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Couch #18 - Melony

Couch #18 – Melony – June 17th, 2010

 

Couch #18 belongs to Melony. She never wanted it and it wasn’t her idea. Her son Jack’s bedroom was a den for years until recently.  They had cool old vintage couches and 60’s sectionals in there.  But they had always wanted it to also be a guest bedroom.   Her sort-of ex-husband Dan knew somebody who had a couch made and it worked out really well.  So it seemed that they could also have couch and chair made to their specifications, and it would be a couch bed.  Melony saw the design and thought that the arms were too tall and perhaps it was oversized.  When they finally got it, she pulled off all of the cushions and found that it was not a fold out couch bed.  So it never was actually right.  Then, the couch that was in the living room needed to be recovered and has never made it back in the living room.  So this couch was moved into the living room.  It is comfortable, but it could be longer.  Melony lives in Burbank, California, which is a city in the County of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley.  She lives in a house that she has owned since 1997. Melony is both married and has a boyfriend and they are not the same people.   She has a son, Jack, who is 11, and a daughter, Ginger, who is 8.  Melony also has a tortoise shell cat, Chopper, who is 15 or 16 years old.  She had another cat, named Pumpkin, who got squashed.   Get it?   Although she is married, Melony kept her maiden name of Kay as well as her married name.  If something were to happen to her parents, she wanted to still technically have their last name.   It is also her daughter’s middle name as well as her aunt’s middle name, and her cousin’s first name.  Melony works at a talent agency. She is an assistant agent in the commercial division.  Melony does like to eat.  She also likes to go see bands and she does like movies.  While she enjoys reading, she hasn’t done much lately.  Traveling would be awesome if Melony had the time and the money.   Mostly, however, she likes spending time with family and friends. Melony is in a ton of pictures and hams it up in pictures.  She seems very outgoing.  So it is surprising to hear that she is very self-conscious when in front of the camera.  She actually gets stage fright on the rare occasion that she is on stage.   In fact, she gets so afraid that her voice gets all squeaky and nothing comes out.  We know each other through our mutual friend Rachael.   We met dancing at one of Rachael’s going away parties at Bar 107 and only one other time since.  It was the first going away party of Rachael’s that she had been to.  That was in March 2009.   Our paths may have crossed before, but that’s the first time that she remembers meeting me.   Melony thought that this project would be interesting, especially for her kids, and that when this becomes a book she thinks that they will be excited to know that they were a part of it.

One of Melony’s favorite songs is “Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson.  She used to go dancing at the Crush Bar and the DJ knew that she liked it and would play it for her.  She may have first heard Rita Coolidge’s slower version from her album “Fall into Spring”.   Melony’s ex-husband’s sister died at age 20 in a car accident and the family didn’t want all sad music played.  So they played “Higher and Higher” when they filed out of the church.   That’s the song she wants played at her funeral.  She also likes “Elusive Butterfly” by either Bob Lind or Glen Campbell.  The words are great. Melony likes all different kinds of food although she feels that she hasn’t really tried that many different kinds of food like Ethiopian food.   She does like Mexican, Itallian, Greek, and any kind of Mediterrean.  Melony could probably live on salads.  She likes everything except for liver.  And, yes, she does like Spam.   Melony likes the film “Moonstruck”.  According to her it has some of the best dialogue ever.  And you want to eat and drink the whole time.   Other favorites include “Dance with a Stranger”, “Grease”. and “Some Kind of Wonderful”, which is one of my favorites.  It’s definitely an underrated John Hughes film.   It seemed more real. Melony also likes “Down in the Valley” with Edward Norton and Evan Rachel Wood and, of course, “Boondock Saints”, which I still haven’t seen.   Melony wondered if I had gotten kicked out of my apartment.  I told her that I had not and how this project came about, which I have previously blogged about.   She also asked me about the extent of travel that I’ve done and I told her that I had been to Tehachepi and Agua Dulce as well as the Valley and Hollywood. Melony wondered if I would go longer than 50 days and if so, will all the couches make it in?   At that point I was unsure if I would go more than 50 (I didn’t) but I did state that yes, all of the couches will make it into the book.   I also told Melony that the interview questions came from wanting to see what the common thread was. I explained to her that the last week I stayed with eight completely different people and I wanted to figure out what the similarities of this eclectic of a group were.  As a Gemini, Melony lives in two different places. One would be her brain, her head, and her imaginary world of how she wants things to be.   The other would be her heart and being overwhelmed with the way you feel about things and people and not always living in the real world. There is a constant tug of war between the two.   Melony joked that I’m like Barbara Walters in getting people to cry when I ask them the difficult questions.  Also, Green is not a primary color. Green is blue and yellow.

