'2020' BOOK EXCERPT: California Love


Los Angeles had plenty to offer: Palm trees, warm weather, nice sights, good food...and excellent marijuana. Needless to say, the fiancée and I had a good time in a limited southern California.(PHOTO: Cappex)

This is an excerpt from Andrew Powell's first book '2020: A Year So Wild I Had To Write a Book About It' which is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2021

CALIFORNIA LOVE


On the way to the airport in New Zealand, that's when we noticed right away that the media had been lying to us about this whole COVID-19 situation – or should I say, it just verified even more what we already knew about the press bullshitting us about this virus and the hoopla that surrounds it.


According to them, there was nobody out because everyone was staying home, no cars driving around, no businesses open – those were blatant lies. There was traffic all over the place from Dannevirke to Wellington, which is about a two and a half hour drive, and there were plenty of people out and about and businesses operating. The media lied to us, again, but that isn't really shocking anyone.


We were in two different airports while in New Zealand: Wellington International Airport and Auckland International Airport. From Auckland, we then ventured off to Los Angeles International Airport here in the United States.


What amazed me was the drastic difference between the two nations.


While in the Kiwi airports of Wellington and Auckland, there weren't many people at all, I give the mainstream media that, but nobody was wearing face masks, and quite honestly, it didn't really seem like anybody was worried about COVID-19. Yeah, airports were making an announcement here and there about masks and social distancing, but for the most part, people just carried on business as usual.


When we got on the Air New Zealand plane, they packed us up like sardines. That flight was packed. But even so, there was only a handful of people who had face masks on. For the most part, the island nation (well, the people, not so much the government) was relaxed about the China virus.


And then we landed in Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States of America, a nation that was and still is considered the world’s "epicenter" of the coronavirus. And I swear to you, as soon as we landed, literally everybody on the plane (with the exception of me and my fiancée) pulled out their face mask.


Now they were out since we were in America. It was absolutely amazing.


Now I'm sure LAX's mandatory face mask policy was a part of it, but the biggest reason for that reaction had to be the amount of Kiwis, British and even Americans scared to absolute hell of the United States (thanks to the scaremongering of the mainstream media). However, I did manage to get a chuckle out of the situation.


When you got into the LAX, it was clear that Los Angeles World Airports' (LAWA) policy was both ironic and illogical. Yeah, sure, everyone was wearing a face mask, there was no problem there, but the purpose of that got completely thrown out of the window with zero social distancing.

Los Angeles International Airport (PHOTO: Business Traveller)


From walking out of the plane to walking through immigration, we were all packed together in lines with no space separating any of us, both vertically and horizontally. So sure, you had people with their masks, but you also had people right behind you, in front of you and beside you from both directions. It was a disaster, but whatever.


After we got out of immigration and gathered our luggage, we then continued our journey from Los Angeles to Anaheim – the COVID-19 epicenter of California. There, we would stay for three or four days before we headed to Pennsylvania.


Before we left the airport, however, we were greeted by some random African guy that happened to be working for a limo service. The transaction started out incredibly shady, but he turned out to be a quick and efficient driver that got us to our destination safely. Everything was good up until we got the bill though: $160 for a 30 minute trip is what he charged us. Yes, we got ripped off.


Word of advice: Take an Uber, you'll save so much money.


As far as the African driver was concerned, it was interesting, because there were actually warnings over the speakers about that exact same thing later on when we were at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York City.


In the LAX, there was nothing about that, and it was easy for someone like him to take advantage of travelers like us – we just came off of a 13-hour flight, were exhausted, had two little kids with us, neither my fiancée and I were familiar with Los Angeles, and we were just ready to get to our hotel. We were easy targets to get hustled, and that's exactly what happened – we got hustled.


What made it even worse was the fact that I ended up leaving my laptop in the African's SUV, which then forced me on a wild goose chase to try and get in contact with him. However, he was an independent driver, and that made things tough to do so. Fortunately, he ended up calling the hotel and got in contact with our room, telling us that he was going to bring the laptop back after he made a few pick-ups and drop-offs. Life saver, right?


Here was the kicker: He charged us another $160.


