Top 30 Memories
Here is my collection of 30 life-changing moments, milestones, or situations.
1. Ten (10) Summer Holidays in Switzerland (1975 – 1984)
10811 Steveston Highway, Richmond – Google
At the age of 5, my parents permitted Air Canada flight attendants to hang this Unaccompanied Minor lanyard around my scrawny Ronnie neck:
Name: Ron Putzi
Destination: Zurich, Switzerland (Kloten)
Pick-Up: Johnny & Dorothea Putzi (Grandparents)
Passport and airline ticket were neatly tucked inside the zipped-locked kangaroo pouch
Homeward bound lanyard: Incorrect address and missing flight #. Name, town, & local phone number are correct
By my lonesome (yes, you are feeling sad for me), I was confidently entrusted into the capable hands of the Air Canada flight attendants, then flown away – across the Atlantic into central Europe. Most flights flew through Amsterdam (Holland’s Schiphol International Airport), before landing in Zurich, Switzerland. This is what my summers would be like for the next 10 years… ‘Little Ronnie’ flying off to live in the Alps of Switzerland – learning his parents’ traditions, customs, culture and heritage. Everyone sing now… Yodel-lay-dee-hoo.
At five years old you really learn to trust your instincts. I needed to instinctually trust that the people assuring me they were my grandparents — really were. Likewise, when I was eight years old, I once had my flight attendant accidentally board me onto the wrong plane in Amsterdam. I remember noticing that the passengers onboard this plane looked and spoke distinctly different from what I remembered – so I quickly asked where the plane was flying and I remember clearly that it was NOT Zurich. I quickly disembarked, explained my situation at the ticket counter and was promptly issued an apology, new ticket and departure gate to Zurich. (no biggy)
In the 1970’s the road from Zurich to Fideris, Graubunden needed, let’s say, improvement. Then, there were almost no autobahns which forced us to drive through virtually every Swiss village en route to Fideris – it made my already painstakingly long trip THAT much longer. One summer, my good friend Brian Danuser (Stewart, BC) flew to Switzerland with my cousin Justin “Bruno” Walli and me. After having eaten the maximum amount of candy possible (for a 7 year old kid), he proceeded to throw it ALL up in the backseat of my grandparents car – Justin and I empathized and laughed our heads off – simply because kids can do that without ill will)
Despite grappling inside my head with missing out on warm Canadian summers, I soon came to realize that my Swiss experiences were equally incredible. One summer I returned to Richmond having almost completely lost my English. I was stunned and caught myself fumbling for english words. Somehow I had immersed myself so completely amongst the Swiss people that I lost my hold of my English language. Why were my Canadian-kid-friends not speaking Swiss-German? They would listen, then break their silence with “Ron, we don’t understand you.” – something which still quite often happens today.
Over the 10 years, by hook or by crook, I’d learn to work efficiently with my hands and head. I fed the farm animals, then farmed our land. My grandparents and their hired farmhands continuously guided us along as we worked to gather food for the cold winter months ahead. Of course, when we weren’t working, we visited the cascading waterfalls, built intricate forts, tossed cats, stole and experimented with Grandpa’s tobacco and pipes, caught mice… and watched the farmhands build (and use) Molotov cocktails on beehives in the ground… cull excess animals (with an accurate 22 & scope), make Swiss cheese and butter from scratch… the usual stuff.
Herman (our Polish farmhand) had survived many Nazi and Russian concentration camps and (like many refugees back then), basically hid at our farm. His forearms were tattooed with camp numbers, his hands were worn and strong, and his fingers were like bratwurst sausages. When Herman saw the large wart growing on my pinky finger he spent no time grabbing the pliers next to him and snipping the wart off. SHREEK!!! It only bled for a day – but I was ok. My grandfather’s reaction to Herman’s impromptu amputation was “educational“. I learned many many new words….
Liza Walli & Me (with dogs Eye-Eye and Nikki)
With two sets of Grandparents, I divided my time equally between Trimmis and Fideris, GR, Switzerland. There, I ate the finest stinkiest cheese on earth, the saltiest smoked meats, and indulged myself thoroughly in their heavenly chocolates. I learned to smoke tree vines, milk cows, make cheese & butter, and poo and pee without a toilet. Allow me to indulge you: during my first #2 experience, I stood with my pants down until my Hotschi (Pig) Grandma Maria entered the cow barn to investigate. Shyly I told her that I could not find toilet paper nor the button to flush my remains. For toilet paper, she helpfully explained I needed to rip a few pages from the phonebook (I later learned that I could also use the daily newspaper). As for the rest, I was told to grab a shovel, scoop it up, walk it down a narrow wooden plank and launch ‘it’ onto the stinky manure pile outside the barn. “Oh fun…well, sort of”
Naturally, the learning curve was steep. I was learning life-lessons lost on most city kids today as I watched our farm animals come and go based on the family’s financial circumstances or as our hunger-needs dictated. Living the farmer’s life instantly connected me with Mother Nature and Earth – and I loved that.
All in all, I’m extremely grateful that my parents insisted on shipping me overseas every summer at such an early age. I have to say, it was life-changing and a very privileged experience.
2. Krützjass with Johannes & Dorothea Hartmann-Putzi (Cards)
Rôza, Fideris, Switzerland: The local people call their card game Jass(Yaw’ss). I’ve played hundreds of games of Jass and delight in seeing the cards dealt every time. Jass is played with 36 cards and considered Switzerland’s national card game. The countless variations of different games (Der unna uff, obba abb, egga trumpf) were patiently taught to me, and subsequently deeply engrained in my roots. Below is a picture of my Putzi grandparent’s house where we played cards. The height living-room door went up to my shoulders, and the wood-stove crackled whilst heating the room. Yes, it was cozy cards !!! And, my grandparents always had a bottle of (How-She-Go), homemade moonshine sitting right beside the table to make sure their personal dispositions were well nurtured. Yes, super cozy cards !!!
Grandparents House – Röza, Fideris – drawn by Ronald A. Putzi
Night after night we played; my Fiderischer Nani (grandma) teaching me the rules, my Fiderischer Ani (grandpa) the concealed tricks. Even while playing basketball overseas my friends and I in Fribourg would congregate to play cards. I never get enough of the game. I can teach you…or if you know the game, please call me and we will play. Dree Blatt mit Stuck!!!
3. Putz(i), Castle – Graubunden, Switzerland
Putz, GR, Switerland: We all want to be Royals. Who doesn’t want their own castle? I like believing that I’m a royal. The Putz castle was built high above the valley floor in eastern Switzerland. It gazes down upon Fideris (the village where most of my relative are from). Putz is the village where my grandpa Johannes (Johnny) Putzi was born and raised. My grandfather’s father lived in Putz and his father too; and so on. Putzi, Putzi, Putzi, Putzi…
Therefore, I’ll shamelessly argue, that this compelling evidence proves that Putzi’s blood-lineage stems from and still exists in Putz. As such, today, I show ‘our’ Putz castle to everyone visiting the Graubunden valley. For that hour each time, touring through the Putz castle ruins it makes me very happy…and I dream as if I’m the ruler… I dream as I’m the king. King of Putz.
4. J.N. Burnett Jr. Secondary (Richmond, BC) 1983 – 1986
These were our instrumentally crucial years; physically and mentally. A time when parental grips loosen and we courageously leave our elementary schools to enter Junior High School (Grade 8, 9, & 10). To be permitted our own padlock and locker. Time to establish yourself and grow.
