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Entries in Khouri Stories (22)

Monday
Jul292013

George Amin Khouri (1941 - 2013)


Somewhere on the island of Borneo is a mountain known as Kinabalu. On this mountain is an extremely narrow bridge made of rope and wooden planks that extends hundreds of feet across a deep chasm full of treacherous rocks and raging white water.  

In 1992 George Khouri walked out of the jungle and stood before the old bridge. He wiped the sweat off his face as he watched the rope and wood sway perilously in the hot breeze and listened to the water crashing against the jagged terrain far below. 

George looked at me and groaned, “Are you kidding?”

Good afternoon. For those of you who don't know me, I'm George's son Amin, but for reasons that were never made very clear to me, Dad always called me Andy. On behalf of my sister Jennifer -- also known as Jeannie, which likewise is not the proper nickname for Jennifer -- we thank you for joining us today to say farewell to our father. Many of you have come from far away and at great expense and inconvenience to yourselves, which is of course what Dad would have wanted. 

I began my remarks with the story about Dad and the Mount Kinabalu bridge for a couple of reasons. It is probably the most popular of the many, many George Khouri legends I've shared with people all over the world. But in the last ten years or so, since Dad and I have been living nearby and spending a great deal of time together, I have come to see the story as something more than just an amusing anecdote. It’s become for me a vivid expression of the way my father thought and operated, a symbol of the many crucial choices he'd faced throughout his life, and a way of explaining why he may have made them.

See, while a troop of Boy Scouts tempted fate in a jubilant, single-file dash across the creaky suspension bridge, George compelled one of the local adventure guides to escort him all the way back down the mountain and across the river below. He would catch up with our group at the campsite several hours later, looking incredibly smug with his pride fully intact. 

Dad didn’t care how silly it looked because it was a calculated risk, a skill my father had mastered to grand effect in his life. True, crossing the bridge was faster, more exciting, and what everybody else was doing. But it was also true that crossing that creaky old bridge could result in crippling terror, lifelong nightmares or even death. Dad didn’t have to cross the bridge to get where he needed to go. He could save himself tremendous anxiety and perhaps his very life at the cost of just a few hours of some poor jungle guide’s life. George Khouri did it his own way, and it worked, and to him there was no other measure of success.

Fifty years earlier, George was born to parents Amin and Irene Khouri in Palestine, in the city of Jaffa. This began a period in my father’s life that is largely mysterious to me because he didn’t seem to enjoy talking about it. I know that leaving Palestine was very painful for my father and he remained scarred by the experience until the end. But knowing Dad as I did, I suspect the real reason George didn’t want to talk about the old, old days was because he was trying to protect me.

As you can see in this portrait -- the only one Dad kept in his home -- George was quite a dashing fellow back then. It’s not hard to imagine him getting into trouble with a face like that. Word on the street is that Dad was ejected from a couple of expensive schools -- not because he wasn’t smart, but because he was having too much fun. Maybe this is apocryphal, but I’ve heard about George later bumming around the Caribbean, gambling his car away in Las Vegas, and spending the night in a Houston jail for violating the city’s ancient “goo-goo eyes” ordinance, whereby it was illegal to “look at, make remarks to or concerning, cough or whistle at, or do any other act to attract the attention of any woman or female person traveling along any of the sidewalks, streets or public ways, with the intent or in a manner calculated to annoy or to attempt to flirt with any such woman or female person.” 

Considering the kind of disciplined man my father would eventually become, it’s no wonder that George was so bothered when I got into trouble myself -- and I don’t refer only to my own breathtaking disregard for the goo-goo eyes ordinances of the world. No, like him I was bright but not a dedicated student. I flirted with academic disaster on more than one occasion. I was halfway across the bridge, dangerously close to losing my footing and falling into the canyon below.

Dad probably thought he’d made a bad risk crossing that bridge when he was my age. He flunked out of school twice and disappointed his father bitterly. What did George get in return for that risk? Some good times, surely, but stories he couldn’t even tell his own son, because to do so was to affirm my own dubious choices. Or so he thought. I think he could have told me... 

