Max Koch Uncorked

Wine-soaked adventures through a twisted life…

Inktober: Days 1 – 5

For the first time since its inception in 2009, I am participating in the Inktober Initiative, created by illustrator Jake Palmer.  31 Drawings, 31 Days.  And let me tell you: I am having a blast!  I’ve never worked with prompt words before to inspire a drawing, so…this is bitchin’ new terrain for me.  It’s gotten me back on a consistent creative schedule – which I have considerably neglected since I’ve been mourning the death of my beloved pug, Mickey – AND, best of all, it has re-ignited a fire inside me to put my ideas to paper, no matter how shitty or strange. And the rules are VERY simple:

Inktober rules:

1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).

2) Post it online

3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2017

4) Repeat

Note: you can do it daily, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week. What ever you decide, just be consistent with it. Inktober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more you’re consistent the better.

Well, that sounded perfectly reasonable to me.  So off I went.  Here are my first five submissions, with the accompanying prompt words.

Day 1.  Prompt word: Swift.  I went with the late, legendary Hollywood super agent, Irving “Swifty” Lazar.

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Day 2.  Prompt word: Divided.  I’ve never been more worried about the future.

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Day 3.  Prompt word: Poison.  The Las Vegas Massacre AND the death of Tom Petty all happened at once.

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Day 4.  Prompt word: Underwater.  This one was inspired by the notorious Sourtoe Cocktail.

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Day 5.  Prompt word: Long.  In honor of NBC’s hit show Cheers, I call this one “Skelley Long.”

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Inktober! 

More to come…

WINE PAIRING: I’ve never been to Wine & Canvas, which is more about painting while drinking wine…but if anything makes me happy anymore, it’s bound to be drawing with a glass of wine next to me on my desk.


Rest in Peace, Mickey the Pug

Mickey the Pug passed away last night. It was Sunday, September 10th, at 6:05 PM and I’ll never be the same.

For those of you who follow me on social media, you know what a big deal Mick was. Not just to me and my wife and his brother, Malcolm…but to pretty much anyone who saw his picture or read a post about him or held him in their lap or stopped to say hello to him in his stroller.

Oh, and ALL the ladies. ALL of them. They. LOVED him. Especially his Aunt Kari and neighbor, Bekka, who deemed him her “boyfriend.” He had the ‘X’ factor. And, oh, those BIG, BEAUTIFUL BROWNS. So soulful, it was eerie.

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We’d had Mickey for almost six years. That’s nothing. But he was such a Velcro Pug to me that you may as well double my time with him to 12 years. He followed me everywhere. He was always by my side.

Mickey was the most loyal friend I’ve ever had. Even my wife would jokingly say, “Jesus, I love you but I don’t think I love you like HE loves you.” It was true, though.

We adopted “The Mick” from Nikki Dogfather, the same wonderful, hilarious British woman who let us take Malcolm off her hands. The price for Mick? Two big bags of dog food to help feed her other rescues. That was it. SOLD.

Malcolm now had a brother. Frick and Frack. We took them everywhere with us. The few times they couldn’t come on a plane, we’d have our friend Sharon look after them. She did a fine job. The brothers slept together, snored together, traveled together, but NEVER ate together. That’s the breed for you. Pugs are VERY possessive of their food. I always had to feed them separately. Cuz THAT’S not a pain in the ass.

This was one of the last pictures I took of Mickey and Malcolm side-by-side. Can you tell which one is which? Many never could. That was always fun. (Mick’s there on the right with the giant tongue…)

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Mick came with all kinds of physical problems. This we learned the hard way. For starters, he was pretty much already nearing his “senior dog” status when we took him in. His previous owners – may they ROT in DISCOURSE – never took care of his teeth. So we paid to have 14 extractions right out the gate. Oh, you shoulda seen Mickey on those pain pills. Poor baby. 

Not soon after came the pancreatitis…then the seizures…and finally, this past January…Mickey was diagnosed with Insulinoma. I was shattered. The doctor gave him 6 months.

We spent thousands of dollars on that dog. Worth every red cent. We would call upon our neighbor Erika to administer his Cerenia shots whenever he needed them to stop his terrible nausea bouts because I was so afraid to give them to him myself. But I sucked it up and forced myself to do it eventually, which royally impressed my wife. I also came to cook for him. And care for him morning, noon, and night in ways you can’t even imagine. He was a little god to me. I worshipped him. We worshipped each other. He always gave back. In love and loyalty and humor. Oh, he was the funniest pug. Pugs are known to be quite the little comedians, you know.

Mickey started losing the use of his rear hinds. He could walk. But barely. So I came up with the stroller idea and it made a world of difference. Yeah, there were times when rolling a smiling little black pug around the neighborhood got a little awkward. But I didn’t care. Mickey taught me to not give a shit about what people thought. I’m starting to cry now.

This past weekend was trouble. Mickey wasn’t sleeping and seemed very uncomfortable. I could tell he was further deteriorating. I could sense the end was near. I am in regular contact with his vet, the eternally-amazing Dr. Robert Fullington, so it wasn’t like Mick’s problems weren’t tended to on a regular basis. But he was struggling. And tired. And on a lot of medications. Prednisone by itself can be very rough on a little animal’s system. 

