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Couch #21 - Dave Ellis

Couch #21 – Dave Ellis – June 20th, 2010

THE INTERVIEW

Dave lives in a two bedroom, two bath, apartment in Mar Vista with his roommate, Jeff.  Mar Vista means “sea view”, although you can’t see the sea from there.  Although it is only a few miles away from the Ocean.  So, it’s  a quick drive or a long walk to the sea.  Jeff works a regular part-time and is also an actor, mostly in television.  He’s gotten some day player roles on some pretty big shows and commercials.  It a good creative offset. The two of them have a lot similar experiences as far pursuing creative things.

There isn’t a ton of extra significance to the couch as far as Dave knows. The couches are Jeff’s and were there when Dave moved in, so Dave doesn’t have a great “this is how I found the couch” story.   He doesn’t know where Jeff got them.  Dave found the apartment on craigslist.  Jeff had been there like 10 years when Dave moved in.  Because it was rent controlled,  the rent was a lot lower than places around it.  This was the only place he looked at in this part of town, but between the ad and meeting Jeff, Dave knew it was the kind of place he wanted to be in.  He had trouble with a lot apartments, because people don’t understand what your job is when you work for yourself and are creative. Dave has never not paid rent his entire life, but explaining that was not good enough.   Many people want a tenant with an office job.  However, Jeff totally got it, because when he gets a big commercial he also doesn’t work regular jobs for a year or more. Dave has slept on both couches in the apartment and thinks they are pretty comfortable.

Dave writes and performs music and comedy.  (http://daveellismusic.com/)  He also won a lot of money on a game show and he’s still riding that out.

Writing and playing music is the most fun for Dave.   That is what he spends the bulk of his time doing. Sure there is business and work involved, but the reason that he writes and plays is that it is fun.   Besides that, Dave goes to a lot of other shows and  hangs out with friends.  Dave also likes to try new things.  He recently went bungee jumping for the first time.  As part of a wilderness hike with some friends, he jumped off a bridge a few times.  Dave likes to push his comfort zone and do things that scare him.

Dave also likes to play and watch sports.  He exercises a lot and also does yoga.  Dave also likes to go out drinking, which is not the healthiest hobby.

Dave has had 30 or 40 different jobs and has lived in a few different countries.  Some have been regular office jobs.   And he’s also been a bartender.  But among some of the more unusual ones are a being donut froster which included filling the jelly into the donuts.  Dave was also carny.  He worked at  three different carnival games which were “the dart to the balloon”, “shoot out the star”, and “shoot a cork at the little target”.  His cousin and aunt owned some of those type of games, so he worked doing that one summer.  Dave also worked as a pizza cook.  There he got to hand toss the pizza dough and got good enough where he throw them to the other people working there.  That was especially helpful if you needed to pass off the pizza making to someone else.  Dave has also door-to-door canvassed for a non-profit in Maine, which involved going into about 20 different people’s house each day.   As you can see, some of the jobs, have been very entertaining.

Dave generally appears pretty calm and laid back, but he’s usually internally amped most of the time.  He doesn’t drink coffee or do any stimulant type drugs because he doesn’t need them.  People view him as straight ahead, but he’s actually pretty reckless.  Dave is also a guy’s guy in terms of liking sports and being a blue-collar, all-american kid, but he is also thoughtful and sensitive, which helps fuel his songwriting.   Dave can take over a room, but is not always “on”.   Dave can cook pretty well and in the past, people have been surprised by things that he has made.

Dave and I met through our mutual friend’s Tim and Cruz, but neither of us recall exactly when.  Dave used to live with Dan, upstairs from them on Spaulding Ave.  I probably met Dave there.  Andy and Dan had lived there forever, but then Andy moved out and bought a place.  Then Jason moved in, and when he moved out, Dave moved in.  Dave also recalls us meeting at the same Earth at Night show in February 2008 , but I believe we met prior to that. Dave also feels that we met at some event at Tim and Cruz’s place where a bunch of people were over, although it’s also possible that I met Dave prior to him moving in.  We both went to bars a lot and we could have at any number of bars in the Melrose area.  Tim and Cruz and their friend Tony used to do a lot of things with like 10 or 15 people hanging out.  We also met on the set of “American Bar” in the 2007, but we’re both pretty sure we had met before that.  Dave thinks it could be up to 3 or 4 years ago.  I actually believe we’ve been acquainted longer than that.

