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Couch #24 - David Raven

Couch #24 – David Raven (and Rebecca) – June 23rd, 2010


Couch #24 belongs to David Raven.  Well, it belongs to him and his wife Rebecca.  They live in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles in a house that was built in 1925.  They bought the house  in 1996 when they could afford it.   It’s an old house so it requires a lot of work.  There is always something to be fixed, always things to be upgraded, always things to be restored to their French Gothic condition.  That takes a lot of David’s time.

I thought that the Couch was comfortable but David had never slept on it.  It was in what was their daughter Jacqueline’s bedroom until she went off to college and subsequently got married.   After that Rebecca turned the bedroom into a library.  David’s only request was that it have a guest bed in there.   He originally wanted a bigger bed in there for two people to sleep on, but settled for the daybed couch.  David enjoys having guests, particularly from Europe and Asia.  He likes to interact with people from other parts of the planet.

David has many names, most notably David Raven and Hambone Hix.  He is a musician for better or worse. David has been happily married to Rebecca for 36 years.   They have 3 children, all grown, and one grandson, who has recently been born.  Nolan is 30.  He is married to Maggie and they live in the Los Angeles area.  Jacqueline is married to Doug.  They live in Georgia in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  She is an art teacher and just had a baby boy.  Their daughter Simone lives at house.  She works in the music industry.  They love them all very much.  David and Rebecca also have a cat, Schnitzel.  He is a very dog-like cat.  Schnitzel comes around and demands that you pet him.

David loves skiing.  He loves the mountains particularly the Alps.   If he had lots of money he would go to Chile and ski in the summer.    Instead, he is starting to surf more.  David also likes to  garden.  It’s a really bad addiction for him.  He goes out every day and starts working in the dirt and can’t stop.  Sometimes he has to force himself to stop to work on his music.

David also loves reading.  Specifically, great fiction from Bulgakov to Tom Wolfe to Dom Delillo, etc.  He doesn’t read non-fiction, self-help, and rarely a biography.   David likes riding his bike, but he doesn’t do it very often.  Music is all consuming.  It’s a hobby as well as a profession.  David also does painting and print making.

David likes to travel but he likes to be at home.  He was ski patroller for eight years which is kind of like being a medic.  That was fun. He had some pretty good medical training mainly dealing with the medical emergencies he would encounter.  This was when his kids were growing up.  It was also nice, because the whole family could ski for free.   That was in another dimension of David’s life.

David thinks that we are connected through Julia (Couch #3), but the real story is in the “Experience” section below.  He really liked the idea of the couch project.   It appealed to him.   I really met David when I showed up to stay on the couch.  And now that I’ve stayed there,  I owe him a $150 for the rent.  He does take IOUs, but I am paying him currently in blog dollars and photographs.

David  likes the concept of the 50 Couches project.  He is a traveler himself and loves the experience of going to a different place.  He likes that I’m photographing and writing about my experience.   David wishes that he had motivation to document his own travels as a musician.  They have been far flung and pretty darn interesting.  I note that I’ve found that it’s difficult to document AND enjoy the experience at the same time.   Sure, video and audio recording make that easier.  Writing takes more time and you tend to edit yourself.  David is learning not to do that.  I’m trying to do the same.

David loves great songs and great songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Steve Earle, but he can’t name a favorite song.  He likes some of his own songs.  David  has a song with his band the Mojo Monkeys called “Hang” that people have told him has helped them through some hard times.  If he can write a song that’s helped people get through something then he’s accomplished something in his life.  I agree.  When I take a photograph that makes someone happy or sad or brings back a memory or something, that makes it all worthwhile.   That’s the beauty of art, that resonance with others.   It’s an amazing thing.  David is fascinated by that and always pursuing that.  I  find it interesting the response that I’m getting to this couch project.  Some people respond to it and want to read it.  Other people find it interesting but are a bit whatever about it.  And there yet others who are hit completely the wrong way by this project.   I must doing something right is some people don’t like it, if it hits a nerve.  David said that that is the nature of art.  If you take a bold step and do something really well, a certain number of people are not going to like it.   You can always play it safe, but will likely not come up with anything of really great value