Then all hell broke loose. Early Sunday evening, Mickey started seizing in ways I’d never seen before. He was gasping for air. Foaming. And violently shaking. I immediately rushed him to the ER. I knew this was it. Worst of all, Nichole was not home. She was performing a show at Second City. I had to make the call without her. I did.

When we put down our dearly departed Lily the pug, who Mickey was SO much like, we had the luxury to have a doctor come to our house to do the deed. But last night there was no time. No time at all. The ER it was.

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It all happened SO fast. The staff was kind and quick-moving. The ER doctor came in to give the 3 Final Shots of Freedom. She knew his fine work on this godforsaken planet was finished.  I could barely see what was going on through my tears. I looked down. The medical gauze tape they wrapped around his paw was purple. That was Mickey’s color. Purple collar. Purple towel in the stroller. How did they know?

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My boy’s heart stopped. And so did mine.

VET TECH: Would you like us to take an imprint of his paw?

ME: Yes. Uh. Please.

VET TECH: Okay, well, Carmen up front should have your bill for you.

ME: Carmen? Right. The bill. Thank you. 

Oh, my God, what just happened? Where was my Mickey? He was just sitting in my lap less than 2 hours ago. Who’s going to love me like he did now? Who’s going to follow me from room to room and NEVER rest until I’m seated so he can crawl into my lap? Where is my beautiful baby boy? My sweet little old man?

I stepped out onto the street in a haze. I looked down. There was a crushed red rose on the sidewalk. 

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Then I looked over and saw two random taquitos.

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It’s so dumb but I thought maybe Mick was playing a little goodbye prank on me cuz he knows how often I stop to take pictures of weird crap on the street.

When I got home, I waited for the wife to call. Poor Nichole. She took it hard as I knew she would. She didn’t get to say goodbye. But honestly, I am so relieved that she didn’t see Mick go out the way I did. I needed to be strong for her. I was.

Anyway, my Mickey is gone. And now comes the shit sandwich-eating. The devastating mourn sessions. I’m supposed to go out tonight with a bunch of friends to see the new “It” movie. I was gonna bail, but I think I need to go. I’ve been immersed in Mick business for so long, it would be a good palate cleanser.

WINE PAIRING: Mickey was always happy to lie down and chill in a tasting room. So let’s go with the 2012 Fusion from Opolo. The notes declare it has “a wonderfully long finish.” Perfect for Mick has he managed to live two and a half months longer than he had been given.

I love you, Mickey. Forever and always. Thank you for being such a great dog.

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A Decadent Day in Downtown L.A.

Sure, I live in Los Angeles but I never bother to go downtown unless I’m being dragged against my will to attend some play or musical by my lovely wife.  So you can imagine the dread I felt inside when she said, “Hey! Why don’t we take the Metro line downtown sometime and see some sights.”

To be fair, she was coming from a place of encouragement because I had just seen an old Huell Howser segment featuring Downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market.  I was suddenly very curious to see what it was all about and that set the wife off on a mission to plan a day downtown.  ANY opportunity to explore a city (even our own!) and my wife is ON it.

ME: But we can’t leave the dogs alone that long…

NIC: They’ll be FINE. We’ll only be gone for 5 or 6 hours!

So yesterday morning we drove up to the North Hollywood Metro station to park our car so we could get on the subway train to head downtown.  I suppose we could have just walked there since we only live about 25 minutes away from it on foot.  But it was already so hot and humid by 10am, that we said, “Ah, screw it, let’s spoil ourselves!”  The truth is, the parking lot was unbelievably packed and confusing. There were green zones and blue zones and pink zones and yellow zones and bus zones and bike zones and we didn’t know WHAT the hell was going on. But we finally figured it out after about another 30 minutes and finally made it down to the station’s ticket terminal, which was equally confusing if not more so.  

(Seriously, we had not ridden the Metro since, like, the late 1990’s…)

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The wife utterly bewildered by the ticket machine. (Tap card? What’s a TAP card…?)

We weren’t on the subway car FIVE seconds before some kind of heated argument broke out between 2 passengers, only adding to my anxiety about getting on an underground train in a region RIPE for a massive earthquake to erupt and bury us in concrete and steel. 

Thankfully, Security arrived to break up the brawlers and I managed to breathe it out the rest of the ride down.

We got off at the Pershing Square exit and were IMMEDIATELY thrusted into a monsoon of people, pollution, buildings, bricks, construction, noise, odors, oddwins, cars, cranes, filth, fury, and honking horns. We also started accidentally walking in the opposite direction of our first destination on the itinerary. Namely, The Last Book Store. (Suggestion: NEVER forget a MAP.)

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The Last Book Store was SO cool. New books, used books, rare books. And BEST OF ALL, a warning sign to customers that I was very happy to see:

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THANK YOU, Last Book Store!  It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, these loaf-abouts who grease and gross up the stock with their finger tips and coffee dribbles.

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And check this out, they even sell used DVDs and rare-ass PUNK ROCK records!

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The Annex Room is a TRIP.  So many kickass, Koch-centric treasures to be found…

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So of ALL the things I coulda bought, what do you think I wound up with?