Coming into this, Dave and I were some level of acquaintance, although he does use the “friend” word a lot.     But now, because of this experience, which has made us closer, he would definitely call me a friend.  Dave and I aren’t inner circle friends though.  We haven’t spent that much time together.

Dave let me stay there last night because I asked and he generally tries to say yes to people when they ask for stuff.  He also likes two thing when he sees them in other people.  He likes it when people push their own comfort zone, which he feels like I am doing.  Dave also likes it when people make their own success, which is part of the effort of this project. I am trying something new to create my own thing.   That is the key to being really big most of the time.  Making your own project.  Making your own business.  This is both of those.  If I need people to help out with that, he is always down to see people realize what they are supposed to be doing.   Dave also slept couches for the better part of 18 nights on his east coast tour and slept on couches when he first moved to Los Angeles, so he feels like a kindred spirit and also feels like he needs to “pay it forward”.

Songs are so specific to what Dave does, that his favorite is usually something that he finished recently.  He has an mp3 music player full of music and he listens to it all the time, but his favorite is something he just finished writing, because he’s spent time with it and it’s part of him that he’s been working on. He’s really digging this one called “The Closer You Are To Me”, which he just finished.  Dave had played it  a few times recently on tour and it came out great.

Dave likes lobster.  He likes other shellfish too.  Dave grew up on the New England coast.   He used to go out on a boat and pull lobster traps and bring them home and eat them.   His grandfather was a commercial lobsterman for a little bit.  At that time, sometimes he would show up with a basket of lobsters and you could eat 4 or 5 if you wanted.  Dave also remembers being able to walk down to the beach and being able to pull mussels off the rocks at low tide.

His favorite movie is “Swingers”.  It captures enough different things. He liked it before he even moved to L.A.  It just adds in other layers once you know the geography.  That will probably remain Dave’s favorite until he makes his movie.

Dave believes in trying new things and thinking outside the box.  He’s never heard of anything like this project although there are similar things like CouchSurfing.org and a lot of people have slept on couches. As he mentioned earlier, Dave slept on people’s couches when he first moved to LA.  So there are things that are interesting about the project although he didn’t 100% get the goal of it.  Dave understands the part about pushing myself personally and a potential book project. He wants to see how it takes shape.  I do too.  For example, the interview video that I shot of each of my hosts.  I initially shot the video because I thought it would be easier than writing all of the information down.  But since I got a lot of interesting things that people said, I think that it might make a good documentary of some sort.

Dave also notes that the people that participate, while interested in me and my journey, will jump to the part that is about them in the blog or the book to see how they came out.  The strength may be my story, my journey, but people want to know their “score” is.   I completely get that. But I note that my hosts have also been my best sales tool.  After finishing some of the early blogs, I had friends of those hosts offer their couch, not entirely because they wanted to help me, but because they wanted the same treatment, the same experience.  That, of course, led me to wonder if I could make a business out of going and staying on people’s couches and documenting it.  Would someone pay for it?  And if so, how much?  The Selby does something similar.  What does he charge?  For those of you not familiar with The Selby, he gets hired to go into people houses and take photos.  True, I may not have the well-off artsy friends that he has, but could I not do something similar?  Would I not add to the experience by staying on the couch?  It’s one thing to hang out with someone, it’s a whole different experience having a meal with or having breakfast or being there when they wake up.  You see their sleeping habits and their habits in general.  You experience what they watch on television. These are not things that you always see when just “hanging out”.    Dave wonders if I did manage to turn it into a business, would I invoice my host, or would I be more like a hooker where they would leave the cash on the couch?  Would I be the “friend” experience?