Blessed were we to have such devoted and loyal teachers. Teachers enthusiastically sacrificing their days (mornings and nights), to enrich our lives. Patiently, and ambitiously …smoothing out and polishing our lives; …providing direction. Of course, I felt our teachers stood out, and students recognized how tirelessly these teachers worked to provide them with the proper guidance; the very best path. I thought they were successful, and since then I’ve never forgotten their genuine generosity with their personal time. We all needed support – and they gave it to us.
Jim Scorgie & Margreth Fry – aka Mom (Kajaks Dinner)
Specifically, Al Nishi (short story to come; picture below), John Neumann (picture below), Walter Janzen, George Light, Jim Scorgie (above)…Gary Mason (principal), Gary Stuart, Steve Taylor, Ms. Parkinson, with many more to still name.
Fond memories of Jr. High: I credit Brian Tait for introducing me to basketball in grade 8. Brian’s brothers (Al and Glen) both played; Al Tait became recognized as one of Canada’s best players – first breaking most of the BCHSBBA tournament records, scoring an unprecedented Richmond High School record 59 points, then signing a NCAA Div 1 Scholarship to Oregon State University who were later ranked #1 in the USA during his tenure.
Our grade eight and nine basketball coaches John Newman and Walter Janzen, and our grade 10 coaches Scotty Ried and Sean Lawson were instrumental in guiding our team’s personal development. Today, some of my very best memories still come from the nail-biter games we played versus R.C.Palmer (Joey deWit, Kelly Korchinsky, Jeff Periera, Neil Blake, Damon Robb, Bryan Wevers, Rafael Escobar, Steve Shinde, Brent Pollock, Mike Jones and Aaron Tejani) and Hugh Boyd (Darrell Grosul, Sean & Chris Berda, Corey Cooksley, Graeme Lindsay, etc). Every game was important, exciting and close, and the high-level competition subsequently produced very good basketball players. It was exciting to know that soon BC’s Jr. High Champions (R.C. Palmer) and BC’s #3 (J.N. Burnett) were merging to play together at Richmond High.
5. Dunking 2 basketballs in grade 9 (14 years old) – 1984
Dunking was always the crown jewel of playground basketball. Whether
we played on an 8′, 9′, or 10 foot basket, dunking on another player somehow
meant everything to us.
In 1971, my father won the Canadian Decathlon Championship so perhaps several athletic genes were passed along to me. At an early age, he and other Kajaks track & field athletes taught me the proper technique of high jumping. That skill set later transferred directly to dunking a basketball. So by the end of grade 9, I could dunk two balls. One day, I remember practicing at Richmond High and deciding to try it…Swish-Swish…Success!!! I immediately raced outside to Doug Beers and Bill Disbrow eager to announce my news. I was visibly excited.
By grade 10 I started regularly dunking in games. My first and second dunks were versus M.E.I. (Mennonite Educational Institute), against the outstanding Prentice Lenz. After that, dunking became habitual and always sensationally gratifying. By grade twelve I could almost hit my head on the rim and began jumping over the shorter players in my way. As a professional, I knew long before the tall centre confidentially slid over to block my “shot” that he was about to get dunked on, HARD; I loved that.
6. Wining the 1987 BC High School Boys Basketball Championship (Gr. 11)
The 1987 Richmond Super Colts team consisted of the following: Jamie Stone, Warren Matthews, Mike Hrad, Sean Mezei, Rob Rowett, Sowen Ng, Damon Robb, Jeff Pereira, Neil Blake, Bryan Wevers, Brian Tait, Joe deWit, Ron Putzi, Johnny Lee (Manager), Joe Lucke (Manager), Jennifer (Manager), Rod Jensen (Assistant Coach), Bill Disbrow (Head Coach), Roy Akune (Principal).
Traveling to New York City (NYC) was exciting; a completely different world. The Bronx, Manhattan, White Plains, The Empire State building, The World Trade Centers, Little Italy, The Village, Houston Street, Harlem, Broadway (“I’m Not Rappaport”), all of it, not just impressive, but a tremendous educational experience; especially for a young teenage boys’ basketball team. Even sleeping at the YMCA downtown had a significant impact.
One afternoon, our team rode the #2 NYC subway line into The Bronx. Coach Bill Disbrow had scheduled a game versus the all-boys powerhouse school, Mount Saint Michael Academy… Where? The Bronx. Yes, THE BRONX. As we exited Manhattan’s majestic skyscrapers, we noticed the topography considerably changing. By the time we reached Eastchester Station near Wakefield, the landscape had changed, let’s say, remarkably. Quite dissimilar to our Richmond, BC island. After disembarking the subway, we huddled there – all young, wet-behind-the-ears, Homer Simspon-looking Canadian kids eh!!!… all airdropped now into the heartbeat of Da Bronx. Coach Disbrow, looks around and wisely says, “we should probably all stay together.”
With mild trepidation, we slowly walk from subway station to nearby Mount Saint Michael Academy. Not surprisingly, the neighborhood, seeing us, basically stops in their tracks as we walk through their neighborhood. We are so clearly we’re not from Dem Parts. Many just stare, somewhat alarmed at our brazen presence. We catch inquisitive, often stunned, looks suggesting,“now, what do we have here or you gotta be shittin me.” Of course, once Disbrow mentions that we’re from Canada, and here to play their high school team we are very well received. We are greeted with sincere , friendly welcomes, which were then always followed by confident and humorous “good-lucks!!!” The entire experience was exceptional and unforgettable.
Of note, unbeknownst to us, 1987 graduate, rapper Sean Combs (P. Diddy, Puff Daddy) was himself attending Mount St. Michael and (very likely) watching the game. Puffs 2013 net worth? Only $580,000,000.
Both here in NYC and back in Canada, our seniors were always intense exemplary leaders, Jamie Stone, Johnny Lee, Warren Matthews, Mike Hrad, Sean Mezei, Rob Rowett. Their guidance was vital to our team’s development, and to us winning BC Championships in 1987 & 1988. Thank you seniors, and to our coaches Rod Jensen and Bill Disbrow for the life-long memories.
7. Winning the 1988 BC High School Boys Basketball Championship (Gr. 12)
The 1988 Richmond Super Colts Basketball Team (36-0):
Back Row – Vick Ready (Manager), Damon Robb, Graeme Lindsay, Joe deWit, Brian Tait, Ron Putzi, Andrew Zawada, Neil Blake, Bill Disbrow (Head Coach), Don MacIntyre (Asst. Coach)
Front Row – Justin Leigh (Manager), Sowen Ng, Jeff Pereira, TROPHY, Trevor Kojima, Bryan Wevers, Glen “Cbo” Campbell
Absent: Roy Akune – Principal
The inordinate hours we spent practicing together was worth the final result. The fun we experienced conditioning ourselves (aka throwing up), competing against each other (aka battling to the death), achieving the goals we set out for each other, playing through exceptionally hard games, winning… changed our lives forever. I thank you all immensely.
The historic night we played DeMatha High School at UBC’s SOLD OUT War Memorial Gym. (Thank you: Greg Descantes)
Richmond High vs. De Matha – UBC War Memorial
To have Coach Disbrow provide us with the opportunity to compete against USA’s best. Was there a better experience or stage for Canadian or US players? The DeMatha game was one of the defining moments for players, coaches, referees, and fans in British Columbia – proving to us that basketball was at par with the world’s best.
