Remembering

Bones get tired

I woke up early this morning.

As is my Monday ritual, I grab my phone and open up Spotify.
Music helps me wake up and collect my thoughts.
Every Monday, this app is kind enough to give me a playlist called “Discover Weekly” and so I do. I discover new songs and rediscover some old ones too. I have to say, the algorithm gets me.
It has been a little over a month since I lost a mentor and friend and I still feel a little lost. More than a little lost.
When you lose someone fundamental to your life it can be hard to turn the page. But turn it we must. We must go on.
I know that intellectually; emotionally well that’s a whole other story.
Give it time, I tell myself. It’s still fresh I tell myself.
Today, is also Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. The holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
And so I’ll be spending my day reflecting, atoning for my sins and praying that my loved ones are in the book of life.
When I was a kid, I dreaded this day which was spent in a Long Island synagogue listening to prayers in a language I didn’t understand.
Inevitably, it was always a beautiful day, Indian summer we called it back then. I’m not sure that term is politically correct anymore but that’s what we called it.
It was a day off from school and my friends who weren’t Jewish were outside and in my mind’s eye having the best day ever while I chafed in a suit and tie waiting for services to end.
But these days, while far from observant, I appreciate the meaning, beauty and importance of ritual, observance and forgiveness.
And I miss my friend who was not in the “book of life.”
So when I began my day by turning on Spotify in the darkness of my room alone with my thoughts I “discovered” the song “Remembering” by Ashley Campbell. Ashley is Glen Campbell’s talented daughter.
We lost Glen a few years back to the scourge that is Alzheimer’s disease.
That damn disease is so cruel. That damn disease…it steals everything.
The song tells the story of a little girl seeking her father’s protection during a storm and the dad reassuring her that all is well and that she should enjoy the show. And she does.
He teaches her guitar and she plays him “Blackbird” and even though she misses notes he tells her it’s the best version he’s ever heard. And you know he’s telling the truth.
But bones get old. And the song mentions how the man who sings like an angel is slipping away.
“Bones get tired, and they can’t carry all the weightWe can talk until you can’t even remember my nameDaddy, don’t you worry, I’ll do the rememberingDaddy, don’t you worry, I’ll do the remembering.”
Yes, we will do the remembering and the grieving too.
I tried to end this little essay with something upbeat, something hopeful. That’s my nature.
But this morning I’m at a loss. I’ve had a loss and I just want to feel it because it’s real. And something is telling me I just need to sit with this for awhile.
May we all be in the book of life.

Endings & Beginnings

“The road is long and seeming without end

The days go on, I remember you my friend

And though you’re gone

And my heart’s been emptied it seems

I’ll see you in my dreams” – Bruce Springsteen.

It’s been a rough patch of time.

In the past month or so, I’ve lost five friends, learned that another has a terminal illness and watched yet another dodge a health scare.

Welcome to middle age. Sometimes it feels like a mine field. I step out my door and try and dodge the bad news.

An older friend of mine used to describe aging as “a massacre.”

I know some of you visit this blog for a weekly dose of inspiration and I try to deliver.

But I also hope you expect a dose of honesty and if I am going to be truthful, I have to share the sad stories too. And the truth is life is beautiful, sad, wonderful, and painful—all at once.

When we’re young, endings are a remote concept. You know things don’t last forever, but there are far more hello’s than goodbyes when we’re young.

But by the time we hit middle age, we slam into a wall. I think they call it reality. And reality— as they say—bites.

I lost a business colleague last week and it hurts. This gentleman visited us from New Jersey frequently and told lots of great stories. He dreamed of the future and urged us to do big things. He called me “kid” or “kiddo” and I liked it because the nickname was affectionate and because well, I’m not a kid anymore so it was good to hear.

My friend talked about getting a place in Delray “someday” but someday never happened. He endured one last Jersey winter and now this man and all his stories are gone just when the leaves on the barren trees grow green again.

A few weeks ago, I told you about losing my friend Beth Johnston, a community servant beyond compare and last week I wrote a little about the lovely artist Susan Romaine and the charming and accomplished Jim Sclafani and a few weeks before that about Skip Brown, a retired Delray police officer who won a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam. As I write this, I just learned that we lost Carl Wesley, a legendary local educator and beloved bandleader who touched countless lives in this community.

