Having a Cool Time . . .

By Ann Gerhart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 14, 2001

Be honest: Of course you love them, but don't they drive you nuts, your kids? No sooner has winter break ended than they are clamoring for their spring one. They finish frolicking in the cold and start whining for warmth.

At the other end are their grandparents, lonesome in the Florida that was entirely structured for them, an endless round robin of book clubs and contract bridge and yoga class and merengue lessons, everything but the infectious laughter of their babies' babies.

And you? What choice have you, the parents, but to comply? Are you not the sandwich generation, the Boar's Head smoked turkey between a slice of caraway rye and pita? Off you obediently trudge, year after year, on the cheap flights or inside the minivan with the laptop and its DVD plugged into the cigarette lighter. You have needs? Later.

But something about that ubiquitous metaphor of the sandwich was bugging my husband and me as we planned the annual sojourn to Boca Raton (mouth of the rat, and that was before the election escapades). Why couldn't we sandwich the whole Florida vacation -- take a few days in the middle for just ourselves?

So we took the prosaic, peasant grain parent side of ourselves and smeared it with a highly delectable filling of the sex and smolder of South Beach. Nothing, nothing, is a better antidote for Disney World than decadence, especially the all-inclusive decadence of the beachfront Delano Hotel.

Forget the South Beach supermodels with the bronzed, glowing skin; what makes them supermodels when they have nothing on their résumés but "did a Payless shoe commercial at 13" anyway? Forget the muscled, shirtless, tattooed man who wore a live boa like a feather boa one night at Tantra, the nightclub where they import fresh grass to carpet the floor each week.

Nobody, nobody, appreciates decadence more than a couple of parents from the edge city, old enough to spend their months speed-dialing each other about what to cook for dinner that night, young enough to remember when breakfast began at noon with a luxurious stretch and a nudge on the pillow.

The grandparents were eager to get their grandchildren to themselves for a couple of days, so we piled ourselves into the rented Crown Victoria, car of choice for stern state troopers everywhere, and headed down the Florida turnpike for Miami, 50 miles south.

We felt our first shock of pleasure when we stopped at Boca's upscale mall, because no one nagged us for Sprites and soft pretzels. Shopping as a couple, for something other than a major appliance, felt luxurious. My husband wanted to inoculate himself against unhipness with a lovely pair of suave suede loafers (and a pair of mirrored sunglasses he felt went well with the Crown Vic). Beleaguered boomer parents will find themselves with a bit of intimidation to overcome when facing South Beach for the first time.

TIP: The place is filled with chunky tourists from Indianapolis, and Versace is dead. Don't worry about it.

Our escape was to last but two days and two nights, and this made South Beach the perfect choice. It's within a few hours' drive from much of South Florida, requiring no connecting flights to dinky island airstrips. It's not so much romantic as seductively trashy, in an '80s excess, Studio 54, kinky kind of way. Now, that may not be for every mom and dad. But it works for us.

We chose the most decadent hotel on the strip -- the Delano, with its spare rooms and sumptuous bathrooms and its devilishly lighted elevators and its noirish lobby culture and its shades of white and its boutique shop with the $50 metal tube of Dolce & Gabbana sunscreen. And its vacant, inattentive but beautiful staff. And its dazzling mix of Eurotrash, Hollywood has-beens and celebrated acquitted accused murderers.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2001 The Washington Post Company