Greetings from the Gulf: March

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Memory Lane, give us space, because here we come

By John Morton

My intent today was to go down Memory Lane, where for me on Siesta Key it might as well be called the Autobahn. When you consider that my whirlwind visits were that of a hard-charging tourist between 1972 and a couple years ago, every second mattered.
I was always racing against time. Only a few more days before I’m back in Wisconsin. And I’m barely sunburned. Pass the oil.
And, again, because our time to enjoy fair weather was always fleeting, every in-the-moment stupid decision seemed spot-on right. I mean, they’re not going to come to the frozen tundra to nab a punk like me, right?
So, yes Mom, I drove on the public beach in 1976 en route to a bad-apple bunch at a bonfire down the way who were expecting assorted “supplies.” I’d like to claim it was an early version of a DoorDash, but I don’t recall our dull-red Wisconsin-born Buick Invicta even having any doors at that point. Indeed, that kind of behavior belongs in the hood — but it sure helps if you have one!
Gas cap? Nope. Windshield wipers? Please.
But hey, those snow tires worked great on that powerdy quartz.
My, were those the days. And the “I Got the Crabs at Captain Curt’s” T-shirts would eventually rule. There were few high school parties back home where I wouldn’t wear this great giggler, and I’d match it with a photo I took at our Gulf Gate Publix when lights on the “L” were missing. Welcome to “Pubix!”
My tales of this far-away party place known as Siesta Key captivated my friends. And I was delivering them with prepubescent perfection.
Had only Pee-Wee’s misadventure happened around the same time! A stroke of bad luck, eh? (Insert laughing emoji.)
Anyway, back on the road. Here I am, approaching the Key, and looking at that hideous mess that is the Siesta Promenade war zone. Can those folks please put up some non-see-through fencing?
Save Siesta Key’s Tracy Jackson has commented several times on how the entryway to the country’s No. 1 beach sure doesn’t represent. For the next few years, that will be the ultimate understatement.
Speaking of Siesta Promenade, its workers knocked down the grand trees that were supposed to be protected. This topic is one of many covered in this month’s issue. And don’t forget how Dave Balot, builder of the approved new hotel on Midnight Pass Road, had to revise his plans in a big way because of the big tree out front.
Anyway, finally reaching the island, good ol’ Memory Lane gave me a pat on the back. First, there was Captain Curt’s. Read about its history in this issue. What a spot!
And then there’s the Crescent Club. I don’t know where to begin with how much the place means to me. It’s hard to put into words (despite that being my job).
How could a swinging-saloon-door-style joint, including the Wisconsin supper club-like red tablecloths and candles with wood beams above, exist in Florida?
Some Crescent Club history is also part of this month’s Siesta Sand. In fact, as you read the front-page piece on Monica Condon and her portrait, we remind ourselves how there’s nothing quite like the power of having memories captured through an art form.
Having folks yell-out “Norm!” is one thing when you enter a tavern. Pointing to a portrait as you settle in, like Monica gets to do, is another.
Total mic-drop.
By the way, I am living in a villa owned by Rick and Linda Valley, who lived here nine years before relocating. Before they left, they shared with me their treasured painting by the late Shawn McLoughlin, the beloved muralist whose work here lives on and on in more ways than meet the eye.
Rick and Linda met at the SKOB, holding hands eventually on the bench, with a pooch in tow. Well, they knew about Shawn’s popular painting of the tavern’s exterior and told him about their connection to that scene. Guess what happened?
McLoughlin painted them all into the setting and handed them a gift. No charge.
Check it out below.

By the way, his memory lives on in another form through the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s Shawn McLoughlin “Selfless Award.” Go to page 16 to see whom upon that great honor was bestowed.
Finally, we all love memories. In many ways, it’s all we’ve got. But here they really seem to matter more. Vacations will do that.
And oh, Midnight (Good Luck Trying To) Pass Road, while you are loaded up with tourists and road projects this spring, I’ve decided I’m going to call you something else.
Maybe because, in part, there is no longer a MIDNIGHT PASS! Can our main drag bear this name until justice is served? That waterway was another place full of memories. Now, it’s just full of sand.
So, for now, Mr. MPR, Memory Lane you are. I’ll be happy to change it back when the dredging is done and the time is right.

(John Morton is managing editor of Siesta Sand.)

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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