DeMatha History: The 1964-65 Stag’s varsity basketball team, led by a young coach named Morgan Wootten, upset the seemingly unbeatable Power Memorial (NY) and their senior center Lew Alcindor (later, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The victory, in front of a sold out crowd at Maryland’s Cole Field House, broke Power’s 71 game winning streak and is considered one of the most legendary high school basketball games in scholastic history. DeMatha was on the national map.
Since 1969, DeMatha athletic teams have won over 150 championships in 11 sports. DeMatha’s athletic program was ranked #2 in the entire country in 2005 and 2007 by SI.com (Sports Illustrated). DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, has arguably been the most successful high school basketball program of the last 50 years. During a nearly half century of being coached by Morgan Wootten (1956 to 2002), DeMatha won more than 90% of its games and was regularly ranked among the top five teams in the nation. NBA Players: Danny Ferry (Duke), Adrian Dantley (Notre Dame), Kenny Carr (NC State), Keith Bogans (Kentucky), Jerrod Mustaf (Maryland), Adrian Branch (Maryland), Sidney Lowe (NC State), Joe Forte (North Carolina)…
Days after the DeMatha game we flew to the Las Vegas Holiday Prep Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada. We played very well, set and broke many records and returned home, heads held high.
I clearly remember winning the Provincial final, cutting down the nets, participating in the award ceremonies; it was all very emotional. Throughout the celebration though, one thought repetitively played itself inside my head, “But God, did we ever practice a lot.” We were repeat champions (one of 3 schools in history), and defeated the highly respected Seaquam Seahawks 99-80. Collectively, our players must have taken millions of shots; dribbled millions of times… and I strongly felt that we were the team to beat; perhaps even, the team who deserved to win. The emotional outpour after winning a championship often directly relates to the countless hours you spent training to get to the top; to be the best, or certainly the best you can be. To my buddies on the 1988 team – Thank You – One of the proudest accomplishments of my life.
Brian Tait – “BC Sports photo of the Year”
8. Scoring 61 points vs. Vancouver College in the VC Basketball Tournament Final
Our all-star point guard Brian Tait, scored 29 points in the semi-finals, but unfortunately injured himself and could not play the Emerald tournament final. The Fighting Irish were ranked #3 and we remained #1. I made a 3-point shot at the buzzer to miraculously (so it felt), break Richmond High’s all-time scoring record set by legendary point guard Alan Tait (Oregon State University). Brian’s brother’s record was 59 points.
Two days earlier, two time Olympian and 11 year Canadian National Team icon, Howard Kelsey had watched me score 35 points. And, after the game he offered me a congratulatory / somewhat blasé comment, “I think that you could do much better.” Even as a modest 17 year old I was somewhat realistic, thinking to myself dropping 35 points wasn’t that bad!!! Then came the 61 two nights later – and Tait’s record – in an intense, close game – and, like it or not, I suppose Kelsey was absolutely right. During that game Vancouver College’s 6’9” center, Scott Harrison was egging me on, insisting I had “no game” “no shot” “no this and no that.” (Today, we call that bullying) I never again scored more points.
Side Story: Ever so often, people will walk up and offer to me their confessional story. Last week (Feb 2014) I was watching a basketball game at Vancouver College when VC’s Bailey (1988) re-introduced himself to me. 25 years have passed; we both look different. After normal pleasantries he confided, “you know Ron, during that game I had a wide-open open shot… when out of nowhere, you came and stuffed my shot so hard that for years I tasted leather in the back of my throat every time I ate breakfast.” –Very funny.
9. The Richmond High Experience – The Super Colts – 1973 to Present
For over 30 years, over 1000 games, British Columbia Hall-of-Fame basketball coach Bill Disbrow built one of the world’s best high school basketball programs in the world. Few, if any, have surpassed his program’s legendary statistics; they speak for themselves.
5 Provincial Championships
5 Provincial Championship Finals
3 Undefeated Teams (1988, 1991, 1998)
4 Provincial MVP’s
31 Provincial All-Stars
5 CIS Mike Moser Memorial Trophy (Canada’s Most Outstanding Player)
7 National Team Players
92% win percentage
Making the team was very difficult and a distinct honor. Coach Disbrow had strict policies and high expectations for every player which begun in September. In my year, for example, players were not allowed to tryout before they could bench-press their body weight, had read three hand-picked Disbrow books, and kept their academics in good-standing. After basketball tryouts were complete, Coach Disbrow posted the players names on his PE office (the dungeon) window. Every season, “The Cut” announcement day was tense, with those that didn’t make it often crying openly. No one begrudged Disbrow the difficult task of selecting the Super Colts’ teams.
Home Opener: The first game of the season was always SOLD OUT. Fans would line up for hours for a seat to the game. Often the lineups extended far down the hallways of Richmond High. To be part of the unveiling of the new season’s Richmond High team was important. As game time approached, “Long Time” by BOSTON would begin playing through the speakers. The gymnasium lights were turned off, and only a single brightly lit spotlight shone directly at one corner of the gym. The new Super Colts’ team would soon break through their paper wall-banner. The excitement and noise crescendoed until the captain of the Colts jumped through the paper wall to officially jump-start the season. The gym erupted with noise and every player jumped at least six inches higher in warmup. It was a highlight of my career, and any player waiting in the tunnel behind the paper never forgot that special euphoric feeling.
Every team only ever had one goal. Winning the BC Championship, “The Tourney”, at the PNE Agrodome each March. Disbrow had made the finals several times before and finally won in 1985. We idolized the teams before us. Every practice, the older guys, unashamedly kicked our ass, pushing us to get better until the days we scored a bucket or two became more common. Success!!! I still remember scoring my first basket at and Richmond High Open Gym in grade 9. I was honestly happy for days.
In 2005, our 1988 Richmond High team was named, the “All-Time Greatest Team” by iconic sports writer Howard Tsumura (THE PROVINCE). A tremendous honor, one I’m not handing over, however I’d be remiss if I didn’t say…
When I compare the other great Richmond High championship teams to ours, it’s honestly extremely difficult. Our 1987 & 1988 team idolized the 1984 & 1985 Championship team: Steve Taylor (MVP), Jim Lamond, Ray Doyle, Glen Tait, Raj Lal, Steve Sheardown, Sean “Bubba” Hill, Darrell Mah, Graeme Kiss, Darren Latrace, Mike Saselja, Richard Weisgarber, and Todd Haverstock (manager). Our 1988 Richmond High team defeating them is simply unimaginable.
Comparing ourselves versus the undefeated 1991 Richmond High team (35-0) would be an arduous task. Simply because they had such dominant players such as Louis Johnson (MVP), Brian Scales, Justin Pudvaiskas, Kenin Matheny, Luke Johnes, Paul Hamaguchi, Stefano Kalaw, Matt Anthony, Andy Latchford, Eric Lum, John McPharland, John Mayan, Todd Klaiman, Dean Sherdown, and Justin Padviaskas, Assistant Coach, Doug Beers.
1985 Provincial Champions
1991 Provincial Champions
or, versus the undefeated 1998 Richmond High team (37-0) with Pasha Bains (MVP), Gilbert Cheung, Phillip Ma, Jesse Tupper, Jason Tarnow, Herb Raai, Atas Maeko, Tyler Semple. What an accomplishment. What a team.