You guessed it: A Carrot Top DVD, a book on Shane MacGowan, and “The Collected Works of Beavis and Butthead!”  Am I a refined, cultured individual or WHAT!

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Listen, I stand by my choices.  And this total badass bookseller babe at least agreed with my Shane selection, anyway… 

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Phew!  Shopping for books can be exhausting and we were starting to get hungry so it was finally time to say goodbye to The Last Book Store – and this Fishbowl Head Lady – and make our way over a few blocks to the Grand Central Market for some culinary taste-gasms.

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Along the way, I stopped to see if I needed any Aloe Pure or joint support pills.  I did not…

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I’m telling you, you never know who – or what – you’re going to run into in Downtown L.A. …it’s all VERY surreal.  I even saw a man talking to a natty, old ventriloquist dummy.  But I saw that in San Francisco, too, once, so it really wasn’t that big a deal.

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Ah.  Thar she blew.  The Grand Central Market.  We’d made it.

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The first thing we saw when we entered the left-side door was a WALL OF WINE.  Perfect for this blog!

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This was a title I was interested in picking up on the way out but it was all so overwhelming, this marketplace, that I forgot.  I mean, who in their right mind wouldn’t wanna enjoy a red blend during Happy Hour…?

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The scents, the sounds, the hunger, the humanity…

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The Grand Market has SO many options, you almost start to short circuit.

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And don’t even get me started on the delicious artisanal Goudas (from Scotland and Holland) we picked up at DTLA Cheese.

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You need spices?  You need chiles?  You need Moles?  What about powders and rubs?  ANYTHING YOU NEED!!!

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You need to re-adjust your pants in front of the China Cafe counter?  GO for it…

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Finally, we settled HERE to catch our breath.  The Oyster Gourmet.  If you follow me at all on this blog, you know ALL ABOUT my adoration for oysters.  And best of all, you don’t judge me for it.

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I ordered a beer and the Chef hand-picked my 9 globs of glory…

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Nic ordered a French white (you’ll see…it’s this entry’s wine pairing) and a succulent shrimp cocktail…

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I mean the produce ALONE down there.  Of course, we came from a train so we could only carry so many canvas bags full of crap.

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And I assure you, your sweet tooth will NOT feel ignored.

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They even got an Eggslut.  I don’t know what it means, but I’m intrigued…

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If you think we’d had enough to eat, you are VASTLY incorrect.  Nope, it was now time for our actual LUNCH!  Spaghetti with Tomato, Garlic Bread, and Ceasar Salad from Knead & Co.  I’m telling you, the main directive of the day was DECADENCE. And Knead was SO fantastic.  Just enough fuel to get us back home.  

(And don’t worry…we shared…and did so much hot, sweaty walking, we pretty much lost every pound we’d gained during this adventure.)

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Back out on the street and into the heat, it was time to find a refreshing, COLD dessert.  Nic had seen an ad in The Downtowner for a place called Little Damage that served – you guessed it again – GOTH ice cream!
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By the time we were ready to hike it back to the Pershing Square Metro station, I was WIPED.  But I also felt a new appreciation for my city.  Like I had actually gone away on vacation for a day and all I had to do was take a quick subway ride downtown for a few hours.  And we BARELY scratched the surface.  There is SO much more to do and see and EAT.  But, MAN, was I happy to get back to my little old black pugs. AND MY AIR-CONDITIONING.

WINE PAIRING: Nic’s French white choice! The Picpoul de Pinet. Merci!


My Return to Twin Peaks

WARNING: The following post contains spoilers about the series Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Return. Reader discretion is advised.

“Hawk, electricity is humming.  You hear it in the mountains and rivers.  You see it dance among the seas and stars and glowing around the moon.  But in these days, the glow is dying.  What will be in the darkness that remains?”  – Margaret Lanterman AKA The Log Lady, Twin Peaks: The Return

In 1994, not too long after the Northridge Earthquake, the wife (then-girlfriend) and I decided to move to Seattle. Our master plan was to be “big fish in a small pond.” Yeah, well, little did I know a small pond meant me working crappy dinner theatre shows and running a little video store on Lake Washington while my woman waited tables, serving the likes of August Wilson and Courtney Love. (Yes, we were living in Seattle when Kurt Cobain was found dead. Devastating.)

There were a few reasons why we chose to relocate ourselves to the Pacific Northwest.  One was because the apartment building we were about to move into down here in L.A. had been red-tagged as a result of the quake.  Not to mention, the restaurant where we had met and worked at together, located in Northridge, had endured some significant damage as well.  Plus, I had friends in Seattle and thought it would be a good idea to get the hell out of the San Fernando Valley before we, you know, got killed by “The Big One.” I might even add that I LIVE for rain and cool weather.

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There was another more secret, more mystical reason why I felt I was being called to the state of Washington.  I wanted to live – you guessed it – in Twin Peaks.  I mean, even though Twin Peaks is a fictitious town – or state of mind, depending how you look at it – I felt that if I could just get up to Snoqualmie Falls on the weekend for a hike…or head on over to the Double R Diner for a piece of damn fine cherry pie, well, it would just be a 40 minute drive from Seattle to Twin–okay, North Bend, Washington, but still!  I would be closer to the Black Lodge.  To the Roadhouse.  To the Great Northern Hotel.  To the strait where Laura Palmer’s murdered, wrapped-in-plastic body washed ashore. 