I left Brian’s early evening on Thursday, June 17th. I dropped off some film at the lab.   While at the lab I ran into one of my Facebook friends whom I hadn’t met before.  It surprised me when I was greeted with a “Hey Dean” by someone I both recognized and was sure I didn’t know.   While this was the only time this would happen on this journey, it wouldn’t be the only time that a friend or acquaintance would greet me with something along the lines of “How are the couches treating you?”.  My project had stuck in people’s minds and this was starting to be what I was known for.   It was both welcome and unnerving at the same time.  I wanted to be recognized for what I was doing, but I didn’t want it to be the only way I was thought of.   Unfortunately, I couldn’t always have it both ways.    I also recall having to put gas in my car that day as well and that expense, on top of cost of developing and scanning, added a little stress to the day.  As I mentioned this in a previous blog entry, I won’t go into it here, but again, money issues were a big concern throughout this project and continue to be.

I then headed to Melony’s place in Burbank. As we had only just confirmed the day before that I would be at her place, there hadn’t been much conversation regarding the schedule.   I had told her that I would plan to arrive around 6pm if that was okay with her.  That is the usual time that I confirm with people, although I, of course, am at the whim of their schedule. As I didn’t know Melony all that well and as I didn’t have the much time in between leaving Hollywood and arriving in Burbank, I decided to head directly there.  That would get me to her house a bit early, but she had said she should be leaving work at 5:30pm, so I didn’t forsee a problem.  For once I wouldn’t be late. As I neared her home, passing the friendly and creepy clown of Circus Liquor (http://bit.ly/auZ9RN), she phoned me to say that she was running late.   I informed her that I was already in Burbank.   Not having researched where the nearest Starbucks was, and not having an iPhone or Blackberry or any internet on my phone,  I decided to camp out on the street and await her arrival.   However, once I parked, I got ants in my pants and decided to go for a walk.  I returned to the car and she was still not home and so I then went for a ride around the neighborhood.  I always like seeing what’s in the neighborhood in hopes of finding a place to have breakfast the next morning or perhaps a small, independent coffee shop where I can camp out in and work.  If nothing else, I just get a better idea of where people live.  None of this time is wasted. Melony arrived home shortly thereafter and I returned, parked my car, unloaded my stuff and dragged everything inside.

Melony greeted me with a warm welcome, apologized for running late, introduced me to her cat, Chopper, and gave me the grand tour of the place apologizing for the mess.  I didn’t see any mess, but accepted the apology nonetheless.   Melony’s kids had spent the day with their day at Universal Studios with Dan, their father, and they had not arrived home yet.  We caught up a bit and discussed dinner.   While a couple of options were discussed, we quickly settled on the Coral Cafe.   That was her usual place and if I wanted to see the “real” Melony, that would be the place we should go.   Melony then phoned Dan and found out that they were on their way home.  So, we would wait.   After a bit more conversation, they arrived home I was introduced to Jack and Ginger and Dan.   Everyone was talking outside and as it was that magical time of day when the light is beautiful, I dug out my cameras and snapped a few shots hoping to capture something “candid”.  While I was shooting away, I also engaged in some hello and how do you do’s with Dan, including a conversation regarding photographer, Adam Wright.  Ginger also showed me the stuffed rabbit she had won that day.   She was very happy to have a new stuffed animal and would show it to me again at other times throughout the evening.   I always get a kick out of it when kids are excited about such enjoyably simple things.  Once that was finished and arrangements were made for Dan to pick up the kids in the morning, he went on his way. Melony then instructed the kids to get themselves ready to go out for dinner. Jack asked if we could go to In-N-Out Burger. Knowing that it was his favorite, I not only told him “no”, but also told him that was where I had lunch. He responded with something along the lines with a disappointing “Oh, man.” At which point Melony told him we were going to Coral Cafe and that dinner would be light.  For Jack, who wanted yet another big meal, this was further disappointment.