....no, he was right, I would have thrown it back in his face.

One of the hardest choices most of us have to make is whether to follow our dreams. Defying his father’s wish that he pursue a life in medicine was a major risk, but George was right to cross that bridge and study business and economics, first at Texas Southern University and later at the University of Oklahoma. I’m honestly in awe of this aspect of my father’s life. Decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. Study that thing. Go get a job doing that thing. Excel at that thing. Every stage of this process is excruciatingly difficult for most people, but Dad made it look easy. 

A little over ten years ago I found myself driving across the country in my car all alone for about nine months with no real purpose or destination -- Dad was absolutely thrilled by this, by the way. At some point I stopped at O.U. One of the campus libraries has copies of all the Masters Theses going back decades. I found dad's on a shelf, typed and bound and looking very prestigious even 36 years later. It was a thick book called “The Development of the Oil Industry in Iraq.” Obviously I had as much chance of reading that as George did reading one of my beloved superhero comic books, but I was impressed just the same. The object lent a tangible sentimental value to a great story Dad often told about how he got the paper done, where a kind but hopelessly ignorant waitress he met at a local diner agreed to type the thesis in exchange for getting to see George’s flying carpet. 

My sister will read a testimonial from one of Dad’s colleagues that speaks more specifically to George’s prodigious business skills, so I’ll just say that I think success came so easily to Dad that he became frustrated with other people’s indecision or lack of confidence. His sharp, analytical mind served him so well in business and enhanced his enjoyment of sports and playing cards, but those same qualities made it hard for Dad to wrap his head around more abstract things like music, art... and the many complex emotions of the human race. 

I remember a story he told me about an anti-Vietnam War protest meeting he attended at O.U. In the early days Dad was skeptical about the anti-war movement but listened to what one of the organizers had to say. This is how Dad related the conversation to me:

Organizer: George, you and I have been talking about this for a couple of hours. I feel like we’re friends. Would you say we’re friends?

George: Sure. 

Organizer: Okay, now imagine -- god forbid -- that one day we meet on the field of battle. Me fighting for Israel and you for your country. Wouldn’t it be awful? What happens then?

George: I’d blow your fucking head off. You’re sitting here in America protesting the Vietnam War, but you’ll go to Israel to fight a war over there? I’d shoot you in the face -- and not because you’re Jewish, but because you’re a god damn hypocrite.

Obviously, the serious point this man was trying to make was lost on my Dad, who never came across a poetic sentiment he couldn’t undermine with relentless logic. 

It’s been gratifying to hear from so many of you and others who couldn’t be here that George was such a funny guy, full of life and generous with his counsel and friendship. The truth is that my experience with him was much different. I think my father and I were adversaries for a very long time. I’m sorry to say most of my childhood memories of Dad have to do with bitter arguments over, well, nearly every conceivable thing. Topics as important as my grades in school to as insignificant as the way I tied my shoes. Dad believed there was a right way to do everything -- his way, and if things were not executed thusly, they were manifestly pointless. 

At my mother’s insistence Dad took me into the yard to play catch when I was about seven. It was something all American boys did with their fathers, or so I’d seen on television, and so it was something I felt I had to do. I remember Mom watching through the window because I was really embarrassed when George quit after a only a few throws, citing my obvious lack of talent. 

George Khouri’s Field Guide to Success in Life even included a prescription for the kinds of toys I wanted to play with, my posture, the way I tucked in my shirts, the desires I’d voice about becoming a performer or writer, the way I would blow my nose into a handkerchief, and the order in which I would eat pieces of food off my plate. Seriously, Dad would sit across from me and stare as I moved my fork around the dish, sighing loudly when I’d deviate from his choreography of consumption. The look on his face was one of sincere shame and disgust. Things became so unpleasant during dinner time that I lost weight and found all food distasteful for years hence. This caused our mother to insist that Jeannie and I take our meals before George got home from work and turned the dinner hour into another session of bellowing. 