Nichole and I did get up there a few times, North Bend.  We used to hike around the bottom of the falls and one time we brought my Uncle Patrick up there and actually made our way BEHIND the falls.  I mean, if there wasn’t a backdoor entrance into the White Lodge already established, behind the falls would be PERFECT.  Ideal.  It’s breathtaking. 

So why did I want to live in Twin Peaks so bad?  Well, after meditating on it for a minute, the answer has come to me: Twin Peaks was the first show I had ever truly felt a part of its “cult.”  I was already a massive admirer of David Lynch films before the first episode of Peaks hit the air on April 8, 1990, and I will NEVER forget how I felt viewing that initial pilot.  Holy shit, TV is finally taking a CHANCE. Obviously it blew the minds of millions and went on to become one of the most influential series in television history, but I almost felt like it belonged to me personally as well, at that raw, tender time in my life.  For example, the girls on the show were girls I’d gone out with.  Girls who were do-gooders, got good grades, were loyal to their families…but at an instant could easily be drawn to mystery and darkness.  And, oh, that darkness.  It reminded me of all the rocks I used to lift growing up, to see what was underneath.  And there was always those haunting mentions of “a wind” in the trees.  Lynch himself said recently at the premiere of the new show, “I like to cut wood.  Tonight, we’re going to a place where the trees are primarily Douglas firs.  Douglas firs are a beautiful tree, and if we’re very quiet we can hear the wind rustling the needles as we move through the forest, getting closer and closer, and now we’re here.”  Shit, I can relate to that even as a camper. Why don’t you join me by the fire and we’ll talk of things many refuse to try and understand.

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Twin Peaks.  And so it was.  It was where I always wanted to be.  Where I felt at home.  Pure nostalgia. With the girls–some of whom were ruinously attractive.  With some of the guys–Special Agent Dale Cooper may as well be my ENTIRE idea of the Ultimate Hero.  With the oddwins of the town like The Log Lady and Pete Martell and Mike, the One-Armed Man.  With the dwarves and the giants and the demons and the spirits.  It all just felt…like home.  Where my sensibilities would never be questioned.  Just like a Star Trek convention would be for a Trekkie (or Trekker) or, like, wherever these Game of Thrones junkies go to hang out, wearing pelts and preparing recipes from their Game of Thrones cookbook (I have never seen “GoT” but I hope to get into it eventually…?)

I did attend a very special Twin Peaks Tree People event with my friend Kyle back in the early 90’s, where we got to cocktail with cast members and learn a bit more about planting “the seeds of change.”  It was also at that party that I got to hang out with Mark Hamill for about 45 minutes.  We had both performed the role John Merrick, the Elephant Man onstage and were comparing the way we disfigured ourselves without the use of prosthetics, unlike in Lynch’s wrenching 1980 cinematic tearjerker, The Elephant Manstarring Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt.

I suppose the bottom line is…Twin Peaks has always sorta brought out the geek in me.  It’s my comic books, my video games, my action figures.  Y’know, GEEK shit. MY geek moment.  Like, if I was ever to go to a convention, it would either be a Twin Peaks gathering…or, I dunno, maybe Monster-Mania Con

Even after I moved back to L.A., Twin Peaks continued to inspire me to create my own worlds in my head. I mean, why else do I STILL have THESE after 25 years…???

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Now little did I know my RETURN to Twin Peaks would pack such a…well, frankly… EMOTIONAL punch.  For starters, it’s CRAZY to see everybody in the cast 25 years older.  Especially the ones who are crushingly no longer with us, like Miguel Ferrer (Albert) and Catherine Coulson (The Log Lady.)  It also wows me to no end that Laura Palmer told Cooper in the Black Lodge that she would INDEED be seeing him again in 25 years.  Was that planned all along??  And don’t get me started on the countless cool guest stars and musical acts and returning oddball characters like Harry Dean Stanton’s Fat Trout trailer park landlord, Carl Rodd.

Seriously, when Showtime announced David Lynch and Mark Frost were returning to Twin Peaks for a limited series event, the first thing that popped in my head was, “Oh, Jesus, I hope I don’t DIE before this happens!”

So in preparation for The Return, Nichole and I went through all of seasons 1 and 2 as well as 1992’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, all of which we were still trying to get through even after The Return had commenced.  Which is nuts because now that I was reminded of Cooper’s fate – that he went into the Black Lodge 25 years ago to rescue Annie Blackburn, the waitress and eventual winner of the Miss Twin Peaks pageant, and got STUCK in there while ANOTHER Cooper, the evil incarnation of himself, managed to escape back out into the real world to do terrible harm to many – it’s absolutely HEARTBREAKING. Because now BOTH Coopers are out in the world, and every week a whole new, nail-biting hour ignites…and I sit there, tied up in knots, wondering what the hell is going to happen when the two finally come face to face. Or maybe they won’t.  Or maybe–whoa, wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute, is that…is that REALLY Laura Dern as Diane??? GENIUS CASTING, DL!!! All your muses, present here…