David wonders if my hosts are slanted to the Bohemian/art side of LA.  Have I stayed with any typical middle class working people?   No, not really. I stayed with Jon at the farm in Tehachapi.   Although he does have old Harleys and guitars and old MGs which is not typical and he is more like family.  I also stayed with Ryan and Mariah.  On the surface, they appear like typical middle class people, but while  he works in the film business, at one time he was working to be a professional actor.  That’s not typical either.  The only other “normal” people that I’ve stayed with are good friends.  So, yeah, in general, it has been musicians and artists and photographers that I have stayed with.  I also note that it has been a variety of places that I’ve stayed.  I’ve stayed in big houses and tiny studio apartments.    As well, some people are doing really well financially and others are struggling.   I find all of those dynamics very interesting.

David likes exotic foods including Thai, Filipino, and sushi, but also French and Italian food as well.  In other words, he likes it all.   David likes the Coen Brothers and David Lynch movies, but he doesn’t watch a lot of movies.   He’s been busy with his music and hasn’t had time lately.  Rebecca runs a film school, so she sees a lot more.    He likes Sci-Fi.  She doesn’t.  She likes action movies.  He doesn’t.  He doesn’t like horror movies.  They both like comedy, but rarely watch a comedy, unless it’s the Coen Brothers or something like that.  One movie that does come to mind is the “The Lives of Others”.   It’s a German film.  Everybody should see that.  It’s an amazing human story set in waning years of communist East Germany.   It’s a lot about art and how that functions in a repressive society.  It’s maybe David’s favorite movie of the last ten years.

David is curious to see how the blog and the project will develop and what form the project and the book will take.  Me too.  Initially it was just supposed to be a coffee table book, but with the interviews and the notes and the blog and everything, it might become something more, but I’m not sure what that is still.   David thinks that a coffee table book would be great.  It’s something that you can pick up, take something from, but don’t have to read it cover to cover.

David and I then discuss my schedule.  I started this project on May 31st, 2010 and ended on July 19th.  50 nights.   However, at the time, I could  have gone longer as I had around 30 offers of couches that I had not scheduled and was receiving offers nearly every day.   That doesn’t include a number of offers of couches in New York and London.  In addition, I also recieved a number invitations for places to stay separate from the project.   All of these people and others,  didn’t want to be interviewed or photographed, but did want show their support for what I was doing.  David thinks that it’s pretty cool that a lot people like this idea and that after building a network on this project, that perhaps I could do 50 Couches Across America and that perhaps I could turn this into a career.   I would love to get paid to do this.    It’s relatively inexpensive to create these days, but it’s still difficult to make money from it.  David, like most of his friends, is working really hard and making less money from it than he was ten years ago.   So he’s always trying to figure out a way to parlay it into a living wage.  That’s an issue for most artists.  That’s an issue for me.

David lives somewhere between Heaven and Earth trying to pull the two together.  He’s a really spiritual person, but loves digging in the dirt.  He lives in a world of art.  He does art for a living and most of his friends do too.  There is always that element of spirit in it, that you can’t remove if you try.  Charles Bukowski tried to remove metaphor and spirit from his work.  Chuck Close also tried.  They tried to reduce everything to a process of documenting and telling a literal story.  But ultimately, they were unsuccessful.  The spirit pervades everything. It is stubborn.  What represents this best, I ask him.  Grass or flowers growing up through the cracks in sidewalk is the way that David see this.  That, and the city of Los Angeles, is where he lives.


I left Maura’s on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 23rd at just before 2pm.  I had a few errands to run.  I grabbed some lunch at Cactus Taqueria on Vine.  While they do have the best tacos in Hollywood, I grabbed a carne asada burrito with sour cream.   In my earlier life I had lived walking distance to Cactus and it was one of the things I had missed most about living there.  I didn’t go there all that often, but when I wanted it, I could always count on it.   Other places were good, but just not quite the same.   Being nearby and needing lunch, I just couldn’t resist.   It was as good as always.

