The first time I really met Andy, I sat in Mrs. Barras’s English class, surrounded by what her students referred to as the frigid beating wind of the ninth circle of hell. I was tapped on the shoulder and Andy’s deep voice told me “Sit still for a minute, I’m trying to remove the bookshelf on the underside of your desk.” Puzzled, I soon understood as a moment later Andy’s booted feet came down on the wire undercarriage of my desk several times, until with a resounding metal clank and thud, the bookshelf underneath my seat slammed to the ground. Mrs. Barras did not approve. I knew at this moment that Andy was someone that I needed to get to know better.
When I met him he was the Disco King – wearing an impressive assortment of bell bottoms and his trademark black jacket, sporting the meanest pompadour I’d seen since Saturday Night Fever, and adorned with his requisite candy necklace. One of the first few things I found out about Andy (and one of the things he was proudest of at the time) was that he had an inhuman wealth of information stored away about all things Disco and related to Disco Music. The self-titled King of Boss could go on for hours about ABBA, Carl Douglas, Chaka Khan, and so on. Following that, I quickly discovered that Andy was better at getting himself into trouble with authority than even I was (which says a lot!). I’d venture that we spent more time during the following two years of high school at McDonalds together than we did at class. By the end of Senior Year, we and our parents were on a first name basis with near the entirety of the Pope High School administration staff. And believe me, it was not because of our academic achievement.
Keeping in the tradition of getting ourselves into trouble, we spent the following summer climbing on the roof of the neighborhood Caribou Coffee and shooting bottle rockets at the 13 and 14 year olds that we mocked and taunted mercilessly while sipping on our black coffees. Andy even managed to get himself arrested there and had a terrorism charge leveled against him, as a result of the obligatory silver attaché case he carried everywhere that had the blinking red light in it. It seemed apparent early on that Andy was not content with living to anyone else’s standards – something he took great pleasure in reminding everyone throughout his life.
Through the years that I got to know him I was constantly amazed by Andy. A fan of video games, he and I wasted countless hours of our youth with hands on our keyboards and mice, smoking cigarettes, drinking energy drinks, and protecting the universe from the threat of invasion. I’m not sure if anyone other than me knows this, but apparently Andy was the best player of Quake 3 Arena in the entire universe, and he took great pride in reminding me of this every time we played with well placed railgun shots. A fan of film, he truly appreciated Sci-Fi and Cyberpunk, and I can remember us watching amazing pieces of terrible cinema such as Total Recall and Johnny Mnemonic, as well as obsessing over some of our favorites, the Matrix and Hackers. A fan of good literature, he pored over the classics of cyberpunk such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Last but not least, Andy was a born leader – without even trying he could be leading a group of people around who would be at his beck and call. It was because of this that his official title at the last three places that he was employed was “Leader of the Northern March.” Andy was a person with truly diverse interests and a breadth of knowledge about them that was purely stunning.
I had the pleasure and opportunity during our friendship to get a glimpse at Andy’s softer side – as while we all know the face he wore was that of bitterness and contempt, he had a very tender and affectionate side that he kept under lock and key. This side of Andy was easy to see if you knew him and his relationship with his cats, as he truly loved Molly and Jadzia and showed his love for them in everything he did relating to them. While he put up a façade by complaining about nearly everything, he was truly a caring individual.
Several years after meeting him, I was turned on by him to the Walled City – a website where he posted his writings, thoughts, and personal musings. It was here that Andy truly let his artistic expression and creativity shine. Andy was an extremely talented and gifted writer, able to command the English language with a prowess that is unmatched by anyone I have ever met. His work was beautiful, every word precisely selected for the perfect flow and meaning. I have a small excerpt that I would like to share with you all that he wrote on November 9th, 2008.
Missing you is all I do, in faded sheets the twilight restless; an orbit’s cycled memories edging towards a deep abyss where your absence emptied into longing. Another journey I’m embarking without you to carry me, though fantasy may find me shivered under blankets unforgiving of my own damned malfeasance, with your aching presence needed.
Andy has embarked on another journey. A grand adventure that we unfortunately cannot experience or share with him. As anyone who knew him will tell you, Andy was a huge fan Star Trek. At the risk of sounding cliché (and I know he’d taunt me mercilessly for saying it), Andy has boldly gone where none of us have gone before. He is continuing his journey through the cosmos and is seeing and experiencing (and complaining about) things that we cannot understand. While it may be hard for us, his friends, his family, in this time of grieving – we should find appreciation of the fact that he has been freed from the toils of living on this planet and has been accepted into a much greater and larger thing than we can comprehend.
Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most . . human.