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Heartbreaking, too, because Special Agent Dale sacrificed 25 years of his life to save the woman he loved from the surreal horrors of the Black Lodge.  And now I think of all the OTHER lives he could have saved during that time. All the OTHER good deeds…and even Blue Rose cases he could have solved.  But no. No, our man Coop was trapped in a red-curtained purgatory…avoiding scary, sludge-y coffee and witnessing The Evolution of the Arm.  But I wasn’t thinking that when I first saw the series finale 25 years ago.  All I thought was, “whoa, cool, that was SO trippy and weird and now Coop is Bob, too, awesome!”  I had no idea the emotional impact Cooper’s entrapment (and eventual mind erase) would have on me.  And now that Coop’s out these days, barely functioning in the real world, living in the fleshy guise of some Las Vegas insurance agent clown named Dougie Jones, it’s even MORE sad what happened to him. Although you could gather that he is ever-so-slowly returning to himself.  And it’s taking a WHILE, Coop’s comeback, believe me.  But I’m not complaining.  I am ALL IN on this journey each and every week, sweating gusto, verve, exhilaration through my PORES.  And I am geeking out just as much now as I was 25 years ago. Lynch is SO into this dual universe/doppelgänger deal, too, look at all his films, it’s WILD.

When my most favorite filmmaker of all, Stanley Kubrick, passed away in 1999, I didn’t think anyone could fill the void of his loss.  Now I think David Lynch is doing a fine job of that.  Or at least carrying the fire.  So much so, that…sometimes…it feels like the two have been merging INTO one another lately.  Especially on Twin Peaks: The Return.  It’s THAT special.  

Have I mentioned I’m inspired?  

Art LIVES, baby.

Gotta light…?

WINE PAIRING: Well, well, well…look who’s making their OWN wine now…

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(Cue Angelo Badalamenti score!)  


Man Enough for Whiskey-barreled WINE

Few years ago, I had received a gracious invite to the Next Door Lounge in Hollywood to participate in a very special tasting of various whiskeys. Before I accepted, I seriously had to ask myself…”Am I MAN ENOUGH for whiskey?”

The answer might surprise you. 

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Whiskey for me was always shots over the years at Thanksgiving with The Counselor’s Uncle Chuck. Actually, as he possesses a pretty thick Bostonian accent, it’s more like “ssshhhaaaawwwwt”…”who waaawwwnts a ssshhhaaaawwwwt…?”

Whiskey is also my Jameson-pounding, occasional partner-in-crime Brett Pearsons, who played mandolin for the Celtic-inspired punk group, The Mighty Regis, and now jams with his new indie-folk outfit, TINY goliath.  In fact, Brett wrote a play for us and I had the lead role as a Whiskey Sour-slugging serial killer named Dane. 

Other than that? I have no real relationship with whiskey. Hard liquor holds no significance for me. I like tequila, I guess. I went to a tequila tasting in the Mexican Riviera once. If I recall, we bought a bottle of vanilla-flavored tequila that had no label. But the thing got drank once we got home. 

They drank whiskey a lot on Deadwood?

Oh! I know. You know who loves whiskeys? The WIFE! Oh, hell, she may as well be my own personal Marion Ravenwood these days. I mean, I will definitely partake in the brown if she’s pourin’ but don’t count on me getting in a whiskey-slugging CONTEST with her. ForGET it.

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I’ve been trying to learn about the differences geographically in whisky/whiskey, too. Scotch is whisky made in Scotland, while bourbon is whiskey made in, like, Kentucky. OR PASO ROBLES WINE COUNTRY.

Yep, it’s true. They’re distillin’ like crazy up there now. Why, the last time we were there – okay, just last month – we tasted whiskeys, gins, AND bourbon barrel-infused wines. And I have to tell you…I am developing a real taste for them. 

Which leads us, finally, to my WINE PAIRING: The wife and I were at our neighborhood Vons supermarket yesterday and I can’t even tell you how fond I have become of their wine aisle. I didn’t catch his name but the fellow in charge of the aisle himself was there yesterday and I was complimenting him on his selection choices. TONS of local California titles, many of them whose tasting rooms we have visited. Anyway, I took notice of what appeared to be a red wine blend in a BOURBON bottle, or glass jug. But this was no Carlo Rossi table stuff, this was bourbon-infused wine. Well, just as soon as I reached for it, the wine guy slaps a bottle of Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cab in my mitt, which we learned was aged in Jameson whisky barrels! ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. And very unique. Deepen (widen?) your palette evermore once in a while with one of these and see if you notice or taste a difference. 

If this is a new trend, I’m now an official sucker for it. 

So…am I man enough for whiskey? Getting there. But I feel I’m most definitely man enough for Whiskey-barreled wine.

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My Bond is Gone

“Sean Connery is the OFFICIAL James Bond! No other Bond is better or greater than Sean Connery! Forget the other Bonds, it’s ALL about Connery!!!”

Oh, shut up, Whoever You Are. Clearly, you weren’t 9 years old when you first saw Moonraker at the Topanga Twin theater in Woodland Hills like I was. Connery’s cool, not taking a thing away from Connery…but Roger Moore was MY James Bond and now I’ve just arisen to the news that he has passed away at age 89. Strapping long life, sure…but also another piece of my childhood fades into oblivion.