Initially Dave wondered, before I came there, what my goals were and what the book would be like.   Would it be more dramatic?  Or would it be like “Thanks to everyone who was in the couch business with me.  Everybody was great.  Here’s my journey..”? Or maybe it was not at all about the book at all.  Maybe I just needed a place to crash.  That was the initial part of the plan, but its taken on a life of it’s own since then.   Dave also thinks that maybe a local news outlet would want to do a blurb on me at some point since it is a unique project.  While there has always been lots of talk and numerous efforts to make that happen, and while it has happened in some small ways, mostly what I am impressed by is people that I didn’t know posting it on their facebook page.   Perhaps as I complete more blogs and the story develops further and gets more spicy, I will attract some more attention.  Fingers crossed.

I then asked Dave where he “lives”.   He comments that it seems like one of those questions that they ask at the end of “Inside the Actor’s Studio”.  He also says what many of you have said, which is “inside my head”. Being a songrwriter, that seems appropriate.   Dave just travelled a bunch.  And when you travel a lot in a row, you figure out what changes and what doesn’t as your venue changes.  Some things are different as you go to different places.  And then there is other stuff that is who you are and what you think about and isn’t affected by where you are at.  Dave is most a peace with his acoustic guitar and notebook.  That’s what really drives everything he does.  That’s where he’s doing what he supposed to be doing and his travels have reinforced that.  I concur.

THE EXPERIENCE

I left Shannon’s house in the early afternoon both relaxed and ready to take on the world.   I was a bit anxious as I had to not only drive back up to L.A., but also had to stop at Bela’s to pick up some contact sheets and some black and white negatives that I had shot at his house.   In addition, I had not checked my email since I left Stir Crazy the day before and I wanted to write a “Why am I doing this?” blog so that I could avoid answering that question again.  There would be no time for a shower but as I took one late the day before,  on Saturday, I wasn’t stressed about it.  I made sure to wash up, and put on some extra deodorant.    I loaded up my car, popped my Leslie and the Badgers “Roomful of Smoke” CD in the stereo, and was on my way.  My first destination would be  what I referred to as Starbucks #3 at  Pico and Robertson.  I parked my car on Pico, grabbed my laptop bag, ordered a coffee and made myself comfortable sharing a table with a couple of the other patrons as I checked my email.  After checking my email and following up on numerous scheduling discussions, I then proceeded to pull some photos of the “50 Couches” cake that Sasha had made for me.  I edited a few and uploaded them to Facebook.  While the computer was doing it’s thing, I exchange a bit of polite conversation with my fellow coffee shop patrons, but mostly took a moment to stare out the window and zone out for a moment.  I rarely had a moment to myself that I didn’t have something that needed to be done.   I did indeed have plenty to do, but after the revelations, drinking, discussions, and driving of the last two days, I needed that moment to stare out the window as the passersby showed off their adorable little puppy to others walking the opposite direction.  I couldn’t hear much of the conversation, but the whole scene made me smile.  I was a long way from sitting in the dark and dusty apartment in Hollywood I had been renting just three weeks prior.

Having caught up as much as I needed to, and having made plans with Bela, I reached out to him as was told to come on over.  I packed up my laptop, said goodbye to my fellow patron, and made the short trek to Bela’s house.   Bela and Susan greeted me as I arrived and Bela had the negatives and contact sheet of the black and white film that I had shot on his Nikon F4 when I was there.  I still need to get these photos scanned as there are a few that I really should share.  We talked for a bit, but it was simply a bit of catching up and some questions of concern from Bela and Susan as well.  Obviously they understood that it was a stressful project and they wanted to be sure that I was holding up okay.  I assured them that while I was a bit harried, I was holding up well.  I finished my glass of water, and anxious to get closer toward Dave’s house, I said my goodbyes and left.

While I was at Starbucks #3, I did what I normally do when going somewhere I haven’t been before, I go on Google maps and get the directions, while also finding a coffee shop nearby where I can work ’til the time I’m scheduled to arrive.  I don’t have a smart phone or GPS in my car, so I need to plan when I’m somewhere with wi-fi.  Surprisingly, only a few times was I heading one place when plans changed and I had to find someplace else to stop on-the-fly.