These special people added so much to this place we call home. It’s the special people that make us a village; that make us more than a Zip Code or a dot on the map.

For me, that’s what Delray has always been about.

When I drive the streets of this place I’ve called home for 36 years, so many corners, so many buildings conjure up memories of special people. When you live in a place long enough, these intersections are both literal and figurative.

When I come to work, I pass by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and I think of my friend Father Chip Stokes.

I’m not an Episcopalian, but I spent some time in that church when Chip was there because we connected on a human level, and we were passionate about the same issues. Chip’s church sat on the dividing line of Swinton Avenue—a line that kept Black and white apart for so long. I wanted to break down the barriers that divided us—I wanted to smash the prejudices that hurt so many for so long and so did Chip. I saw him as a champion who opened the doors to his church and I wanted to know this man, because I saw his heart.

Chip Stokes is a talented man, and those talents were recognized by his church. When a team came to town interviewing parishioners and community leaders about Chip because he was under consideration to become a Bishop in New Jersey, I found myself choking up describing his role in our community. My reaction surprised me, and I apologized. But describing his heart and the important role he played as a sounding board for so many moved me to my core.

When I drive A1A, I pass Caffe Luna Rosa and Boston’s on the Beach.  I think of the proprietors and founders, Fran Marincola and Perry Don Francisco. Both are long gone from the day-to-day bustle of those landmark restaurants, but they left a lasting mark and continue to impact lives. Special men; like characters out of a wonderful movie. I treasure these guys.

When I drive a few blocks north to George Bush Boulevard, I think of once seeing presidential candidate Michael Dukakis jogging on the street (think about the irony for a moment) and I remember when the Governor and his wife Kitty spent winters in Delray teaching at FAU and working for the Wayside House respectively. I made it a point to meet the Governor and we spent a few days riding with our police officers because he was fascinated by our city’s efforts to embrace community oriented policing, a philosophy of law enforcement that was truly special.

Before I reach U.S. 1, I glance over at St. Vincent Ferrer School ,and I think about Sister Mary Clare. She was so special, so loving, so much fun. She retired and took that marvelous brogue back to Ireland. I miss her.

On my way home, I pass by the Achievement Center and think of my good friend Nancy Hurd, who started her life’s mission over 50 years ago in a church basement. That mission changed countless lives over the decades. She’s retired too, but I see her name adorning the campus every time I head east toward downtown, and I think of Nancy. What an amazing legacy she created.

Loss, illness, and time makes me nostalgic—and appreciative too.

I hope these examples inspire you to be grateful too. I hope they inspire you to continue to contribute.

Middle age…. what an interesting time of life. Yes, there is loss and yes there are times when my head thinks I’m 25 and then I look in the mirror and wonder who is  this old guy  staring back at me?

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s hope and life left. Hopefully, lots of life left. Let me share an example.

I have this friend.

He reads this blog every Monday. He wants me to record it, so he can listen instead of read, but I don’t have the technical chops. But if he reads this far, I have a surprise for him.

My friend’s name is Randy Smith, and he has this great company called Heritage Flooring. The company has been wildly successful and has enabled Randy and others to live great lives.

Randy sails.

Randy skis.

Randy goes to great restaurants and visits exotic locales. And I love that he shares it all with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning.

About a year or so ago, Randy took up the guitar. And you know what?  He rocks.

He sends his buddies videos, and he can sing, and he can play and he’s having a great time doing both. He’s also my age, 58, and I just admire that he’s attacking life with joy, spirit, and resilience. Like others, he has worked hard for his success and overcome all sorts of adversity. But his gusto, his zest for life and personal growth inspires all of us in his orbit.

He’s become an expert in business, politics, human health, investing and now music. And he motivates those of us who feel slammed by middle age to live in the moment. Last week, Randy’s world was hit by tragedy when a beloved colleague at Heritage died at the age of 39; proof that life is fragile, our time finite. We must live now. We must savor our days and create the moments that give us meaning.

I’ll conclude this indulgence—and thanks for taking the ride—with a shout out to a 73-year-old inspiration known as “The Boss.”

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band are on the road and rocking arenas across America. We saw them in Tampa in February and I’m still riding high from the experience.