After lunch,  I headed in the direction of my next couch in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles. I stopped at Samy’s on Fairfax to get some more film and then headed to Starbucks #9  at Wilshire and Detroit.   This was not a far drive, but while I drove around it occurred to me again how each of my couch hosts had a connection to last.  Maura was friends with Anne who was friends with Stephen S. who was friends with Dave Ellis.  While I knew Dave Ellis and Steve were connected, I had no idea that Maura knew Anne.  Those were different circles.   I don’t rememberer what the connection between Dave Ellis and Shannon was, but I know that there was one.  There always was at least one and it sometimes took me by surprise like the Anne and Maura connection.   I arrived in the area and parking in the near  Starbucks #9 can be difficult.   After a bit of driving and searching, I was able to find a two hour street parking spot nearby and as that was more or less the amount of time I had before I had to drive down the street to David’s house.   It’s amazing how much time I spent looking for parking.

This Starbucks was pretty busy.  I got my normal iced tea with no sweetener and found a seat near the door.   I had some writing to do on the blog for Couch #10(Bela and Susan), so I sat down and got to work.  Having done my email and whatnot in the morning, I didn’t have to spend too much time catching up on that.   There was always a scheduling issues to address and sitting by the door was distracting, but I was able to focus pretty well on writing the story.    Before I knew it, the 2 hours had passed and I would have to move my car.  It was also time for  me to head to David’s.   But I was so close to being done with my blog.   So, I moved my car to a metered spot right next to the Starbucks, grabbed a seat outside, and wrapped things up.  The blog was posted and sent out and I packed up to look for a third, more permanent spot near David’s where I could leave my car overnight.

After a bit of driving up and down and back and forth around the neighborhood, I found a spot not too far away where I could leave my car indefinitely.  I loaded myself up with all of my things and  made my way to David’s home.  I walked through the gate into his yard and was in awe.   The house was like a castle or maybe a church.  It was stone with vines and ivy and glorious stained glass windows.  The door itself was magnificent.   It put a smile on my face.    I looked while I walked to the door.  As I was already late, I didn’t want to linger too long in the yard.

I knocked on the door and didn’t hear any response.  David is a drummer and said that he would be working in the studio, and so if no one greeted me at the door, I should just let myself in.  So I did.   Unsure of where to put anything, I left my stuff near the door and made my way to the kitchen where David and his wife Rebecca were cooking up dinner.   Rebecca introduced herself and we all begin to talk.   Rebecca is the Director at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, so her interest in my project wasn’t just because she wanted to help me out, it was also about the story.   She was curious to hear my story.  The first part of that  involved David and I discussing who we know and how we know each other.  When I show up at a relative stranger’s home, that’s always the question.  We are obviously facebook friends or I wouldn’t have gotten the invitation to come here, but how did that happen?    David believed that we had met through any one of our numerous “friends” that we have in common, and that’s partially right.  He did see that I had stayed at Julia’s (Couch #3) and guessed  perhaps we had met through her.  But my recollection is different.   Some years back Shilah Morrow and others at the Sin City Social Club used to put on a monthly event at Molly Malone’s called “Sweethearts of the Rodeo”.  It had been going on for a little while when my friend Jim told me  about it and he knew about because his friend, who goes by the name Easy Pickens, was part of the house band, the Sin City All-Stars,  along with Bryson Jones, Dusty Wakeman, and Carl Byron. There was also another guy on the pedal steel who’s name escapes me.  David played drums.  There were others too as everyone wasn’t always available every month, but that’s the core group that I remember.  They would play covers for the most part and there would be an up and coming band that would play a set at some point early in the evening.  There would usually be a special guest or two, depending on who was in town.  I remember seeing Lucinda Williams, Anne McCue, and Syd Straw, I believe.    As there were also alot of musicians in the audience, they would also get dragged up to sing or play as well.  Occasionally one of the old timers would be there and that was always a real treat.  I’m sure that if I really thought about it, I could probably remember more names, but you get the point.   After I went the first time, I was hooked.  I would often try to recruit others to go with me, but would usually go alone.  Many of my friends aren’t country music fans, and the event was on a Wednesday, so even those who were had a difficult time heading out on a school night.  This had to be in 2006 because I had also just gotten my fancy 35mm Contax film camera and was shooting like crazy.  I shot photos at at least a couple of the show.  I met everybody there at one time or another, but not enough that they would remember my name or face the next month.  I wasn’t going to a lot of the other events, so I wasn’t quite a fixture in the scene.   But, once everyone was on myspace and subsequently facebook, I wanted to hear what they were doing or when they were playing, so I added them as “friends”.   And that includes David Raven.

