Restaurants and Nightlife in Delray Beach and Boca Raton

When it comes to restaurants and nightlife few cities can compare to Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

Delray Beach was recently named the “Most Fun Town” in America by the Travel Channel and Rand McNally as a result of its incredible restaurant scene and vibrant downtown night life.

Atlantic Avenue has to be experienced to be believed. Very few streets in America have block after block of amazing restaurants, shops, galleries and nightclubs that appeal to all ages. Safe, with ample parking, downtown Delray ends at the ocean and is considered one of the finest Main Streets in America.

Boca Raton is also home to scores of incredible restaurants and has its own vibrant nightlife along Palmetto Park Road and in its renowned Mizner Park.

Big Dreams & Big Bets

The Delray Beach Market

The Delray Beach Market is the talk of the town.

As well it should be.

At 150,000 square feet, the market is said to be the largest food hall in Florida.

It’s big, bold and brave.

It also represents a colossal investment in the future of Delray Beach so it’s audacious too. I like the audacious part. We cheer big, bold and brave bets on this blog. Small bets too. We like people who try. It’s the risk takers who leave a legacy.

Basically, the market is a food incubator enabling chef/entrepreneurs to pioneer concepts at what’s probably a reasonable cost of entry.

Downtown Delray Beach has become a foodie haven but with that success, the barrier to entry has gotten very expensive. Rents of $100 a square foot are common, build out costs can be exorbitant and competition is fierce. Atlantic Avenue has become its own ecosystem with eye popping statistics accompanying the buzz. Hand’s Stationers just sold for a whopping $1,100 a foot. That’s an astonishing number especially considering the limitations of what you can and can’t do with a building in the downtown. Let’s just say you’d have to sell an awful lot of number two pencils to make those numbers work.

Meanwhile, the new food hall allows entrepreneurs to get into business for much less than the cost of opening a full-service restaurant. It also enables them to gain exposure to the hordes of people flocking downtown these days without having to consult the Forbes Billionaires List to find investors.

I’m sure the model hopes for the vendor’s to succeed so that they can launch traditional restaurants and allow for other fresh concepts to come into the market.

We went to the grand opening party a few weeks back and couldn’t find anyone who wasn’t floored by the sheer scale of the ambition behind this project. It’s a big bet.

Subsequently, I’ve heard a range of opinions (mostly positive) but a few who are questioning how or whether this $60 million investment will work. Speculating on a business model is above my pay grade. I’ve been involved with can’t miss deals that fizzled and have also been involved with impossible dreams that turned into wild success stories including one multibillion dollar brand (Celsius) that was left for dead on several occasions and now has a market cap of $5 billion plus. Go figure.

Personally, I wouldn’t bet against Craig Menin—the developer behind the market and several other huge bets in Delray Beach including the Ray Hotel and The Linton. There’s a strategy unfolding here and it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

I’ve had the pleasure of spending a little time with Mr. Menin and he’s a fascinating man. A visionary with a lot of courage.

My advice is to never bet against the innovators. Not every bet lands you in the winner’s circle and you have to have the cash to play, but the big winners in business are those who find the courage to roll the dice and think big.

What I’m seeing is a company that believes in distinctive architecture, luxury amenities and the power of food and beverage to drive value and community.

Anyway, we sure have seen a lot in Delray over the years.

Leaving the party that Friday night, I found myself experiencing a bunch of different emotions.

I thought about how much we have changed since I came to Delray in the summer of ’87.

I thought about how when we did the Downtown Master Plan in 2001, we were dreaming big. Those dreams matched or maybe even exceeded the ambitions that were attached to Visions 2000, the landmark charrette process that led to the Decade of Excellence in the 1990s. Yes, my friends, we were swinging for the fences.

Back then, we were trying to get on the map and build something sustainable—something of value.

We can and we do argue over whether what’s happened here has been good or bad. And I can argue and empathize with both sides of the growth/change divide.

But…here’s one thing I think is immutable. Change is a constant. It’s inevitable.

We can and have sought to “shape” the growth with height limits and other tools designed to maintain our scale.

Despite the rhetoric of the last election cycle, we will never be another Fort Lauderdale. We won’t even be another Boynton Beach. Both cities —and Boca too— allow much taller buildings. We will always be a three and four story town.

But I can see why some people lament the congestion and activity and what they see as the loss of the laid back “village by the sea” aesthetic, although I would argue that you can still find quiet places to enjoy.

I can also see why others are cheering what’s happening.

