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Couch #17 - Brian

Couch #17 – Brian – June 16th, 2010

 

Couch #17 belongs to Brian.  He got the couch for $50 from a company he worked for called Intertainer when they were closing back 7 or 8 years ago.   Brian is Guitarzan.  Therefore he lives in Guitarzan’s lair in Hollywood.  Brian is single and has no children that he is aware of.   Brian does a lot of things.  He works for Sprint in the mobile pre-paid division.  Mobile marketing, content ingestion, metadata, and service operations are all part of his job.  He does the dirty work.  Music is a way of life to him.  Brian also likes hanging out with his friends  and loves watching movies.  He programs remote controls for rich people on the weekends, which is actually fun.  He loves messing with home theatre electronics and computers any kind of gear, you know, boy’s toys.  Brian is kind of shy, especially with strangers, but once he gets to know you he’s pretty good.  It seems like we have always known each other.  Neither of us remember quite when we met.  It’s been about 10 years.  Brian likes Muse, Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix,  and The Who among other things. He likes a great guitar player and a catchy little melody. A favorite song might be “Eruption” from Van Halen.  Brian really likes pizza, but he can’t have it, ‘cause it makes him fat.  He especially likes pizza from Massey’s in Ohio, which he orders once a year for Super Bowl.  A favorite film of Brian’s is “Spinal Tap”. He could watch it a million times and never get sick of it.   Brian lives in musicland.  His parents met in college and were music majors.   He thinks about music all the time.  He moved out here chasing his dream of being a professional musician.  It’s been a great ride.  Brian still plays all the time.  It’s part of him, like walking.  Brian thinks this 50 couches project is brilliant and that it was very ballsy of me to do it. He loves that I’m doing it. It could be huge if the right people saw it.  It’s a lot like some documetaries that have come out in the last few years.  Brian believes that a lot of people would be interested if they knew about it.

I left Scott’s that Wednesday morning and headed to Lost Souls Cafe in downtown Los Angeles. There were other places I could go, but this when came with high marks on yelp and so I thought I would camp out there for the morning. I would have to pay to park near there, but it was only $5 and that would be good for the whole day. The parking lot was a couple of blocks from the cafe, so I made sure to grab everything I thought I would need. I walked over to the cafe, which is not directly on the street, but instead, about halfway down an alley. I ordered a sunrise sandwich, which is basically a ham, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, and a cup of coffee. I found a table in the back that would be both comfortable and convenient for people watching. I sipped my coffee and started to go through all my usual routines as well as working on one of these blog entries. Among all this a few things stood out. I texted my friend Dary who had offered his couch for the project. This stands out because I believe that he had texted me the Friday before when I was sick.  So, yeah, I was returning his text 5 days later.  I also spoke with my good friend Jason.  I probably came across as a bit of an asshole as this would be third day that I was desperately trying to get caught up and this was yet another distraction from that.  As well, he was asking me how I was doing and how the project was going, which were questions that I was answering at least once each day, but more likely, multiple times.  I was already starting to grow about tired of them.  I tried to correct myself and not be so pissy, but it was already too late.  As Jason is my friend, I hoped that he would understand my need to vent a little.  I didn’t often feel comfortable being completely honest with everyone I was staying with. Many of the people I didn’t know very well and as they were putting me up for the night and feeding me, I felt a bit obliged to always answer their questions and put on “the show” as I believe Genevieve, one of my earlier hosts, had put it.  It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the conversation and discussing my adventure.  I did.  I just enjoyed it more some nights more than others.  I liked the attention most of the time, but some times I just wanted to relax and be a wallflower.   That wasn’t always part of the other person’s agenda and as many of them didn’t know me all that well, it wasn’t always easy to say that without sounding rude.  Instead, I was polite, and grateful for their hospitality.  I’d be lying if I didn’t also say that this was part of my agenda too.  I needed to be out of my comfort zone and see how other people lived and operated.  But while this was part of the learning process, it wasn’t always easy.

