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Couch #25 - Melanie

Couch #25 – Melanie – June 24th, 2010


Couch #25 belongs to Melanie.  She lives in an apartment in a tri-plex in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles with her dogs and the occasional stray.  The couch is a glorified dog bed and cat scratching post.  Melanie dated a lovely man for years named Jon.  He was in a movie called “Manure”.  Everything in the movie was brown.  The couch came from that movie.  Melanie has slept on the couch many times, normally during the day.  She finds it very comfortable, but she can sleep anywhere.

Melanie works at an Animal Hospital.   She started there in nursing, but now manages the place.  That means a lot of paperwork and dealing with complaints.  When they let her, she does still get in the trenches and do some fun nursing work.  People are surprised that Melanie works at animal hospital.  Living in Los Angeles it seems that everyone is an actor or a writer or a producer or trying to do something like that while waiting tables. Melanie is also one of five children.  People don’t always figure that either.

Melanie had zero pets when she started at the animal hospital, but now has quite a collection.  She now has three dogs, Scout, Marshmallow, and Penny.  She also shares another dog, Nochi, with a friend.  Melanie also has a couple of cats.  I always remember Scout, but not always the names of the others.  Scout is Melanie’s partner in crime.

When she’s not working, Melanie can usually be found walking or hiking with the dogs.  Summer is beach time and Melanie takes her beach time very seriously.  She likes body surfing.  Melanie also takes photos for fun. She can just shutoff and have a nice relaxing chill time enjoying herself while taking photos.  Melanie also likes hanging out with her brother or her family in Simi Valley.  She doesn’t party a lot but does occasionally go out and get a little rowdy.  Melanie is like a grandma.  She’s in bed at 10 o’clock and gets up early and she likes it that way.

Photography is her hobby.  She wishes it could be more than that, but there is something really nice about it being something that she just does for the love of it and not have to rely on it for anything.  That’s her only hobby.  Well, that and stealing cats from hoarders.  Melanie likes to do that and it’s really easy in her neighborhood.

Melanie and I met on the internet.  No, really, we met through our mutual friend and teacher, Dave.  Dave set up this wonderful thing called photo-nerds, a google group where we could email questions, thoughts, and ideas.  Melanie and I started talking through that and then became Facebook friends.  Melanie thinks that she and I met for real in late September or early October 2009.  Actually, it was December 2009.   We met at Little Dom’s and Melanie had some tea.  Our relationship consists of me liking photos on her facebook and Melanie saying “What do you think about this one?” or “I knew you were going to like that one!”.  We are legitimate facebook friends at this point.

Melanie let me stay there because she loves that I’m making something.  She is ridiculously jealous and coveting this idea.  Melanie let me stay there because she wanted to be part of something really cool.  To her, the project doesn’t seem totally calculated.  She hopes that it does become a book and is super successful, but it seems like I’m doing it for my love of taking photos.  Melanie respects that I’m out there doing it and also simply wants to support me.

Melanie’s favorite song is “Here Comes the Sun”  by The Beatles. It makes her feel happy and good and she loves everyone.  Melanie’s favorite food is her Grandma’s cooking.  She’s Sicilian.  Melanie doesn’t like Italian food normally when she goes out.  A friend of her’s was hell bent on cooking her an Italian dinner for her birthday one year.  Melanie actually did like it and it was delicious, but it wasn’t her Grandma’s cooking. She grew up with her Grandma and lived with her a lot after her parents split up.  Grandma’s cooking is not anything fancy.  It’s just good every man’s food and nourishing.  A specific favorite is baked spaghetti.   That’s big platter of spaghetti with meatballs and homemade red sauce, but it’s baked and the top gets crunchy.  Her grandpa loves the crunchy part.  Actually, the whole family  would all fight for the crunchy part.  Underneath, it’s warm, perfectly cooked spaghetti and it’s served in squares.  It’s nothing different than normal spaghetti, it’s just the way that Melanie’s grandma baked it after she cooked it.

