08:41:12 am on
Monday 20 Nov 2017

My First Time
AJ Robinson



Venice Beach Pavilion, Venice, Florida

People tend to remember the first things they do. There’s first day of school, first girlfriend or boyfriend, first kiss, first child, and so on. As I’m a civil engineer, I always recall one first. That is, the first engineering project I created.


Venice Florida is a quaint community.

I was fresh out of college, a newbe engineer, working for the City of Venice. It’s a quaint little community in southwest Florida. It sits right on the Gulf Coast and well known for the signature pavilion down at the town beach.

Shortly after I got home, I got a job in the engineering department, of the city. I was an assistant to the City Engineer. The first order of business was drawing up the plans for something called Prehistoric Park.

The name, Prehistoric Park, confused me. After all, this was Florida. What was prehistoric about it?

Based on what I learned in college, Florida was essentially a huge sandbar that had only recently formed, well, at least from a geologic standpoint. Then I got the low down on the town’s history.

Along Venice Avenue, there was a wide green space that separated the lanes. That area had several small parks. There was “Founders Park,” which celebrated the men that established the city. There was “Heritage Park,” too, that commemorated the different aspects of life in Venice: fruit groves, fishing and so on.

Now the city wanted a park to acknowledge the prehistoric history of the area. It was my task to draw up the plans. It was quite the honour, even if it was a small project.


I had to start somewhere.

The park” was nothing more than some semi-circular walls, a couple benches and some relief artworks that depicted the giant sharks and other ancient creatures that once called the area home. In the case of the sharks that definitely made sense. You see, Venice is a great place to find fossilized sharks’ teeth. As a kid, on my first visit there, my mom and I collected practically a literal bucket full of them!

Once the plans were ready, we put the project out to bid, accepted a bid and the construction started. As the city hall was on Venice Avenue, it was just down the street from the park. I was able to stroll down to the construction site on my lunch hour and check out the progress.

The masons even let me set a few blocks in place. I took the liberty to write a short note and slip it into the wall cavity. Who knows, maybe by the time the park is truly prehistoric someone will find it.

At the construction site, I noticed that a little pedestal area right in the centre, where a plaque was to be set. No, it didn’t list my name as the designer or anything like that. For that matter, it didn’t list anyone connected with the project. The plaque just gave some background info on the prehistoric animals that lived in the area.

I didn’t mind. It was my first project, a small simple one for a small town in Florida. The Pavilion was one of the simplest set of plans I ever created.


I do bigger jobs now.

These days, I do plans for residential developments that encompass hundreds of homes, amenity centers, lakes and roads and all the utilities and infrastructure associated with them. A little park like that is a nothing burger, as we say in the office, not worthy of our attention.

Yet, just thinking about the Pavilion makes me smile. On any visit to Venice, I make a point of stopping by to see the park. True, it’s not much to look at, but as anyone who has ever built or created something will tell you, it means a great deal to me.

 

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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