you're reading...
Couch #12 - Jess and Ben

Couch #12 – Jess and Ben – June 11th, 2010

Couch #12 belongs to Jess and Ben.  Jess got the couch in Chicago at Marshall Fields during a huge sale.  This couch was discounted because it was missing a pillow and had a rip on the side.  It was originally probably $1000 and she got it for around $200-$300.  When the doors open for these sales, a sea of people flow in.  She had to run in and plant her ass on it to claim it while her friend or family member went and paid for it,   It is a sleeper and it weighs a ton.  Last time they had to have the ex-Marine who lived next door help move it. It is comfortable, but it does need a new mattress.  There is a sag in the middle.  They have slept on it as a sofa and as a couch.   Ben and Jess live in an apartment in Historic Filipinotown.  They don’t live in Beverly Hills.  They live in “the ‘hood”.  It’s also a Hispanic family neighborhood.  There is violence, but there are also kids.  They have lived in these sorts of neighborhoods much of their lives.  Jess is a freelance vocalist.  Ben works in digital asset management for a major studio and is also a musician.  They are married and have been for nearly two years.   Jess and Ben  have a dog, Orson.  He is an integral member of their family.  Actually, he is the star.  Jess likes to play music and is learning bass right now.  She also likes to go hiking and spend time with Orson outdoors.  She enjoys listening to music and going to the movies.  She is a closeted artist too.  She draws in her notebook.   Ben plays music alot.  Mostly Jazz.  He is a bass player.  He reads vintage science fiction among other things.  Ben spends time with Jess and Orson and shops at thrift stores and book stores.   Jess is possessed by Art the Clown when she is serious about some art she is working on.  He turns up in her work quite often.  Art kind of looks like Bozo.  Jess believes that he is telling her she is taking things too seriously.  Art the Clown has a myspace page.  Ben was a punk ass son-of-a-bitch when he was younger.  He was a smoker and hung out with scuzzy people on the fringes of society.  He had an edginess and a chip on his shoulder.  Ben was pretty angry back then.  Ben is also somewhat of a compulsive personality and collects things including a bulk lot of purportedly 20,000 ties.  Ben was wearing one during the interview. Ben and I worked at MGM together.  He was my coordinator for a short time before I got a full-time coordinator.  Jess believes she met me at party hosted by our friend Marlene.  I recall meeting her at Zen Sushi when their band Chicken Fat was playing.  Ben has been to 2 out of 3 of my art shows, but that is all Jess’ doing. She likes supporting her friends and appreciates the hard work of creative labor.  Some of Ben’s favorite songs are “Time” by Richard Hell and the Voidoids, “Good Pair of Hands” by the Country Teasers, and “Waters of March” by Tom Jobim.  Jess likes “Horse with a Frieze” by Eddie Bo, and “Show It” by Betty Harris.  Ben enjoys pizza and Jess likes spaghetti squash.  Ben likes the film “Never Too Young to Die” featuring John Stamos and Gene Simmons.  Jess likes “Night of the Hunter”.   Jess is really excited to see how this project unfolds.  Will there be an iconic image from each couch?  How will I whittle things down?   Ben wants to know if I will reveal statistics at the end, like how many people I had sex with.  Will I release a commemorative glass cup?   Who will write the academic introduction for my Taschen book?  And who will be the artists who’s work will be used to represent the work of Dean MacKay?   They do have guests periodically and have an open door policy.  They would let me stay there any night, so I may be back.

I left Louis and Kene’s place late morning on Friday, June 11th, convincing myself that I was fine or would at least be fine as long as I could get to the store and get some Pepto as well as some Ensure, a Naked juice, and Wellness Formula.  They lived close to a Whole Foods and a CVS, so I made a quick stop to medicate myself.  Not having any place to go, but wanting to get some things done, I decided to head to my old neighborhood and camp out at Stir Crazy on Melrose.   Thinking that I wouldn’t want to leave if I didn’t have to, I ordered a large iced tea and started reading email.  Very quickly, though, I realized I was simply exhausted.  Not having slept well that night as well as being under the weather, I needed to rest.  But where to go?  Many of my hosts had offered me a place to rest my head or to work, should I need one.   But, other than when I was at those places, I hadn’t yet taken anyone up on their offer.  If ever there was a time to ask, it was now.  But what if my stomach illness acted up again?   I didn’t want to be at yet another person’s house should I become sick again.  I had already felt slightly embarrassed and knew that  this was a possibility at Jess and Ben’s, so to add another person into the mix seemed undesirable.  Also, while I had had a number of offers of places I could stop, how many calls wold I have to make before I found someone who was home?  And how far out of the way would they be?   Even one call seemed like too much. I just wanted someone to come get me.  Or I just wanted to sleep, right there, at the coffee house.  My car was close and at that moment, that seemed like the best option.   I got in the car and moved it to a less residential area. I then opened the windows, leaned the seat back, and dozed off.   The seat didn’t go too far back, or at least in my condition, I couldn’t figure out how to make it go further.  It was also quite warm and I was sweating.  This wasn’t going to work.  Damn.  Then, it occurred to me.  The Park. Griffith Park. I could go there and sleep.  I could lay down on the grass and sleep.   I started up the car and made my way towards Griffith Park.  Traffic was especially annoying, but before too long I was there.  I drove around a bit and finally found a patch of grass that wasn’t occupied and would therefore be quiet.  I have a blanket and pillow in my car, and so I dug those out of the trunk, found a shady tree, and dozed off.   There was something just wonderful about laying there under the tree while the sun darted between the leaves and the birds tweeted away.  It was around 230pm by this point and I took a peaceful nap. Jess called me around 430pm and while I don’t remember hearing the phone ring, it must’ve woken me up.  She left me a message letting me know that she was home and that I could come by whenever.  I was also informed that Ben wasn’t feeling well and had come home from work early.  After sitting for a little while and trying to really wake up, I phone her to let her know that I was on my way.