When it came to life, my father believed I was doing it wrong. He studied finance, I studied art. He was a Republican, I was a Democrat. He was short, I was tall. He had dark skin, I was pale. He loved sports, I loved music. I loved technology and new media, Dad decided he’d learned everything he wanted to know about computers by 1991.

Now, George relented almost all the time. I had to pay a tax in yelling and pride, but I did usually "win" in the sense that I got what I wanted or just refused to let Dad sway my own very Khouri-like certainty in the righteousness of my own ideas. In those days even an impasse was a victory.

Things were probably at their worst after our family moved from Singapore to Oklahoma in 1995, when I was 15 and George was about 55. Dad and I hardly spoke at all, and like him at that age I went away to boarding school. I don’t think we had a real conversation in over three years. After so much bitter rivalry, neither of us was willing to cross the bridge that lead to respect. 

Everything changed in 1998, when George and our mother Suzanne split up after nearly 30 years of marriage. Dad was pulled kicking and screaming across that bridge, and things were never the same, especially between us. I was going to college here in California, so I was the natural point of contact when Dad left Oklahoma and returned to where his mother Irene also lived, and where he and Mom had originally started their lives together. After years apart, all but estranged, George and I were living under the same roof again for almost a year, and for ten years after that within a 40-minute drive of each other.

Believe me, what followed was a harrowing three or four-year trek down the mountain and across the raging river, but we got there: common ground. 

One of the best experiences of my life was participating with Dad in what was his singular passion: investing. Together we researched and put money into a brand new venture, his first in decades. Dad had gained a reputation in our family for secrecy about business, but now he was letting me witness his financial alchemy firsthand and it was awesome to behold. Not so much the actual investing -- that’s still largely beyond my realm of comprehension -- but for the first time I was watching George perform on his own stage. We’re not talking about a lot of money here, but there was still a light in his eyes I hadn’t seen since my earliest days when we played together by the pool in Abu Dhabi. I was seeing my father as more than this howling force of nature sent by God to make me feel bad about myself. Instead, he was my father, he was teaching me his secrets, and he crossed the bridge with me to achieve something that benefited us both. We did it together.

Ten years after that investing adventure, Dad and I came to an understanding that I honestly believed would elude us forever. As I said, Dad was a very critical person and although my career had been progressing nicely after some rocky first years in my early 20s, he never seemed to care. Whatever I was doing -- working in entertainment, in music, in the comic book business, animation, digital content -- Dad did not understand how any of this mattered and always received my career updates like they were communiques from an alien world.

I joked earlier that my father decided he’d learned everything he wanted to know by 1991, but it’s really not too far from the truth. I was living and working in a world that he couldn’t and didn’t want to understand, and he talked to me like I was some kind of jerk. So one day I let him have it:

Dad, I said. I’ve worked for some of the biggest media companies. I’ve been nominated for my industry’s most prestigious awards. I was acquired by a competitor. I have a retirement account. I have benefits. I have prospects. I’ve lived all over the world. I have friends everywhere. I have a woman who loves me. I want you to stop talking to me like I’m a loser just because you don’t know what time it is.

But as I went on this rant, I realized something that you probably just did too: everything I said also applied to Dad. Without ever being conscious of it, I had followed in my father’s footsteps, up to and including our mutual alienation of our fathers. Our destinations were different, but the paths that George and I walked were exactly the same. And you know what? He realized the same thing. 

“Andy... you’re right. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel that way. I’m proud of you and of your sister...

...I do wish you would have listened to your Dad more.”  

I know Dad wished I’d crossed the same career bridges he had. I did take the long way down and around the mountain, but like Dad I got to where I needed to go. It would have been nice if George and I crossed that emotional bridge years earlier, but going all the way down and around the mountain got us both where we needed to get: mutual respect. 

