Monday, August 9, 2010

The best crazy Idea I've had...yet

So says Lori Wallerstein about her decision to buy a boat with no boating experience, and ultimately come to live aboard her beloved trawler named Pushy Broad in Alameda.

Pushy Broad may be feisty, but she's also a very pretty girl. As you can see, her Detroit Diesel ( a la motor city) is complemented by velvet upholstery, a very inviting sunny deck and a fantastic view from the main salon- even if you're 4'11.75", like Lori. A boat is one place being undersized comes in handy.

She even has her own dingy, which to the unknowing sounds rather torrid, but in fact its another word for inflatable boat. One thing about the nomenclature of boats, that Lori explained: everything sounds like male anatomy. Seacocks are valves. Head is toilet (where you put your butt). In the dinghy, I got a full tour of her neighborhood. I saw some 60' serious yachts and even a double masted beauty with some exquisite woodgrain. At the end, I felt like I had been on an actual, relaxing vacation.

So Lori, who is an employment and business lawyer, started this voyage as a cab driver to pay for law school. Of course she did - she also lived in a Kibbutz in Israel, survived a bomb in Ireland during the Troubles, and lived in Paris as an au pair for communists and an au pair in Spain for fascists. She will tell you that the communists were much nicer. If you're going to be exploited, definitely go with the communists. She visited 12 countries by the time she was 21 years old. She claims she was only looking for Brooklyn and had no sense of direction. I've seen her drive and there may be something to that. But we'll remain state-side for this story.

Cab days in Sausalito triggered the original dream of owning a lovely houseboat, until the sticker price squashed that brilliant musing. Budget aside, the seed was sown. 20 years later, following a date that was not eventful but at a restaurant marina that was, she wondered, while staring into space at the boats in the marina rather than her date ."do people sell boats on CraigsList?" Hmmm. Yes, they do. Hmmm. "I wonder, do people finance boats?" Yes, they do. Two weeks later, she was given the keys to what is now Pushy Broad. Unfortunately, she had no idea how to turn it on. A small detail. The boat angels were with her however and Lori met a couple, on their honeymoon at the Delta, on their boat who happen to have more experience (not a high bar mind you). Feeling gracious toward the universe in general, they took a liking to Lori (or pity) and suggested they accompany her to coach the new boat-owner on her trip down the Delta to her new slip in Alameda.

The 9 hour trip was full of teachable moments including the lesson that sailboats have right of way, even if there are 50 of them coming at you. Lori was not pleased at this rule at the time and believes, like a car, a "New Boat Driver" sign, should be available.

Because her height, and that of the boat's, was not conducive to say, seeing the water, Lori was forced to stand on top of a coffee table at the lower helm to steer her new 16,000 pound baby ( she's 4'11.75" tall, remember And she emphasizes the .75). With instructions, coaching and emotional support from Alexus and Deb they made it. Safe and sound.

Three years have almost passed and Lori no longer asks whether that one-foot wave is going to make the boat tip over, a question she posed to anyone, including the seals, that would listen.

And now Lori has been a live-aboard for 3 years in Alameda. Cruised throughout the Bay to Benicia and Angel Island, and gives her friends the tour of a lifetime. She runs her employment law practice ( mostly from her office in downtown San Francisco and takes lucky clients out for meeting on the Bay. Seriously, I'd pay handsomely for a consultation in that sunny, waterside conference room. She says living on a boat is a little like being in a foreign country without having to get a dozen shots. There simply is not a better life, she says. She has developed OBD--Obsessional Boat Disorder and refuses to recover.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The epic saga of a Build-Out

What is a build-out? It's when you finally, after many years, find the perfect space and the realtor says, "But you have to build it out." You get a cement shell, a front door and that's it. No electricity (how do they plug in the paint sprayer?), no water (where does the electrician go to the bathroom?) and no lighting (how do you judge paint colors?). Just a whole bunch 'o dust and dreams.

