How did your upbringing affect where you are today?
I grew up in a family of six boys and one girl. We lived in Northern Virginia, but my parents are natives of Queens in New York City. I am sure that accounts for the humor, boisterous conversations, and sincerity that was ever present in my family. My father has always been an avid reader and an intellectual. His library is full of books on history, political philosophy, and classic works of literature and poetry. He worked for President Ronald Reagan during the 80's and traveled all over the world. My mother is half Greek and loves Motown music and dancing. She made a home, alongside my father, that was always warm, affectionate, and full of the kind of big family traditions and fun that I have always loved. She's also a no-nonsense New Yorker who is both tough and hard-working, but always cheerful and motherly in everything she does.
My parents believe wholeheartedly in personal freedom, and so I always felt encouraged in all the things I loved and talents I wanted to develop. They instilled in us, through their example, a life of prayer, hard work/service, a sense of humor, and the importance of deep and meaningful conversations.
I remember loving my bike, and going on long adventures on paths that took one as far as Washington DC, or finding cool trails and jumps in the woods nearby. I was very hyper and active as a boy. My parents didn't quite know what to do with me. I just had a lot of energy and couldn't sit still for too long. I was involved with multiple sports, especially basketball, and was extremely competitive. They always encouraged me even when I expressed delusions of grandeur of wanting to play in the NBA.
It's difficult to describe what I experienced at times during my childhood, but I know people on the artistic and creative side of life tend to have what I call a sixth sense. Wherever I would go I found myself coming up with role-playing scenarios, stories, or adventures that could take place in the setting I found myself in. I guess I was never quite satisfied with normal life and wanted to make something more epic. So I often daydreamed at school or imagined stories in my backyard that made suburban life more fantastic.
When I was young, my grandparents on my father's side moved to Cooperstown NY, which is the Last of the Mohicans' territory. It was there in those country summers that I developed a love for the outdoors, for walking in the woods with the dog Falstaff, fishing for trout early in the morning, riding ATVs with reckless abandon, and shooting random groundhogs with a wild country kid who would hang out with my family. It was a solitary life my grandparents lived, but there was a charm to their quaint little home with amber windows that made everything sunset in the house during the day, and with oil lamps for light in the evenings. I remember them swing dancing in the kitchen, and making up a song for random phrases or words that we would say. It was like visiting Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, but in the hill country of upstate New York.