Sam had that weird series of dreams again. He did not fly or swim in great rivers, he did not discover hidden rooms in places he once lived, he did not open doors to rooms full of long dead relatives silently watching television ,eating pie. Those dreams were the regular passengers of most nights. He dreamed he checked his email, he hung out on Facebook, he lurked Twitter and its snow of things and bots, he did his taxes, he checked the weather in cities he would never visit. The weird thing is it really felt real this time, mundane and in real time, that little fireworks flourish of tasks completed too.
I am 6-2 and 200 something pounds. My name is James Buttermilk. I have been told by many at parties over the past two decades that I should “write that story” of my life. I must add that my favorite saying is “familiarity breeds contempt” and find “you are your own worst landlord” a close runner up. I find myself a boring average person with a few strange moments along the way. Some are humorous stories to tell at parties. Others are sad bits of past I only share with people very close and not over dinners with drinks in hand. I must also say a bit of warning. I am the unreliable narrator you may have heard about in some comp or lit class back in school.
Excited to be part of this. This will be a fun adventure and I am happy to be on board. It means a ton to feel a sense of community as a lone writer/combo platter/cat dad clacking away for years now while my cat either sleeps or tries to walk around on the laptop keyboard. I was born many moons ago in Panorama City here in the San Fernando Valley. I grew up riding bikes and melting crayons and writing little stories of amazing storms to hide in clutter to find later and imagine. I also was obsessed with a special little corner of the comics in the L.A Times that told little stories of the origins of words (never knew then it was called etymology) and collected them in a quite flammable pile in one of the drawers under my bed. Something about words just fascinated me even as a little valley boy kid. I found my first poem in a box of old things and it was me at 5 telling my mom, “I am sad like a smashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” She had written it down on a scrap of a McDonald’s bag and put it away. I also have somewhere (need to find it and take a pic and post here) a big shiny postcard from Big Bird and Sesame Street. On the back in smeary pen is a friendly note starting with a friendly “hey little buddy!” from Big Bird (some intern of course…) leading to my first rejection letter. Mr Bird kindly explained that while my poems and story were appreciated and a good effort, they were not looking for submissions and were in fact a T.V show.
I planned as a kid to be a research scientist. Little me would walk home from school freaking people out by looking up at the sky. Older folks looked up expecting fireballs, meteors or some freak falling ice from a plane while I was just clocking Cumulus and Stratus clouds and analyzing data. I figured out at 11 or so a way to make storms out of milk poured in a pool spun just right (like a cut away view of a hurricane for a few seconds) and upside down semi thunderstorm clouds with dirt poured into the deep end. Dad would come home to an odd milky hue or a pile of dirt far below the aging diving board but for a time there was some weather. The rare night time summer thunderstorms that came all the way from Arizona were lightning veined magical beasts that I knew were alive with rains and light and at the end of their long journeys to soon die over the stable cool Pacific waters to the west. I had a PhD application for Research Meteorology at 14 or so that I would take out and pet sometimes like a cat and then put away. I had developed a system for 3D interactive, immersive weather visualizations that would narrativize data and respond to topography but it was only in odd drawings and in my head. I then met math. We did not get along.
High school came and poetry was fascinating and weather I was realizing was also stories, poetics, aesthetics like art made of astronautic water, vapor, and light. Etymology became books to order and read. Senior year came the fateful decision to switch to writing after winning some high school contest and thinking a lot about how a scientist would not have taken algebra 3 times (yep) and flailed in geometry. At
Christmas while pie was served and presents were opened, the announcement that I wanted to be a writer not a scientist was met with grandma shouting “noooooooooo!!!!!” like a moment in a bad sci fi film in slow mo. Not so great.
College led to changing majors 6 times and finally studying writing and Eng Comp. Grad school at Cal Arts led to pushing into theory, art, and tech interactive texts. Working on the first GPS-driven narrative was shiny 12 years ago and opened up a bunch of the other aspects of the buffet that right now clacks away these letter forms with a radar loop running on another tab. Text and writing is the hub, the nexus of so many fascinating things and so many cross-pollinations are possible out there (art and science for example) that I hope to share here.