The next destination on this day was Starbucks #6, which is at National and Barrington.  I ordered my iced tea with no sweetener and grabbed one of the few empty seats in the place.  I was anxious to write my “Why am I doing this?” blog and thought I could get it done before I had to go to Dave’s.  I typed away and while I wasn’t able to finish it, I was able to make great progress.   At this point, I should mention that it was my habit to send out my blog  to those who were on my “50 Couches in 50 Nights” facebook event as well as to send it to my email list.  As part of the email list was the photography group at a former employer.  While I didn’t know many of the people in the group, I thought that they might appreciate it.  If nothing else, I thought it would simply get lost in the mass of work emails.  But I was wrong.  On this day, one of the people on the list decided to email me, warning me not email him again.  As I mentioned in the last blog, I always found it strange when people would get pissed off when all they had to do was ask to be removed.  Not that that would have mattered in this case.  I had no idea who this person was, but based on their email address, I knew that they were part of the group.  Not wanting to piss them off, I simply chose to remove the entire group from my mailing list and go  about my business.  I didn’t have room for any negativity and had no desire to negotiate with any person who’s initial reaction was to respond that way.   After dealing with this, I put my blog aside as I was now already late  for my scheduled arrival at Dave’s place.  I exchanged text messages with Dave to let him know that I was finally on my way, packed up my things, and was on my way to my final destination of the day.

I made my way to Dave’s and I got slightly lost as the directions were not completely clear.  It was something along the lines of mixing up a “bear right” with a “turn right”.  Thankfully, I realized my error right away.  I didn’t lose much time and was at Dave’s quickly.    Dave lives in a giant apartment complex in the Mar Vista area of Los Angeles.  The building was huge with courtyard and a swimming pool. It took up the entire block.  When I rang the bell and was buzzed in, I didn’t know which way to go. Dave had to come get me.  He then gave me the nickel tour as we walked back to his apartment.  As I recall,  the building populated with primarily young people, so there are often attractive young ladies at the pool.  I believe that Dave told me that, although it could have simply been what I had witnessed.  After all, it was a still sunny and warm early Sunday evening in June.

When I arrived  it was also closing in on dinner time.  Dave hadn’t made plans of any sort for the night.  There were places we could go out to eat. Or, Dave said that he would be glad to cook.   I initially asked what his preference was.  He was not particularly in the mood to go out and said that if I wasn’t there, he would have definitely cooked.    Now I’ve probably mentioned this before, but as part of this adventure, when possible, I wanted a “normal” night at my host’s home.  I wanted to experience their home and their life.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it when they made it a special event or wanted to take me out for a night on the town, but that wasn’t really what the experience was about.  Anyone could experience a night on the town with them.  Not everyone could experience a night in their home.  As well, since I hadn’t tasted most of my friend’s cooking, never mind my acquaintances,  I was not about to turn down a home-cooked meal.

I don’t believe that Dave claimed to be any sort chef, but when someone offers to cook, I can usually safely assume that it doesn’t strictly involve removing items from the freezer and pressing start on the microwave.  Dave said that he had pasta with some chicken and that sounded just fine to me.  While  Dave went about preparing the evening’s meal, I told him about how I missed cooking.  While I was no chef myself, I did like to cook and it had been 3 weeks now since I had cooked.

Dave also asked me about how my couch project was going. I immediately started by saying “Someone made me a couch cake last night.”  and then explaining the cake and showing him the photos.  At risk of repeating myself for the nth time, I talked about how surprised I was by this.  When I started this project, I was a bit embarrassed to have to ask for the help and simply glad to have so many people willing to help me.   Shooting photos and conducting interviews was only my way to make something that felt like I was sparing for change into something more productive.  I did not forsee that my hosts would also be grateful for the experience.  It caught me off guard when my hosts would thank me for including them.  After all, they had taken space out of their home and time out of their day and even money out of the pocket to help me.  All I had to do was show up when I agreed to and do what I had said I would, what I enjoyed.  I initially was a bit shy when thanked, but after having a cake made in my honor, I have to admit, my ego was stroked.  It wasn’t that I felt entitled, but I did feel more confident about what I was doing.  I did feel that this was no longer a way for me to simply keep a roof over my head.  This was something bigger.  This was affecting not only the people whose homes I was staying in but society at large.  Well, at least those who chose to read it.

