November 2, 2015

#44 Shine On You Crazy Goldman

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All

A website for people who are way too high. Plus, could LSD unlock our better selves? Does PJ even have a better self? We investigate. 

The Facts
Our theme music is by 

Breakmaster Cylinder. Our ad music is by Build Buildings

Some Websites

TripSit The floating orb


PJ VOGT: Uh, this week’s episode is really, really, really, really, really not for anyone who’s not an adult. It features adults making questionable choices. If you are a young person, or you are with young people, please do not listen to this one.

PJ: From Gimlet this is Reply All. I’m PJ Vogt. This week we have a story about changing your mind. And it starts with a 911 call.

DISPATCHER: 911, where's the emergency?

CALLER: Um, something that happened in my dream and it's actually happening.

PJ: So this man got too high, and he called 911. And what he’s trying to do is convince the operator of something that his family refuses to believe.

DISPATCHER: Okay, what's happening?

CALLER: Everything that happened today is actually in my dream and I wanna prove to everybody.

DISPATCHER: Okay. Okay. So what did you dream about that's happening?

CALLER: It's all on paper, I wrote it down.

DISPATCHER: Okay. We'll get someone out there to you.

CALLER: Thanks so much.

DISPATCHER: Okay, buh-bye.

PJ: So the cops come, and they just say please, please stop calling, or we’re gonna have to arrest you. They don’t want to do it. But, because his family refuses to admit that they’re a part of his dream prophecy, he has no choice but to call 911 again.

DISPATCHER: 911, where is your emergency?

CALLER: Hello, I called earlier, I’m in Orange City.

DISPATCHER: And what's the emergency?

CALLER: The officer told me not to call back. And he said if I called back, then y'all are gonna take me to court. So I'm calling back. Because I have to prove something.

DISPATCHER: Because you wanna go to jail?

CALLER: I have to prove something to my family. So can you send an officer back?

PJ: Calls like this happen all the time. I could play you dozens of them off the internet. Calls where someone got too high, freaked out, and called the cops. As this case shows, that’s not always the best idea, because they’re cops, and so they might charge you. Fortunately though, there’s actually another place you can go for help. I recently talked to somebody who volunteers there. His mission in life is to calm down people who have gotten too high.

REALITY: Last night, for example, a guy comes in. He’s on dissociative, which are kind of similar to psychedelics. But not. He’s like, “I’m just here because I wanted to confirm that I’m real. Everything is real.” And I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re real, you’re still alive, everything’s okay.” And that’s all he needed. He was like, “Thanks guys, helped a lot.”

PJ: This conversation happened on a website called TripSitting is like babysitting, but instead of taking care of babies, TripSitters take care of people who have gotten too high on drugs. Say you’ve eaten a bunch of mushrooms and you feel overwhelmed by paranoia. You’re too high to function, but not too high to get on your computer. And so, you log on to TripSit, where you’re greeted by a front page that offers you resources about drug safety, and access to the TripSit chatroom. In the chatroom, you type into a box, and a volunteer TripSitter jumps in to assist you. They’ll ask you what drugs you’ve taken and how much. And if they can establish that you’re not in physical danger, then they’ll just focus on trying to help you calm down. The person I spoke with is one of these TripSitters, and he agreed to talk to me so long as I didn’t use his real name.

PJ: So how, how should we identify you for the purposes of this interview?

REALITY: I think just go with Reality would be good. You know, would be unhelpful if certain people found out that I was involved in this kind of thing.

PJ: Reality is the name that he uses on TripSit, it’s a reference to a David Bowie album that he loves. But in the context of a chatroom for the hopelessly stoned, that name of course takes on a different meaning.

REALITY: People come in, they'll be freaking out, and they'll be like, you know, “Is any of this real?” And I'll say something, I'll say like, “Yeah, you're alright, man.” They say, "Wow! Reality just confirmed my existence."

