A lot of things happened ten years ago today.

Not many people were paying attention to the new phenomenon known as the World Wide Web on the morning of August 9, 1995. A young computer programmer at the University of Urbana-Champaign in Illinois, Marc Andreesen, had invented the web browser (called “Mosaic”) a couple of years before. Some venture capitalists partnered with Andreesen to create a company based on web technology (which was considered a wacky idea at the time). They initially called the company Mosaic Communications, but Mosaic was already well-known as the name of the free, open-source browser, so the company changed its name to Netscape. Ten years ago today, this company went public on the stock market. It was the first internet IPO, and a big financial success. The dot-com craze was born.

I had only recently left my job at a Wall Street bank to begin working for a media dot-com in midtown Manhattan. We were too busy that morning to watch the stock market news, but news of Netscape’s runaway IPO rippled through our office. It was a validation of everything we’d been working on ourselves for the past few months in our basement office of a skyscraper. It meant things were going to get more exciting.

I was in a lunchtime meeting that day when I heard that Jerry Garcia had died. My first thought was to call my daughter, because only two months earlier I had taken her to see the Grateful Dead at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. They opened with “Feel Like A Stranger” into “Bertha”, closed the first set with “Deal”, opened the second set with a great “China Cat Sunflower->I Know You Rider”, badly mangled “Wharf Rat” and then pulled out the Beatles “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” for the encore. It was an amazing show and a really fun evening for the two of us.

It happened that today was also her tenth birthday. When I called, she had already heard the news and was, of course, sobbing. We agreed that she and her mother and her siblings should meet me in Central Park that evening, because word was already out that everybody would be going to Strawberry Fields for Jerry. It was a sweet, sad gathering that August night, acoustic guitars and flowers abounding.

A couple of days later, having an annoying time at work, I stepped outside, sat on a park bench, gathered my thoughts and wrote the first poem I ever wrote in my adult life. Until this day, I had only written fiction, non-fiction and various forms of experimental prose. But I was feeling something different in the air, somehow, somewhere, and I wanted my writing to become different as well.

Ten years later: people are still listening to the Grateful Dead, which has weathered the past decade better than the dot-com stock market. Netscape’s share price tanked and the company got bought by America Online, which then merged with that very same media company I was working for when I heard the distant news of its IPO (this company even briefly changed its name to AOL Time Warner before coming to its senses and changing the name back).

Today, my daughter is celebrating her 20th birthday (she’s now a college student in Manhattan, a creative writing major and an editor of the student paper). As for me, I hope I am writing better poems. Beyond all this, I think the ripples are still spreading, but I know not where.

14 Responses

  1. Just so you know, Levi…
    Just so you know, Levi… sometimes when I find myself a little too enmeshed in the gears of my dreams, and by that I mean the day to day work involved in writing, interviewing, coordinating literary events with other people whose motives range from art to profit and everything in between, reading your occasional recollections is very refreshing – it brings me back to the simplicity of doing it for fun.

  2. Roll with the ChangesJust to
    Roll with the Changes

    Just to clarify, you mean the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, right? The very same place that REO Speedwagon was born?

  3. Wow, I didn’t know about
    Wow, I didn’t know about that. With the REO Speedwagon connection, everything else falls into place.

  4. In defense of the Illini
    In defense of the Illini nation

    I feel that I would be letting my fellow Illini brothers and sisters down if I didn’t say that it’s the “University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.” I mean. . .really.

    It’s a hell of a school. Not as fine an instiution as my alma mater, of course, but what are you gonna do?

    Come to think of it, Illinois lost to NC in the NCAA finals, their football team blows and the NCAA is on the verge of making them cover up their team logo.

    You know what brooklyn, you call that school whatever you want. Come to think of it, I’m moving out of this God-foresaken state. Yeah, I’m gonna pack up the cats and head to glorious Kentucky. Yeah! Kentucky, home of bourbon and horses. Yep, the Kentucky Kid — that’s what they’ll call me. I likes me the sound of that.

    Gonna plop an REO 8-track in the station wagon (with the genuine simulated wood grain on the sides), become a card-carrying member of the Republican party and punch it heading due southeast. Yee-haw!

  5. Well, Jamelah, I could be a
    Well, Jamelah, I could be a smart-ass and say “Before the Europeans showed up (probably bearing names like Champaign)”.

    Seriously, all, no disrespect to the fine people of Urbana-Champaign. I admire this university — the web browser was invented there, after all. The only thing that ever got invented at my college was a few new variations on “quarters” (do the Illini still play “quarters”?).

  6. Dude, seriously, enough.
    Dude, seriously, enough. It’s the University of Illinois. Move along…

  7. yepyou are writing better

    you are writing better poetry

    Glad to hear your daughter is doing well

    i’m oblivious to the dead but not so to the birth of the web

    did a small lecture series in 95 helpin my kid’s class get on the web, textual as it was back then

    had a site up in 96
    good ideas lacking execution

    check out the they have like a history of some of the early pages, litkicks included

  8. Two things — Yeah, what
    Two things —

    Yeah, what brooklyn said. It kind of was a nation.

    And second, technically it should be U of I at Urbana-Champaign to differentiate it from University of Illinois at Chicago, a/k/a UIC.

    Now, I shall move on.

  9. Hi Um!Man, I was so
    Hi Um!
    Man, I was so computer-illiterate ten years ago. I don’t remember when Microsoft Word came out, but I remember thinking what a miraculous thing that would be, if I could just have that and nothing else. Now I’m all into Adobe Photoshop and making my own website and so on. You guys were the pioneers!

  10. The Internet…ten years ago
    The Internet…ten years ago

    I’ll be frank with you. When I first heard about the internet, I thought it was an electronic gimmick to get folks to buy computers.

    I first saw a semblance of the internet– but they didn’t call it that–in 1988. It was in a library in a university town called Johnson City, TN.

    They were interoffice communications just done between library departments. Then there was this thing called ERIC which was a acronym(sic?) for an educational relay information system which was nationwide for education departments. You could get thesis published on there and even term papers for people to instantaneously read in libraries and other places with computer terminals. In 1995, the Internet was really getting cranked up…

    I, too, missed the passing of Jerry Garcia, in 1995, who was a major driving force in what was one time underground rock and roll. The “Grateful Dead” were not a huge money making operation at one time, as you would know if you remember the 60’s. I am showing my age and am a victim of ageism as were many aging song writers and rockers at the time. The Dead’s last big hit “Touch of Grey” burned the idea into my consciousness that you could ROCK ON.
    On the internet, you are ageless until you reveal your age.
    You are sexless until you reveal your sex, etc. That is an advantage for folks who are considered “over the hill” in this youth oriented society. Back in the sixties, a group called the “Grey Panthers” was formed to combat ageism in the job market,etc. They were quite successful and now we have anti-discrimination laws against it. However, “ageism” is hard to prove as we know.

    Jerry Garcia and people like him, like BB King, and many others, have proved that as you get older you can, like fine wine, get better or at least hold your own. Paul McCartney is one of those folks, too. Thank you to the Internet and to folks that keep on trucking regardless of age. Hey, and we can’t forget Bob Dylan either. “Welcome to the club”. One of these days all of us, unless we pass on, are going to be over 40. We have something to say, even so, and will be heard one way or another.

  11. It’s enough to make me want
    It’s enough to make me want to go on a health kick, just to stick around and see what happens next.

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Litkicks is 26 years old! This website has been on a long and wonderful journey since 1994. We’re relaunching the whole site on a new platform in June 2021, and will have more updates soon. We’ve also been busy producing a couple of podcasts – please check them out.

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