BOOK EXCERPT: '2020: A Year So Wild I Had to Write a Book About It'


*** PARTS OF THIS “SUPER-COLUMN” IS AN EXCERPT FROM ANDREW POWELL’S UPCOMING BOOK “2020: A YEAR SO WILD I HAD TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT IT” ***


The last time I spoke to you guys in a column, the day was May 15. It's now December 1 at the time I'm writing this (well, now editing this), which means it's been nearly seven months since I've delivered you a published piece.


As I told you in a piece back in early May, I was embarking on a world journey across the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to the United States of America. At the time, I was living in New Zealand with my fiancée, daughter and three step-children, and me, my fiancée, daughter and my youngest step-daughter decided to take a trip to the States to visit my family.


When we got to the United States, the plan (with the exception of visiting my family in Pennsylvania) was to visit cities such as Los Angeles, New York City and Miami, this while the kids stayed with my mom.


However, what originally was planned as a regular vacation ended up turning into multiple things: A statement against the government and COVID-19 power grabbing, a witnessing of Black Lives Matter protests and looting, and quite honestly, smoking some really good (legal) marijuana in California – and this also includes me eventually getting my medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania. And that's just to name a few.


Before we get into the nitty gritty of my journey and what life has been like for me the past seven months, I just want to mention that I'm back in America for a substantial amount of time, something that we'll get to a little later in this piece. With that being said, you can expect me to be active once again since I'm officially done with my world travel, and staying in the USA for a while.


UPDATE: I ended up staying in the United States permanently, this because of two reasons: 1. New Zealand ended up rejecting my request to get through their COVID-19 closed borders. And 2. As a result of that, Crystal (my fiancée) and the kids ended up moving over here to America. So at the end of the day, it all worked out for me, plus more.


Stay tuned for the usual columns and news articles here on The Powell Times, nothing has changed there, but there are a few changes you can expect from me and my website. My old radio show/podcast 'The Andrew Powell Show' will be making a return in podcast form, and will be doing so in a "Ep. 001, Ep. 002, Ep. 003, etc." format that centers around into politics, news and culture – and we’ll be dabbling a little into sports as well. Crystal is into the weekly college and NFL picks, who by the way will be my co-host on the podcast.


Speaking of politics, news and culture (and a little bit of sports), emphasis on politics, The Powell Times will also be centered more around those three. Everything on this website from me and the news staff will have a political connection, from the main stage in Washington D.C. all the way to the football field in the NFL, and even on the Hollywood big screen. Welcome to The Powell Times. You could say it has a similar formula as that of a Breitbart.


There's a few reasons for this: 1. The COVID-19 pandemic and Marxist Black Lives Matter may have left me permanently politically charged. 2. I want to be involved in something "essential" and in a realm that won't get wiped out by a virus. 3. It was heading in that direction anyways. And 4. Simply put, politics is cooler than sports, and there’s a lot more power and wealth here, though I still like sports and may have to keep it as a side-gig – we’ll see.


In other news, you can also expect a book from me sometime soon, but I'll keep that information limited for the time being due to still being in the very beginning stages of that entire process. I'll keep you posted on that.


Anyways, let's go ahead and get to all of these flights. And there were a ton of them.


GOODBYE, NEW ZEALAND. HELLO, FREEDOM.


Things got started off as normal with the planning process in regards to booking international flight tickets from New Zealand to the United States, domestic tickets to each Los Angeles, New York City and Miami, all of that jazz. We got all of that done in early February, about a month before the hoopla surrounding the coronavirus, and planned the trip for late May.


Me and my fiancée even bought clothes and other things that we needed for the trip. Everything was good, everything was sweet, everything was planned. We were going on a journey to the United States of America.


And then, it happened.


The World Health Organization (WHO) would declare the novel coronavirus a global pandemic, and as we all know, everything would go into absolute chaos. As for us in New Zealand, the country would shut down the borders completely to foreigners, and the only ones who were allowed were citizens and permanent residents.


With the WHO's declaration, New Zealand's overreaction, the media scaring the hell out of everybody and fearing the unknown, we originally ended up cancelling the trip to America. And it wasn't just because of all of that either: Air New Zealand, the island nation's only airline, were cancelling flights and complete routes left and right.


It was just too chaotic, and we had decided to stay home. The end.


(Sike)


As the facts came out – for example: COVID-19 having a massively low death rate and not being dangerous at all, for starters – me and my fiancée developed an attitude of defiance.


An attitude that we weren't going to be told what to do, especially not by any government, and especially when a government already had you on complete lockdown for a whole month. Remember, New Zealand had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, we had to deal with that. That's what largely built up the mindset of defiance. And on top of that, we just wanted a vacation. We needed a getaway.


We were completely locked down by New Zealand for an entire month.


We weren't going to be scared by the press either, an entity who we had found out had been lying to us throughout this whole experience – or should I say, verified even more what we had already known and verified even more the media being a bunch of scumbags.


We were going to America, and that's what we did.


Our bags were packed, and we were gone.


"Goodbye, New Zealand. Hello, freedom."

FILE PHOTO: An Air New Zealand Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 takes off from Auckland Airport in New Zealand, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Nigel Marple/File Photo


Before we get to the motherland, a lot of people have wondered why I moved to New Zealand and how it was like living there, as well as how life was away from the United States of America – the greatest country in the world that has left all of us Americans spoiled.


Back in 2017, I was running a small conservative news outlet, and you might remember it, called Powell Media. As the Editor-in-Chief and focusing on constantly getting content out, I needed to recruit a team of writers to be able to pump out original news articles. That's how I ended up meeting my now-fiancée, Crystal.


For a while, however, everything was innocent between us two and we worked together on Powell Media, along with a few other staff members. As time went along, that's when we started developing feelings for each other. It went from working together, to talking about politics together, to discussing right-wing issues together, to eventually leading into personal conservations.


Her intellect, her beauty, how much I loved hanging out with her, I admit I fell in love.


As my feelings grew, and her feelings grew, I finally popped the first question of "will you be my girlfriend?"


She would obviously say yes.


Now as you know, I live in the United States and she lives in New Zealand, so we knew that we were going to have to maintain a long distance relationship. And not just any long distance relationship, one that is international – literally half across the entire world, across all of the Pacific Ocean. However, we loved each other strong, and we were determined to make it happen.


We went a solid amount of months before we actually got together, just spending time together on the phone and video calling each other on Facebook. Eventually though, in 2018 at the time of the last midterm election cycle, I would go over to New Zealand to visit my then-girlfriend. And oh man, it was magical.