They like the activity.

They appreciation the vibrancy and they benefit from the value being created.

If you own a home in east Delray, your property values—often a family’s largest asset—have appreciated substantially since the days when downtown Delray was rife with vacancies. If we lived adjacent to a dead and decaying downtown, it’s doubtful we would be seeing the real estate prices we are seeing.

I get it, it doesn’t matter unless you’re selling and it stinks if you want to buy in at this high level, but I think increasing values sure beats the alternative.

Choices.

Change.

The march of time….

Cities evolve.

We can and should do our best to shape that change—incentivize behaviors we want to see, restrict those we don’t wish to experience.

But market and societal forces are strong and it might be better to recognize that and adjust accordingly. It makes for a happier village and it also enables us to exert more control.

Change is going to happen. We are going to like some things and not like others.

You can’t shape what you don’t understand. You have a shot if you meet the world where it’s heading.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

Special Places Lift Our Spirits

 

 

 

 

Old School Square in patriotic splendor.          Let’s  start with the obvious.

This has been one horrendous year.
Let’s be honest,  if years were things, 2020 would be a smoldering dumpster fire.

I don’t have to or want to recount the craziness and tragedy, we know it all too well. We are engulfed by it.

What I do want to write about is what can soothe us during troubled times.
So here’s something to try— inspired by Yankee magazine—one of my favorite publications because it celebrates the best of New England.
Yankee’s basic premise is that places are special because they tell stories, have distinctive styles and personalities and that we ought to explore as much as we possibly can.
When I scanned the most recent issue it got me a little down because I know that at least this year, there’s no way to see any of the amazing places described in the magazine.
But then I had a thought, what are the local places that make me happy either because they are beautiful or trigger positive memories.
So I decided to take inventory of those places— first in my mind and then via a car ride—which is still possible even during this time of Covid.
I visited old homes and neighborhoods, cruised Atlantic Avenue, took a walk on Banker’s Row, went to Papas Tapas (love that place), cruised around the West Settlers District, swung by the Catherine Strong Splash Park, went north  then south on A1A, visited Lake Ida Park where I have walked all of my dogs over the years and parked across the street from Old School Square where so many of my “Delray memories” were launched.
I dropped by Knowles Park to visit the Intracoastal and took a drive west to the Morikami.
I drove the bridges at George Bush, Atlantic, Linton and Spanish River—for some reason I’ve always loved bridges. Maybe that stems from childhood when crossing the Whitestone Bridge meant we were visiting my grandparents.
Anyway, it did my soul some good.
It’s not the same as discovering a new place or going to Maine but somehow it was soothing.
I think it’s because the act of thinking about which places mean something to you triggers endorphins, memories and positive feelings.
I thought of the people I’ve met over the years at Old School Square, the photo shoot we did with my now 30 year old daughter at Morikami, great neighbors we’ve had, friends who live in certain neighborhoods and votes we took on the City Commission that led to new places and exciting things—-Bexley Park, Coral Trace, CityWalk, Ocean City Lofts, the public art program etc etc.
For a moment, I forgot about 2020 the nightmare and focused on the sense of place we enjoy.
This summer I had dreamed of going to New England, there’s something about the region that speaks to me. That dream has been dashed.
We’ve been grounded. At least for now.
So my visions of weather beaten cottages along the Maine coast will be replaced with drives around Palm Beach County.
Things could be worse.
And I promise they will get better.

Monday Thoughts

Random thoughts….
Question: how are we going to get a vaccine by the end of the year if we haven’t yet figured out a way to stock toilet paper in our stores?
A friend texted me the other day and said he hated the term “new normal.”
I agree.
We can’t think that we will be living in a pandemic forever. We just can’t. We will get back to living life which includes socializing with other humans.
What do I miss most?
Hugs. Giving them and getting them.
There is no acceptable excuse to avoid a Zoom call or Zoom Happy Hour. What are you going to say, ‘I’m busy’—it doesn’t fly.
The press is not the enemy of the people. It’s the guarantor of our Democracy.
I hate inaccurate reporting as much as the next person and have been on the receiving end of bad reporting. But our First Amendment sets us apart and we must get back to a place where we can agree on objective facts.  PS There is some remarkable journalism being practiced today. Look no further than the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and right  here at home I’ve been impressed recently by the work of C. Ron Allen in the Boca Tribune.
It’s alarming that Palm Beach County is one of three counties nationally considered high risk thanks to increasing infections.
We took a ride downtown over the weekend and didn’t see a lot of social distancing. Complacency in these times can get you and others in trouble. It can kill you.
One of the saving graces of staying at home in 2020: streaming services.
Can you call imagine how long the nights would be without Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime?
Here’s a few recommendations: “Never Have I Ever” on Netflix, “Upload” on Amazon and “I Know This Much is True” on HBO.
Also don’t miss “The Last Dance” on ESPN.
There is some talk about moving the start of hurricane season to May from June.
Between coronavirus, murder hornets, locusts and toilet paper shortages I would argue that we can do without hurricanes this year.
We’ve got enough on the plate for a while.
On a personal note, I wanted to thank everyone for the overwhelming support after we posted about the loss of our beloved golden retriever Teddy last week.
We received flowers, cards, comforting messages and even a poster featuring Teddy.
He was the best dog imaginable.
I believe he’s in a better place, free of pain and that we will see each other again.
Thank you for all the love and concern. You are the very best.  And again of you can rescue a pet please do so. You will find that they rescue you.

