by Anna Ervin
When I was a kid, my friends and I used to google our birthdays to see what kind of weird holidays they fell on. Mine was April 19th, and to my horror, I learned that in some parts of the world this is considered Terrorist Day.
Of course, at the time I wasn’t even aware of the unofficial holiday that fell one day after my birthday. Once I did eventually figure out what the 4/20 culture was all about, I found myself even more disappointed. I tease my mom often, “you couldn’t have waited just 4 more hours to birth me?” To be fair, I was already 6 days behind schedule and making my debut in the world at a whopping 10 lbs.
So, I had come to terms with my fate… Until recently learning that I share my birthday with another odd holiday, one that’s much less aggressive (well, depending on who you ask).
Bicycle Day. Seems pretty innocent, right? Wrong. Bicycle Day has a really interesting origin story, one that actually has very little to do with bicycles.
Around mid-April 1943, amidst a dark time in world history, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann accidentally discovered the psychoactive effects of Lysergic acid diethylamide, a substance more commonly known today as LSD or “acid.”
According to his writings, the synthesis of LSD-25 had previously been intended to obtain a “circulatory and respiratory stimulant.” However, the substance was deemed useless and set aside without testing for nearly 5 years, when Hofmann decided to revisit the studies. In the process, he managed to drop a small dose on his skin, resulting in what he reported to be a “remarkable experience.”
To ensure that this state of mind was in fact influenced by LSD-25, he made the bold choice to experiment further. On April 19th, 1943, at precisely 4:20pm (I know, right?), Hofmann dosed himself with ten times the amount he had absorbed through his skin just days prior. According to his journal, his experience ranged from dizziness and anxiety, to “visual distortion, symptoms of paralysis, and desire to laugh,” but the most notable part of his trip was the bike-ride home:
“Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening, and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux.”
If you know, you know.
I have a pretty good idea how the majority of you will be celebrating April 20th this year, but what about April 19th? Obviously, LSD is still considered a Schedule I substance by the DEA, although clinical studies on the therapeutic effects of the substance are taking place across the globe.
So, while I cannot, in good conscience, recommend that you explore such a dangerous and deadly substance (I hope you can feel the sarcasm dripping off your page), I would like to recommend picking up a book by Albert Hofmann himself. Or, I don’t know, maybe ride a bike?