“You, dear reader, might as well have been abducted by an alien with a time machine to a place in history where the world was in the process of being altered by the marriage of mind and machine, plus some plants. It was an evolution of consciousness by the attempted understanding of all thoughts, all deeds, all projections, all of everything that could be digitized. And for the first time in human history, there was a grouping together of millions of people bonded by more than geopolitical or ethnic boundarisation”
~ Michael “Schwann” Kawitzky, Journey to Everywhere
Now, that’s some fine writing, Stan.
Michael Kawitzky (aka Schwann) has written a testament to both “the early adopter” and “the explorer.” Of which he is — both. I knew “Schwann” long ago — long before most of us knew what was going on; in the pre-teething stage of what would become unveiled to the non-military citizenry as “the Internet,” before there was a “World Wide Web” and a Netscape Navigator to traverse it.
Journey to Everywhere takes us back to those days of connection with like minds and souls, wherein each day opened with a new technology, time travel seeming to many of us as being just a few weeks away.
Kawitzky and I met, virtually, in around 1993, on the periphery of the nascent Web, in a USENET group of psychedelics users (and dealers) called the Visionary Plants List (VPL, for those “in the know”). And herein lies the dirty little secret of the rapid development and popularization of the Internet-turned-Web: “It was the [psychedelic] drugs that done it!” (Though The [government-shepherded, corporate] Media can and will never admit it.)
Timothy Leary remarked to this reviewer, back in 1992, that “Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were barefoot, long-haired acid freaks” pre-Apple boom, and that Bill Gates was known for having used LSD while at Harvard. Furthur (spelling intentional), Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow opined in 1997, again to this writer, “I’ll go so far as to say, if the government succeeds in its War On (some) Drugs–if everyone who used marjiuana and LSD were to really be put in jails–America would not have an operational computer left.”
“Schwann”/Kawitzky spells it out, in prose more eloquent than Leary did in his Neuropolitique — a tome I hold very highly, but which is surpassed herein.
A college dropout, apartheid-era South Africa, “Demoted to worker, lowest class, I entered commercial life in 1970, somewhat ignominiously, working in a large clothing factory as a lowly runner. I was unlearned scum; a disgrace to a family of mathematicians, scribes and artists.” He works his way up the spinning wheel, as a “designer of polyester women’s wear,” then, Carnegie-like, churns the bile into becoming owner of a moderately-successful clothing boutique. Kawitzky sells his shop on a chance bid for $20,000 and, with a lot of time on his hands and three children to feed, hunkers down and gets jiggy with the New Tech. He meets, by chance or of God’s design (these things are debatable), a Portuguese cat named Azmazz, who is making a lot of racket on a flight/war simulator in the office of a gas station at which the author has come to fill his tank. And he surely does. The author has just recently purchased a computer, of which he knows zero in-toto, and Azmazz likes to turn folk on to the newest floppy disks, which they soon begin swapping like unto so many drug transactions.
As USENET turns WWW, Kawitzky adopts the nom de plume “Schwann,” and just basically starts getting noisy–in a provocative and hyper-intelligent way. He makes some friends — the Brothers McKenna, cyperpunk proto-pioneer John Shirley and this writer among them.
You, the Reader, will discover every next ripple in a heavy tide–from the Cold War inception of a year-1950 US government department which will become the Pentagon’s decentralized, nuclear safe “Internet,” to vastly entertaining timelines of cyber-geekdom, wild rides in a Pontiac GTO with a carbon monoxide problem through fields of mushrooms with Terence McKenna and the Maluti tribe, en passe to the sacred rock.
Kawitzky’s memoir and its synthesis of Mind-Drugs = New & Interesting Things echoes that curiosity, albeit black/covert, which paved the way for Gordon Wasson’s CIA-funded trips to South America and which were to turn on then-Harvard Professor Timothy Leary and open up The Sixties…and who, post-“rehabilitation,” championed cyberspace and Digital Everything! with nearly the same fervor.
“The Government” opened a Pandora’s Box by unleashing psychedelic drugs on unsuspecting student volunteers, prison inmates and its own military personnel and Intelligence agents.
Those with two curious neurons occurring within his/her skull will get off on this work and benefit from the history and insight held within. Journey to Everywhere isn’t “the kind of book that should be a bestseller”; this particular creation by Mike Kawitzky should be a bestseller.
Reviewed by Todd Brendan Fahey; author: Wisdom’s Maw: The Acid Novel [Far Gone Books, 1996]