The first episode of Netflix’s four-part psychedelic series How to change your mind, based on the book by Michael Pollan, is about LSD. It’s the first psychedelic drug I’ve ever taken.
Pollan’s story is quite different. As he acknowledges in the book, Pollan was a latecomer to psychedelics. In fact, he tries acid for the first time near the end of the episode.
It’s an enlightening start. The other episodes are about psilocybin (mushrooms), MDMA (Ecstasy, molly) and mescaline (cactus). Narrator Pollan traces the history of LSD from its creation by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938 and its first trip in 1943 to Humphry Osmond’s groundbreaking research in Canada (he coined the term “psychedelic”) to the experiments of Timothy Leary and Ram Dass at Harvard to the CIA. program that turned on Ken Kesey at Stanford and opened the door to Acid Testing until it was banned by the United States in 1965 after 30 years of inaction in the face of the new wave of therapeutic use and microdosing.
I wrote about my maiden voyage on acid in Psychedelic journeys for the MIND, a book published by High Times in 2001 and edited by Paul Krassner. The story is reproduced below.
By Steve Bloom
I was 16, I’ve never done anything worse than smoke a joint. I was a senior in high school, 1971, DeWitt Clinton, Bronx, NY. We had a rest day or half a day. The New Riders of the Purple Sage were playing a free show in Central Park at the Bandshell. I took the subway downtown with my older brother Barry and my friend Matt. Matt had his arm in a sling; he had cut his hand in a lawnmower accident about a week before.
We settled on the grass, smoked a few joints and waited for the New Riders. Then a clear glass pitcher containing an orange looking drink was passed to me and Matt. We looked at each other like, “You know what this is?” – and then proceeded to take several sips each. Half an hour later, we were on a trip. I don’t remember leaving our little patch of grass.
The New Riders played as clouds raced across the sky. My brother came over and asked how we were. We seemed a little spaced out. I told him we drank something. Carefree, he separates again. When the show was over, we all left the park and took the train home.
Matt looked confused. He didn’t know where we were, what day or what time it was. He was suddenly “out of it”. He kept “rewinding” his recent hospital stay and possibly the morphine they had given him. We had to keep telling Matt what day it was, where he was and so on.
While mom’s hair turned into a beehive, dad’s head sported Viking horns, and I barely touched my dinner, Barry revealed that I accidentally took LSD. It sent shock waves.
For some strange reason, we went straight home. It was around 6 p.m. We lived on the first floor of an apartment building. Matt lived on the sixth floor. My parents were at home from their respective jobs. They didn’t notice anything “bad” with me at first. Then Matt’s mom called to ask what was “wrong” with him.
I took the elevator upstairs and entered Matt’s room to find him sweating under the glow of a hot desk lamp. Matt’s mother was hysterical. “What did you do to her?” she cried. I hung out with Matt for a while, then I came back down. Those five flights of stairs were one of the weirdest stairwell rides I’ve ever been on.
It was dinner time at Bloom. We took our usual seats, me facing my brother, my parents facing each other. With my eyes bulging, hallucinating at the wallpaper, they both asked what was “wrong” with Steven. Barry said I took something at the concert. What? “Something,” he dodged.
But while mom’s hair turned into a beehive and dad’s head sported Viking horns and I barely touched my dinner, Barry revealed that I had accidentally taken LSD. It sent shockwaves, which included my mother’s comment, “What happens next, heroine?” After a bit of moralizing, my dad decided to ignore it all and started laughing at my obviously shitty but peaceful condition. They excused me to the room Barry and I shared.
I turned on the Mets game and enjoyed the streaks of baseball flying all over the field. Baseball on acid, what a concept! Periodically, I walked into the dining room and looked at the wallpaper. The pattern was still moving psychedelic. Finally, at midnight, the walls stopped moving. My first acid trip was over.
Become a patron!