In addition to agreeing to have dinner in, Dave and I also discussed what we would do for the evening.   He wasn’t sure of anything in particular going on,  but said that we could go out if I wanted to.  I didn’t want to.  After the previous night’s late night party in Fullerton, I was tired and in need of a quiet night in.  Dave then expressed that he was also tired, so that would be just fine with him.  From there we went on to having dinner and conversation about various subjects throughout the night.

Dave told me that he had just been on tour back east.  Specifically he had been to Maine, Boston, New York, Washington DC, and Chicago.   He told me how he had been up the latest and had the most fun in New York.  He had played  at the Sidewalk Cafe in New York.  The Sidewalk was one of my old haunts.  At one time in my life, I had befriended a bartender there.  Right before I had moved to New York, I had moved in with a roommate to save money.   The apartment was his, and it was small,  so I spent many nights not at home.  Mondays were the night that my friend worked at the Sidewalk, so I would go there and cozy up to the bar.  Mondays were also a notoriously slow night there and so she appreciated the company.  I also don’t remember paying for many, if any drinks on those Mondays.  In fact, I usually had difficulty leaving any money.  My friend just wouldn’t have it.  In addition, my regular status entitled me to a “reserved” seat whenever she worked and she knew that I was coming.  Dave also told me how he had visited PDT (Please Don’t Tell) with some friends while in New York.  PDT is a speakeasy of sorts.  If I remember the story correctly, one has to enter through one store, go into a phone booth, pick up the phone, and then someone lets you in.  You also need to have a reservation.   Once inside, you had your own seat, you would be left alone by the other patrons, and there was a menu that included all kinds of fancy drinks.  I hadn’t been myself, but another friend had, so I was familiar.  And I was intrigued.  Perhaps on my next trip to New York I will make it there.   This, of course, spurred even more musing of my own about New York.  I missed it.  I still miss it.  I had lived there for 8 years before moving to Los Angeles, and while I didn’t miss the cold and the cramped, smelly subway, I did miss my friends there, and the energy of the city.   I did miss eating good pizza and the bodega on every corner.  I did miss the late nights getting drunk and stumbling down the street from bar to bar, ending the night with a greasy meal at a diner and a blurry cab ride home.  Simply Dave’s mention of his trip brought all of this back.

Also with the mention of his gigging, I remembered that I had photos from a show he had played what was at least a couple of years back, if not longer.  Some comedian and musician friends were performing at a benefit and I had taken some photos the whole night.   But, as I am known to do, for one reason or another I did nothing with the photos.  But now that I was at Dave’s I wanted to be sure that he got them.  Whether or not he did anything with them was up to him.  So, while we continued talking, I burned him a disk of those photos.

Having musician friends, I was also curious how they made their money.   Most musicians that I knew, while they may be talented, and may play around a lot, do not make much, if any money, from their performances.   Shows are simply a way to put themselves out there and hopefully grow a fan base and maybe ultimately get a record deal or something.  So, most of my musicians friends had “day” jobs.  But not Dave.   In 2008, he had been on a Boston Celtics themed primetime edition of “Are you smarter than a Fifth grader” with Jeff Foxworthy and had won some money.  While it did not make him independently wealthy, it did give him enough to live off for a while.   Intrigued by this, I asked if he had video of the show.  He did indeed have it saved on his DVR and brought it up.   As we watched, Dave provided the commentary at what was going on.  As I recall, he told me that Jeff Foxworthy was nice,  explained his nervousness regarding the events and the questions, and we discussed the Boston Celtics cheerleaders.  I know that if I was Dave shoes, I would have enjoyed telling the tale and I definitely was entertained.