David and Rebecca were drinking gin and tonic and offered me one.  I’m not much of a gin and tonic drinker these days, but I used to be, and it had been a while, so I gladly accepted.  I was asked what my plan was for the future.  What would I do when I was done with this project?  I probably gave my standard answer at that point which was that I was planning to find a room to rent in a nice house somewhere for a reasonably inexpensive cost.  I wasn’t looking to get my own apartment again. I had gotten rid of a lot of my furniture.  I couldn’t afford to get all new stuff and I didn’t want to keep the junk I had.  I wanted to live simpler than that.   I also liked the idea of living in a house without all of the apartment neighbor noise.   Dealing with one person that you know is a lot easier than dealing with lots of neighbors you don’t.   Also, as I was working at home and since money was tight, I wasn’t going out all that much.  I liked the idea of having a housemate to help keep the cabin fever  in check.   I also like the idea of having a nice house with some space  so that I could host a dinner party or have guests over.  My small, Hollywood apartment was not well suited for that.    This was my plan prior to going on my couch journey and at the time, it remained my plan.  Rebecca told me about her neighbor across the street who rented out a room in his house and told me that I should contact her when I was ready for a place.  Who would’ve thought that 9 months later, I still wouldn’t be ready and that that would okay?

Rebecca then told me that there was a guest room and a bed ready for me.  I had to stop her there.  “No beds.”  I explained that I only slept on couches.  She then clarified that it was a daybed.   As I had previously slept on daybeds, I found it hard to argue.    Dinner was nearly ready and so I washed up.  David and Rebecca’s daughter Simone was still more or less living in the house.  Her room was right off of the kitchen and I was pointed to a bathroom in there.   Dinner was then served and I made my way to the large dining room table that was candle lit with music playing.  After everyone was seated, David said grace, and we ate.   Dinner was delicious.   It was one of the best meals I had on this adventure and I had a lot of damn good meals.  It was lamb with an olive tapenade  with roasted potatoes.  A green leafy vegetable that I can’t recall the name of, was served on the side.  It was something that I had never had.   We had a bottle of red wine to accent the food.  It not only tasted delicious, it looked amazing.   I believe it was one of David’s specialties.   While I sat and ate, David and Rebecca’s gray tabby cat, Schnitzel, sat on a chair next to me. I found it comforting.   I was happy.   After dinner, we had coffee prepared in a French Press and continued our conversation.

David and Rebecca have three children, as I recall.  Nolan is a teacher and musician, age 30, married and lives in Los Angeles.  Jacqueline, age 29,  is an art teacher and lives in Georgia.  And Simone,  age 27 and mentioned above, lives right there at home and works in music management.  I heard about them while enjoying my coffee.   We then discussed the economy and it’s affect on film and music.  A recession meant less money spent on these sorts of things and therefore less money invested by the corporations into these things.   If one wanted to pursue a career in these fields, one had to be creative.   That involved not only being creative in your work, but in the way that you presented your work.   Your work also had to be interesting.  In addition, you needed to be willing to live frugally.  Even if you could manage to get work doing what you loved or sell your personal work, you likely would not make the money you could have easily demanded just a few years earlier.  It was no longer enough to simply be talented, you had to also be an entrepreneur.  I simply hoped that my hard work would pay off.

