there have been attempts to silence us. Some people express shock when you express an opinion. Some of these people would like us PIPS (previously important people) to sit home and stay quiet.

It’s the local version of shut up and dribble. Sorry, not going to happen.

I believe you only critique the stuff that you care about, otherwise why bother.  The truth is I (and many other “exes and formers and used- to- be’s) love this town.

We care about the people who live here. We care about the people who work here and we care about the businesses who invest here.

We are all stakeholders.

Everyone should have a voice and everyone should be encouraged to use that voice hopefully to build a better community.

I have long believed that being a “village” was a lot more than the size of our buildings, which will never be more than 54 feet tall downtown. Friends, we will never be Fort Lauderdale, or even Boynton Beach or Boca Raton which allow 100 foot tall buildings.

We have to find a way to raise the level of discourse in this community and frankly that starts at the commission level.

Our elected officials may not run the day to day operations of the city, but they are tasked with setting the tone for our community. The mayor and city commission own culture.

And culture is everything.

It’s how we feel about our city. It’s how we treat each other. It’s about civility, respect, kindness and compassion.

That does not mean holding hands and singing kumbaya. Some decisions are tough ones and they are divisive by their very nature. We will “win” some votes and be on the losing side of others, but we must learn how to debate better and then move on. This level of divisiveness is not healthy or sustainable.

Our city has a reputation and it isn’t a good one.

The notion that our CRA did nothing for 30 years until it was taken over the by commission is just not true. And anyone who doesn’t believe that can email me through this blog and I will give you a personal tour of projects.

Here’s another myth….our labor unions are not greedy—their job is to care for the welfare of their membership. But they see the big picture too and if you work with them and listen—you’ll find them to be reasonable people who care about our city and are proud to serve us. In my mind, their endorsements mean something.

In terms of aspiration…our northwest and southwest neighborhoods are passionate about the future of The Set, why can’t we work with our neighbors to realize their vision for their neighborhood?  And why can’t we call the neighborhood The Set?

While we are on the subject of vision, I chaired the Congress Avenue Task Force, never did we consider getting rid of a lane of traffic. There was plenty of talk about making it safer to cross the street. Is that controversial?

Sigh…

It wasn’t always like this.

We can blame social media, but that doesn’t change anything.

All of us have to do better. Me too. I thought long and hard about this blog and others. I’m not naming names, there’s nastiness on all “sides” and it’s all wrong and wasted energy.

A happy village is a better village.

If any place can do it, it’s Delray.

We can be the beacon that other communities look to in a nation sorely in need of reconciliation.

We have done this before.

After 9/11—when we learned that many of the terrorists lived here among us—we came together.

When one of our firefighters, Pete Firehock, was murdered—we came together.

In February 2005, when Jerrod Miller was shot and killed, we grieved and we came together.

We were leaders in just about any category you can name: downtown rejuvenation, affordable housing, education, race relations, citizen engagement, urban planning, redevelopment, neighborhood revitalization, historic preservation, sports, events, the use of culture to drive community rebirth and the list goes on.

But for the list to grow. We need some healing.

Right now.

 

Note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sad passing of Richard Jones, a super talented architect and very nice man who did a lot for Delray. We pray for his family during this difficult time. We also continue to pray for the memory of Jerrod Miller, someone I think of every day. 2021 marks the 16th year since Jerrod was killed outside the Delray Full Service Center. That means he is gone one year longer than he lived. That fact is a hard one to fathom. We mourn his loss.