Saturday, June 29, 2013

Westlake H.S. Football 35 Year Celebration

Beginning with the 1978 football season, I spent 11 wonderful years serving as the Head Football Coach at Westlake H.S. in Westlake Village, California.

It was my first head coaching job and Westlake was opening in 1978 as a brand new school without a Senior class.

It was a marvelous era to be a coach.

On Friday night, Jim Benkert, the highly successful coach who replaced me when I opted to step down after the 1988 season, put on a reunion of sorts to celebrate 35 years of Warrior football.

It was held at the posh
Canyon Club in Agoura, California

L. to R.: OLB Tony Ponticelli, me,
TE/DE Carl Stack and HB Glenn Wellman

A so-so coach can win a lot of games with gtreat players like these. 

Front Row, L. to R.: WR Erik Holcomb, FB Steve Sidler and OT Craig Weisman

Back Row, L. to R.: TE/DE Carl Stack, OLB Tony Ponticelli, HB Larry Katz, FS/WR Bill Fisher, HB Glenn Wellman, OT Mike Volk, me, OG Ken Katz

A whole lot of games . . .

Laurie and I had a lot of fun seeing these men who had such an impact on our lives.

We have been blessed to be around so many disciplined, hard working men like these over the many seasons.

This week I really have to start looking for a car to buy as I have not owned a vehicle of my own since I left to coach in Switzerland 17 months ago.

A Fiat 500 would be nice but . . .

I might really be a Vespa man at heart

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

First Two Days Back Home

Monday was officially my first day in my latest stop on the coaching road. This time is a stop at Newbury Park H.S.

 Go Panthers GO!!!

The 2013 season of NPHS JV football will give me a chance to coach with our younger son Mike who is the team's Defensive Coordinator. It will be my 48th season of coaching American football at five different high schools and in four different European countries.

NPHS Football Fundraiser

Monday, my introduction to Panther football was participating in the annual fundraising golf tournament at the Sterling Hills Golf Course in Camarillo.

It started with a Putting Contest

Our Threesome

We were one golfer short but I had a great time playing with legendary NPHS QB Keith Smith, on the left, and our son Michael.

 Nice Hole Sponsor

 Almost looks like I know
what I'm doing

 We had a chance to do a lot of catching
up in the golf cart over 18 holes

We had a lot of fun and the golf tournament was a success as over $30,000 were raised in this one day event!

After 12 hours of deep sleep Monday night, I was ready to meet with the NPHS JV team for the first time on Tuesday.

Pre-Practice Loosening Up
OL ready to Rock and Roll

Two Minute Game vs. The Air

The Minions came to practice too!

We had a good practice and these young men showed a lot of promise today.  If we keep working hard and competing in practice, we will be a good football team.

It was Tuesday evening and practice was over. Only one thing left to do . . . 

Dine at KFC in Camarillo

That's for you Sam Ajavon and Armand Richard back in Lyon, France.

I have not forgotten you two or my other Falcons.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Flight Home to California and a Brush in Amsterdam with INTERPOL

First and foremost, a big MERCI to Geoff Moulton and Fred Bastiand for driving us to the airport in Lyon at 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning so that we could get our trip home to California started properly.

Equally appreciated were Sam Ajavon and Matthieu Fayard both showing up at The Villa at that ungodly hour to simply bid us a bon voyage.

Boarding in Lyon was relatively easy for our comfortable KLM flight to Amsterdam.

Going through Passport Control in Amsterdam before leaving the European Union's sovereignty was not so easy or comfortable.

I was stopped for a long time because my latest entry stamp into the EU was posted in Paris back in January. I was pulled out of the line and sent to a back room because an American can only be in the EU for three consecutive months without some type of a special visa.

I had been there for six consecutive months and had no such visa. Since I was scheduled to leave on literally the next plane out of town, they released me after stamping my passport with a proper exit stamp and a stern warning.

I was informed that my name and passport number had been red flagged in the EU's Passport Control data bank. I was also told that before returning to the EU that I will need to contact the embassy of the country where I plan to first enter the EU to see if they will allow me into their country after committing this heinous offense.