I also had another issue to deal with on this day.  Scheduling.  I tried to confirm with everyone a at least a few days before I was going to be staying there.  As I had done some of the initial scheduling over a month prior, I expected that some people would need a reminder.  But advance confirmations weren’t always possible.  On this day there was a complete mess of scheduling.  The person who I was supposed to stay with on that Saturday really couldn’t do that day.  Sunday was Father’s Day and she would be leaving her place early that day, or preferably, Saturday night.  As it was only Wednesday, I told her that I would do my best to find someone else for that night and try to schedule her in at a later date.   Then, the person I was supposed to stay with on Sunday emailed me to let me know that they couldn’t host me that night because of a friend was ill and therefore, they would have to go out of town.  Of course, I understood.  I immediately started going down my list and emailing those people who had expressed some interest in hosting me, but had not been scheduled yet.   I worked on this on and off while I blogged. I would email a few people and then write or whatever before emailing some others.  This went on throughout the day both at Lost Souls and at Stir Crazy later in the day.  I got deeper into the list with no response back and was starting to get a bit anxious.  Part of that had to do with the fact that I had really not planned on spending so much time dealing with that problem that day.  But it was also because this seemed like the seventh day in a row that I had some sort of issue come up that would prevent me from getting anything really accomplished.  Then I got yet another email regarding scheduling.  It seems that the person I was scheduled to stay with the next night  had thought I was coming Saturday.  That was fine, because Saturday was now open, but would I be able to find someone for Thursday?  I mean it was already Wednesday afternoon and I would have to go to Brian’s soon.  Just at that moment, my friend Melony posted something on my facebook wall.  It read something like “Have we scheduled a day yet for you to come stay on the couch?”  I replied something like “No, but how does tomorrow or Sunday work for you?”   Tomorrow would be fine with her, and so that only left Sunday open.   For that day, my friend Dave would come through shortly thereafter.  I emailed him a number of times as the schedule issues kept arising, so he wasn’t really clear on what I needed and when, but any of the days would work.  I emailed him back that I would definitely need Sunday, and that I would call him the next day to discuss it further.  So, all of the scheduling issues were resolved…for now.

Another question was also raised in my conversation with my friend Jason and was asked by many of my hosts.  Was I working while I was doing all this?   No, I wasn’t.  This project was the job and one that required overtime every day.  My days were spent buying film, dropping off film, checking my mail and email, returning calls, scheduling the next few night and innumerable other time consuming tasks. And most days that didn’t even include blogging or editing and uploading photos.  In addition, I didn’t always want to sit in the same cafe all day and so I was always moving around.  And, if one place happened to be in Long Beach and the next in  Santa Clarita, there would be even more driving.  I didn’t even have time for all the things I had on my “to do” list.   In fact, I had one list of things I wanted to do on this project that I would never look at.   So, yeah, there was no time for a regular job and no time to look for one.   There wasn’t even time for a freelance, day gig.  I had actually lined up a couple of those, which would eventually fall through. In fact, one had fallen through that day.  Had they not fallen through, however, I’m not sure how I would’ve been able to do them and do even the minimum amount of things I needed to do make this project a success.  There was no time for anything but this project.  Period.

Because I wasn’t able to work, I was reliant on my unemployment check.  But if you’ve ever been on unemployment, you know that while it is extremely helpful, it doesn’t go very far.   I had given up my apartment and so I didn’t have rent to pay.  And I didn’t have the gas bill, the electric bill, and the cable bill either.  That should have made things much easier, right?  In a way, it did.  I wouldn’t have been able to be out and about as much as I had been if I had all of those bills to pay.  I wouldn’t have been able to shoot the film that I was shooting.   I wouldn’t be able to get from place to place without worrying about the gas that I was using.  I wouldn’t be able to pay to keep all of my things in storage.  But because I didn’t have those housing expenses, I was able to afford all of the project expenses.  But because I had now had all of these new project expenses on my plate, I wasn’t saving any money.  In fact, I may have been actually spending more than before.   In addition, when I had moved out of my place, I was behind on many of my bills.   Now that I was spending more, I found myself with these bills still sitting in front of me and still unable to be paid.  There wasn’t the pressure of paying the bill or getting the power shut off at this point, but I still wanted to get those debts off my plate.  Because I was behind on everything, I was also still getting collections calls to my cell phone and collections letters in my PO Box.  On this day, I would get a couple of those calls and would check my bank account to find much less in it than I had hoped.  The bills wouldn’t get paid today and this would only add to my stress for the day and many other days throughout this project and beyond.

Music also played into my thoughts that day.  As I had mentioned in a previous blog, I was listening to Ryan Adam’s album “Demolition”.  On there is a song called “She Wants to Play Hearts” and in that song is a line that goes “…use once and destroy…”.   That struck a chord with me and stuck in my head.  I had felt like each night was sort of a special night for my hosts to some extent.  While I had hoped that they got something out my visit, I also hoped that I could get something out of it.   I didn’t always.  On those nights I left feeling a little used.  Not necessarily in a bad way.  I was glad that I could help,  I was anxious to share and enjoy, but at times I was drained and there was no days off.   I know that I tried to explain this to people some times, but as most people had not gone through anything like I had gone through they could not really understand what I was telling them.   Some of the musicians I would stay with understood.  What I was doing was like being on tour.  Every night was a party to some extent.  I’m not that young any more, so doing this every day was taking it’s toll.  There were other songs that also got stuck in my head that day.  As I sat at Lost Souls Cafe, their soundtrack repeat itself a few times.  I heard AC/DC “Back in Black” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia”.  Mostly, however, I heard a couple of versions of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.  I believe one was a Beatles’ version and the other was Eric Clapton.   I think that I even heard that song when I moved over to Stir Crazy, but I could be wrong.  I’m not sure what the universe was trying to tell me with that, but it stuck in my head for days.

