Greetings From the Gulf: January

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By John Morton

It was at noon sharp when I called a bunch of local psychics, hoping I’d get no answer and giggle as I reported to you that these folks are totally out to lunch.

And this, I assure you as a new year arrives, is the kind of side-splitting, knee-slapping, belly-aching humor you can expect from me in 2022.

Yet just before I was about to turn to my Magic 8 Ball, a woman named Nancy Mitchell caught me off guard when she picked up her phone at her Bee Ridge office.

I scrambled to find my script.

“Um, yes, my prophet of prediction, my dear seer, my clairvoyant crystal-baller, my soothing soothsayer, my pretty paranormal …”

She cut me off, asking “Let me guess, you want a prediction about Siesta Key in 2022, right?” while clearly worried it might soon become 2023.

“How on earth did you know that?” I replied, wide-eyed.

“I feel better vibes, better energy,” she said. “It’s going to be better than last year.”

Ah, good. What a relief.

Then the ultimate question hit me: Was 2021 bad? Was it good? Somewhere in between?

Either way, what the hell was that?

(We interrupt this column to note that most of those born in 2022 will be alive to see the arrival of the 22nd century. Knowing the age of my average reader, remember how we couldn’t believe we were around to see the 21st century? Father Time, will you please slow down?)

Back to now, as this year concludes, I don’t think anyone can dispute that 2021 was one of the craziest of all time for Siesta Key. For those of you snowbirds who go away for much of the year and are just returning here, turn to pages 13, 14 and 15 of this issue for our Year in Review and good luck grabbing your spinning skull before it blasts off into orbit.

Sarasota’s progress, if you want to call it that, is currently off the charts. And it’s punctuated by my memory that for many, many years things here just seemed to stand still. And that was the point of it being my family’s ultimate getaway. The well-kept secret had yet to be whispered, and certainly not shouted.

We made the Sarasota Surf & Racquet Club our home away from home in 1976, and I recall the only attraction in the downtown area being the Old Heidelberg Castle. Only the spectacle of beer-stein-toting St. Pauli girls bouncing on trampolines between orders could drag us off Siesta Key, my dad decided.

En route, I couldn’t believe what a tired, desolate area it was.

For years, in fact, I thought Sarasota’s downtown was actually St. Armands Circle. I’m sure I’m not alone on that one.

Then one day — and I literally can’t remember when — downtown exploded. It seemed instantaneous.

And it put an end to everyone meeting at “the wall.”

Yes, in the 1970s and early ‘80s, the place to go to socialize was the waist-high sea wall at our condo and the tiki-hut grill at its center. I kid you not — hundreds upon hundreds of kids would gather there nightly, coming from all points of the county.

This was great for me, seeing as the wall was literally below my family’s fifth-floor unit.

But that changed in the spring of 1978. There I was, working on a girl named Cindy Sobinski of Aurora, Illinois, within a sea of partiers. Suddenly, the condo porch light goes on and I can see the silhouette of my mother. Then, despite the battling boom boxes, I heard the start of a nightmare.

“It’s 10 o’clock. Time to come on up.”

I just grinned at my gal, and continued with my lies.

“I know you’re down there. I know you can hear me!”

People started to look around, wondering who was the victim. I didn’t bat an eye, keeping my composure, returning to my stories of athletic prowess at the University of Wisconsin. A rarity for someone who’s actually 15 years old.

However, being an amateur, I’d been using my real name. I told her I was John Morton.

A few minutes passed … but it wasn’t that mom had given up, of course. Are you kidding me?

It was the calm before the storm. And you know where this is heading.

“JOHN MORTON, THAT DOES IT! YOU GET UP HERE RIGHT NOW!!!”

Cindy spits out her Pabst Blue Ribbon and howls, the crowd turns to me and howls, and I sheepishly look up at the porch, a bright shade of beet red that apparently lit up the nighttime skies.

Defeated, I start to take my first steps … and you’d think that would be enough.

But oh no. There was still an atom bomb to drop.

“JOHN MORTON, NOW MEANS NOW! DARN IT, THIS ISN’T FAIR!

“IT’S LATE, I WANT TO GO TO BED, AND YOU HAVEN’T TAKEN YOUR TETRACYCLINE!!!”

Now that is how you make time stand still.

And that’s when I learned the hard way about menopause.

Hey, if I can survive 1978, I’d like to think that those of you who don’t like what lies ahead in 2022 will also pull through.

A roundabout will be built. At least two new huge hotels will likely begin construction. Siesta Promenade will explode.

May I suggest something stronger than tetracycline?

Meanwhile, those in favor of all that “progress” will call it a banner year.

But remember — Ms. Mitchell only predicted better vibes, better energy. And that’s what Siesta Key delivers year-in and year-out, despite all the other noise.

And at the end of 2022, on New Year’s Eve, there’s a chance Siesta Key will become its own town.

Wow.

Here’s to the New Year. Here’s to rolling with the punches. Here’s to reminding ourselves how blessed we are to live here.

Here’s to Cindy Sobinski reading this. Call me, babe. I’ve got more stories to tell.

And no, this time they are not all about me. They’re about Siesta Key!

And they’re even more unbelievable.

(John Morton is managing editor of Siesta Sand.)

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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