Lou Lesko

Journal 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

It’s day ten of the shelter-in-place order. Things are settling in to a new way of living until the pandemic is... I’m not sure what constitutes an “all clear.” I’m not sure anyone does.

Came across this on the way back home from my parent’s place tonight. A beautiful sentiment and the best advice of everything that’s been said.

Theater marquee stay safe keep love in your hearts.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Yesterday and a today are examples of profound time mismanagement. I’m blaming the current climate of Covid-19 chaos. In truth, it’s me juggling real life with useless distraction—prioritizing the distraction.

The day passes on the phone, in a light fog. The gray weather doesn’t help I can’t help thinking an executive assistant would be in order. But really, I just need to sit down, pull myself together and get organized.

Highlight of the day is dinner with Emily at home. Watch a documentary about the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots as told by the letters the two monarchs wrote to each other. The show is marvelously well done. To bed intent on emphatically shaking up things tomorrow.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Peet's coffee near the house stopped letting customers inside the café today. Apparently stacking the tables and chairs into an unusable heap wasn't enough to keep people from lingering. They’ve set up a small table in the doorway and taped handwritten signs to the window indicating where to stand to order, and where to wait for the delivery of one’s beverage. The largish coffee corporation now resembles a child’s lemonade stand.

There are a lot people out, keeping reasonable distances between each other to be sure, but out nonetheless. Despite the bizarre state of the world, spirits remain cautiously high.

After coffee, head to the office to at least try to get a few petty things done. Accomplish one before deciding I can’t be bothered. Head down a rabbit hole of randomness.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Day four of shelter in place. I can’t shake the nagging feeling that things have been disastrously mishandled. Histrionics, not data, is ruling governmental reactions putting people’s livelihoods are in peril.

The roads are more crowded than Tuesday and Wednesday. It seems increasing numbers of people are more embolden to get out. That said, social distancing has effortlessly become de rigueur.

Grocery shopping for my parents goes easily enough. With the exception of bread, the store shelves are full. Take advantage of the portable hand wash stations outside the store on the way back to my car.

The restaurant where I usually pick up to-go food for Friday night dinners with my father is empty except for three cooks, two servers, and a cashier. The counter, normally packed with diners, is dotted with clusters of white bags of take-away orders.

The freeway into San Francisco is sparsely populated, it looks like 3 a.m. at 7:30 in the evening.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Rally early to race to the city and take my mother to the doctor for a post hip surgery followup. I'm not in my parent's kitchen for five minutes before the call comes through saying the appointment as been cancelled. Covid-19 strikes again.

Run my my mother around town, an antidote to stir crazy, for about half an hour. It’s a brisk day, blue skies and puffy white clouds.

Back to Marin for the drudgery of work. Calls, endless calls. The world seems to have withdrawn, partly out of fear, partly out of not knowing what to do. The pandemic has become politicized leaving people misinformed and confused. The hiking trail is significantly more crowded this week. People gotta do something.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The shelter-in-place order went into effect eight hours ago at midnight. Unsure how the police will enforce this, grab some of my old National Geographic business cards to show if I get puled over. Journalists are exempt.

The traffic on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is sparse, but I had imagined things would be more desolate than they are. Come to think of it, the atmosphere is hard to describe. It’s almost a novel. A compulsory stay-at-home holiday and a free-for-all for those that venture outside. The disaster, for lack of a better word, is invisible. Statistics on government charts are the only tangible evidence that something abjectly wrong.

My inbox is flooded with emails from every company I’ve done business with in the last twenty years telling me what they’re doing about virus mitigation and safety. On the internet there is a torrent of tawdry opinion pieces about the virus reinforcing the observation that humanity is more of a self indulgent and histrionic organism than it is an intelligent one. On the upside one wishing to learn how wash one’s hands properly need only open a web browser window.

Michelle, one of my closest and oldest friends, has encamped in our office. Typically she works from home, but with husband and kids sheltering-in-place, she needs a quiet space.

I can’t stop thinking about all the restaurant workers and such who depend on an active economy to survive. Our governor is throwing out shelter-in-place termination dates like a drunken Irishman tosses darts at a board. It’s increasingly obvious there really is no plan.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Have just gotten word via media and gossip that Northern California is instituting a "Shelter in Place" order. Interesting times. We’re strongly encouraged to stay home until April 7th. Schools, restaurants, hair salons; any business not deemed necessary by the order must close or face misdemeanor charges. Which means I’m SOL for a hair-do tomorrow.

The normally convivial overpriced grocery store in the fancy neighborhood of my office is overrun with people scrambling to stock up. Oddly grocery stores are on the shelter-in-place exempt list. I guess this is the mild panic that results from misinformation and deplorable management of the crisis by our federal and state governments.