Anyway, Bruce’s most recent album “Letter to You” is remarkable. It’s about loss, life, love, friendship, death, and the hereafter. The songs pack a punch, and he plays a whale of a guitar. He’s also an inspiration. You may hate his music. You may hate his politics, but you can’t deny that into his 70s he can still play. And there’s something redeeming about someone putting it on the line every night in his 70s.

Recently, I had the privilege of appearing on a podcast called “That One Lyric” hosted by Ted Canova, who happens to have a brother who lives in Delray. Here’s a link to the show and a conversation about a song that has gotten me through some dark days. Maybe it will help you too.

https://www.thatonelyric.com/episodes/ready-to-grow-young-again

 

Well, now young faces grow sad and old

And hearts of fire grow cold

We swore blood brothers against the wind

I’m ready to grow young again—Bruce Springsteen, No Surrender.

 

 

The Name Is Bonds, G.O Bonds

We lost the amazing Beth Johnston last week. According to her Facebook page, Beth displayed this photo in her various offices over the years. From left, Chuck Halberg, former Banyan Creek Elementary School Principal Bill Fay Jr., Beth and me. Photo taken at a Principal for a Day event.

With 8 days to go before the March 14 municipal election, life in these parts becomes a fire hose of news, rumors, insults and allegations.

I thought I would touch on a few because there’s just not enough time to give the full treatment to the various subjects flying around Delray.

Let’s start with the general obligation bonds voters will be asked to approve or vote down. The total is a whopping $120 million, by the far the largest bond issue in the city’s history.

There are two questions on the ballot:

The first is whether to approve $100 million in new debt to “finance the cost of much-needed renovations and innovations to the existing police station (located at 300 W. Atlantic Avenue), Fire Station 111 (located at 501 W. Atlantic Avenue), and Ocean Rescue Headquarters (located at 340 South Ocean Boulevard), as well as fire stations 112, 114 and 115 located throughout the city”, according to the city’s website.

The number I’m hearing is $80 million of that money is for a new police station. So, I’m already a little confused since the city’s website says, “renovations to the existing station.”

The next question asks voters to borrow $20 million for parks improvements. The improvements leave a lot to the imagination. Which parks? What improvements? There are some specific improvements noted for Catherine Strong Park which would see restroom and lighting improvements, walking trails, covered basketball courts and improvements to the Splash Pad.

Will your taxes go up if these items are approved? Yes, according to the city’s website.

The estimated cost to a resident (with a $250,000 taxable assessed value) will be about $107 for the first year of the Public Safety GO Bond referendum. After the City retires its 2005 and 2013 bond debts, on February 1, 2024, the cost is estimated to go down to $90 annually per $250,000 of assessed value.

Of course, many of you have homes with a much higher assessed value, so I urge you to do the math to see what your bill may be. Tack on another $22 a year for the parks bond (if it passes) per $250,000 of assessed value.

The city is assuming a 4.25 percent interest rate. With interest rates and inflation volatile, I would imagine all bets are off.

From a philosophical standpoint, I believe it’s important to invest in your city.

I wrote about the importance of investment and the use of bond financing in my best-selling book “Adventures in Local Politics” which has now sold 14 copies on its slow (very slow) climb up the New York Times bestseller list.

But all kidding aside, I’m not supporting the $120 million in General Obligation Bonds that will be on the March 14 ballot in Delray Beach. A few former mayors that I’ve talked too are not supporting it either, so I’m not alone.

I can’t speak for them, but I’ll tell you why I feel the way I do.

Briefly, I don’t have faith that we can do all these huge projects successfully and I don’t have enough specifics on the projects themselves to vote yes. It’s an awful lot of money and we’ve been awfully dysfunctional.

Personally, I’d like to see better leadership steering the ship before handing over this kind of money. I’d like to see more stability and more public involvement and education too. There has been virtually no input or education on these bonds. Very few specifics either. The commission I served on, backed by a stable and very capable staff, had trouble with a $25 million parks bond because costs ballooned. And we were a collegial group with veterans at every position in city government. This is hard stuff to get right.

Still, the needs we have are very real. But they didn’t crop up overnight. I’ve always wondered why we didn’t go to the bond market when money was virtually free. I suspect it is because we’ve had rampant turnover and a whole lot of political infighting in recent years. It’s hard to focus when you have a revolving door of City Managers. We’ve lost an historic opportunity to tackle our needs with interest rates we may never see again.