Speaking of dreaming - you'll enjoy this: I committed to the space in early November and told them "but I have to be in by December 15th. " It was ski season after all and clients were, understandably, clamoring to get on the Endless Slope. As a special treat to my personal dignity, they did not stumble over laughing. Didn't even break a smile actually. I finally signed a lease on March 21st. And we'll be open July 30th. And no, it doesn't make me feel better that Kirkwood was open for skiing on July 4th; snow season is over and the loud sobs I emitted in April as the lifts closed and clients put their skis away have long since died down.

My recovery was aided by the beautiful color palette chosen by designer Sabra Ballon. It says winter skies and warm surf breaks at all once.

And the lighting makes me happy. To be fair, the original fixtures Patrick suggested did actually fit into my budget; I saw the sketch and said fine. Looking into a neighboring suite on our way out, Sabra said "and Sarah, those are the fixtures you'll have. " I said, and I quote, "Oh Sabra, I will die. Seriously, that level of ugly will kill me." Again to be fair, I did tell Sabra we'd be going very industrial. But then when I saw them - oh it just said parking-garage, not even oil-change-waiting-room. So we embarked on three rounds of lighting research and showroom visits with Sarah saying either "too expensive" or "not working for me." And then Sabra found them - such cute pendants lights, and the ceiling puffs. They're actually called puffs; someone like me must have named them.

What was electrician Patrick doing during all of this? Waiting patiently. And explaining that we would really need two lit Exit signs, a strobe light in the bathroom, and probably the rolling garage door opener should actually work. It doesn't? Oh right - there's no real wiring there. Who could notice distracted by all this lovely lighting? The building owners suggested that I should pay to complete the garage door installation, and while I had my checkbook out, might as well cover the installation of the fire alarm system. What??? "AS IS" does not mean as-much-as-we-felt-like-finishing-as-we-ran-out-of-money-completing-the-building. Yes, actually, the building owners did run out of money on completion. Went bankrupt even - hence the lengthy wait to get a lease out of them, although this was not apparent at the time. So, inspired by my friend Lori, whose boat is named Pushy Broad, I pushed back. But really I think they finally caved because General Contractor Russ used his honey-coated diplomacy and a few rational arguments. (Not within his scope for sure - another reason we love him.) And so, many things got completed while I tried to breathe deeply and remain calm.

This calm was made infinitely easier by painter Rich Quinn. My original dark ceiling plus 2 colors became 6 colors, plus a brush treatment on the cement entrance, sealing the stairs and can we make these 2 walls magnetic? He did it all and somehow to our dynamically changing specifications.

Miraculously, we found benches that fit the space perfectly. Even more of a miracle, my friend Anneke Seley was remodeling and handed over some large storage pieces that were perfect. (Although Sabra said "oh honey, we're going to have to switch out that hardware.") So now we have space for trip bags, the Shred-Sleds for kids' camps, and all the boots and boards for clients orders. Plus the barware for parties of course.

So there you are. The story of a simple build-out.

Balancing (the budget) on High Steel

Five stairs, that's all I needed. But not ugly stairs, strikingly stunning stairs. They're the center of the Studio, after all. They can't say "dusty storeroom" or "forgotten warehouse." Admittedly, after you back into a budget requiring a bathroom, maybe some paint and carpeting and a few light fixtures, you don't have a lot left over for stairs. I'd heard all the discouraging news: "Stairs cost ten thousand dollars, Sarah. That's just what they cost." (But not from my new designer Sabra Ballon. Oh no, she was game.) Less that $4000 is what I had. So we visited several interesting places in South San Francisco. Not that I'm complaining, industrial steel fabricators shouldn't be expected to have flagship showplaces in Union Square. But I'll just say that there was a lot of stepping over large rusty materials and reviewing old binders of circa-1930s industrial-not-chic stair railings.

And then, Daniel Umilie showed up in my universe. He saw the bare Studio space, and I gave him the bad news on my budget complete with a detailed spec. Ultimately, we visited his facility in South SF - leased by the proud Umilie family back in Cinque Terre of Italy. Daniel, 3rd generation of Umilie Steel, owns the family mission of expanding to the US. Apparently, there are several Umilie brothers available to build steel structures and they need to be kept busy. So they're willing to work with us.