Melanie’s favorite for a really long time was “When Harry Met Sally”.  That’s always been her go-to answer.  Melanie actually quoted from it on my facebook page when I was at Katz’ Deli in New York.  While she hasn’t watched it in years, she thinks that she still likes it.  Melanie had a weird Meg Ryan obsession when she was younger.  These days Melanie’s favorite is  “The Cameraman” from Buster Keaton.  She saw it at Royce Hall at UCLA with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra playing the score just weeks before I stayed there.   The problem that Melanie now faces is that this score is only played on this night.  And to her, the score was an integral part of the experience.  So, in a way, she can never see her favorite film again.  When I worked at MGM Studios, I used to go to this event at Royce Hall every year.  It’s a film restoration benefit event.  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra  plays a new original score live while a restored silent film plays.  Usually Dustin Hoffman hosts the evening, and he did when Melanie was there as well.  I took a silent comedy film class in college and still love them, so this was always really a treat.

When Melanie thinks about this project, she is so glad that she doesn’t have to sleep in a different place every night for 50 days and talk to 50 different people and then some.  She is really friendly but she likes her private time.  Melanie  would be really uncomfortable and would lose her mind and go crazy.

Melanie lives inside of herself.  What’s going on is usually hidden from everyone else, but she’s working on that.  She has a very happy, nice exterior, but there is usually a battle going on inside.  There is the normal self-loathing and self-esteem issues as well dealing with some horrible things that happened when she was growing up.  These are things many of us  experience have to deal with.  Melanie is now trying to let these things out and deal with them like a grown-up.  It’s a struggle though. She has made a commitment to be nice to herself and deal with these issues that are breaking her down and holding her back.  Melanie admits that she’s not happy all the time and that’s okay.  That’s a lot of where I live these days too.


Couch #25.  After this I’ll be half way done.  I feel that same sense of relief and that same sense of sadness as I type this 11 months later. As exhausting as this project had been, it had also been an adventure.   It was journey unlike any other I had ever taken.   I was learning so much about my couch hosts and about people in general.  I was learning so much about myself.  I didn’t want it to end.   The evening that awaited me would reaffirm many reasons why I took on this project and just reliving those memories in my head as I type makes me want to start on another project tomorrow.   It’s hard to explain other than by simply telling you the story.

I left David’s house after 3pm on Thursday, June 24th.   Mojo Monkeys were playing in the CD player in my car as I drove from Miracle Mile towards the YMCA in Hollywood.  I needed to shower and change clothes.  As time was tight, I kept it simple.  I was feeling more comfortable with showering and changing at the gym by this point, so I had no problem taking care of  any personal grooming habits in this public space.  In the weeks before, I would wait ’til the opportunity of a private shower arose before dealing with things that you likely take for granted.  But, I no longer could count on having privacy at any given time.  Besides, the old men at the gym never seemed to care , and if it didn’t bother them, why should I let it bother me.  In addition to showering and changing clothes, I also exchanged banter with some of the regulars there.  I had been going to this gym for quite a while, so I had seen the same faces over and over and we had exchanged pleasantries, watched some sporting events,  and discussed important topics on more than one occasion.  While I was anxious to go about my business, today would be no different.  There would be chit chat.

When I was done, I left the Y and made my way to Starbucks.  It was the Starbucks in Los Feliz as that would be on my way to Melanie’s in Echo Park.  I don’t remember what number I had assigned that one, but I had previously been there after my haircut at Sweeney Todd’s and before spending the night at Louis and Kene’s (Couch #11).   I wasn’t stopping there for long, but I did want to check my email before spending the night computer-free with Melanie.   I grabbed my shaken black tea with no sweetener and found a seat.  It was busy and most of the seats were taken.  I was able to find one and quickly realized that I was in the vicinity of some big time talkers.  If you live in Los Angeles and spend any time in a coffee shop or a bar, you know the type.  They are loud and like to hear themselves talk.   The talking always involves name dropping and bragging.  The better talkers don’t overdo it.  They are just loud enough so that everyone can hear them and they brag in a way that weaves itself almost seamlessly into conversation.    They are almost charming.  The two that I was in the midst on this occasion were not that smooth.  They were “screenwriters” and so by definition were awkward and trying too hard.    I found it definitely annoying and distracting but did my best to concentrate on catching up on my email and facebooking.  This included exchanging emails between myself, a bride to be, and a photographer friend of mine regarding a wedding bid.  And I also had to deal with scheduling issues and acknowledge some messages of support. About an hour later, I headed off to Melanie’s place.  The Mojo Monkeys cd had finished, and I popped in one of my Telegraph Canyon cds for the ride.