With that milestone achieved, the end of our rivalry, Dad and I set out on our next and ultimately final project: trying to save his life.

It was obvious to everyone that George should not have retired. I know he regretted it. But that’s easy to say in retrospect. Leaving his home in Singapore, the breaking of his family, moving in with his ailing mother... it’s really impossible to overestimate the psychic toll all of this took on Dad. A person needs that drive, that purpose to be happy, and without his work at the bank, Dad was rudderless and frequently sad. 

Compounding it all was of course his health. George started smoking when he was only 14-years-old. He quit a number of times throughout his life, but never in earnest until he was in his 60s. It was almost ten years ago that he started showing the signs of what would develop into the chronic breathing condition that would eventually take him from us.

There were ways Dad could have extended and improved the quality of his life, both physically and mentally, but they were all a bridge too far. He would never catch up.

If it’s not already clear, the treacherous rope bridge is change, and what I hope I’ve communicated today is that change could be my father’s greatest ally but also his greatest enemy. Dad walked out of the jungle and stood before the bridge again and again throughout his 72 years on this planet, but his nature was such that he usually took the long way around. He believed he was right -- and he often was -- but everybody in this room knows there’s no force in this world that can pierce the shield of stubbornness that George Khouri wore always. 

I will always regret that my father’s last days were spent alone. My sister and I remember all the times our father went away on business that was completely mysterious to us, but we knew it was important. Like so much in the last several years, the roles had reversed. It was Jeannie and I who were out of town doing things our father could not understand, but now he recognized what we were doing was valuable. But even though we’d been every place he’d been and lived on our own for years and years, George always worried about us traveling. So when Jeannie and I went away on business, we called Dad to remind him of our plans and make him feel at ease. In that fashion, we had a chance to say goodbye. 

The news of George Khouri’s passing has affected people all over the world, of all ages and of all walks of life. No one who met him has ever forgotten him. Besides those of you here today, nearly everyone I know who’s ever encountered George has communicated to us their immense sorrow -- but something else as well. You see, the contentious relationship I described before was not altogether bad. Despite it all, I knew my father loved me, and I knew he was a good man, so from a very young age I chose to synthesize all his criticisms and idiosyncrasies into a kind of character that I would present to people as a way of explaining where I come from and why I am the way I am. Nobody had ever met or even heard of a man like this, so strong in his convictions, so unrelenting in his habits and so colorful with his language. 

Let me make it plain: the people of Earth love George Khouri.

“Your dad was was the first adult that yelled at me like I was a man already. I’ll miss him.” That’s a message I received from my oldest friend, a boy who met George when he was just seven-years-old.

“I never got to meet your dad, but the stories relayed to me are legendary.”

“The stories you’ve shared about him were always the greatest.”

“I was convinced your father was an international man of mystery.”

“I haven’t seen you guys in around 20 years and I know I still remember him.”

“He was an unforgettable man.”

“He will live on in all your incredible stories.”

“George was truly one of a kind and we will remember him for the rest of our lives.”

There are literally dozens of these, transmitted via Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages and other methods George would never have understood if he lived to be 100.

There are few people in this room who haven’t benefited from George’s generosity and from his advice. But people who never even met George, they know him. They feel his loss like they would a great entertainer whose life enriched their own. 

That’s the lesson I take from my father’s life, maybe even more than what his example taught me about the importance of change: life is about the stories, it’s about being unforgettable, it’s about the memory you leave behind. 

That’s why I return to the story of the old rope bridge on Mt. Kinabalu. It’s indelibly Dad, and it’s one that I take comfort in knowing that I will tell for the rest of my life.

Incidentally, in the local language Kinabalu means “The revered place of the dead.” It pleases me that my memory of my father, and maybe yours too, will forever be associated with such an enduring image. 

Wednesday
Jan092008

I was a dick when I was 12.

We used to visit the States every summer, and because I had absolutely no friends here, I’d spend the vacation months hanging out in comic book stores or sitting in front of my grandmothers’ televisions watching what I thought were totally hip and mainstream American shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Highlander.

