In loving memory of my dear friend Chris Al-Aswad, 1979-2010

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” – Jack Kerouac

I knew something was wrong when I realized that the Escape into Life website hadn’t been updated since last Friday. Escape into life was Chris’ life and for it to stop was as if some Fate’s clock hands had stopped as well.

I met Chris on Twitter, he was one of my first twitter followers. I don’t know how we happened to become friends. I guess true friendships are like that. He had an easy way to connect with people on the Internet. He got impressed with a post I made long time ago about Tolstoy and the three most important things in life. He always praised me for my way of writing in English, for which I warmly thank him, as I’ve never been very comfortable writing in a foreign language. I can only say that this feeling was not only mutual; I’m a huge fan of his work, of his poems and essays. I told him that sometimes I needed to read his writings twice or thrice to reveal the whole depth of them, to “get them”, to which he replied: “well, that’s good because that’s how they’re meant to be read, or anything that is crafted well”.


I also told him that he shouldn’t have pulled out of the internet his early writings (i.e. The Novel of Life, Lethe in Vegas, and Family in Decline), that he was making the job of his biographers extremely difficult. I told him, half-jokingly, that I was planning to make an anthology of his work. He only laughed. Chris had a joyful, infectious laugh. I felt I could talk with him of both the lightest and the gravest of issues.


He wanted to be famous, to be recognized for his work. I wish he could have seen how many people love him and admire him. I told him once –when he was discouraged his blog entries were getting only a few comments: “for each reader posting a comment, there are five more nodding their heads in agreement”. Let this be a lesson for us all: when you appreciate someone’s work let the artist know.

"I suggest breathing, maybe taking a break with me on the pier, we’ll sit and listen to the waves crash”

Chris was extraordinary at this. He would look avidly for talent in others and encourage them to grow artistically. He was impressed that I “draw, photograph, write, read. You do it all!” –but kept recommending me “to focus on just a few, so you can explore them more deeply and spiritually”. He made me the great honor of including a link to my tumblr site in his Blog of Innocence, of liking and reblogging some of my tumblr posts, to include me on his list of photographers and Fans of Escape into Life. But the list I was the proudest to be included in is his Blog of innocence friends.

There are many things I could say about Chris, but only one that really matters:
He was my friend.


All photos and drawing in this post (c)2008-2010 @lau_merritt