Melanie’s place wasn’t numbered clearly enough to see when you were driving.  Or maybe I just didn’t see the number, which is more likely the case.  It sat at the bottom of a steep hill, and only when I was past it and over the hill did I realize that I had missed it.  I turned around, and after a bit of searching, found a nearby parking space, and located the building.  Still not quite sure which door was hers, I called her.  She came down and found me and we walked upstairs to her apartment.  Her dogs Scout and Marshmallow greeted me, but the third dog, Penny, went into hiding.  It seems that Penny was like this with everyone including Melanie when she first got her.   Melanie also had two cats, Pip Pip and Barnaby.  Pip Pip was definitely there, but Barnaby (RIP) was an inside/outside cat, as I recall, and may not have been around at the moment.

Melanie’s brother, Angelo, then showed up. He lived down the street and had to pick up something from Mel.  Melanie and Angelo are very close. We were introduced and they discussed the plans for the evening.  Ang had other plans with his girlfriend and some friends, so they would not be joining us for dinner.   While this was going on I made sure that my cameras were ready for the evening and snapped a few shots.  As it was already after 7 and we still had to walk the dogs, do our interview and have dinner before going out for the night, Ang bid us adieu and headed out.  By this point initial attraction of a visitor in the house wore off quickly and Scout and Marshie were comfortable on the couch while Penny remained hiding out under the table.

The sun was starting to set, so Melanie rounded the dogs all up and got them on their leashes and we took them for a walk. The neighborhood was eclectic and Melanie gave me the tour as we continued to catch up and discuss the dogs as well as her work at the Beverly Hills Small Animal Hospital.   Most of the walk was fairly uneventful other than Penny continuing to try to avoid me.  There was, however, one block where all of the action was.  I had noticed this block while driving around.  People were outside, dogs ran in the street, and as I looked for parking, it seemed that all eyes were on me.  It was like they thought I was coming to rob their houses or something.  As I walked through with Melanie, the looks and greetings were less aggressive, but still guarded.   Even the dogs, a pack of chihuahuas, ran at us, barking away.   This was the block closest to Melanie’s place and the last leg of the loop we had made, so we were soon back home and inside.

Melanie fed the dogs and we sat down for our interview and portrait session.  Like other of my hosts, especially those who were both female and photographers, Melanie wasn’t big on having her photo taken.  But, she had agreed to it and went along with it graciously.   After the interview, we headed out for dinner.  After a bit of discussion we had decided to go to Fred 62 in Los Feliz.  We piled into Melanie’s car and headed in that direction.  On the way, we listened to Howard Stern on Sirius satellite radio.  Mel was a big Howard Stern fan and had signed up for a lifetime subscription to Sirius when Howard moved there.    There are always little things that you learn about your hosts that you probably wouldn’t have if you were not staying in their home.  This was one of those things.  I definitely would not have pegged Melanie for a Howard Stern fan.

