Greetings from the Gulf: There’s no masking it … Siesta Key’s real life is the envy of America

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By John Morton

There I was last summer, on lockdown, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

(We interrupt this column to announce that just because I lived in the U.P. for one month, I am not officially a “Yooper” for the rest of my life. Got that, so-called friends of mine?)

Anyway, I was “living” along the Michigan/Wisconsin border, well aware I was sandwiched between cray-cray coronavirus governors.

How did I survive? I dreamt of good old Siesta Key.

But I was 1,500 miles away. So, having heard about a “reality” TV show called Siesta Key, I thought I’d give ‘er a try. It could offer a nice dose of all things Midnight Pass Road that I so desperately missed.

Oops. Big mistake.

How bad? It’s enough to even make the Kardashians cringe.

Not only was this the ultimate misrepresentation of life on Siesta Key, but things would get worse for me when the actors decided to go “clubbing.” Where did this take place?

The Crescent Club.

At this point, I’m hyperventilating. Thank goodness for the mask.

Technically, when you’re at the Crescent Club I suppose you can say you are “Crescent Clubbing,” but come on now. The only clubbing I’ve seen there involved a game of gin rummy.

Next, I found out that the show was created by none other than the 1-800-ASK-GARY guy.

And that he had bought the Crescent Club. And that he was planning to remodel it?

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Just call the guy, I thought to myself. If only I had his phone number! Ha!

Well aware that Florida was the only place that was transitioning back into some semblance of regular life, and as a self-appointed steward of my beloved Crescent Club, it was time to strap on my cape and hit the road for the place I’ve always felt most at home — no, not the Crescent Club, although plenty of people will beg to differ. I’m talking Siesta Key.

Meanwhile, in case I missed the Midwest, that vintage, northern supper-club, red-table-cloth-and-candle look of the Crescent Club would always be there to give me my fix of nostalgia.

It must not change!

Upon arrival, that heavy breathing turned to sighs of relief. Not only had Gary Kompothecras not touched the classic interior, he added on a delightful outdoor area that is perfect for enjoying both gulf and golf.

Bravo, Gary! Bravo!

Now, with that behind me, I sat back and watched the rest of the northerners follow me in the form of tourist-season energy like I’ve never seen.

I can’t tell you the number of people who marveled at how impressed they were with Siesta Key (the island). But, to be fair, one lady even said she loved the show.

Anyway, comments about how our governor balanced business with the virus were constant. How he’s the gold standard and how their governor is worthless.

And how our area was somehow laid-back yet super exciting, all at once.

And how, “as God is my witness, I’m moving here,” several declared.

I even met an Appleton, Wisconsin couple who followed up two weeks here with a weekend revisit a month later.

“We told all our friends back home about how great this place is,” the wife said, and I beamed.

Then it hit me. Siesta Key’s secret, however much of it was left, is definitely out. Some of you long-timers here are probably easing this column into the shredder right about now.

A few Google searches confirmed what is obvious. Sarasota’s real estate market, according to many reports, is now No. 1 in the world. That’s right, as in planet Earth.

And what is one of the most common destinations for relocations? It’s right here.

So, now Siesta Key finds itself in the spotlight. That’s the reality.

Yes, we’re living our own reality show. Gary, you could have just sent a drone up and down the Key and saved on all the production costs.

What a difference a year makes, eh? From empty streets and beaches to gridlock.

From lockdown to lock-’n-load.

Think of all the things that are going on here. New developments, hotel proposals, signs opposing them, an effort of incorporation, and meanwhile a shortage of workers.

Then there is the spike in short-term rentals. Didn’t this past spring break feel more intense, more rowdy, more disrespectful, than ever before?

It’s no doubt an interesting time to live here. Sarasota County celebrates its 100th year right now, and I’d argue it’s one of Siesta Key’s most challenging times in a century. We’re an island at a crossroads. As a barrier island with few turns, we’ve got to decide which one we want to take.

As abnormal as things may be, I’m enjoying the little things that are giving me a sense of normalcy.

When I recently saw a biplane once again streaming that Daiquiri Deck banner above the beach, it felt good.

  When the kids take off this month for the beach run, which I’ve enjoyed so many times from five stories up at my family’s condo, it will feel good.

And, seeing all those folks gather for hot dogs and to catch up with one another at the Crescent Club on Saturday mornings — well, that always feels good.

Small-town stuff that makes time stand still when it’s pretty darn busy around here. Another sigh of relief.

Finally, when the fireworks go off above Siesta Beach next month, those sighs of relief will transition into a collective roar.

A rocket’s red glare will remind me to thank my lucky stars. I’m living life on Siesta Key.

And I pinch myself. It’s my reality.

(John Morton is managing editor of Siesta Sand.)

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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