POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

Solo all-nighter at South Beach

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The News Cafe on South Beach

Stop at the News Cafe on South Beach before dawn and you won't face this kind of crowd. (ORLANDO SENTINEL / January 26, 2007)

My two jobs collided this past weekend in a very auspicious way.

The music critic was dispatched to write about Paul McCartney's big concert at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, while the travel writer was assigned to make the most of that corporate travel expense by folding some travel reporting into the weekend.

A tough job, but somebody has to do it.

The concert? I won't rehash the details again here, but I don't know too many other 67-year-old guys who can rock out for nearly three hours for 40,000 people. (If you missed my proper review of the show, you can find it at OrlandoSentinel.com/soundboard.)

In keeping with the vagabond Postcards From Florida spirit, today's column offers a back-of-the-notebook glimpse at my South Florida road trip.

First, some background: The Miami excursion was a homecoming. I grew up in the lovely, tree-shaded suburb of Miami Springs, near the Miami International Airport. There are memories around so many corners that the commute across town can be a slow one.

But the sight-seeing highlight of my weekend unfolded serendipitously at a place that didn't exist, at least in its current state, in my formative rambling days of the 1970s.

In that era, our mothers warned us against venturing into the seedy stretch of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and we weren't bold enough to defy that order. Of course, that was before the revitalized South Beach was transformed into an internationally known hot spot.

A meal at the famous News Café (800 Ocean Drive) was on my to-do list, but I wasn't too crazy about fighting for parking and coping with crowds. My solution: An arrival on Ocean Drive at roughly 3:30 a.m., as part of an impromptu all-nighter fueled by foolishness and adrenaline.

At that hour, the beautiful people are still swinging on Ocean Drive, executing perilous U-turns on the narrow street that made me nervous for my rental car. By the time I finished breakfast (eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast and tea for $13, including tip), it was quiet enough for a solitary tour of the Art Deco architecture.

Then, it was across the street to the beach to watch the dawn with toes in the surf, an Easter sunrise service for one.
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