At their fabrication facility, I manage to back into a large beam being painted the color of the Golden Gate Bridge - apparently, it's popular for steel. Not as popular on my black shoulder bag. (To be fair, I was clearly warned to avoid the freshly painted material; I got all distracted by the lovely options for railings.)
After we've chosen our materials, Daniel muses about his grandfathers back in Italy, forging steel after the usual 2-hour Italian lunch complete with ample red wine. And many small children running around the factory, casually playing among red-hot pokers. Yet still - beautiful work and a multi-generational profitable company. (Please, someone confirm that red wine is part of the business formula; that's the key variable I'm looking for.)

The installation day arrives and Daniel drives up with a few brothers and some pretty large steel pieces on his truck. I let them into the studio and leave the installation to those with more courage than I. Turns out they are a pretty passionate bunch. My general contractor told me later that he stopped by to finish up some sheetrock, but had to exit for a later return.The profane passion of the stair installation was more energy than the studio could contain.

But they got it done. And it looks fantastic. Umilie America - they have arrived and they're ready to build the stairs of our nation.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sports Studio: the build-out Heros

I have to admit, the build-out of our new Sports Studio has actually been fun. Even with the unexpected costs, the permit process at the Department of Building Inspection, and the bear of avoiding expensive carpet installation - it has really been a rewarding process. Probably because I had such a great team. My original architect, Peter Braun, created the right drawings for the budget structure I needed and the all-important permit approvals. General Contractor Russ Murphy is an absolute dream - why he worked on this small of a project I'll never know. (But that's what you get from an ex-dancer with the SF Ballet - good karma.) He brought in eternally patient electrician Patrick Golden and Madden Plumbing (Madden I met exactly once because he did his magic in about 1 day). A steady stream of willingness-to-please-under-all-circumstances...and color changes...was supplied by delightful painter Rich Quinn. The Italian storyteller Daniel Umilie (3rd generation Italian steel fabricators from Cinque Terre, thank you very much) designed, fabricated and installed our fabulous looking stairs. Kris at Conklin Brothers answered endless carpet questions and managed to find an inexpensive remnant that looks superb. And did we ever get lucky finding Efren Martinez to install the carpet - even the funky wave edge by the stairs. Skilled, gracious and flexible - I'd recommend Efren to the Queen. (Well... if the queen had a tight budget.) And most of these wonderful things came directly through my beloved architect-designer, Sabra Ballon. Her talent is endless and her demeanor is fun, funky and unflappable. I mean it - we went through so many rounds of research to find fabulous things for our tiny budget, but she never blinked. Sabra just made it happen with humor and a big smile.

So here it is, our new Sports Studio at 650 Florida Street, looking beautiful and ready for Final Inspections.

The Studio is proudly sporting 220volts of power for the Endless Slope ski & snowboard deck, and has been patiently storing 6 surf simulators which are now being painted Adventurous purple.

Final steps? The huge surf poster for upstairs and de-rigueur mountain mural for the Endless Slope. A few storage racks for boards & boots, and speakers for the music mix. (I'm thinking clients should be able to plug in their own ipods - what could be more conducive for learning & conditioning?)

Then we'll be ready for Endless Slope lessons, after-school training for kids, and ski & snowboard parties. Plus all the surfing trips we'll be starting in November. Yes, I am pretty excited.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wondering about Motocross

Luciana, her husband and another couple just did a private motocross class, and recommended it to their friend Al and his wife. Al emailed me:
"My wife is intimidated because she's never used a clutch and fears getting hurt - if you have any info to help address that it would be great."

In case you're wondering the same is what I told Al:

Sure, I definitely can and it's completely understandable. I took the course myself and although I did have some very limited motorcycle experience, it was about 15 years back when I did the MX clinic. And getting on the bike felt very new initially - and it felt big, even though the bike was pretty small. I'm 5'4", 105-110lb and it took me until mid-morning to get really comfortable. That said, it only felt a little big, not "OMG, this just doesn't feel right" huge.