Preparing For Recovery

I moved to Delray Beach just when efforts to revitalize the city were beginning to kick into gear.

The year was 1987, so I had just missed Mayor Doak Campbell’s Atlantic Avenue Task Force, an effort that served as an important precursor to the massive efforts that were about to be launched.

But I was there for Visions 2000, the Decade of Excellence, Visions 2005, Sharing for Excellence (which focused on the city’s schools) the Downtown Master Plan and a host of other efforts that created modern day Delray Beach, a three time All America City, that has earned national acclaim for its redevelopment efforts, successful downtown, events, culture and food scene.

It’s been quite a ride—turbulent at times, but joyous too.
Now in the midst of a pandemic I am reminded every time I drive down Atlantic Avenue about those early years when downtown was dead and buried in a lot of people’s hearts and minds.

Delray came back as a result of careful planning, massive public investment, risky private investment and a playbook that included everything from a downtown tennis stadium and festivals to a focus on culture and a big bet on food and beverage as a driver of commerce and branding. A strong commitment to Community Policing was another indispensable tool. If people don’t feel safe, they simply won’t spend time or money in your city.

In a pandemic, most of those tools are largely off the table—- for now at least. So I wonder how we will fare in the short and long term.
Long term I think we will find a vaccine and effective treatments that will give us the confidence to venture out again and be among people.
That’s what downtowns do best if they are healthy. They bring us together.

But short term it may be a while before we see restaurants packed and feel comfortable enough to attend festivals with thousands of people.

Thanks to societal changes, retail doesn’t appear to be viable option especially in a high rent environment.
Pineapple Grove has done well as center of personal services and hopefully salons, gyms and the like can safely re-open soon.

We never quite had a huge office component downtown and one wonders where that sector will be in the wake of the coronavirus. Many companies are realizing they can effectively operate remotely and may not require the large offices they now occupy.

Still, there are opportunities at Atlantic Crossing and the IPic building to bring workers downtown.
In time, it will also be important to get anchors such as Old School Square and the Arts Garage up and running again.
The arts are a morale booster and an economic development engine.

I also think  there is  a great opportunity to introduce educational uses downtown and perhaps someday (post vaccine) that will be possible too.

Tourism is a huge part of our economy and we finally have a critical mass of hotel rooms after years of lacking capacity.
In time, if the hotels can stay alive, that sector will bounce back and be a critical piece of our economic recovery.
My belief is we need a short term survival plan because long term we can bounce back because the fundamentals are there. But it will be harder to bounce back if we lose too much of what we had prior to the pandemic.
What’s probably needed is a local city specific Marshall Plan.
Is that an overreaction? Maybe, but what we seem to be facing is an economic event unlike any we’ve experienced since the Great Depression.
So in my estimate, it will take big and bold thinking to restore a sustainable local economy that has the potential—if done right—to be better than pre-Coronavirus.
Tall order?
Perhaps.
But we are starting with a decent foundation this time.
Back then, all we had were good bones and a lot of dreams.
A slew of visionaries made it happen then, we can do it again.

Ingenuity in Crisis

There’s a little bit of Edison in all of us.

 

“The value of an idea, lies in the using of it.” -Thomas Edison.