Now interest rates are rising, and inflation is still very real and everything I’m reading indicates that the Fed is going to keep raising rates until inflation is tamed. Here’s a sobering data point: During its 110-year existence, The Federal Reserve has never been able to arrest inflation without raising its Fed Funds rate to a level that is higher than the inflation rate. We’re not there yet.

After spending years majoring in the minor, the City Commission has suddenly decided to take on a slew of major projects: the bonds, the water plant (that absolutely can’t wait), fixing the mess they created at Old School Square (which will cost us millions of dollars to finish renovations that a private donor had pledged to pay for) and last but not least, the long neglected golf course which was allowed to go to seed.

The commission is considering (no final decisions have been made) selling a portion of public land to a developer to finance needed the repairs at the golf course.

I’m all for moving the big rocks, but you need the right team in place. I’m hoping this election will begin to move us in the right direction, but fixing what’s broken here will take more than one cycle.

I hope we can get that stability and systematically go after the infrastructure fixes we need to make, which also include preparing for sea level rise, a very large cost that Delray and other coastal cities face.

As for the golf course, any objective observer of this “process” can see what ails us in real time.

Lack of input from citizens, meetings held at inconvenient times, meetings cancelled wasting the time and money of applicants, public anger at the lack of information and the list goes on.

I like public private partnerships, but struggle with selling public recreational space to private interests.

Regardless, politics is more than policy. It’s timing too.

This doesn’t feel like the right time in terms of leadership, the economy etc.

We need stability, an end to the divisiveness on the dais and for our elected leaders to begin reaching out and involving our residents at the beginning of the process not a mad scramble days before an election.

P.S. Isn’t it ironic that there is a mad scramble to address the public blowback on the golf course. Old School Square wasn’t given that courtesy despite over 11,000 petition signatures. Shameful. We can do better.

Vote accordingly.

 

Remembering two we lost…

Delray lost a wonderful man recently with the passing of Jim Sclafani.

Jim was a long-time resident living in Tropic Isles with his lovely wife Arlene. He was fun, charming and kind.

Jim gave back too.

He volunteered for the police department, serving on the marine patrol and his company, Multi Image Group, produced a lot of videos for the city to help promote Delray. He was a dedicated Rotarian, a gifted entrepreneur and the life of every party he attended.

We attended many over the years and always enjoyed laughs with Jim and Arlene. Such a special guy, such an amazing couple. They did so much for so many for so long…

Jim lived a wonderful life. May his memory be a blessing.

We also lost Beth Johnston last week which is devastating news for those of us who were lucky to cross paths with Beth over the years.

Beth was a neighbor, friend, community servant and leader.

She was kind and she was special.

She touched so many organizations and people over the years it’s hard to know where to begin.

My most enduring memories of her are from her days at the Delray Chamber where she was part of a team that created warmth and memories every day.

In a cynical world, that’s invaluable.

Beth also left her mark at FAU where she was kind enough to connect me to Tech Runway, which was just getting under way.

At the Boca chamber, she involved me in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where I was able to see the next generation of business leaders learn and grow.

At the YMCA, Spirit of Giving, Lake Worth-Lantana Chamber and elsewhere she left her mark as a connector, friend and contributor.

People like Beth make communities go. She was a doer with boundless energy and optimism, and it was contagious.

As a neighbor, I got to know her as a devoted wife to her wonderful husband Tom and a great mom to Claire and Abbey.

She was so proud of her family. And they of her.

Beth was taken way too soon, but what a legacy she leaves.

And when I think of community, the idea, the concept, the feeling my heart goes to people like Beth and Jim Sclafani.

Their kindness, willingness to serve and their eagerness to give back is what makes a village.

I grew up being told that nobody was irreplaceable. That’s wrong.

Special people leave a hole. We move on, we remember, but they leave a hole. And as we get older, we are full of holes, as we lose the people who enrich us. All the more reason to be thankful for today.

 

All There Is….

A blessing in my life for 34 years.

My sister Sharon and I lost our mother 24 years ago today.

Twenty-four years is not a landmark anniversary. There’s nothing special about 24 years, other than it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed.

