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Couch #16 - Scott and Torun

Couch #16- Scott and Torun – June 15th, 2010


Couch #16 is Scott and Torun’s couch.  It came from Levitz back in 2003 when they bought the house. Torun went all over town looking for this sofa set. She pretty much falls asleep on every night.  It’s not quite long enough for Scott to sleep on it.  It doesn’t show stains really.  The dog, Cooper, wasn’t allowed on the couch until recently.  Scott has gotten soft and allows the dog up there now.  They live in in single family home that they own and have lived in for about 7 years.  It is in El Sereno or Hillside Village, in the northeast corner of Los Angeles.  Scott and Torun have been happily married for nine years. They have two daughters, Kayla, age 10, and Brady, age 5.  They have a baby boy on the way.  Cooper is their golden retriever who is a little over a year old.  Two weeks ago, his pit bull, Mary, had to be put down. It was really hard.  In addition, they have a cat, Fluffy, and some fish.  Torun is a nurse and LVN (or LPN) in a Convalescent Hospital.  Scott helps to fill studio audiences.  As a family, they like to go camping as well as to the beach and bike riding.  They like outdoor activities. There is no time for hobbies, only laundry and dishes.  Scott is a musician.  He plays guitar in a metal band, categorized as death or grindcore.  You may guess that given his long hair and tattoos.   But you might be surprised that he is a devoted Dad.  Scott and I met through friends probably around ten years ago mostly due the fact that we are both from the same part of the world.  We are fans of the Red Sox and Patriots and have attended baseball games and football games.  We have drank a few beers and broken bread many times together.  Torun likes Bon Jovi.  Scott likes classic rock and aggressive metal.  He likes Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”.  Scott and Torun BBQ alot and eat pretty well.  When you have kids, you eat what they eat best.  They like Italian Food.  Scott particularly likes chicken parmesean.  Torun likes Mexican food.  Torun is great cook.  She is a baker and makes deserts, pastries, and cakes. Scott does more day to day cooking, but Torun makes the holiday meals like the big turkey dinner, all the sides, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  One time when they were having a big dinner party,  there was so much hot stuff on a glass table that they had, that the table cracked, and broke.   They don’t watch a lot of movies. Torun likes to read. “Change of Heart” by Judy Picoult is a favorite that she read a few times.  Scott lives surrounded by love from family and friends.  His lives for his kids and family.  Torun lives with the baby, being pregnant and all.  It’s kind of strange.  In 11 weeks their son is going to be out here and crying.  This was the 8th completely different couch in a row.  This project has attracted a diverse group offering me their couches.

When I left from Ryan and Mariah’s house, I was headed to do my weekly Tuesday volunteer work at Sante D’Or Animal Rescue.  I hadn’t really mapped out the route, nor had I figured out how long it would take to get there.  I had asked Mariah how to get to the 101 Freeway and from there I knew I could get to the 134 and then to the 5, which would let me out right near the rescue.  I took a guess of how long it would take and also guessed (and hoped) that the traffic would be lighter going the direction I was going.  I was wrong,  I got on to the freeway and almost immediately I was sitting still in a parking lot of cars.  What I should also mention is that normally, Kelly, the woman who runs the rescue, is there and has the keys to open up.  On this day, she would not be there. I would be opening up.  With all of the running around, I was really not prepared for this.  So, as I sat in traffic, I texted Kelly to let her know that I would be late. Really late.  She may have to run over there and open the doors.  She doesn’t live too far from the rescue and so I didn’t feel bad about making that request.  I was also stressed out and so I had no hesitation about asking for any help that I needed.  What I should mention here is that Kelly sometimes doesn’t check her texts and therefore is slow to respond to them.  If she isn’t expecting one, her phone is likely to buzz at the bottom of her purse until she notices it an hour later.  Such was the case in this situation.  In traffic I sat, not really wanting to get on the phone as I was driving and getting very frustrated.  About half an hour late, I arrived in Atwater, parking my car on a nearby street as I always do and making my way to the rescue just as another volunteer was starting to make the calls.  I apologized, opened the doors and went to work.  As Kelly was not there that day and as I had the keys, I was basically in charge.  I split up the duties taking one of the more difficult ones for myself.  Feeding and cleaning up the cats cages is what every volunteer learns first.  There are mostly adult cats in the rescue and while there are some challenging ones, it’s pretty straight forward.  The more challenging tasks are cleaning up after the rabbits or dealing with the kittens.  If I remember correctly, on this day, I took the kittens.  Kittens are cute.  But kittens are also messy. They are babies so they have no idea what a litter box is for and don’t realize that if they spill their entire bowl of water that no one is replacing it immediately.  They are also small and so if you let them out of their cage while you clean, it can sometimes be difficult to find them and put them back when you are done.  As they are so cute, most weeks I am there someone will volunteer to take on that challenge, but not this one.  I don’t normally mind doing the more difficult, time consuming tasks, but with all that was going on with this project, it was a bit frustrating that day.  Nevertheless, I took on the challenge, and we all went to work and got everything clean and just as we were finishing up someone I know came to the door.   My friend was there with his girl and her friend.  They had heard about one of the dogs that we had.  Sante D’Or was technically closed, but as I knew him and as I really wanted to get rid of the dog, who was a yappy one, I let my friend in.  They all looked around as the rest of the volunteers finished up and left before finally getting to the pen where the dog was sitting.  They looked at him and held him way longer than I would have liked, but, as I said, if it was going to result in an adoption, it would be worth it.  Finally, though, with a little hint and a business card with Kelly’s number on it, they put the dogs down, said their goodbyes and left.  I sent Kelly a text about this, and this time she got right back to me, glad to hear that we might have found a home for another of our animals, especially that one.  Oh, and did I mention that my friend offered me his couch?  I didn’t end up needing it, but I must say that I was surprised that he had been paying attention. I keep getting surprised at how many people are following along even if they don’t email or comment or say anything.  Not to mention how many of them offer up their couch when they do take the opportunity to finally speak up.