When I originally tried to pay him again with my debit card, it ended up not going through because my bank had put a travel restriction on it – I completely forgot to tell them that I was going to Los Angeles. So, I then had to go retrieve my fiancée's card to get this tall ass African off of our backs. But that wasn't an easy task, of course, there had to be a little stress on top of the situation.


This man, who had to be around 6'8", leaves his car in the middle of the hotel parking lot, proceeds to follow me all the way to our hotel room, and stands behind me waiting for me to pay him – I have to give it to the guy, he was absolutely about his money.


My fiancée didn't make the situation any better either, getting pissed (justifiably so, she didn't want to spend the extra money) and trying to start an argument with me (which wasn't necessary at all) in front of the driver. Meanwhile, I'm just sitting there begging in my mind for her to just give me the damn card so we can just pay the guy.


Man, I was so happy when that whole exchange was over. Never trust a 6'8" African driver that you may see in the LAX, that man is dangerous to your pockets.


As far as the drive, it was pretty cool to see the landscape from Los Angeles to Anaheim. Some of the most memorable sights were, of course, the palm trees, beautiful sunshine, we happened to go past the headquarters of the newspaper The Los Angeles Times (which was pretty cool for me being inside the media), and even came close to famous areas such as Compton and Inglewood – the soccer fan in me also thought it was cool to see a Los Angeles Galaxy billboard.

Los Angeles skyline (PHOTO: Data Center Knowledge)


When the realization of being in LA finally settled in, it was pretty cool. I've always viewed New York City, Los Angeles and Miami as the “three-headed monster” of the United States, and the only one that I've ever been to was NYC. However, I still have always considered the City of Angels to be my second-favorite city in the country (behind Miami), and I wasn't disappointed with the very limited parts of the city that I was able to see.


Sunshine, palm trees, high-quality marijuana, what wasn't there to like?


California isn't dead like Gov. Gavin Newsom would want you to believe. Traffic wise, people being out and about, and businesses up and running, southern California was pretty busy. However, you could tell that a pandemic hit, and this because of us staying in Anaheim, and what is Anaheim the home of?


Disneyland.


The hotel that we were staying at was right beside the park, and I mean literally right beside it. If you've ever been to Disneyland before, you obviously know that it gets pretty packed around there – hell, you don't even have to go there to know it gets busy. Well, we walked up Disneyland Drive and around the park and it was completely dead. A local here and there would be out getting some exercise, Disney still had people doing maintenance, but for the most part, it was dead around Disneyland. But Anaheim, the city itself, was still a pretty busy city.


As far as we were concerned, my fiancée and I couldn't really do much because we had our two youngest kids with us, so for the most part, we stayed in the hotel and literally ordered thousands of dollars worth of UberEats, DoorDash and GrubHub. It was incredibly unhealthy, but absolutely amazing all of the delicious food that we were able to eat.


Here were some of the places that we managed to get food from, and yes, it was literally all of these places over a span of just a few days: Taco Bell, Wienerschnitzel, Five Guys, McDonald's, Denny's, Sonic, IHOP, Papa John's, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, Starbucks, Red Robin, Johnny Rockets, The Cheesecake Factory, 7-Eleven and the list goes on and on and on.


But there was one other thing that we were able to do being in California: Smoke legal marijuana.


Now before we get into this part, I just want everyone to know that our children were nowhere near the marijuana. My fiancée and I would take turns going outside of the hotel room to smoke, so before we get started, I need everyone to know that. With how politically correct and sensitive everyone is nowadays, the last thing I need is for someone to come up with the wrong idea.


Second, I understand that the political Right (my side of the aisle) is pretty much split on the marijuana issue, though from a poll that I did, the majority of people on the Right do lean in favor of legalization, however, conservatives who don't agree with me on this subject need to understand that I'm very libertarian when it comes to marijuana. I could get into that debate, but that's another conversation for another day, or as a matter of fact, another chapter.


Now, let's continue.