We weren’t going far, but Melanie was almost out of gas, so we stopped to fuel up. We then made our way to the public lot near Fred 62 and walked over and grabbed a seat in a booth.   I grabbed a menu and quickly perused it, wanting to make up my mind and get my order in before getting engrossed in conversation.   I hadn’t eaten much since my breakfast, and a night of drinking was on the agenda, so I wanted to eat well.  There was a turkey meatloaf sandwich on the menu, which went by the name “Mrs. Loaf” and that sounded good.   They also had Mr. Pibb in their soft drink selection, and as I don’t see that very often, that was an easy choice and I put my menu down.  The waiter came by a short time later.  “What can I get you?” he asked.  “A Mrs. Loaf and a Mr. Pibb”, I said.  He paused for a moment, and then, while writing the order down, made a comment about how many inappropriate jokes were running through his head.  It seems that no one had ordered that combination from him before.   I don’t recall what Melanie ordered, but I do remember that it was something light, perhaps a salad or something like that.

With the food order out of the way, our conversation then turned to dodgeball.  That’s right.  Dodgeball.  Melanie was part of a team that played in a league in Los Angeles.  Her team was called “The Family” and all of the players went by the name “Sandy”.  They wore all white and greeted each other with the words “Sandy Loves You”.  The other teams were much more “normal”, so the eccentricity threw them off.  Their team had played together for 6 seasons, and each time they reinvented themselves.   One season they were the “Dads”.  They all wore “#1 Dad” hats and polo shirts as well as khaki shorts, black socks, and white tennis shoes.  Each game, one of the players would be the “#1 Son” and the rest of the players would protect him.  They lost every game, but had fun.   Another season they were “The Juggalos”. Juggalos are die-hard fans of the band Insane Clown Posse.  They wore face paint, dressed terribly, and would take time outs just to do their juggalo dance.  It was sort of the opposite of the Dads.  Melanie’s friend Eric is apparently the leader of this wacky bunch.  I found all of the stories quite hilarious.

It was at this point, that I recognized a voice from the booth behind me.  I turned around to see my friend Kerry.  Kerry and I were co-workers when I worked at MGM Studios.   She had left and ended up in New York via Detroit, so it was not a voice that I was expecting to hear.  I had last seen her in New York when I was there house/cat sitting for my cousin in either fall of 2009 or fall of 2008.  I had been there both times, but I don’t recall which time I saw her.  Anyway,  we exchanged hellos and how do you dos and Kerry, who works for the National Hockey League, informed me that she was in town for the NHL player draft, which was being held in Los Angeles that weekend.   As she was visiting with friends and as I was there with Melanie, we went back to our respective dinners.  It was always nice to see a familiar face when I was out and about.  Other than my couch hosts and their friends, I didn’t see too many other people while I was on this journey.

The food showed up and  while we dug in,  Melanie and I discussed this couch project.   I told her how when I was finished I planned to put out a coffee table photo book at some point.  And I told her that I planned to pay for that by doing a Kickstarter.com fundraiser.   I still plan to do that.  In fact, I plan to do that very soon.  Stay tuned.

Melanie and I discussed what my family thought of all of this.  Did they understand?  Were they worried?    I have the closest relationship with my mother, and she understood what I was doing and why I was doing it.  She had studied art history and had been a registrar at a couple of small museums, so she saw the appeal.  But she also worried about me and thought that I should just get a regular 9 to 5 job.  This had been a point of friction between us for a while.  I had seen people who had lived the freelance photography lifestyle and succeeded and believed that with the right combination of hard work, networking, skill, perseverance, and luck, that I could succeed too.  I don’t think my mother disagreed, she just thought I needed a steady income and some stability while I pursued that.  I believed that having a 9 to 5 would prevent those opportunities from coming my way and so we had agreed to disagree and leave it that.  My father and I are not particularly close but I’m not sure that he really understood the project.  He’s a scientist and a farmer, so it didn’t fit into his world.   He did call me at times to be sure that I was okay, but we didn’t really discuss the project at all.  I believe that my brother thought that the project was interesting.  He had always supported me in my photography career by buying books and cameras and other things.   But, while we got along well, we didn’t speak all that often either, so I didn’t really engage in any in depth conversations with him about this.   None of them were really in any financial state to assist me with this, so other than occasionally sharing my perspective with them and assuring them that I was well, I felt a bit on my own with this project, but then that was part of the point, wasn’t it?  I was doing this to make my own path in my own way.

