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.

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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 Sadly, he seemed to become more withdrawn and less social.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.

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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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