There’s no amount of perfume that you can put on this pandemic to make it smell good.
So I won’t try.
This stinks.
It’s scary, surreal and tragic.
But….
But I’m heartened somewhat by some of the things I’m seeing and experiencing.
As I work the phones, email, Zoom and Chime I’m impressed by the ingenuity, resilience, generosity and innovation I am seeing.
People are doing all they can to make it work, to stay alive and to survive if not quite thrive.
Companies are figuring out how to work remotely, charities and arts organizations are figuring out ways to raise funds and stay relevant and schools are digging deep to find ways to educate their students.
Make no mistake, the pandemic is taking a toll and I’ve had my fair share of calls from friends worried about their businesses and jobs.
I’ve had other calls from friends concerned for their health and the health of their loved ones.
But I’ve also had a lot of conversations about life. And they’ve been good.
I think the pandemic has made us appreciate some of the simple things in life that we might take for granted.
From going to the beach and the gym to visiting local restaurants and stores, it will be a long while before we take these simple pleasures for granted once we are able to return to these places.
As for me, I miss my office mates, the kibitzing, the daily debate over where to eat lunch and the great feeling that Friday brings.
Right now, I don’t even know what day it is.
I miss movies, shows and walking the mall with my brother in law and sister in law.
I miss Saturday night.
You know date night…right now every night is date night which is cool but I’d much rather have a romantic evening at La Cigale than watch (yet) another episode of “Say Yes to the Dress.”
But I digress.
There’s a whole lot of discussion of what comes next and how things won’t return to normal.
So here’s a few general predictions.
Remote meetings are here to stay but I think as soon as it’s safe we will want to congregate again. We are social creatures and let’s face it, we miss each other.
I think the Eat Local, Shop Local ethos is also here to stay and that’s a very good thing.
There’s nothing better we can do than to support local businesses.
It’s not only good for the civic soul, it’s good for the economy as well. Buying local ensures that our money will circulate right here at home.

There will be a lasting appreciation for doctors, nurses, medical workers, restaurant staff, delivery drivers, first responders, grocery store staff, teachers and others who truly make our world go round but are rarely appreciated or compensated for their work. Let’s hope this newfound —or in some cases rediscovered —appreciation leads to meaningful policies that will make people’s  lives easier in terms of housing, health care and compensation. It may take a while but let’s get started.

There will be a lot of focus on local manufacturing, farming  and public health. Long, long overdue. Let’s build that infrastructure, let’s get after it.

Some will rediscover respect for expertise.
Some will acknowledge that Ronald Reagan’s tired old “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem” philosophy has proven to be ridiculous.
Of course, government isn’t the answer to all problems. But good government is necessary, good government is important and let’s face it when the poop hits the fan we look to government to provide answers.
We need to improve government not destroy it. We need public service to be respected and we need to attract the best and the brightest to the field.
We humans are interesting. Once we absorb the shock, we get about the business of making things work. The best of us seek to help, educate, volunteer and innovate.
I can’t wait to see what this crisis will yield. I do believe with all my heart that it will be a different but better world.

Seizing the Golden Hour

 

Have you heard about the golden hour?
The golden hour is the period of time following a traumatic injury during which there is the highest likelihood that prompt medical and surgical treatment will prevent death.
In a crisis, I have a hunch that there’s a golden hour as well.
While in medicine, the golden hour is literally an hour, in other endeavors we are given a longer time to seize the moment. Not forever. But a season perhaps. 
 
For America, life post Covid-19, whenever that may be, will be different. But will it be better?
 
It can, if we want it to be. 
 
The crisis laid bare some real weaknesses. 
Our public health care system was caught unprepared for this pandemic. We lacked resources and equipment and we found that when we needed to replenish our stocks we had to look overseas. 
We now have an opportunity to strengthen our health care system and recapture our manufacturing capacity to ensure our national security. 
We also have an opportunity to reconsider some of the people we’ve forgotten in our society. 
 