Crystal and I hit it off great, and literally the entire two weeks was a magical experience with a woman I love. Now, you might be asking yourself: Why did you have to go to New Zealand? Why couldn't she come over to the United States?


Well, she actually has three kids from a previous marriage, so out of respect towards her and the kids, we thought it would be best for me to travel to her to be able to take our relationship to the next level. And I personally didn't mind. Not only did I get to see my girlfriend and meet her kids (especially Rizzo, I'll get to her momentarily), but I also got to experience intense air travel and a new culture in the island nation of New Zealand.


via Wikipedia:

New Zealand (Māori: Aotearoa[aɔˈtɛaɾɔa]) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It comprises two main landmasses—the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) and the South Island (Te Waipounamu)—and around 600 smaller islands, covering a total area of 268,021 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). New Zealand is about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the islands of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. The country's varied topography and sharp mountain peaks, including the Southern Alps, owe much to tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, and its most populous city is Auckland.
A developed country, New Zealand ranks highly in international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, education, protection of civil liberties, government transparency, and economic freedom. The service sector dominates the national economy, followed by the industrial sector, and agriculture; international tourism is a significant source of revenue. Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the prime minister, currently Jacinda Ardern. Queen Elizabeth II is the country's monarch and is represented by a governor-general, currently Dame Patsy Reddy. In addition, New Zealand is organised into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes. The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau (a dependent territory); the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing states in free association with New Zealand); and the Ross Dependency, which is New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica.

A few months later after my two-week visit with Crystal and the kids, I would go back for another visit, this time for a total of six weeks. It was another opportunity to personally hang out with them and build on our relationship in person. Mission accomplished.


But here was the biggest thing accomplished from that trip: Crystal and I ended up getting pregnant with Georgia (my now 11-month-old daughter), taking our relationship to an even higher level. But don't get me wrong, it was no accident. My baby girl was completely planned.


When I got back to the United States from that trip, that's when we started to shift gears and planned on me moving over and becoming a family – no more visits, it was time to take another step to making Crystal and I completely official as a relationship.


I got back from the second visit to New Zealand in May of 2019, and I ended up making the move over with Crystal and the kids in October, so it was five months that we were separated before I finally started living over there. I hate that I had to leave my pregnant girlfriend for that long, but we didn't really have a choice because of immigration.


When I made my return to the island nation in October to reunite with Crystal and the kids, my daughter Georgia was due to be born two months later in December, which was fantastic timing to get back before her birth – a solid two months to enjoy each other before the baby, plan for the baby and make sure that we had everything that we needed.


The first family experience that I had was Halloween, but what's interesting about Halloween in New Zealand is that they don't make it a big deal like we do, which is a bummer. You guys already know how we do it in the States – dressing up in costumes, going from door to door to get candy, having Halloween parties, yeah, they don't do any of that in New Zealand. Yeah, I know. It's pretty lame.


However, being the American exceptionalist that I am, you know I had to Americanize the Halloween of Crystal and the kids, at least as much as I could.


So what Crystal and I did is go to the store and got some skeletons and ghosts to hang up, some pumpkins to place beside the front door to the house, and we also got a Halloween piñata full of candy that the kids got to knock the hell out of. Me and the kids tried to hit up a few houses to get some sweets from, but out of the six or seven houses that we knocked on, we were only successful with one – a nice old couple that lived right next door to Crystal. This is also the same issue that I had with the kids during Halloween 2018 in New Zealand.


New Zealand really needs to step up the game when it comes to Halloween. Regardless, the kids still managed to have fun with as much as I could do, and we made sure that they were hooked up with plenty of candy.


Americanizing Halloween: Successful, for the most part.

My fiancée Crystal, along with our two daughters Munro (right) and Georgia (left), waiting at Wellington International Airport in Wellington, New Zealand before we flew to Auckland, New Zealand before flying internationally to Los Angeles, California, United States of America. (PHOTO: Andrew Powell/The Powell Times)


The next experiment with Americanizing this beautiful little family was Thanksgiving, which is obviously just an American holiday, and to my now-fiancée's credit, she went all in as well to Americanize that Friday in New Zealand (they're a day ahead of the United States in time) in the name of Thanksgiving.


Crystal was a thoroughbred in the kitchen – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese, rolls, sweet potato casserole, baby girl definitely went hardcore! It was fantastic, and thank you to that beautiful woman for having us covered in the kitchen.


Me, I decided to take care of the culture side of it: Football with the TV blasting in the background, getting a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin (hey, it's an excuse to drink), and telling the kids stories about Thanksgiving. Remember, they're New Zealanders, so everything was new and fascinating to them.


It was a good time, and it was fun to celebrate such a great holiday in another nation. Thank you again to my fiancée for doing everything she could to make me feel at home for Thanksgiving! Damn, I love that woman!


A month later around Christmas time, the focus wasn't really too much on the holidays, and for a couple of reasons: 1. We didn't have much money at the time, so couldn't really afford ourselves or the kids too many presents. And more importantly, 2. Crystal was nine-months pregnant with Georgia and was due to give birth at any moment around Jesus Christ's birthday. As a result, the vast majority of the focus was on our daughter being born.


That was one hell of an experience, and it all started with me hoping that Peach (Georgia's nickname) was going to be born on my birthday of December 19th, and with her due date being the 16th, it was quite the reality. So once we got to December 16th and there was no baby, I was hoping that George would make a move and be born on her daddy's birthday. The opportunity was there, and I was hoping for it badly.


With this being the case, Crystal and I decided to go to the hospital to see if they would induce her so Georgia could be born on my birthday. It was a dream scenario. However, here was the issue with that: In the United States, we all know that you can freely get induced and call it a day. Well, in New Zealand, it's not like that. They have more of a nanny-state system in that country, and instead of just inducing you, they make you go through an entire process and series of tests. After all of that is over, they then make the decision on whether or not to induce you.


Well, after nine hours in a hospital (which was majority waiting), the series of tests and then waiting another hour in another section of the hospital (that nobody showed up to by the way, which in turn we just walked out without talking to a doctor), Georgia ended up not being induced and it was a complete waste of time – and remember, all of this happened on my birthday. Yes, my birthday in 2019 was literally spent in a hospital all day. Needless to say, it was pretty irritating. For both me and Crystal. At the end of the day, she was the pregnant one, and having a tough time with it because Georgia was such a big baby. She was a champ throughout, however.


My birthday wasn't completely lost though. After we got out of the hospital, we decided to pick up some pizzas and Bombay Sapphire Gin to celebrate in Crystal's step dad's party shed. Obviously, Crystal had to pass on the alcohol. Still though, it was a pretty fun night.