Head to the dentist to find their hygienists have walked. I missed the voicemail they left for me that morning telling me as much.

It took Emily three hours to get out of the grocery store near our place, our fridge has never been so full. Settle in with a large whiskey. Tomorrow is going to be odd.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Sleep through the entire night. A rarity as of late. The sun is shining, the sky is blue.

It’s a mixed bag of meh at work, but I’m getting better at not letting the dull trivial things annoy.

Emily calls to tell me the black cat we call Gatto, a stray that comes around every few days, is at the house. Drop what I’m doing and head home to say hello.

Me holding a large black cat.

Back to work to sort out a few more things. Finish with mat pilates in the office.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Exasterbate my grump by going into the office which proves to be ineffectual.

Emily and I can’t decide what to do, and neither can the weather—high grey clouds and still air cast a malaise over the aftenoon. Decide to go to Petaluma.

My attitude makes a complete U-turn after an espresso at Acre coffee. Buy an omlette pan and a few other kitchen items, then walk to Thistle meats for sausages and charcuterie.

Drive south via the scenic route where the clouds have darkened enough to make sky look interesting. Stop at Nicassio Ranch where my mood improves even further. I love a good saloon. Especially when there’s a band.

A small band plays in front of a restaurant patrons in a reustic western bar.

After a beer, Emily and I head home and hunker down. It’s the first day of daylight savings time, our excuse for feeling off.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Spend the day fetching my mother from the hospital to bring her home. Meet Kanda the wonderful travel nurse from North Carolina.

Back to Marin for the last hike of standard time.

Dinner at John and Kimberley’s where we meet Craig and Patty visiting from Seattle. It a fabulous time.

Friday, March 6, 2020

The roads and restaurants are bizarrely barren. People are staying home because of Covid-19 virus fears. The torrent of misinformation is astounding.

It’s my dad’s birthday. Show up at his house with birthday cards and cake and usual dinner faire for a night of British mysteries.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Phone calls. Lots of phone calls. By mid afternoon I’m cooked.

Receive word that my mother’s hip replacement surgery has gone well. After a very long, much needed hike alone, saddle up and drive into San Francisco to visit her at St. Mary’s hospital.

The hospital halls still bring back childhood memories when I used to accompany my father in his surgical rounds.

Home for late supper and a Masterpiece Theater production of the Henry the Eighth’s era from Cromwell’s point of view.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Spend part of the morning trying to hack the mechanical keypad lock that's been installed on a gate that offers easy access to a path leading to the grocery store and Peet's coffee. The lock was installed a week ago by the surgery center next to our place. So annoying.

Feeling a little out of sorts today. Run through a string of tiresome little tasks to prep for a Monday morning.

Emily and I go to a wonderful afternoon barbecue at Nicole and Brian's. Lately, the weather has been bizarre. Two days ago it was in the high seventies and sunny, like spring. Today it’s positively freezing under gloomy overcast skies.

After the BBQ, Emily and I drive up to Santa Rosa to see Philip’s photography show opening. The work is remarkable.

Friday, February 28, 2020

I'm not sure what is more concerning, the Corona virus or people's reaction to it. On the phone with friends in Texas today—they're stocking up on food and fuel because some of the citizens in that state are on the precipice of making a run on the stores and the gas stations. After watching everyone in my city empty grocery store shelves and line up at gas stations just before the forced PG&E blackout a few months ago, I think my Texas friends are being intelligently proactive. It’s a weird new world order.

As of this morning California had thirty-three cases reported with a possibility of eighteen-hundred people exposed and only two hundred test kits available. Our governor came out in the media saying that the number of test kits wasn’t enough—the man is a savant with numbers.

The paranoid mood fits the dull hazy weather outside.

As best as I can tell, from legitimate sources, the virus is going to be a new seasonal visitor to the human population, not unlike the flu. I’m hoping that it burns itself out like SARS did, but, hope ain’t an antidote.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Feel like I'm playing hooky avoiding the pile of work festering in my office. But the day is too stunning to view from a window.

Poor Emily is in San Luis Obispo, her trip to Los Angeles aborted due to a raging case of the flu. She's on her way home now. I've prepped the house for convalesce. Ok, I changed the sheets, pulled the cushions off the couch to turn it into a day bed and laid out the remotes on an organized fashion.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Take dad to the hospital for a procedure that will have me working from the waiting room all day. Meet Terry, a woman who recognizes my name printed on a visitor tag. She’s a beekeeper I did story on back in the National Geographic days. Small world.

Pass the hours running in and out of the pre-op/recovery room to visit dad. He’s cracking jokes and generally being popular with all the nurses. Wonder what it’s like to be in a hospital as a surgeon with fifty years experience.