My mom’s name was Fay. If you Google her, nothing comes up. Google was founded September 4, 1998, almost exactly a month before she died. But even if she lived, it’s doubtful she would have done something that would have made her “internet worthy”. She lived a simple life. A good life.

Sometimes I feel people like my mom get lost. But they lived. And they matter. In my world, and the world of my family, nobody mattered more. She was indispensable.

And then she was gone.

Even now, the permanence stabs at me.

So much has changed.

My mom’s granddaughter Samantha is well into her career as a special education teacher and her two little grandsons will both turn 30 soon. They were little kids when they lost their grandmother. She’s a faint memory for them and that alone is enough to break your heart.

The years pile on, the world moves so fast.

A friend of mine lost a beloved sibling a few years back. She recently marked another year of loss and said that while the lump in her throat is gone, she still grieves— quietly.

I do too.

I think grief is the love you have inside that goes unexpressed. Your loved one is gone but your heart is still full. What do you with all this unexpressed love?

Our mother was 59 years old when she passed away after a brave and brutal 50-week battle with cancer.

I just turned 58. I am deeply aware that I am approaching her lifespan and it’s on my mind.

The age we lost her was front and center in my thoughts during my near fatal bout with Covid in July-August 2020. During my darkest moments—and there were many—I couldn’t help but think: ‘I will be younger than my mom when she passed, and she was so young’. She missed so much.

Happy times, stone washed jeans and Long Island nights.

Lately, I have been dreaming of her. Those dreams come and go. While I think about her every day, I sometimes won’t dream about her for months at a time.

But these days, she’s a frequent presence in my dreams and a recurring one has me sitting in a park trying to explain to her what’s happened to everyone since we said goodbye at Hospice by The Sea in Boca Raton.

Her granddaughter is a devoted teacher. She loves her students, and they love her back. I revel in the stories she tells me about a child who makes progress, overcomes an issue, gains confidence, reaches a goal etc. I couldn’t be prouder.

Her grandson Ben…who was a wild child… “all boy” as they say, grew up to be an accountant. We didn’t see that coming.

Back when my mom was around, we were happy if we returned from the mall without losing him. You’d turn around and he’d be gone. But these days, he’s mature, smart and thoughtful. An old soul. Her other grandson, Andrew, is a Ph.D., candidate in Washington D.C. researching the Holocaust on his way to becoming a professor. He’s a wonderful writer and a traveler too. We didn’t see that coming either.

Had she lived, mom would have added two more grandsons to her brood; my stepsons Alex and Viktor, fine young men who would have enriched her life immeasurably.

My mom never met the love of my life, Diane. She didn’t get to see my dad age gracefully. At 84, he still turns heads and remains my go-to guy for life advice.

So much has changed.

Never miss a chance to dance.

America is a different place. I wish I could say that we are a better, closer country but I can’t.

Delray Beach and South Florida have also changed. Some of the changes are good, some are not so good.

None of it would have mattered much to my mother. She liked it here.

She was happy enjoying the simple things in life with family and friends. If family was around, she was cool. What a great example she was, if only I could follow her lead. If only…

So here we are mom…24 years down the road, 24 years without you.

We are doing well, blessed in so many ways. But there’s still that ache, there are still waves of grief that engulf me. The waves hit when I see Sam smile and see your smile in hers. When I talk to my sister and realize that she has your exact voice and so many of your best qualities.

I now realize that grief is the price we pay for love. And we should be grateful for both because you can’t have one without the other. If you are going to love, you are going to feel loss someday.  It’s a price worth paying. It’s taken me a lifetime to understand that. A lifetime to accept that trade.

For years after losing you, my sadness lurked in the bushes like a stalker. I could be having the best time only to be reminded of your absence and I’d find myself overcome with sadness. When the rainy days would come, as they do for everyone, I’d find myself wishing to be transported back to the days when everyone I loved was still here.

There you are with your friends playing Mah Jongg at the pool club, with grandma and grandpa and nanny speaking Yiddish and sneaking us chocolate kisses. Life seemed infinite. There was so much road ahead of us.

Those days are long gone. The losses pile up, like so many leaves.

But loss serves a purpose as well. The losses make us appreciate the here and now which is really good if we strip away the noise and distractions.