Yeah… so my mom sent me to a few summer camps. She thought it would help acclimate me to American kids and the lifestyle should we ever have to move back. The logic is sound enough — but unfortunately for both of us, my mother was in a deep, deep denial as to what a tremendous asshole of pre-teen I was, and all of her endeavors to integrate me into what she thought was US youth culture were pronounced failures.

One of the camps was designed to help kids with lousy grades feel more motivated and self-confident by making them sleep in the same rooms with total strangers and do ropes courses and catch each other in highly dubious “trust falls.”

In retrospect, I recognize the camp as a place for kids afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder or Hyperactivity or, you know, Stupidity. I suffered from none of the above. I liked school and everything, but like I said, I was an asshole and just didn’t do my homework

Anyway, I’d long forgotten about that silly place until sometime last year, when $unny or one of the Ladies was talking about guys with terrifyingly small penises.

It was 1992 or so when I attended that camp, and as you no doubt recall, baggy clothes were the style of the day. Shit was baggier than even now, really, with that ridiculous Looney-Tunes-in-da-hood apparel being particularly popular amongst the posertronic white kids. 

One such person was in my camp group, and to this day I’ve never seen someone wear his clothes so baggy. I remember him for two reasons. Firstly, he was a bully, which was kind of strange because he was a ginger and quite short. Secondly, his shorts hung so low that during one of his Hyperactive shit-talking performances in front of the whole group, his penis stuck out over the top of his pants. It was sticking straight out at a right-angle, fully erect, yet was smaller than my 12-year-old little finger. 
Everyone exploded in laughter, and he just danced around saying things like, “Yeah, so what? You saw my dick! So what?” like he didn’t even realize how startlingly small his penis was. It was one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever seen. 

I digress — sort of. See, MySpace justified its existence once again yesterday, when I received the following message:

Did you ever attend a summer camp at the Claremont Colleges when you were younger?

I wasn’t there, but my sister Holly was a camp counselor. I remember she told me her favorite camper was a little boy named Andy Khouri from Singapore. It’s a bit odd I suppose, but I liked your name and it stuck in my memory. Thought of it today quite randomly.

Holy shit, right? That’s incredible! And later that night, the camp counselor herself signed up for MySpace and wrote me a letter!

You were 12, so you may not remember much of camp. I was one of your counselors…

You had a crush on a pretty blond girl … I think her name was Meghan? She may have been your girlfriend for all of five minutes. Much drama!

Mostly, I remember our group going to a ropes course and catching Joey, an, ahem, portly kid, when we did trust falls. I’m pretty sure you were making freaked out jokes that Joey was going to crush us all. And I’m pretty sure I told you to shut your little trap.

Your hair looks pretty much the same as it did at 12, ha!

Naturally, it’s thrilling to hear you are a writer. I’m glad to hear my fav camper is alive and well.

O_o

Even weirder, my counselor Holly ended up living in Idyllwild and reporting for the local newspaper, but left just before I moved there to start boarding school! Amazing!

Naturally, this whole thing is easily one of the most flattering things anyone’s ever said to me, and of course my mother was very pleased to hear about this development. Stepho was very impressed, too. However, both were disappointed to learn that at 12-years-old I was still saying things like, “Watch out or that fat kid will kill us all.”

::sigh::

Tuesday
Feb272007

New York Comic Con 2007.

In case you were unaware, I’m in New York and have been since last Friday. They’ve got a pretty big Comic Con out here, so here I am. This has been my first trip to NYC during which I did not become violently ill. Previous visits occurred at times when I was violently ill in general; deeply depressed and vulnerable to psychic attacks. None of that this time.

