A Greek Triumph and Tragedy

AndyGeorge

Andy George was one of the most creative people I ever met. From musician to electronics technician to product craftsman, he liked to put things together. I only knew him the last several years of his life, and frankly, there is a lot that I did not know about him. But I liked him a lot and really miss him. Of course now I wish we’d spent more time together.

A few years ago I led a monthly reading discussion group of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. The book has thirty chapters and we analyzed one chapter per month. This gave attendees enough time to read the material, digest it, and come prepared with questions.

Andy was always the first one to arrive for each session. Wearing all black with his signature yellow tie, he clearly enjoyed the sessions. He would talk, interrupt, go off topic, get engaged, and we all put up with it because he was so excited. My job as the leader would be to give him just enough rope, then step in and say, “Andy, you’ve exceeded your word quota for the session.” He would smile sheepishly.

AndyAtlasgroup2

He often brought books to the sessions, but when I asked where his Atlas Shrugged copy was he said it was too tattered to bring and read from. The next month I gave him one of my many copies, which he brought henceforth.

Even though I sensed a bit of darkness about Andy, I thoroughly enjoyed his company. We attended many films, plays, and lectures together, and we’d always go out to eat (often at a Greek restaurant) and discuss afterwards.

One special bond we shared was a love of rock music. He was a drummer who worshipped my top two heroes: John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and Neil Peart of Rush. I tried to bring him to one of the several Rush performances I saw over the years, but to no avail. However, I did get him to join me in viewing a movie theater version of one of the concerts from their Clockwork Angels tour. He walked out of the theater quite impressed.

After a period of dissatisfaction with his job at Honeybee Robotics, they laid him off. Sadly, he seemed to become more withdrawn and less social. Then, shortly after that, he walked away from his monthly gig in which he ran the sound system for the NYC Junto group meetings.

AndyAtlasgroup3

Because I saw less of him and sensed that he wasn’t doing well, I called and asked if he was up for a musical boost. The newest DVD I bought was Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day concert, with the late John Bonham’s son Jason playing drums. He said yes and I went to his tiny, Lower East Side apartment, which was filled with design objects ranging from studded jackets to glittering trinkets to stacks of record albums.

As we watched the video he was beaming, throwing in a technical comment here and there. It was nice to see him fully engaged and enjoying himself.

I felt bittersweet about him leaving the NYC Junto because the financier Victor Niederhoffer graciously invited me to speak about New York heroes, last June, and I really wanted Andy to attend. I told him he could wear a hat, slanted over his face, and skip upstairs incognito. He didn’t say yes or no.

We discussed how the evening would play out. Andy did say he knew I’d do a good job but the moderator would try to throw me off, show no respect, and try to make the event about himself. I told him I’d keep my cool and promised to hit a home run. This is precisely what happened.

Before I gave the presentation we arranged a trip to Astoria, Queens. He knew I loved the Greeks for their role in the birth of civilization and we often ate in Greek restaurants, so here was a chance to spend a day in their neighborhood. The primary purpose was to visit Athens Square Park to see the bust of our favorite Greek hero, Aristotle.

Since we were in the vicinity of “the master of those who know,” I was reminded of the philosopher’s idea that “a friend is another self.” Unfortunately, the park was closed for renovation and the sculptures were covered temporarily. We promised to return when it was completed, but sadly that did not happen.

One nice element of our drive to Astoria was that we listened to the CD he recorded a few years earlier, called Intense Molecular Activity. His percussion work was astonishing, and I let him know it. We discussed each track as it played.

Remembering back to November, 2013, as we were winding down our Atlas Shrugged seminar sessions, shortly before the final session I received a package from Amazon. I opened it up and underneath the exquisite wrapping paper was a model car from the Batman Begins movie. Included was a note from Andy, showing his appreciation for the time and effort I put into running the Atlas Shrugged sessions. I smiled because it was something I would never get for myself, but he liked it so much, he decided to share it with me.

