Friday was quite a day for me: wake up at 5 after a restless night, travel by air, give test lecture, get praised beyond belief, eat excellent mutton & cabbage, do very friendly interview, become optimistic, meet up with local skeptical buddy, return home. Then a metal gig headlined by Graveyard, whose stellar new album Hisingen Blues is a must for all Zeppelin fans, preceded by Top Hawk with a basso singer and Horisont as fine openers, the latter with a particularly impressive drummer and an 80s-style high-tenor singer. (All three bands also had technically brilliant lead guitarists who looked really shy and introverted.)
I caught the 00:15 commuter train home, and had an encounter that I’d like to share with you, Dear Reader.
I was reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion on my phone (in preparation for a Regency LARP two weeks from now: I’m Mr. William Elliot) when a 40ish man in a purple shirt and no coat sat down across from me. He had a clean-shaven head (except for his eyebrows), jowly cheeks and a paunch. He seemed tired and paid me no attention. Then a short guy the same age sat down next to me, immediately shook my hand and started to talk. He was short, well-dressed, wearing a stylish little hat, and had Near Eastern looks & accent. He smelled strongly of wine and spoke incoherently, alternately singing snippets of Bellman and Vreeswijk and trying to get people sitting around to join in. I put my phone in my pocket and obediently sang along on some tunes, though he didn’t know the lyrics very well. He told me he was a poet and had once been klubbmästare party-section manager at an Uppsala student’s nation, where he’d made friends with one of my colleagues.
Soon it turned out that Jowly, who mainly seemed to want to sleep, was Singer’s buddy, and the latter kept trying to get him into the conversation. Jowly wasn’t very forthcoming, but suddenly he opened his eyes and said urgently (and irrelevantly), “Cooling systems for mainframe computers! The Americans have got it all wrong! They don’t know how to solve the problem!” Here he was interrupted by some singing from his buddy, but then he got back on track and said, “The cooling, it’s my brother, you know, he’s sort of a semi-savant!”
Here came another interruption when Singer asked me if I wanted some pills. Ignoring my demurral he asked Jowly for the two he gave him before, but Jowly said he’d already taken those, and so Singer got out a pharmacy-style box of pill blisters from which he extracted two yellow/green capsules. “This is like cocaine, I promise! Strong shit! Have some!” The guy broke open a capsule and poured out a white powder onto the base of his left thumb. When I still didn’t want any, he held out his hand to Jowly, who eagerly bent forward and vacuumed the stuff up, spreading some across his cheek and upper lip. Singer snorted a capsule too and helped Jowly clean up, while I curiously took the box and read the label.
“Fluoxetine. Against anxiety and depression. One capsule daily. Prescribed for Mr. This-and-that by Dr. So-and-so.”
I didn’t know what Fluoxetine is. But the writing on the box also informed me that the drug was an SSRI, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. That made me laugh a little. The substance is in fact more widely known as Prozac. It will just maybe lighten your flagging mood and dampen its swing amplitude somewhat if you take it regularly for months, though your mileage may vary considerably. And I’m pretty sure that regardless if you eat it or snort it, it isn’t psychoactive at all in the short term. These bozos thought they were getting high off of Singer’s physician-prescribed mild antidepressants, that don’t even carry the “don’t drive” triangle.
When we reached my stop, Singer was loudly and happily singing the “raï-rattiratti-raïraïraï-raïraï” kid’s choir chorus from one of Cornelis Vreeswijk’s hits along with some teens two boxes over, and Jowly was slumped in his seat. As I got up, Singer shook my hand again and said it had been a pleasure.