I also received an email with a link to a short film series called “Johnny B. Homeless” (http://bit.ly/bPlt6h).  It’s a comedy series about a guy who sleeps on a different couch every night.   I clicked on the link and watched an episode.  It was pretty funny.  I was not the only one who though that this idea about sleeping on other people’s  couches had resonance during this economic situation.  And I was also not the only one who thought it would be interesting to document the inside of people’s homes.  I hadn’t done a great job of this from the beginning.  But, as I moved along, I tried to make a great effort to not only interview and take a portrait of my hosts, but to also document the inside of their home.   That, of course, is reminiscent of The Selby. (http://www.theselby.com/).   I have never claimed to be original or new.  And I’m sure that that there are others.  There is nothing original or new.  I just took these same ideas and did them my way.  With my own flavor.  My own twist.  Now if could only make my own series or get paid to document peoples homes, that would be my coup.

I stayed at Lost Souls ’til after lunch time and finished up a blog I had been writing.  I had had a smoothie, in addition to my breakfast, but it was time to move on and find some lunch.  I walked out of the place and past a hot dog vendor and a pizza place, but I knew better.  Brian and I would be going out to eat later that day and I didn’t want to fill up now.   I wanted to get on my way and make it into Hollywood.  I wanted to settle at Stir Crazy near Brian’s place and continue dealing with the scheduling issues I had mentioned earlier and other work.  So I skipped lunch.  That wouldn’t be the first time and wouldn’t be the last time.  While I ate quite well when I was with my hosts, I didn’t always do so well when I was left on my own.  I made way to Stir Crazy and found some parking for a couple of hours.  I went in and ordered up a slice of Boston Creme Pie and an iced tea.   I wrapped up all the scheduling issues and caught up on some other emails.  Brian had posted a facebook event for the evening plans and invited our friends.  I posted it on my page and while Nicole (Couch #1) had threatened to come, family time would keep her at home.  The time passed quickly and before I knew it was 6pm.  There’s no parking after 6pm  in the neighborhood around Stir Crazy, so I would have to run and move my car.  As I was doing that, Brian texted me that he was home and I could come by whenever.  I took a quick detour to get a lotto ticket, but then made my way to Brian’s house.

I arrived at Brian’s and it was getting close to 7.  After we caught up for a minute, Brian presented me with a gift.  After seeing the ratty pajama pants and boxer length shorts I was wearing at Jay’s, he bought me a pair of lounge pants with pinup girls on them.  A perfect gift.  This way I would have something that covered what needed to be covered and looked pretty neat as well.  Then,  we set a plan for the night.  The only thing that I would need to do, other than eat and sleep, was to take some photos of Brian and conduct our interview.  Brian would be leaving for work in the morning, so the interview would have to happen tonight.  As we were scheduled to go to Happy Ending for Coreyoke and have dinner before that, the interview and photos would have to happen now.  Right now.  I quickly got myself situated and unearthed my cameras and list of questions.  Brian put all of the lights on and took his place on the couch.  The photos and interview went quickly and efficiently and even included an impromptu “rock n’ roll” self-portrait timer shot of Brian and me on the couch with his guitars.

Now that the photos and and interview were done, it was time for dinner.  Brian brought up a few options, but as Happy Ending had pretty good food, we decided to keep it simple and go there.  I normally leave all of these decisions to my host.  I’ll get into this more in a further blog, but I like the idea of someone else making the decision for me.  Before this project, I had felt like I hadn’t been adventurous enough and that the decisions I was making weren’t always the best ones.  Leaving even the simplest decision about what to have for dinner, in the hands of my host, left me in a position to try new things and see these decisions through someone else’s eyes.  However, on this night, I didn’t really do that.  While this was going on, I received a text from my friend Karl.  Not understanding the extent of what I was doing or where I was, he wanted me to meet him at the Tiki-ti for cocktails prior to Coreyoke.  I explained to him as I did earlier in this blog, that there was no time for that.  Tonight was Brian’s night and so tonight I would be hanging out with Brian.  If anyone wanted to join us, that was fine, but I was not veering off course.  Besides, I didn’t feel like getting in my car again and driving all the way over there.

