The Biscayne Times

Apr 03rd
A Karmic Chuckle PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jay Beskin, BT Contributor   
December 2019

When “no, thanks” turns into “oh, no!”

TPix_JayBeskin_12-19he Israelis have a Hebrew saying: Im tidcheh oto bekatan tekabel oto begadol, which translates roughly to: “If you do not accept the small version now, you’ll be stuck with the larger version later.”

A psychologist I know treats middle-age people who were repressed in younger years and suddenly begin to act out in odd, immature ways (think Michael Jackson). His conclusion is this: “Everyone’s entitled to a childhood. If you fail to give them one as a child, they’ll give themselves one as an adult.”

Another friend of mine says, “What fails to go around comes around, but this time you’d better watch out!”

All this wisdom comes to mind as I survey the current state of the City of Excellence. We are being haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past when we turned down something tasteful under the tree and received instead something utterly tasteless.

Or perhaps a better title for our predicament is the Revenge of Kenneth Treister. As the great architect approaches his nonagenarian years, we recall his visit to Aventura in its nonage. We angered the great man, but he seems to be getting the last chuckle.

Readers of this space in 2013 may remember the recounting of Treister’s abortive presentation to the Aventura City Commission shortly after incorporation in 1995. Arthur Snyder was the mayor and yours truly was a member of the commission.

Snyder was on the lookout for projects to enhance our image, and he turned to his “friend Ken,” who was still basking in the afterglow of the construction of his Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial. As an architect and sculptor, he had somehow managed to bring the Holocaust to life without being too mired in the past or too mawkishly sentimental. And if you can do that through art, you can do anything.

Snyder didn’t tip us off in advance to give us a feel for what he hoped to accomplish -- and sometimes politics is unlike war, in that the element of surprise can backfire spectacularly.

He had asked Treister to come up with something to make the new city more attractive, with an emphasis on giving a new face to NE 188th Street, formerly known as Thunderboat Row (or sometimes Gasoline Alley), famous for its factories that built really fast boats.

The genius of that industry, who started six different companies to build boats on that street and who invented several speedboat models, was Donald Aronow, whose career was ended spectacularly when he was murdered on that very street. It seemed a good idea to have the area associated with something more artistic and modernistic than gunning people down in the middle of the workday.

The mayor brought Treister in to share his vision. For a mere two million dollars, he would create a complex water sculpture, illuminated by lasers and offering a kaleidoscopic vision of nature meeting technology. They put on quite a show with their presentation, but we could not work up two million smackers’ worth of enthusiasm for this futuristic mirage.

The area at the tip of NE 188th is called Dumbfoundling Bay, and we treated Snyder and Treister as if they had brought us a dumb foundling to adopt. Snyder shrugged and stayed; Treister fumed and stalked off. All those cool props found their way into the graveyard of unfulfilled fantasies, and life went on.

Fast forward a couple of decades and we face an entirely new landscape. The location at NE 188th Street is now known for the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, and the only thing getting killed around there is time, mostly by bored kids trailing their parents at the center and immersing themselves in brainless recreation on their phones. Treister is a gray eminence who has probably forgotten the incident, and if you remind him, he will probably laugh it off. But the crazy irony of it all is that we have the water-and-light show after all.

Instead of having it as art, we have it as the tackiest commercialism.

The Tidal Cove Waterpark is part of the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa, and no doubt it is a lot of fun for the kids, fun enough to get them off their phones. It looks like fun when you drive past, and nobody wants to be the party-pooper old fogey who tries to deny children their fun (especially if my psychologist friend finds out).

This particular brand of fun is pretty pricey; JW Marriott is not a discount brand by any means. Still, despite the expensive look, it was clearly not designed by Kenneth Treister.

In fact, it looks much more like it was designed by Fisher-Price or Mattel or Hasbro, or whatever company dominates the toy industry these days. It screams Kiddie Park, and if you can’t hear that subtle artistic scream, you can definitely hear the kiddies scream as they gleefully careen down the seven water slides. Even if you keep your eyes discreetly averted as you drive by, your ears provide unmistakable evidence of all the raucous fun.

Water parks are an important feature of a society catering to the needs of all age groups, but there is a particular type of setting appropriate for this sort of thing. You need a big open-lot kind of area that looks like a venue for a carnival or a rollercoaster or a go-cart racing track or all of the above.

In this type of environment, the gaudy furnishings and the long tubular plastic troughs do not look tacky at all. If anything they convey a feeling of humanity finding joy in every kind of surrounding, and those same giddy sounds can provide a feeling of uplift. They become the sounds of innocence and joy and hope marching proudly into the future.

Those same sounds in the urban-cum-suburban atmosphere of Aventura just convey obliviousness and cluelessness. And the big artificial ice-cream cone structure…ugh!

No, I am not proposing we do anything about it. It is what it is, and I hope the kids whose well-to-do parents drop them off at the park have loads of fun and tell their friends Aventura is a cool place. They should feel free to squeak and squeal in their tender years without fear of offending my tender ears.

I am merely reflecting that my colleagues and I might have missed the Thunderboat back when Treister came around. I can’t help thinking that, had we given him his water-and-light show as a classy artistic flourish, we wouldn’t have had it land on us as a sleazy sideshow.


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