Miami, Florida was everything I dreamt of: Beautiful weather, palm trees everywhere you look, a gorgeous skyline to accommodate the city and the neon lights in South Beach, beautiful people all over the place, crystal clear water with pure white sand, the city delivered on all of my expectations that I had for Miami – a city that I dreamt of going to since I was a child. Plus, all of my sports teams are there. The dream is now a reality, and I'm going back again in January for two whole weeks. (PHOTO: Orlando Sunshine Tour)
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
SOUTH BEACH WAS EVERYTHING I DREAMT OF, PLUS MORE
Miami is a magical city, and if you've ever been there, you know exactly what I mean.
Hence why they call it the “Magic City.”
The magic for us started immediately from the moment we arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), because reality was setting in that we were really going to Miami – a city that I've dreamt about going to since I was a kid. Even seeing the "JFK > MIA" on my plane ticket was incredibly magical.
I was about to accomplish a goal, a life-long dream: Going to sunny South Florida.
Flying out of New York City's JFK, we flew on Delta Air Lines, which by the way I recommend to anyone interested. It was a great experience flying with them, with the service being good and the seats have a bit more legroom than that of an American Airlines – who I am obviously not the biggest fan of. Delta is a great airline though, and it also helps that they have a nice-looking logo.
HISTORY LESSON: Delta Air Service founded in 1928; started passenger service on June 17, 1929. Logo featured Mercury, the Roman god of travel and commerce. The triangle represented the "D" of the Greek alphabet, which is "delta." (via Delta Museum)
The best experience that I had was the in-flight entertainment, where they had a documentary called Where's My Roy Cohn? about, obviously, Roy Cohn. If you're not aware of who Cohn is, he's most known for being on the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg trial in 1951, Joseph McCarthy's chief counsel from 1953-1954, and his fame then peaked from 1973-1985 as Donald Trump's attorney and mentor.
If you want a good documentary to watch, I highly recommend Where's My Roy Cohn?, it's a very interesting film. There's a few things that I question about the film, such as Cohn keeping the McCarthy era going as long as possible because he wanted to spend time with “lover” David Shine.
Do I believe Roy Cohn was a homosexual?
Possibly, but I couldn't care less, I love Roy Cohn for his service to the country. I couldn't give a damn about his personal life. With that being said, I do think it's ridiculous to make the claim that he wanted an investigation into our military because he wanted to spend more time with his "crush."
I also think it's fake news that Cohn pulled all of the strings he could to get Shine out of the army because he didn't want him to leave, and then when denied, applied pressure on the military to then let him go.
Let's just think about it here for a minute.
Do we really think a young 27-year-old Roy Cohn had enough power over a 45-year-old senator to influence him to launch an entire investigation into the military of all entities just so Cohn could spend time with Shine?
In the words of Joe Biden: Come on, man.
There's plenty of other things about the documentary that I question as well, but I'll keep it there. I don't want to turn this Miami chapter into a long rant about Roy Cohn, who I admire for his work towards the elimination of communism from the United States of America and his influence that was made over right-wing politics – such as the legendary career of Roger Stone and the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
Simply put: I highly recommend Where's My Roy Cohn? to anyone who is interested in a good documentary. It was an excellent film to watch for the flight to Miami.
The legendary Roy Cohn (PHOTO: IMDb)
Right before we got to Miami International Airport, we flew right over South Beach and were close enough to the ocean, sand and palm trees to see how beautiful the city was from the air. The ocean was so beautiful and blue, and so clear that you could see right through it. The sand was so white and so pure, and those palm trees?
They were the most glorious palm trees in the history of palm trees. They were glorious.
When you go to Miami, make sure that you look out for the fly over South Beach, it's one of the most magical feelings that you'll ever experience in your life. Not only are you seeing paradise, but you come to the realization that you're flying into that paradise. A paradise known as Miami, Florida – the best city on the entire planet.
Another thing about the flyover was sports-related. I’m a sports fan, but not just that, I was in sports journalism to go along with both my political and entertainment journalism. Nowadays, I just try to stick with politics, but my heart still has an attachment to Miami sports.
Not only have I been a Miami sports fan since a child, but their brands are just cool to me – Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat, Miami Marlins (though I prefer the old Florida Marlins swag, at least bring back the old Miami Marlins look), Florida Panthers, Inter Miami CF, University of Miami and even Florida International University. All of them are just cool, and fit the "cool" of a city like Miami and an area like South Florida.