I asked David about his hard work.  He told me how he had recently played  on Nellie McKay’s new record.  She was nice work with and quite talented.  I liked hearing these sort of stories.   I had to laugh though.  While my name is Mac Kay (MACK -KAY), my grandmother always pronounced it like Nellie does (MUK-EYE).   And my grandmother’s name was Nellie.    It makes me smile everytime I think of it.

We also discussed moving around and travel.  David told me about some of his touring around and more specifically we discussed how me moving every day was a lot like a musician on the road.   This comparison was made more than a few times.  And that probably explains why I stayed with a number of musicians.  These were people who were experienced in both asking for places to spend the night and hosting people in return.

We wrapped up our conversation and David noticed the time.  He had a gig that night with 29 Mules and would have to load up his car and go.   I was asked to stay at the house with Rebecca for now.  She and I would drive over to meet David at Ireland’s 32 in Van Nuys.  Did someone mention Ireland?  Wasn’t that the theme for the night on Couch #23?  Okay, maybe I’m stretching the connections theme, but it did occur to me.

Rebecca cleaned up and while she did that I quickly checked my email.  I also had received some text messages from a new friend.  She sent me both some messages of support and asked me for some advice.  That also struck me as strange and made me smile, but it wasn’t the first time that someone I barely knew was leaning on me for advice.   I had received a few messages from strangers or people I barely knew asking me about my journey and looking for my thoughts on something in their life.   The reason that this also struck me as strange was that I was feeling like a failure. I had started this project was that I could not get a job.  The places that I had worked had hired other people to do the job that I wanted.  As well, those places, along with places that I hadn’t worked at,  were only offering me either lower lever jobs or lower paying jobs.  I had worked so hard to gain experience and build my reputation and I wasn’t getting the respect that I thought I deserved.  I always had succeeded to get what I wanted when it came to work.  I always worked hard and advanced in my career.  Now I was not only not advancing, I was regressing.  I began to think that it must be me.  It didn’t help that at the same time many of my friends were succeeding and advancing in their career.   It seemed liked everyone was taking two steps forward and I was taking one step back.  I obviously wasn’t doing something right, I thought.   So, why was I being asked for advice.  Sure, I was doing something that required a certain amount of guts, but I wasn’t doing it ’cause I was some genius. I was doing this out of desperation.   Who was I to be giving anyone advice?  And why would anyone think that I was?  Apparently I had hit a chord with people.  And it seems this made me appear like I knew what I was doing.  Despite not feeling worthy, I played along.  I liked giving people advice even when I wasn’t sure that I knew what I was talking about.   And it did help me feel more confident about what I was doing, which I really needed at this point.

Rebecca had finished cleaning up and gave me the quick tour and showed me the room where the daybed was.  She told me how some of  the walls were made of marble .  Rebecca confirmed  that I was parked in a good spot and didn’t a parking pass. I  didn’t.  She also confirmed that I could drive to Van Nuys that night.  Of course I could.   Rebecca excused herself to get ready.   I  moved my stuff up into the room and took some photos around the house.  Again, the place was amazing and while the lighting was less than ideal, I couldn’t wait until the next day to take all the photos.  In addition to the stained glass windows and the incredible doors, their were also interesting lighting fixtures and tapestries on the wall.   The chairs and table in the living were intricately carved wood.  And then I wandered outside .  I stood there and stared at the almost-full moon and enjoyed the peace and quiet and cool evening air for a few moments.  It felt good.

I wandered back inside and sat quickly checked my email again.  Schnitzel came around and I closed my computer and sat with him on the floor.   A short time later, Rebecca came downstairs and was ready.   The Los Angeles Film Studies School where Rebecca worked was nearby and she wondered if I wanted to have a tour either tonight or  the next day.  Before I could answer she said something along the lines of  “The view from my office is amazing at night”.   Being a photographer, that, of course, sealed the deal.   I had to see the view and so we would stop there first.