Brian and I walked over to Happy Ending and grabbed a table.  In anticipation that someone might join us, we sat at 4-top.   We ordered a pitcher of Newcastle which we would do our best to keep from getting empty at all.  It was busy there that night, so we weren’t always so successful.  We then dug through the menu and ordered up some dinner.  I don’t remember what Brian got, but I got the Pulled Pork Po’ Boy.  It was good.  Brian and I got caught up some and discussed this project.  When I was initially starting this project I, of course, thought it would be great if I could end up on someone famous’ couch.  Brian does some home entertainment programming work on the side and as part of that he ends up at the homes of famous people.  One of these homes was that of Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards.  I had half-joked with Brian asking if I could stay on their couch.  He, of course, replied that it wouldn’t be possible, and that the couch didn’t look that comfortable to sleep on either.  Brian has been one of the biggest supporters of this project from the beginning.  So he knew that I was serious about wanting a “name” amongst the hosts.   The attention, would, of course, help me tremendously.  Now, he worked at Sprint/Virgin Mobile, so he thought, “What about Richard Branson?”  Could he get me on his couch?  We laughed and joked, but the next day, Brian would seriously send a note up the ladder asking this very question.  As far as I now, he has yet to get a response.

It was now time for Coreyoke.  What is this Coreyoke (http://www.coreyoke.com/) you ask?  Basically it’s karaoke but with a live band.  It’s a live band of guys dressed up like the Coreys…Haim(Hamm), Feldman(Feldstein), Hart(Hardt), and maybe even a Glover on occasion.   They have a pretty long list of songs that they can play and so you are likely to find something in there you will want to sing.  Along with trying whatever food that my hosts may try, I also participate in whatever activity they have planned.   I like karaoke, but I like it in a rented room in Koreatown with just my friends around.  I’m not big on getting up in front of a crowd and singing.  And, despite what I said a moment ago, there really wasn’t anything that I wanted to sing.  So I perused the list, and looked at it again, but meanwhile, the sign-up sheet was filling up.  Brian kept nudging and encouraging me and finally I signed up.  I would sign up for David Bowie’s “Suffragette City”.   We drank more beer and watched as people got up and sang.  Some made it look easier than others.  And then, before I knew it, Brian was up.  Okay, that’s a lie.  I was actually sitting right next to the guy with the list and it seemed like we waited forever.  But eventually, Brian got and did his standard “Play that Funky Music” by Wild Cherry.  And, as usual, he nailed it.  He used to be in a band, well, a few bands, and so he’s comfortable enough up in front of people.  And, despite what he might say, he can sing.  Then it was my turn to sing Bowie.  I killed it.  Like in, it was dead, horrible, miserable, flat.  Not having sung onstage really before I was completely thrown off by the loudness of the band and the fact that I couldn’t hear myself either out of my mouth or out of the monitor.  I think Brian told me that it wasn’t that bad, because he then encouraged me to sign up again.  Or maybe he just wanted to see me make an ass out myself again.  Brian sang twice more and as I recall it was Alice in Chains “Man in the Box” and Stone Temple Pilots “Vasoline”.  There was talk of me singing INXS’ “Don’t Change” and as I swore that I heard INXS every time I saw Brian on this journey, it seemed appropriate.  I didn’t sing it.  There was also talk of sing The Human League’s “Fascination”, but I would need a woman to sing with me and Nicole hadn’t shown up and I really wasn’t up for asking one of the ladies there to sing it with me.  I ended up settling on New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”  and again, did a horrible job.  I sang in choir at church when I was kid, I guess when my voice changed it all went out the window.   Not that I wouldn’t go there and sing again.  I just might check the list in advance, pick a song, and practice it a couple of times.

Brian and I didn’t have to spend the entire night there by ourselves.  David Howard, who had also made a guest appearance when I was on Jay’s couch, and who supplied me with the digital camera I used for most of the project, also  joined us later in the evening.  He enjoyed some beers with us, but didn’t participate in the karaoke.  But it’s not like Brian and I were bored before David showed up.  Far from it.  It was the opposite of most bars I go to.  It seemed like it was almost entirely full of women.  Most notably there was a group of 3 women in front of us.  On at least two occasions they ordered what I believe are called “Blow Job” shots.  If you aren’t familiar with them, you can read more about what they are how they are consumed here (http://bit.ly/cP339l).  Most of the women were far too young for us old men and so we just looked and commented like old men do.

