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Couch #13 - Jon

Couch #13 – Jon – June 12th, 2010


Couch #13 belongs to Jon.  The couch came from Bakersfield.  It was given to him from a nice little old lady.  It didn’t match the decor in her house.  It was in Jon’s storage house until the last one was destroyed by the dogs.  It will stay  ‘til someone gives him another one.   Jon lives in house that he built about 20 years ago, at the end of a dirt road, at the top of the Mountain, at the edge of the great Mojave Desert.  That is, Tehachapi, California.  There are lots of wind farms nearby.  Jon is retired general contractor and a widower.  Are there any rich ladies out there?   Jon has a niece, who is his child.  He also has 4 dogs and 24 parrots.  At one time he had 450 parrots as that was his business.  The animals are the most fun for Jon.   He also has old British cars, motorcycles and his passion is  electric guitars.  Jon also dabbles in painting his guitars, his cars, and likes to go target shooting.  He was born and raised on a rural North Dakota farm about 60 miles from the Canadian border.  They still had stagecoaches and horse and buggies.   I was drug into his life by Indira, my friend and his niece.  We met at the Farm sometime back as far as maybe 10 years ago.  It was probably a holiday.  Bonnie, his late wife, was making dinner.  It was by default that I ended up on Jon’s couch.  Indira was coming up for a visit and I was invited to come along and it just happened that I had the night open.  Jon likes the Rolling Stones and would probably pick one of their older songs among his favorites. He also likes ‘70’s and ‘80’s rock and roll.  Jon likes T. Rex “The Wizard”.   He likes hamburger and is very creative with it.  Jon doesn’t watch movies very much.  He usually watches concert videos.  He has an Eric Clapton one that he likes and some Rolling Stone ones that he likes.   He believes that I’m getting to experience the world in a way that I never would have been able to if I had a home.

I left Jess and Ben’s place around 3pm on Saturday June 11th, already late to meet my friend Indira and ride up with her and her two dogs to her Uncle’s place in Tehachapi.  My originally scheduled host for the night had to cancel and as has happened a few times on this journey, someone else immediately and unknowingly stepped up and offered me their couch for that specific night.  This time it was Jon. Uncle Jon.  Or UJ as Indira calls him and as I like to call him as well.  The trip from Jess and Ben’s to Indira’s was short and so I arrived not terribly late.  I had some errands that I had hoped to do in between, but that was not to be.  Lack of time was not the only reason either.  As I was still recovering from my stomach illness, I really just wanted to get out to Jon’s and relax.  I arrived at Indira’s and she was ready to go.  I moved my car into her secure parking area, moved my things into her car, and took my seat, riding shotgun.  It was a relief to be a passenger, but I was not alone.  Indira has a two-seater and also has two dogs.  They are small dogs, but they are dogs nonetheless.  The miniature pinscher, Cougar, was comfortable riding in the small area behind the seat, but the French bulldog, The Bunny, would definitely not fit.  So, he took his place on my lap and we were on our way.  Indira had done this trip often enough that she could probably do it with her eyes closed.  We zipped through the traffic quickly and efficiently.  We hadn’t seen each other in a little while, so we caught up as we made our way.  It’s nearly a two hour trip, so conversation is necessary to make the time pass.  As I was still recovering, and I was still relatively caught up on my blog at this point, I didn’t take many notes on our conversation. Besides, this trip was about Jon.   But I do recall discussing the project and what I had learned thus far.  Indira also caught me up on what was going on at her job as well as giving me some brief updates on some of her friends that I know, including that fact that she knew Todd, of Sweeney Todd’s Barber Shop, where I had recently gotten my hair cut.  I always enjoy our conversations.  They are some of the most honest discussions I have.

This was the first time I had met The Bunny, so we also discussed the different personalities of the miniature pinscher and the french bulldog.  Cougar had quite a brash and clear attitude, whereas The Bunny seemed more quiet and unresponsive.  He was almost cat-like in my mind.  He sat on my lap quietly while Cougar was antsy in the back.  Having grown up mostly with cats, I liked the nonchalant attitude, and after spending time with an English bulldog the previous week, I was starting to think that if I ever got a dog, this might be the breed for me.  I also enjoyed looking at their funny faces.  But, there was also the gas.  The Bunny is a bit gassy and during the trip to the Farm, The Bunny seemed to think it was his job to crop dust.  It wasn’t a terrible smell like some animals and people, but was had a hint of corned beef and cabbage, but the sort that you get at 1:30am at a bar on St. Patrick’s Day.  I found it more amusing than offensive, and after the damage I had done at Jess and Ben’s, it was the least I could tolerate.