We finished up dinner and quickly headed back to Melanie’s house to grab our swimsuits.  That’s right, we would be swimming tonight.  Melanie’s friend and dodge ball teammate, Chris Holmes, was DJing an event called Night Swim at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel swimming pool.   In fact, most, if not all, of her dodge ball teammates would also be there.  This was going to be fun.  There was one quick detour, however.  As I recall and understood, it seems that Angelo could not find his car or the keys to the car or perhaps both.   They stopped by looking for a flashlight so that they could search for the keys or something.  Melanie didn’t have a flashlight and Angelo and his girlfriend and their crew went on their way.  I never did hear how this turned out.

At this point we were outside of Melanie’s apartment, so I finally went in and got myself organized.  As we would be swimming and leaving our stuff unattended, I wanted to pare everything down as minimal as possible. I grabbed my license, my debit card and some cash and that was about it.  I didn’t bring any pants to change into, although I did bring a towel so that I wouldn’t ruin the passenger seat in Melanie’s car when I sat in it later in my wet swim trunks.  I brought my digital camera and my phone, but even those would remain in the car.   I relied on those too much to risk having them fall into the pool.  I also brought my notebook, but decided to leave that in the car too, for fear that it would get soaked and ruined.  So, on this night, the only proof that this happened would be captured by Melanie’s Holga toy camera.  I threw on my sweatshirt and Melanie were on our way to Hollywood.

On the way we discussed going to Night Swim.  I had been a couple of times in the past, but I had never gone in the pool.  In fact, I don’t even recall ever seeing anyone in the pool either time that I had been there.  This was going to be exciting.  We also spent a portion of the drive not talking.  I have a bad habit of talking non-stop at times and on this project, as I was seeing people only for a day, I often had a lot I wanted to say and a lot I wanted to ask and it could be too much.  I needed the quiet moments as much as my hosts did and tried to remind myself to shut up.  This was one of those moments when I remembered and simply enjoyed the ride.   As we got closer to the Roosevelt, Melanie asked me if I minded walking.  She knew of a secret parking spot so we wouldn’t have to pay the outrageous valet rates, but we would have to walk.   My legs worked fine, so I didn’t mind the walk.  Besides, the meatloaf and the drive was putting me into a food coma, so I wanted to get the blood pumping.

We parked the car and Melanie and I gathered our things and made our way down Hollywood Blvd.  We walked through the lobby and past security and found Melanie’s friends that had already arrived.  I was introduced to everyone and found a place to stand out of the way.  Melanie excused herself to go say hello to Chris and I made my way to the bar to get a beer. Melanie returned a short time later as well.  At this point, I began to seriously notice a camera crew presence in our area.  Cable had been run all over the place and there were a number of people with walkie-talkie headsets moving about.  The area that we were sitting in was at one end of the pool.  The seating was arranged in a horseshoe shape with another section in the middle.  It was this middle section where all the cameras were pointed.  There were some people seated there and a spread of food, and everyone looked sort of bored.  Others in the group seemed to know what was going, so inquired.  “Who’s that?”.  “The Hills” one of the guys said.   While I knew the name, that show hadn’t exactly made the “must watch” list, so it wasn’t anything that impressed me.  I did take a long look, however, just so I could say that I was there.   The shoot went on the entire night and on at least two occasions, a couple of the ladies in our group were able to get The Hills to throw them some cold hamburgers from the spread.

