|The Two Faces of Aventura|
|Written by Jay Beskin -- BT Contributor|
Consumed with saving our money and our looks, we revere banks and cosmetic surgery
Who puts money in a bank anymore?
When we were kids, back in the Dark Ages, also known as the 20th Century, they taught us that your money could make its own money without your help, if only you’d hand it over to the pretty lady with the little nameplate reading, “Teller.”
The path to prosperity seemed simple enough. First you manufactured some widgets, then you sold them at a profit, and finally you inserted the proceeds into the great banking machinery that doubled as the economic engine of this great country.
Our teachers handed out little passbooks, and we pooled our pennies into savings accounts that paid five-and-one-half percent interest per annum. At that rate, our teacher with the rosy cheeks assured us, our money would double every 13 years, owing to a mysterious calculation known as compound interest.
Then one day some banker playing with numbers discovered that, even after the passing of P.T. Barnum, suckers continued to be born at the rate of one a minute. The bankers wised up and decided interest was no longer interesting and principal should be the operating principle: “We will hold your money and make money with it and, in return, we will give you…your money back!”
After people bought into that concept, the banks ratcheted things up another notch. They instituted charges for every service and huge penalties for every infraction. If you bounced a $10 check, the bank might pay it, charging you $35 (or 350-percent interest) for “loaning” you the money, or it might not pay the check and still charge you $35 for not lending you the money.
Needless to say, at this point in history, any reasonable fiscal model would recommend the mattress method over the bank.
So what does it say about Aventura that it has 17 bank branches in its 3.2 square miles and, in case those weren’t enough, is witnessing the prominent construction of yet another Chase on Biscayne Boulevard? Are we so naive that we don’t notice how much we are paying for so little in return?
Or are we just so rich that we don’t need to bother with investing well?
Which brings us to our other local field of specialization. Although we do not have a movie industry like Hollywood (the one in California) or a theater scene like Broadway in New York, we do have plenty of what accompanies those endeavors: plastic surgery.
Those same 3.2 square miles we know and love so much are home to 22 cosmetic surgeons, by my unofficial count. Up and down our streets and storefronts and office complexes, the scalpels are busily carving the unattractive excess off our frames, searching desperately to unearth the world-class beauty lurking somewhere beneath the surface.
Perhaps because of intense close-range competition, their advertising is ubiquitous. Everywhere we turn, we are beset by billboards juxtaposing the wearing sag of Mother Nature against the perking pep of Doctor Lookgood. If you cannot face your face, but are afraid of spending too much money, they can give you a nose for a bargain. If you are looking to trim your gluteus, you have a glut of choices. If you ask for liposuction, they will not give you any lip.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld famously said. If you feel that your craggy features are misrepresenting the buoyant, youthful spirit behind that face, you should have every right to project your true inner self. If it takes a scalpel to offer the world a view of the real you, it seems a small price to pay.
Science has been advancing steadily while we have been toiling at our careers, or so I am told. True, Sharon Stone filed a lawsuit and won a settlement against a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who falsely claimed that he had given her a facelift, but for lesser mortals there is no shame in accepting our imperfection -- and then clipping it right off.
What makes me wonder is this: How did Aventura manage to become Mecca for Mack the Knife? Are our own friends and neighbors all slicing and dicing to put a better face on their lives? Or are these patients from around the state, the country, and the world, drawn inexorably to this island of smooth operators who can smooth out all of life’s little wrinkles?
Putting these two faces of Aventura side by side makes them appear difficult to reconcile.
Taking hard-earned money and depositing it to languish in stodgy banks strikes me as a practice for people who are slow to change their ways, clinging to old patterns of behavior long after they have ceased to be either relevant or beneficial.
By contrast, writing a big check to a medical practice for elective surgery to improve one’s physical form and appearance comes across as a risk-taking, revolutionary act.
Perhaps, then, there are two Aventuras. Half of us are showcasing our original faces, or what remains of them. We are stuck working well beyond our natural retirement age because our money is “in the bank,” where guys with MBAs build fortunes from it without including us in the dividend.
Big signs in our lovely branch office tell us we are earning 0.25 percent, but only with a minimum balance of $100,000 -- or something like that. We are firmly convinced that nothing has changed since we began our passbook account on Bank Day in third grade in the 1950s.
The other half are savvy investors whose money is working overtime in high-powered hedge funds. The only bank account we have maintains a $5 balance to stay open, and then only so our tax refund can be direct deposited there once a year. With all our extra cash, we are jet-setting around to exotic destinations.
And with all that energetic bustle in our lives, our old face simply will not do anymore. To help keep our chemistry fresh, we make periodic visits to the operating table.
Or is there really just one Aventura with a split personality? Maybe the answer lies in the advertising slogan of one local human chop shop, promising through Botox and rhinoplasty and whatnot to “reverse the aging process.”
Could it be that this effort to reclaim our lost youth has inadvertently brought us back to the third grade? Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Volume 12, Issue 8. October 2014
The Smithsonian honors a local documentary photographer
Sales, special events, and more from the people who make Biscayne Times possible