In the Eye of the Beholder


I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting New Zealand for the first time back in February. Despite the fact I was traveling with my laptop computer and a brand new iPhone, I was unable to connect for days on end. Call it a combination of different systems in use on the other side of the world and my own status of Technological Neanderthal. Whatever the case, when I was at last able to log on in the capital city of Wellington, I went crazy!

The first e-mail I opened was from KVIE, Sacramento’s PBS station. They were trying a new fund raising tool called Bidding for Good—basically an online auction. I saw my artist friend and fellow KVIE volunteer Gayle Rappaport-Weiland had donated an art party for eight with instruction and all supplies included. On a whim I bid, then lost my connection, something I would not regain until I was once again stateside. Imagine my excitement when the first e-mail I opened was again from KVIE. I won!

It was a challenge finding a date that worked for Gayle, my seven eager friends and me, but at last invitations went out and RSVPs starting coming in. It was only then that my eager anticipation shifted to dread. I’ve painted a lot in my life . . . always walls . . . usually holding a roller. How on earth could I master the subtle art of watercolor and create a masterpiece in just two short hours? Sure, this was Gayle’s promise to all participants, but was it really possible for me?

I invited everyone to lunch before we began, complimented by a liberal ration of champagne for all. I could tell I was not the only one in the room with a bit of anxiety over what lay ahead. Thankfully, the bubbly began to do the trick and temper our various fears. At last it was time to start. At each place was a blank piece of heavy, textured paper, a pencil, four brushes, wax, a cup of water, toilet paper and our “palate” (paper plate) with just four dabs of paint. Gayle’s instructions were simple: “Do what I tell you to do, exactly the way I tell you to do it, then LAY DOWN YOUR BRUSH.” She also demonstrated each technique before we had a hand at it.

And you know what? She was right. It was easy. More than that, it was FUN. And best of all, each of us actually produced a masterpiece that clearly looked like a birch tree in the forest. But oh, what art critics we all became! “I like my clouds, sky and horizon, but my foreground never quite reached its full potential.” “My water is a little murky, but check out my evergreens!”

And my favorite, “You have the best bark. You even mastered a knothole.”

“Actually, that’s where I spilled some paint and tried to cover it up.”

“Oh . . . well, it looks like a knothole to me . . . or maybe an owl.”

I don’t think any of us will be quitting our day jobs anytime soon, but I think it’s also safe to say the next paintbrush one of us picks up just may be to apply something other than latex wall paint!

Thanks to Gayle for a wonderful afternoon, and for her charitable donation of the party to support KVIE. If you’re looking for a party or team-building activity for workmates or a special group of friends, I could not recommend Gayle more highly. Check out her classes, art and upcoming shows online at

Postscript: If you’re wondering what role toilet paper fills in the subtle art form of watercolor, you’ll just have to ask me . . . privately, please.


Sailing on the Bay

It was a glorious weekend in San Francisco. The weather was clear and sunny in the 70’s, with lisps of fog here and there but not thick enough to obscure the sun. It was a busy weekend: Fleet Day, the next round of America’s Cup Sailing Races, the first playoff games for the San Francisco Giants, a 49er football game, the annual Italian Heritage Parade (formerly known in its pre-politically correct days as the annual Columbus Day Parade), and a huge music festival in Golden Gate Park. Not to mention all the other activities which go along with San Francisco just being San Francisco.

After the Fleet Day Parade of Ships and its annual air show with the Blue Angels (the elite US Naval flying team), the stage was set for the next round of the America’s Cup Racing on the bay. San Francisco has turned out to be a perfect venue for the races which started this past August and will continue next summer. The race course runs between Crissy Field, near the foot of the Golden Gate, to Fort Mason. The finish line is equidistant between the two in the small harbor that is home to the Golden Gate and St. Francis Yacht Clubs. The extreme end of the small protective jetty that nearly encircles the docks serves as the finish line.

Because the course covers so much area of public access, there is plenty of room to view the racing along the waterfront but the only reserved seats are bleacher-style near the starting line. That means the far edge of the course remains obscure but there is live “play-by-play” commentary from onsite announcers and large television screens so those paying the premium for a seat don’t miss a bit of the action. The adjacent “village” is a nice complement to the seating area and offers food, vendors, port-a-potties and additional screens to watch the racing live with a glass of Napa Valley wine in the shade of cool tents.

The best place to view the races, however, is from the water. The entire north side of the race course is San Francisco Bay and vessels of all shapes and sizes were out in full force to watch the races, which generally last about 1½ to 2 hours. Many charter vessels, including the boats of Hornblower Yachts and the historic USS Potomac, bobbed in the bay while passengers observed the sleek 45-foot catamarans racing at twice the speed of the wind. Of course, because they are unique venues with captive audiences, costs for passage on these vessels can be high. A luncheon cruise on one of the Hornblower Yachts started at around $175 per person. I settled for a blanket on a rock along the jetty with my binoculars and a sandwich from an Italian deli.

The next round of racing will be from July until the championship races in mid-September on boats that will be nearly twice the length as the boats raced this year. Sports Leisure will be looking at several options to give our customers a taste of the racing, most likely from on the water on board a comfortable luncheon cruise. Keep your eye on future newsletters and for more information about the races visit