I spent minimal time at the Comic Con and most of it hanging out with my oldest friend Kendall, who I’ve known since we were 6th grade Boy Scouts at the Singapore American School (or SAS, as it is known). Kendall’s lived out here for a few years, working for a highly dubious “import/export” company, one that doesn’t actually have internet access at the office. Also, it is run by Germans, and overtly racist ones at that. Today is Kendall’s last at the company, and when he’s done drinking all the beer in the city tonight he is becoming a partner in a film/post-production company and continuing his sketch-writing work at Upright Citizens Brigade, something I am hugely envious of. Kendall’s always been one of if not the funniest and most talented people I’ve ever known, so that he was spending any amount of time at all in an internetless office facilitating god knows what for racist Germans is basically a crime against nature.

In addition to seeing Kendall , I finally got to hang out with Brendan on his home turf and meet some of the NYC Delphi crowd. Brendan, J-Love, Sam, McCardle and I bounced from joint to joint in truly heroic fashion, stunning everybody with our enormous hyphocity levels. We landed for a moment at a club called Stereo, one of those shiny, snobby places you see in films and TV shows about New York. Brendan’s Uncle Joe is an investor in the place, affording him the right to get in anyone the hell he wants. Still, we were met with tremendous static from the doorman, the most odious little fuckbitch I’ve encountered in years.

This guy looked like an Edward Gorey drawing. Short, fluffy black coat, scruffy beard, bowler hat with a fucking playing cardstuck in it. Are you fucking kidding me? He’d ignore us for several minutes at a time, but even when he would talk to Brendan, he wouldn’t look him in the eye. After about twenty minutes of this guy’s flak, denying there was a list, refusing to check with anyone about Brendan’s uncle, Brendan rightly decided that we were getting into this club no matter how bad it sucked or who we’d have to bother.

Unfortunately, the person we had to bother was Brendan’s 91 year old grandmother. Uncle Joe was visiting her, you see, and his cellphone was off. We stood out there in the cold, called Grandma McFeely, got Joe on the phone, and within a couple of minutes someone came out and cut us in front of the few dozen people in line — which I have no problem admitting always make me feel something like .05% of an orgasm. Gorey Lookin’ Fucktard tried to stop us, saying, “You can’t come in.”

The other much taller club guy put his hand on Gorey Bitch’s feathery chest and said, “Yes they can.”

PWN3D.

Gorey Bitch had to give each of us a little blue ticket before we could go in, but as he still wasn’t making any eye contact whatsoever, I refused to take the ticket when he handed it to me. I stood right in front of him and stared down into his shitty little eyes for — I swear to god — fifteen seconds before he finally stopped moving his head around and LOOKED AT ME. Then I took the ticket. 

Naturally, the club sucked and we bolted for parts unknown to me, losing Sam and McCardle somewhere along the way, and ending up finally in the Meatpacking District, in a sub-level stairwell illuminated by a blood-red light. Walking passed us on that stairwell were some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, too bad their attitudes were so nauseating. It was around 4:30am by that point and my bones were starting to liquify, so I said goodnight to Brendan and J-Love and ascended to street level. There I ran into Alana, with whom I’d been playing phone-tag most of the night. 

Alana and I met up on another night, in the Hudson Hotel’s beautiful bar, which is decorated in a bizarre collection of styles. The spacious bar is lit from beneath, the chairs are either plastic or cushioned, there is even a very large log to sit on, and the ceiling features some kind of hand-painted masterpiece. I don’t know that it’s actually a masterpiece, but I liked it. The drinks were inexpensive, the staff hot and the music good. Brendan, Kendall and Alana’s friend Meghan joined us, and from there we went to Decibel, a tiny, dark basement sake bar in what I think is the East Village. There we stayed for hours, killing numerous and freakishly large bottles of sake while telling stories about my ridiculous father.

Those in school or employed with proper jobs retired for the night, while Sam, his friends Corey and Marlo, and I hiked to a nearby sports bar to drink more booze and talk more shit. I can’t remember exactly why, but the focus of much of the conversation was on pubic hair maintenance, particularly the LA variety. There’s a phenomenon in Los Angeles, you see, of being able to go years in the city without ever seeing any pubic hair at all on a woman. 