And we realize we carry pieces of those we lost in our hearts and minds—for all of our days.

So much has changed, but that never will. The love we feel endures.

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.

 

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

Love & Loss

Our golden Teddy will live in our hearts forever .

I lost my best buddy yesterday and the sadness in my heart actually hurts.

Our magnificent, handsome, loving and sweet golden retriever Teddy passed after an 18 month battle with bone cancer.
While we knew the end was inevitable—the cancer had returned after surgery, chemo and radiation—I never dreamt it would happen so suddenly.
While Teddy had visibly slowed down, he was still full of life; playing  with other dogs, climbing stairs, taking car rides and eating like a champ right up until the end.
But Monday evening, he got up from his perch in front of the TV made a strange face and walked to the corner where he refused to move.
It was like a switch went off and he went from healthy and happy to sick and very weak.
The next morning he couldn’t stand, refused to eat and it was over. Our beautiful boy was gone…
We were assured by Dr. Jim Grubb that it was time. And I could see in Teddy’s soulful brown eyes that he was ready.  I think that was Teddy’s final gift to us, he let us know.
We love Dr. Grubb and his staff. They love our pets and that love is genuine. We knew it was the right decision.
But that doesn’t mean saying goodbye is easy. It’s not. It’s really hard. I held Teddy’s sweet face for the last time, caressed his ears And looked into his big brown eyes and thanked him for being such a good dog. I said it was OK and that I would see him again. And I believe I will.
Diane, his mom and my wife, petted his hair and comforted him. He was at peace. We were heartbroken.
But I don’t want this to be just about Teddy’s death. I want to celebrate his life.
And I want to encourage you to adopt or rescue a pet because they save us, we don’t save them.
We adopted Teddy from Golden Retrievals, a terrific non-profit in Boca run by Linda Ripps.
Linda has become a great friend. She has a heart as big as a Great Dane and has stayed in our lives since the adoption. We are so thankful for her.
The first time I saw Teddy I fell in love. And I fell hard. I’ve had two other pure bred Golden’s and a golden mix so I was already enamored with the breed’s traits which can be summed up in one word: goodness.
Golden’s are just good through and through.
Teddy was a handsome young boy of 5. He smiled, was a complete gentleman and instantly warmed up to Diane, the kids, our birds (who would land on his head) and our other rescue Randy, a high strung but super cool Chihuahua mix that we adopted 16 years ago at the Delray Affair. Randy is still going strong (sort of) at the ripe old age of 17. He’s blind, hard of hearing but still an alpha.
Our friend Rebecca, who has always helped with our dogs, was touched by Randy and Teddy’s relationship. She saw how Teddy tried to help Randy and thought he was so sweet for doing so. But that was Teddy, gentle, caring, courteous.
Yes, dogs can be courteous.
Teddy loved kids especially the Paterson children next door who showered him with bones and hugs.
He loved car rides and would drape his head across the back seat, close his eyes and enjoy the wind in his hair. I’ve never seen that. It was so endearing and a reminder for us to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures.
We would tool around Delray, cruise Atlantic Avenue, tour A1A and sometimes make a pit stop for a treat or a shopping trip to a pet store.
But he would get very interested when we’d get back home to Delray Lakes. He knew and loved his neighborhood and would stick his big head out the window to watch our neighbors as we drove by.
He watched TV, would react to animals he saw on the screen and seemed to understand English.
He never begged for food, but was happy to sample any handouts.
He had several “looks”—worry, a smile, even a snake eye if he stood by the door and you told him to wait until the next commercial.
He loved going to local parks, enjoyed shredding paper and stuffed animals and was devoted to our kids often stealing looks at their phones and laptops as if to say “what can be more interesting than looking at or petting me?”
Teddy loved to watch Diane exercise “helping” her by getting in the way, politely but doggedly demanding toys and rooting her on by rolling around on his back kicking his big feet in the air.
It was a daily show.
He was adorable. He was so good.
He was more than a dog, he was a beloved member of the family.
He stole my heart. I happily let him have it.
And now that he’s gone, he took a big part of it with him.
It’s a bond that I don’t have the words to explain. I’ve felt it before with Rusty, Snowball, Tina, Casey, Sophie, Sunny, Magnum and Randy. So this feeling and this heartbreak is familiar to me.
In time, the good memories will crowd out the crushing sadness of yesterday. It’s not fun to see your big, perfect, strong and loving friend at the end of his time on this Earth. But I know in time, I will remember all the good and there was so much. All the love and there was so much. All the laughs and all the comfort of having a great dog in your life.
“Pet people” will get that. We are heartbroken today and will be for a while. But in time, because of good boys like Teddy and his wingman Randy, we will dare to love again.
I believe, firmly, that dogs know when they are loved. And if you allow them in your heart, as we do, they will love you unconditionally in a way that will enrich your life immeasurably.
Thank you Teddy. No more cancer. No more pain. But I will tell you my buddy …the love will remain.