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Of all the popular, popcorn-y cinematic franchises throughout the years, the James Bond films have always been my favorite. And when it came to Moore, who just so happened to be the MOST prolific of all the Bonds – 7 outings total as 007 – he was not only my favorite (pre-Daniel Craig), but also the most horny, arrogant, smug, mugging, and one-liner spouting of the Bonds. He was hilarious. And you don’t WANT your Bond to necessarily be funny! But Moore could also turn on a dime with those piercing blue eyes and face mole…and be dangerous and edgy enough to kick Jaws’s ass while reluctantly sky diving.

Gosh, I musta seen The Spy Who Loved Me  57 times growing up with the Z Channel as my babysitter. And Jaws was always my favorite Bond baddie. So I just loved it when Moore and Richard Kiel would go at it as those characters and would daydream about them going out after the shoot and grabbing a bucket of clams or something together. I loved playing with action figures as a kid and always lamented the fact that they never made any decent James Bond/Jaws dolls I could stage fights with on a makeshift set constructed with pieces of styrofoam. But I DID manage to take possession of the Matchbox version of the Lotus Esprit S1 submarine car. In fact, it’s resting in a tin box in my storage unit as I type this!

And finally…Roger Moore was just cool. And generous. And VERY FUNNY. I highly recommended both his 2009 memoir My Word Is My Bond: The Autobiography as well as his Bond on Bond: Reflections On 50 Years Of James Bond Movies. (Good grief, am I showing my “geek colors” here or what? How embarrassing.) 

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WINE PAIRING: Here’s a fabulous little Bond movie and wine pairing guide I found. Perfect for next time you take a look at, say, A View to a Kill, and decide to raise a glass of Mount Eden’s “luscious but rustic” Pinot Noir to the late, great Roger Moore.


Am I Floundering…?

Am I floundering?

I ask myself.

I’m telling you, man, at 46 years of age, this middle-age game is rough. I’m starting to have a lot of those “Get off my lawn!” moments and it bothers me a bit. I was always a very edgy, open-minded guy but I feel I have grown very impatient over the years with the state of all that is. I’m becoming more of an introvert than I EVER was. And really reclusive, too. Like, going out into the world for me anymore is just. Such. A CHORE.

I dunno. Maybe I need a vacation. Or more wine.

I also feel like I’m not doing enough creatively. Or maybe I have too many ways of expressing myself and wonder if I need to focus and pick ONE avenue of inventiveness and just stick with that. I get very caught up in trying to entertain my crew on social media but that doesn’t really accelerate my career. But then again, when one of my friends who has some considerable clout in the entertainment business winds up giving something I posted a “like”, I somehow convince myself that that is some sort of accomplishment. 

But it really isn’t, is it. I mean, it would be if that person would soon after send me a direct message which read, “Wow, Max, I laughed so hard at that last post that I wanna put you on this TV show I’m working on. I just think you’re SO underrated and I wanna help put a fresh new credit on your resume!” 

Uh. Yeah. Unfortunately, that NEVER happens.

I get so scared that I’m going to be obsolete BEFORE we get nuked by God-knows-who.

That said, I’ll tell you a cool story:

Last night I went and saw a friend do stand-up at the world-famous Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip. I really did NOT want to go. But this friend sincerely required my support and I was honestly curious to see what material she would perform and so I agreed to venture out. Did I prefer instead to stay home with my pugs – one who is still struggling with cancer, meaning my remaining time on Earth with him might now be limited – and watch a documentaries all night by candle light while drinking wine? OF COURSE! But I forced myself to get off my ass and GO. My wife was out at a Second City class anyway, and so I made it a date with myself.

I’m honestly glad I did.

While it was, at times, a very surreal 2 hours of (mostly amateur) comics blabbing on about Tinder, Trump, body image, parenthood, speech impediments, LGBTQQ issues, food, finances, and bladder function, it was also very illuminating to witness several vulnerable folks in a row having the bravery to go up on stage and reveal themselves through one-liners, jokes, and zingers…a few of which fell completely flat. But that’s okay, I was enjoying a rum beverage called The Punchline (haha?).

But then something really crazy happened. 

As it turns out, the main headliner from downstairs had come UPstairs to The Belly Room (where I was at) to grant us an impromptu closing set. Lo and behold, holy shit, turns out it was writer-director, Judd Apatow. Now this was REALLY cool for me because I am a MASSIVE Freaks and Geeks fan. Sure, he’s known for many already classic comedy movies, but seeing him on stage 8 feet from me doing really solid, hilarious stand-up was TRULY an inspiration. I was so excited for my friend, who did a fabulous job, that I texted her afterwards that she can OFFICIALLY go around boasting that she had opened for Hollywood Big-shot Judd.

So as I drove home, I felt just a little bit better about MY place in the world. But I do think I can be doing even more. I see so many friends ascending all around me, while at the same time talking to others who’ve won acting awards in things I’VE written now working in sales or real estate. 

Well, I’m not ready to go back to waiting tables.  I’ve come too far and done too much but I want more now. Judd Apatow helped. And my friend helped, too, because she’s sort of going through her own little renaissance right now, doing stand-up and making short films while also trying to work a day job and be a mother to two boys. So what the hell am I complaining about? 