I’m not hatin’, I’m just sayin’.

Last night was a marvelous get-together with a lot of the SAS survivors. Kendall, his girlfriend Camille, John, Ryan andPriya met me at dive bar Blue & Gold for a long night of remenicing, laughing, and — you guessed it — drinking! Talking points included superhero movies, arranged marriages, the kama sutra, the hormones in meat, psychopaths and zombies. I put four dollars into the jukebox — 12 songs — only one of which actually played (“River Deep, Mountain High” by Tina Turner [or by Ike & Tina Turner if you want to be an pedantic prick about it]). I didn’t notice the jukebox controls were sticky, and I was entering the wrong numbers without realizing it. I recognized little of what did play, so I put another dollar in and predictably selected New Order’s “Temptation,” Underworld’s “Born Slippy NUXX” and Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice.” 

It’s always good to hang out with SAS kids. That we all live in the US now after spending formative years in a foreign country nobody else really understands creates in us a kind of bond, I think. Even though I hadn’t seen some of those people in four or five years, we still got along as well as we did then. It’s a shared experience thing. You know, like the holocaust survivors. 

New York wasn’t all pizza and booze, though. I had to write a few CBR articles during Comic Con, and during the weekdays I was hard at work just like everyone else. The sweet hotel suite Sam hooked us up with has a separate room with a desk and sofa, which became my de facto office for the week. With a great view of Times Square in front of me, I got a lot of work done for my various clients, which now include Helio. No, I did not write the “Don’t call it a phone” slogan. If any of you do use a Helio, though, I’d appreciate you letting me know so I can scan your brain about it. 

This whole transcontinental, mobile office, clients callin’, wifi stealin’ world is making me feel like a real grown-up, and I’m not sure I like it. I have to talk on the phone a lot, I have to get up early, I have to go to meetings, and the parking is enormously expensive. Not to mention airfare. I missed my plane again in LA last week, thanks to a fatal accident on the 405 that closed all lanes. Los Angeles was so sad to see me leave for any amount of time, it was literally killing itself. 

I managed to get a later flight, but it meant sitting in LAX for four hours. During that time I decided to apply for a job withAnticlown Media, the company behind sites like The Superficial. They required that I make up something on the spot, as if I were blogging for them and not just submitting something I’d written somewhere else. This is what I came up with:

Understanding the History of the Bush Administration Through the Prism of Britney Spears’ Baby Rat, part XLII in a Series.

Britney Spears exists; mostly harmless = Texas governorship.

Britney marries K-Fed, nauseates planet = 2000 election scandal.

“Fuck a wife”; planet <3 Britney = 9/11.

Britney <3 Paris; planet ablaze = Iraq.

Rehab-o-rama = World War III?

We Talk Shit — You Decide.

Well, I thought it was funny after four hours alone in the airport.

I was fortunate enough to upgrade to First Class at no additional cost, but that baseless feeling of superiority didn’t last long. “Passenger Amin,” I heard some woman squaking over the PA. I went up to see what the hell she wanted and it was to ask me if I’d mind giving up my First Class seat to an elderly peasant woman with diabetes, so that she and her similarly ancient husband could sit together. 

While I knew it’d make such a great story if I told that woman to take a long walk off a short pier (you have to speak to them in “lingo” they can understand), I agreed to let her take the seat. Luckily there was another seat for me, although a really shitty one way in the back. I felt I’d done the right thing, but decided to consult the various oracles in my life; my collective moral compas, just to make sure.

Tuesday
Jan162007

4:01 a.m.

A little while ago I made a promise to the universe to start blogging more in 2007, and here it is more than halfway through January and I’m only just now making my first proper entry of the New Year.

Typical.