As the school was so close, we walked there.  The building that it was in was near the El Rey Theatre, a music venue,  and the building’s parking lot was available to the patrons of the venue.  However, those patrons were supposed to enter and exit through the garage.  There was no access through the building.  Nevertheless, as Rebecca and I entered the building, a group of drunken people grabbed the door and  attempted to make their way to the garage despite Rebecca telling them that it was pointless.  While we watched this happening, we waited for our own elevator and then  made our way up to the school.   Rebecca gave me the tour of the place, showing me her office, conference rooms, the editing suites, and the studio.  She told me all about the school and what she did there as the Director.   I heard about the success stories. Graduates of the school had directed “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and written for “One Tree Hill”.   And I heard about the schools’ association with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).   Rebecca is an ordained pastor.  She also teaches Theology as well as teaching about Theology and Film.  Not being a particularly religious person, it was an intersection of disciplines that I had not thought about.

We finished up the tour and walked back to my car and headed up  to Van Nuys, Ireland’s 32, 29 Mules, and David.  While I drove along and we made our way there Rebecca told me about how David had been a band called Deliverance and they had lived in Germany.   I heard  about her involvement in the “Wall Across Wilshire” project  which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.    And she told me how she had created the Miracle Mile Art Walk.  A monthly event featuring over forty galleries.   As well, Rebecca and David had founded Tribe of Los Angeles.  A church that caters to artists and filmmakers.   We discussed growing up and living in odd areas.  Rebecca had always lived in interesting areas and had been brought up always giving charity and assistance to those who were less fortunate while being quite fortunate herself.  Helping others was part of who Rebecca was.   It was late and traffic was light and we made it to Ireland’s 32 in good time.   I parked out front and we walked in.

Once inside, we noticed that no one was playing.  We were late.  We quickly found David and explained that we had just gotten the schedule wrong and lost track of time.  While 29 Mules was playing two sets, it was the earlier set that we really should have seen.  I now wanted to stick around while Stonehoney played and wait for the Mules second set.   It was not a problem for me and while Rebecca had to work in the morning, she was fine with it.

It was loud in there and so conversation would be minimal the rest of the night.  I cozied up to the bar and go myself a Newcastle.  I remember money being especially tight so I would be nursing my beers throughout the night.   It was also the first time in a week that I had been in a bar.  And who knows how long it had been since I had seen live music.   While that’s not unusual to me now, it was unusual to me then.   I went out quite often and enjoyed seeing live music.  Missing that and not knowing when I would do it again, I wandered around the bar and soaked the atmosphere in.  I also wanted to check out the place and take photos of anything interesting.   In addition to way too many blurry photos of David and Rebecca and anyone they were talking to, I also took shots of the bar,  some signs, and a guitar that hung on the wall.  The guitar had a bumper sticker on it that read “God Bless Johnny Cash”.   As I’ve mentioned before Johnny Cash was originally supposed to to be a theme of this journey and so whenever there was a visual reference to him, I made sure to take a photo.  And again, it made me smile.

Stonehoney came on soon and I took some band photos while they played.  I had seen Stonehoney before and had met Dave Phenicie when he lived in Los Angeles.  He was part of that Sweethearts of the Rodeo crowd.   As well, a friend of mine had dated him at one time.    In addition it was Jayne Intveld’s Birthday and there was a crowd and a cake there for her.  I was also introduced to the talented Julia Othmer, a singer-songwriter.  I also met Marisa Kat,  29 Mules’ manager.  Throughout all of these introductions David or Rebecca would introduce me as the couch surfer or something along those lines.  I didn’t mind being referred to that way.  I mean, that’s who I was.  That’s who I set myself up to be.  Nevertheless it was still strange to hear it.