And what about my wife, my own WIFE! She busts her ass 40 hours a week at a corporate gig and decided last year to get back to her writing and performing by signing up at Second City. Oh, she revs my juices ALL the time, I’ll say. I’m so deeply proud of her gumption.

Look, this is all telling me it’s never too late to re-boot, re-invigorate, re-invent. And, God forbid…step out of the house again once in a while.

Could be a good idea to take a class soon. Be it for stand-up, which I’ve done, or acting or whatever. Get some disciplinary brush-up action is all. Because not to be a conceited dickhead or anything, but I seriously sat in that audience last night thinking, “Man…I could get up on that stage right now and murder it, I bet.” Or fall flat on my face. The point is: THE FIRE INSIDE ME STILL BURNS!!!

I’ll be fine. I mean, I’m busy as hell every day. Working my ass off on various projects coming soon and working to be better. But it would be good to get some help from a professional mentor or instructor. A fresh, outside perspective. It’s time. I just don’t wanna feel like a flounder-er anymore. I don’t like it.

Or maybe I won’t do a damn thing.

Okay, I just took a break and Googled “flounder.” Look at THIS guy. You think HE’S sweatin’ life?

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I’ll leave you with this:

I woke up this morning feeling pretty depressed. First time in a while. I did my morning ritual. Y’know…fed and walk the pugs, breakfast, newspaper, listened to the Alec Baldwin interview on Stern…”THERE’S a guy who’ll leave a legacy!”, I exclaimed, as I picked at my eggs, feeling sorry for myself.

And then I came to the desk. And I knew I was going to draft a blog entry about feeling like I’m floundering. Like I’ll never truly “make it.” Like I’ll just be known as a Z-level nothing for the rest of my days who’s made no impact, who no one in the industry knows what to do with, who’s bound to simply fade away into obscurity.

And then I get THIS email (copied and pasted with permission):

The Sopranos and the work of James Gandolfini have always been very close to my heart. The last season especially, it always gets to me: from Tony’s coma dreams and the stay in the ICU, to the final cut to black. I was having some troubles of my own during its original airing, with a lot of the material hitting close to home. 

On subsequent re-watches, I can never shake the feeling the show gives me, and especially Gandolfini’s character work. After concluding my third series rewatch, I was already missing the character Tony Soprano: his mannerisms, quirks and personality. I went searching for some familiar moments from the show, but also something fresh maybe, like a compilation of outtakes, greatest moments, quotes, etc.

During this search I got very lucky and came across your videos. I was immediately impressed with your ability to so accurately channel the big guy, and knew within the first few seconds I’d found gold. Your flawless impersonations, and the ability to mimic and recreate the minutia of such complex characters are outstanding. Chrissy, Sil, Bobby Baccala, Junior – they’re all fantastic and very well done. It brought some nice feelings after missing these characters; it helped me reminisce, in addition to bringing fresh insight about what makes these characters who they are.

I think any accurate impression does so, as it relies heavily on mannerism and traits that most viewers likely only interpret subconsciously. But you bring them to the forefront, and use these things to recreate complex personalities. It’s very impressive, and must take a ton of talent and insight. Well done.

Your channel has a ton of great stuff, and I couldn’t subscribe fast enough. I think you’re very talented and have a great ear for impersonation and narrative. I just want to thank you for doing such a great job channeling these characters and adding something fresh and entertaining to the show, characters, and experience that means so much to me. Cheers.

Sincerely,

S. C. Bryant

St. Louis, MO

I gotta say…I couldn’t have been more grateful for that. The timing was crazy. It totally lifted my spirits. And was such a nice change of pace from “You suck, loser!!!”

So thanks to S.C. and thank you, dear reader, for reading. 

WINE PAIRING: Did you know Flounder goes GREAT with a White Bordeaux? How did I know that? Via this awesome Wine with Fish guide, courtesy of Wine Folly.


RIP: Doug Paul

It was shattering for me to learn that my funny-as-hell, winemaking, voiceover buddy Doug Paul – out in Dahlonega, GA. – had passed away this week due to heart failure resulting from pulmonary fibrosis. 

Survived by his wife and daughter, Sharon and Mittie, Doug was only 59 years old.  

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When Nic and I went out to explore Northeast Georgia wine country in June of 2012, I really wasn’t expecting to make such a cool, kind and generous friend at the Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery. But there Doug Paul was…in his giant overalls and hilariously-charming Jonathan Winters-esque personality, pouring us titles so unique and delicious, we continue to enjoy them to this day. Doug would FedEx us special sparklings and reds often after that first encounter. And we would truly be grateful to receive them.

Doug and I IMMEDIATELY hit it off, learned of each others positions in the world of voiceover…and kept in contact for the next 5 years via email and Facebook. One of our dreams was to make a hillbilly horror movie on his sprawling property together, where we’d play brothers. Or even a remake of Motel Hell. Or Lord knows what else.