This was Rihmond High Basketball and it comprised of hundreds of competitive, unstoppable, athletes; players. It would be irresponsible for me not to mention a few additional provincial all-stars:
Olympian Andrew Mavis, Karlo Villanueva, Jason Pamer, Jason Bristow, Bobby Singh, Jay Lee, Mark Craven, Les Brown, Kyle Russell, Zack Russel, Lloyd Scrubb (Father of Phillip – 3x CIS Player of the Year & Thomas Scrubb), Stan Mathieson, Rod Ast, Dave Olafson, Chris Lake, Brian McDonnell, Chris Ray, Al Tait, Phil Enns, Lee Craven, Bernie Glier, Butch Gayton, Bob Skemp, Ian Kishi, Gary Emmerson, Jim Mills, Brian Host, Jeff Manning, Jay Lee, Jason Birring… and more.
Finally, I tip my hat to all the players, coaches, cheerleaders, fans, teams that Richmond High has ever had during the dynasty years.
10. Standing ovation, Orpheum Theatre (Vancouver, BC) at High School Graduation ceremony – 1988
Brian Tait and I had absolutely no idea our 5-year NMSU scholarship was to be recognized by Richmond High. It came as a complete surprise to us when our names were announced, the value of the scholarship disclosed, and 2,000+ people stood to applaud.
The Orpheum Theatre – 1988
11. Winning Canada Games (Basketball) – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada Aug 13-26, 1989
The Gold Medal Team (Undefeated): Brian Tait, Joey deWit, Andrew Steinfeld, Craig Preece, Derek Walsh, Tim Bartel, Dean Adams, Peter Rubin, Rick Gill, Mathew Wubs, Onkar Hayre, Jason Philips, Steve Patrick
Head Coach Mike McNeill and Assistant Mark Simpson (defensive specialist), picked an
absolutely fantastic group of players for the BC Provincial Team. Due to the
great camaraderie, coaching (and some player skill), we proudly remained
undefeated and won the gold medal at the Canada Games (National
Champions!!!). I loved every moment, and still cherish the fantastic
memories. It was one of my favorite teams ever. Thank you guys.
12. Tubing, Hot Air Ballooning, & Chopes (The South West, USA)
Bob & Betty (B&B) McCaslin at New Mexico State University became surrogate parents and familyovernight. Not common knowledge, but to save money, Brian Tait and I decided to purchase one-way tickets via Greyhound Bus from Vancouver, Canada to Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA. The bus depot was full of our close friends. We were hugged and kissed all over. It was very emotional, and most of the people were waving and crying. Max and Margrit Meier generously gave me $500, which helped broke me a great deal; something I always appreciated.
72 hours (3,273km) Greyhound ride: Vancouver to Las Cruces, New Mexico
For 72 hours, 3,273 kilometers (2,034 miles), and countless stops, we wiggled and jiggled in our uncomfortable fart-filled bus seats. Unless they are super evil, never torment your kids in this way. At the Los Angeles Grayhound depot, easily our seediest stop, it felt like every incarcerated or about-to-be incarcerated thug was loitering around – looking at us. We were athletic, but who’s kidding who, we should have easily had our worldly possessions confiscated. We were lucky to not be robbed. While waiting for our next bus we simply kept our backs to the wall and otherwise kept to ourselves. This had to be the San Quintin Prison of bus depots. A holding pod experience which was plenty eye-opening.
Traveling approximately 1,224km (761mi) east of Los Angeles we finally arrived. As you’d fully expect upon arrival, we both examined ourselves for lice and dysentery (who wouldn’t). Even the locals wanted us to shower with a disinfectant lime.
After we’d settled in (NMSU Alumni Hall dorms), we were introduced to Bob & Betty McCaslin through our 6’8″ highly-respected centre Chris “Jug” Hickman. It was through Bob & Betty that we were then slowly exposed to the generosity and friendliness of the American people; specifically New Mexicans. Bob & Betty’s hospitality dramatically improved our lives and university experience.
Bob & Betty graciously introduced us to the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology; you guessed it, hot air ballooning. What an experience. The feeling of effortlessly lifting off of the Earth is breathtaking. The day was unforgettable. Naturally, in New Mexico, it included a full breakfast, reception, and ‘first-time flyers’ initiation package (hazing) – details not sold separately.
Chris Hickman & Me
Bob & Betty also took us tubing down the Salt River in Pheonix, Arizona (No, do not try this sober), and of course they introduced us to world famous Chopes restaurant. How many nights did we stumble out of Chopes laughing and singing full of chile relleno and quesadillas. I am blessed to have such great friends and memories.
Una Noche Loca en el Chopes Restaurant – Amigos para siempre
13. NCAA Basketball Tournament “The Sweet 16″ – NMSU Basketball Team – 1992
The 1992 Team: Cliff Reed (Las Vegas, Nevada), John Bartleson (Las Vegas, Nevada), Brian Sitter (Las Vegas, Nevada), Chris Hickman (Clearwater, Kansas), William Benjamin (California), Eric Taylor, Sam Crawford (California), Tracey Ware, Ron Putzi (Richmond, BC, Canada)… Adding players soon…
Coaches: Jeff Reep, Gar Forman (GM Chicago Bulls), Head Coach: Neil McCarthy
Advancing to play in the Sweet 16 vs. UCLA in Albuquerque, New Mexico (our home state) brought a storybook-ending to our season; it could not have been scripted better. Tickets in both Las Cruces (NMSU) and Albuquerque, New Mexico (UNM) sold out and many were being illegally scalped for as much as $300 (face value was $45). Imagine, up to 10,000 fans would come to just watch us practice before we headed north to Albuquerque for the game.
We’d eventually lose to nationally ranked #1 seed UCLA, but that didn’t really matter. For two enthusiastic weeks in 1992, the entire state of New Mexico cheered for New Mexico State (NMSU). Even UNM Lobos fans put their pride aside to begrudgingly root for NMSU. That was unheard of, and our bandwagon soon overflowed with converted Aggie fans. As a player it was unforgettable to witness and experience the outpouring of support. To quote comedian Jeff Foxworthy, “It was 100% pandelerium.”
Having the University of Indiana’s locker-room adjacent to ours was exciting. The towering 6’5” Bobby Knight standing there (his infamous bullwhip in hand). Players entered and exited our locker room excited … It was difficult just walking passed the legendary coach, trying to be focused, concentrated. Trying desperately not to show our own excitement that the LEGEND Bobby Knight was standing “right” there. “Good Luck Guys!”
Our NMSU team is good and we’re well-prepped for the game – we are ready. We are nationally ranked in the Top 25, and have defeated many highly ranked teams this season. Having passed coach Knight, we slowly saunter down, into the accurately named arena The PIT’s tunnel at the University of New Mexico. For us, the light at the end of the steep tunnel opens to the parquet floor and the pandelerium of the Sweet 16. At this level, everyone associated with the game receives a minute-by-minute itinerary. Nothing is left to chance. ESPN CBS NBC and hundreds of syndicated radio stations are ready for the game. It’s big, and we are playing in the big time; it’s THE DANCE.
Sweet 16 – NCAA Tournament
Almost simultaneously, as scheduled, the UCLA Bruins exit their changing room and begin walking parallel to us – beside our team. Shortest to tallest – guards, forwards, centers. Players are nervous, but sharp, fixated on the imminent task ahead. I’m standing towards the back getting ready to play when I clearly hear UCLA’s national star center and first-round NBA draft-pick Don McLean blurt out loudly (I think tactfully), “Maaaaaan, I can’t believe we’ve gotta play these F’n pu&&!@$.” I rolled my eyes, shook my head, and smiled. At this level intimidation tactics rarely work; but sometimes can. It was pretty funny, and “NO” I didn’t feel bullied.
