Old Friends…

Old friends sit on the park bench like bookends.

What a slog we’ve been through.

What an exhausting and scary experience Covid has been for all of us.

Worldwide more than 3.2 million people have died from the virus and that number is likely an undercount. We have lost almost 600,000 Americans and despite a light at the end of the tunnel we are not out of the woods yet… but we can see the light that leads to normal.

Still, I don’t see us ever forgetting this experience. The pandemic has changed us—I’m hoping for the better.

Lately, I have been having some “Covid dreams”—it’s a phenomenon that I have read a few articles about. Some therapists call it a form of PTSD, others say it is how we humans process what we’ve been through. I don’t know what to call it, but for me the dreams are vivid and frequent.

I’m often trapped in a room, or a box with blank walls. In my dreams, I call out but no one hears me. I’m alone.

The other day, I  dreamt I was in a room filling with water chasing after a piece of paper. I’m not sure what the paper represents or what was on it but I just couldn’t get it. When I would get close, it would slosh away on a wave.

Like I mentioned before, I’m not alone in the crazy dream business.

A change in dreams due to a crisis is very common, says Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard. When we’re in a dream state, the brain is processing the same things we think about during the day. But when we’re asleep, the parts of our brain that handle logic and speech are damped down. The parts that handle visuals, however, are ramped up.


Barrett has been collecting dreams from people all over the world since the start of the pandemic. She says common dream themes range from actually getting the virus to natural disasters and bug attacks. Healthcare workers have regularly reported the highest level of stressful COVID-19 dreams, according to her data.


“The typical dream from the healthcare workers is really a full-on nightmare,” Barrett told “Science Friday” recently. “Just as bad as you’d see in war zones.”

Barrett has a new book out called “Pandemic Dreams.” I read a few excerpts online and some of the dreams she shares are jarring.

I have a feeling we will be dealing with the psychological, physical, economic and emotional side effects of this pandemic for the foreseeable future. If you are someone struggling, please know you are not alone and it’s OK to reach out for help.

If I may, here’s what has worked for me.

A dash of music, a dollop of comedy and a big heaping serving of family and friends.

For me, it’s just that simple.

Music is a tonic, comedy is medicine and friends and family are good for the soul.

Admittedly, it sounds trite and simple and in the Covid era, its been hard to see people in person.  But that’s changing.  If we’re vaccinated, it’s safe for us to get out and “see the world.” (Great song by Brett Dennen by the way).

Luckily, thanks to medical science, things are opening up quite a bit and thankfully technology has been there to fill in some gaps.

Readers of this blog know that I have a group of childhood friends who gather via Zoom every other week to reminisce about the glory days, joke around and talk about the issue du jour.

These calls have been a lifeline for all of us during this strange time.

I’ve known some of these guys for 50 years—we went through school together, knew each other’s parents and grandparents, our siblings, childhood homes, first cars, first girlfriends, favorite teachers etc.

We played ball together, went to each other’s Bar Mitzvahs and weddings and were there through the good times and the bad. And there’s been plenty of both. That’s just the way it goes.

Every one of us has had a pretty nice life—we enjoy the love of good women, have great kids and tons of life experience. But we’ve had our struggles too—career crises, financial highs and lows and health challenges too.

But through it all– through the decades, the distance and the din of life—we’ve managed to stay together or find each other again and again.

We used to see each other every single day and that is where the bonds were forged—in school, at a summer pool club, on long summer nights spent driving to nowhere special. It was enough in those days just to be together and as a result develop a shorthand that in our case has lasted a lifetime.

Over the summer, when I thought Covid would mark the end of my story, I thought about these guys and some of my newer friends that I’ve also grown very close too. I thought how friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts and how I wasn’t ready to say goodbye and how sad it was for those who tragically couldn’t beat this damn virus.

When we pass, a whole world dies with us—but some of that world lives on in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind.

Still, as  I reflect back on the year or so of Covid, I can’t help but also think about the positives.

I’ve been surrounded by love, concern and friendship. My wife and I have grown closer, I feel closer to my children, my sister, in-laws and my dad and his wonderful girlfriend. What a gift.