In terms of the clutch, it's a different "dance" of foot and hand on a bike then it is on a almost everyone in our classes is "new to a clutch", since most of our students are new to bikes. (Car is clutch w/ palm of the hand and gas w/ foot; Bike is gas with fingers and clutch w/ foot!) As Luciana will tell you, there is plenty of time in the beginning while you're moving the bike very slowly to get your foot and hand working together smoothly.

In terms of getting hurt, most people are simply afraid of the bike falling on them. I know I was. At the end of the class, we were doing turns on a hill (the instructor makes this optional, since some students are simply tired at that point, and would rather focus on their skills on the flat area). As I was messing up my turn, the bike did fall on me and I went from initial panic to "oh, that's it?" in about 3 seconds. I was actually happy it happened, so that I learned how simple it is. Also as Luciana can attest, there won't be any high speeds in this Intro Class. Some people are disappointed that they don't go riding fast out on the trails (and you might be Al...), but that comes in the Advanced Class.

I hope this little bit of insight helps and I'd be very happy to chat with her to answer any & all questions.
We've had so many different types of women in our classes (physical and mental) that I really can attest to everyone's comfort. In fact, our first "test class" at that location was the daughter of my snowboard instructor and her 2 friends; 3 slim, feather-weight 16-year olds. I figured I would get "real" feedback from them - and they loved it. (Although like me, they said the bikes felt "big" at first.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Girl meets Snowboard Success

Another miracle - I can carve! on my snowboard! Here's what happened: got back into the game late last season, doing some lessons on the Endless Slope and then snow time in March and April. This season I got out in early January (so late!) and started up on the Bunny Slope. Well, why not - let's get it right from the start. Life has plenty of steep cliffs to offer, I'll take this one gradually, thank you. So Mr. Bunny gave me the opportunity to connect turns and even do some tight heel-to-toe transitions.

Then we go Blue. Blue is all good - well, mostly good. The top is quite steep, and I need to get to the good parts. One time my toe-side mojo just died and I reverted to a brief falling leaf episode. Another time I had faltering confidence about getting off the lift; always seemed to get lucky and barely miss flying into somebody. But gradually, things got more solid. I found myself pulling off heel-side turns on steep parts my brain didn't think would be possible - but the feet just did it anyway. (That's what I call muscle memory, thanks to a direct injection from the Endless Slope).

Then there was the weekend with my friend Sabra. Husbands, boyfriends and kids were left behind. I slid by her house at 8:15pm on Friday, threw her bag in the back, carefully loaded the wine, and headed up. Three hours later we pull into the driveway of our cabin. I remember to adjust the water valve, turn the pump on and, of course, turn the heat up. We chat for a minute on the couch and then plan to hit the hay. We chat longer. Wine is suggested. 2 hours later we head to bed - oops.

Up at the crack of freakin' dawn and head out to Kirkwood. At 9am. Like we could last the whole day anyway. Kirkwood is delighted to have us and, as a special treat, has reduced their usual lift lines of 8 people down to 2. Sabra is stunned. I love my Kirkwood. We cruise the blues and I actually have enough confidence to carve hard and get a good workout. (Are you supposed to carve hard? No, you're supposed to have the skill to finesse the hill and *not* have to work so hard.) I'm getting there. But in the meantime I can still burn a few extra calories. Besides, I look really cool. In my head at least - and that's my favorite movie.

Lunch is weird. We go into the "better" restaurant and are told there is a 25 minute wait "and then the food will take about 45 minutes; we have a very small kitchen." What??? Been there bunches - never has it taken more than 10 minutes. (Who designed your kitchen anyway?) We feel unwanted, unloved. I hate Kirkwood. We went somewhere else I can't remember; I've blacked it out to rid myself of the searing pain of lunch rejection.

