October 21, 2017

Next - Top 30 Memories

Next Top 30 Memories

I am not sure what the mathematical improbabilities are, but in July 1996 the Tour de France (Stage) Finish Line was directly in front of my apartment in Neuchatel, Switzerland.  (Yes, sometimes Le Tour visits neighbouring countries as part of it’s race – aka smart marketing).

The odds were ridiculous and we soaked-in every minute of it – it was a very special day.

32.  United Nations – Director General

I had the opportunity to formally shake hands with the Director General of the UN – Vladimir Petrovsky (d. Feb 2014). We were in his office at the United Nations in Geneva.  Given the rare opportunity I thought it only appropriate to firmly shake Petrovsky’s hand for the traditional and very exaggerated 8-10 seconds – you know, for all the photographers to get their precise picture. Of course, for my ‘UN summit meeting’ there was only one gratuitous staff photographer, but Petrovsky laughed his head off, absolutely loving the humor in my light-hearted insistence that we extend our shake for an uncomfortable time – Yes, the (photo-opportunity) diplomatic handshake we see on TV all the time consisting of the two nation’s flags, two dignitaries, and then…wait for it…two inordinately long handshakes – not to mention the genuine smiles.

33. Playing Two on Two vs. 2x NBA MVP Steve Nash

Playing Steve Nash 2 on 2 with Gabriella Trabucchi  – Although I’ve played with Steve many times before, it was playing 2 on 2 in the backyard of my friend Andrew Mavis‘ house (Andrew was on the Canadian National Team which played in the 2000 Sydney Olympics). Nash was teamed with a girl, while I was teamed up with Gabriella Trabucchi. During the game Gaby (not a basketball player), bravely took an ‘offensive charge’ on Nash which caused her to stumble backwards, of the basketball court, and into the grass – not actually knowing what had hit her.

Today I think, how many people living in Paradiso (Lugano),  TI, Switzerland have ever successfully taken a charge on a 2-time NBA MVP – in this case, Steve Nash.  An absolutely unimportant (100%) point, but yet still worth mentioning, is that we also won that game… it was a friendly game and I am sure Nash could have mercilessness crushed us, but we did win.  So, the record stands: Trabucchi 1 – Nash 0

See Steve Nash’s 2015 Retirement Letter:  “Life After Basketball”   – (there is strangely no mention of the humiliating 2-on-2 defeat)

Steve Nash & Andrew Mavis

34.  The Crystal Hut – New Year’s Eve

On New Year’s Eve 2012 I was sitting in the Crystal Hut on the top ofBlackcomb Peak. Our dinner package included a deluxe snowcat ride/tour with a delicious Swiss cheese fondue dinner. The entire evening was generously offered to us by Larry Dekker and it was a unforgettable experience. Snowball fights, live music, hot chocolates, snowmobilers crashing, high altitude fine white wine. All of it fantastic. In the snowcat and at dinner were: Erik, Jade, Caleb, Melanie, and Charmaine Dekker – THANK YOU Larry and Charms.

Larry & Melanie Dekker

35. The Mexican Naica Crystals

Cave of the Crystals, Naica Crystals, Chihuahua, Mexico. Place this experience high on your “To do/must see” list.

I was working for Haywood Securities, exploring a mining property in the Chihuahua region of northern Mexico, accompanied by my friends Tommy Seltzer and The Northair Group President & C.E.O. Fred Hewett, P.Eng. – and of course a few well-armed drivers/guards.

During one of our OFF days, Fred Hewett managed to arrange an extraordinarily rare and  private tour (for us) with the Naica Mine operators. After a brief museum tour and mining 101 refresher course we were prepared for our excursion. Each of us was quickly outfitted with old-fashion gumboots and mine-issued hardhats. (really, it’s a good look). Then, with obvious trepidation and apprehension we boarded a modified, moderately protected, Mexican pick-up truck.