The doctor visits with me in the waiting room after completing the surgery. It’s all good news.

Stop by a liquor store near my parent’s house. A search online revealed they have a hard-to-find whiskey I want. In another historical irony, the liquor store used to be owned by the father of a girl I had a crush on in grammar school. It’s all very fabulous now, their whiskey collection extraordinarily impressive. Dad loves the field trip.

Drop dad home and then do the same for me. Settle in with a glass of Ichiro's Malt & Grain whiskey.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Call with the Presidio Trust this morning. The fee for the venue I want to use for the Twenty Years stage production is out of our budget. Unfortunately it’s owned by the federal government, so any negotiations like “we’ll get you great PR if you give us the space for free” fall flat. I guess the Fed is well known enough, they don’t need any more publicity.

Chantal and I get on a teleconference with a group that may be our legal council for a new project. I think the word “perfect” as in “I see your video image, puurrfehct,” is overused these days. I last 30 minutes before glazing over in boredom. Make quiet escape while Chantal continues.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Wake early and out the door to walk a mile to the Marin Airporter bus stop. At SFO, enter my ticket confirmation into the ticket kiosk only to see a warning: I can’t check-in more than twenty-four hours in advance. Confused, I take a closer look at my email confirmation. Inexplicably I’ve booked my ticket for the 23rd and not the 2nd.

At the United ticket counter their computers have gone down, which is just as well. Am told by a very nice ticket agent that talking to a human to help with a ticket issue carries a fifty dollar surcharge. With minutes to spare, I book a new ticket. My two hundred dollar super-saver fare has turned into a five hundred dollar extravagance.

The regional airport at my destination is closed because of a heavy fog. On the phone with Emily, she tells me the same, visibility is abysmal. An hour later, the the fog lifted, board the plane, to sit on the tarmac for another hour. It has become comical at this point. Five hours have past since my pre-dawn departure to the bus stop, it only takes four to drive to San Luis Obispo.

Take off the to sound of passenger applause, land an hour later at SLO where I’m picked up by Emily.

To lunch at a massive almost Disney-esqe diner complete with a shop full of gorgeous kitschy things. The food is farm-to-table and really quite good. Check in early at Petit Soleil and head to Montana Del Oro. It’s a stunning day, the cliffs and ocean are a wonderfully welcome sight.

Ocean and cliff at MDO.

A seagul sits atop Emily's car roof.

Return to Emily’s car to find it hijacked by a seagull.

Drive to get manicures. The nail salon has the Discovery channel playing on a massive screen at the back of the shop. Watch a riveting show about Vietnam while my nails are attended to by a taciturn Vietnamese woman. It’s bizarre, but oddly fun.

Sunset falls on the hills at Lake Laguna.

To Lake Laguna for a sunset hike, followed by dinner and wine at Big Sky.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The day crawls by, seemingly with no purpose. I should have a better attitude, but I’m finding impossible to find a groove. Lack of a good night’s sleep, the pressure of work, and the simple fact that I’m not meant for day-to-day. I like big impossible projects that require focussed intensity for a period, followed by hiatus.

The day turns around when I meet Amy C for dinner. An Italian restaurant in the neighborhood I grew up in. It’s a wonderful time.

Drive to parent’s house. There’s something about the unconditional welcome a child receives when dropping in on their parents unexpectedly that is priceless.

Home. Emily is out of town, stay up too late reading.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The show I wrote and produced at the Sweetwater, last July, around Jeff Burkhart’s book reading is going to have a second run. Chantal, Jeff, and I look at a venue in the Presidio. It is breathtaking. A vast view of the Golden Gate bridge, a small stage, and enough room for 186 people. We’ve decided create dinner theater, small tables, low lighting. It’s going to be marvelous.

After, Chantal and I meet Eric, a creative director we’re going to employ for a new project. He is wonderful and totally gets what we’re trying to accomplish.

Home to watch Succession the current viewing obsession for Emily and I.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Two of the people I love most in this world have gotten together spontaneously and sent a picture.

Chantal and Hopper.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Coffee with Emily then a string of errands in San Rafael.

Abandoned by Hopper, who is readying to return to NYU for her second semester, Chantal and I sprint through the day and make real progress on our new product. Then she gets on the phone with the lawyers and everything gets taken down a notch.

Brain power flagging, muddle through annoying things like bills and other nonsense. Bit of a waste of time then head to the hill for stunning skies.

Red skies over Mt Tam.

Red and blue gray sky over Mt Tam.

Trees silhoutted by the red sky of the sunset.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Longish, dullish day. Productive and all that, but uhh, productivity is totally overrated.