Just three days later on December 22nd, that's when Georgia decided to finally show up – six days overdue. For Crystal, she was just happy to get the pregnancy over with, can't blame her there. For me, I had mixed feelings, because I'm like, 'damn, did you really have to wait three days after my birthday to be born? You couldn't have just done it on my birthday while we were at the hospital?'

Me posing for a picture with my newborn daughter Georgia Ronan Elizabeth Powell on the day of her birth, December 22, 2019, at Dannevirke Community Hospital in Dannevirke, New Zealand. (PHOTO: Crystal Powell/The Powell Times)


But hey, baby girl wanted her own birthday, and I'm not going to hold that against her.


I still remember that day like it was yesterday.


Crystal was up early, it was around 5:30 in the morning, in excruciating pain and it was obvious that she was going into labor – Georgia was ready to come into the world.


We hurried up and got ready, packed our bags together for the stay at the hospital, and waited for Crystal's mom to pick us up to take us there. As soon as we showed up, to their credit, the hospital staff immediately got to work and was ready to get this baby out.


With this being my first baby, it was a pretty crazy experience for me, both from the standpoint of strictly analyzing the birth and being emotional because of my daughter coming into the world – needless to say, my head was all over the place.


Crystal was great, she was just ready to get the baby out and end the intense pain, and like the staff, she immediately got to work when it was time.


There for a while, she was trying to push the baby out and was sucking on the laughing gas at the same time. And not just sucking on the laughing gas, inhaling the absolute shit out of it. She was killing that laughing gas. Eventually though, the nurses told her that she needed more motivation to get the baby out, and the motivation was simple: The gas is now gone, which creates more pain, and the quicker you push the baby out, the quicker the pain goes away. It ended up being an effective strategy, because Crystal pushed out Georgia just minutes later. As funny as it sounds, it worked.


I admit, it took me a little while to get adapted to fatherhood. At first, I felt completely out of place, I wasn't actually sure what to do and how to be. For Crystal, this was her fourth child and she's obviously got years of experience being a parent. For me, this was a completely new thing, and something that changed my whole life with Georgia being my first child.


In the hospital, I was emotional when Peach was born, I cried happy tears when Crystal finally pushed her out. I was incredibly happy that I was a father. But when I got home, it took awhile for me to get adjusted and figure out how exactly I was supposed to be. It took me about a month to get it together, but once I got going, I feel like I've been steamrolling ever since – now I understand I'm not the best father in the world or anything, I've got a lot of learning to do with George just being a baby, but up until this point, I feel like I've done a good job at fatherhood. (Thanks to Georgia and my step-children.)


I'm now a family man, and to be honest, it's a life that I never want to give up. There's so much joy that comes along from having a good woman and beautiful children. I've always been career-driven and put my career first, but they have definitely changed the game – family is the best thing you'll have in this world, truly, no matter what an organization like the Marxist Black Lives Matter says about the nuclear family.


A couple of months later, right before the China virus put the world in a state of chaos, I decided to propose to Crystal officially making her my fiancée. As time goes along, the more we fall in love, the closer we get through everything we've been through, and more importantly, both of our relationship with Jesus Christ grows stronger and stronger. So, we want to get married for us, Georgia and God, and we had actually planned to do so in New York City in June, however, those plans got ruined because of the coronavirus.


Now, the target is to get married in Las Vegas on New Year’s Weekend, and with plane tickets and clothes already bought up for said weekend, it looks like that mission is going to be a success – both for us getting married and visiting Vegas for the first time.

The city of Las Vegas and its shining lights at night. (PHOTO: Just Fly Business)


With New Zealand, it's a fantastic country to live in.


In the particular area that I resided in with my fiancée and the kids, it's a small town on the North Island called Dannevirke. There really isn't much to it, but they do have everything you need: Grocery store, gas station, a store called The Warehouse that has a little bit of everything, a few other shops on the main road, a few palm trees scattered out throughout town, and they have a good number of restaurants to get a bite to eat.


Speaking of food, if you're ever in New Zealand and go through Dannevirke, make sure you stop at a place called Hi-Way Dairy. It's not the most flashy place, but it's about the food, which is take-out only – they don't have anywhere to sit down and eat. It's literally just in-and-out, and if you need anything else with your food, they have a good selection of everything: Cigarettes, toilet paper, milk, etc.


With the food, they're popular for fried chicken, pies and chips, what we know as fries. With their pies, a "pie" means something else in New Zealand. To us here in America, we have apple pies, cherry pies, pumpkin pies and so on. Across the Pacific in Kiwi Nation, their pies are full of mince and cheese, steak and cheese, and they even have butter chicken pies – and oh my God, they are so delicious. If you visit, definitely be sure to get you a pie, which you can find anywhere in New Zealand – I personally get mine at the BP and Hi-Way Dairy in Dannevirke.


What Hi-Way Dairy is the most popular for though, and deservingly so, are their chips – what we call fries and/or potato wedges in the United States. They are honestly the best tasting chips/fries/potato wedges I have ever had in my life. I don't know what it is, but I'm thinking it's the chicken grease they fry them in, and then when they're done cooking, they load them up with chicken salt. They're incredibly delicious, and can either be treated as a snack or a meal. If you're ever in Dannevirke, I highly recommend getting you a bag (or even box) of some Hi-Way Dairy chips. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.


Another town that I would go to quite a bit was Palmerston North, mainly because that's where Crystal's step-dad lives, and we went over there a lot to hang out in his party shed – good times that I would have loved to have back, but hey, I rather be here in America. We would go in there to hang out and enjoy the vibe, talk politics and have other conversations, drink and smoke a little bit, and listen to music. That's the main thing we would do in "Palmy," as New Zealanders call it, but they also have a pretty nice mall that you can go to and a lot more options to shop and eat at.


As far as food suggestions there, I suggest going to a place called O&Bowl (or just ‘Bowl’ for short) in the Palmerston North mall (called The Plaza), who serve some very delicious Japanese food. Every time we go to Palmy, we always make sure we stop by to pick up a bowl (hence the name of the restaurant), which features some quite tasty rice, chicken and that's just the start of it. I personally like to keep my bowl simple. You, on the other hand, can get as crazy as you want with all of the selections that they have.


