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Stevens muses ‘To be or not to be on Sanibel’

By Staff | Jan 14, 2010

I have a confession to make. When I’m not in Sanibel I want to be in Sanibel. And when I am in Sanibel I don’t want to be anywhere else.

In 2010 I will be in Sanibel twenty-five years. I’m so glad my wife talked me into buying that condo in ’85. I just love it here. I’ve also had the good fortune of writing my column for twenty-four years. So I’ve had the opportunity to look at Sanibel through rose-colored bi-focals all these years.

How did it all begin you might ask? In 1985 I was a part time resident of Sanibel because I had a high powered job in New York City owning and running a public relations firm. If you’ve been watching the TV series “Mad Men” you might have some idea of what my days were like then dealing with employees and clients.

I got a call from the editor of the Island Reporter in 1985 who told me that she had read a humor piece I had written for The New York Times . She asked me if I wanted to write a humor column for the Island Reporter. The idea appealed to me. I had always found humor to be a tonic for me, taking the rough edges off a very competitive professional life.

And so I started my column. But what to call it? This is Sanibel. What could I come up with that reflected the essence of Sanibel? And one day it hit me as I walked along the beach in my Sanibel stoop mode looking down at those hard edged wonders . I called my column “Shell Shocked.”

I started out writing for the Island Reporter and then switched to the Islander. My column is now the longest running column in a Sanibel newspaper. During the time I’ve been writing the column history has swirled around me. I’ve written it through hurricanes, red tides, new restaurants, a new causeway bridge, newly elected U.S. presidents and Sanibel mayors, and countless wars with Lee County.

Some of you may not know this but as a result of my column I was invited to do a two-minute weekly humor commentary a la Andy Rooney during the early evening drive time news feature hour on WINK-TV in Fort Myers. I did it for five years. Lois Thome, the long time WINK-TV anchor lady, used to introduce me. The producer of the segment and I were nominated for Emmy Awards.

Honestly, folks, I never thought I’d be writing a humor column for Sanibel newspapers for almost twenty-five years. When I run into some of you the question I’m most asked is how do you keep coming up with ideas? And my answer invariably is if you’re not careful I might just be writing about you.

If you’ve read my stuff you know that one day I can write about Martians approaching me at Bailey’s. And the next time I can write about a talking gecko. The only consistency to my writing is that my themes are never predictable. Do I make things up? You betcha. Do I have an axe to grind? Yes. Don’t be so damned serious.

I’m very grateful to be in Sanibel twenty-five years and to have a free reign over my imagination and the characters I create. I would like to think that when island residents say they want Sanibel to be Sanibel that they’re also saying that they want Art Stevens to be Art Stevens.

Here’s to the next twenty-five years.