What an amazing gift we’ve been given—another day.

And then there’s the friendships. The new ones and the old ones.

That every other week Zoom call is a real highlight—a precious gift because it connects me to a group of guys who are my brothers. We fill the gaps in each other’s memories, support each other in our current ventures and know that we will always be there for each other. We also laugh. A lot. Its been good for the soul.

I have a great set of local friends too—and I really wish there was a way these groups could meet because I know they would hit it off instantly.

Maybe someday they will—like the old Simon & Garfunkel song “Bookends”—on some park bench somewhere.


Until then, the old friends plan to meet via Zoom and my local buddies will gather at some of our favorite watering holes. Now that we are vaccinated we are beginning to feel safer.

Meanwhile, we have been forever influenced by our pandemic experience.

The other week, after another particularly vivid dream, I woke up with a phrase on my mind: “love is the prize.” Four simple words—corny I know.

But I’ve been thinking about those words a lot.

We live in an area that has great wealth and great poverty. In Delray, where I live, we are America in 16 square miles. In Boca, where I work, I see a whole lot of bling and pristine beauty. We live in paradise—we truly do.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the craziness. I do all the time—until I’m grounded by a friend, a circumstance, my lovely wife or a situation at work and then I realize that love is the prize. I never had the words until that dream. Now I do.

Love is the prize.

I’ve found it.

I hope you do too.

Blinded By The Light

Blinded By The Light is based on a true story.

If you haven’t seen the movie “Blinded By The Light” do yourself and your mood a favor and see it on the big screen.

Make sure the theater has a good sound system because the music is sublime and the story makes you want to conquer the world.

We caught the movie recently at iPic and it exceeded my already high expectations.

For me, the movie ticked a lot of boxes:

I love a good coming of age story.

I love stories about fathers and sons.

I love movies that take place in the 1980s—because I remember the 80s. (It’s a little fuzzy but MTV actually played music videos and there was a lot of big hair).

Oh and it features the story of a teenage boy who tackles life’s challenges inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen.

I like Bruce. A lot.

So while I expected to enjoy a light hearted story powered by Springsteen’s music I discovered that the movie had so many other layers.

It’s not a “Mamma Mia” type movie (as good as that was) it’s more socially conscious and raises issues that we are dealing with today namely race, class, inequality and our unique human ability to hate others simply because they look or worship differently than we do.

Of course, the film’s worldview is balanced by the strength of friendship, love, family, romance and some amazing lyrics from a poet who emerged from Asbury Park, New Jersey and was able to touch people all over the world with a message of hope despite how hard life can be.

“Blow away the dreams that tear you apart

Blow away the dreams that break your heart

Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted.”

Bruce Springsteen, The Promised Land.

It’s a message I think we all need to hear. Because this world can be harsh—political division, mass shootings, opioid abuse, racism, misogyny, environmental degradation, homelessness, hacking and hostility. It’s a lot to digest.

And to quote Bruce, it can leave you lost and broken-hearted.

We’re not immune here in affluent Boca and #alwaysavillage Delray.


There’s crime, drug abuse, violence, tension and division.

I’ve long contended that Delray is America in 16 square miles. The diversity is what makes our city a fascinating place.

We are a city of contrasts—great wealth and deep poverty. We are diverse and yet deeply segregated.

People in our community struggle mightily. Some struggle to stay, others struggle to get out and still others long to be here.

In the movie, our hero Javid, is a Pakistani teenager regularly bullied by his English neighbors.

The National Front marches in his town of Luton and attacks his family. His Pakistani neighbors suffer from degrading and demoralizing vandalism.

The local auto plant lays off half of its workforce and jobs are scarce.

America is also wrestling with some of these issues as hate, job insecurity and violence are unfortunately a part of our daily lives and discourse.

But often answers –or at least some respite —can be found in art, in this case music.

Great lyrics can inspire and motivate. Words matter. They can be used to harm people by telling them to “go back home” or they can heal by offering a way out or a way forward.