For quite a long time, I didn’t believe in making promises. Plans either. It seemed as though every time I said out loud or in writing what my intentions were, I would end up disappointing others and myself with an unfinished result — if I even got around to putting my plan into action at all. Self-imposed deadlines, promises, schedules, timetables, lists… all of it was, I thought, based on my experiences, a formula for failure. So, I just stopped talking about what I wanted to do, whether it was about finishing a project, pursuing a girl, or even just reading a book. I actually believed things would get done when they got done, and that making an actual plan to do something would magically render it not done or unfinished into infinity.

As such — and I’m sure this will come as no surprise to the many sane people reading this— the last few years have seen me get practically nothing done. My brilliant plan to avoid making plans has proved to be the quickest route to oblivion, and with my early-twenties long gone and my mid-twenties barely visible in the distance, I’m forced to make a course correction.

I was in a much deeper hole once, not too many years ago. Really, it was a pit. Immense, dark and terrible, and for a time I couldn’t imagine my life being any different. Again, this is something that most of my readers and friends are only vaguely aware of, if at all. That you don’t know is, I think, part of the problem. 

I’m nowhere as deep as I once was. Despite the tone of this entry, I’m truly doing okay. I’m usually very busy, have a beautiful girlfriend, cool friends, a nice home, and a cute pet. But there is a feeing of stillness that is familiar, and if this is anything like what happened before, it’s a prelude to disaster. 

I feel as though I’ve accidentally wandered alone into a smoky, unfamiliar dance club and discovered that a psychopathic yet irresistible ex-lover is somewhere inside. The doors are locked behind me, and I’ve got to find another way to escape before I run into her and become trapped in a spiral of dysfunction, complacency and regret. 

The previous obstacle — the pit — was eventually overcome by changing my lifestyle in the most tremendous and difficult ways I could think of. One of those ways was putting myself out here, on the internet, somewhat like I’m doing right now. The rewards were profound, particularly in the way of new friends. Some of the people I met in person and online during that phase are still friends now. Many of them are just friendly. Sadly, many of them are now just acquaintances. Tragically, many of them are now I-don’t-even-know-where. Many, many, many people gave me their time, encouragement and friendship, and when I thought I was all better, I allowed those relationships to fade and in too many cases disintegrate completely. It wasn’t something I meant to do and I didn’t even realize it was happening. I hope it’s not too late to reconnect with those people who supported me more than I ever properly thanked them for. Hopefully, some of them are reading this now.

It was a goal to come back to Los Angeles and be a writer. The majority of my income comes from writing. In the years since returning, I’ve written a lot about music, comics, movies and other things for a number of employers, all of whom you’ve heard of, and for a good chunk of change. Still, I find myself feeling that stillness.

I love making a DJ mix that makes my friends dance, writing an article or review that makes someone buy a comic or a record, posting a picture that someone decides to save, or writing a book that someone decides to read. But while all that is nice, what I love most of all is the feeling of making something that I don’t think completely sucks. I wrote more than three-hundred pages of a book, posting chapter after chapter online as I went, with what must have been a thousand photographs to go along with them, not really knowing if anyone was even reading the thing. I’ve never been paid to do anything remotely that difficult or aggravating, yet I’ve never had so much fun in my life. 

For some reason I stopped doing anything like that. I thought I was better. But here I am, halfway into January 2007, feeling annoyed, regretful that I haven’t done anything in years I’m really proud of, and missing friends.

Tuesday
Mar282006

E-mails I write at work.

I’ve just seen the Daft Punk large for next week and it uses artwork from a very well known, previously released album. Enclosed is the proper artwork for this new release, so please fix.

Additionally, and I know this is very nerdy, but both James and I agree this is worth addressing. The LCD Soundsystem “Introns” artwork you’re using for the promotes is the iconic album artwork for the artist’s ultra famous debut record. As such, using it for this remixes and b-sides collection makes us look like n00bs. Our last highly dubious (and n00bious) intern couldn’t be bothered to find more diverse assets, which is why this happened. If this product ever comes up again, I’ll probably send new assets.

Yours in deep nerdery,

andy khouri
music department / sony connect