The kids got themselves washed up and we headed out the door and took the short drive to the Coral Cafe.   Even though it was nearby, I was entertained by Ginger smiling and Jack singing both “The Jerk” and Madonna’s “Lucky Star” while wearing his headphones.   Whether they were excited from a day at Universal Studios or excited that they would be having a guest this evening, I’m not sure, but they were definitely excited.  We sat in a booth on the far side of the restaurant near a movie poster for the film “Calendar Girl” and discussed the menu.   As is my habit, and as it was their usual place to go, I asked Melony and the kids what I should get. I was told it was a diner and so the diner type food was good.   There were other things on the menu, but I stuck to making my decision based on the staples.  As I had had In-N-Out for lunch, I wasn’t particularly in a mood for a big meal.   Since the kids had eaten at Universal Studios all day, they also would not be having too much.  We all stuck to the soup and salad special.  I got a heavier, dumpling soup, and a salad with bleu cheese.   Melony also ordered a plate of fries which I picked at.  Jack picked at it more and he wasn’t supposed to.  He did his best to be sneaky, but wasn’t all that successful and was constantly getting scolded by his mother.  We discussed Melony’s extended family and the use of such colorful phrases as “Off like a dirty shirt”.   She told me how she was born in Maine, but moved here when she just a few months old.   Meanwhile, in the background the Lakers and Celtics were battling it out in game 7 of the NBA Finals.   Despite being an L.A. family, the kids were rooting for the Celtics.  Being a New Englander, and as I mentioned in Scott’s story, I was also cheering for the Celtics.  I think the kids were doing it to be contrary. I don’t believe they actually cared that much about basketball, but more wanted to stand out from the rest of their peers.  The food was pretty good and once we were done eating and talking and the Lakers had unfortunately won, it was time to pay the bill and go.   Ginger wanted to take the bill and the card to the register and take care of it, and so Melony allowed her to.  If I recall correctly, Ginger even signed for it.  I found this adorable and was also quite thankful for the treat.  We got up and made our way out, but not before running into some guys that Melony knew from the Burbank Choppers Car Club.   They had a brief conversation about some of the other car club people which I believe was along the lines of who was getting married, who was having kids, and who dealing with an illness or one of life’s challenges.  While I knew a number of the car clubs and some of their members, I didn’t know these fellas, so I simply listened in.  Soon, however, we were out the door, in the car and back at Melony’s home.

Once back at Melony’s place, the kids settled into their games.   Ginger wanted to play a game on the computer called “Poptropica” (http://www.poptropica.com/) which is sort of a role playing game in which kids explore a tropical environment, collect items, all while competing against other children and teens.   Jack turned on the television and I believe an XBox 360 or some other game console and played “Call of Duty” (http://www.callofduty.com/) or one of the sequels. I wasn’t paying that close attention, but did watch as he battled in world war two environment.   Not having kids and not being a gamer, I wasn’t that familiar with either of these games.  I have friends who are gamers, and the game companies advertise on television, so I’m somewhat familiar with “Call of Duty”, but I had no knowledge of “Poptropica”.  I watched over their shoulders a bit and was given some basic explanations of what was going on, but mostly I sat on the couch and enjoyed a glass of wine with Melony.   We joked that “Poptropica” reminded us of the Wham! song, “Club Tropicana”.