Over the next two cork-screwy kilometers we plunged downward into the inescapable depths of the Naica mine. The second we dipped below the Chihuahua desert’s water-table hot water started gushing out from everywhere.  It’s a Mexican mine, damp and very poorly lit. Rivers of water poured on our road – water collected and was promptly pumped back up to the surface to prevent flooding and further foster mining. Nearing the bottom of the abyss we were politely asked to step down from our trucks to fully experience/witness the working condition of the miners. This was absolutely rudimentary mining 101…extreme, almost shocking, approaching oppressed conditions – yet, nevertheless, a paycheck for the employees and families living in Naica above. The temperature of the hot water dripping from ceiling was fractionally below burning, and the visibility for the  miners was equal to light thrown off by candlelight. We couldn’t believe what it took to be a mineral miner in Mexico.

On our way back up to Earth’s surface we stopped at the Cave of the Naica Crystals.

The temperature was at first a balmy 30 degrees. Then increased to 35… 40… and 45 degrees.  At 45-50 degrees our guide said we were very close now, but this would be a good time to collect ourselves, acclimatize, and drink more water as it was about to get much hotter. Holding our water bottles tightly, we sat on a bench looking at each other as we were quickly becoming dehydrated.

After a time, the Swiss commissioned protective door was opened and inside were the world famous Naica crystals. The temperature shot straight to 55-60 degrees and the steam continuously fogged over the protective viewing window separating crystals from man (oxygen). And beyond the window we saw some of the largest crystals the world has ever known. Stunning and unforgettable. See link.

36. Bob Disbrow’s Commodore Ballroom Party

With Jann Arden, Burton Cummings, ViJ’s etceteras… This may be the best and most extravagant party I ever attend in my life (what an odd feeling to know that already). From A-Z the every last details was perfect. The event was easily a 10/10. No expense was spared and all the guests new it – most shook their heads in both amazement and gratitude. A few pictures and details will follow soon. Unforgettable night.  

Bill Disbrow, Marnie Maitland, and Wayne Deans  

37.  Tom & Cathrine Seltzer-McLeod’s House Warming Party

A tremendous night. Massive stage, great bands, dance instructions, ice sculptures, cigars, not to mention the exotic outdoor Tiki Bar –  which only served us ornamented fancy-shmansy cocktails throughout the night. It was the perfect ambiance. Who could not notice the impeccable decorations, stunningly beautiful forest lighting, and out-of-this-world atmosphere… all inviting the party guests (that means us) to dance and party the entire night.

Thank you.

38.  David & Jill Lyall’s Bowen Island House Party

In Horseshoe Bay, BC, Canada a chartered boat was pre-arranged to pick up two waves of Haywood Securities employees to transport them (again, us) to Bowen Island. All the details were thoughtfully and carefully arranged. When we arrived at the beachfront house… it was adorned with remarkable trees, gorgeous flowers, and specialized shrubs which were precisely delivered on time the very morning of the party. Nothing was left to chance. The weather even cooperated and fantastic heavenly drinks were poured, scrumptious food served, and a fantastic ambiance (no surprise) continued all day and night long.

39. Eric Savic’s Epic Halloween Party – Fantastic !!!

Sometimes, even with precise directions it’s difficult to find a house. I remember parking my Volvo XC90 outside Savic’s house and staring at this plume of dry-ice ‘fake smoke’ now emitting from his house.  Was THIS his front door? Am I even at the right house? Am I expected to walk through that smoke to enter this house? Spooky !!! Very Spooky !!!  

The Prisoner Wine Company wine and carefully selected well-catered food (of course) – was all absolutely divine. Then came the impressive Halloween costumes, music entertainment, fun and engaging people, all enveloped in the startling surroundings of his irreproachable estate (try saying that mouthful 5 times fast) Very memorable, also a farewell event for Keith Smart, CFA – leaving for Perth, Australia shortly thereafter. Thank you Eric!!!

40. Sousse, Tunisia (Sahara Desert Trip):

While playing basketball overseas, I took 10 days off to visit Africa. Seeing the vast endless expanse of the Sahara Desert was mind-blowing, and made me question why anyone ‘remotely sane’ would ever dare traverse it’s endless scorching sands.  Thank Allah or whomever for it’s sporadic oases; without them (water and relief), you are not crossing that arid vastness. The Sahara is big and very hot.

41. Death Valley, California, USA (6 state road trip)

(50 degrees) YES, it too is also HOT !!! Driving with a friend (at the time), with the top down in a red convertible through Death Valley National Park was unforgettable. Should you happen to visit Death Valley, know that you will no longer need to visit the moon. Save your money they’re identical.  The excursion through Death Valley is a simple scenic yet uncomfortably hot drive. My recommendation: bring lots of water in a large cooler of ice.  Mid-day it feels like you are landing on the sun.

42. Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

Like many families, I remember drivin’ in my family’s old beater Chevy pick-up truck (camper perched on top of the flatbed) from Vancouver to, where else, Disneyland (The Happiest Place on Earth). The truck herself consumed equal parts oil to gasoline.

I was 6 years old and to help make time, if I had to pee, my parents often just rolled down the window, propped me up (unbuckled – imagine that!)– “ready, aim…fire…” no strict family seatbelt regulations back then… and seeing The Oregon Coast, Redwoods Disneyland etc… were all wonderful memories.

43. Sleeping one night in a barn in central Nicaragua

Well, I had nowhere else to sleep. The bus I was travelling on was now “Out-Of-Servive” for the night and everyone had to disembark. I found myself in the middle of nothing, nowhere. One Gringo, one backpack, a few belongings and even less cash. My options were twofold; a) sleep on the side of the road with the notoriously dangerous Sandistas at large or b) sleep at a woman’s house who generously welcomed me into her family home – she could clearly see, from across the road, that I was totally lost and homeless. I accepted her compassionate offer and was cozied-up in a small Nicaraguan barn attached to the foundation of their house; where I peacefully slept on bails of hay.  For light there were no lightbulbs, so they lit 5 wax candles (hay and candles; great barn starters). For food they proudly brought me local cheese and bread. Throughout Central America people struggled with “Ron”, so I promptly changed my name to Paco… Paco Loco (Crazy Paco), which always got a laugh, but more importantly broke the ice, and opened our lines of communication. I thanked them repeatedly and Paco wrote letters for years to come.

44. Dunking on UNLV Runnin’ Rebels basketball team’s (NBA 1st-Round Pick),Larry Johnson

NMSU is playing UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Centre. As the game’s final seconds wind down no one is really playing anymore. Nevertheless, there are still a few seconds remaining.

I did what any reasonable man would do. I decided to dribble down the lane and dunk the basketball on Larry Johnson. Johnson watched me come down the lane and just shook his head with a look of “what the red truck are you doing, this game is over.” Unbeknownst to him I was dunking for all those fans who remained in the stands and were still (more-or-less), watching the game; those not trying to fight the exit doors.

I was dunking for for my assistant coaches and my guys on the bench who knew exactly what I was doing.  I was dunking for the few fans left in the stands who saw and knew exactly what I was doing – and then also caught it.  After all, the entire nation knew Larry Johnson was soon going to be the #1 draft pick in the NBA.

45. The Goerge St. Pierre (GSP) vs. Jake Shields fight – UFC 129

Toronto, Canada (55,000 spectators) – (Above: with GSP’s coach Erik Owings)

The buzz in Toronto the entire week pre-fight was absolutely electric. Everyone (UFC fan or not) felt it and it was beyond question a rare occasion in Canadian sport history. You could feel the tension in the air and I would only compare it to a Grey Cup Final, A Stanley Cup Final, or the Olympic Gold Medal game in Vancouver.  This UFC fight was extraordinary. I entrusted $300,000 of my own money to Digital Shelf Space to develop the George St. Pierre workout videos, therefore my personal financial interest was very high as to whether GSP won or got knocked senseless. Thankfully, GSP won.

46. James Curtis’ 50th Birthday Party

Singer/songwriter Melanie Dekker and I were picked up at Horseshoe Bay, BC, Canada by David Lyall and billionaire Lukas Lundin in Lukas’ $1,000,000 speedboat, then speedily transported to Smitty’s Oyster Bar in Gibsons, BC, Canada. Along the way, we stopped at David Lyall’s dock to pick up some friends on Bowen Island. Obviously, at our arrival in Gibsons most people stopped to look. Fantastic party – hot summer day with The Hairfarmers and Melanie Dekker entertaining us throughout the day/night.

47. Rae Armour‘s Jam Session House Party: (March 8, 2014)

Attendees: Rae Armour, Beverley Elliott, Linda Kidder, Mark James Fortin, Lorna Fortiin, John Ellis,Michael Friedman, Chris Ronald, Ron Putzi

Instruments:  1 Cello, 1 Djembe, 1 Mandolin, 1 Shaker, 1 Base Guitar, 10 Accoustic Guitars, and 15 magically harmonizing voices.