While we moved along and chit chatted, I enjoyed the view leaving the city.  I had spent not just the last two weeks, but probably the the two months prior, in the urban environment. It was also not the most ideal place to be when you aren’t feeling well.  Escaping to the country and to Jon’s farm was just what the doctor ordered.  I took in the scenery and looked forward to a night on the couch at the farm.  Before I go any further, I should note that Jon has two Italian greyhounds and two miniature pinschers of his own.  The couch that I would be sleeping is usually theirs.  Indira thought it was funny that I was excited to sleep on what basically constituted a dog bed.  I was excited, however.  I had been to Jon’s numerous times, but I had never spent the night.  I was looking forward to the sunset on the mountains as well as the sunrise over the field.  I was looking forward to seeing more of Jon’s cars, guitars, birds, and everything.  This would be fun and interesting.

We arrived in Tehachapi a little after 5pm and made a quick pit stop.  I needed to get some electrolytes into my system, so we stopped at Albertson’s so that I could get some Vitamin Water.  I patiently waited in line while Indira went to Baskin-Robbins, I believe, to get an ice cream cake.  Father’s Day wasn’t ’til the following weekned, but we would be celebrating it with Jon this weekend.  You see, while Jon was Indira’s Uncle, he might as well be her father as he and her late Aunt Bonnie basically raised her in her teenage years.  We picked up our supplies and made our way from town to the dirt road that led us to Jon’s.  As we approached the gate, The Bunny looked uninterested, but Cougar was going crazy.  He loved the smells and food at the farm.  So, once we were on the property, Indira stopped the car and let Cougar out.  He took off to greet the other dogs while we parked.

I got out and went into the house to say hello to Jon before I returning to the car to unload my things.  With all the dogs in the house, I was instructed to not place my things on the floor.  After settling in and having a bit of conversation and a Diet Pepsi, I grabbed my camera and headed out to wander around the farm to get some shots before the sunset.  Indira walked around with the dogs while I focused my attention on some old MGs and Triumphs sitting in the field behind a storage building/garage.  They looked glorious in the evening sun with the field behind them and I couldn’t stop snapping away.  It was already too dark in other areas, so I wasn’t missing anything.  Besides, I would have time in the morning to capture the rest.

Once I was done with the photo shoot, it was time for dinner, I hadn’t had much too eat in the last two days and was looking forward to having a full meal.  Indira asked if Mexican would be okay and as I was feeling well, I said yes.  Jon gave me the scenic tour on our way to the restaurant.  In my haste I forgot my camera, so there would be no photos of this part of the adventure.  I did take a few on Indira’s camera, but don’t recall there being anything phenomenal.  We parked and after a brief wait, we made our way into the restaurant.  We sat down and Indira and I ordered a Corona or maybe it was a Pacifico.  A cold beer sounded good.  The waiter brought the beers while Indira and Jon discussed family and other friends.  I listened a little, but something wasn’t right.  My stomach decided that the smell of the Mexican food was enough to reactivate my illness.  My stomach started gurgling. I was hoping it was just a minor distraction, but after ordering some steak fajitas, I needed to escape to the Men’s Room.  This was not pleasant.  I returned to the table feeling a bit relieved, but suddenly exhausted.  While Jon and Indira continued their conversation and had their food, I picked at mine, eating mostly the rice, and started at the television which sat over the counter nearby.  Nascar was on and while I wasn’t following what was going on, it gave me something to focus on while I tried to convince myself that all was well.  After picking at my food for a bit longer, another trip to the bathroom was necessary.  This was not fun. When I returned to the table, Indira and Jon were done and Indira knew it was time for me to go.  They packed up my food and we walked back to the car and headed home.  The drive actually did me good.  As we got closer to the Farm I started to feel better again.   With one more trip to the restroom when we returned, the illness was basically done. It was bad enough that I was sick in a public place that I probably wouldn’t ever go to again, I couldn’t stand the idea of being sick in another person’s home for the third day.  Thank God I really wouldn’t have to.