Dave wasn’t just winning money on game shows though.  As I mentioned earlier, he had been on tour back east.   But in addition to all that he writes songs.  He sometimes pitches these songs to contacts he has in Nashville.  Selling songs for other people to sing is one way a musician and songwriter can both make some money and gain some recognition.

Now at this point I should mention that I was not originally scheduled to stay on Dave’s couch that night.  The person who I was supposed stay with had an illness in the family and had to cancel.  I should also remind you that not only had my Sunday cancelled on me, but my Saturday had also cancelled as well as my Thursday.    As well, this had all happened on Wednesday.  Dave was near the top of the list to fill in when needed, so each time one of these cancellations came in, I emailed him.   He must’ve thought I was panicking or crazy, but was also quite gracious and said he was available of any of the nights that I would need.   However, each night would present it’s own unique experience.  Had I been there on Thursday, we would have spent the evening watching the Celtics battle the Lakers in the NBA finals and then awoken in the morning to watch the U.S. play in the World Cup.  On Saturday, there was a friend’s band playing.  Each presented their own attraction and their challenges.  As I mentioned earlier, I was not always about planning each night to be an event and not about trying to control the schedule too much either.  So I let the chips fall where they may and when Melony took Thursday and Shannon grabbed Saturday, Dave  was left with Sunday.

Having mentioned the World Cup and the NBA Finals, I once again raised the topic of both.  We discussed where Dave went to watch the early morning World Cup games as well as our disappointment at the Celtics defeat in the NBA finals.  I also mentioned that one of the things absent from my life these days was television. Spending most nights in conversation with people, and most days at coffee shops and driving around, I hadn’t really watched any television.  Specifically, when I had my own place and had cable, ESPN was my default channel.  So I always knew more about sports than anyone really needs to.  It wasn’t that I really cared that much about it, it was just easy to watch in small doses.  It had now been 3 weeks and I sort of missed it.  I don’t recall if we watched it at all that night, although I’m guessing that if nothing else, I watched it for a few minutes right before bed.

Before we got to bedtime there would be some other television viewing and more conversation.  While flipping through channels, we came across the film “Bad Boys” with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.  I remember thinking and probably mentioning that I though it was funny to think about how each of their careers has progressed since then.   Will Smith has gone on to serious dramatic roles like “Seven Pounds” and Martin Lawrence is doing “Big Momma’s House”.  Dave mentioned how when he first moved out her, one of his first L.A. celebrity sightings was Martin Lawrence at a bowling alley in Tarzana.  I’m not sure if I mentioned it at the time, but my L.A. bowling alley celebrity sighting was Cameron Diaz and Jared Leto at the now demolished Hollywood Star Lanes.  I was there with a group on friends on what at the time was our regular Sunday bowling night.

There were other topics of conversation as well including dating and women and I won’t even go into the impossibility of dating while  being a couch tour on this post.   I welcomed the conversation.   Much like the day before, I didn’t think I would.  It wasn’t the most intellectual of discussions.  We weren’t discussing how to save the world or even ourselves as I had that morning at Shannon’s.   Maybe that’s why I enjoyed.  Maybe that’s what I needed at that point.  Maybe I just needed to tell some stories and hear some stories.  Maybe I just needed to talk about late nights and girls.

Before it got too late, as we were both tired, we called it a night.  I brushed my teeth and changed in my bed clothes which consist of a comfortable old t-shirt and some lounge/pajama pants.  Then it was off to dreamland.  As Dave had no plans in the morning, I would not have to get up early and clear out and I welcomed that news.