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Here was a craftsman offering a value in exchange for a value received. I was really touched, and told him.

The last time I saw him, in January 2015, was at City University of New York, for Yaron Brook’s talk on Free Speech. We went to our usual diner afterwards. He ordered a Greek yogurt and, for the first time in my life, I ordered the same.

There is a tragedy in having someone you care about have his life cut short. However, despite not being materially successful, Andy did not compromise his principles. He maintained his integrity, and therefore I consider him triumphant in life.

Since we never did get to revisit Athens Square Park together, I vowed to organize a celebration of his life in that park–which will happen on June 28.  Something tells me he would not mind being so close to Aristotle.

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9 thoughts on “A Greek Triumph and Tragedy

  1. I only met Andy once and after seeing the Anthem play we talked happily for about half an hour on a street corner. Somewhat oddly we discovered a common interest in marine salvage. His knowledge was quite broad, mine was very narrow. I’m sorry to hear of his death. Good tribute, Robert.

  2. Thanks, Robert. Regina and I met Andy at your Atlas Shrugged meetings: impressed by the breadth of his knowledge; always interested in his observations.

    He came to a meeting at our apartment once. I was intrigued to hear stories of his days as a musician in NYC. He looked out our window overlooking 10th Street and he mentioned that he had lived in a car parked on 10th Street when he came to the city.

    An interesting life…stories untold. We’ll miss him.

  3. Andy George, My friend for 47 years.

    “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.
    We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence,
    but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.
    We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

    “There is no great genius without a mixture of madness.”

    Aristotle

    “Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision.”

    Ayn Rand

  4. This is all very interesting. I first met Andy in 5th grade. I played snare drum and he played the bass drum. It was at a combined grade school concert. We became fast friends. All through middle and hs we hung out going Pink Floyd, Genesis, Gentle Giant concerts and many more shows. When we both ended up in NYC he was now Andy Blinx. Once again we did many things together during the time of The Mudd Club, Danceteria and many clubs. At the time my friend Al and I were the sound engineers at the Mudd Club. One nite Andy announced to us that we were “smack in the middle of the new wave”. Well working at the Mudd made that very true. I could go on for hours about my friend Andy but will stop here. I will miss Andy even though we had gone down different paths in life. The last contact I had with him was a project to repair my Centour Sound Co leather jacket which he made 3 of for the 3 company employees. I will certainly treasure this jacket.

  5. I just came across this while searching for examples of some of Andy’s Blinx designs from the early 80’s to show a young designer.
    He was like family for the several years I lived with his brother Chris back then.I am filled with grief to hear he’s gone.What magic lived in that boys mind..

  6. I knew Andy as a teenager, we both went to Mineola High on LI. We were part of a really large clique, many small circles forming a larger circle that came together a few times a year. A lot of us hung out at Wagon Wheels on Jericho Ave. The parties were thick with pot smoke and LSD and the music of choice was early Genesis, King Crimson Can and Van der Graaf Generator. I recall him disappearing to SF for a while. He was intelligent, arrogant, a master of the one line putdown. Boasting about a new King Crimson album I had bought he said “it’s just plastic”. Ha!

    He drummed in a local jam band called Master Radio Canaries. Later in the city we’d run into each other randomly at Hurrah (Pere Ubu), Mudd (Ping Pong), Experimental Intermedia (Zu Festival), he was everywhere. I saw him drum with the Del Byzanteens and he was just amazing. Teaching a song to some musicians in the basement of Squat Theater I felt someone kiss me on the head and walk away. It was Andy. Later I hung with him at his Jones Street apt, and a loft on John Street where some expat Henry Cow / Slapp Happy people were running around. He gave me the initial IMA flexidisc and played me a song called Instant This, Instant That which blew me away.

    It’s nice hearing these more recent accounts of what he was up to, especially having only known him from high school up to 1982 or so. As far as Rush, no torture could have converted Andy into a Rush fan. Trust me on that.

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