I can feel INTERPOL's hot breath down my neck even as I write this . . .

That taken care of, the final 10+ hour flight from Amsterdam to Los Angeles was very smooth. We said our goodbyes to John and Robin and our hello to our son Michael at LAX.

Mike then whisked us off to the magical kingdom of Camarillo, California where we found Mike's wife Vanessa and our grandson Jacob waiting to welcome us home.

Jacob enjoying the
fine cuisine at Casa Contreras

His French lessons started almost immediately.

 A New Heirloom for the Museum

The bottle of wine that Christophe Thuau gave us made it home in one piece.

It will be savored at an appropriate time to be sure.

Breakfast in France,
Dinner at Camarillo Cronies

After getting a lot of our unpacking done, we treated the kids to an early Sunday dinner at Cronies Sports Grill.

We were home.

Note that Michael was already proudly sporting his Falcons #32 game jersey.

Back at Casa Contreras, it was time to be a Grand-père again.

Jacob helping me get
the computer fired up

"Grand-père, show me the Falcons
Championship video, SVP."

How could I refuse him this simple request.

Michael may have put him up to it.

"Excuse me sir, who are you again?
And what the heck is a Grand-père?"

Jacob was right. We do need more quality time together.

Three Generations of Contreras Men

At least one of us still has his hair.

As much as I already miss France and the Falcons, it was good to be home again.

Even though I got a lot of sleep on the plane and went to bed at a reasonable hour Sunday night, my body clock said "WAKE UP" at 1:45 a.m.

Thus, I am on the computer getting mentally prepared to play in Monday's Newbury Park H.S. football team's fundraising golf tournament at Sterling Hills Golf Course in Camarillo. I have not played in nearly two years, so this could get interesting.

No pain chocolate in sight.

Reading Is FUNdamental

I finished this excellent read on the flight home. It is another of Zafón's books revolving around the mysterious Cemetery of Forgotten Books in Barcelona.

This was the third of his interesting books that I have read. While they easily stand alone, they are especially good if you have fallen in love with the Catalunyan capital as Laurie and I both have over the past five years.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Farewell To Lyon and Our Beloved Falcons

Saturday was a gorgeous day in Lyon, our last one in France as it turned out.

After more early morning sorting and packing, Laurie and I headed to Place Bellecour to Lyon's Main Post Office to ship off a 5.8 kilogram package of books, ceramics and linens to save us both space and weight in our luggage for the long trip home to California on Sunday.

Mission accomplished, we headed up to our favorite restaurant in all of Gaul, Sophie's in the Lyon's St-Just district.

Normally closed on Saturdays and Sundays, owner Olivier and his Chef/Papa Georges opened their doors for a typical Lyonnais dining experience for a very select few Falcons.


Papa Georges hard at work preparing
just a part of our sumptuous meal

The lace-like material that he is using to wrap these soon to be delicious meat balls is part of a lamb's intestinal tract.


Now Ready for Cooking

Papa Georges Battle Cry:

A 1950 photo hangs near Sophie's
kitchen of Papa George's Parents

The meal was now in FULL swing

Laurie, John, Olivier, Brice Rontet and Chris Thuau were all having fun.

Five Down

We were just getting started.

A GREAT Gift from Chris!

Johan is OUT!!!

Johan is an old friend of Olivier's from Orleans who was up all night enjoying La Fête de la Musique last night in Lyon.

Today his body was paying the price for his revelry.

Delicious Lamb Parts

Part throat, part gonads.


Our WAY More Than Gracious
Hosts Olivier and Papa Georges

Robin and Julien Urgent are seated behind Papa Georges.

Breaking out the Absinthe


Happy Campers

A GREAT Gift from
Olivier and Papa Georges

As if this tremendous meal was not enough!


The Bottle Count Continues to Rise

Nine different wines was amazing enough but then we were told that we had had more than the one of the bottles displayed of some of these vintages.



For Laurie and myself, Papa Georges is a ROCK STAR!!!

We cannot begin to thank Olivier and Papa Georges enough for all of the joy they brought us during our weekly trips up the funicular to enjoy fine meal after fine meal at Sophie's.

