(I hate to start this piece in the most boring way possible, but) I grew up in Andover, New Jersey. Nestled in the farmlands and forests of Sussex County, Andover is an old mining town and the polar opposite of the general population’s image of “Dirty Jersey.” Expansive corn fields, forests criss-crossed with streams, and a local hot-spot called Lake Illiff make up most of the geography of my homeland. The neighborhood was a giant nipple feeding my imagination. I lived there until I was 19 when I thought it would be a good idea to go to college.
Like most young boys, I harbored a large imagination. With tools like action figures and my Mongoose BMX, Andover was one big playground. My dad introduced me to Star Wars when I was in the 2nd grade (because that’s what everyone should feel like happened to them during their first Star Wars experience, right? We’re “introduced” to it). I read a lot of escapist fiction like Dragonlance and Lord of the Rings – also courtesy of my dad. All of these sacred works blew my imagination up, made me want to jump in my X-Wing and take on the Empire up. I wanted out of Andover. This town wasn’t big enough for Patrick Cooper, who would surely grow up to save the planet from evil. Then along came Ray Bradbury.