Key West- because you don’t have to shovel sunshine

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The Keys are truly a diamond in Florida’s vacation destinations.  The state already has loads to offer but the Keys vary from being an adventure location to relaxation destination to the New Orleans of Florida.  I feel like I was able to experience all these sides of this great area.

To start with, as a native Floridian I’ve actually never traveled to the Keys post 21 so this was a great opportunity for me to experience the crazy bars.  The last time I was in the Keys I was 20 so it’s been a good seven years since however, not much has changed there.  I actually consider that a great thing!

Now for the tale of the Key West Adventure!

I went with a mate of mine and we drove down from Ft. Myers.  I realize they have the Key West Express but it was a bit too pricey and my car gets AMAZING gas mileage.  Thank you Honda!  The drive was relatively smooth with only about 30 minutes of rain in Miami.  Honestly, it was great seeing how the landscape changed from Miami to being on the islands.  So many mangroves!!  After a long five hour drive we made it to our hotel.  We stayed at a historic Key West Inn called Albury Court Hotel.  It was a great location and about a five minute walking distance from Duval St.  We didn’t plan this but our trip ended up being perfectly timed to the yearly Hemingway festival.  Basically, that means there were a lot of older gentlemen with fantastic beards walking around.  There were several events that went along with this like a look-a-like contest.  The best event was the running of the bulls but we’ll get to that later!  So the city was packed with people and of course it was very hot which is all you can expect from a Florida summer.

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Islamorada Tiki Bar

Our first stop on the drive was in Islamorada.  We went to a place called the Holiday Isle Raw Bar and had our first pina coladas of the trip. This was a great stopping point mainly because the drive is so long and it’s nice to stretch your legs.  Also, I hear they have the best pina coladas in Islamorada and it lived up to the hype.  Not to mention the view of the water was amazing!  After we reached our hotel it was well past dinner time but we decided to search out some fine oysters anyway.  We went to Half Shell Raw Bar to get some seafood.  The oysters Rockefeller was not what I was expecting (it had spinach in it) but the mussels and ceviche were totally on point.  After that we wandered down to Duval to check out the scene.  We ended up at Irish Kevin’s.  I’m not going to lie the band was fantastic and very hilarious.  My mate ended up being brought on stage and danced.  They were great about catering to weddings/birthdays.  It seems like a great place to start a night out of drinking.  We ended up meeting some great people there as well.

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The next day was our sunniest day and no rain was in the forecast.  That made it our beach day!!  We walked along most of Duval street to get to the Southernmost point and the Southernmost Point Beach.  It’s a tiny beach but it has a bar for coverage from the sun and to get your drink on.  It was so odd to see a line at the Southernmost Point buoy.  I figured no one would be site-seeing in the middle of July in Florida but there was a good 30 minute wait that we did not partake in.  Several hours on the beach later we were well ready for lunch.  We went to a hole in the wall B.O.’s Fish Wagon which has the best tacos on the island.  We liked it so much we ate there twice!  It was delicious and cheap.  My two favorite things!  There were adorable little chicks with a few hens and roosters as well.  The chicks were so cute and I even got to pet one!  We went back to the hotel to clean up after the beach and get ready for a night out.

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I wanted to do cliché Key West things so our first stop was Fat Tuesdays.  If you like sugary sweet slushie drinks then this place is for you. I could only manage one though. It was super sweet overload!!  After several drinks around town our search was on for dinner.  We ended up at Turtle Kraals and I had the best potato skins of my life.  They were incredibly tasty and with the addition of cilantro and cotija cheese I had to forcibly pace myself when I was eating then.  Tried the ceviche here as well and it was oddly served with popcorn rather than chips.  It was tasty regardless!  After that we went to Irish Kevins again and a local bar Caroline’s.  Then called it a night.

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Southernmost Beach

Our last full day was a bit rainy to start so we wandered slowly down to Duval. We made a point to make it to the Running of the Bulls/open market on Duval.  The Running of the Bulls was pretty hilarious!  Basically, a bunch of Hemingway lookalikes ride plastic bulls around Key West and on a float one guy holds a barrel of rum with a bunch of other lookalikes.  It was definitely a site to see!  There was plenty of time between the last lookalike contest and this event that we decided to go to Mallory square. Before that we hit up lunch at Pepe’s.  This place is right across from B.O.’s.  It’s a staple of the Keys and the food was amazing!!  The photos inside show just how old and iconic this restaurant is. Of course we had to hit up Kino’s shoe shop.  I of course bought a pair of Key West made sandals.  Then we went to the shipwreck museum.  Now, I am very biased.  I am a maritime archaeologist and I’m not a big fan of treasure hunters and the like.  I’m more into conservation, preservation, and the Indiana Jones ideology of “It belongs in a museum.”  There were definitely a few things that made me question the intentions of the original ship wreckers and wrecking masters. It was very cool to learn the history though and the guy that lead us around was pretty funny.  Honestly, the best part of this museum was the observation tower.  It shows you a lot of the city and provides a wonderful view of the Keys.