After oogling for a bit our group moved over to the far side of the pool (the bar was on the near side), where we could grab a section of seats.  It was time to go into the pool.  Shoes and shirts came off.  One of the guys, Jason, had not brought his swim trunks.  I’m pretty sure he had his briefs on, but it wasn’t really that sort of party.  Melanie offered up her shorts for him, and so he spent the the night in ladies shorts.  It didn’t look completely out of the ordinary, but it didn’t look right either.  We all took a moment to tease and have a laugh and Jason smiled, but then it was time to dive in.   I had downed my beer and had loosened up a bit and so I jumped right in.  The only thing that I recall that alarmed me was the lights in the pool.  I’m not talking about lights built into the side of the pool.  I’m talking about lights sitting on the bottom of the pool with cables running out  of the pool.  While I was sure that everything was fine,  I did entertain a fearful thought that they would malfunction and I would be electrocuted.  That’s a reasonable fear, right?   The real concern on the part of the security staff was that we stay away from the lights.  They were more concerned with someone hurting themselves by jumping into the pool right into the lights.

Once in the pool, we took over.  There were all kinds of inflatable pool items.  There were the inner tube type, a couple of rafts, and I believe some of those noodles.  There wasn’t enough for all of us, so initially we were battling each other for control of those.  It wasn’t mean spirited at all, it was fun.  I don’t think anyone really cared about getting one or the other, it was more something to do.   Eventually we got more organized and made up some games.  One thing we did was to line up in the shallow end, with our legs spread, creating sort of a tunnel.  The last person in line would swim through the tunnel and take the first position at the front of the line.  I think we went through the whole group, which numbers at at least a dozen if not more like fifteen.   Another  game we played was to use one of the rafts as a slip n’ slide.  Some of us would hold it near the edge of the pool while someone would run and slide across it into the pool.  At one point we even stacked two of them on top of each other.  One person would lie sandwiched between them while someone would jump on top of it.  I’m not sure what the point of that one was.   Another fun thing that I mostly enjoyed watching was something I call “Hey Mama!”  Melanie and Jason and a couple other members of the group, Sarah and Mike, sat on the edge of the deep end.  As some of the ladies walked by they would yell “Hey Mama!” or “Oh Mama!”  as sort of a catcall.  It was entertaining to see the reactions and non-reactions of the people that would walk by.  Some embraced it and others simply ignored us.  I’m not sure if those that embraced it realized that we were making fun of them.  We also did a “dead fall” competition of sorts.  Imagine pretending to get shot and then stumbling and falling in the pool and you get the idea.  I liked this one, although I was more stereotypical while others added a bit of pizzaz into their routines.  There was also the necessary splashing of people sitting by the edge of the pool and I often felt need to swim from one end to the other.

At one point I remember feeling ecstatic about being there.  I was on my back floating and swimming towards the deep end, while most of the crowd, both in and out of the pool, were in the shallow end.  I looked up and saw the “Hotel Roosevelt” sign and a silhouette of a palm tree .  I listened as Chris played “Kool Thing” by Sonic Youth.  I soaked it all in for a minute and must have been grinning from ear to ear. I remember it as clear as it was yesterday.  This was why I had moved to Los Angeles.  This was why I had done this project.

The group was familiar and comfortable with each other and while they made some efforts to be sure that I was part of the fun, it was really up to me to integrate myself.  I made some attempts, but I was pretty exhausted and really just enjoyed being on the fringe of most of the antics.   After all, we were in the pool and having a blast while  the so-called “cool” people posed and paraded.  I was glad to just be a part of that.   To just be a Sandy for a moment.  At one point later, Chris told us that he was asked if were paid to be in the pool and have fun.  Wouldn’t that be a job to have!

As part of their dodgeball team, the Sandys had a song.  I’m not quite sure what the words were, but it went something like “Sandy, Oh Sandy…”.  When one person would start singing it, they would all join in.  I did my best to participate as well.  They sang this periodically throughout the night and  the rest of the crowd did not know what to make of it.  We definitely got some strange looks that night and I love that.