We lost that game; and our season was over. UCLA went to The Final Four, and I still laugh at Don’s ‘comment’ – likely, for the rest of my life.
14. Standing ovation, Pam Am Center (Las Cruces, NM) University Graduation Ceremony – New Mexico State University – 1992
The recognition was especially precious and emotional for me because it was initiated by NMSU’s faculty members (Deans, President, Professors). The standing ovation came completely unexpected, and its resounding impact definitely changed my life. THANK YOU very much (from the bottom of my heart). The inordinate gesture (effort) you made to recognize my personal efforts throughout my time in Las Cruces and at NMSU meant the world to me.
And to the NMSU Fans: Additionally, I wanted to mention how much I truly appreciated receiving a very heartfelt standing ovation during my final NCAA basketball game vs. the Univ of New Mexico (13,000 people) in Las Cruces). It was tremendous.
#1 Moment in NMSU History
Defeating UNLV (National Champs) – In New Mexico
And to the NMSU Alumni / Booster Club: Little operates without the substantial financial contributions of the Booster Club. Therefore, to mention a few, I want to sincerely thank Chuck Chapin, David Kinkaid, Mark Madoff “Children of a Lesser God” playwright, NMSU’s Business School Professors, The Bullocks, Miller Blackford, Kevin MaGraff, Terry Wood, Frank Borman, and the “voice of the Aggies” Jack Nixon. Jack would always assure me, “Ron, you’re undoubtably the best outside shooter I have ever seen play basketball at NMSU…too bad all our games are indoors.”
Dave Kinkaid, Chris Hickman, Mark Madoff “Children of a Lesser God”, and Me
15. Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Mesa Verde, & Chaco
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, USA: In My Top-10. Stunning must-see destination. After you visit the caves far far below, enjoy the 400,000 bats exiting the caves later that evening; each night. South Eastern New Mexico.
White Sands National Monument (Missile Range): Like No Place Else on Earth. Unforgettable. Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening White Sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dune field. Southern New Mexico.
Mesa Verde National Park, Mesa Verde, CO (USA): 4 corners region of the USA. Visiting the Cliff Palace and experiencing the serenity of the high mesas and culture of our destitute forefathers is absolutely worth the trip.
Chaco Culture National Historic Park, Nageezi, NM (USA): Chaco is that magical little-out-of-the-way destination which few travelers visit. That, in and of itself, makes it for me a logical place to go. No tourists and exceptionally historical. Bring a tent and overnight please; you truly are in the middle of nowhere. Disclaimer: Please do not do as I do, but I etched my initials deep in the sandstone rock at the Chaco campground. North Western New Mexico – near Mesa Verde.
16. Signing my first professional basketball contract with Fribourg Olympic, Switzerland – 1993
I eventually signed with United Colors of Benetton (Sisley) in Fribourg, Switzerland. I cannot count the cherished memories. Certainly, meeting the charismatic and confident, Luciano Benetton while playing for Fribourg Olympic Basket left an impact. Fribourg is a majestic city, and its people are fantastic!!! The loyal fans who watch every game, the hundreds and hundreds of support letters (fan mail/love letters), gifts, dinner invitations, introductions, Cafe du Midi (Merci Pascal), Le Populaire, Radio FR (Merci Kurt Eicher), La Liberte. You all gave me so much of yourselves (and still do).
To Kurt Eicher and Celestine Mrazek: Thank you for bending over backwards to welcome me into your lives, city, and basketball team. For introducing me to the Dean of University of Fribourg and walking me through the process of learning and studying in French. Also, for providing me with a place to eat and sleep while I acclimatized to my new international environment and home. I’ll be the first to agree that the raclette, fondu, Vacherin, Gruyere, le basket et vin blanc (white wine), carnival, made my transition a lot easier. Thank you ! Merci !
Bill Disbrow, Max Meier, and Wilfred Fry spearheaded the eventual signing of my first professional contract. Assisting me with the arduous discovery process: For example, what is my contractual dollar value, the fact finding, helping me decipher and sift through pages of contractual jargon.
I was scheduled to graduate from NMSU after my Fall semester (1992). The summer prior, however (between my junior and senior year), I secretly flew to Switzerland for several “unofficial” try-outs with various professional basketball teams. I was admittedly a little nervous.
Max Meier (PI Financial President & CEO), who for much of my life was a surrogate Godfather to me, offered his help and accompanied me to Fribourg, Switzerland to visit coaches Kurt Eicher and Celestine Mrazek. It was very important to me to select the right team; the best situation, and I was encouraged by both Max Meier’s opinion and by the professionalism displayed by Fribourg Olympic’s committee. It was an organization with high-performance expectations, a long tradition of success, excellent fan support, and with very good game attendance. It was also French speaking, not italian, and being from Canada I somehow leaned more towards ‘le francais.’
My visit to the Swiss italian-speaking canton of Ticino did not impress me as much, and I was not prepared to play for Bellinzona Basket. At the time, the athletes appeared over confident; and mostly american. I had just completed four years in America, so now I Ionged for somewhat more of a European environment. Without a doubt, the Italians had money for basketball, and therefore they signed the best players, and I simply didn’t want, to some extent, a guaranteed (cookie-cutter), National Championship. I felt with two solid American players at Fribourg, and a host of good to excellent Swiss players that we stood a very good chance of winning. I decided to sign with Fribourg Olympic for slightly less money, I like the challenge, and because I felt genuinely welcomed there.
17. Seeing Les Miserables in London, England – July 19, 1993
I read Victor Hugo’s masterpiece (son chef-d’oeuvre) Les Miserables while living in Fribourg, Switzerland. The Les Miserables musical was new to me (Introduced by ASDW), and I instantly fell in love with it. It was, and remains (to me), absolutely perfect – or, as perfect a piece as I’ve ever heard. Still today, nothing compares. If I may make a suggestion, I would specifically, and HIGHLY RECOMMEND, the 25th Anniversary Edition at the London O2 (with Alfie Boe), as the best musical I’ve ever seen.
For me, experiencing the musical live in London, England (1993) meant the world. With the little money I had, I purchased a single first-row balcony ticket from a street scalper. Then, found my seat, and took-in the world-renowned spectacle, all alone, and uninterrupted. It still remains one of the best nights of my life. And, on average, I’d say I watch it no less than once a month.
You want to watch it? Call me.
18. Driving through Croatia on Memorial Day – November 1994
Ted Byrne and I decided to visit our friend Kelly Boucher in Budapest, Hungary. Kelly, among many other things, is a 2x Olympian, WNBA player, Hall-of-Famer, Canadian National Team player(Yawn Yawn and Yawn). She overachieves us all.
Ted and I generally have an excellent sense of direction, so before leaving Switzerland we ask my 80-year old grandmother, Maria Walli, for her world atlas. So simple. Immediately, she rummages through her bookshelf and belongings, then produces a dusty 1920′s “non-political map” (this is important for you to remember). She hands the atlas to Ted and me, we cut it, and with a quick flip through we are satisfied. Grandma gets a nod of approval and appreciation from us. We are ready.
