The Dennis McKenna Interview

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The Resonance Project Winter 1997/98

AOL made my first published piece a possibility. Back in the dial-up days when you were billed by the hour. Searching for famous, infamous or admired users was easy, and you would even know when they were online. I recall awestruck chatting over instant messages with music video director Matt Mahurin (then most popularly known for Bush's "Everything Zen," their first music video). Don't know why I looked him up, I wasn't even a fan of Bush...

It was when I struck up a brief conversation with another curious fellow, ethnobotanist Dr. Dennis McKenna, that I realized how I could use this social technology to not only converse with otherwise-inaccessible people, I could interview them (and thus get published and rich, right?). I set up a time and Dr. McKenna willingly spent an hour or so answering all of the questions a teenager might ask such a well as a few others provided by online friends. One of those friends, James Kent, had recently launched a new magazine and was on the lookout for original material. He said if the interview went well he'd be interested in publishing it. Despite a couple of disconnections (thanks call waiting), the chat went as well as I could have hoped. James and his designers gave it a wonderful visual treatment and I knew then that my job at the Walgreen's 1-hour photo lab was not long for this world. Out loud or just internally, I almost certainly proclaimed to the world of journalism, "Here I come!"

I continued this online interview approach, switching to email at times which lacked the fluid nature of live chat, but devised, executed and pitched more interviews. If James wanted to publish them, awesome. If not, I was still having a blast.

In the interview's introduction, I wondered, "Twenty years from now, what immense gifts will he given to the scientific community...and the world at large?" Stay tuned.

UPDATE: It was an absolute hoot to learn that the subjects of my first two published interviews, Dennis McKenna and Douglas Rushkoff, got together 15+ years after I made those early journalistic endeavors for a joint discussion at The Riverside Theatre. Listen to the two-hour-long chat as these two brilliant minds discuss their new projects, evolved perceptions of time and space and other thought-provoking topics.