48. Air Combat USA:  “The Dogfight” with Tommy “Cruise” Seltzer & John “Maverick” Wheeler:

At 8am one morning, John Wheeler from Haywood Securities flew Tommy Seltzer, a senior Air Canada pilot and myself from Vancouver’s South terminal to Boing Airfield in Seattle, Washington. Wheeler was a pilot who owned and flew his own aircraft. His plane’s cockpit was a massive parachute ‘should’ anything unforeseeable accidentally occur.  Comforting information to us all.

During our Vancouver to Seattle leg we only encountered one close call…let’s call it a head-on mid-air collision. Just over the San Juan Island’s our radar spotted an unidentified airplane flying directly for us. When two aircrafts fly at high speed towards each other – say in excess of 300MPH – fatal accidents can quickly happen. Needless to say, seeing the blip heading directly for us, our experienced Air Canada pilot immediately (slightly aggressively) instructed Wheeler to  roll the plane left and drop her 500 feet – avoiding any chance of a collision. We were all pleased to see the fast-moving blip blipping further away – behind us now.

After landing at Boeing Airfield in Seattle, we received and passed a quick rudimentary fighter-pilot training course. What normally takes carefully selected US Air Force pilots learned over five years of intense aeronautical instruction to learn, we passed in just under 20 minutes (obviously we are extremely smart). Nevertheless, our instructional crash-course was in fact provided by two well-qualified Vietnam fighter-pilot veterans.

Like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, albeit less cocky, we were then outfitted with camouflaged green US fighter-pilot overalls and airforce helmets.  Before taking off I think we understood the complexity of combat flying…pull the stick towards you “up”, push forward “down”, left and right turns you left and right. The red button, obviously… “shoot to kill.”

I knew this experience would likely be very intense so I didn’t eat all morning as I have always had a sensitive stomach.  Thus, I savoured my few sips of coffee and half of an oatmeal cookie –  surely I’d see these items again.

The intimidating Marchetti Fighter Airplanes majestically sat on the Boeing Airfield tarmac.  Tommy Seltzer and I flew first and it was absolutely exhilarating. Tommy and his veteran airforce pilot (driver) and me with mine.  “OK boys, you ready to dogfight? Here are the rules…whoever stays alive wins. Let’s Go!!!”  One barrel role, two screwdrivers, three nose-dives, and I HAVE GOT TO PUKE.

I’ve never been more sick, and I can’t physically wait to return to Boeing airfield. Any G-force pressure makes me more sick and I’m begging my pilot to estimate the minutes and seconds to landing at Boeing Airfield. “Howwww mush longaaaa?” …”Howwww mush now?” I’m the worst. Tommy shoots me out of the sky with ease and I laid on the floor back at the base and begged for all my discomfort to stop. And it wouldn’t. After a short period of time, I slowly managed to lift myself off the ground to re-board Wheeler’s plane to fly back to YVR (Vancouver International Airport).

Then to Tommy’s for dinner. I’m a disaster… a total mess.

49. Markus Bill introduces me to Arturo Barrios

August 16, 1992 (Bern, Switzerland) I am visiting Markus “Billy” Bill who at the time was working for Swiss running legend Markus Ryffel at Ryffel Running(Silver Medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games). Briefly stepping outside of the store Markus Bill introduced me to Mexican legend Arturo Barrios. Markus kindly and incessantly bragged about me to Arturo (and his wife), specifically about my basketball stardom, my achievements, etc… then we said our good-bye pleasantries and walking back to the store.  I am absolutely not for bragging in anyway, but today it somehow felt good. Along our way back to the store, Markus turned to me and curiously asked, “Ron, you know who Arturo is right?…..(“aaaaaaahhhh”) oh, he’s the current World Record Holder in the 10,000 from Mexico.”  (Hilarious!!! – Wow!!!) …….Oh, THAT Arturo Barrios   :- )  Just when I was feeling good about myself, Billy put me in my place – all too funny – what an absolute honor.  I still laugh at myself to this day.  —> all I could think of for the rest of the day…”In the history of the world, no one has ever run 10,000m faster than that man, Arturo Barrios.”  Thank you Arturo.