At some point late into the night, Chris had finished his DJing duties and joined us in the pool.  He brought a few beers to share with us and I gladly accepted one.  Things were beginning to wind down and everyone was tired, so I just relaxed by the side of the pool, drinking a beer, and taking it all in.  Before I knew it it was time to go.  I got out of the pool and dried off as well as I could.  I searched for and gathered up the few belongings I had brought with me, while others did the same.  There was a bit of mulling around while security anxiously waited for us to leave.  While I was tired and satisfied with an extraordinary evening, I didn’t want it to end.  I’m fairly certain that sentiment was shared by some of the others as well.  Soon, however, it was really time to go and Melanie and I made our exit.  We moved past the line of people waiting for the valet, and around and back to Hollywood Blvd.  Melanie engaged in some late night phone conversation and texting as we made our way to the car.  I was tired, happy, and quiet.

Neither of us had had that much to drink, so there was little concern about driving.  As it was quite late, the traffic would be minimal, and the trip back to Echo Park would be quick.   Being exhausted, I didn’t engage in too much conversation.  As I was used to being the one doing the driving, I took the opportunity to look out the window and take in the night scene on the freeway.  As I was also used to taking tons of photos most nights, and had not on this evening, I grabbed my camera and took a few shots from the passenger seat as well as when we got back to Melanie’s place.

Arriving back at Melanie’s she conveniently parked in her parking spot, tandem behind me.  I had moved my car into the gated lot earlier in the night, which gave me one less thing to worry about.  I was driving around with a back seat and trunk full of stuff, and never liked leaving it on the street for fear that a window would get smashed and my stuff would be stolen.  As I’ve mentioned before, it wasn’t so much that I kept anything valuable in the car.  I brought anything of worth into my host’s home.  It was more that I thought that some thief would think that there is something valuable and break the window.  I didn’t have the money to replace the window and I didn’t want to be driving around with plastic or something over the window.

I gathered my belongings and followed Melanie up the stairs and into her place.  What I forgot to mention earlier is that when we left to go to the Roosevelt, Melanie had decided not to bring her house key, but instead put it in a hidden spot.  That way, it wouldn’t get lost at the pool or even in the car.  However, when she went to put it in this spot, it fell.  It was already dark at that point, so it was not easy to see where it had fallen.  We had assumed that it fell to the first floor and on to the ground, but we couldn’t be sure.  We searched for it for a short time, but as it was already late and we were anxious to get to the Roosevelt, it was decided that we would look for the key when we arrived back at her home.   Melanie did not seem concerned and so I wasn’t either.  So, now as we returned and walked back up the stairs, we realized that we had to still locate the key or figure some way back into her place.  Exhausted, we looked around again a bit, but weren’t having any luck.  There weren’t an innumerable amount places to look either, so this was a bit baffling.  Then, for some unknown reason, Melanie decided to uncuff her jeans and kling klang, the key fell out.  It had been in the cuff of her jeans all night.   It’s amazing that it didn’t fall out any point of the night.

We opened the door and went inside and the dogs were, of course, excited to see us.  While I don’t remember her doing it, I’m sure that she must have at least let them out for a minute.  At this late hour, I was focussed on getting out of my swimsuit and into warm dry clothes and getting ready for bed.  Melanie threw a sheet over the couch and gave me a blanket and a pillow.  This intrigued the animals a bit, most notably, Pip Pip, who decided that it was playtime under the sheet and behind the couch.  Pip’s playfulness woke me out of my sleepy mood for a moment and I laughed and snapped a few photos.  Exhaustion quickly crept back in and as it was super late and Melanie had to get up early, I brushed my teeth, put on my breathe right nasal strip thing and my sleep mask.  We said our good nights and it was off to dreamland, although the night itself had been pretty much a dream.

While I slept well on the couch, it was tiniest and least comfortable of the bunch.  I don’t believe that this will come as a shock to Melanie.  It made the love seats that I slept on seem spacious.   Melanie had warned me.   But it was an adorable couch and once I found my “spot”, which didn’t take long at this point of the journey, I was out for the night. I  That probably also had a lot to do with the fact that I was super relaxed and super exhausted from the evenings activities.   And, while I did sleep fine, it would not surprise me if I did snore that night, especially when you add in the chlorinated water into the equation.   I woke up with that feeling that I didn’t sleep quite as well as I felt I should have, which usually happens when I snore.  Melanie did have her door closed and never mentioned it so hopefully if I did snore, it didn’t disturb her.