PJ: Whoever I pictured when I imagined a guy who spends his time talking to high people online, it was not this guy. He’s calm and thoughtful. He has a real grown-up job, doing work that’s smart and complicated and honestly kind of boring. But he lives for this volunteer work on TripSit. And he’s good at it. If somebody’s in real trouble, he’ll make sure that they seek actual medical attention. But usually, that’s not the case. Usually, he just needs to babysit someone who’s gotten in over their head. Reality says that there are go-to strategies that typically work.

REALITY: The tripper usually has quite a short attention span, so you just ask them to, you know, go grab a glass of water, or we give them some music suggestions, something like Emancipator or something, you know nice and calm like that.

PJ: What's Emancipator?

REALITY: Emancipator's a band who do like, really cool like instrumental music. It's very like orchestral kind of thing. My mom says it sounds like elevator music but I strongly disagree.

PJ: There’s also this website he’ll send people to which just consists of a 3D rendering of a floating orb suspended in a box of water. You can move the orb. High people find it calming.

REALITY: It models like liquid physics in the browser and you can sort of interact with it with your mouse. It's quite cool. Things like this are supremely interesting for people who are on drugs.

PJ: Most of Reality’s job, really, just entails knowing a little bit about drug safety and then being extremely present for scared, vulnerable strangers. The conversations Reality ends up having with these strangers are often really intimate. Once people calm down, they just want to talk. And during those talks, they can realize things about themselves that they never had before. People realize that they’ve done bad things in their lives to people they loved. That they’re alcoholics. That their lives have turned into something that they don’t like. Getting Reality to tell you his true feelings about drugs is surprisingly sort of like pulling teeth, he’s just not a drug evangelist. But he seems to really like talking to people on psychedelics, because these kinds of conversations seem to flow from that class of drug.

REALITY: One of the effects of a psychedelic, it's often described as like, a sense of childlike wonder, like you see everything as if you were a baby, or you see it with the same interest.

PJ: I was really surprised when I learned how much time Reality spends doing this. Basically almost every waking hour that he’s not at work, he’s on TripSit. He volunteers during his nights and weekends. And when he’s not in the chatroom helping people, he’s doing the backend development work that keeps running. I don’t know many people that are this generous. But Reality says that he feels like it’s a privilege to get to do this work. I started to wonder how listening to all these strange, nighttime confessions affected his real life.

PJ: When you go out in the real world, does it affect how you see just people in the real world?

REALITY: Um, I don't know, I mean the two worlds really don't intersect for me much. I don't feel the same sense of generosity elsewhere in my life I think.

PJ: Really? Are there people in your life, in your real life, where you're like Jesus Christ, if this person would just maybe once try a psychedelic they would be so much easier to deal with...

REALITY: Yes. Yes. With some people I wonder whether even a psychedelic could help them, you know? But yeah, for some people I think if only they could sort of, I have conversations with them and I think if only they could experience this sort of like sense of universal empathy for a couple of minutes then maybe they would sort of be a lot more open. Most people would benefit from a psychedelic experience, and it's not just generosity towards others, but also generosity towards yourself.

PJ: At this point, I just set aside the rest of my TripSit questions. And we just started talking about acid—a drug that I have always thought of as the epitome of a dumb, dangerous drug—but which Reality was saying no, this is actually a really great piece of technology. That caught me completely off guard.

PJ: Yeah, it's funny, I've never tried a psychedelic because I've always felt so scared that it would dismantle my brain in a way that I could not reassemble.

REALITY: Yeah, I mean there's a lot of sort of mythos about it and like, the problem is that in times gone past like in the 60's and 70's, I mean people were taking ridiculous amounts of psychedelics, and like with no knowledge about what they did or how to act about them, and now there is a lot of knowledge so you can approach a psychedelic in a much more constructive way and you know, you're not gonna have this experience where you just destroy your mind. It's a valuable experience personally, though you know, I mean, we don't condone drug use certainly. But I mean, they're my personal feelings, not of TripSit's. Obviously.