At 4am the next morning, we alternate driving from Trimmis, Switzerland to Budapest. We pass through Lichtenstein (a very small country in Europe), then oops accidentally through Germany (thank you Ted), and make our way across Austria. Along the way, we stop to visit the popular tourist sights (The Von Trapp’s, Mozart’s, a place called Vienna), and despite the unbelievable maniacal driving of the Hungarian commuters, we arrive in Budapest without a scratch – Budapest is gorgeous. Our visit with Kelly Boucher is excellent; she is a great friend, proudly hospitable, and thankfully for us a well-informed tourist guide. There’s Buda and Pest, and the Duna River which splits both sides down the middle. It goes without saying that a river runs through every city in Europe.
Before leaving Hungary Ted and I calculate that we still have enough time (from our short basketball break) to detour and visit Venice, Italy. We are very excited. We open and flatten-out Grandma’s 1920’s “non-political map” and excitedly, with a ruler and pencil, pencil in a hyphenated (as-the-crow-fly) point-to-point line. Budapest to Venice. Any questions? Getting there should be easy – two young, worldly, well-travelled and wee-cocky kids.
We drive heading West for hours and eventually hit a border crossing, which to us meant nothing less than progress.
It’s oddly quiet and the crossing appears closed, completely abandoned. With not a soul coming or going we had time to sit there, the car idling, still well short of the border crossing. We look suspicious, staring at the crossing, 100m back, like a stand-off or drug exchange about to ‘go down’. We are thinking that we have wisely not yet committed our car nor its passengers (aka us), to whatever country this was.
Speaking more languages than Ted, I now drew the short straw. With no idea what country this was, we decided that I needed to inquire what country lie before us. I exited the car and guardedly walked up to the border guards window “Do you speak English” NO… “Parllez Vous Francais?” NO… “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” JA, Deutsch. Great news… ok… “Welches Land is das?” He replies, “Ya…Das ist Croatia!!!”
Sweet Jesus….we’re entering a war torn country, during a time of war. We are brilliant!!!
I re-enter the car, and Ted asks excitedly, “so, what did he say? …where are we?”
I paused for what seemed like a longtime before answering his question. Then still looking straight ahead, as if lost, dreamily gazing over vast flitting prairie fields I slowly turn towards Ted and said, “He said it’s Croatia”
We park the car and decide to eat breakfast with the Croatian border guards. They are fascinated that we are from Canada and as further proof of that we pull our hockey sticks from the trunk. It was an old war movie scene, a rock video. We couldn’t speak Croatian and they couldn’t speak English. So, all morning, we ate and drank until our bellies were completely stuffed. We took pictures of each other and laughed our heads off. Its an unthreatening environment. Just a couple of different cultures, religions, languages, and a few guns. And nothing but laughter to interrupt our border-crossing breakfast.
If the cook had a question for Ted, she asked it in Croatian. The german-speaking Croatian guard relayed that to me in German, then I would finally translate German to English. Then, back it went. Ted to me in English…. And we’d watch Ted’s answer (converted and translated) gradually make its way to the now laughing cook. All morning we laughed and danced around our language barriers, while just outside, we perceptively noticed, not another car entered Croatia.
We entered Croatia at our own risk that day; assured, by our friends, that if we stayed north we would likely be safe.
We will not easily forget what we saw entering Croatia. As we neared the capital city of Zagreb, walking along the shoulders of their streets, were what appeared to be never-ending processions of mourners (women, grandmothers, mothers, sisters),… clothed head-to-toe in black, walking towards their church, their cemetery, or their own intimate place of worship… the undeniable, visibly painful, levels of sorrow. In Zagreb, fully-outfitted Croatian soldiers kissed their loved ones at the main train station (again mothers, girlfriends, fathers). And at Zagreb’s beloved St. Mark’s Church both internally and externally we saw thousands of candles lit. This wasn’t our place to be. This wasn’t our war, nor a scale of sorrow we’d ever wish to brave. We could never understand their plight, or what they’ve gone through. And so, we left immediately.
19. Backpacking, on a shoestring, throughout Central & South America (1995)
Summarized: Over two months, I travelled from; Guatemala to Belize, then to the Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. From there I flew to Lima, Peru where I flew (with Graeme Lindsay) to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. Later we 4×4’d to La Paz, Bolivia, before taking a rugged train back to Arequipa, Peru.
On May 19, 1995, my trip began by purchasing a one-way ticket from Vancouver to Guatemala City. Ex-Richmond High basketball player Todd Klaiman was coincidentally traveling to Guatemala the day before me. We gringos wisely arranged to meet and initially travel together.
After my arrival, at Todd Klaiman’s insistence, I found myself sleeping in the worst slum I’d ever seen, called Peronia, Guatemala; near Guatemala City. A day earlier, Todd had met ‘Nestor’ on his flight to Central America, who generously invited Todd to stay at his home in Peronia. “Sure, why not?”
After I arrived in Guatemala Todd assured me that he had already arranged our accommodations.What a guy! I like him. With mild apprehension, Todd then begins making repetitive attempts to describe how alarming the shantytown conditions he endured truly were (He himself had slept at the night before). The look on his face spoke volumes. Invariably, Todd ends each descriptive sentence with, “Ron, you’re just not going to believe how bad this place really is.” At the Guatemala City bus station we quickly identified and boarded our red and white “Los buses de Rapidos de Peronia.” And, you must remember, the further our bus drove away from downtown towards Todd’s ‘accommodations’ the worse our living conditions became. At some point I remember this was still only the first day of my trip. I just arrived and where am I going? Now I’m sitting with another gringo (los gringos), two backpacks, on a packed dark bus of Guatemalans, heading directly into the poorest place either of us had ever seen. At our bus stop ‘Peronia’ we literally crawl off our crammed bus – Todd looks at me and smiles, pegging my disbelief, then slowly utters, “Told ya!!!”
Todd and I experienced many things. We climbed Atitlan’s Pacaya Volcano, rode on the roof of many school buses for hours at a time. We once found ourselves speeding down a remote highway, enjoying the ride on top of the bus, until a large tree branch cracked me directly across the bridge of my nose; knocking me backwards almost off the backend of the school bus. The locals and Todd knew to duck the tree branches, but I, who was ghastly sick, paid the price for not remaining acutely alert. I suppose it is all part and parcel for third-world travel – a Rookie Mistake.
Some of the memories are:
Ingesting anti-diarrhea medicine Imodium like M&M’s to unsuccessfully battle an undetermined bug infesting my stomach, and within my body. Local children laughing, pointing at their debilitated 6’6” gringo tourist-friend, who (pride-lessly) had ‘the runs’ and so desperately needed to use their midfield ‘open air’ toilet (a hole, made with sticks to stand on) — a large lizard nonchalantly strolls by, unbothered, carelessly, in front of me. Kids still completely entertained.
The time a precarious mudslide blocked our road in the mountainous backcountry regions of Guatemala. While the rain was pouring many men, including Todd and I, helped lift a truck stuck in the mud out of harms way (aka sliding off the mountainside). The top half of our bodies drenched, our lower halves light-brown with the fresh mud. We were successful and therefore happy. We had lifted the truck to safety. Then we aligned ourselves for a ceremonious picture which would forever capture this priceless memory – Los Gringos and Guatemalan amigos enthusiastically working together, hand-in-hand, to excavate the stuck muck truck. I took some fantastic pictures then briefly laid my treasured Canon AE-1 on the flatbed of our truck to shake a few hands. Moments later, the truck we just freed from danger, was already pulling away with my camera.
In Caye Caulker, Belize, I really enjoyed snorkeling whilst feeding the stingrays and nurse sharks. I spent much of my time with Auburn Professor, Dr. Michael McKee and his wife Anita. A fantastic couple, dinner, and full moon hovering over the Gulf of Mexico.
Then, in Utila, Honduras earning my Advanced PADI Diving Card. It was one massive party for 10 days. Utila is an island where the electricity shuts off at midnight. However, one night a week, the electricity remains running… so, you dance and drink the bar’s free alcohol all night. Everyone leaves their air-conditioning on to ensure one extended night of well-earned sleep.
While traveling through Nicaragua I felt uneasy and was generally constantly on my toes. The people were very friendly and helpful – but I often had an uneasy feeling that I was quite afraid – a rare feeling.
Costa Rica had gorgeous coasts and included my unforgettable days in a place called Tortuguero.
20. Tortuguero National Park, Tortuguero, Costa Rica – July 6, 1995 (8pm – 11:30pm)
One night, I hired a guide to accompany me to see the massive sea turtles at the National Park. At dusk we set out, not far, to the beaches over some dunes. It’s dark and we begin to see the dark shades of the female turtles arriving on the beach. Ambitiously, they belabor themselves up the beach. It’s a struggle. Once her spot is chosen, she digs a deep hole with her hind legs. Her eggs then fall one by one into the hole before she refills the hole with sand. With infrared headlamps we are crouched behind her. Respectfully completely still and silent. Her agonizing is difficult to listen to. Her efforts are courageous. When she’s done being a mama turtle she turns and painfully slowly crawls her 300lbs back into the Atlantic. The waves crash against her turtle-face a few times, then she is gone. Forever from my life. Here is an excerpt from my journal:
Behind us there are people stealthily walking towards us. An imprecise silhouette of what, I think, are men and women. Closer I see each (clearly)holding machine-guns and rifles. “Ok, I’m dead.” My guide quickly provides me with his calm confident ‘No No It’s alright – nod’ whispering, “it’s okay, they are our official park rangers looking for turtle (and egg) poachers.” My guide is fluent in spanish, but not so fluent in English and recognizes this well-armed band of brothers. He speaks with them, while I try to recollect myself, double-checking my Fruit-of-the-Looms, simultaneously thanking every God, from every culture, that I’m still alive.
A night I’ll never forget. Easily one of the best days of my life.
21. Hitchhiking from Costa Rica to Panama – 340km – July 9, 1995
From Puntarenas Canton (West Costa Rica) to La Cuesta, Panama I hitchhiked and rode in the cab of a large transport truck – all day. My Spanish was terrible, a work-in-progress, and my driver’s english was unfortunately worse than my spanish – so, as might be expected, we spoke Spanish. Without a doubt, this was the slowest, bumpiest, pothole-ridden ride of my life, and it lasted ALL DAY. Bump Bump Bump, pause, Bump Bump Bump. I still can’t believe that the road was that horrific. It’s hot out (30+) and the coast picture perfect.
As it is, I know today is Jessica Piuma’s wedding day. I’m still young, emotional, happy for her, but constrained, from dawn to dusk, within this metal box (but for a window), staring out at the warm picturesque Costa Rican Pacific coastline.
Innately, I have zillions of ‘what if’ (contemplative) thoughts running through my head. I had faithfully spent my entire university-life with her, and today she was getting married.
Of course, when I asked my truck driver for his name, “Cual es tu nombre amigo?”…. he said, “mi amo Piuma.” What would the inordinate odds be of his name being Piuma?
In Panama, a few more things where nicked directly from my hotel room – not enough to complain about, so why bother. I visited the Panama Canal’s Mira Flores Locks, then flew southeast, crossing the Earth’s equator, to Lima, Peru. With my head now shaved down to the scalp and a poorly trimmed terrorist bomber’s goatee, I met up with one of my best freinds Graeme Lindsay in Lima. Graeme stood bewildered upon my arrival in front of his house, only saying “My God Putz., I can’t really even tell it’s you, why look at you”(I think he was extending a compliment). It was only then that I realized I had become almost unrecognizable. A ghastly sight to behold. A horrifically ungroomed guerrilla.
Unrecognizable Me and the polished Graeme Lindsay
Together, Graeme and I toured Cusco, Macchu Picchu, Lake Titikaka, La Paz (Bolivia), Arequipa (The White City). We also travelled to the popular Colca Canyon to visit the famous soaring condors – a stunning excursion. A natural wonder twice as deep as the USA’s Grand Canyon (with no railing, watch yourevery step). The road from our hotel in Arequipa to the Colca Valley climbs impressively, reaching 4,910m (16,100 ft.) at the Patapampa lookout point. The air is very thin at this altitude, and breathing is not easy, and it is also there that I became uncontrollably ill. With humor, I could wrestle with my ailing condition, however cannot stress enough how extremely sick I had become. (Back in Vancouver, I ended weighing less than I did in high school). Ever so compassionately, Graeme slowly nursed me back to my feet. Without med-school, his curing method was offering me white rice and, the local’s favorite ancient custom, coca leaves. Coca leaf is the raw material used for manufacturing cocaine, and the coca leaf extract has been used in Coca-Cola products since 1885, with cocaine being completely eliminated from the products around 1929. Eventually, after 2 days ingesting rice and coke, I got better. Admittedly, I have never wanted to return home to Canada as much. What a tremendous adventurous trip all-around.
22. Buying my first house – $276,000 – Richmond, BC – 1998
After saving $110,000 from playing basketball in Europe, Mom convinced me to cap-plunk the money into a 6 bedroom house on Seafair Drive, in west Richmond. Then the asking $276,000 felt expensive. The house was located off the water (on the Pacific Ocean) and came with a large lot. Luckily property values quadrupled over the next 10 years which made me look brilliant. Lesson… listen to your Mom’s investment advice.
23. Kayaking Cape Scott, Telegraph Cove, and Ucluelet, Vancouver Island – 1996 – 2000
Mike “Murph” Murphy (RHS Grad 1975), founded the Ogopogo Kayak Co. His tours are adventurous and legendary. Murph is creative. During each night of your paddle experience comes with a different international theme. Hukilau (Appy: Mai Tai Punch with Polynesian Strifry), Ukranian Feast (Perogies, Borscht & Bear with Black Russians), Mexican (Happy Hour Special with El Polio Burrito), Wild Wild West (Ye Haah!!! A little Coke With Your Whiskey? with Chilli and Bannock), Italiano (Vino…Will it be Red or White? with Spaghetti and Spicy Sausage) and, Cajun Cuisine (mmmmmmm, Sambuca Tie with Jambalaya). Murph prefers the simple easy-going folk (like you), and not catering to the pretentious crowd (like them). No pampering, no spoiled guests. “Let’s just relax and keep’r easy.“
One morning we had the good fortune of eating our breakfast directly beside the Orca Whales at Telegraph Cove (on Vancouver Island). What an unforgettable experience. Imagine, wild Orcas swimming in the ocean a few meters from our tents. Stunned and thrilled standing shoreside along the beach, our tour group groggily gazed (what a mouth full), watching Orcas hunt for their breakfast – again, only a feet away. Thank you Murph… what a great way to start the day.
In Ucluelet, (that’s “people of the safe harbor,” for any non-Nuu-chah-nulth speakers), we were graced by the presence of the very stinky, 14 meter-long, 36 tonnes, Gray whales http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_whale . They breached around us, while we sat fascinated in our kayaks – for those that don’t know, you feel like a wine cork floating in the Pacific Ocean – so small.