I absolutely love the marijuana culture in California. There could be a few tweaks here and there, such as actually having somewhere to smoke (you can buy it, they just don't have anywhere you can actually smoke at), but it was real cool for the most part. My favorite parts: Delivery, which was certainly my favorite, it was an incredible experience, and my second favorite part were the most delicious and smooth-burning king palm pre-rolled blunts (we'll get them in the next trip to California).


The first dispensary that we ordered from, Puffy, had a service where they would deliver legal marijuana straight to your home or hotel, which is sad, because their business nowadays is actually quite minimal.

"They had excellent branding and their inventory was plentiful and potent." - Andrew Powell (PHOTO: Cal Marshall/High Times Magazine)


We had stayed in Orange County's Anaheim, which is around 30 minutes from Los Angeles, and that's where we were getting our deliveries. However, Puffy no longer delivers to Anaheim anymore sadly, and in the small area that they do serve, they have a very small supply of inventory nowadays – they didn't even have any flower for God sake the last time that I had checked.


I'm not exactly sure what happened with Puffy, but we did have good experiences the few times that we ordered from them. They only accept cash or services such as PayPal and Venmo, and when you purchase from them, they give you your order in a neat little branded pink box, with their brand and information listed in navy blue font.


It was a pretty cool operation that Puffy had going, and I hate that their business seems to be on the decline. They had excellent branding and their inventory was plentiful and potent. As far as what we got, we bought a solid collection of hybrid pre-rolled joints, vape pens and we also managed to get 3.5 grams of some legendary OG Kush.


If you're not familiar with OG Kush, my favorite marijuana strain of all time, here is a description of the strain via Leafly and CannaConnection:

OG Kush was first cultivated in Florida, in the early ‘90s when a strain from Northern California was crossed with a Hindu Kush plant from Amsterdam. The result was a hybrid with a unique terpene profile that boasts a complex aroma with notes of fuel, skunk, and spice.
The genetic backbone of West Coast cannabis varieties, OG Kush arrived in Los Angeles in 1996 when Matt “Bubba” Berger brought it (along with “The Bubba,” which was later used to create the famed Bubba Kush) from Florida to legendary cultivator Josh D. Since then, OG Kush has become a worldwide staple used to create numerous famous strains like GSC and Headband. There are many different phenotypes of OG Kush, including Tahoe OG, SFV OG, and Ghost OG.
OG Kush is known for its strength and complex aroma/flavour profile. The aroma/flavour is bold and attention-grabbing, with notes of earth, pine, diesel, spice and citrus. Typically testing between 19-25% THC and with up to 0.3% CBD, the intense high hits quickly with a buzzy body high and bright euphoria.
It’s a perfect hybrid for any occasion, but may vary somewhat due to its different phenotypes. Some users may get a stronger Indica feel with deep, relaxing effects, while others may have stronger sativa results and feel more euphoria at the beginning of their high. But everyone can agree it is a solid hybrid.
Users have indicated, that this strain is good for taking out stress and anxiety, but with its potency and high THC content, people who are sensitive should be aware, that this strain can bring on paranoia sometimes. Medicinal users enjoy OG Kush because it does help increase appetite for those individuals having trouble keeping food down or experiencing gastrointestinal issues. People also use OG Kush to relieve pain symptoms.

As I previously stated, OG Kush is my all-time favorite strain of marijuana, and for two reasons: 1. It helps out with my anxiety and helps me to focus more clearly on work. 2. It helps out with my stomach problems that I have from time to time.


If you need a recommendation of a strain to smoke, I highly suggest OG Kush, and it can be any kind of OG strain – Tahoe OG, Bubba Kush, SFV OG, Fire OG, Headband, True OG, GSC, and that’s just to name a few – all of them are good. Try it, you won't be disappointed.


The night before we headed back to the LAX to venture off to the East Coast, that's when the first Black Lives Matter (we'll get to them more later) protest broke out in Los Angeles. It was before the rioting started, and we had no problem getting to the airport, but that's when the BLM protests officially began in LA, which was personally a cool experience for me as a journalist.


Not only that, but it was truly my "Welcome Back to America" moment that would end up leading us to an outright adventure that lasted the entirety of the summer.