PJ: Huh. Acid. Could this possibly be real? Could acid really turn you into a better person? Kinder, more patient? So I started poking around. And it turns out there’s a lot of research being done on the therapeutic uses of psychedelics. But that research is mostly limited to people who either have serious addiction problems or who are facing terminal illnesses and need to make peace with their own deaths. What Reality was describing felt different. It felt broader. And then I found this guy who’s been studying psychedelics since the 1960’s, even during the forty-something year period where that research was banned. His name’s Jim Fadiman.

JIM FADIMAN: Good morning.

PJ: Hi, this is PJ calling. So you sort of know generally what we're up to this week?

JIM: As far as I understand, we're gonna talk about LSD.

PJ: When Jim first started researching psychedelics, psychedelic researcher was actually a job you could have, it was a completely legal calling. And Jim performed all sorts of experiments. One of my favorites is a little number he calls “Psychedelic agents in creative problem-solving experiment.” Basically, he took a bunch of geniuses who had been stuck on some creative problem that they’d be wrestling with for months, and he stuck them in a room.

JIM: We gave them 100 micrograms of LSD or 200 milligrams of mescaline, slightly different molecule, same effect, and helped them to deeply, deeply relax and then in the afternoon to work on their problems. And we had 48 problems and 44 solutions.

PJ: The geniuses had a ton of breakthroughs. They built a new conceptual model of the photon. They found an engineering improvement to the magnetic tape recorder. They designed a new linear electron accelerator beam-steering device, whatever that is. That pilot experiment would have been followed by larger ones, but later that year, the government made psychedelics illegal.

JIM: At the time the pronouncement was made and the 60 different research projects were stopped, LSD was the most researched psychiatric drug in the world.

PJ: It’s probably important to mention that Jim is not just an unbiased researcher here. He went through his own conversion. This was back in 1961.

JIM: I was a first year graduate in psychology and I was not deeply interested. The alternative career path at that point was being drafted to Vietnam.

PJ: He was just sort of surviving. And then one day in Paris, he met up with his favorite professor, and that professor got him very high on psychedelics. And Jim began a period of psychedelic experimentation that led to this epiphany that changed his life. When I asked him to describe it to me, he said, it felt kind of like dying, but it wasn’t.

JIM: You have expanded outside of the box of your prior conditioning. It's as if your ego is saying don't, don't, don't, don't do that, um, um, you'll die, you'll get really sick, you'll feel bad. Because what really happens is on the other side of that experience is you say oh, my ego is actually not as important as I thought it was. And your ego says darn, I hoped you wouldn't find that out. It's a little tricky to tell you in a short span, that's why I had to write a book and why there are a lot of books out there. Because it's a little bit as if you're saying to me, "I hear there's some unbelievably wonderful sexual position, but I don’t, but I've never had sex." And I'd say, "Well, it's gonna be a little tricky to kind of give you a description that's gonna be very helpful."

PJ: Oh man. I feel like such a virgin.

JIM: Well, you know it's a wonderful feeling for a while.

PJ: Hearing Jim talk about this feeling getting to abandon himself, I felt jealous. Jim is patient, and warm, just a thoroughly lovely man. Whereas me, I worry all the time that I’m too self-absorbed. I am a misser of birthdays, I’m a non-returner of emails. There’s a running joke in my family that people will take long trips to other countries, trips that they tell me about and plan for, and then once they’ve sailed off to Guatemala or Ireland or whatever, I’ll call them and leave a message asking why they aren’t picking up the phone. If I could take a magic pill and change one thing about myself, it’d be that— to make sure that I was kinder and more aware of the people around me, less stuck in my own head and in my own worries. That said, acid is scary. I know that there are a lot of people who have done acid, and they don’t find it scary, but I don’t care. Because there are also people who took acid and got so messed up that they couldn’t eben hold down their job of playing in Pink Floyd. And Jim says my fear, that I could take acid and see something terrifying in my own brain, that’s real, it happens. But he doesn’t like to call those trips “bad.” He prefers another word.

JIM: Challenging. It gets really difficult.

PJ: He says it’s just like mountain climbing.

JIM: Mountain climbing is really hard. It's really unpleasant and painful, or cold, but you know you've set it up so that can happen, and you're okay with it.

PJ: I’m not okay with it. I would never climb a mountain. In 3rd grade, somebody told me a story about this guy who took too much acid and convinced himself he was an orange, and then that guy got locked away in an insane asylum, because when people went near him he’d start screaming because he was convinced that they were gonna try to peel him. That’s not for me. But Jim said there might be a shortcut. Something he’s developed. A kind of LSD experience that doesn’t get you high, but still unlocks those good parts of you.

JIM: Uh, what’s called a microdose…

PJ: A microdose.

JIM: Which is below what’s called the perceptual threshold, which is, people do not have any of the visual and sensory excitement that psychedelics traditionally are part of. So, what I would probably say to someone like you, not to you…

PJ: Of course.

JIM: Is microdosing is really very safe, you don’t have any interesting experiences…

PJ: Great.

JIM: And the number of people who have now written me about how it has alleviated depression and anxiety is very real.

PJ: Of course the only way to know would be to try it. We’ll back after this word from our sponsors.


PJ: Welcome back to the show. So, it turns out that if you live in a city or know anybody who’s in college, acid is actually pretty easy to find. I met a friend of a friend of a friend outside a coffeeshop. And she immediately handed me a pack of gum, which I opened, because I thought that she was telling me that I had bad breath. But inside was a small plastic bag with two tiny squares of white paper. No charge. When I got home, I examined what she’d given me more closely. Each hit looked like a little piece of confetti. It was crazy to think that something so small could be so powerful. And it was even crazier to think that, according to Jim at least, there was a way to take this drug and then go to your day job and be normal. Not just normal: better. So I decided I wanted to microdose on acid for one week at my job. And this is where Reply All producer Phia Bennin enters the story.


PJ: Hey, Phia.

PHIA: So I was with you during your interview with Jim Fadiman, and I, like you, was charmed and fascinated by the idea of microdosing. So much so, that I found myself wishing that I could do it with you.

PJ: Okay. So, listener, here’s something you should know about Phia: She’s an extremely practical and sensible person. She’s not the kind of person you’d expect to do LSD. Especially at work. But if you were going to do LSD at work, you’d want to do it with someone as conscientious as her. Right at the beginning of this, Phia and I sat down in the studio and we talked about our concerns.

PHIA: I’m a ball of anxiety about this. I’ve talked to like every single person I know about whether i should do it or not.

PJ: No, I totally understand. I think we’re both people that like to have control over ourselves and that’s what makes this scary.

PHIA: Yeah. Yeah.

PJ: We were afraid that we’d hate it, we were afraid that we’d love it. We were afraid that we’d have some revelation and then want to abandon our lives.

PHIA: I was also worried about my Mom’s reaction. I called her, she gave me a list of her concerns. How does it work? How safe is it?

PJ: So we called up the person who’d originally given us the acid, and we asked a lot of questions about what might possibly go wrong, and other questions, just like where’s this stuff from? And we also exchanged more emails with Fadiman. And somehow in the end, Phia got the go-ahead from her Mom. And we decided, “We’re doing this.”

PHIA: So these were the instructions: We needed to take one piece of confetti paper. Soak it overnight in a bottle of water. And then, drink one 10th of the bottle (or less) before 10am.

PJ: Okay, so now what are you doing?

PHIA: I’m preparing a dropper for me.

PHIA: We should take the microdose on day one. Day two, it would still be in our system. Day three would be a recovery day. And day four, we’d take another microdose.

[Clinking vials]

PHIA: Okay.

PJ: Okay. Now we just see what happens?

PHIA: Yeah, now we just have a great day.

PJ: So we did our first dose this bright, beautiful October morning. It was Columbus Day. It was a day off work, the end of a long holiday weekend. And after about 20 minutes, we took a walk down Lincoln Place, in Brooklyn.

PHIA: The whole time I was like, wow, it is a really sunny day. Was it this sunny before?

PJ: Here’s what I’ll tell you. This is the block that I live on. I’ve never noticed that tree before, and I really am noticing it right now.

PHIA: It’s a beautiful tree, it looks like, like a gingko or something.

PHIA: But I definitely wasn’t tripping. I just generally felt really happy.

PJ: The next day, Tuesday, we went into the office. And things felt normal. Like slightly different, but different for the better. Our senior producer, Tim, said that I seemed like I was in a great mood. I’d decided that for this whole week, I wasn’t going to tell my co-host, Alex, what Phia and I were up to. Alex, more than anybody, gets the brunt of my impatience and jerkiness, and so I wanted to see if he’d notice me behaving differently without being prompted. At one point I looked over at him, sitting in a hoodie, staring at his laptop, and I had this unusual feeling towards him. I thought this guy’s a great guy, and it’s important that I communicate that greatness to him. So I said something like, “Hey, Alex Goldman comma, king among men, I have a question for you. ” King among men. I never call him or anyone that. But it did the job. He perked up, and he said it was the nicest thing I’d ever said to him. A few hours later, Phia and i checked in.

PHIA: There’s some work-related phone calls I needed to make that generally make me feel really anxious and those aren’t making me feel anxious right now.

PJ: I feel able to freak out a little bit less and be a little bit more emotionally open. And a little bit less, like, snappy. I think there’s a good chance that if we had full scientific knowledge of the universe we’d be like, this isn’t really affecting us yet, but being told that you’ve taken a powerful drug that’s gonna make you a little more empathetic and calm has a real measureable placebo effect. I think it’s totally possible. But I am feeling that way.

PJ: Then it was Wednesday. It was my birthday. It felt really similar to Tuesday except for one thing: When anybody would make a self-deprecating joke, it deeply disturbed me. It was like watching someone slap themselves in the face really hard. Which was weird. Also, I’d started to make unusually sloppy mistakes, like cc’ing people who I meant to bcc. And when I talked to my editor, Peter, he said that I’d written something that had made quote “zero sense.” That seemed like an indication that maybe the LSD was affecting me, but not in a real alarming way. So, the experiment continued.

PHIA: I’m shaking it.

PJ: That could make a difference


PJ: And then, Thursday.

PHIA: Thursday is when we stopped wondering if what was happening was a placebo. It became clear that something was operating on us. That morning, we met early at work, took our microdose in the studio, and then our days went in totally different emotional directions.

PJ: I felt great. Ideas were coming to me in droves. The sun somehow seemed even brighter than before. At one point, I noticed my boss, Matt Lieber, was sort of looking at me funny. He asked me if something was going on, and so I pulled him aside for a quick interview.

PJ: So Matt Lieber, we’re doing an experiment where I’ve been taking small amounts of LSD before work and sometimes at work.

MATT LIEBER: I, don’t tell, I don’t want to know this. Why are you telling me? What do you want?

PJ: Nothing. I don’t want anything from you. I’m sorry you feel that way.

MATT: Well, I tell you what, I actually have thought you’ve been a little distanced this week.

PJ: Really?

MATT: Yeah. You just, like I came to talk to you yesterday and wish you a happy birthday, and you talked to me for like a minute and then you turned back to your screen and kept working.

PJ: And normally I would have talked longer.

MATT: Yeah. But I figured you were just busy or something.

PJ: This was a mild thing for Matt to say, but I cannot tell you how deeply it affected me. To me, it felt like he was crying out with some deep psychic pain. As our conversation progressed, I got goopier and more earnest in this way that, looking back, is frankly really embarrassing.

MATT: Maybe it’s making you less political.

PJ: I don’t talk to you for political reasons.

MATT: Maybe it’s like you don’t feel like... Like you’re living your own self. You don’t need to kowtow to the president of the company you work for.

PJ: But I don’t want to kowtow. I want to talk to the people I work with.

MATT: Of course, that’s how I feel about you. That’s why I came to talk to you. I’m just kidding. I don’t believe that.

PJ: I’m sorry that I didn’t make more time for you.

PHIA: So while you were obsessing over Matt Lieber, I was feeling worse and worse. I hated keeping this secret from Alex. I felt really guilty. We had an editorial meeting and PJ, you sounded so hyper to me that I just wanted to burst into a giggle. It felt horrible.

[Incoherent PJ babbling]

PJ: So at the end of Friday, we checked in, in the studio, and I was completely blindsided when Phia told me how bad she was feeling.

PJ: How come you feel sad?

PHIA: Um, it’s hard for me to sort out. I feel like doing it on the weekend with you felt fine and fun and good. And bringing it into the workplace felt like… I think it felt like bad to feel like I was trying to hide something from everybody around me.

PJ: Yeah.

PHIA: Like, that’s the difference between Monday when we were just like, having a nice day together and like, I told my community and everybody was checking on me and being supportive and instead this was like trying to have a little secret inside myself.

PJ: Yeah.

PJ: In retrospect this seems obvious, but if you’re gonna take a drug because of the promise that it will connect you to everybody and everything, you probably shouldn’t build a wall of secrecy right through the middle of your experiment. I’m sure that’s not how Jim would have done it.

PJ: Do you feel like we’ve had hubris?

PHIA: Yes. I do. I do! I feel like I at least had a point where I was like, PJ, just do it, it’ll be fun. And I think that that’s an irresponsible approach to a really strong drug.

PJ: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You’re going to stop.

PHIA: Definitely.


PJ: Phia was out, but I wanted to keep going. I couldn’t really tell what the acid was doing, but I definitely felt good. So Saturday, I get up. I have breakfast with my roommate Drew. I take my dose, which he thinks is ridiculous. And then we get in the car, and he drives us up to Rhode Island.

COMPUTER: Let’s get started. Drive safe.

PJ: We’re going to stay on this for 100 miles.

DREW: Okay. Can we just get a little bit of air?

PJ: Oh yeah. Do you want a/c or window?

PJ: So I’m in the car… Drew’s talking about a Drew thing… It’s a nice day… I’m looking forward to lunch… There’s lots of cars on the road… Roads. I started thinking about roads. People design these things, and it’s such a boring job, but also it’s so important. Like, people are constantly dying in car accidents, and it’s your job to minimize these deaths but like you can never win. And then I noticed my breathing. I’d inhale…


PJ: I’d exhale…


And it felt if I could just do this, just breathe, I’d be fine. This was my one job in life. Just keep breathing. It’s not to worry about a work deadline or a breakup or my overdue parking tickets. I told Drew all of this. I explained to him that traffic was deadly, and that breathing was important. And soon after that, I started shivering and shaking, very hard. We stopped at a rest stop and I called Phia and left her a voicemail.

PJ: Hey Phia, it’s PJ. Something just happened and um… like my brain feels like it’s on LSD.

PJ: Phia later pointed out to me that I was not supposed to dose on Saturday. It was supposed to be a rest day. Plus, I had somehow taken my dose and Phia’s dose. I told Drew I wanted him to keep driving so he did. We crossed a very ordinary bridge, and I felt like I was passing through this grand doorway, leaving one world and going into another.

PJ: The trees look beautiful. This is not a hallucination, but they look like they’re on fire.

DREW: Yeah.