50. Crossing Canada by Train

In 1978, my grandparents (Dorothea and Johnny Putzi) and I flew from Zurich to Montreal. In Montreal we boarded a train. Then, for the next several days (~5,000km) we crossed Canada to Vancouver.  The prairie provinces are as flat as they say; and the Rockies are just as rocky.  Excellent trip.

51.  The Canada One Athletic Foundation

It is a true pleasure to have been an integral part of growing the Canada One Athletic Foundation.  Working with Howard Kelsey and the rest of the team has been fantastic.  More Later…

54.  Trevor Linden and the 2010 Gold Medal Game

I loved watching the entire 2010 Winter Olympic Games Men’s Gold Medal Hockey game directly beside legendary Vancouver Canuck hockey player Trevor Linden at a private party.  What a magical storybook ending it was to watch Jerome Iginla assist Sidney Crosby to score the winning goal. It was a great memory for all Canadian hockey fans – and to be directly beside one of our greatest ambassadors, my buddy Trev… it was very cool. I am sure, somewhere, Trevor has written a similar story about sitting with during that game -although no posts have been found in his blog.  :- )

Captain Canuck – Trevor Linden

55. Receiving the hundreds of hand-written letters from friends (and fans)

While I was playing basketball I was fortunate to have received a lot of fan mail. In fact, there were very few days where I did not receive fan mail. You can imagine that it felt good. Anyway, I recently crawled into my crawlspace where I found bins of letters from fans and friends who spent their time writing to offer my their heartfelt support. The precious time that people took to express their feelings really meant a tremendous amount to me. It’s often these letters that help keep you going when you are far away from home.  Today we have Skype and FaceTime, but a well-written hand-written letter still takes the cake.

56. Friendly Communication

Also, receiving the countless international phone calls – especially when the per minute phone rates were out of this world. Recently I came across several international phone call  bills where I was ghastly reminded of how much it cost us (back then) to make a simple overseas phone call. Some of the bills were well into the several hundreds of dollars.  Call me K.

57.  Salsa Classes: Nina Perez & Greg Dombowsky

Receiving private salsa dance lessons from Nina Perez (ex-Richmond High Super Colt) was a dream. As learning to salsa dance has been on my “to do” list for 20 years and I finally had the opportunity to learn the basics from a professional. Frankly I had not felt so excited in years as when I had just completed my first 1-hour lesson. Nina and Greg were exceptionally generous in allowing my daughters to take salsa classes with their Daddio. What a life-long memory. Thank You!!!

Greg Dombowsky teaching the salsa hammerlock – Thank you!!!

58.  Bikram’s Yoga Classes: Jessica Jean Erwin

Receiving Bikram Yoga lessons from Jessica Jean Erwin (Who unknowingly was importantly motivational and inspirational). Jessica flew with her fiancee to South Africa in 2013.

59.  NMSU Visit #1

Sowen Ng and AM visiting me at NMSU – Vancouver to Las Cruces, New Mexico – 3000km (One-way) – An epic visit alongside Alfredo Ortiz and Anthony Ireland (with Matt Heidelbaugh playing the roll of disgruntled roommate).

60.  NMSU Visit #2

Graeme Lindsay, Andrew Zawada visiting me at NMSU – 6,000km by truck in 1992 – Thank you.  My parents also came to visit (flew down), and spotlessly cleaned my apartment (thank you); not that my university apartment was dirty in any way.

Graeme Lindsay & Andrew Zawada

…That’s 60 – The End

The next 30….coming eventually…

61.  Laser Eye Surgery:  London Eye Surgery (LASIK)

Other than burning my right arm with scalding coffee, the most POSITIVELY painful experience I’ve ever had was getting my eyes lasered. WOW!!!!  The surgery itself is comical, in fact you can’t believe how completely seamless the procedure itself it (your in and out). The days after were hilariously painful.  I say hilarious because for some odd reason (yes, so sadistic), I enjoy the pain.  I think knowing that my vision would return to 100% was paramount to me enjoying the severe pain.  MY POINT:  I can see absolutely everything (near and far) perfectly – I cannot believe how well I can see again now.