I was exhausted and looking forward to a relaxing evening on the couch.  Jon had a large HD television which made watching movies fun.  Indira had brought “Iron Man”.  I had seen it on standard definition DVD on my old tube television, so this would be another experience.  Indira got the couch ready for me with double sheets and some clean blankets.  I got cozy while the dogs looked a bit confused and concerned that I was on their bed.  One of the Italian Greyhounds, I’m not sure if it was Sky or Bruno,  likes to get under the covers and got up on the couch and dug himself under the sheets.  I found that amusing.  Not amused was the reaction that  Jon’s miniature pinschers, Fox and Coyote,  had to The Bunny.  Cougar knew the routine, but The Bunny, being new and being young, just wanted to play.  Jon’s dogs were older, so all they did was bark at The Bunny.  The whole situation was both interesting and annoying to everyone involved.  Thankfully it wasn’t a constant thing and thankfully The Bunny is adorable.   In addition, Cougar decided that my leg would be good thing to hump, but after a bit of scolding from me and Indira, he stopped.  We took a break about halfway through the movie for some of the ice cream cake.  I had barely eaten my dinner and so I was a bit hungry.  This didn’t fit into the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) diet that Indira had prescribed for me,  but it was delicious.  After then movie and a bit more conversation, it was time for bed.  I decided, against other’s advice, that an immodium was in order, just to be safe.  I’m still not sure if that is what did the trick or if I was just done with being sick, but as I said, my illness would not return that night or at all.  I slept well on the couch, but the dogs were still confused.  Throughout the night they would occasionally wander up to my face sniffing away before moving on.  The dog breath would wake me and I would pet them sometimes, before falling back asleep.  Overall, I got a good night’s sleep.

I woke in the morning feeling rested.  Some of Kirkland’s finest coffee was in order with a bit of powdered creamer and Splenda.  Indira and Jon were already up and about as I circled the house in my pajamas.  After a banana and a nervous, but uneventful trip to the restroom, I was feeling confident ready for a morning and day at the farm.  I grabbed my camera and started shooting.  Photos of the couch were taken, but I was much more excited about exploring the farm.  Before I got too far, Jon informed me that it was feeding time for the birds.   He told me this might be a good photo opportunity as well.  He had a number of parrots in a caged in area outside and we went into the cage, food and cameras in hand.  It was a sunny day out and I snapped away as he fed and watered them.  There was one female bird that was being courted by two males.  As with humans, she flirted with both of them and they fought over her.  But it seemed to me that she had already decided which one she was going to stick with.  Feeding time was over and Indira had returned from Starbucks with a vanilla scone which was a nice treat.  And, just to be sure that everything stayed well, I made sure to get have a glass of juice, an Ensure, some Wellness Formula, and my vitamins.

After stocking my system with nutrients, I wandered outside again, camera in hand, to explore The Farm.  I once again found myself looking at the cars.  While I had taken photos of them at sunset, I wanted to be sure that I got what I got, so I shot some photos in the daylight.  While I was wrapping this up and looking out at the mountains, Jon came out.  We discussed the property lines and his plans for the land.  We looked at his Koi pond.  Jon showed me the Lotus 7 and old Jaguar, which would be Indira’s once it’s running.  He showed me a couple of old Harley-Davidson’s from the ’50’s I believe.  We looked at more of his guitars.  Jon also showed me an old Karmann Ghia and old truck and more.  He had a few buildings behind his home which housed these various things and I was like a kid in candy shop looking at all of this stuff.  He even showed me an old motorcycle which was in pieces.  I was told that if I could put it together, I could have it.  I’m still tempted to learn how to do that and learn how to ride, just because.  After showing me all of this and more, we made our way into the house.  I attempted to post some photos on Facebook and my blog while Indira searched the internet for outfits for Lucha Vavoom.  It was running late and the laundry I had started still needed to dry.  I threw the clothes into the dryer, rested for a minute, and had some more of the Oreo ice cream cake  from the night before.   Soon, the clothes were dry and it was time to get on the road back to L.A.  We loaded up the car and said our goodbyes to Jon.  The dogs piled in, fattened up from the trip, and while I was sad to leave, it was time to go.  We left town, gassing up the car before hitting the highway.  Indira zipped once again, quickly through traffic, threading the needle on our way back.  We talked further about friends, and told stories.  We discussed obligations and common courtesy.  We discussed how some people don’t have common sense or manners and how we also need to be more aware of these things ourselves.  It’s very easy to say “Thank You” and “I’m sorry”.  We arrived back in L.A. and I once again transferred my belongings to my car.  With a hug and a thank you, we parted ways.  Indira was off to meet up with some friends perhaps in the shadow of the NBA Finals and I was off to my next couch and another chapter in this adventure.

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


3 thoughts on “Couch #13 – Jon – June 12th, 2010

  1. Couch #13, like Couch #11, originated in Bakersfield, California. I remember Tehachapi as the place to go to for snow in the winter time and to pick apples during apple season.

    Posted by Louis Jacinto | July 16, 2010, 11:09 pm
  2. wonderful pictures of UJ and the lovely and well-mannered indira and The Bunny. thank you dean.

    Posted by Wendi Giles | July 17, 2010, 5:34 am
  3. I really liked this one and #14. Probably because of the rural setting of both couches along with the inspiration of Zeeva.

    Posted by Greg (couch #19) Thomas | July 31, 2010, 2:28 am

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