PJ: Another reason, possibly, that I had wanted to keep microdosing is that I’d just come off of a rough week. I’d broken up with somebody I loved, and it hurt. It felt like I was just one step ahead of this herd of stampeding feelings that I really, really did not want to catch me. And the microdose had seemed like maybe it would help me outrun those feelings. But then my brain did something weird. We were stuck in traffic on I-95, and I saw all the cars, and I thought about how many people there were in the world, and I felt tiny, like just a speck. And I realized that if I was so tiny and the world was so vast, then the part of me that was hurting, that was even tinier. Even if that hurt felt very large to me, it was nothing. I tried to say this to Drew.

PJ: The thing that I feel that I had not felt before right now is like, the world feels really really really big and actually really connected. And it feels good to know that I am small.

PJ: Drew is a kind and generous friend, and so he did not outright say what I know he was thinking, which was that these were boring drug cliches. But the inside of a drug cliche, and I realize this now, it feels like a simple, pure, uncomplicated revelation. And that was a very useful place to get to visit.

PJ: I also think that this is the end of microdosing for me by the way.

PJ: So that was it. I was glad that I had gotten a tiny peek at this thing that Jim had told me about, the reassuring feeling that the world was big and connected, and that we were tiny parts in it. But this felt like the end. I wasn’t really sure what I’d learned. Nobody I talked to had said I’d been more empathetic, they just said I’d made less eye contact and seemed a little manic and weird. But on the other hand, the next week a lot of things that Jim had said might happen did. I started exercising a lot more, for the first time in months, And eating healthier. I was drinking water. I felt this halo effect, even though I couldn’t say for sure that it had come from LSD. It didn’t feel possible to see outside myself well enough to really say what had happened. But it felt like it might be helpful to check in with the person who most has to deal with me. Alex Goldman. Who I still had not told anything about what had happened. So we sat down in the studio the following Tuesday.

PJ: Did last week feel okay to you?

ALEX GOLDMAN: What do you mean?

PJ: Like did I... I feel like I was being weird. Was I being weird?

ALEX: Like all week?

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX: I don’t know. Not that I can think of. Why?

PJ: Well, I was taking acid at work everyday.

ALEX: What?!

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX: Every day?

PJ: Well, I was doing this thing called microdosing, so I was taking a small amount throughout the week. Can I tell you another piece of information?

ALEX: Sure.

PJ: There was another person who was microdosing at work. She’s in the room right now.

ALEX: Phia Bennin.

PHIA: Hi Alex.

ALEX: Why would you guys do it at work? That's the worst place to do anything fun.

PJ: I guess now that you point it out that’s totally true.

ALEX: That is insane.

PHIA: No, that was the way it was sold. It was like, this is not… This isn’t something fun. What we were told is like, LSD is quite similar to serotonin. That it’s not totally dissimilar to taking an SSRI. That you would just feel like you had a good day. Maybe you’d be a little sharper. Maybe you’d get a little more work done. Maybe you’d drink a few fewer Diet Cokes. You’re just a little sharper. Which wasn’t what happened.

PJ: No.

ALEX: I think that you were being sold a bill of goods by a kookooberry.

PJ: Really?

ALEX: Yeah, I don’t think that that is… I get it. I get that there are people who are like, “I am going to take this drug because it offers me epiphanies or it offers me some kind of equilibrium.” In the same way that there are people who self-medicate with marijuana. I wish I’d had some warning.

PJ: Why, what do you mean?
ALEX: Because I’m blanking on anything that happened last week.

PJ: The thing I remember that I was wondering if you remembered, there was some point where we were on Slack and I was like trying to get your attention and I called you, I think, a king among men.

ALEX: Oh yeah, that was weird.

PJ: Tell me why that was weird.

ALEX: Because you never say anything nice to me. I actually commented to you, “I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

PJ: Yeah. Did that feel good?

ALEX: Being called a king among men? Of course. If I called you that, wouldn’t you feel good?

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX: So do you think you want to continue that tradition?

PJ: Of calling you a king among men or taking LSD before work?

ALEX: I was thinking more along the lines of just being nice?

PJ: Oh. Right. The third option.

ALEX: And also, you did say over and over again at your birthday party, like, “I can’t believe you came out to Brooklyn. Like it’s really, I’m so happy that you’re here.”