As Bruce says…

“The highway’s jammed with broken heroes

On a last chance power drive

Everybody’s out on the run tonight

But there’s no place left to hide

Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness

I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul

Oh, someday, girl, I don’t know when

We’re gonna get to that place

Where we really wanna go and we’ll walk in the sun

But ’til then, tramps like us

Baby, we were born to run.”

Check out Blinded By the Light it’s the feel good movie of the summer.

The Power of Dreams

You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet–Theodore Hesburgh

Ahh there’s that word again.

It’s a polarizing word at times, especially if the vision pushes the envelope. Especially if it’s considered ambitious.

Sometimes the term gets subject to ridicule and referred to as “the vision thing” as if it’s trite, as if vision gets in the way of actually getting things done.

In cities, sometimes there’s an aversion to vision: just make sure my toilet flushes, pick up my trash and fix potholes.
That was an actual email I got from a prominent citizen who shall remain nameless.
Ok, I responded. That’s a deal.
We’ll do all those things but please don’t begrudge those of us who aspire and plan to show up at what we used to call “charrettes” to envision a better future.

In order to have any progress we need to aspire. We need to have ambition. We need to dare to be great.

We need to have a vision and we need to dig in and implement too. Visions left on a shelf gather more than dust, they burn enthusiasm and tell those who bothered to show up that their time was wasted.
That’s a crime. We can take our ideas elsewhere but we can’t get our time back.

Last week, a promising young leader I’ve been observing Emanuel “Dupree” Jackson posted a video of actor Will Smith on Instagram that talked about greatness.
Mr. Jackson runs a Delray non-profit called the EJS Project: https://www.ejsproject.org. Look it up, it’s cool.
In the video Mr. Smith talks about the power of dreaming.

“You have to believe that something different can happen,” Mr. Smith says. My friend Dupree believes something different can happen. That’s why he will succeed and make good things happen for others in Delray and beyond.

Steve Jobs had a similar take: “Apple’s core value is that we believe people with passion can change the world for the better. Those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who actually do.”

Damn right they do.

Now, let’s gets to it.

Land Of Hope And Dreams

Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patti Scialfa after a show at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway.

I can’t let my Springsteen on Broadway experience pass without sharing some takeaways with you.
First, the show is remarkable.
The power. The passion. The sharing. The stories. The humor. The descriptions of life and landscapes are masterful.
And the music…well the music is sublime.

With the exception of two songs performed with his wife Patti Scialfa, the show is all Bruce. Just a piano and an acoustic guitar.
Bruce’s songwriting prowess often overshadows  his guitar playing but on the night we saw him we marveled at how his acoustic filled the Walter Kerr Theatre.

It’s a rich sound. Powerful. And it allowed him to change arrangements on songs giving them new texture and meaning.

The stories and themes that accompanied the music were a big part of the night. Bruce covered a lot of ground as he told his life story weaving in themes ranging from love and trust to parenthood and aging.
As he ages..as we all age…there’s a poignancy that comes with a Springsteen performance.
We know it won’t last forever.

We know we won’t last forever.

And so we appreciate the moments more, we savor the experiences, the feelings, the closeness and the love we have for not only the music (which is truly magnificent) but for the community this man and the E Street Band have created since 1973.

Last week, I wrote that Springsteen was about hope. And he is. But he’s also about community.
He’s worked hard to create it. He’s worked hard to scale it and he’s worked hard to deepen it and keep it going. There’s lessons to be learned from how he’s built and sustained a large tribe. There’s also lessons in why it’s meaningful to belong to…something.

Bruce closed the show with a story about returning to his hometown of Freehold, N.J. recently only to find a beloved childhood tree had been removed.
He was angry and saddened by the loss. But he also noticed that the roots system was still in place.

While the physical tree was gone, he felt the energy of the tree was very much intact.

He concluded with a prayer and a wish that the community he had built, the music he had created, would hopefully live on. Much like the roots system of the tree.
As I reflect on the show, I realized that I just loved this message.

In many ways we all try to build communities, families, businesses, works of art, relationships and more. It’s imperfect, it’s lifelong and sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. But we hope it adds up to something. We hope it means something. I’m sure it does.

We also hope it lasts, even if we know that we won’t.