While we talked, Melony pointed out some things in the house including some furniture in the house was either Heywood-Wakefield or Heywood-Wakefield inspired.   I don’t recall which it was and never having owned a home or being interested in having such things in my apartment, I didn’t really have the knowledge to identify it either way.  I did notice the furniture, however, and did like it.   You’ll see some photos of some of things eventually in the set of photos that I took while at Melony’s and you can be the judge as to whether it is authentic or not.   We also discussed that when Jack was 4 years old, he thought that the words to the Ramone’s song “Beat on the Brat” were “Pizza the Rat”.  I found this hilarious.  For some reason, I believe that Neil Diamond was even mentioned in our conversation.  I can’t remember the context, but throughout my journey, I began to notice that at least one topic of conversation or one reference would carry over from one night to the next.  I wasn’t paying as close attention to these things this early on, but I’m pretty sure that a mention of Neil Diamond or even a specific song may have come up at a previous host’s home, but I can’t be sure.  Perhaps if one of them is reading this, they can enlighten me.

The games were turned off and the news was turned on. As the Lakers had won there was a bit of rioting and vandalism going on in Downtown Los Angeles.   Melony’s boyfriend Jason is a Long Beach Police officer and he had alerted her to turn on the news.  He was working that night, but Long Beach was not having any such issues and had not been called in to assist.   We watched a bit of the coverage and continued our conversation.  It was getting late and Melony would have to go to work in the morning, and so it was at this time at this time that we decided to do our photo shoot and our interview.

After the interview everyone began to get ready for bed. Jack asked me again if he could be on the cover of the book.   I told him no.   Ginger discussed wanting to open a restaurant who’s theme would “mix up/mash up”.   It would be a place where all kind of foods are fused together such as pizza dipped in salsa, mexican pasta, or beef sushi.  I specifically recall liking the idea of Spaghetti Tacos.  I thought it was brilliant. Please don’t steal this idea.   Melony also told me how a good friend of theirs had stayed on the couch for an extended period of time when hard times had hit so this was nothing new.   She told me of how when she and Dan were looking at the house, the bathroom scale was still in the bathroom.   They had an odd inclusion for every place that they had considered, and for this home, it was scale.   The scale would have to be included with the purchase of the home.   In addition, they discovered a bottle of Galliano in one of the cabinets after they moved in.  She still has that bottle prominently displayed. It is these sorts of stories and these sorts of details that you don’t hear every day.   It is these sort of things that enriched my days and fill my memory.   Melony had even more that I wish I had written down or recorded.   As I go through the photos, and remember more details, I’m there will be more stories.   Keep your eyes tuned to my facebook photo album for more details.

With everyone ready for bed, we settled on the couch in front of the television and tuned in “Malcolm in the Middle”.   I was coughing a bit at this time and while I believe it was allergies, Melony offered me some heavy duty cough syrup.   I didn’t end up taking any but it was also these sorts of gestures that made me feel welcome and part of the family when I was in other people’s homes.  She also recommended the BRAT (bread rice apple sauce and toast) diet.  This is the same diet that Indira had recommended when I was staying at Jon’s house in Tehachapi.   This is yet another duplicate mention and while not completely surprising, it was surprising to me as I had not heard of this diet prior to staying on either of their couches.   Melony also teased Jack about his girlfriend, Bethany.  He is young, but just the mention of Bethany as his girlfriend put him on the defense.   As with most boys his age, Jack didn’t want to appear too romantic, but by forcibly placing himself away from this, he revealed even more about his feelings for Bethany.  If I recall correctly, the story of Bethany went something like this.  There was a party of some sort going on and Jack decided he would play the song “Beth” by Kiss for her.   Apparently this was in front of everyone and along with the song he asked her if she would “go with him” or whatever the kids say these days.   Her reply was that she was 60 percent sure that she would, although there is some debate as to the number.  It might have been closer to 80 or 90 percent. Either way it wasn’t 100 percent. I hadn’t seen Jack so quiet all night.