PJ: Yes, I did. I felt an immense sense of gratitude.

ALEX: It really isn’t that hard for me to get there. You know I’m here everyday for work, right?

PJ: But you came out at night. Did it feel weird to you?

ALEX: To be here at night?

PJ: No, that I was like thanking you as if…

ALEX: The first time it didn’t. As the night went on and you did it three or four times, I was like this is a little weird. The next day you did it too. You were like, “It was so amazing. I can’t believe you came out.”

PJ: I can still access that feeling. I felt just loved.

ALEX: Huh. I gotta say, I wish you would just do a real full non-microdose.

PJ: why?

ALEX: Because once you know you’re in it, like once you know you’re in it and like it’s like, “Okay. I gotta buckle in for the next half a day,” it’s like you can really make an adventure out of it. Like I think of acid trips that I’ve been on as adventures. There are trips that I’ve been on where insane things have happened.

PJ: Like what?

ALEX: I feel like they’ve seemed… [laugh]

PJ: What happened?

ALEX: I went and saw 2001 once on acid. And I went to see it and I don’t know if you… I expected that the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite, the end of the movie with all the trippy colors and stuff, I figured that was the moment I was waiting for.

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX: What I didn’t realize is that there’s about 45 minutes of that movie where there’s just no dialogue basically. Just space breathing. You know, like [breathing].

PJ: Uh huh.

ALEX: And I realized halfway through, I was like oh my god, I think I’m pretty confident that if this guy stops breathing, I’m going to stop breathing too. I really hope this goes on for a while.

PJ: But you weren’t scared?

ALEX: No. I was like, “This is exciting, like what’s going to happen? I’ve seen this movie, but I don’t remember when the breathing stops.” And then after the movie, I was sitting with my friend Allen and we were talking about the philosophical ramifications of 2001. And this drunk… This like, drunk, like I don’t know how to say, a drunk homeless guy basically. Wandered by. And he was like, “2001?” And we were like, “Yep.” And he was like, “You wanna know what 2001 is about?” And we were like, “Yeah, we’re all ears, man.” He was like, “It’s about whether man and machine can replace woman and child.”

PJ: That’s really insightful!

ALEX: Yeah.

PJ: That’s really insightful.

ALEX: And we were like, “You know what? Can’t argue with that!”

PJ: Reply All is me, PJ Vogt, and Alex Goldman. We were produced this week by Tim Howard, Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, and Katherine Wells. Our editor is Peter Clowney. Production assistance from Kalila Holt. We were mixed by Rick Kwan. Our theme music is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder and our ad music is by Build Buildings. Matt Lieber is a piper at the gates of dawn. You can find more episodes of our show at Our website is Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.


CALLER: So where is the FD at right now?

DISPATCHER: They’re on the way, sir. Do you guys do this on a regular basis?

CALLER: No, this is the first time that we’ve ever done.

DISPATCHER: You’ve never done marijuana before?

CALLER: Yeah, I have.

DISPATCHER: You have, and you’ve never had this reaction to it before?

CALLER: Never. What’s the score on the Red Wings game?


CALLER: What’s the score on the Red Wings game?

DISPATCHER: I’ve got no clue, I don’t watch the Red Wings.

CALLER: Oh, okay, I just wanna make sure this isn’t some type of hallucination that I’m having.

DISPATCHER: Oh, why, what does the score say?

CALLER: Uh, 3 to 3.

DISPATCHER: What channel is it on?

CALLER: Channel 2.

DISPATCHER: Uh, it’s 2 to 2.


DISPATCHER: It’s 2 to 2.

CALLER: Okay. Your, tell your officers they just passed me.

DISPATCHER: Alright, they just passed you?


DISPATCHER: Okay, well, we’ll let em know, okay? Go outside and flag em down, okay?

CALLER: Okay, my mother-in-law just got here too.




CALLER: Alrighty.