As soon as my friend had left, I hightailed it out of there.  After being at the rescue all morning, I stank of sweat and cat litter and so I needed a shower.  I headed over to the Y and showered before doing anything else.  Once that was done, I decided that I should head in the direction of Scott’s house. He lives near downtown and so that was where I would go and camp out, catch up and wait for him to get home.  I hadn’t taken the time to find a Starbuck’s or other place to go, but a friend of mine lived in the Arts District and I knew that there was a coffee shop on Traction, so I headed there. While driving there I passed the stunning architecture of the Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall (http://bit.ly/aP4BF).  I always want to look at it as I pass and always have to remind myself that I’m driving.  Also while driving to the coffee shop, I nearly got into an accident.  As a traffic light changed from green to yellow in front of me, another car, also in front of me and clearly in the intersection, decided that they would not keeping going put instead slam on their breaks.  Expecting that we were both going through the yellow, I was right on their bumper and so when they stopped, I had slam on my breaks as well.  Thankfully I didn’t hit them, but it definitely pissed me off.   I wondered, why did they slam on their breaks?  They saw that it was yellow and not red, right?  Then I noticed a cop nearby.  Interestingly enough, once the light changed from red to green, the cop immediately began to follow them.  Obviously they raised some suspicion. I made sure to keep my distance and keep my focus on the road and not my phone or the radio.   I finally made my way to the Novel Cafe.  I had thought about texting my friend who lived in the neighbor and get another suggestion on where to go.  She had told me that she had not been happy with the Novel or with groundwork cafe  before it changed hands.  It was already getting late at that point and I wanted to play catch-up and where  I did that at didn’t matter.  All I needed was a cup of coffee, a snack, and some free wi-fi.  The Novel provided all of those.   And I got some work done too.  I also mapped out the route to Scott’s house and researched some place else to go to try the next day.   Before I knew it was getting closed to game time.  Yes, that’s right, the NBA finals were on, my team, the Boston Celtics were playing and this was Game 6.  I hadn’t watched more than some highlights and as Scott was also from the New England area, the game was the plan for the evening.  I didn’t want to miss any of it, and I was already pushing my luck.  I packed up my things and made my way to Scott’s house, making a quick pit stop to grab some snacks.

Once I arrived, the game was already in progress.  Scott offered me a beer and we chatted  on and off while our stayed glued to the game.  The game was already not going well and while Scott kept saying that the game was over, I kept saying that there  was still time to come back. Regardless of our attitudes, we kept watching.   I was introduced to Scott’s dog Cooper,  a golden retriever, who he had gotten when his dog Mary was getting old.  Mary recently had to be put down but was obviously still in Scott’s thoughts.  He also told me that he had taken a recent visit back home.  Both his Aunt and his Uncle had passed away and he had returned for their funerals.  It was quite tragic, one  of them had passed away suddenly, and the way Scott told it, it seemed to me the other one might have died of a broken heart.  We also discussed the imminent move of our friend Max and his family back to Massachusetts. I’m unsure of all of the details and circumstances, but there had been some illness in the family, I believe, and their hands were need back home.  So there was lots of discussion of tragedy and pain and change.  I was glad to not currently have any such events in my life, but I also knew that eventually, they would come.  Until then I would deal with my own issues of homelessness, poverty, and the challenge of finding work in this economy.