Miami Dolphins players celebrate after kicker Jason Sanders (7) made a game-winning field goal with seconds left during the second half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
During the fly over I got to see both Hard Rock Stadium and Marlins Park, and during one Uber drive, I even got to take a picture in front of American Airlines Arena. It was a pretty cool experience for someone like me who grew up a passionate Miami sports fan and admired these brands, both in the forms of sports and the sports business.
After we got out of the airport, we took an Uber to South Beach where we were staying at a hotel on Ocean Drive – yes, we were right there at the beach. That was an incredible experience.
Before we got to South Beach, we had another awesome experience on the Uber driving into Miami and towards Miami Beach, and that was driving across the bridge where you were able to see the skyline, the huge Carnival Cruise Line ships, Millionaires Row and other beautiful attractions – you, of course, had a ton of beautiful water and palm trees surrounding you.
A Carnival cruise ship on Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida (PHOTO: Cruise Industry News)
What made it even better, and my fiancée would appreciate me bringing this up, was the soundtrack that we had playing in the Uber on the way to the hotel and throughout all of those views. It was a song by The Weeknd called "Blinding Lights," which has a Miami-sound to it. Seeing the skyline of Miami, the palm trees, the sun shining and so on, with that song playing in the background, it was unbelievably epic. And it was a perfect way to welcome us to South Florida, and in particular, the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County.
"Blinding Lights" - The Weeknd (Republic Records/UMG Recordings, Inc.)
When we got to South Beach, the Uber dropped us off near Ocean Drive, but couldn't get us to our hotel on the street due to it being closed off because of COVID-19. However, even though I was disappointed that I couldn't see all of the flashy Ferraris and Lamborghinis lined up on Ocean Drive, it turned out to be a pretty cool experience – and a rare experience that street will probably not see for a very long time, if ever again.
It may be a bit blurry, but this was definitely my favorite photograph that I took during my time in South Beach, Miami, Florida. Not only does it highlight the beauty of Miami's Ocean Drive, but it represents the beauty of the United States of America. There's so much that's beautiful about our country, and sunny South Florida is one part of it. Embrace it. This slice of paradise – what I consider to be the greatest area in the entire world – belongs to us Americans. The United States truly is the best country on the planet, and we have so much to offer. Don't take it for granted. (PHOTO: Andrew Powell/The Powell Times)
What it allowed for was Ocean Drive to be friendly to pedestrians walking up and down the street without having to worry about vehicles, and it also allowed businesses to expand for social distancing. Not that I thought it was cool because of the virus, but it was cool to have the businesses expand themselves outside the way they did. It was pretty neat to have everyone walking literally everywhere throughout South Beach and Miami Beach.
When we first got on Ocean Drive and started walking down the street, you could immediately tell the difference between the vibes of Miami and New York City, and you can certainly tell the difference between the grittiness of NYC and the southern hospitality of South Beach.
First thing when my fiancée and I started heading towards the hotel, some guy walked past me and complimented me on my 'Blessed' t-shirt. And that was just the beginning of all of the nice people floating around South Florida. People were just really nice and really happy down there, and it's a great community to be a part of, even if it's just a little bit of time vacationing – it's certainly a dream of mine to live there one day.
Once we got settled into the hotel, we then decided to explore South Beach and check out the sights and local businesses. As far as COVID-19 is concerned, you could tell a big difference between the likes of Los Angeles, New York City and Miami, as well as the Black Lives Matter protests and riots.
With COVID-19, Los Angeles and New York were pretty tense when it came to the China Virus, with face masks being worn (forced in businesses) and social distancing being done. In Miami, however, things were a bit different.
Me posing in front of flamingos at Zoo Miami. (PHOTO: Crystal Powell/The Powell Times)
There was a business here and there that would make you wear a mask, but for the most part, it was either quickly (like a restaurant walking you to your table) or they didn't make you wear one at all. Social distancing was done to a degree, but despite the virus, it was still a pretty packed South Beach.
Paranoia was pretty clear in Los Angeles, and obvious in New York City, but in Miami (at least for most people), it was a pretty stress-free environment when it came to the coronavirus. People were just trying to party and swim, plus, it was just too hot and humid to be worried about the kung flu.