As far as the rest of New Zealand, I'm not completely familiar with what the country has to offer, but there are four cities on my radar for you to visit if you ever do decide to visit the island nation: Napier, Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.


via Wikipedia:

Napier (/ˈneɪpiər/NAY-pee-ər; Māori: Ahuriri) is a New Zealand city with a seaport, located in Hawke's Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island. The population of Napier is about 62,800 as of June 2019.[1] About 18 kilometres (11 mi) south of Napier is the inland city of Hastings. These two neighbouring cities are often called "The Bay Cities" or "The Twin Cities" of New Zealand. The total population of the Napier-Hastings Urban Area is 123,960 people, which makes it the sixth-largest urban area in New Zealand, closely followed by Dunedin (104,500), and trailing Tauranga (135,000).
Napier is a popular tourist city, with a unique concentration of 1930s Art Deco architecture, built after much of the city was razed in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. It also has one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the country, a statue on Marine Parade called Pania of the Reef. Thousands of people flock to Napier every February for the Tremains Art Deco Weekend event, a celebration of its Art Deco heritage and history.[2] Other notable tourist events attracting many outsiders to the region annually include F.A.W.C! Food and Wine Classic events, and the Mission Estate Concert at Mission Estate Winery in the suburb of Taradale.
The marina and waterfront in Ahuriri, Napier, is a sea-tourism attraction. Swimming and family activities are popular in Pandora Pond – a salt water inlet by the inner harbour in Ahuriri – or on the beaches and playgrounds of Marine Parade, Westshore and Ahuriri. The many rivers that flow through the region are used for water activities, such as jet boating, jet skiing, rowing, kayaking, fishing, whitebaiting and swimming.

Napier is one of the few cities that I do happen to be familiar with being there a solid amount of times, and for a few other reasons: 1. Crystal used to live there. 2. She has one of her best friends there. 3. We love the beach culture and lifestyle. And 4. To be honest, we happen to have a marijuana connection there. We love our weed, which you’ll certainly find out more and more as you read along.


One of the first things that you'll notice about Napier is how bright the sun is, how beautiful the palm trees are, and probably the biggest, how blue the water is – and it's incredibly blue. Napier is a gorgeous city.


One of the biggest things, if not the biggest, that Napier is known for is their 1930s Art Deco architecture, and it makes the city that much more beautiful. There's so much Art Deco that they even refer to themselves as the Art Deco Capital, and even though I love the Art Deco culture in Napier, I have to disagree with their sentiment that they're the "capital." The city of Miami, Florida in the United States of America has that label, and it's not even close, though I do like to refer to Napier as "Little Miami" – there are a lot of similarities there. However, Napier is no Miami, though I have massive love for the city of Napier.


With the Art Deco, it's so big that they even have a special weekend every year designated to it called Tremains Art Deco Weekend where people dress up in 1930s suits and drive around in cars from the same time period. I personally haven't been to one of these, but Crystal wants to take me to one sometime in the future, and I'm excited for the simple fact that it gives me an excuse to wear a stupendous pinstripe suit with a matching all-black fedora to top it off, and I'll certainly go for the black leather loafers with some soft, crisp black Ralph Lauren socks underneath. Thank you to Roger Stone for the fashion tips.


If you're into shopping, you'll be into Napier as well, especially if you go on Emerson Street which is full of shops and pedestrians walking up and down the street going into them, with minimal cars to worry about. It's just stores, a fine brick road, green palm trees and good weather to enjoy. Even if you don't like to shop, it's still somewhere to enjoy the vibe and the views, it's certainly good for that.


As far as the swimming culture there, I've personally never swam in Napier. You can swim in the ocean there, but you have to be careful, because Napier has dangerous waters to swim in, but people do swim. Just do so at your own risk.


Here is a description from Stuff, a media outlet in New Zealand, describing the waters of Marine Parade Beach in Napier:

A sudden drop in depth means waves here can be large and unpredictable. Rogue breaks have snatched people from the shore and sucked them out to sea. Following drownings, there are plenty of signs to warn swimmers. It's best to stay clear of the water's edge.

My experiences with the beach have been without the swimming. I've hung out with Crystal several times, had a date with her, smoked weed with her, had a picnic with the family, and fed the seagulls with Munro, my soon to be four-year-old step-daughter. There's a lot of different stuff that you can do on the beach.


One of my favorite things to do is right when you come through Napier, going up Kennedy Road with palm trees everywhere coming at you from every direction. It's something that we always did when we went to Napier, mainly because I love it so much – I'm a huge fan of palm trees.


via Wikipedia:

Wellington (Māori: Te Whanganui-a-Tara[tɛ ˈfaŋanʉi a taɾa]) is the capital city of New Zealand. It is located at the south-western tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Remutaka Range. Wellington is the major population centre of the southern North Island, and is the administrative centre of the Wellington Region, which also includes the Kapiti Coast and the Wairarapa. It is the world's southernmost capital of a sovereign state.[3] Wellington features a temperate maritime climate, and is the world's windiest city by average wind speed.[4]
The position of Wellington as capital of New Zealand is not defined in legislation, but established by convention.[5] Its metropolitan area comprises four local authorities: Wellington City, on the peninsula between Cook Strait and Wellington Harbour, contains the central business district; Porirua on Porirua Harbour to the north is notable for its large Māori and Pacific Island communities; Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt are largely suburban areas to the northeast, together known as the Hutt Valley. The Wellington urban area, which only includes urbanised areas within Wellington City, has a population of 215,400 residents as of June 2019.[2] The urban areas of the four local authorties have a combined population of 416,800 residents as of June 2019.[2]
As the nation's capital since 1865,[5] the New Zealand Government and Parliament, the Supreme Court, and most of the public service are based in the city. Architectural sights include the Old Government Buildings—one of the largest wooden buildings in the world—as well as the iconic Beehive, the executive wing of Parliament Buildings. Wellington is also home to several of the largest and oldest cultural institutions in the nation, such the National Archives, the National Library, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and numerous theatres. It plays host to many artistic and cultural organisations, including the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Royal New Zealand Ballet. One of the world's most liveable cities, the 2016 Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranked Wellington 12th in the world, and was first in the world for both liveability and non-pollution by Deutsche Bank, from 2017–18.[6][7]
Described by Lonely Planet in 2013 as "the coolest little capital in the world",[5][9] the world city[10][11] has grown from a bustling Māori settlement, to a remote colonial outpost, and from there to an Australasian capital experiencing a "remarkable creative resurgence".[12][13]
Wellington is primarily surrounded by water.

And that it is.


I have very minimal experience with Wellington, but from what I saw during our drive through to the airport, it's a very beautiful city.


As Wikipedia says, one of the first things that you will notice is that the city is completely surrounded by water. And not just by the Pacific Ocean, but also the Cook Strait, which features a ferry that takes citizens and tourists back and forth between the North and South Island. It doesn't have the exotic tropical climate that Napier has, but it's still a cool city regardless with the ocean culture there.