Bruce talked about the magic of his legendary E Street. How when you experience magic–one plus one somehow equals three. How true.

And so I thought back on my life and my friends. How when it clicks you can move mountains, make lasting memories with good friends, create a family, start entrepreneurial ventures, grow organizations and touch lives.
That’s what it’s all about: striving for magic, working hard to make it happen, taking risks and enjoying the journey knowing that there’s pain, loss and setbacks but love, joy and passion too.

In the song “Land of Hope and Dreams”  Bruce sings of a mythical train where there is room for everyone. You don’t need a ticket, you just climb aboard. The destination is a land of hope and dreams, a place where we all find love, acceptance and freedom.

The Art of The Possible


It seems we spend a lot of time looking backwards in Delray Beach.
It’s almost as if we fear the future and want to slam the brakes on change.
You can’t do it.
Change is not only inevitable it’s desired. That’s not to mean that you don’t preserve what’s worthwhile–that doesn’t go without saying–in fact, it’s worth repeating over and over again.
So what’s worthwhile? What do we value? What should we fight for?
Glad you asked.
Our civic pride.
Our vibrancy and charm.
Our historic buildings and districts.
Our downtown.
Our cultural, intellectual and artistic amenities.
Our business community.
Our neighborhoods.
Our wonderful public safety departments.
Those who volunteer.
Those who are public servants.
Our beach.
Our parks.
Our schools.
I can go on.
Cities that work and succeed strengthen their assets.
Cities that work– fix problems and embrace accountability.
But there’s a difference between accountability and a “gotcha” mentality that destroys people, institutions and morale.
There’s a difference between accountability and bullying. Accountability works when it builds capacity. It works when  it teaches and when its constructive.

Bullying is destructive.

And it doesn’t last because you don’t get results via fear and intimidation. Oh maybe short term, but nothing lasting is built on a foundation of fear.
Cities are complex organisms. And a city such as Delray is a very complicated place.
This is a hard town to manage. A hard town to lead.
It’s active.
It’s ever changing.
It’s diverse.
It’s got history, pride, baggage, crime, drugs, homelessness, wealth, poverty, youth, age, commerce and tons of talent.
Delray also has unbridled potential.
We can be whatever we choose to be.
America’s most fun small town can be the place for artists, entrepreneurs, families, retirees, kids and millennials.
It already is in so many ways and it can be even better.
If we want it to be. Or it can be worse.
It’s our choice.
When I drive the streets of this city, I can’t help but feel pride.
If you don’t feel it, I feel sorry for you. I don’t mean that in a snarky way, I truly do feel remorse.
Because you are missing out on a very special place and an incredible success story.
Are we a perfect place?
No. We are not.
We can all list the litany of issues and kvetches. We can dwell on them too.
Or we can focus on what’s good, fix what needs fixing and move beyond our first world problems and enjoy where we are living. And dig in harder to fix the serious problems. Like homelessness, like drug addiction and gang violence. We can begin caring about kids being left behind and about creating opportunities for current and future residents.
We should plan for the future.
How can we transform Congress Avenue and make it Delray’s next great street?
How can we sustain the success of our downtown and extend it to areas  that are lagging?
How can we ensure that Delray Beach is desirable and accessible to young families and young professionals? How we can be a safe and fun place to retire and grow old?
A place that embraces business and recreation, art and culture, history and progress.
Delray thrives when the community comes together and works on big goals, visions and projects.
That’s what created the value we see if we allow ourselves to see it.
Delray drifts without aspiration and vision.
15 years ago bus loads of people from every neighborhood and walk of life–old and young–black and white, east and west, went to Atlanta Georgia and stood up before a national audience of peers and proudly talked about our city.  We talked about our schools and our efforts to fight crime and reclaim neighborhoods. We talked about our downtown and our beach and our history but mostly we talked about what we wanted to be. Our future. Our vision. Our aspirations.
And we were named an All America City. For a second time. The first city in Florida to achieve that honor.
After the event, we hugged and we celebrated and we got right back to work. And that is what it means to look forward and that is what it means to build community.
Delray works, when Delray aspires.

Nothing works when you focus on fear and pessimism.