One COVID-19 policy in Miami Beach that I did find a bit dumb was when they made people wear face-masks during their walk from the beginning to the end of the entrance/exit to and from the beach. I honestly didn't see the point in that at all, but this is what happens when you elect Democratic mayors.
Miami-Dade County votes Republicans. The city of Miami votes Republicans. Miami Beach needs to get with the program: Elect a Republican. That's literally the only thing I don't like about Miami Beach. Other than that, it's perfect.
As far as Black Lives Matter is concerned, we didn't have much intensity in Los Angeles because we were catching a flight literally the next day after the protests broke out, but we were up close to tension in New York City with the damage everywhere.
In Miami, we briefly went downtown and that's when we witnessed the only BLM and Antifa-related damage that we noticed, and it was a statue of Christopher Columbus. Everywhere else, it was still clean and beautiful Miami.
While my fiancée Crystal and I were visiting downtown Miami, Florida, we witnessed a Christopher Columbus statue at Bayside Marketplace that was vandalized by both Black Lives Matter and Antifa. It was the only visible damage that we saw in Miami, highlighting their police department's job well done. (PHOTO: Crystal Powell/The Powell Times)
It didn't surprise me though. Miami dealt with the protests and riots completely differently than how Los Angeles and New York City did. There's even video of the Miami Police Department whooping the rioters' ass and taking no shit whatsoever, you didn't see that at all in LA and NYC – especially in New York, it's been an absolute disaster with how they've dealt with everything.
It's nice to see a city like Miami still believe in law and order.
Black Lives Matter rioters can be seen in footage in violent confrontations with police officers in Miami, Florida. On Wednesday, June 10, 2020, a group of protesters reportedly vandalized a statue of historical figure Christopher Columbus in a Bayside Marketplace shopping center. As the police arrived, the confrontations with other protesters began. Miami Police told the Miami Herald that seven people were arrested for vandalizing the statue. While trying to make arrests, police said some officers were assaulted and a police car was damaged. (VIDEO: The Independent)
With the exception of going downtown once, we spent all of our time in South Beach, where swimming in the ocean and enjoying the nightlife and lifestyle of Miami was 100% of our agenda. And that's exactly what we did.
Swimming in the ocean was another one of the collective amazing experiences that I had in South Florida, with the water being so blue and so incredibly clear that you could literally see everything under you, beside you, in front of you and behind you. You could see the fish swimming beside you and everything. Fortunately, there were no shark sightings, and funny enough, there was actually one in Miami Beach the week before we showed up.
Sharks were spotted close to the shore in Miami back in the summer. (VIDEO: CBS Miami)
Another cool experience about swimming in South Beach are the airplanes heading into Miami International Airport flying over while you swim, because you know what they're seeing and know what they're experiencing. You do get jealous of those people when you're about to leave, but it's still cool to feel that magic with passengers coming into paradise.
Yet another cool feature about swimming in South Beach is the true American capitalism that shows itself while you’re enjoying the water. As you swim, there's a giant billboard that is attached to a giant ship that goes back and forth across the ocean, showing you the latest advertisements and deals that are featured throughout Miami.
When we were done swimming for the day, everyday, we would go back to the hotel and get ready for a night out in South Beach. Usually one of the first things we would do was plan out where we were going to eat.
Which brings me to this particular restaurant that we ate at on multiple occasions: Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine, which obviously is a Cuban restaurant, and boy, did they have some of the best food I've ever had in my lifetime.
My fiancée Crystal (left) and I drinking huge margaritas with bottles of Corona beer tipped into them at South Beach's Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine. (PHOTO: Andrew Powell/The Powell Times)
My first experience with them was when we went out the first night we were in the city and I ordered a Cubano sandwich, and oh my god, it was incredibly delicious. On the menu, it's described as "a Cuban classic served with ham, roasted pork, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. Served in a perfectly pressed Cuban bread."
It was honestly one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, if not the greatest. It was so awesome, I ended up getting a second one on another trip that we took to Havana 1957 – we had gone a solid four or five different times in a span of four days staying in South Beach. (We even had two free breakfasts with them that were courtesy of our hotel, Cavalier South Beach Hotel.)
Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine's Cubano sandwich, which is described on their menu as "a Cuban classic served with ham, roasted pork, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. Served in a perfectly pressed Cuban bread." (PHOTO: Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine)
If you're ever in Miami, I highly recommend getting a bite to eat at this restaurant. Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine has five locations in the 305: Lincoln Road, South Beach, Ocean Drive, Española Way and Pembroke Pines. I promise you, you won't be disappointed.
