Chatting With Mike Ochs or, How I Learned to Stop Wondering About Lent, Resolutions, Science Projects, and The Ochs Family Orchard.
Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. For those of you that have already broken your new years resolution; Lent is basically another chance to redeem yourself. If you are Christian that is. Today marks the 40 days and 40 nights before Christ was hung on the cross. So during those 40 days and 40 nights you give up something of yourself. They do it for Christ.
A grave right next to a grocery store in Liverpool. Nov. 2003
I have with me an email buddy of mine, whom I have never met. His name is Mike Ochs. He lives in L.A. He too, has kept his new years resolution. This interview is long. We are both good chatters and interesting peeps. If you’ve made it this far – keep on truckin’ (-r. crumb).
Anise: So word on the street is that you have had one beer since Jan. 1st.
Mike Ochs: True! When I woke up the afternoon of New Year's Day, I realized how little I remembered of the night before. I looked at my cell phone's call log and noticed that I'd called everyone---little recollection of the conversations or the messages I left. And my friend started telling me about some embarrassing shit I did. (Mainly this consisted of hugging this one girl while saying, "You are SOOOOO cute! I want to tickle you!") So I decided to give up the sauce for a while.
In the airport the next day, though, I had a beer on my layover. I was like, "Wow! I can't keep a resolution for one freaking day!"
A: I am not going to count that beer. I am still impressed. What WAS your fave kind of beer?
MO: Bass Ale. I could drink it faster than water. And I can drink water really quickly. It also went really well with a scotch.
A: What about smoking? Did you cut that out too?
MO: I did. I wasn't a regular smoker, but I still think I was addicted. I quit in November because I figured it would be tough to handle quitting while starting all my other new year's resolutions. Except for some periods of moodiness, it hasn't been too difficult. This wasn't the first time I tried to quit. I think I was successful this time because I was tired of smoking, as opposed to the other times when I just wanted to quit. I don't know if that makes sense, but there is a difference.
A: So what do you drink when you are out, or do you just not go out anymore?
MO: I still go out, but I haven't really been going to bars. When I do go, I drink water (which I can drink really quickly!) or Sprite. Oddly enough, bars charge a lot for soda here. You would think they'd be like, "Ah, a designated driver! Let's support his sobriety by reasonably pricing our soft drinks so his friends, our customers, get home safely---allowing them to drink another day!" Instead, they're like, "Sprite?! You fucking cheapskate teetotaler! Take it on the arches, fuckwad!"
A: Right... being in California – is it typical to go out at night with a designated driver?
MO: Surprisingly no. With everything and everyone so spread out, you end up meeting up wherever you're going. When you do have a designated driver, he or she will usually sober up an hour before you leave instead of staying sober all night.
A: It seems to me (only because my impression of L.A. is Max going there in 1977 in Annie Hall) that you wouldn't be alone in your choice to clean up your act. What other things have you been working on?
MO: Annie Hall is fairly accurate, but it doesn't show the hard-partying other side of LA. There's all these new age-y, health conscious people, but there's also tons of drugs, booze and cheap sex (not enough for my taste, but there's a lot). I've also been trying to get to the gym more regularly (going well!), eat better (not going well), do more volunteer work (eh), and live within my means (doing well, but only out of necessity).
A: So, what are you giving up for lent?
MO: Carbs. I think it's the only thing I have left to give up.
A: How about you throw in the towel and just give up food? Just start taking one big horse-sized multi vitamin?
MO: Once my friend went to Japan and told me he ate horse. I asked him whether he was at
a. a restaurant
b. a stable
c. a brothel
A: And what did he say?
MO: He was at a restaurant; that was just my little joke.
A: I know. Speaking of horses - I just asked my friend Jeff, if he knows anyone that ate whole apples on a regular basis. You know, core and all. He told me that the only animals that he knew of to eat whole apples were horses on TV. What about you? Do you know people who eat the whole apple?
MO: I don't know anyone who eats the whole apple. And my family owns an apple orchard. Never seen anyone eat the whole thing. My ex-girlfriend would not eat all the way around the apple, though. She would always leave a thin strip of the skin. I never really understood why.
A: I wonder...
MO: She always said it was something about how the last bite hurt her teeth. She had a lot of weird quirks, though. She'd open envelopes on the short end. She would get pissed off whenever I fell asleep. Strange bird.
A: So wait - your parents own an orchard? Have you ever found worms in your apples?
MO: Actually, my dad's uncle owned the orchard. I think he's passed on. It is called Ochs Orchard, though. We would go pick apples once a year or so. I never found any worms.
A: Can we go apple picking this fall, or is that like totally lame for you - like working.
MO: We could go apple picking in the fall. It used to be really lame, but it's been a long time and I think I'm over that phase of hating everything.
A: Do they have hayrides at the orchard?? and P.S. hating everything is supposed to end when you are 21.
MO: Hating everything is out? Fuck, I'm old. And as a matter of fact, they do have hayrides. I think. It's been a while since I've gone. I could be remembering hay rides at a farm near my house.
A: oh boy, Ochs orchard. That is so cute. What in the hell do your parents do anyway?
MO: My dad is a chemist. He works in the floor and wall coverings industry and just started at a new company in New York. Long commute. Some nights he stays at a hotel.
My mom works in a senior citizen's housing development.
A: That is awesome that your dad is a chemist. Growing up, did he do crazy experiments around the house? My grandmother owned a hobby shop - so there were always cool projects going on. I could only imagine what went on with a chemist for a father.
MO: My dad would do experiments when we had science projects for school. Once, he helped me build this massive Jeopardy buzzer when I was in middle school. When I was in elementary school, he and I tried to make a battery, but it never worked. Once in a while he'd come lecture at someone's class. It was kind of weird. My sister was really into his science experiments. One year he took us to his office Christmas party and my sister wouldn't leave until he showed he some experiment with acids and bases.
That's rad that your grandmother owned a hobby shop. Did you live near her? Did the shop have model trains?
A: Dude. The roof of the shop was lined with model airplanes and there was always a train set being worked on. My grandparents are way into that stuff. I was into science experiments too. One year my family helped me build a miniature remote control windmill. Who knows why we needed a remote control windmill.
So okay enough Ochs family history. Back to the point of this interview. Unfortunately, at some point you will break the resolution, and lent will end, so choose one. House party or bar:
MO: House party---better chances of meeting cooler people
A: Peanuts or pretzels?
A: Brunette or Blonde:
MO: Brunette. Hands down.