The morning came fast and I’m not sure how much was real and how much was imagined as I didn’t open my eyes for any of it.  I heard garbage trucks making their racket outside and since this disturbed me, I’m sure that it disturbed Melanie.  A little while later, I heard Melanie’s alarm go off.  I’m not sure if she hit snooze at all, but I did hear what sounded like an alarm clock getting throw across the room at one point.  I was apparently projecting or imagining as  I would later find out while the cell phone alarm was going off, it had gotten lost in her blankets and in her search to find it, it fell to the floor.

I vaguely remember Melanie moving about the apartment and getting ready and leaving in the morning, but I’m not sure if I said goodbye or thanks or anything.  I definitely did not get up.  I probably opened my eyes to slits and mumbled something.  Later in the day I would be sure to send Melanie a text thanking her.

I’m not sure what time I finally got up, but while it wasn’t early, it also wasn’t late.  As there wasn’t wi-fi in the apartment, I couldn’t check my email as I usually do.  And as Melanie is not a coffee drinker, I couldn’t have my morning cup of joe either.  But, Intelligentsia wasn’t far away and they have great coffee and free wi-fi.  Since I wasn’t anxious to get dressed and get going, and since it wasn’t early, neither addiction would get fed.  Instead, I grabbed a glass of water and began shooting photos.  I took the usual pictures of the couch, but also did my coverage of the apartment as well.  Pip Pip kept me company and posed for me on occasion too.

I also gathered up my dirty laundry and took advantage of the fact that there is a free washer and dryer at Melanie’s place.  While I had a washer and dryer in the building of my last apartment, it wasn’t free and often involved a search for quarters.  And in my travels around on this journey, I was usually short on time, so I relied on people who had their own washer and dryer.  While I would have carved out time to go the laundromat if I had to, I never had to do that.

With the laundry going and the photos taken, I made myself presentable, grabbed my laptop, and headed to Intelligentsia for coffee, a pastry, and to check my email.  It was only a short drive and I was able to find parking where I could leave my car for a short time and walk to the cafe.   There was a short line, which moved quickly, and I ordered one of their fancy drip coffees and a coffee cake.   The place was packed, as usual, but I was able to find a seat.  It was in the sun and it was a bright and warm day, but it would have do . I managed to position my laptop so that the glare was minimized and went about my business.  I quickly took care of any important emails and bragged about swimming in the pool at the Roosevelt.   Did I mention that David Hockney painted a mural on the bottom of the pool?  Once the email and other business was taken care of, I finished my coffee and cake and people watched for a little while.  It’s always a scene at Intelligentsia.   There’s always hipsters and people who think they are too cool for school.  Some, may very well be too cool, but others were just trying too hard.  I didn’t linger too long as my parking would soon expire and my laundry awaited me.  As I mentioned, I hadn’t gotten the earliest of starts and it was already past noon.

I returned to Melanie’s place fully caffeinated and with some food in my belly.  The laundry was dry and I folded it and repacked my duffle bag, leaving out one set of clothes to change into.  I then took a shower and got changed, and I want to say that this was one of the few times, if not the only time,  that I took a shower on back to back days.   I hadn’t adequately washed off the chlorine from the night before and as I had fresh and clean clothes to change into, it seemed a necessity.  The fact that Melanie had one of the largest and most luxuriest showers I had been in didn’t hurt.

Once I was cleaned up and packed up, it was nearing 3, and so it was time to go.  I still need to do some things and prepare myself for the night.   As well, all I had eaten was a piece of coffee cake, so lunch was also in order.  I loaded up the car, left the key in the secret spot, and pulled out the lot, leaving the remote in it’s usual spot.  I headed toward  Hollywood for the afternoon and a my next couch at the home of a stranger in North Hollywood that night.

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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