When we were done eating dinner for the night, we would walk up and down Ocean Drive, looking at all of the neon lights that South Beach is known for mixed along with the Art Deco architecture that the city is also known for such as the late Gianni Versace's mansion. It was a sight to see all of the hotels, restaurants and shops lit up, as well as palm trees lit up to join the party.
I even got to take a picture in front of The Clevelander, the home of ESPN Studios in Miami, with their neon blue and pink lights shining bright. That's the sports fan coming out of me again, but it was beautiful, and it was awesome being in the city of Dan LeBatard.
Me posing in front of The Clevelander/ESPN South Beach in South Beach, Miami, Florida, the home of Dan LeBatard's The Dan LeBatard Show and Highly Questionable, in June 2020. (PHOTO: Crystal Powell/The Powell Times)
Another thing about Miami that you will enjoy is the music scene. You'll hear a lot of rap music, no doubt, and some rock here and there mixed in with pop, but for the most part, you'll hear a lot of Cuban music – which might I add, is absolutely spectacular for the city of Miami and the flavor and culture it provides. It was just another thing about the 305 to make you fall in love with it.
Ocean Drive is also known for celebrity sightings, and apparently that's also the case during a global pandemic as well. During one of our walks down the street, we happened to see Flavor Flav, a rapper from the group Public Enemy and former TV star of VH1's The Surreal Life, Strange Love and Flavor of Love. Yeah, he isn't the most high-profile celebrity, but it was still a celebrity nonetheless. My fiancée and I tried to find more celebrities after that sighting, but unfortunately, we didn't see any others – maybe they were quarantining, who knows.
Yet another thing that I enjoy about Miami are the benches that are parked around South Beach, where you could sit down and relax to enjoy the views of Miami – whether it was beautiful people, palm trees, white sand, a bright sun, very blue skies, you had it all. What my fiancée and I enjoyed the most while doing this: Smoking marijuana. (Can you tell we love weed yet?)
Now technically, marijuana is illegal in Florida for recreational purposes, but if you've ever been to Miami or even know of Miami, I'm sure you're aware that it's a party city – everybody is drinking and you can smell marijuana everywhere, and you see plenty of thick clouds as well. It's just a part of the culture of South Beach.
Our first experience scoring weed was when we had first walked out of our hotel after getting back from the ocean to go out and explore South Beach, and as soon as we walked out of the doors, a huge aroma of pot just smacks us in the face. Suddenly, we came up with a plan to get some pot and found some within seconds. That's how easy it is to find marijuana in Miami.
We started walking away from the hotel and instantly I yelled out, "Man, where's the weed at though?!"
Immediately, some random black guy walks up to us, smiles and says, "You guys looking for some weed?"
"Hell yeah, I'm looking for some weed!," I responded.
Florida's famous strain Triangle Kush, also known as Florida OG, gets its name from the Sunshine State's top three marijuana-producing cities: Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville. (PHOTO: ToGo Weed)
He then takes us down the stairs of a store that was right beside us, pulls out a huge bag of medicinal marijuana (you could see the label on the bag) and weighs out our order right in front of us. Afterwards, he then hands us the bag, gives me dap, smiles again and walks off. It was the most glorious and efficient weed deal I've ever been a part of.
A funny story as well about that situation: While he was weighing out our order, a couple walks out of the store we were in front of and the guy in the relationship sees exactly what's going on. The entire time he's walking up the stairs to leave, he's staring at us in amazement of what's going on, telling his girlfriend (or whoever she was) in excitement about the marijuana that he's witnessing – it honestly looked like he wanted some, and with how slow he was walking, I think he was waiting for the dealer to see if he wanted to sell him some too.
Another dealer that we came in contact with happened when we were at the local tobacco store to get some rolling papers, blunts and other items, and I kid you not, he was right in front of the store pushing "OG Kush" to every customer he saw. I personally wanted to get some, but my fiancée got after me for already having some, so we ultimately decided to pass – though I was incredibly tempted because of my love for any OG strain. We did end up regretting that, however, because we eventually ran out of our first order.
Which brings me to our last purchase of marijuana in Miami, and the introduction of a friendly local Miami dealer named "Zuke."