One of the silliest and most endearing of Doug’s many talents was Photoshopping his friends heads and faces into scenes from famous movies or events in history. Here was his “Max Koch Collection.” I never knew where or when these were gonna pop up on my FB timeline. I got the biggest kick out of ’em…

Creepy Reverend from Poltergiest Max: 

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Satanic Santa Max: 

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Chuck Duck at the House Democrats Gun-Control Sit-In (note the wine glass): 

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Max Huckabee: 

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Easter Bunny Max: IMG_2606

Max and Clooney Win Oscars: 

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Jedi Max: 

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Manson Family Member Max: 

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It’s a Wonderful Life Max: 

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Max Lands on the Moon (with Mimosa): 

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Max at the Oscars with Marty and Leo: 

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Max in that Civil War Movie with McConaughey: 

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End Times/”The Road” Max:

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Historic General Max: 

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Old West Max: 

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Bouffant Max: 

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Ten Commandments Max: 

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Groundhog Day Max: 

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Edna Turnblad from Hairspray Max: 

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Tacky Friday the 13th Sweater Max: 

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Nosferatu Max: 

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Child of Drugged-Out Couple Max:

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Idyllic Family Life Max:
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Sports Illustrated Cover Max: 

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Michael Phelps and Max:
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“Whatever Terrifying Thing This Is” Max: 

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Muppeteer Max (+ Chuck Duck Cameo!):

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Psychotic Christmas Max:
IMG_2633Billy Jack/Born Losers Max: 

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Anyway…I think you get the point!

I’m gonna miss my friend. He was one of a kind. I hope he is having fun soaring the cosmos.

WINE PAIRING: My pal Jughead and I made this video featuring Doug Paul’s Fat Boy Red. I think I’m gonna change Jughead’s name to Doug Paul II: The Resurrection.


“Me & Mr. C” Teaser Trailer

Here is a teaser trailer for the documentary I am making on my high school drama teacher, Robert Carrelli. I’m calling it “Me & Mr. C.” This is a very important project to me and I am having a lot of fun putting this whole thing together. Mr. Carrelli AKA Mr. C was a major influence on my life during my 3-year stint at Chatsworth High School and has remained so ever since.

To see the teaser, click the pic of me filming Mr. C. below and GO.

WINE PAIRING: Since Mr. C is a robust 85-year-old of Italian descent, let’s go with the Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryè (voted one of the 10 Best Italian Wines from Men’s Health magazine!)

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Herzog Holiday Weekend Film-Fest With Pairings

Everything was going fine last weekend (President’s Day Weekend) until I suffered a terrible and VERY awkward spill in my Pilates class on Saturday morning. The fall wrenched my back out pretty sucky-like and so I was on pain killers and ice for most of the weekend. 

BUT THAT DIDN’T STOP ME FROM GOING TO A CIDER AND MEAD TASTING AT VENDOME WINE & SPIRITS!

By the way, do you know the difference between a cider and a mead? Well, mead comes from honey, like a honey wine, and cider is mead, I mean MADE from apples, usually…but also pears and pineapples, too, if your taste buds are ambitious. 

It’s okay. I get little confused myself…

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Jack is the beer, cider, and mead expert over at Vendome and he is just awesome. His zeal for the suds (and LEGOS) is off-the-charts enthuisiatic and so I asked him what a good German beer would be to pair with a 3-day festival of Werner Herzog films. At first he looked very confused, and so I explained that on holiday weekends – or any weekend the mood strikes us – the wife and I will switch off curating a little festival of films featuring a particular theme or actor/actress or director. So my turn was up and I chose Herzog mainly because I know my wife gets freaked out by vampire stuff and I’ve just been DYING to share his version of Nosferatu the Vampyre with her, because I know she’d appreciate it and not get too scared. (Okay, she was a little creeped out, but actually wound up enjoying the film very much. Personally, I think it’s one of Herzog’s greatest works.)

Jack pointed me in the direction of the Flensburger Pilsener from Flensburg in the Bundesland of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. This was a very crisp, refreshing lager that went great with Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, which is the story of a maniac in a white linen suit and Gary Busey hair – played by Herzog muse, Klaus Kinski, also Count Dracula – who goes a little mad in the Amazonian jungle trying to move a steamboat over a mountain to get to the rubber trees on the other side so he could then exploit them and make his fortune. At first, we were weary of the TWO HOUR AND THIRTY SEVEN MINUTE running time, but we actually wound up being very intrigued by it. Believe me, the Flensberger helped.

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The third Herzog I chose was his documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams which is currently streaming on Netflix. This one was a bit of a struggle to get through, because A.) I’m claustrophobic, and B.) Poor Werner was kind of limited in his ability to document his journey through the tight and slight Chauvet Cave in southern France, which contains the oldest human-painted images yet discovered. He was also working with a group of scientists and historians who weren’t exactly as colorful a character as, say, his best fiend, Klaus Kinski. But we did enjoy some meads with that one, including the cherry and Hops-infused Dwarf Invasion from the B. Nektar Meadery. I mean, I DO have a life-long obsession with Little People so that just worked out fine.

WINE PAIRINGS: Gosh, here I am going on about ciders and meads and beers and I forgot all about the Fangria we paired with Nosferatu. That was one we’d picked up at the Vampire Vineyards Tasting Room & Lounge back in 2014. It’s Sangria, of course, with just a bit more BITE. And it’s completely captivating. Just make sure it’s very-well chilled…much like the dense banks of fog that engulf Count Dracula’s castle on any given moonless night.

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Here’s to Herzog! And Happy Jack at Vendome!