After all this everyone was getting tired and so we turned our attention again to the television. Jack quickly dozed and had to be carried off to bed.   Ginger and Melony were wearing nearly matching pajamas with cherries on them.   Ginger, Melony and I watched something, but I don’t believe that Melony or I were even paying attention.  And Ginger looked as though her attentions were going elsewhere even though she insisted that she was watching it.   Once the program was over, Ginger headed off to bed and Melony made up my bed including cowboy sheets, a pillow case with the Fonz on it, and another that said “Howdy Partner” in rope lettering.  It put a smile on my face. After brushing my teeth, putting on my breathe right strip, and grabbing my sleep mask, I also was off to bed, falling asleep as soon as my head hit the Fonzi pillow.

I awoke in morning and Melony was already up and Ginger may have been too. Melony was getting ready for work.   I woke up and almost immediately began snapping pictures  around the place.  Melony had explained some other things that I haven’t mentioned yet in the blog.   These included a photo of her as a child with her father, fishing on a beach.    As well as photo of Jack when he was a baby, dressed up as cupid.  And a framed, uncut sheet of Wacky Packages (http://www.wackypackages.org/) seemingly from the ’70′s or ’80′s.  And, of course, there was refrigerator art from both kids, I wanted to capture those images either digitally or on film or both.  I also needed to photograph the couch and with all the sheets and pillowcases mentioned earlier, some detail shots would be necessary before I cleaned up and took shots of the couch as a couch.  While I was doing this, Melony also prepared breakfast.   We would have eggs with sausage and potatoes.  As her time is limited in the morning, she was in the habit of cooking up some sausage and potatoes early in the week and then refrigerating it and simply adding it into the eggs in the morning.   While I had cooked massive amounts of food and had leftovers for dinner all the time, it never occurred to me that I could do this for breakfast.   It worked out just fine and now I may have to add this into my routine.  She also made strawberry smoothies for everyone using frozen strawberries.   Again, I love strawberry shakes, but it never occurred to me that I could buy frozen berries and have them whenever I wanted.  Melony also told me further of her fear of being on camera and photographed.   It wasn’t something that she was completely comfortable with. There had been times when she could have been in movies and instead she avoided it.   Having me at the house photographing her and interviewing was not only a way that she could support a friend and his project, but it was also a way to face these fears.  This would not be the first time I had faced this fear. Julia, couch number 3, also did not like being photographed and interviewed. At that point I was a little less strict with the photos and interview and mostly photographed her son, Jack and interviewed her “off camera” as she hid behind her laptop.   And I also had friends who had refused to be part of the project as they did not want their lives and faces so publicly shown.  Not feeling like the most attractive person with my bald head and short stature, I understood this to an extent.  But we are who we are, right? And I found it great that Melony wanted to embrace that.   But then again, I think Melony is a beautiful woman, so I didn’t really understand this fear either.

Melony finished preparing breakfast as Jack was now up and about. Melony alerted me that there was a hummingbird in her nest outside of the bathroom window.  While I continued to document the home, I kept checking the nest both from the bathroom and from the yard. Melony gave me a hug and wished me luck and headed off to work.   I continued my picture taking for a little while longer while Jack and Ginger went back to “Call of Duty” and “Poptropica” respectively.   Just as Dan arrived to pick them up for the day, I packed up my belongings and loaded up my car.  While Dan and Jack were still discussing the finer points of the game and what was on the agenda for the day, I said my goodbyes to them and headed off to the Starbucks in Toluca Lake to catch up on my work and plan my schedule for the day which would eventually land me on a couch in downtown Los Angeles.

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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

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Couch #18 – Melony – June 17th, 2010

  1. Hey Deanie – thanks for keepingm e entertained… BTW, the BRAT diet – is BANANA, Rice, Apple and Toast… :-)

    Posted by Deborah | August 20, 2010, 6:37 pm
  2. Glad to entertain you. And I thought that the BRAT diet was beer, ramen, alcohol, and tea. Either that, or eating bratwurst all the time.

    Posted by Dean MacKay | August 21, 2010, 6:35 pm

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