29 Mules went on next.  This set had a lot of covers it, and there were three that specifically struck a chord with me.   First was “Tulsa Time”, originally done by Don Williams.    This was in my Barn Dance mix and so I had listened to it a lot lately, but of all the songs in the mix, this one had stuck in my head.   Another was “The Weight” by The Band.  When I started this journey, Bela (Couch #10), had posted it on my wall as sort of a theme song.  Since then, I had had it come up a few more times and each time it just really spoke to me.   So hearing it that night had me singing out loud.  Finally, there was “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” by Flatt and Scruggs.  This was another from the Barn Dance mix and another one that stuck with me.   Hearing one or another of these songs would not have shocked me, but hearing all three was a nice surprise.   I couldn’t have asked for more.

While the house was rockin’  I bounced around from the front of the stage to the side snapping pictures. I wanted to get some good shots of the band and some good shots of David.  I had both my film and my digital camera with me and alternately used one or the other.  I didn’t end up getting much.  It was dark and so lots of the shots just came out blurry.  But as that night was somewhat of a blur for me,  it seemed appropriate.   There were some pretty young ladies at the front of the stage dancing and singing as well and that distracted me as well.   When the Mules were done playing there, we sung “Happy Birthday” to Jayne and cake was served.   Rebecca and I then wandered outside for some air.  She struck up a conversation with Dave Phenicie and some of the other musicians from both bands.  I took more photos and ended up in a conversation with some strangers regarding my photography.  They wanted to see my photos and i was happy to oblige.   Soon, though, it was time to leave.

I said my good-byes and Rebecca and I left. David would meet us at home.  I was tired, but I was still grinning from ear to ear.  It had been a wonderful and action-packed evening.  The drive back to David and Rebecca’s was mostly quiet although she and I  did talk about one thing.  Dating.  Rebecca asked me if I was dating anyone throughout all of this.   Being single most of my adult life, this can be like opening a can of worms with me.   However, I tried to keep it brief on this occasion.  I simply told Rebecca that I was not dating anyone right now.  It was already difficult keeping the project going and taking care of myself.  Having to deal with anyone else would not have been fair to them, not that I had any prospects.  We discussed online dating and specifically, eHarmony.   I have thought about it now and again, but haven’t pursued it.  I saw it as a place where normal people go to meet other normal people and being the person that I was, I always had my doubts that I would find someone there.    She advised me to look at dating teachers and nurses.   These were people that were used to nurturing and caring for other people and as an artist, that was the sort of person I needed.   I didn’t disagree.

We arrived back in the neighborhood and I was once again able to find a good place to park.  I grabbed my cameras and we headed into the house.   I was exhausted by this point.  I thanked Rebecca for a wonderful evening, brushed my teeth and went off to sleep.

As I was in my own space with a door that closed, I was able to sleep in pretty much as much as I needed to.  I don’t believe that I ever really slept in while moving from couch to couch.   I always had a number of things to do each day including on this day, our photo session and interview, photos around the house, and moving to my next couch.   I’m  not much of a morning person, so even when I do manage to get myself up earlyish, if I don’t have to rush out the door, I don’t rush at all.   There was not an urgent need for me to leave the house on this day, so I would  not be moving any faster than necessary.   When I did wake up, the house seemed quiet, and so I stayed in my room got myself mentally organized for the day.   While I knew that I had to do all of the things mentioned above, and, of course, eat,  I wanted to make sure that I didn’t forget to stop at the post office to check my mail, or get more film, or drop off film at the lab, as well as any odd errands that may have needed to be run.  As I’ve mentioned before, in the rush from one place to the next, these things  would sometimes be forgotten and I didn’t like that.    As I was going through my mental list and poking around my bags to check on things, I heard some rustling in the house.  I finished up what I was doing, threw on my clothes, and ventured downstairs.  David was moving around in the kitchen and making coffee.  He had a Pavoni espresso maker and asked me what I wanted.  I went with a latte.  The espresso maker was impressive.  This was not something you bought if you were a casual coffee drinker.  This was a commitment.  But then again, is there such thing as a “casual” coffee drinker?    David didn’t think so.   Coffee is one of those things that people either can’t stand or can’t get enough of.  I put myself in the latter group.  While I tried to minimize my daily coffee intake, it wasn’t because I didn’t like it.  It was more to reduce my dependance on caffeine.  I also did like tea as well as well as juice and those vitamin water type drinks.  When the latte was ready we wandered out back into the garden.  It was a beautiful day out and the garden was lovely.  I ran back upstairs to grab my cameras and took a few shots while the light was just wonderful.

