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Apr 20th
Here’s to the Spring-Breakers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jay Beskin, BT Contributor   
April 2019

Be a little wild, just not crazy

SPix_JayBeskin_4-19pring break is upon us. It’s not a phenomenon peculiar to our neck of the woods in Aventura. Indeed, it spans from the southernmost tip of Key West all the way up to the northeastern portions of the state around Jacksonville.

Nor is it limited to kids taking a break from the Sunshine State’s colleges -- we get plenty of imports, too, especially from chilly climes where March 20 may be the first day of calendar spring, but seasonal spring doesn’t show up for another month or 45 days.

Spring break is a boon of sorts to the local economies, although the average number of revelers per hotel room is about twice what you might think, and quadruple what their parents think.

And if Mama and Papa (or divorced Mama or Papa) have a winter home down here sitting so conveniently vacant, there may be more young scholars flopping there during the break than the fire department could ever contemplate as maximum capacity.

In fact, the actual presence in our midst of a bunch of rampaging college kids is generally a lot of fun, and gives us some of that youthful vibe we can always use so we don’t turn into permanently fossilized old fuddy-duddies. They’ve been running exhibits recently at area museums of old photographs from the Miami of the 1950s and ’60s, and as cute as it is to see an entire metropolitan area turned into a capacious retirement village, none of us is particularly anxious to turn back the clock, or the calendar, to reclaim our former regional glory as a Shangri-La for the septuagenarian set.

As we’ve written in this space in the past, we want retirees to be comfortable here within a multigenerational setting that allows the zest of the young to meet the wisdom of age. “From nonage to dotage with fun at every stage” -- that is our motto, or it should be.

The problem is that spring break has an edge to it that isn’t necessarily present at other times of the tourist season. This is because members of the spring-breaking generation are looking to hook up with other like-minded and able-bodied people among their own ranks.

This pursuit is often attended by a degree of alcoholic lubrication of one’s faculties. The liquor consumption is designed to enhance the art of the pickup line -- to facilitate its delivery on the one hand and its reception on the other. When this theory breaks down, scuffles often ensue, and these can lead to denouements often comic in nature, but sometimes violent.

This year has been no exception, with cops being called out to roust the rowdies several times in the early days of the break. This has prompted local chiefs to change their policing style from the reactive to the proactive, posting a host of highly visible officers at strategic intervals to remind revelers to keep a lid on their festivities.

And as of this writing, no overly injurious or grievous encounters have occurred, and the casual atmosphere has not produced serious casualties.

The truth is that policing excess is a special challenge when excess is the very product for sale. Let’s face it, we have the power to button down our public spaces to the fullest extent, but the result will be that South Florida stops being fun, and “the word will go forth from this time and place” to find more hospitable locales. So we need this to be a place where players can play and people can go too far, but only a little too far.

This brings us to a place we all recognize from our individual lives, but now we see it playing out writ large across the public square. Namely, every time you cross a line and try to set a new line that can’t be crossed, the new line tends to be weaker.

After all, the new line is (a) not tested and not fortified; (b) comes to replace a line that has demonstrated it was crossable; (c) without a stronger ethical tradition to protect it than the last line had. It might be kind of stupid, for example, to sit at a red light when there are no cars coming in any direction, but we prefer not to make exceptions because we cannot posit a durable line beyond that one.

So when we hang a shingle that says we’re open for excess, but please keep the peace, that becomes a very tenuous balance, and difficult to enforce. In the current climate, where we don’t always trust the police to make judgment calls and we reserve the right to video their interactions with civilians and second-guess their styles, it is that much harder to police a fluid line.

We look to Las Vegas as a classic prototype, saying that if they can work things out in an atmosphere where gaming is legal and the nightclubs are legendary, we should be able to keep our reputation as a wild, happening place without letting things get out of hand.

But somehow Vegas manages to be an abstraction out there in the desert; and what happens in Vegas more generally stays in Vegas, or in a shallow grave in the nearby desert. Here we are at the eastern and southern tips of the United States, and somehow the tropical sun throws a brighter spotlight over Florida than it does over Nevada.

In the end, I am not advising that we become a military compound and chase away the parties and the partiers. I am merely cautioning that we always have to stay on high alert to keep some of the invisible lines electrified.

We want you to be able to find love here, but we don’t want you to con us or each other, to prey on us or each other, to molest us or each other. Nor will we allow local con artists, the pickpockets or carjackers (remember back in the 1990s, when people preyed on rental cars and German tourists) to terrorize you and yours.

And we ask our visitors to practice their immoderacy with moderation. At the end of the day, the police cannot be everywhere at all times, and you need to police yourselves to a significant extent. You can party in your parents’ house when they are away, but then you must be careful to clean up the mess and leave everything as tidy as you found it.

Please treat our home the same way. And the good news is, if you are 21, you can drink some of our liquor without sneakily diluting it with water afterward.

 

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