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After that we made our way back to the lookalike contest.  It was fun to see all these people there for it including Paula Deen who I had no idea her husband was a lookalike.  The drawback of this was the National Guard that was there.  They were rooting for one of the Hemingway’s.  They were rude and obnoxious.  One of the lookalikes had bought me a few drinks earlier that day so I was of course rooting for him when they found out I wasn’t rooting for their Hemingway it was like all hell broke loose.  It took the fun out of the spectacle which is sad because the whole event seemed so silly fun.  It even raises money for a good cause.  It definitely put a sour note on the event for me.  After this event, I really wanted to see a Drag Show.  So we ended up at Aqua and had a great time!! One of the Drag Queen’s was beyond fabulous!  Actually, they were all absolutely fabulous.

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Our last and final day was pretty relaxing despite the rain.  We decided to go beer hopping while the rain was pouring on us.  What else does a person do on a rainy Key West day other than drink?  We started at Capt. Tony’s Saloon then wandered to Green Parrot Bar and then we ended up at Sloppy Joe’s.  The staff there was incredibly nice even though the crowd had died down from the Hemingway event ending.  We ended up talking to everyone at the bar and all of the bar staff including security.  That’s the one thing I love about the Keys.  At every bar we went to everyone was so willing to talk to strangers and to hear their stories.  I am a total extrovert so I kind of live on these interactions with people.  We spent the reminder of our night at Sloppy Joe’s and this is definitely a night I’ll remember hanging out with one of my best friends.

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The next day was spent sadly driving in the sun. It was so sunny for our drive back we almost wanted to stay another day.  Despite the trip being too short it was wonderful.  My only qualm with this ENTIRE trip was that the point was to end up at the Dry Tortugas.  We called three weeks in advance and they told us don’t worry about making reservations.  We called two days before we wanted to go and they were full up.  I was pretty pissed off!  Either the communication within the company is bad or we were just blatantly lied too.  Although, it does give me a reason to come and visit again.

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I know we didn’t do all of the typical Key West sites, i.e. Hemingway House, Conch Train, snorkeling, etc.  The fact is that my mate and I have both been to the Keys several times and we didn’t want to see things we’ve already done.  I would suggest a sunset sailing cruise and definitely try snorkeling if the weather is good.  Other than that, the Keys are a great traveling destination.  If you’re ever going down that way, even if it’s to Miami, I would suggest going on the long drive down and checking out this wonderful seascape.

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View from Mallory Square

Las Vegas

Hey guys it’s Kassim, I’m back to tell you about my road trip from Venice Beach to Las Vegas. Just like the last post I did this one is based around the Agenda Show for streetwear. This show is the same as the last one, but hosted in Vegas. That just means it was just a bit more parties.

Well let’s begin, I got the call about this show about a week out, so I got with the team to get the details together. Like if we should fly to Vegas and just spend the time there or just fly to LAX and do the road trip. That was easy to decide seeing that all of us wanted to do the road trip…haha.

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Now back in Cali we decided to stay a couple days on Venice Beach at a nice little Airbnb. We had a lot more down time this trip to enjoy more of Cali vibe with the little parts we visited. It wasn’t much of a rush to be at meetings. We had time to visit the family at Brooklyn projects LA.

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Being about 5 minutes from the beach we made some trips to watch the sunset and just take in the vibes of Venice. We did a lot more food runs and Whole Foods became our happy place. The couple days of being in Venice helped a lot to finally get in contact with our homie of many years Jason. Him and his little crew stopped by the house for a BBQ on the last day of Venice. Nothing like telling stories with friends.

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The next day we missed our target time of 7am to get one the road, because we stopped and made breakfast and really just took our time. We got on the road around 10am heading out of the city. On the road it was so peaceful with no traffic on the way out, and being from Miami and to drive into the mountains was crazy to me. Most of the trip the others fell asleep and I was just cruising to Vegas with no worries.

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Let me just put this out there from now. Vegas wasn’t what I expected. We in the day… at night it was like what everyone think it is. The lights and people everything matches up to the movies or shows.

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Getting things ready for this show was a nightmare, but we got it do. No thanks to FedEx. We locked ourselves down for 3 days of the show, but the nights we were free to roam and party. The photos well some up the night’s in Vegas. Parties with DJ Vice, We Are GTA and Paul Wall. I can’t forget the night walks down the strap. To see what everyone know Vegas for the bright lights.

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After all of that then it was back on the road to LA to end the trip.

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Agenda Long Beach

Hey everyone this is Kassim the second half of this blog. Let me start by saying that I’m a photographer based in Miami, and most of my time is spent just shooting.  I got a call from one of my clients and friends from Singapore to fly to Long Beach and cover the show for them.  I jumped at the chance to fly to Cali seeing that I haven’t been back since I was about 6 years old.  I would like to take this time to tell you about this trip to Long Beach and Los Angeles.  It wasn’t for fun, but I still found time for some fun.