Quick Fact: Today, the filter-feeding Gray whale falls in the Least Concernstatus on theConservation Chart, it has two blowholes (not one), and is considered only 30,000,000 years old.
24. Winning – Swiss Cup National Championship – Vacallo Basketball Club – 2000
The Swiss National Cup had eluded me for a few years. Therefore, it was a special moment to hoist the Swiss Cup high above our heads while playing for Vacallo Basket. After six years of playing in the french region of Switzerland and countless 2nd place finishes, I finally succumbed and signed with the Lugano Tigers in Ticino. It was fantastic. A year later I signed with Euro Cup team Vacallo Basket. We had an excellent team, in fact, one of the best I have ever been a part of. The memories from Ticino will last forever.
25. Sakinaw Lake – “The Lake” (1984 – Present)
Pender Harbour, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada: One of the nicest places in the world. Pontooning in No Wind Bay, backroad driving to & from the cabin, a simple pre-fab cabin overlooking the lake, drinkable water as you swim, the amount of space, music, food and friends. It’s heavenly. Sakinaw is where I can completely be myself. Let my beard grow, wield and axe, build a birdhouse, and let all inhibitions go. I feel blessed to have spent hundreds of days and nights there with my friends.
26. Canada’s #1 ranked Investment Advisor at Scotiabank – in his class (2004 – 2007)
Although it was never my goal, I felt proud of myself (especially after the countless office hours spent working), to be top-of-my-class – for three consecutive years at Scotiabank. I received three national achievement awards, and then was nominated for Scotiabank’s national rookie-of-the-year award. I was given my own office overlooking all of Vancouver and still hold my years at Scotiabank with high regard.
27. Chuck Ager – A Gold (Au) Tutorial (2007)
From my house in Vancouver, I called Dr. Charles “Chuck” Ager who was staying at his field house in Las Vegas, Nevada. I knew he, better than anyone, could best introduce to me the age-old science of mining gold. After all, he was an internationally recognized geological expert.
While I was preparing for my flight to Las Vegas, Chuck was drafting a surprise itinerary.
“Glad you called kid, change your flight, I need you here Wednesday not Friday.”
I arrived at the Las Vegas airport as planned, walked to my carousel and shook Chuck’s hand (hard). We exchanged no-nonsense pleasantries… before wham, Chuck starts…
“So, you want to learn about gold do ya!!! You see gold is a relatively inert element, not readily, or let’s say likely, to combine with other chemical elements… It occurs in it’s native state, found in extremely small flakes trapped in small cracks and cavities in such things as pyrite.”
OK,…ahhh….I’m just going to grab my bag off the carousel here – yes, there it is.
“You see Ron, gold at the nano level has no conductivity, meaning the metal itself is not magnetic. So, during hydrothermal metamorphism, one of the important processes which forms mineral deposits…(we start walking toward the exit) we’re parked somewhere over here…. I bought a Hummer (HUM-V) for our trip because I want us to prospect a property northwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. I’ve an itinerary you’re going to love.”
(I’m thinking to myself, did Chuck just say Salt Lake City)
Hmmm,….then, why did I just land in Las Vegas not Salt Lake City? (Just a wild hair brained thought) – I’m smiling, loving it all.
“I figure I’ll drive us outta town, then you take it from there – you drive kid?”
Yes, Sir, love driving.
And so it went, uninterrupted, for the next 2,000 miles. For 3 days I was tutored by the Gold Master himself, one-on-one. From Nevada to Utah, then down through Arizona. Salt Lake, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Clarkdale, Jerome (AZ), and back to Las Vegas. Our nights were perfectly soothed with wine, cigars, fast-food, and tons of laughter. Chuck’d tella story, then I’d tella story.
In the end, back in Henderson, Chuck’s beautiful wife Carol had generously prepared – another massive scrumptious Italian “bevenuti a casa festa” welcome home feast. I think Carol was happy to see us home safe and sound.
28. The Birth of Leah and Jenna – December 2004 & 2007
Sue Heywood and I were married in 2003 and had two daughters together in December 2004 & 2007. Cutting my daughter’s perfectly coiled blood-filled umbilical cords was truly exhilarating. Watching their deliveries was unforgettable – truly beautiful. Later, swaddling them, then singing softly to each while walking the long corridors at BC Women’s Hospital was a monumental moment in my life. Countless numbers of trained, but also exceptionally compassionate, nurses and doctors made the experience of each delivery very rich and unforgettable. Thank you very much. A special thank you goes to Sue Heywood (who vigilantly monitored what she ate and drank whilst growing the girls for 9 long months, and also to gynecologist Dr. Joan Robilllard who’s natal experience brightly shone through during clutch times).
29. Rockstar Touring – 2010 – Present
I love music. Especially, excellent live music. I also don’t like noise, especially loud noise. Touring throughout Europe, North America, and Asia with specifically Melanie Dekker has afforded me all the luxuries of being a middle-aged roadie/groupie. Being around great musicians such as David Sinclair, John Mann, Beverly Elliott, Sam Cartwright, Elyse Belladonna, Mike Bell, Stefan Rapp, Thomas Fuchs, Rae Armour, Yvonne McSkimmering, and Mark James Fortin, Robbin Thompson, Beaver T – it’s entirely awe-inspiring and jaw dropping if you love music. And I love music… have I said that?
30. Best Full Moons, Sunsets & Sunrises
Kits Beach, Vancouver, BC: For six weeks each summer, the magic of sitting against your log at Kits Beach (English Bay) is an intense experience at sunset. It’s almost unbeatable and I highly recommend it. Bring wine and cheese…
Las Cruces, NM: Equally stunning, were the countless sunsets at New Mexico State University. Grabbing a 6-pack and driving to ‘A’ Mountain. ’A’ for Aggies. Parking my red “Frank Borman-bought” Sasuki Samurai – in the desert, facing west. With this serenity around us we would crack open our first Dos Equis XX beer. Inscrutable silence, as we sat mesmerized, observing each breath. Time stood absolutely still. Waiting, watching, deliberating, we would put all the greats; Descartes, Plato, and Aristotle to shame with our own brilliantphilosophies. College friends, cold beer, the top down, watching the vast Chihuahuan Desert gobble up the mighty sun each night. Breathtakingly cool. “Feels Like Home” – New Mexico True
Temple IV, Tikal Ruins, El Peten Jungle, Guatemala: Todd Klaiman and I bargained (bribed), the jungle guards to stay the night on the Western Hemisphere’s highest temple. The jungle stretches itself as far as the naked eye can see. And, throughout the jungle, there are cockroaches, scorpions, monkeys, snakes, foxes, and exotic birds (toucans, turkey vultures). Lucky for us, some of these wild creatures felt tame enough to overnight with us, on our 3 foot wide ledge. The cold stone prevented us from sleeping much, but witnessing both sunset and sunrise over Guatemala’s El Peten jungle was spectacular.
Sousse, Tunisia (Africa): My largest, most impactful full moon came while traveling in eastern Tunisia with Eve Kramer. A mind-blowingly massive Hay moon languidly rose up from the Mediterranean Sea, then suspended itself for an eternity in the horizon. Moonlit sky hanging over calm water – It was absolute perfection.
Copenhagen, Denmark: It’s 4am . I’m driving east with Robin Thompson (who was once Bruce Springsteen’s Guitar Player – Bruce “The Boss” is also his daughter’s Godfather), on the E20 highway heading east towards Copenhagen; straight into a rising sun. We could not believe our eyes.
This is the picture I took