When you get into the city, there's a load of people that you’ll notice that are walking, jogging, talking, fishing whatever it may be that they’re doing around the water, which creates a beach-like community. That's what immediately drew me into Wellington, and it was a good prequel to lead me into this vacation that was going to eventually take me to Miami.


But that wasn't all though, the big buildings (all crowded next to each other which made for an even cooler look), huge billboards, and government landmarks where laws are made (like the famous Beehive) take Wellington to an even higher admirable level. Plus, the New Zealand mainstream media is obviously quite present there with their politicians headquartered in the city, so it's a town that could be like Candy Land for me if I ever decided to get into Kiwi politics – which I highly doubt would happen at this point in my life. It’s all about the United States and American right-wing politics for me.


I've only been to Wellington once, and it was just a quick sneak-peak of what I saw, but I was impressed with the limited experience. I definitely want to go back when we visit New Zealand again. It's a city I certainly want to explore, and I suggest you do too if you take the trip to the island nation. You won't be let down with how flashy it is – and like I said, it has an airport there in the city for your convenience, to either travel all around the country or get back to Auckland for an international flight.


via Wikipedia:

Auckland (/ˈɔːklənd/ AWK-lənd; Māori: Tāmaki Makaurau) is a metropolitan city in the North Island of New Zealand. The most populous urban area in the country, Auckland has an urban population of about 1,467,800 (June 2019).[4] It is located in the Auckland Region—the area governed by Auckland Council—which includes outlying rural areas and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in a total population of 1,642,800.[4] Auckland is a diverse, multicultural and cosmopolitan city, home to the largest Polynesian population in the world.[5] The Māori-language name for Auckland is Tāmaki Makaurau, meaning "Tāmaki desired by many", in reference to the desirability of its natural resources and geography.[6]
Auckland lies between the Hauraki Gulf to the east, then extending in Hunua Ranges to the south-east, the Manukau Harbour to the south-west, and the Waitākere Ranges and smaller ranges to the west and north-west. The surrounding hills are covered in rainforest and the landscape is dotted with 53 dormant volcanic cones. The central part of the urban area occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitematā Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. Auckland is one of the few cities in the world to have a harbour on each of two separate major bodies of water.
The University of Auckland, founded in 1883, is the largest university in New Zealand. The city's varied cultural institutions—such as the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Museum of Transport and Technology, and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki—and national historic sites, festivals, performing arts, and sports activities are significant tourist attractions. Architectural landmarks include the Harbour Bridge, the Town Hall, the Ferry Building and the Sky Tower. The city is served by Auckland Airport, which handles around one million international passengers a month. Despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world,[9] Auckland is recognised as one of the world's most liveable cities, ranked third in the 2019 Mercer Quality of Living Survey.[10][11]

With Auckland, my minimal experience gets even worse, and this despite the fact that I've been to Auckland more times than Wellington. And that's because I've only been to the airport and immediately exited each time from the city, whether it's by plane or getting straight on the motorway – what we call a highway.


In other words, I've only seen a very limited portion of Auckland.


I don't know how much of Auckland I'll ever experience either, because Crystal considers the city a "shithole" and doesn't want to take me the next time we visit New Zealand because, well, she hates that town. She's been there, done that, and has no interest in going back. I, on the other hand, would like to see the ins and outs of Auckland, but at the same time, it's not something that will make or break my life.


However, for you, take advantage. At the end of the day, it is the most populous city in New Zealand, and I'm sure there's plenty to do and plenty to eat. They have the only Taco Bell available in the country, so sky's the limit for the island nation when it comes to Auckland – New Zealand's epicenter.


For real though, take that Taco Bell factoid as valuable information, because the way I see it, it just shows you that Auckland is going to have more than the rest of New Zealand. And that's incredibly obvious with the way the press in that country focuses on Auckland and ignores the rest of the nation, similar to the bias towards New York City and Los Angeles here in the United States.


via Wikipedia:

Christchurch (/ˈkraɪs(t)tʃɜːrtʃ/; Māori: Ōtautahi) is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. The Christchurch urban area lies on the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. The urban area is home to 377,200 residents,[2] and the territorial authority has 385,500 people,[2] which makes it the second-most populous city in New Zealand after Auckland and before Wellington. The Avon River flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park located along its banks.
The city suffered a series of earthquakes between September 2010 and January 2012, with the most destructive of them occurring at 12.51 p.m. on Tuesday, 22 February 2011, in which 185 people were killed and thousands of buildings across the city collapsed or suffered severe damage. By late 2013, 1,500 buildings in the city had been demolished, leading to an ongoing recovery and rebuilding project.
Christchurch has one of the highest-quality water supplies in the world, with its water rated among the purest and cleanest in the world.[43] Untreated, naturally filtered water is sourced, via more than 50 pumping stations surrounding the city, from aquifers emanating from the foothills of the Southern Alps.[44]
The close proximity of the ski fields and other attractions of the Southern Alps, and hotels, a casino, and an airport that meet international standards make Christchurch a stopover destination for many tourists. The city is popular with Japanese tourists,[80] with signage around Cathedral Square in Japanese.

Now with Christchurch, I've never been there (or the entire South Island at that) in my life, however, I do have one reason why I would like to go: To explore the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch where the shooting that killed 51 Muslims and injured 40 took place in March 2019.


If you're not familiar with that story, here is a description from The Denver Post (via the Associated Press):

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers killed 49 people on what the prime minister called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” as authorities detained four people and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned attack.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” and acknowledged many of those affected may be migrants and refugees. In addition to the dead, she said more than 20 people were seriously wounded.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who said the death toll was 49, told a news conference that a man has been charged with murder and will appear in court tomorrow. He would not say whether the same shooter was responsible for both attacks.
Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of 5 million people.

Now obviously, I know I won't be allowed to go into the mosque, nor do I have any interest in going into the mosque, but honestly, I just want to see it. It's such a massive piece of world history, at least as far as shootings go. Hell, it completely changed the entire landscape of New Zealand politics and lawmaking. I just want to witness it and add it to my list of experiences – with the wave that this caused in the news cycle, it would be cool as both someone who is interested in politics and as a journalist.


That's about all I personally know about Christchurch, but with it being the most populous city on the South Island and the second-most populous city in the entire nation of New Zealand, I'm sure it has a lot to offer.


Plus, it has a cool name. I personally hope to visit one day.