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Waking up the day of my flight I was still packing like always.  I made it to the airport with just minutes before my flight leaves, and this is a normal thing to me.  Settling on my flight I had an overwhelming feeling that I was forgetting something that like I’m sure most travelers get. Landing in LAX was like any other airport to me. It wasn’t as epic of most airports.  I rushed off the plane to get my bags and ended up waiting for over 30 minutes for them to show…haha.  Meeting up with my friends as I got my bag to get this trip started.  We shuttled to the hotels and started to get things together for the show.  We chilled in the hotel for a couple hours to get all the handouts for the show together.  After finishing up we had a meet up with an old friend Lupe.  We chilled a bit in the hotel room talking for a while.  After about an hour later we all hit the streets of Long Beach to find some food to end the day of travel.

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The next day of the trip was dedicated to setting up of the Agenda show.  We had an early start to this day.  I was rooming with the brands PR, and we headed to the other hotel to get some of the other members of the team.  We moved everything over to the convention center, which was very awesome to see our master suite at the show.  5 hours later we had to make our way out to Kmart for some last minute things that were forgotten and really needed.  This one little shopping trip turned into another fun outing with the crew.  Let me just say shopping with three women is so crazy from a guy’s point of view…haha. It’s like having three ADHD kids to keep up with.  The highlight of this shopping trip was when we all found the Reese’s Fast Break bars.  We then headed back to the convention center to set up the rest of the booth.

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Day 3 and 4 was the day of the show.  For two days I spent most of the day inside the convention center running around taking photos of the show.  The Agenda show is a meet up for all the hypebeast and street brands in the states.  My job for the two days is to run around the show taking photos and covering the event.  The things you see at this show will not be on the street or available to the public for a couple months.  I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story for the two days of being locked in the show.  

Thanks again to http://emo-emoji.com/

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The First Post: A Day In New York City

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My experience in the Big Apple was a calm, cloudy wintry day.  It’s the first time I’ve ever gone to New York City and it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.  Calm isn’t a word that people normally use to describe the big city but the weather provided for a more dark and whimsical day rather than overwhelming and bustling.  I only had one day there and it had to be filled to the brim with sightseeing and seeing old friends.

The first stop was Grand Central Station as my group of friends and I was coming by train from Connecticut. I had no idea how beautiful Grand Central Station is there were absolute stunning engravings everywhere.  The ceiling in the main concourse was incredible with all the stars and constellations.  I was pleasantly surprised as one of my friends insisted we look.  It was completely grandeur and it didn’t let down.

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The next on our hit list after dropping off our bags at my friends Airbnb flat was Central Park.  This was the destination I was most excited about by far.  Our first stop was the Ladies Pavilion which gave us our first views of the city skyline beyond the trees.  We continued on walking around the lake to Bethesda Fountain.  Since it was winter the fountain wasn’t on but it was still an impressive place.  After seeing it in a million movies it felt so familiar a place but it was nice to actually see it and experience it for myself.  Winter had left the fountain with a mysterious feel as it felt like it lacked the movement that comes with fountains and there statues.  After this we made our way to the Loeb Boathouse for lunch and then back tracking to Strawberry Fields.  There was so much more to see but we wanted to make our way on before it rained.

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The next stop was Top of the Rock and the Rockefeller Center.  Top of the Rock was an incredible experience.  The views were incredible.  Our group must have stayed up there for at least an hour looking at the beauty of the city.  It seemed so calm from so high up but vast and stretching out from every direction.  The views of Central Park and the Empire State Building were amazing.  We could even see the ball in its place in preparation for the ball drop every New Years Eve in Times Square.  On one side was the Brooklyn Bridge and the other you could see a tiny Statue of Liberty standing high on her island.  It was definitely worth the money it cost.  Down below of course is Rockefeller Center which cannot be missed.  The ice skating rink and the Christmas tree are far too iconic to overlook.  This was a bustling place but we were able to stand and watch ice skaters for several minutes before moving on.

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After that inspiring stop we went to the New York Public Library to slow down for a bit.  Entering the massive doors we entered in to see another beautifully decorated Christmas tree.  After looking at books and being inspired by the marble we decided to sit for a bit outside before heading onto Times Square.

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Here was the most bustling area of the day, Times Square.  It was the first part of my day in which I was absolutely overwhelmed.  There were so many people in some of the oddest costumes like a very drunk Homer Simpson.  I expected Times Square to be more of square as opposed to a very long walkway with loads of places to stand or awkwardly take selfies with your friends.  We went into the Disney store which was amazingly playing the Muppets Christmas Carol movie.  Then we hit up the M&M store that was overflowing with children.  After seeing all the lights and walking around we were headed to dinner.

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We ate at Blockheads on 50th Street and had incredible $5 margaritas.  A friend of mine suggested this place and it lived up to it.  Not only was the Mexican fare delicious then even had gluten-free tortillas.  As a person allergic to wheat I was so excited to be able to order a burrito in a restaurant.

After this day that was chock full of events my mates and I parted ways.  I had to make the very long journey to JFK.  All in all, a day in New York City was just as magical as most say it is.  I’d love to go back and see the 9/11 Memorial and explore more of Central Park.  It’s not one of the places that you can only spend a day but I’m definitely happy with the day spent.