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The top 10 reasons I love Sarasota.

The top 10 reasons I love Sarasota.

Since this is our annual issue, the one that remains on the stands all year round in an attempt to inform tourists and other passersby about the delights of Sarasota, they have asked me to write something really special, a sort of "love letter to my hometown." They should have asked Pam Daniel. Do you ever read her column? It's called "Sit and Have A Chat With the Editor" or something like that and it's the most popular thing in the magazine. Frankly, I don't get it. I mean, trying to get sympathy out of a dead pet. I'd never stoop to that sort of thing. Still, as Pam would be the first to admit, I am never selfish enough to withhold suggestions; indeed, many of her pieces, including the one that won that big prize at the magazine convention on Marco Island, originated from discussions with me during slack moments at the office; and on many occasions I have lent my modest skills as a writer/editor in an attempt to bring order to her badly mangled sentences.

But enough about Pam and her delightful column. Back to my own essay, which I have decided to entitle "The 10 Things I Love Most About Sarasota In No Particular Order." Here they go:



The more I travel the more I appreciate our town's convenience stores. They are on every corner, it seems, and they are clean and well-lit. Often, on Saturday night, the clientele is even more well-lit. If you're into trampy girls the best time to drop by is around 11 p.m. That's when they all pull in to buy cigarettes. Did you know the Circle K out on Longboat sells Dom Perignon? It's $85 a bottle, and they keep it right next to the chicken sandwiches. True, the Circle has fallen off a little since they filed for bankruptcy but many feel - me included - that the mandatory drug testing will help. 7-11, is, of course, an old favorite, famous for its exorbitantly priced tuna fish. But perhaps the greatest convenience store in town is the venerable Short Stop, downtown next to the Woman's Exchange. It's a Sarasota institution if there ever was one; everybody shows up. I recently spotted Peewee Herman in the aisle; he was purchasing a can of bug spray and some Spaghetti-O's. The Short Stop was just remodeled, but its basic character remains surprisingly intact. I was a little dismayed to see they put in a shelf marked "Gourmet Items," but closer examination proved it was merely an excellent selection of Smurf Cookies.






Let's face it: unless you're in Nursing Home Management, you're not going to be in the "fast lane" of your profession if you live in Sarasota. This means the town's yuppies live in a world similar to the "Three Sisters." They brood about what might have been and dream of moving to Ft. Lauderdale. The years slip by, your college classmates are making three times as much money, and here you are, stuck in some backwater in Florida. This seems to be particularly hard on the women, as the number of eligible bachelors is so limited that the Cancer Society puts them on display each year and charges money just to see them. When an unmarried Jewish doctor moves to town it is big news. You should see the fights and squabbles going on over recently divorced Jim Feldbaum. One girl was so excited to finally meet him that she fainted at his feet, which actually turned out to be a pretty smart move as he then had to carry her to a handy bedroom and minister to her for a half hour.

As far as the men are concerned, most of the brooding seems to be about hair loss.


Sarasota is just about the only beach town in the East where the sun sets over the water, thus providing us an invaluable edge in placating tourists, who will forgive any amount of overcharging, bad food, etc., if they get a nice sunset. In Key West they have figured out a way to make big money out of the sunset and have all sorts of bars facing that way with Jimmy Buffett wannabes serenading the crowds, not to mention a daily sunset festival, which is held in a large parking lot and has trained housecats, sword swallowers, and elderly hippies selling baked goods. Why don't we do that here? I've never figured this out, as it is such a natural. We have much better sunsets than Key West. Well, maybe someday ... In the meantime you might want to check out our quiet, tasteful little sunsets at Siesta Beach, where a large crowd gathers, or perhaps the Van Wezel parking lot with its convenient RV parking.



You know the feeling - you're driving to a party and you're thinking, gee, will there be anybody I know there? Will I have anybody to talk to? Well, as long as the Cheeks are in town that is never a problem. They go everywhere. Furthermore, they are directly involved in half the parties in town. No social event is complete without them. They do all this because they love it and are good at it and it raises a lot of money for worthy causes. They are also beautifully mannered, good company and, after their recent spa regimen, slimmer than ever. But enough with the compliments. Did you know Carol was a Miss Rheingold? I find this fact thrilling, as would anyone from the New York area, where the annual search for the beer spokeslady was a media event and beauty contest all rolled into one. I think the gimmick was that you had to cast your ballot at your neighborhood tavern. I can still remember the jingle: "Vote, Vote for Miss Rheingold, Miss Rheingold Nineteen dah-dah-dah (insert year)." Just think, I ended up knowing a Miss Rheingold. And not only that - she was a close personal friend of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. He tried to convert her. (And why not? Just think of the headlines. "Miss Rheingold Becomes a Nun!") Then she met Ed ... let me tell you, this town is full of stories...




I'm always amused when outsiders consider Sarasota an enclave of the rich and famous. To me it's the home of Nick's Bar, of the Peek-a-Boo Lounge, of big-band dancing at the trailer park. Of all those strange murders out on Longboat. Suicide pacts among the elderly are common. The largest air-freight category leaving Sarasota is human remains. And a man who moves in the very highest level of society was recently spotted at a party in full drag. Nobody noticed. They just thought he was another ugly woman.



Every area has its indigenous population and we are indeed fortunate here in Sarasota to have the rednecks, who have lived in these parts for what seems like thousands of years. The males are easily identifiable by the 12-pack of beer which they carry under their arms. Whereas most groups have a certain pride in their heritage and accomplishments, not so the Rednecks. In fact, you're not really a redneck unless you revel in your shiftless ways and toss your beer cans - along with your kids and dogs - into the back of your pick up. As far as I'm concerned, they're great to write about because they never complain no matter what you say about them. They just don't care. I have yet to get a phone call saying how dare I make fun of those poor rednecks. If you want to see them in their natural habitat, try any Waffle House restaurant or the Hob Nob Bar on 301 and 17th Street, which can perhaps be best described as the Lutece of the redneck lifestyle.



You may find this hard to believe but I hardly spend any money on clothes. First of all, you don't need that many in this climate. Second of all, the look here is definitely casual and that's fine with me. People marvel at the fact that I only own two pairs of pants. Fortunately, Sarasota's numerous cultural and charitable organizations have been most generous in sending me free T-shirts advertising their events; I find these so sensible that I can rarely be persuaded to wear anything else. But please - 100 percent cotton only. I have a tendency to sweat. Speaking of which, I also own a tuxedo I got on sale down at the mall. It's all polyester and boy is it toasty. It's like wearing a garbage bag. It's so cheap that it's not even black. I mean, it's supposed to be black but it's really this funny dark green color. That's why at formal parties you always see me standing in the shadows.





Sally Traeger, that is. She used to write for The Longboat Observer. But Joan Griffith is a comer. She's Helen's daughter and writes for Phil Carlton's new paper, the Independent. She's the best thing in it. In fact, she's practically the only thing in it. I counted four ads. I mean, do we really care that much about hospital politics? I'd rather read a good gossip column any day and Joan's is one of the best.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Clubhouse Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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