After a night of food and conversation, karaoke and  girl watching and too much beer, it was time to go home.  We wandered over to the 7-11 to pick up a vitaminwater and a snack and headed back to Brian’s.  I probably checked my email and Facebook as I’m in the habit of doing. Then, I brushed my teeth and passed out.  Brian told me that he would be going into work late, but would still be up way too early.  He said that he would try to be quiet, but made no promises.

I woke up in the morning and looked at my phone.  It was a little earlier than when Brian said he would be waking up, so even though I wanted to get up, I thought that I should stay quiet and wait it out.  After all, it was only like half an hour or 45 minutes that I would have to wait.  Brian had said that I could spend the day at his place, so I could always take a nap later.  Brian, however, would have to be at the office all day and so I wanted to be sure to not disturb his sleep.   He has blackout curtains in his living room so it’s very easy to relax there and so I did.  But after aforementioned half and hour or 45 minutes, I started to get anxious.  I wanted to get up and get my day going.  So I put my feet on the floor and moved towards the bathroom which required me to walk right past Brian’s room.  As I walked past, I noticed the door was wide open, and Brian was not inside.  He had apparently awoke early than planned and rather than lie in bed staring at the ceiling, he got up and went to work.  It found out later that there was construction going on outside and he couldn’t sleep through it.  I, however, slept through all of it.  The construction noise, Brian getting ready and leaving, all of it.  I don’t even remember blinking through it all, although I probably snored or snorted or something.

Now that coast was clear I got myself washed up a bit and dressed and wandered over to 7-11 for a pre-packaged crumb donuts and cheap but satisfactory coffee.   I wandered back to the lair.  Having my coffee and donuts I began to go through my daily routine.  After all the days of running around and sitting at coffee houses, I finally had some privacy and some time to myself.   I had been looking forward to this, but now that it was here, I was feeling very…alone.  Was it the result of  the constant interaction I had since I was last allowed about a week earlier?  Did I now need people around ALL the time?  Or was this my depression sneaking up on me unexpectedly as it does?  I’m not quite sure, but I was down in the dumps a little that morning.   On  a different topic, I was happy to have a private place to take a shower.  Other than the shower at Jess and Ben’s place, every other shower I had taken recently was at the gym.  I have no problem with taking a shower at the gym, but I do tend to limit myself there.  I was glad to be able to take a nice long shower without someone glaring and me and the guilty voice in my head telling me that it was because I was using too much water.   Once I was clean and changed I walked over to In N’ Out Burger for lunch.  Again, I took it back to the lair and enjoyed my lunch in peace.  After lunch I finished catching up on some things, but it was getting late and  I needed to run a few errands.  I came out to the car and found a business card on my windshield which read “PARKING PERMITTED WITH VALID REGISTRATION ONLY!  DISPLAY VALID REGISTRATION OR PARK ELSEWHERE.  THIS EXPIRED NUMBER MAY BE REPORTED TO LAW ENFORCEMENT”.   Being low on cash, I was late on renewing my registration and it was expired.   I can appreciate that people don’t like “law breakers” in their neighborhood, but I was little pissed that they were targeting me.  I mean, really, with all the delinquents in that neighborhood, they were worried about my expired registration?!  Well, it wasn’t a ticket and I wouldn’t be back, so eff ‘em.   I then loaded up my stuff in my car, dropped off some film at the lab, and headed to Burbank and to my next couch.

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About 50 Couches in 50 Nights

My name is Dean MacKay. In June and July of 2010, I slept on 50 different couches in 50 consecutive nights. I took photographs of the couches, both as a couch and as my bed. I took portraits of my hosts and interviewed them. I documented their homes on film and digitally as well as in a journal. I was treated to home cooked meals and intimate secrets. I was cared for when I was ill and checked in on after I was long gone. There were sleepless nights and busy days and times spent discussing the past and dreaming about the future. I drank a lot of coffee at a lot of different coffee houses. There were old friends who became closer and acquaintances who I now call my friends. There were even strangers who invited me into their homes. Threads were woven among them all. My skills were honed as I practiced my craft on a daily basis. I learned many things about my hosts and I continue to learn many things about myself. These times are unforgettable. This journey was initially born out of necessity. The economic times had taken their toll. But the fruit of this labor is not simply financial. It is emotional and spiritual and societal. I tapped into something that is still developing. And as it develops I will share with you this knowledge as well as providing you a way to share it with others. I hope that you will support me as this journey continue and grows. I plan to unveil many things from this work including a coffee table book on the couches, and perhaps other books and a documentary. I'm also hoping to get the blog carried on a major website. Of course, and second project is also in the works although what form it will take has yet to be determined. Any assistance or advice that you can offer to further these projects is welcome. Your support, both financial and emotional, is crucial to my success. Thank You. © Dean MacKay 2010

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