To Petaluma to meet Philip for wine and food stuff. It’s always a good time at the Speakeasy. Toward the end of our bottle of red, the place is utterly empty. Strike up a conversation with Kelli and Amanda working behind the bar. Amanda and I drift into a conversation about fashion. Anyone who knows who Lee McQueen is, let alone has seen the documentary about him, is my people and immediately granted entry into my inner circle. Young, full of verve and ambition, Amanda is days away from a trip to Milan to expand her fashion knowledge. Have deemed her one to watch.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Emily and I saddle up to head north west toward Tomales Bay. Listen to the Mac Miller album, Circles, that was produced posthumously, it is brilliant.

I love going for drives in this part of the state. The trees, the landscape, the water, it’s all very inspiring. Pull off the road at a trailhead and set off on a trek. It is muddy and fabulous.

Old flood gate in the wetlands.

The wetlands are particularly striking, but I’m not quite sure the purpose of the flood gate. Maybe it was useful in a bygone time.

Continue north to Gourmet Aux Bay for wine, crab cakes, and baked cheese, which is really a plop of goat cheese on a piping hot iron skillet. Sip and east as the sun goes down over Bodega Bay.

Broken pier going out into Bodega Bay just before sundown.

Head home for dinner, drinks, and the—sigh—last two episodes of Versailles. It wonderfully avant-garde take on King Louis XIV.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Wood table with espresso and croisant on it.

Shake up the tired routine of immediately diving into the work by diverting to M&H for croisant and espresso at an outside table still wet from the early morning rains. Meet Aidan who is working behind the register, a handsome lad who seems a good match for Hopper. Mention this to him, he’s intrigued. Promise to bring Hopper around for lunch.

Chantal and I have a productive morning sifting through a long agenda for about an hour and half. There has to be a better way of organization than looking at a vast constellation of bits that need attention.

Hopper and I go to lunch at M&H, introduce her to Aidan. There’s clear interest from both sides, yet, no one is asking anyone for a phone number. So I step in and make the suggestion which they both jump on. The youth of today, good gosh.

Hike, then home.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Dull grey skies this morning. With Chantal back from Brazil, and Hopper’s winter break from NYU continuing, the office is full. Dozens of interruptions via text and phone make it difficult to focus. A broccoli salad form the hippie store plays havoc with stomach, thankfully the mild malady clears by the time I have to get on the boat meet Charlyn for wine in the city.

Take the boat home to Emily and a much needed scotch.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

With a relentless spirit I take to the last vestiges of six month backlog of things to do that I’ve been chipping away at for the last three days. By sundown I am triumphant. The journey of getting through the onerous list reveals an ugly truth about intellectual clutter. Eighty percent of the digital bits and pieces saved were utterly superfluous, it would have been better not to have saved them at all.

Speak to Julia and her mother who are celebrating Julia’s birthday. Am sad I didn’t reach out to her earlier in the day, an oversight, a result of taking on too much in the morning. It informs a philosophy I vow to adopt from this moment forward.

On the upside, with the detritus out of the way, I’m ready and able for the week ahead.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

A dreadful day. It’s not until noon that I realize that I’m horribly sleep deprived. Muddle through the best I can, but am basically useless both in thought and in action.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Start the morning with coffee at Ascendo. It's a miserable name for a fabulous café. The espresso, the food, and, especially, the people that work there, are wonderful.

Wood table with espresso cup.

Emily and I spend the day walking, talking, and taking in the our adopted city. We end up at the church at the mission. Not one to be heavily religious—I went to Catholic school K-8—I'm struck by the reverence that I feel in the church. It sparks a myriad of thoughts. God and all that surrounds him continues to mystify and confuse, but, for now, I'm taken by the image of the pews and how the light strikes them.

Pews dramatically lit in the church at San Luis Obispo.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Good morning and happy new year.

Looking back on the last ten years, I've concluded they were a mild shitshow. Don't get me wrong, many wonderful and brilliant things happened, I'm grateful for them all. But, if I look at myself and how I navigated the decade, I'm not thrilled.

Rather than publicly self-flagellate as some sort of penance, I'm framing the last decade as a learning experience and blowing it away like a sand mandala.

In front of me, a vast empty horizon. The destination for the journey of the next ten years. This is day one.

Emily and I bounce out of bed, grab coffee, and talk about our dreams for the new year. A languorous morning before we head to Diane and John’s for brunch. Their daughter Annie is there with her husband and their infant daughter. Amy and April are also in attendance. Around a grand table with excellent food the hours pass with good conversation.

Depart for another hike at Lake Laguna, a favorite spot, where we trek and talk. The day is perfect and finishes with salads from Whole Foods, wine, and Netflix on the laptop. Bliss.