20 April 2021

420 On 419

 Today is Cannabis Day.  According to at least one story, this date was chosen because "420" is police parlance for "pot smoking in progress." (With weed becoming legal in many state, this will become an interesting bit of history.)  Another account says that it this date comes from Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35":  Multiply those numbers and you get 420.  Ohh-kaay.  Some have also tied it to the fact that it's Adolf Hitler's birthday, though what he has to do with it is beyond me.

The most plausible explanation I've found is that it started with a group of Marin County high-schoolers who met at 4:20 in the afternoon on this date (or some fine day) in 1971 to "toke."  If that's true, today would mark the 50th anniversary of that historic encounter.

I have to wonder whether this "holiday" will grow or decline in importance now that "weed" is being legalized or decriminalized in one jurisdiction after another.  

One reason I mention 420, though, is its possible connection to another "chemical" holiday--one that is connected to a bicycle ride and about which I was remiss in not mentioning!

On 19 April 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, often called the father of psychedelic medicine, took (dropped) lysergic acid diethylamide--at 4:20 pm--and went for a bike ride.  This might be the reason why the experiences--which, for some, resemble an almost-cinematic evolution of sensual stimuli-- that ensue from dropping acid are called a "trip."

From Double Blind

Believe it or not, it didn't become illegal to possess LSD in the United States until 24 October 1968.  But 19 April didn't become a holiday, if an unofficial one, until 1985, so it couldn't be called "Acid Day" without attracting the attention of authorities. You're a lot more likely to get busted for dropping than for toking:  For the latter, the gendarmes, depending on where and what race you are, might look the other way.  Thus did 19 April become World Bicycle Day.

As for Hofmann himself:  He described his experiences in rather vivid detail.  And he lived to be 102.  Maybe it had something to do with his bike-riding.

19 April 2021

Dragons, Rescues And Purple Tulips

An early spring weekend of riding turned out to be a slalom:  I wove my way between bouts of rain and threats of rain, and among momentoes to death and loss and life's renewal.

First, to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the home of the Unisphere.  If you haven't been there, you saw it in "Men In Black."  I rode a route that took me through the park because I wanted to see the cherry blossoms.  The ceremony the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens holds was canceled this year, as it was last year.  It's still a great place to see the blooms because of the walks and paths lined with the trees, and the variety of cherry blossoms grown at the Gardens.  But those of us in the know will tell you that if you want to walk through a pink canopy without the throngs of selfie-takers, there's no better place in this city than FM-CP.

I think I might've been a bit early--or the trees might be blooming a bit later than they did last year:  The buds, lovely as they are, do not burst with color in the same way.  Like all buds, however, they are a visual reminder of hope and the future.  So, I can look forward to going back in a few days--I hope.

I did, however, see "Leo."

During the past few years, an inordinately high number of trees have toppled in this city's parks and on its streets.  Part of the reason is that once-in-a-century storms are striking every ten, five or even fewer years.  Another, as a park ranger told me, is that many trees are old and have been decaying from within for years.  

So, contrary to a rumor I may have just started, there isn't a dragon named Leo who knocks the trees down.  Maybe he's kept at bay by coolers of--Gatorade?  beer?--left for him!

My riding took me into Manhattan, the whole length of the island and beyond.  At its base, Battery Park--where you get the ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island--there's a memorial to members of the Merchant Marine who were wounded or killed in World War II.

According to the inscription, the sculptor was inspired by a photo.  I don't doubt it, but if said sculptor could also have claimed inspiration from something else:

I mean, can you imagine what the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would look like had someone besides Pope Julius commissioned--or Michelangelo (one of my artistic heroes) painted it.  

(Fun fact: Michelangelo didn't want to do the ceiling.  He was at work on other projects and insisted he was primarily a sculptor rather than a painter.  During the course of working on it, he wrote poems, tinged with sarcasm, about his displeasure at working on the fresco.)

Another irreverent thought occurs to me:  Both Michelangelo's fresco and the sea sculpture can be seen as Rorsach tests of a sort:  When you see one hand reaching out to another, do you think the stronger one should grasp the other and pull the other up?  Or do you think the person being to whom the hand is being extended should learn to fend for himself?  Will the guy in the water start to swim and, if he doesn't, does he deserve help?  

At one time such a test would have classified me one way, and now it would reveal me in a different way.  All I'll say is that my days of writing editorials for libertarian publications are long past!

Anyway, near the monument is a cafe for tourists.  I must say that I was impressed with the garden around it:

With a setting like that, the cafe could serve sludge from the water and people would enjoy it!  Me, I enjoyed my weekend of riding, even if it wasn't high-mileage.

18 April 2021

The Real Reason "Safeties" Won Out?

 Let me tell you what I think of bicycling.  It has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.  I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.

Those words were uttered by Susan B. Anthony.  It's no coincidence, I think, that the women's suffrage moment gained momentum during America's first "Bike Boom," in the 1890s and early 1900s.  Both developments followed the development of the "safety bicycle," with two wheels of equal or nearly-equal size and the rear propelled by a chain-and-sprocket drive.

OK, I'll try to say this without sounding sexist.  I think that the safety bicycle encouraged women to take up riding for two reasons.  One is that is that it's easier to ride a "safety" in the clothes women wore in those days. (I'm not sure how they could mount 60-inch wheels in hoopskirts.)  The other is that women are, on average, smaller than men and would--even if they were wearing lycra tights (which, of course, weren't available at the time) thus have more difficulty in getting aboard a high-wheeler.  

Plus, "safeties" just make more sense--like letting people vote, regardless of their gender.