Two of Lyon's hidden gems.

The party was not over, it was just moving to another location to say farewell to the rest of the Falcons.

OLB Sam Ajavon and WR Chris Garel

We were off to the K-Zen bar to view the French Division I Championship game between the Black Panthers and the Flash on live TV with many of the Division III Champion Falcons.

A Big Screen was helpful

El Catalan and Laurie

They were discussing the Catalan Separatist Movement, I believe.

With OLB David Ollagnier and a 
very fresh Laurie taking some liberties!

With Part of the Offensive Line

From left to right, we have RG David "Fion" Melin, me, LG Yohan Ros and RT Pierre Podgorski.

A Signed Championship Game Ball

Merci Falcons, this is now a prized Contreras family heirloom!

 Time to start heading back to The Villa

 To our Championship Falcons
we bid a very thankful . . .

Au Revoir!!!


Friday, June 21, 2013

A Romp with the Damboises and the Fête de la Musique

Our trip home from Barcelona on Friday morning went off without a hitch.

Once back at The Villa, we spent the rest of the afternoon packing for the trip home to California which starts with a flight to Amsterdam about 24 hours from now as I write this blog post.

In the evening we headed to Place Bellecour to meet with two of our favorite Lyonnaise friends, Jean-Charles and Marianne Damboise.

The plan was to say adieu over drinks after touring the city on this special night.

It was the 21st of June, Midsommar, the official first day of Summer. Back in circa 1981, the French government declared that this date each year would be the National French Fête de la Musique. This is a day when musicians of all ages, shapes, sizes and genres take to the streets of cities all over Gaul to play for the general public.

It promised to be a fun evening.

Be a Sam

Since this was to be a night of revelry, young people like these with the white head, were pushing France's Sam program which is a plea to have a Designated Driver to keep all of us safe and sound.

A Sam is a very good idea obviously.

We met the Jean-Charles and Marianne at 6:00 p.m. on Place Bellecour and away we went.

Drum Line on Place Bellecour


VERY loud.

 Prodigy with his first Groupie

 Future Vegas Lounge Singer

We walked into the Vieux Lyon
and pass St-Jean Cathedral

 Play that flute!

THAT guy has great hair

He was quite good

 Forget the music, a balloon is
all this kid needed to enjoy the night

Here he is chasing the balloon which would eventually pop causing a flow of expected tears. 

They were having fun

Charlie Manson is on parole?

Lady Bug Balloon Art

A fun choir

She was really into it

Let's listen to our choir

Watching it all from high above

Rock Trio

Kebab Street Vendor

Getting hungry.

Strange Place for a Picnic

Sun Drenched Hôtel de Ville


We arrived for dinner at La Hugonnière which is an excellent little Bouchon Lyonnaise that Falcons' offensive tackle Djamel Laib had introduced us to a few weeks ago.

 "Table for Four, SVP."
L. to R.: Marianne, Laurie,
George and Jean-Charles

The wine, food and fellowship were all top notch as usual. After another long and relaxing dining experience, we were off to observe some more music groups plying their trade in Lyon's rues. 

Serious guitar work

 WHOA, nice seafood plate!

But I digress . . .

Big crowd gathering for this band 

Place des Jacobins Fountain is
Finally Open!

This beautiful fountain has been undergoing renovation our entire nine month stay in Lyon. Tonight, for the first time, we finally saw it as I'm sure its creator intended.

A truly beautiful sight as our evening came to a close.

Once back at Place Bellecour, we bid a tearful au revoir to Marianne and Jean-Charles. They are really good people and a big part of the wonderful time we have spent in Lyon.

Good people, INDEED!

When we got back to The Villa we were greeted by John and Robin who had just returned from their own two week European vacation. Their whirlwind tour took them to Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris, Normandy's D-Day Beaches, Milan and Venice.


We swapped travel stories late into the night and after a good night's sleep would now be ready to enjoy our final full day in France to be shared with our fellow National Champions over lunch and a few adult beverages.

Packing will have to wait a bit longer.