May 15, 2008

What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoff @ 8:59 pm


Good morning, music lovers. I thought we would end the week with a splash of springtime wonderment. When I returned home from Felton on Wednesday night I noticed the sky was about to explode with some big-time color. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to scurry up to Davenport because this dusk buster was a 360 degree experience and seeing these clouds reflecting off the water would not have ruined the moment. So I instead hurried over to a little McArthur Park near my house to view the action and Father Nature did not disappoint. After I stopped shooting the sky glowed with red delight for another half hour but by this time I had the iso camera on the Laker’s Kobe Bryant so we’ll have to settle for the clockwork orange experience.

And speaking of colors, Albert Hofman, (no relation to Abbie or Jerry) the father of the mind-altering drug LSD whose medical discovery inspired and retired millions in the 1960′s hippie generation, died April 29 at the age of 102 in Switzerland. For decades after LSD was banned in the late 1960′s, Mr. Hofman defended his invention. “I produced the substance as a medicine…It’s not my fault if people abused it,” he once said while dancing wildly in a tie-dyed t-shirt at a Grateful Dead concert .

The Swiss chemist discovered lysergic acid diethylamide-25 in 1938 while studying the medicinal uses of a fungus found on wheat and other grains at the Sandoz pharmaceuticals firm in Basell. He became the first human guinea pig when a tiny amount of the substance seeped onto his finger during a laboratory experiment on April 16, 1943. He said his initial experience resulted in wonderful visions. “What I was thinking appeared in colors and pictures. It lasted for a couple of hours and then it disappeared.” I’m not sure if that was an acid trip or he just went to see the movie “Fantasia.”

Three days later, Mr. Hofmann experimented with a larger dose. The result was a horror trip. I believe Webster’s would define this as a “bummer.” “Everything I saw was distorted in a warped mirror. The substance I wanted to experiment with took over me. I was transported to a different world, a different time. I was filled with an overwhelming fear I would go crazy.” Sounds like a little journey Peter Fonda took in “Easy Rider.” Born to be wild.

Mr. Hofmann hoped LSD would make an important contribution to psychiatric research. The drug exaggerated inner problems and conflicts and thus it was hoped that it might be used to recognize and treat mental illnesses like schizophrenia. For a time, Sandoz sold LSD 25 under the name Delsid, encouraging doctors, nurses and receptionists to try it themselves. It was one of the strongest drugs in medicine with just 1 gram enough to drug an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people for 12 hours.

One of the earliest experiments with a large group of subjects took place in large meadow back in 1969 at a place called Woodstock. Three days of peace, love and enough acid to turn on the lights at the strip in Las Vegas. I was at this blessed event 39 years ago but the only trip I took was down to the the souvenir stand to purchase a commemorative Woodstock key chain and pen and pencil set.

LSD was elevated to international fame in the 1960′s by Harvard Professor Timothy Leary who embraced the drug under the slogan, “turn on, tune in, drop out.” But away from the psychedelic trips, horror stories emerged about people going on killing sprees, jumping out windows while hallucinating and writing pilot episodes for network television.

The U.S. government banned LSD in 1966 and other countries followed suit. Mr. Hofmann maintained this was unfair, arguing that the drug was not addictive. He repeatedly argued for the ban to the lifted to allow LSD to be used for medical research. He welcomed a decision by Swiss authorities last December to allow LSD to be used in a psychotherapy research project. “For me, this is a very big wish come true. I always wanted to see LSD get its proper place in medicine,” he told Swiss TV at the time. He later added, “Strawberry fields forever” and “I am the walrus, Goo goo g’ joob.”

That’s our story for today. No blog on Monday as I’ll be at the River Arts Festival all weekend talking NBA basketball, transcendental meditation and my favorite issues of TV Guide. But we’ll be back strong next Wednesday. So have a great sports weekend and if you have a chance stop by the booth and say hello on Saturday and Sunday between 11-5 at San Lorenzo Park. I’ll be playing the passing lanes. Aloha.

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