The next morning we had to go to the airport to head back to Pennsylvania to get back to the kids and relieve my mother from duty, but before we left Miami, we wanted to have one more big blowout. But the problem was, we ran out of marijuana. So the plan was to walk up and down Ocean Drive (and we included Washington Avenue) until we found a dealer, and that's what we did. After all, marijuana is illegal in Florida, so you have to scout for it. Our first time getting marijuana was extraordinarily lucky, this time we had to look for it.
We originally started on Washington Avenue, which ended up being a mistake because we actually set ourselves back 20-30 minutes from finding any weed. We were able to find some within 10-15 minutes on Ocean Drive – it didn't take that long at all. So if you're in Miami and looking for some marijuana, just walk up and down Ocean Drive. You'll eventually find it.
When we were walking, my fiancée ended up scouting out a dealer that was actually in the middle of selling pot, and to her credit, she saw him from a good distance away. She's got eyes like a hawk. (Isn't she a saint?)
So what we did is just follow him from the other side of the street, and we got lucky, because there were a load of cops up the street from one corner of Ocean Drive. When the dealer got a view of them, he quickly pivoted to our side of the street and went into one of Lummus Park’s entrances. When he did that, we then entered a close-by entrance so we would end up meeting up with him.
My fiancée actually came up with the idea of just running into him through the park, told me to make eye contact with him, and predicted he would approach me with something to smoke as a result – she was spot on with that whole scenario, because that's exactly what happened. (Again, she is such a saint. I'm an incredibly lucky guy.)
"Y'all need something to smoke?," asked Zuke.
I simply responded, "Absolutely."
He asked us how much we wanted, pulled out a bag of weed and a scale, weighed it, and then handed it to us, giving me dap afterwards. Zuke then asked if we wanted his phone number, and even though we were leaving the next day, we decided to take it. After all, we're definitely planning on going back to South Beach, starting with a two-week vacation that's planned for 2021 – we'll certainly be using the services of Zuke again.
Oh, and here's how that transaction ended: Zuke gives me dap again and then proceeds to say, "And if you ever need *sniffs finger in reference to cocaine*, let me know."
I'm just like "Alright, cool" and kept it moving, because there were two things that I was trying to accomplish there:
End things with Zuke on a good note and keep his number for future use.
There's no way in hell I want anything to do with cocaine, but it didn't shock me at all that he offered. After all, it is Miami.
Regardless of the coke though, Zuke was a cool dude.
Whether you smoke weed or not, another neat thing to do in South Beach is hanging out under all of the palm trees in Lummus Park, which is an incredible sight in itself because there's a ton of palms everywhere -- literally everywhere you look, you see a palm tree, along with the other beautiful Ocean Drive sites.
Lummus Park, South Beach, Miami, Florida (PHOTO: Andrew Powell/The Powell Times)
You especially appreciate the views while high. With the good weed that Miami dealers provide, it makes it that much more of a cool experience. My fiancée and I also hung out there as well to smoke weed, obviously, which is probably the best place to do so throughout South Beach.
If you do decide to smoke anywhere in the park though, make sure to be careful, because police and park rangers do ride through there, and they will say something to you and make you put your weed out. You don't have to worry though, they won't arrest you. After all, it is a party city, but at the end of the day, weed is still illegal. Just make sure you’re careful.
If you don't want to take the risk or just don't smoke at all, then at least drink, because that's another fun experience to have in South Beach. We've all been drunk before, at least most of us, but there's a huge difference between being drunk, and being drunk in Miami.
That was another thing I happened to do while in 'Party City,' and it was absolutely fantastic and was an experience like no other – paradise gets amplified. And it's good to sober up with some good Cuban food and to relax afterwards with some Miami street Kush.
South Beach was everything I dreamt of, plus more.
Remember, this is a city that I've been wanting to go to since I was a kid, and I recall my dad telling me when I was younger about how Miami isn't all it's cracked up to be and I shouldn't hype the city up so much.
Yeah, that was wrong with flying colors.
I couldn't help but to rub it in. (Facebook Screenshot)
Miami is one of the greatest creations that God has ever put on the face of this earth, and in my opinion, it's the greatest city and area on the entire planet.
It's pure paradise, and I can't wait until I call it home, which my fiancée and I plan on doing down the road.
Ah, I love Miami.