New Zealand is an awesome place to live, and for multiple different reasons: It has everything you need, it's an absolutely beautiful country and it's relatively safe for the most part – there's a reason why Americans are flocking there or setting themselves up to be able to leave for the country just in case.


There was even a report that Americans were visiting the Immigration New Zealand website every 30 seconds at one point.


With me, the United States of America is my motherland, but with my family being from New Zealand, the island nation has become a homeland. I take pride in having investments in both countries, and honestly, it's been a cool experience living overseas and experiencing a different culture. Yeah, I've missed the United States, but New Zealand has become a home, and I've enjoyed living there with my family.


Like every nation, New Zealand does come along with its fair share of both pros and cons, with some of the cons being they’re a bit too much of a nanny-state for me, they coddle their youth too much and schools are constantly on "holiday," prices and taxes are sky-high, they have a bit of both a gang and drug problem, they have a lot of soft liberal types in their population, they make it nearly impossible to have a gun, their consumerism is nowhere as advanced as America's (which is expected when you're an island) and so on. But like I said, every country has it's problems.


As far as the pros, the nature is the first thing that will pull you in, which features beautiful green hills (miles and miles of it), farm-land with cows and sheep all around you, palm trees and tropical plants everywhere, gorgeous beaches, beach-like and Art Deco architecture, and it also features volcanoes and earthquakes – and even though that may sound scary, it's pretty cool for me to live in a land like that considering I grew up on the East Coast of the United States.


Also a part of their nature is the wildlife, and one of New Zealand's most popular features of that element are their birds. In fact, the island nation is known as the seabird capital of the world, and they also have birds that don't exist anywhere else on the planet other than New Zealand. Some of their most famous birds are: Albatrosses, New Zealand falcons, tuis, kakapos, and the most famous: the kiwi bird, which is why New Zealanders are called Kiwis, and the country is nicknamed the Kiwi Nation. Oh, and on top of that, they also have penguins, which I find it incredibly cool to live in the same place as!


Also, with New Zealand being an island nation, there's a ton of exotic marine life here: Dolphins, whales, sharks, devil rays, sea turtles, sea snakes, seals and sea lions. And a lot of their creatures are both rare and exclusive to just New Zealand, a lot are even exclusive to just certain parts of the country, which just shows you some of the rarity of their wildlife.

A kiwi road sign on the South Island of New Zealand. (PHOTO: crbellette/iStock/Getty)


An honorable mention of New Zealand's wildlife is a large snail that they have called the Powelliphanta, which I'm sure it's obvious why I'm giving it an honorable mention, but if you don't know, I'm totally embracing the 'Powell' part of that snail's name. That's it, I just wanted to give that snail a shout out for its name. What can I say?


via Wikipedia:

Powelliphanta is a genus of large, air-breathing land snails, pulmonate gastropods in the family Rhytididae, found only in New Zealand. They are carnivorous, eating invertebrates, mostly native earthworms. Often restricted to very small areas of moist forest, they are prey to introduced mammalian predators, and many species are threatened or endangered.

Those are personally all of the things that I enjoy about New Zealand, but they also have other things that may peak your interest: Skiing, snowboarding, sightseeing where Lord of the Rings was made, there's more than just the shopping, wildlife and beaches. There's plenty here, and it's a gorgeous country to view as you travel around.


If you ever get the opportunity, come take a visit to New Zealand. It's a fantastic nation.


But it's, of course, no match for my beloved United States of America.


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 I should 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 recent 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." - Andrew Powell. A graphic of Wallethub's 2019 airline ranking. American remained at the No. 10 position in Wallhub's 2020 version of 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.


BILL DE BLASIO RUINED NEW YORK CITY


The kids were left with my mom while my fiancée and I caught a train from Lewistown, Pennsylvania to New York City, where we had planned to stay for a few days before catching a flight to Miami.


On the train ride before we got to NYC, we went through Philadelphia, and it verified even more what I already knew: That is one dirty ass city. The railroad had actually gone through the ghetto too, and there was literally trash everywhere and you could see the filth of a rotting Philly. I've personally never liked Philadelphia, and this is exactly why. At least they had a cool mural of Will Smith though that we had seen when we passed through. Yeah, that's about all I got for Philadelphia.


When we got to New York, you could immediately feel the tension in that city, literally as soon as we walked off the train – just a few days prior, that's when the riots had happened in the city, so we were coming in fresh off of violent social unrest.


And then we walked up the stairs from the train station to actually go into the city, smack dab in the middle of Manhattan, and it was clear from the get-go: Mayor Bill de Blasio ruined New York City.


As soon as we walked up the stairs, we saw people left and right doing drugs, multiple drug deals taking place. It was all over the street. What made it even worse was that the area of Manhattan had a solid amount of police presence, and they did absolutely nothing about it. It was unbelievable. You had drug deals and drug use right in front of officers, and nothing was done. But hey, that's just another example of the poor leadership of de Blasio. He's clearly not letting the police do their job.


One night, we decided to take a walk around Midtown Manhattan and Times Square, and the horrendous guidance of de Blasio struck again. This time, it would be in the form of garbage, rats and cockroaches everywhere. Now I understand that New York City has always had rats and cockroaches, I get that, but I'm sure at least the population could go down drastically if they would pick up the garbage bags riddled all over.


And I'm being serious, there were literally large piles of garbage bags all over the city of New York. It was disgusting, it was filthy and as I probably annoyed my fiancée repeating it so much: "This is what happens when you vote for Democrats."


It was absolutely dirty. I love New York City, but there's definitely some problems that could be cleaned up – literally. I would start with the obvious first one: Vote Republican.


When Rudy Giuliani – the NYC mayor from 1994-2001 and now lawyer of President Donald J. Trump – was in office, he rebuilt the glory of New York City. He cleaned up the city from crime, you had the Times Square redevelopment program that turned that area into the flash that it is today (and it is still flash for the most part), Giuliani turned a $2.3 billion deficit into a $3 billion surplus, he increased health care for low-income families, cleaned up the homelessness throughout the city and the list goes on and on and on.


It was a very successful mayoralty for Rudy Giuliani, and it's exactly why New York City needs to start voting for Republicans again. I mean seriously, New York, haven't you had enough of Bill de Blasio and his Democratic policies that are completely destroying your town?

Lower Manhattan cityscape. Chinatown in foreground and Wall street in the background. (PHOTO: FilippoBacci/iStock/Getty)


Vote Republican in 2021, New York City. Save yourself.


Walking through Manhattan and Times Square at night was one hell of an experience, especially because of the BLM tension being sky-high and the fact that New York has become tainted. Despite that, however, we didn't have any problems whatsoever, mainly because there were NYPD officers everywhere you looked – this was before the budget cuts.