An Irish coffee soothes my lunch terrors and we hit the backside. My mojo is back and I am really a Blue Person. Loving my quick-release bindings that I can usually click just after sliding from the lift. At the end of the day, I'm surprised how tired I am. My legs and feet can do things my body doesn't really have the stamina for, but that's good inspiration for the running thing again.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring Snow

Spring Skiing! What's NOT to love? It's my favorite time of the season. Warm weather, forgiving snow, fewer crowds, and an especially inviting time to have your end-of-day wine out in the sun. So great. Why doesn't everyone making a Big-Deal-Jump in their skills do it in the spring? It's the best time to take up snowboarding, the best time to graduate from black diamonds to double black diamonds, and the best time to get someone you love started on skis. True, conditions can get slushy late in the day if it's really warm - but if it's really warm you should be relaxing on the patio, am I right?
Plus there are fewer cars so it's easier to park; rarely any lift lines; and you can get decent savings during end-of-season sales too. (dial-in snowboard boots, oh pleeease.) And there are usually entertaining festivals at the resorts too. Kirkwood does their annual Skim-the-Pond on skis and snowboards - the skiers are definitely superior but both varieties get pretty wet. Everyone's in a great mood and it's just a super way to enjoy the season.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday's report: Sport & Spa with dance workout

This just in. A report on the Sunday Sport & Spa Day:

So warm! So sunny! I had always thought that the Universe scheduled rain as a consequence of planning any outdoor activity in April. I mean, that's WHY we have a whole different Sport & Spa gig for the winter months. The indoor dance work-out is a short 2-blocks from the spa; you would even sprint there in a rainstorm if things got wild. Optional lunch places 10 steps from the workout studio. And then right back to the Spa. You could do the whole outdoor thing in about 15 minutes of umbrella time.

Well, I guess that's how it works; we had a rain plan, so the Universe said, "How quaint, have some sun." And was it ever gorgeous. We took an extra-long stroll to enjoy the sun and the people watching on Sunday morning. Then to Shoebox dance studio for a Bollywood for Beginners dance workout. We even got little finger-scarves to make whatever we did look exotic.

Then up Folsom and down 2nd to Momo's just across the street from the ballpark. Lunch on the patio with a little umbrella shade and one the best turkey-club-combos things I've ever had. With cranberry sauce and bacon - fab.

The walk back to the spa was 35 minutes. And then the bliss really got underway. Aromatherapy in the air, cozy robes, hot tea and cool fruit, sinking into the jacuzzi, then hour massages all around, followed by more jacuzzi.

While I can't speak for everyone, I like to follow the day with brief trip to H&M (you never know) and whatever else looks enticing.

The Dance Workout version worked so well that we'll be adding some to our summer schedule, in addition to the kayaking. Bollywood, you have another convert!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The new Sports Studio

Welcome to our new blog, all about Living Adventurously. I'll be writing about adventurous people doing adventurous things. To inspire you, provide a little how-to, and a whole lotta get-me-out-there-I-have-to-do-this energy.

First Up: my latest adventure. Creating a new sports studio for Adventurous Sports.
(Not that I recommend this particular activity. Read on - the process has been several universes short of what I'd call delightful.)

It's a durn miracle. We have a real Sports Studio! At 650 Florida and 18th (sort of north-west Potrero Hill ... Mission Cliffs / Universal Cafe / CoffeeBar.) The Endless Slope ski & snowboard deck will have it's own home and we'll do surf simulator clinics, poker classes, parties and trip previews. I know what you're thinking: what took you so long?!

Good question. I saw the space early November and told the Realtor I had to be in by Dec 15. (oh I'm so silly; they were all polite and everything.) And the lease was signed 2 weeks ago. Yup, 2 weeks. Fast forward: contractors interviewed & hired, permits paid for ($809!), paint colors chosen. We're working on stairs. Picking the surf & ski murals was, I'll admit, pretty fun.

So stay tuned. I'll be posting pictures (the first ones are pretty raw!) and sharing the joys of a build-out process (welcome to marmoleum - it is not a sandwich spread, I swear). We'll even have some postings from my architect-designer Sabra Ballon; she found a General Contractor who used to dance for the SF ballet. I'm serious.

I'll also keep you posted on the fun stuff.
Like tales of my new snowboarding skills (carving on blue slopes!) and my trip to Mexico to sleuth out a great location for surf camps. (I'm leaving 6AM Thursday; then we'll put together the Preview Trip - for all those intrepid adventurers who are willing to test out yoga & massage without a net.)