Teachers, hospital workers, delivery drivers, supermarket staff, restaurant workers, pharmacists and support staff, first responders , farm workers (many foreign and undocumented) are essential to our society. That has been made clear by this crisis. Yet many live paycheck to paycheck often without health insurance. During this pandemic, we have asked them to risk their lives to keep us afloat in our time of need. Maybe, just maybe, we will begin to think of these important workers differently. Maybe, just maybe, we can find it in our hearts, to extend them healthcare, a living wage and an affordable place to live. 
Prior to this we haven’t done those things have we?
Maybe now we will look at policies and attitudes that have prevented tens of millions from climbing the ladder and sharing in the American Dream.  
And if we think this work is for someone else to do we’d be wrong. 
Sure, the president and Congress have a role to play and to date they’ve failed to stem the forces that have kept so many from living a secure and stable life. But we have a role too. 
On the local level, we have an opportunity to be better citizens. We have an opportunity to support our schools and our teachers. We have an opportunity to support our first responders and front line workers by advocating for policies that support housing near jobs and transit. 
We can be smart consumers and shop local. 
Delray’s economy is built on real estate, food, beverage, tourism and culture. 
There are other industries in town and they are important. 
 We need to diversify for sure. 
But we also need to cherish what makes us who we are. 
The chef Jose Andres was on 60 Minutes last week discussing his heroic efforts to feed the hungry in America.
The hungry in America.
Digest that for a moment.
The richest nation on Earth has people who are hungry and homeless. Lots of them. 
We have people who struggle and live lives of quiet despair. We can and should seek to help these people. We have the solutions. Do we have the will? 
Will we seize the golden hour?
Mr. Andres says the local restaurants in our community represent our DNA. When we support these establishments we support the men and women who work there, those who fish, grow our food and deliver it to our homes when we decide to take out. 
I think that’s true. 
Restaurants are the largest U.S employer supporting more than 15 million jobs that add about $1 trillion to the economy according to the Wall Street Journal. This month, they are expected to lose $50 billion in revenue. 
We are seeing a yeoman’s effort right now to support and save our local restaurants. 
It’s heartwarming.

But when this crisis passes, will we care about where these workers live? Will we show concern for their health care needs and whether they have a path to a life of stability? 
I hope so.
It’s our choice. 
 
 

A Time to Evolve

In business, what’s dangerous is not to evolve.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO.

I thought of that quote as I see the businesses in our communities rise to the occasion during this unique period of peril in our world.

Sit down restaurants pivot to a takeout model, delivery services cope with a monumental increase in volume, hospitals and their workers perform heroically, auto companies retool and crank out ventilators, educators figure out ways to reach their students and schools find a way to feed families.
It’s breathtaking.
Yes, finding  toilet paper can still be a challenge, but Americans by and large are rising to the occasion.

It’s heartening to see because I suspect that our political dysfunction obscures our sense of what’s possible.
So this is a good time to observe how entrepreneurs in all walks of life figure a way forward. That’s not to say that everyone is going to make it, this pandemic is a monumental challenge and there will be plenty of businesses that won’t make it.

The Palm Beach Post ran a poignant story this week outlining the toll the pandemic has had on new businesses. We are seeing how hard it is for newspapers and magazines to pivot to digital. You can report online but finding a business model that pays for good journalism is hard.
Still, companies large and small are not going down without a fight.
And it’s that fighting spirit and our innovative chops that will ultimately get us out of this mess.
It will come at a cost. A high one at that, in terms of lives, illness, mental stress and trillions of dollars but we will get out of this and we will thrive again …someday.
Speaking of evolving, this is a good time to look at our leaders and see if they are evolving too.
This crisis will force leaders in business, government, education, health care, the non-profit world and the military to adapt and evolve.
Some will have to evolve their leadership styles. Others will have to adjust their governing philosophies or their business models.
Those that do, will succeed. Those that don’t, won’t make it.
This is a time when leaders communicate more and in better ways. This is a time when real leaders cast a wide net and ask for help and advice even from their rivals and competitors.
It’s an era that will require strength and empathy, vision and attention to the day to day blocking and tackling which just got a whole lot harder.
Leaders are defined by how they navigate challenges. It’s easier to be in charge in good times when investment is pouring in and opportunities are abundant. It’s hard when everywhere you look is a minefield and the path forward is shrouded in fog.
Partisanship aside, I’m impressed with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He strikes me as someone steeped in facts, willing to take responsibility, empathetic and wholly human. He’s providing us a real time master class in leadership.
In business, I’m liking what I’m seeing out of GM CEO Mary Barra who is reconfiguring factories to crank out hard to make ventilators. Her workers and engineers are amazing.
I’m also impressed by our Firefighters Union for stepping up and pooling their cash to support local restaurants and their recent public appeal not to buy them meals or coffee but to save those efforts for families in need.

We often see our unions slammed during election season. But this proves what I’ve always known (because I’ve worked with these men and women) that these people are dedicated professionals who are loyal to our community. Sure they care about their pensions and benefits ( as they should)  but they also care about us. They have always gone above and beyond and that’s to be commended and cherished.

Same with nurses, doctors, teachers, restaurant workers, grocery store employees and those who deliver packages.
We are fortunate.
Yes, even in this horrible time of pandemic, we are fortunate.