We were pretty safe for the most part, but boy, you could definitely feel the tension. We did have one minor issue with a homeless man who was asking me for money to eat. Well, I just assume that he’s homeless walking around looking for money at two o'clock in the morning, but who knows.


His story was that he’s from Myrtle Beach and got stuck in New York City because of the COVID-19 pandemic – like, how does that even make sense?


Anyways, he precedes to tell me that he needs money for food. Earlier, my fiancée and I went to Subway and got something to eat. I ate my sub, while my fiancée hadn't touched hers and wanted to wait until we got to the hotel to eat. So instead of giving him money, I offered him the sub. After all, his claim was that he was hungry.


But he wasn't happy with that, which automatically told me that he was just after money, and honestly, that's just not my style. (I'm not a fan of a welfare state, nor handouts.) After debating with him for a good two minutes, he finally takes the sub and walks off.


Yes, my fiancée was disappointed that she lost her sub, to answer that question, but she was with me in using the sub to bait him into going away.


Our biggest issue (though more of a funny story now) with a New Yorker was, of course, marijuana related. As we all know, marijuana is illegal for recreational purposes in the state of New York, so if we wanted to find any weed, we were going to have to unfortunately do it via the street.


What can I say?


My fiancée and I love our marijuana. It's just a part of our process.


So being in New York City, there were three things that I thought could happen here:

  1. It's New York City and the street was riddled with drugs, so weed shouldn't be hard to find at all, especially in the middle of Times Square – and especially because the city is popular for a marijuana strain called NYC Diesel (see description below), which is also labeled as Soma Sour Diesel.

  2. New York City and its grittiness has a reputation of being a city of hustlers, and that could have played out for us as well, especially with it being 2:00-3:00 in the morning when this was going on. The risk of being "hustled" was high, meaning we could have gotten ripped off by a dealer.

  3. We could have gotten robbed altogether, God forbid something worse happening.

via Leafly:

Bred by Soma Sacred Seeds, NYC Diesel (or Soma Sour Diesel) is a 60% sativa-dominant cross between Mexican and Afghani landraces. This strain provides strong cerebral effects that ease into a deep, full-body relaxation over time. A pungent lime and grapefruitaroma is the mark of a high quality batch, like those that won this strain five Cannabis Cup trophies in the early 2000s. NYC Diesel’s happy, talkative qualities make this hybrid a good choice for social activities and many anxiety-prone consumers praise it for its paranoia-free effects.

Looking for marijuana in New York City, that late, with police all around, with the tension incredibly sky-high, it was quite a risky thing to do – and honestly, quite stupid now that I think about it. But hey, we wanted to get high in the Big Apple, I'm not going to lie. And that's exactly what we aimed to do.


With it being New York though, we knew our limits, and we had a very simple strategy to ensure our safety, make sure enough police were around, as well as putting us in a good area to get pot: Just stay posted up in Times Square and let the dealer come to us. About 30 minutes into the experiment, and that's exactly what happened – it didn't take that long at all.


I also wore attire that attracted the dealer to us, making it clear that I was a pothead and influenced by hip-hop culture: Fitted Atlanta Braves baseball hat, Nike Air Force Ones sneakers, using the pieces as a signal to the dealer.


It's funny, because at the end of the summer, I had actually transitioned into more preppy clothes and items that are more friendly to the political and conservative realm. But if you're out and about in the streets, and want to find some weed fast, I highly recommend going for the hip-hop look if you feel you can pull it off. I know I'll do it in the future if I'm in a similar situation, which I'm sure I will be. This worked out very well for us in South Florida.


So anyways, back to the dealer: We were just sitting down in the middle of Times Square, talking it up, and enjoying the views and bright lights of New York City. About a half-hour into it, some random black guy in a Chicago White Sox hat walks past us, glances at us and advertises that he had marijuana on him.


Instantly, he walks up to us and tries to sell it, but I had to go to an ATM to get cash out, so he leads me into the direction of the local ATM – which turned into several trips to different ATM's and me losing my bank card.


Yes, a trip that was simply meant to get some weed turned into a nightmare.


The first ATM that we went to ended up being closed, so we had to walk another few blocks away from Times Square (and our hotel) to get to another ATM, because there were a few others that we also came across that ended up being closed because of COVID-19 – which made the trip a little nerve-racking.


Ultimately though, we did eventually get to a bank with a working ATM, and I proceeded to walk into the bank to get cash out while my fiancée and the dealer waited outside for me. And boom, it happened: My card gets eaten by the ATM. I was gutted.


I go back out and tell them about the card, and instantly the dealer hops into action, goes into the bank and starts banging on the ATM. Needless to say, he was determined to get his money. However, it would end in a failure, and my card was officially gone forever.


We go back outside to my fiancée and I ask her if she wants to take the risk and use her card, and she tells me that she left it back at the hotel. So I asked her if she wanted to go back to get it, and of course, the dealer was pushing for it, and just like me, my fiancée wanted to get high. As a result, she was game and we all walked together back to the hotel that we were staying at.

The room that my fiancée Crystal and I stayed in during our time at The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, New York durring June 2019. (PHOTO: The Roosevelt Hotel NYC)


When she went up to the room, the dealer and I stayed outside in front of the hotel and had a few minutes worth of conversation. The first impression was that he was a good guy, very nice and friendly, and even was asking about our months-old baby. He definitely made you feel like he was your friend and he was on your side – my fiancée reported the same thing when they were waiting for me outside of the first bank we were at. Keep this in mind.


My fiancée then comes back down from the hotel room with her card and we then proceed off to the next available ATM. A few blocks down the road, we managed to find one and my fiancée proceeded to use it. I can't lie, as soon as she put the card in, I got incredibly nervous and started praying to God that nothing bad was going to happen. Fortunately though, we didn't have to deal with a disastrous scenario like that, and she ended up getting some money out sound and safe.


If she would have lost her card too, just imagine what the damage would have been like: We both would have had no money on us in New York City, and we still had a flight to catch to Miami as well for a few-days vacation.


It could have been an utter disaster, but fortunately, it didn’t go down like that.


When we got the money, the dealer wanted to go somewhere safe to make the transaction and we also asked him where we could go to get some rolling papers. He then leads us in the direction where we could accomplish both of those things.


We got to the end of a street and the dealer decided to stop us at the corner, and this because of police officers being across the street, but there happened to be a store right next to where they were at. With this being the circumstances, we quickly made the transaction and he pointed us in the direction of the store. We ended things off with him good, gave him dap and we went our separate ways.


