Flamingo Beach, Costa Rica 2006-2010
I was making excellent money in the US with my father and my brother working at the bank, but I needed to wean myself off the support of my father and do something on my own. I had always wanted to move back to Costa Rica and the real estate market was hot in 2005. I did a reconnaissance mission down there in September of 2005. I decided to just tour the northern Pacific coast as that was my favorite place to visit in the ‘90’s.
I researched, identified and set up interviews with the top three real estate firms in the country: Re/Max in Playa Hermosa, Century21 in Playa Flamingo and the Four Seasons resort realty office, which, incidentally, was bought by Bill Gates and one of the richest Muslim sheikhs. I felt my best match was with Bob at Century21 Flamingo. Although a broker named Mike was the top international broker for Re/Max in the entire world, Bob also had incredible credentials, being the #1 broker in all of Central America for six years and counting. Bob and I got along the best and spoke the same language. He was an ‘80s hoodlum punk surfer from Newport Beach, California, which is one of the richest areas of the country.
In January of 2006, Mariam and I put our house on the market in Scottsdale and moved to Costa Rica. I started out by putting a marketing plan together with Bob on a twenty-six-million-dollar property called Las Catalinas. At the same time, I was paying for our living expenses by selling homes, condos and lots located on the most spectacular beaches and mountainsides in the country. I was in paradise and my job was to sell paradise.
I met the President of the country, Abel Pacheco, at a trade show. I was the representative at the Century21 booth for the entire region. We briefly discussed the current market conditions on the Pacific coast. He had no idea where Playa Flamingo was. I thought that was incredibly ignorant as it was a well- known beach. I thought, “Goes to show anyone can be President in this country.”
My wife and I were lucky enough to sell our home back in Scottsdale and cleared a great profit of a quarter million dollars. We brought that to Costa Rica to invest in properties. Seeing that I worked in the #1 office in the country, we were seeing the best deals come across our desks. My wife and I invested in seaside and ocean view lots and a condo right on the beach.
We first lived in a million-dollar house perched on the cliff at the tip of a peninsula facing the sunset over the Pacific horizon. There were monkeys in our backyard constantly. The house was sandwiched between two homes worth over five million dollars each. Most of our neighbors and friends were high net worth individuals.
We had a total of SIXTY of our Thunderbird friends come down and visit us over the course of two years. Once one guy came down, the news spread like wildfire that the Driessens had the best set up in the world. The whole picture made me feel so proud of myself. I was finally the true master of my own destiny. Luckily, it didn’t go to my head and I maintained a good chemical balance for that time.
In 2006, after only one year in the country, I rose to the top of my peers within the real estate community and was elected to the Board of Directors of the Costa Rican Global Association of Realtors(CRGAR). It was an honor and a privilege and I couldn’t have done it without my boss, Bob, who was the acting President of the association at the time.
In November of that year, I was asked to represent the whole country of Costa Rica in the big arena on behalf of CRGAR, The National Association of Realtors convention in New Orleans. I gave a forty-five- minute presentation to the American realtors on brokering Costa Rican real estate. It was a smash and I was able to generate business as a result during the meeting and greeting session.
It was the first large convention in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton were working together on the large relief fund. The conference directors were able to book them both as keynote speakers. I was front row of course. These two guys really sent shivers up and down my spine they were so inspirational. I loved the fact that they put differences aside and came together for this humanitarian cause. I started getting overwhelmed with emotion and thought that one day, I’ll be in that position to sit on that stage and talk about some major world problem that I was resolving.
In January 2007, I was invited to participate in another real estate trade convention in the capital city, San Jose. I had the opportunity to meet another President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias. He was probably the most popular President and was a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace in the Central American region. It was an honor and privilege just to exchange a few niceties and get a picture taken with him.
The market was going at light speed and everybody from overseas was practically kicking our door down to buy property and flip it as fast they could. People made millions overnight. It was incredible. The value of our properties shot up to over two million dollars in less than two years. We had close to a hundred thousand dollars in the bank at all times for international travel and living expenses.
We had to leave the country every ninety days to renew our tourist visas so it raised our level of jet-setting to a new high. We’d travel to Panama, Colombia, Nicaragua, Croatia, Egypt, Mexico and back to the United States a lot. Money was never an issue. Time to fit everything in became the issue.
Naming the Dogs The Shaqmeister
In the February of 2007, I bought these two baby Chihuahua/min-pins in Costa Rica to give as a surprise to my wife. She absolutely fell in love at first site. She loved Chihuahuas, and these especially, because they weren’t the neurotic types. We decided that we weren’t going to name them until we had divine inspiration for the perfect names. We waited two weeks without naming them until we returned to the United States. I was leaning towards Cheech and Chong, but Mariam wasn’t having it. Then all of a sudden it hit me in the afternoon in an In ‘N Out Burger in Phoenix. I thought that we’d name the seven- inch-tall shorter dog, Shaq, after a seven-foot-tall basketball player, Shaquille O’Neal. Mariam thought it was funny, but wasn’t quite convinced yet that it was quite divine inspiration. We didn’t have a name for the second one yet.
Later that night, Mariam and my youngest sister went to a bar in Scottsdale called Devil’s Martini. After a drink and some chatter, the two of them looked up and they couldn’t believe their eyes. In walked none other than the real Shaquille O’Neal. When they say truth is stranger than fiction, this is it. Talk about crazy synchronicity. It truly was a sign from God.
There are two post scripts to the story. First, Shaquille O’Neal had become a Freemason. That meant that little Shaq was dubbed an honorary brother and mascot of the fraternity. Secondly, on a later visit to the Phoenix from Costa Rica, we brought the dogs with us. One day I walked into a Radio Shack who had a life-size cutout of Shaq, who was sponsored for the obvious reason of his name. We hurried home, grabbed our little Shaqmeister and returned to the door to do a Shaq-on-Shaq photo shoot. I let you decide if mental illness played a part in this charade. Mariam was along for the long, strange trip.
Pepito, the Third Son of God
The next day, Mariam and I were in the kitchen having breakfast having a serious discussion about whether we were going to have kids or not. We had been leaning towards not having them because of my bipolar genes and that fact that we didn’t want to be older parents. We came to the conclusion that, no, we weren’t going to have any. It was an emotional moment, but I took the liberty to show my true colors. I said, “So that’s it! I’ve got a name for Shaq’s brother. Our namesake will be kept after all and he will be called Joseph Patton Driessen III. For short, we’ll call him Pepito, which means “Joe, the little trouble maker” in Spanish.” She said, “That’s adorable.”
I could have stopped there, but I had to continue with my delusional “name game” from Rosslyn Chapel. I said, “So that makes even more sense. I am not the real Driessen, which means the Third Son of God in my delusional mind. After all, I am the Second Coming of Christ. That Templar Jacques de Molay couldn’t have been because he was a murderous warrior. That means Pepito is now the Third Son of God and Ruler of the Universe. Given that I’m his master, you can now call me “The Master of the Ruler of the Universe". Now, you’ve got to admit, that’s pretty tight.”
Mariam looked at me with her head cocked sideways and said, “Keep it up any longer and you’ll be called the divorced Master of the Ruler of the Universe. I’ve just about reached my wits end with you.” With that, I simmered down and finished my Fruit Loops. It was apparently way too soon after the Scotland trip to be joking around like that. I was overly squirrelly. I said to her, “Sorry, honey, but that was too funny to pass up. So what do you think?” She answered, “Pepito it is. Or also Don Pepe.”