I remember sitting right in front of the TV and completely glued to what was going on. Just a couple of hours earlier, we were watching Fox News and their coverage of the riots that were taking place in Minneapolis. We were interested enough by that, and then boom, all of a sudden you had a protest break out in the same city that we were in.


Like I said, we had to go to the airport the next morning, so there really wasn't much that we could've done content-wise with the protest.


Still though, it was a great way to start out our trip to the United States with a bang.


Leaving Los Angeles and heading to Philadelphia, we flew with American Airlines, and I don't mean to take a few digs at our national airline, but I'm going to have to – I wasn't impressed with their service.


My negativity towards American Airlines actually started back in 2018, the first time that I flew to New Zealand, when I was dealing with a stewardess who had a major attitude problem. I was already on board the plane about to leave the LAX to head to Australia for a layover, so I had to play it cool, but I'm not too fond of attitudes, especially when it comes from their disorganization – they didn't have enough room for everybody to place their luggage, so I literally had to place my carry-on bag near the front of the plane while I was sitting near the back.


That was my first strike with these guys.

I'm not the only one who is down on American Airlines, this according to a graphic of Wallethub's 2019 airline ranking. American remained at the No. 10 position in Wallethub's 2020 version of their airline ranking. (PHOTO: WalletHub)


My second strike against American was when I, this time with my fiancée and two little children, was once again leaving Los Angeles, this time to Philly here in 2020.


The service was absolutely horrible. Not only was their minimal service and no entertainment on the flight, which weren't even major concerns to me, but the thing that got me was the unprofessionalism of the flight attendants.


Having the most private conversations, being loud on top of that, being right behind me while doing all of this, and it probably wouldn't have been as annoying if I would have gotten some actual sleep the night before, but that's part and parcel of traveling: No sleep.


It's probably a small thing to nitpick, but it was just another bad experience with this airline. I have yet to have a good flight with American Airlines, which is a bit disappointing considering I love their branding and they sponsor my favorite NBA's teams arena: The Miami Heat's American Airlines Arena.


I want to like you American Airlines, but I'm looking for some good service.


I'm a big believer in capitalism and the free market, so I do have expectations when it comes to business, and AA failed to meet them.


I'm hoping they make it up to me in the future.


Wink, wink.


Oh, and people like to talk about the customers of Spirit Airlines, I actually had a much worse experience with the flyers of American Airlines.


There were two experiences that I had on this flight to Philadelphia:

  1. I'm walking on the plane with a bookbag, a baby bag and also carrying two strollers in the process, while also making sure my fiancée and kids all get settled into their seats. However, this lady who looked like she was somewhere in her mid-30's and was completely alone, starts yelling at me out of nowhere to not take up all of the space for luggage in the overhead bins. I completely ignored her, put all my stuff in anyways, and was planning on looking behind me at her in arrogance. However, before I could even get a word out, she starts yelling again saying, "Oh, just ignore me then." To which I responded, "What do you want me to do exactly?" She had nothing to say after that.

  2. My second negative interaction happened mid-flight, this time with a guy that was sitting in front of me. Now just a reminder, we had an extraordinarily early flight to catch that morning at LAX, and we were also up late the night before because of all the packing and organizing that we had to do. In other words, I was dead ass tired. We all were. On this flight, I was trying to get some sleep, and in order to do so, I laid my head on the seat in front of me. Now normally on flights, and I fly consistently, I don't have any problems, but on this flight, there of course had to be one. The guy sitting in front of me ends up waking me and rudely tells me that I need to stop doing that... I didn't comply, and kept getting some rest. Later on the flight, he wakes me up again, but this time to him bitching to the flight attendants about me. Fortunately for me, the attendants did nothing about the matter, and I kept getting some rest. All that happened here was a case of this guy being an asshole.

But still, I for some reason keep having bad incidents with American Airlines, and in turn, I have built up a hesitation and a resistance to fly with them.


Now this is just me, fly with whomever you want, but me personally, I prefer the likes of Delta and Spirit out of the airlines that I’ve flown with up until this point.


And as far as AA is concerned, you can always make it up to me.


I hope to hear from you soon.