And, we had marijuana. We were pretty happy about that.


We went into the store to get some rolling papers, and then instantly realized that the dealer was wrong, because, well, there were no rolling papers – we even asked the cashier and had no luck. So we decided to go to another store and came across a CVS, but had no luck there either. With it being late and options being limited, we then decided to just head back to the hotel and put the weed in a cigarette-like Swisher Sweet that we had. It was no joint that we would have had from rolling papers, but it was better than nothing. Plus, we were just ready to get back and get high.


We get back to the hotel with our marijuana and we're stoked. Not only because of being able to score and smoke some weed, but also because we were heading to Miami the next morning. I sit down on the hotel bed and pull out the pot, break it down and load up the Swisher.


When I pulled out the bag, I instantly knew something wasn't right.

NYC Diesel, also known as Soma Sour Diesel. (PHOTO: Strain Spot)


I opened it up and the first thing I pulled out was a big folded-up leaf of lettuce.


Yep, we got hustled.


We got ripped off.


Here's the kicker though: The dealer didn't completely leave us dry, he did manage to put a few buds in the bag, but it was mainly lettuce masqueraded as marijuana. And that's not all, he also put in the bag another little surprise that was in a smaller plastic baggy. And what was in that smaller plastic baggy?


Crack cocaine.


Yes, the same guy who warmed my fiancée and I up to him (which isn't an easy task to do for the most part) and asked about our baby, not only hustled us by selling us just a little weed and a lot of lettuce, but he also sold us a little bag of crack cocaine.


Immediately, I rushed to the bathroom and flushed the bag down the toilet – I had no interest in that shit being anywhere around me.


As I've previously mentioned, when it comes to marijuana, I'm quite libertarian on that issue, and quite honestly, I love smoking it – hell, it's part of the reason why I'm able to work so hard in this war against the Left, the Deep State, Globalism and Communist China. I hope to see it legalized recreationally on a federal level one day, but anything else other than marijuana?


I don't want anything to do with it.


The few buds that we did have was only good enough to fill up a single Swisher Sweet little cigar, meaning it wasn't that much at all. However, we decided to pack one up and were content with just a little buzz at that point. After all, we were going to Miami the next morning.

My Delta Airlines ticket that flew my fiancée Crystal and I from John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York City, New York to Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida. (PHOTO: Andrew Powell/The Powell Times)


My fiancée and I had originally planned to smoke down in the street and walk around our hotel, however, it was getting incredibly late and it was hard to keep cover because there were still a lot of people out and about – and a lot of questionable people at that. I mean, it is New York City.


So, we decided to take the risk and smoke in the hotel, and that ended up being a good decision.


The Swisher didn't burn well at all, and I personally got so irritated that I actually quit smoking in the middle of it. I can say this though: Even though we got hustled, you can tell that it was some good pot, because I had a pretty solid buzz off of just a few hits from a Swisher that had a horrible burn.


New York City has some good weed, that's obvious, but buy at your own risk if you decide to do so.


That whole scenario was truly a perfect representation of New York and its reputation. It might have been terrible at the time, but it's actually kind of cool that we got hustled in that fashion in New York City. I'm personally chalking it up as just another life experience.


Those were the only issues that we had with people in New York though, nothing too major, and despite the sandwich-nagger, crack dealer and social justice warrior tension, it felt pretty safe at that particular time – even late at night. All across Times Square and Midtown Manhattan, the New York Police Department was out in full force, and I mean, they were deep.


Not much longer after we left, that's when de Blasio made the move to cut the police budget, and that's when all hell broke loose in NYC. It's sad what that radical Leftist has done to destroy what used to be a fantastic city.


Speaking of radical Leftism, de Blasio has either planted or allowed Black Lives Matter propaganda all over New York City. It was on taxis, buses, huge screens in the middle of Times Square, people selling BLM merchandise, it was a cesspool of Marxism. You couldn't escape it even if you tried, and trust me, I tried.


We were even lucky enough to see a live Black Lives Matter protest march right in front of us, with white women in their cars balling up their fists like they're black, which was, well, actually really corny to me – incredibly corny. And honestly should be quite embarrassing for that individual. Leftists are just weird, man. And they've turned New York City into a town that I no longer recognize. It's filth in modern-day times.


As far as the city itself with the buildings and architecture, it's still an amazing city to be in and view. Even though I have distaste for the United Nations, it was pretty cool to see it in person. It was cool seeing stuff like that. However, the city has severely declined. I've been to New York three times now. The first two times, NYC was absolutely magnificent, to the point where it was inspiring. But this time?


It was a shit show.


And I haven't even mentioned the damage that took place across the entire city from the looters, some that we witnessed. While walking up Fifth Avenue – the home of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Versace and other expensive, flashy stores – we saw glass windows and doors boarded up from beginning to end. Nothing at all was open because of BLM’s temper tantrums.


Yeah, you had some stores still closed down because of COVID-19, but for the most part, businesses were forced to re-shut their doors because of the rioting coming from the domestic terrorist organization, Black Lives Matter. We wanted to experience NYC shopping, stores that you don't see in every town in America, and we couldn't even do that because of apparent social justice.


You also had USPS mail trucks that were graffitied with Black Lives Matter propaganda, including the original BLM, Breonna Taylor, ACAB, FTP and so on. All of this damage and vandalism done, all of the violence created, people who have been severely injured and murdered, and the Left wants us to believe that Black Lives Matter isn't a terrorist organization?

A United States Postal Service (USPS) mail truck tagged with graffiti that reads 'BLM,' which stands for 'Black Lives Matter.' This is just one of many examples of vandalism that my fiancée Crystal and I witnessed from the domestic terrorist organization Black Lives Matter during our stay in New York City, New York. (PHOTO: Andrew Powell/The Powell Times)

A United States Postal Service (USPS) mail truck tagged with graffiti that reads 'Breonna Taylor,' which is one of the names (spirits) that Black Lives Matter tries to conjure up using their witchcraft and Satanism to benefit them politically. This is just one of many examples of vandalism that my fiancée Crystal and I witnessed from the domestic terrorist organization Black Lives Matter during our stay in New York City, New York. (PHOTO: Andrew Powell/The Powell Times)


It was sad. It was disappointing. It was very disheartening to see how far New York City had dropped, and is still dropping. Excuse my bluntness, but Mayor Bill de Blasio fucked that city up.


New York needs saving, and it can start with the city's citizens voting for Republicans.


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 Kohn. 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.


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.


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.


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 greatest country in the world, 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.


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.


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.


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 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.)