Halftime came and Scott through a frozen pizza in the oven.  His wife, Torun, and their children, Kayla and Brady, were out for the night.  She had a friend in town and they were going to meet that friend.  Scott also made a quick salad, as I recall.  We ate and caught up some more, but mostly watched the game.  Scott is in a band called the Ixion Effect(formerly known as Murder Faith),  and sat on the couch playing his guitar.  A neighbor and another friend had also come by to watch the game.  With all the people, we adjourned to the “Men’s Club”, or  guest house, in the back.  It’s a simple building decorated much like a dorm room with miscellaneous Boston Red Sox, Patriots, and music memorabilia.  There is also a bed back there, a refrigerator and a bar.  The television isn’t as fancy, but we can put our feet up and as it was unclear when the wife and kids were getting home, it was probably  a good idea to stay clear of the house while we drank beer and kept the television loud.  There wasn’t a lot of conversation.  Mostly there was some banter back and forth between Scott and his neighbors.  They were Laker fans and were already taunting him about the game.  Scott mostly just ignored them, as it was only Game 6 and there would still another game to be played.  He sat there, playing his guitar still, and watching the game.  I mostly sat quietly myself, snapping some photos here and there.  I was tired and really just wanted to zone out and watch the television.  The game wrapped up and the Celtics were blown out by the Lakers, but for some reason we remained in the back house watching the highlights and press conferences.  At some point his neighbors decided that it was late enough and said their goodbyes and left.  Scott and I also took this opportunity to turn off the television and return to the house.

Torun and the kids returned home shortly thereafter.  It was getting late and the kids would be heading to bed soon.  The kids have two more days of school, but they think that they are already on vacation.  There is a party at school tomorrow. Because they would be heading off in the morning, I tried to snap a few photos while I could.  I was tired and had had a few beers, so I didn’t do a very good job of it.  As I was there taking pictures, they hammed it up a bit, jumping on their father and giggling a bit.  Brady tried a bit harder.  Kayla has always been a bit shy when I’ve seen her.  Scott and Torun discussed some family things and some scheduling for the morning.  Normally Torun would have to work in the morning and Scott would then take the kids to school or whereever, but as Torun didn’t have to work, and as I was there, she agreed to take the kids in the morning.  Then it was time for the kids to brush their teeth and go to bed.  While Scott and Torun hustled them along, I checked my email and checked my photos, including all the batteries for the video camera, film camera, and digital cameras.  I probably even plugged in the laptop so it would charge.

Once the kids were safely tucked in, we all sat down and put the television on again.  Scott tuned into  “Family Guy” and explained that Torun didn’t get the all of the jokes as she was from Norway and many of the jokes were definitely 80’s American pop culture references.  After watching this for a short time, we turned the television off and I shot some photographs and conducted my interview.  Torun is pregnant and after a long day all she wanted to do was to lie down.  So most  the photos were taken and the interview was conducted that way.  While the photos were being taken, we were interrupted twice by Brady insisting that she needed her mother for something, but coming across more like she was just curious what we were doing.  Scott and Torun even alluded to the fact that she was excited because of the company.  Kids and pets are often excited when I show up at their home.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m sleeping on the couch, or just because I’m a guest there.  Maybe it’s just because I’m something out of the ordinary, and that’s exciting in some way.  I know that this excitement does usually get me excited about being there, even though I did the same thing the night before and will do it again the next night.  Once the interview was over Torun headed off to bed, I packed up my things, and Scott and I watched Aqua Teen Hunger Force and ate Cheez-Its.   At the end of the program, as the morning would come sooner than we would want, Scott through me a blanket and headed off to bed.  I brushed my teeth and did the same.

I don’t remember exactly what time it was when the kids got up, but it was pretty early.  I had also had a few beers the night before, so it may have just felt early.  There were lots of doors opening and closing from the kids room to the bathroom and after a little bit of this, I roused myself off the couch and took some photos of the place.   The kids had their Froot Loops, Kayla grabbed her own breakfast without being told.  Torun brushed Brady’s hair.  Scott got himself up and with his robe on, lied down on the couch with Cooper.  When the kids were finally ready to leave, they gave their Dad a hug, said goodbye, and headed off for the day.   I sat down and watched some World Cup game for a little while with Scott.  I don’t remember who was playing that morning, but it wasn’t a game I was particularly interested in.  Scott and I discussed the World Cup and the teams that were playing, but as he was still sleepy, the conversation was kept to a minimum.  I took a moment to enjoy the quiet and relax for a moment.  Once half time hit, it was time for me to go.  I still had a lot of catching up that I wanted to try to get to before landing back in Hollywood for a night of karaoke and the couch of a good friend.

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


One thought on “Couch #16- Scott and Torun – June 15th, 2010

  1. I really appreciate you doing this. Scott is my friend from way, way back, even before he knew Torun. I get to see a side of Scotts new life that I cant see on facebook. So again, thanks. My name is Dan Meloy and I too fight poverty. Ive had the idea of going to all the homeless in San Francisco and documenting their stories. They are our fathers, mothers and family. Id like to make a book of all their tales and use the proceeds to create more homeless shelters. Id like to see a day when we have wagons that can go pick up homeless people and take them to a shelter where they can get what they need. Help getting off streets, medical attention, drug rehab assistance, job assistance, whatever it takes to get them back into society.

    Posted by Dan | August 5, 2010, 4:36 pm

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