I slept quite well on his couch.  His roommate, who had been at his girlfriend’s overnight, did show up fairly early in the morning.  While his arrival did wake me and we did talk for a few minutes, he was fairly quiet and was there and gone in a short time.   I was back asleep before I knew it.  As is my habit, despite going to bed at the same time and being awoken by his roommate, I woke up before Dave.  It’s not that I couldn’t have used more sleep, it’s more that I was anxious to take advantage of having a full-day before having to go to my next couch.  Nevertheless, I didn’t get up initially.  Instead I laid there and went through my mental to-do list while I stared at the ceiling and looked around the apartment.  After a little while I was getting anxious and started to look for a set of keys and a pen and paper.  I thought I could go grab some coffee while Dave was sleeping.  But, before I had searched too long, Dave was up.

While I still wanted coffee, we exchanged some light morning banter  and Dave started making some breakfast.  He decided to cook up some French Toast as well as some eggs with salsa, avocado, and sour cream.   It was more than I usually ate for breakfast and was a real treat.   When left to my own devices, I would normally have a yogurt or a banana, I never seem to have the desire to cook in the morning.   Brunch, maybe, breakfast, almost never.

After breakfast, I  now really needed coffee.  Dave was not a coffee drinker, so I got myself dressed and took the walk to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf nearby.  I took the walk downstairs, through a parking lot, and over a bridge which went over the 405 Freeway, and got my coffee.  I believe that while I was in the shop, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” came on.  The reason I raise this is because this is one of those songs that I would hear over and over and over on this journey.  Now I realize that it’s no surprise that I heard this a lot.  Coffee shops probably have this song or the Jeff Buckley version on all the time.  And I was spending a lot of time at coffee shops.  But I am also sure that there are lots of songs that can make that claim.  I don’t remember any of those.  This song just jumped out at me.  It made me stop what I was doing just to listen and  sing along in my head.  While I was familiar withthe song, I’m not a huge Leonard Cohen or Jeff Buckley fan.  Therefore, it stood out to me even more that this song was speaking to me.   I’m still not quite sure what that song is really about, or what it was saying to me, but each time I hear it, it stirs something in me.  And at the time, this was something new, a representation of my new life, a symbol of the new me.

I returned and while finishing my coffee, I began to take some photos around the apartment.  Some things around the apartment would prompt discussion such as the smoke detector sealed in plastic wrap but most of it was pretty straightforward.  Unlike other places that I had stayed that were chock full of  art work or nick-nacks or books, Dave’s place was pretty minimal.  Sure, there was a book shelf with some books and DVDs and other things, but there really wasn’t much more than that.  It was a TV, a couch, a small table, a kitchen and couple of bedrooms.

As I scoured the room looking for some photo worthy items, Dave and I had further discussions.  I told him how it looked like when I was going to stay with my friend Melanie on Thursday, which would be the halfway point, that we would be probably be going to the Roosevelt for Night Swim, which her friend Chris Holmes’ hosts and DJs.  I told him that after staying the night in Valencia with our mutual friend, Stephen Suettinger, I would be getting up early and driving to Atwater Village to do my weekly volunteer work at the Sante D’Or Animal Rescue.   We once again discussed dating.  This time the specific topic was dating women with children.  While some of my younger friends are still quite hesitant about it, it was something that I had been open to for quite a while.  After all, at my age, even in LA, many women had children, some of them, even teenaged children.  If was to rule out a woman with kids, I would be eliminating a good amount of women.  And besides, I wasn’t one of those men who disliked kids.  I had worked with kids in my early twenties and found many kids very inspiring.  After all, kids have a lot to teach us, or at least help us to remember now that we are old.  This is especially true when you live the atypical life that I do.

After the conversations had run their course, and I had captured the images of the couch of a few things around the apartment, it was time for me to take Dave’s portrait as well as conduct our interview.  Once the interview was complete, including some discussions about getting out of my comfort zone and “making” myself, it was time to go.   I quickly ran out again to take a few photos of the traffic on the 405 freeway from the bridge and the returned to packed up my stuff.  I thanked Dave for his delicious cooking, good conversation, and comfortable couch and I was on my way.  I made my way back across the courtyard, out the door, and down the block to my car.    I would  now desperately need to get a shower, finish my blog, and make my way up to Valencia to my next couch before the day was through.

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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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