I made my way from Griffith Park to her house using only instinct as my guide.  I don’t have a GPS and there isn’t any wi-fi in Griffith Park.  I have a map in my car, but at that moment, I thought I knew how to get to their place.  Taking a long and indirect route, I finally made it there.  I’m not sure if my body knew that I had arrived at a residence or if it was just coincidence, but as soon as I arrived, I knew that I needed a bathroom.  I think that perhaps it was fear of using a public bathroom, or maybe the absence of one in the park, that kept me from thinking about it and kept me together.  I mean, it’s bad enough when you aren’t at your own home and are having stomach problems.  It’s another thing when you are in a public space or in a park and need to use a bathroom in this situation.  I think that I was so afraid that I would just fall apart that I didn’t.  Anyway, I arrived at Jess’ door and instead of exchanging how do you dos, I was greeted with a “Are you okay?”, to which I responded “No.  Where’s the bathroom?”  Jess pointed me down the hall and I quickly walked there, holding my hand over my face.  As I entered the bathroom, I couldn’t hold back any more and threw up all over the corner of the room.  It was terrible.  Thankfully most of it made it into the toilet and thankfully there was spray cleaner and a sponge nearby.  I proceeded to clean up as I told Jess that I was okay through the door.  This was a miserable experience, but I was glad that if it had to happen, it happened at Jess and Ben’s.  I felt very comfortable there and they made sure that I was.  They understood that I was I feeling physically ill as well as guilty for having to put them through this and they did their best to make sure that I didn’t feel that way.  And it did put my mind at ease.  It also helped that Ben told me a story of a similar thing happening to him while he was on tour.  They were wonderful hosts.

Once I was done, I made my way to the couch.  Now, I’ll have to say that alot of this evening was a blur after that.  I obviously wasn’t feeling well and therefore didn’t take very good notes about what was discussed or what we did.  I do remember that Ben was making home made pizza that I couldn’t even think of eating.  There was also beer in the fridge that I couldn’t think of drinking.  And I do remember making several more trips to the rest room.  This included one trip to throw up the carrots I had decided that I could eat.  It was a brilliant orange color that made me laugh in my misery.   After that I stuck to eating a banana and some pita bread.  I also napped on the couch at one point for about an hour and the high powered fan that they have to keep their dog Orson cool also kept me cool.  I do remember Jess and Ben discussing what the fall television schedule would be if it were entirely based on their refrigerator decorations.  I don’t remember the details of the shows, but there was a discussion of a remake of “The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant” feature Nelson Mandela and Macaulay Culkin.  Or was it “The Man with Two Heads”?  I’m not sure.  We sat in the kitchen and later, the living room.  Time passed quickly and before I knew it was time for me to sleep.

Right before it was bedtime, I was asked how I was sleeping.  I had started sleeping better, but with all of the changes, it was still not great.  I had been using my Breathe Right strips and sleeping in the same bed clothes in order to breathe better and have some consistency.   Jess asked me if I had considered using a sleep mask.  It had worked for her while she was on the road touring.  Light conditions are different in every place and the sleep mask brings consistency to them.  It fools the mind into thinking that it’s dark and therefore allows you to sleep in even when the sun is shining brightly on your face.  She offered to lend me one that she had, but at that moment, I remembered that I had gotten a travel kit one time when I travelled on Jet Blue.  One had been included in there.  Sweet.  This would be part of my new sleep routine.  I also took some Rescue Remedy that night and once Jess and I got the fold out couch ready, it was off to sleepy town.