Remembering a Local Legend

Bert Fashaw

 

We lost a local legend last week and in this time of pandemic, I fear that these losses will pass without the notice they deserve.

Bert Fashaw passed last week. He was 83. He leaves behind a large family and a whole lot of friends and fans who remember him fondly.
Mr. Fashaw worked for the City of Delray for 33 years and also served the School Board for 34 years.
He was a Parks Ranger for Delray and spent many years guarding the parking lot during City Commission meetings.
From his post, he saw it all. All the players, past and present, all the crowds during contentious issues and all the characters that make up Delray Beach.
  I got to know him when I was a reporter assigned to cover Delray and later as an elected official. He would deliver to my home my packet of mail and the agenda for the next commission meeting  every Friday night and we would often chat about all things Delray.
Mr. Fashaw was funny. He was wise and he had a great way of putting issues into perspective.
I enjoyed every one of our interactions.
I especially enjoyed our chats pre and post meeting. I would pull into the City Hall lot and Bert would give me his read for the evening based on what he was seeing and feeling.
“Going to be a long night,” he would often say if he felt we were in for a night of trouble. Or “don’t worry, nothing much is going to happen” if he thought an issue was over blown.
I don’t think he was ever wrong.
I guess you pick up a lot about a place if you work there for three decades or more as he had.
He had community ties too and knew the pulse of the city.
My lasting image of Bert Fashaw was him in his Park Ranger uniform complete with hat and an ever present cigar.
We felt he had our backs when we walked out to our cars sometimes very late at night or in the wee hours of the morning after long meetings.
If we got out early, we could always count on a few good words with our friend.
A former city commissioner sent me his obituary and I noticed that there was no service as a result of the coronavirus. It mentioned the possibility of one at a later date.
And I thought how sad to pass during this time of international crisis. How sad it is that we  can’t gather to say goodbye, share stories, pay tribute and otherwise remember a loved one.
What a sad, sad time.
Let’s do our best not to forget those we lose during this dark season.
Thanks Mr. Fashaw for your service and your friendship. You will be missed.

Celebrating A Champion

5X NBA Champion

 

Kobe Bryant was once  asked how he dealt with the everyday criticism and hatred of others, by a fan who added the hashtag “#QuestionforGOAT.”

His answer?

“I don’t.”

You have to love that answer.

It speaks to a champion’s heart.

“Haters are a good problem to have,” Kobe once said. ” Nobody hates the good ones. They hate the great ones.”

Isn’t that the truth. Sad as it may be.

The tragic death of Kobe Bryant and eight others in a helicopter crash yesterday prompted a worldwide outpouring of shock and sadness.

Bryant, only 41, was soaring in his post basketball career, an inspiration not only to sports fans but also to mid and late career professionals who admired his entrepreneurial endeavors and his ability to reinvent himself after a legendary career with the Lakers.

Many athletes can’t make the transition after their sports careers end.

They miss the cheers and adulation and live in the past chasing the glory days.

Not Kobe.

He became an investor, entrepreneur, creator, artist and reportedly a very devoted dad.

He understood that his relentless will to win would also lead to success in business.

Based on some recent articles, it seems he was fulfilled and excited about the future. There’s no doubt that his second act was shaping up to be legendary as well.

It’s a shame that we will never get to see the next chapter.

I enjoy reading about successful people. What makes them tick? What keeps them going once they succeed? What enables them to keep trying when they fail?

The great ones are truly different. They are truly special.

They inspire us, energize us, challenge us and take us to new places.

Kobe was one of those people.

He was some kind of basketball player. Just a next level talent and competitor.

He was doing some special things as an entrepreneur too.

What a loss.

Indescribable.

Keep your loved ones close. It’s all so fragile. And can be taken away in an instant.

Grateful: For ALL Of It

Today is my birthday.

I’m 55.

Eligible to move to 55 and over communities and edging closer to coveted senior discounts at movies and places like the Old Country Buffet.

I’m already eligible for 10 percent off at Banana Republic and 15 percent off at Bealls Outlet but only on Tuesdays, when I’m working and unable to get to an outlet.

But I digress.

Birthdays with 0’s and 5’s get progressively tougher.

Oh, 20 and 25 are cool.

But 30 and 40 and 50 are really rough. I enjoyed 35—thought that was kind of the perfect age, just the right amount of seasoning. But 45 induced a twinge of mortality and this birthday brings a mix of emotions.

When you hit your 50s you start to feel a little more comfortable with who you are. The little things don’t bother you as much and you learn to avoid toxic people. You learn not to feed negativity.

You also learn to appreciate the good times, the good people and the love in your life.

Good friends become more precious. Good times and laughter more valued.

Experiences take precedence over “things.”

It’s a good time of life.

By the time most people reach their 50s they have experienced a whole lot.

Love, loss, joy, sadness, parenthood, career successes, career setbacks and everything in between.

What makes the 50s so poignant is this feeling that in so many ways you are at the top of your game.

You have perspective, knowledge and hard fought experience. But you can also see the end game.

It sounds morbid and hopefully its decades away, but you realize how life is a blur and how time seems to fly.

My best buddy from childhood texted me some old photos while I was writing this. Some cannot be shared, taken when we were young and somewhat foolish as young men should be (within limits) which we managed to always observe.

Some were from high school graduation and others were from a trip we took to visit his parents in Arizona which dovetailed with my 30th birthday. I blinked and 25 years passed.

Looking at that photo of us standing in 100 degree plus heat at the Pima Air Museum with his dad Mickey brought a smile to my face and a catch to my throat. Mickey is gone and I really loved him. So is my mom and she was the world to all of us. Both were around back then—in fact they were about the age we are now.

In 1994, I was a father to a four year old and a two year old. Now my oldest is turning 30 and is well into a teaching career and my little boy is an accountant who advises me on my taxes.

So there’s a lot of pride at this point in your life—you get to see your kids succeed and your friends do some amazing things in their lives and careers. A buddy of mine just sold his company for a mind blowing number and will be sailing the world and others are climbing the ladder of success or retiring after really making a mark.

But we’ve also lost some classmates and been touched by disease. Happy hour discussions these days range from politics, movies, sports (the usual) to prostate health and various aches and pains. Sometimes we pass mirrors and wonder who the old guy is that’s staring back at us.

But if you look closer you also see wisdom and depth. Hair lines recede but knowledge grows.

A few weeks ago, CNN’s Anderson Cooper did an interview with comedian Stephen Colbert that got quite a bit of attention.

Colbert lost his father and two brothers in an airplane crash when he was 10 years old. It was a crushing life defining loss.

“I was personally shattered,” he says. “And then you reform yourself in this quiet, grieving world that was created in [your] house.”

But as a religious man he found the strength to forge a life making other people laugh.

Cooper, who recently lost his mother, was visibly moved by Colbert’s response.

He asks Colbert, “You [once] said, ‘What punishment of God’s are not gifts?’ Do you really believe that?”

To which Colbert replies, “Yes. It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that.”

Regarding his losses, Colbert says, “I don’t want it to have happened. I want it to not have happened. But if you’re grateful for your life — and I’m not always — then you have to be grateful for all of it.”

You have to be grateful for all of it. What a wonderful belief.

Loss and the prospect of an end can make you love more deeply. It can help you develop a greater understanding of other people and life itself.

So yes, 0’s and 5’s can be tough if all you think about is aging, loss and your own mortality. But if I have learned one thing in my 55 years it is to be aware of the lessons that life is trying to teach you. The universe or a higher power sends messages all the time if we care to be alert to them.

It could be a cardinal in your backyard or it could be an interview with a comedian you admire who reminds you to be grateful for all of it.

Be grateful for all of it.

And I am.