I wandered back in and David was chopping potatoes and preparing to make eggs for breakfast.   Rebecca then wandered in and after we said our good mornings she and David discussed their schedules and she started to take over on the cooking.  I wandered around the first floor taking some more shots of the house during the day.   Breakfast was soon ready.   While it was not the gourmet feast of the night before, it was delicious.  I don’t normally eat a big breakfast like that.  It’s just more effort than I like to put forth as a single person.   Plus, as I mentioned before, I’m not much of a morning person, so just making coffee usually seems like a colossal effort.  This was another nice treat.

Once breakfast was done, Rebecca noted that she had to leave for work shortly.  She had a meeting or a conference call or something, so if I wanted to get portrait photos of her, now was the time.  I asked for a few more minutes and ran upstairs to capture photos of the couch as a bed.   I snapped away quickly, made the bed up, and David and Rebecca sat down and posed.  I worked quickly, capturing all the angles that I could think of using both my digital and film cameras.    Rebecca then said her goodbyes and I thanked her for everything.

As David and I hadn’t really spent any time together, we sat down to talk for a little while.   We talked about how The Farmer’s Market and The Grove shopping center were nearby.  We discussed the novelty and fascination with the iPad, which had just been released a couple of months earlier.   We discussed his involvement in The Mutaytor as well as Robochrist.    If I remember it correctly,  the people behind Robochrist catapulted a VW at Burning Man one year.  In The Mutaytor, David was known as Hambone Hix. He was also an active attendee at Burning Man where most of them also knew him as Hambone.   This was not the first host I had stayed with that went to Burning Man. Greg (Couch #19), also went to Burning Man.  It would not be the last person who I stayed with who went to Burning Man either.   By the time this adventure was over, I had a number of Burning Man friends.   One of these years, if my bank account agrees and I have the time to go, I’ll have to make my way there.  I’ve heard way too many stories and seen way too many photos to pass that up.

I still had to do the interview with David, but needed a minute to regroup.  He had some email and other work to do in his home studio, so I returned to wandering around the house.  I took some photos of the turtle which Simone had in a tank in her room.   I took photos around the room I had slept in.  It had bookshelves built into the walls and they were stocked.  There were not only religious and theological texts of all sorts, but there were children’s books, novels, and music related items including “A Man Called Cash” about Johnny Cash.

David was ready then, so we proceeded with our interview and a few more photos.   After this was done, he would have to return to work and at one point left to go deal with something out of the house.    I continued to document the house.  I wandered into the bathroom with it’s separate bath and built-in shower.  And I spent a good deal of time in the studio.  There were drums and a guitar and a standup bass in there.   There was an old electronic keyboard as well and all of this clashed with the modern computer and recording set up.   On one wall was a framed photo still from Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid”.  I’m a big Charlie Chaplin fan, so  I got a kick out of that.    I took more photos off the stairwell an in the living room where there was a stand up piano.    I noticed then that it was way past time to go.  It was after 3pm and I still needed to go to the YMCA to grab a shower.  I moved my car out front and packed and loaded up my things.   I checked my email one more time and took some last photos.  I got in my car and started the engine.  David had given me a CD from his band Mojo Monkeys and I popped it in the CD player.  With the music playing I took one last look the house and then went on my way to the Y in Hollywood and a friendly couch in Echo Park.

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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