I awoke in the morning feeling like a new man.   Jess and Ben slept in late, which allowed me to get up when I was ready.  With everyone on different schedules, sometimes I’m the first one up, but it seems most of the time, my hosts are up prior to me.  It is always a pleasure when I’m the first one up.  That usually means that I’ve gotten up after a good night’s sleep.   Not only had I slept well, I also was hungry.  While I would have to wait for coffee, I scarfed down the rest of a plain croissant that I bought the day before at the coffee shop.  I then proceed to go through my morning routine, taking photos of the sofa bed and around the apartment.  I also checked my email and simply sat with their dog, Orson for a bit.  Ben woke a short while later and came out to make coffee.  At this moment, I remembered that I had woken up with Bob Wills in my head as well as the song “Basin Street Blues”.  As Ben and  I exchanged small talk about how I slept and how I was feeling, I started to look through his CDs.  I’m not sure what I thought I would find, but very quickly I located a Bob Wills album and strangely enough there was a version of “Basin Street Blues”.  This led to a conversation discussing jokes that Ben and Jess made mimicking Bob’s singing style. They were quite hilarious.  Once Jess was up we also discussed Michael Jackson and Ben showed me a hankerchief/bandana that he had found somewhere.  I don’t remember where he found it, but it showed musical instruments, including drums, guitar and a saxophone.  It also showed a dollar bill and Michael’s face. It was quite strange.  This also led us to search online for a picture of Michael with E.T.  It was kind of creepy.  We also discussed Jess’ fear of flying and her need to have a note to read on the plane.  Any sort of note will do.  I photographed one on the refrigerator and another in the bathroom.  I found it both peculiar and fascinating.   I also found it funny that Orson had a suitcase with all of his dog toys in it.  Yes, it was good storage for these things, but to me, it made him look like a prop comic.  We had some of Ben’s leftover pizza and I was able to discover how delicious it was.  It was thick and chock full of toppings too.  I don’t remember everything that was on there, but I remember the green peppers.  It was nice to be able to eat some solid food and keep it down.  We then conducted our interview.

Once the interview was done, it was getting close to the time that Ben had to leave for band rehearsal, and so we got down to business with the photos and our interview.  After spending the day before so sick, it was nice to get something accomplished.  Ben headed out and I grabbed some clean clothes from the car and took a shower.  Once I was clean, Jess and talked some more including discussing a spider bite that I had gotten on my leg.  I had mysteriously gotten it a few days earlier and it was still a bit itchy. The thought had crossed my mind that perhaps this bite was the cause of illness.  I had been afraid that perhaps I had something like Lyme Disease or some other incurable disease.  But, now that I was feeling better, those fears had disappeared.  At the same time, I also burned some Bob Wills and Johnny Cash on to my iTunes and cleaned some video off of my video camera.   By then, it was time to go.  I needed to meet my next host by 3pm and it was closing in on 3pm.   I finished packing everything up, gave Jess a hug, and headed out, sad to leave such comfortable surroundings and great hosts, but looking forward to my next couch.

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


7 thoughts on “Couch #12 – Jess and Ben – June 11th, 2010

  1. Excellent entry, lots of drama and humor. I wonder how many of your hosts I’m going to end up wanting to meet!?! I mean, the Country Teasers? First time I’ve seen a mention of the Country Teasers in ages! Princess should meet Orson! If you have the energy after this you should throw an afterparty with all your hosts as guests!

    Posted by Greg Thomas | July 2, 2010, 2:35 am
  2. Dean, Good to hear you are doing better and have become the “Couch Warrior” again. Have that spider bite looked at. I have heard of cases where these fester and become very ugly. I meam U-G-L-Y! Best, Kene

    Posted by Kene J. Rosa | July 2, 2010, 3:24 am
  3. A PARTY! YES, Greg!!! I’ve been thinking about that too, Dean… We need to have a big party when this is all done!!! We can make it pot luck – we KNOW from the blogs and pics that some of these folks can cook!!! :)))))

    Posted by Jess Basta | July 2, 2010, 4:34 am
  4. And we all wear name tags, “Hi! I’m couch #11”, etc.

    Posted by Louis Jacinto | July 2, 2010, 9:06 pm
  5. Speaking of food, I can’t get that yellow pot (of chicken and potatoes?) of Kene’s out of my head ever since I saw it!

    Posted by Greg (couch #19) Thomas | July 2, 2010, 9:45 pm
  6. A party is already on the agenda when this is over. Louis is in charge of the name tags. The only question is, when will this be done? Is 50 nights enough? I’ve got a ton of couch offers. Should I do more? The debate begins.

    Posted by Dean | July 3, 2010, 12:55 am
  7. Oh, and as for the spider bite, it’s gone. No worries there.

    Posted by Dean | July 3, 2010, 12:57 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: