Our trusty leader GregH made the hotel arrangements. He got us rooms at a Hilton time share hotel right across from South Beach on Ocean Drive. Basically in the heart of the district.
|Right outside the hotel|
In year's past I felt too ran down trying to squeeze too many wrestling shows into a short amount of time. Burn out happens rather quickly. This year I really needed this to be more of a vacation. So I limited myself to one show a day. The rest of the time would be dedicated to drinking, eating, beaching, and hanging out with people only see once a year.
I rolled in on a Thursday late afternoon to Fort Lauderdale airport and waiting from my friend AaronS to get in. He reserved a rental car. We avoided most of the rush hour traffic but getting anywhere around South Beach is a slow process. It is packed and this was the beginning of the weekend for some and in the middle of Spring Break. We find the hotel, park the car, get our rooms, and make contact with the people already there.
Food was the immediate need. Our chef friend in the group, Joe, wanted to go to a moderately upscale restaurant called The Dutch. I'm always up for a good meal so AaronS, Jon from the UK, Anthony from Boston joined us and we went a walking to find this place. The restaurant is hidden inside the W Hotel. I feared we were vastly under dressed and wouldn't be able to get in without a reservation. We got lucky on both counts. The guys at the counter in the tee shirts, that was us. I had the lamb ragu and a couple little oyster sandwiches washed down by a couple local Cigar City brews. Bottle line it was an amazing meal. Every once in awhile you got to treat yourself.
We walked around the crowded for a bit. Anthony got berated by some strung out, homeless dude. It was quite funny. We ended up back at the hotel to see more arrivals. Some people went out to hit up the bars while other sat around chatting and drinking. I was in the later group. Clubs aren't my scene and I didn't want to deal with any more deuce bags on this evening. The area is full of them. Plus it was a long day of travel.
The next morning woke up and walked around. The area is still busy being mid morning but not as packed as the night before. I really like the look of this area. It's unique. Too bad the streets are already filling up with shirtless jackasses and snotty chicks wearing hardly a thing. Honestly, I dont mind the half naked women. There good for my eyes.
I joined Robby and Larry for morning beach time. I have never actually swam in the ocean and wanted to the stingy salt of the Atlantic in my eyes and the hot sun rays coming down on me. After about an hour the waves made me a little nauseous and I feared my bald head getting burned. I retreated back to the hotel.
GregH has plans to head over to Fuji Japanese Buffet. I love Asian cuisine so I'm game. The restaurant is basically a sushi buffet with lots of other soups, salads, and traditional fair. Nothing sets out a long time. The chefs are cranking out over fifty different types of treats. The meal with very good and a very good price.
There was still time to kill so Joe and myself walked around and ended up at The Clevelander Hotel Bar where we drank over priced slushy drinks. Eventually about a dozen guys ended up joining us before it was time to get our asses to wrestling.
The evening brought the first Ring of Honor event, Showdown in the Sun Night 1 held at the famous War Memorial Auditorium. My seats were rather crappy but the company was good. Joe sat with me and by chance the guys we know from Australia sat behind us. The show was solid and fun. Match of the night goes to Kevin Steen vs El Generico in a Last Man Standing Match. Classic feud blow off between these bitter enemies.
|Ring of Honor at the War Memorial Auditorium|
After a late night with little sleep (is there another kind of night in South Beach?), we all had another wrestling show to attend. Ring of Honor Showdown in the Sun Night 2 started at 1pm in the afternoon. Today it was front row madness for this guy and it's completely different atmosphere. You actually feel like you are part of the show. RoH put on another fantastic show with the Match of the Night going to Davey Richards vs Michael Elign for the RoH World Championship. This just might be the match of the year. It came out of the blue and harkened back to the days when every RoH event felt like you had to be there live or miss something great.
Tonight I was going to check out a microbrewery in the area called Abbey Brewing. Anthony went with me and Josh showed up a little later. We walked though the Spanish district and the smells drove me crazy with hunger. However I was on a mission to drink some good beer. The bar was off the beaten path and in an area that actually appeared to be normal. We got the establishment and bellied up at the bar. I tried a couple of their home brews which weren't bad and couple of other things. With a nice buzz going on I felt like I could manage the jammed packed streets once again. Some quick food stop and was ready to go back and hang out with the guys until sleep came. And that is exactly what I did.
Sunday morning and the tantalizing prospect of brunch arose. GregH had plans to go over to the Front Porch Cafe and meet up former wrestler and current RoH color commentator Nigel McGuiness. He's a good guy who I have conversed with a couple of times. At that time he was trying to raise money via Kickstarter to help fund a documentary about his wrestling career. It's a shame really as the guy was immensely talented in the ring only to have a career cut short due to injuries and he's only early thirties. He was taping the meal. You'll probably see me in it. I'm the sexy, bald dude. Anyways order a Cajun Scramble and Bloody Mary's. Thoughts about our friend Paul who died earlier this year. We did a similar Sunday morning in Atlanta last year. The final time I saw him in person. A good way to start the day.
With a little bit of time to kill before we needed to leave for wrestling I walked around the beach with my friends Steve and Robby from Ireland and the UK crew of Jon, Mark, and Aaron. It was at this moment I learned about all thing surrounding the television show The In Betweeners.
We got Sun Life Stadium for WWE Wrestlemania 28 rather early. I always like to get to my destination then wait as opposed to waiting in traffic and rushing. AaronS drove and I convinced him to go early. Along for the ride was Chris for Malta and Grand Rapids own Scotty. Plenty of time before the start we grab some fairly decent stadium food and drinks. Scott, Anthony, Chris, and myself go to our seats. We discover big pillars obstructing two-thirds of our view. Looks like we're watching the Jumbotron tonight.
The trip is almost over as the final day in town begins. I once again head to the beach for another go around at the ocean. Joe, Frank, Robby, and Anthony were already there. The water was so warm and delightful for being early April. A little over an hour later I called it quits. Then Chris and me walked around some more on South Beach. It's not crowded at all on this Monday morning. I actually dont mind the situation right now.
Today's was also JohnnyZ's birthday. So a few of us went out to Havana1957 for an wonderful meal. I had Masa de Puerco Frita and we all had lots of caipirinhas. It's was Johnny's night and he wanted large glasses of slushy drinks so we went to Wet Willies. I wish we would have gone to Club Deuce instead but at least these were stiff drinks. We made it back to the hotel all a glow watch the final hour of WWE RAW. After Johnny got some sleep because he was graciously taking me and some others to the airport at 4:30am. The night was spent talking and sipping booze and saying final goodbyes to people I truly adore. A band of misfits bonded together over wrestling. By the time my plane took off at 6:30am I was asleep and waiting for landing.
Almost two months later I finally get time write this post. I'm trying to recall details. Like most things these days it's a blur. As middle age is rapidly approaching me, the notion of just stopping to take in the beauty of the world with all its sights, smells, and sounds with people you enjoy hits full force. I need to do it more often.
My final thoughts on South Beach are slightly mixed towards the negative. The traffic is horrible, it's hot, and being an asshole juice head must be a prerequisite if you are under thirty. But there is so much a person to do in this area, great food, and the working class folks I managed to mingle with were alright. Perhaps if I came during a less crowded time of year... if there is such a thing in South Beach.
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