I was born in Naples, Florida in April of 1985. I lived nearby in Ft. Myers with my parents Donna and Jim and sister Linsey. My parents worked at the Ft Myers Airport-- my mom as a ticket agent and my dad as a ramp employee. We lived on Pebble Ln, a long dirt road with steady bumps made by the suspensions of cars. Our house sat on 2.5 acres and was equipped with a trampoline, a pool, a dirt hill, a private lake, and a large forested area perfect for go-cart trails and forts.
We were among animals. We usually had 2 dogs and at least 6 cats. Our yard was frequented by snakes that would leave large piles of bone at the entrance to their snake hole. The anthills (fire ants) were as large as I was and you'd accidentally step into one every now and then.
I moved from Ft Myers to Broward County Florida (locale of the infamous hanging chad incident in 2000) when I was 8. Our house was new, built about 6 feet from my next door neighbors' houses on artificial land once claimed by the everglades and alligators. When I moved in, the neighborhood was about half complete with dozens of homes under construction. Lots of our neighbors were moving in after having lost their previous home to Hurricane Andrew.
My mom and I walked around the neighborhood each night with a small ziplock baggie filled with cat food. We fed about a dozen-- the same dozen-- stray cats a night. A skittish calico named Honey and her orange, long-haired daughter Pooh became our pets, joining forces with our Siamese Joe and Bambi, our super old and essentic Himalayan He-she, Chung the chow-chow, and Ren the chihuahua (of course).
I was always science-oriented, but it was in Broward County that it became more systematic. I think it all started when my dad told me that, according to Nostradamus, the world was going to end in 1997. I remember he bought me a few short (around 30 pages) books on the subject from Food Lion, our local grocery store. Those were probably the first books that really sucked me in. And I was totally sold: the would would end in 1997.
Knowing the world would end led to lots of introspective thought. At around this time, my grandmother bought us our first computer, an IBM with a 486 processor. The computer came with 100 free hours of AOL 3.1, so that was a no-brainer. Under the alias Jams012, I began hanging out in AOL's chatrooms, especially the Philosophy chatroom, where I met people that could help me sort out this Nostradamus stuff. I was soon spending probably 5 hours a day in that chatroom. Talking about religion, evolution, the origin of the Universe; all pretty odd topics for a kid with my background.
I still love the big questions. Where do we come from? How are we here? Where are we going? When I was young, those question consumed my life. I remember being 10 years old sitting in a hospital lobby reading A Brief History of Time while my mom underwent surgery for kidney stones, which she used to get every 2.5 years like clockwork. I soon changed my alias from Jams012 to AstroJams1. Astro stood for astrophysics.
We moved a second time when I was 11. This time to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. This was a big house on a hill that overlooked "The Gap," a famous view where the Blue Ridge Mountains suddenly dip to the ground to make way for the joining of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. I had never seen snow before.
[writing more as time permits...]