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.

Comments

  1. #1 nick
    October 2, 2011

    Placebo in reverse, then? Very funny story.

  2. #2 Martin R
    October 2, 2011

    Haha, yeah, like that movie where a girl sells vitamin supplement pills to some teens at a concert and tells them they’re ecstasy, and the teens are all like “Woah dude, here comes the rush, I can feel it!”.

  3. #3 Karen
    October 2, 2011

    Placebo in reverse. Love it. I took Prozac for awhile, and it did rescue me from deep depression. The Shrink and I played around with some other meds that did a better job but made me sleepy. We tried Prozac again, and this time it gave me hives! Really, really incredibly itchy hives all over my arms and torso. Prozac takes a long time to work. It also takes a long time to cycle OUT of your body once you’ve been taking it. I had those hives for WEEKS. It’s amazing how much hydrocortisone cream you can slather on your body, and how quickly it goes when you’re covering half your body with it.

    Fortunately, my mood’s been stable for years now, using more compatible drugs; though it did take The Shrink and I awhile to find the magic potion. But I won’t forget those Prozac hives!

  4. #4 Birger Johansson
    October 3, 2011

    Like many medicines, the body needs some time to get used to prozac. During the first 10-14 days you will feel like you have some virus; dizziness (and in ten precent of cases nausea with or without vomiting). These symptoms always disappear after this period, but if you try it intermittantly you will get the side effects without the benefits…

    “Metal gig” -a good opportunity to inform the readers that the Scandinavian metal scene is much richer and diverse than those infamous Norwegian Black Metal bands! I believe even an episode of “Bones” featured those nutters.

    And the Norwegian comic strip Pondus features a parody of Black Metal rockers (the less than owerwhelmingly talented Zlatan) alongside parodies of just about everything else. http://www.pondus.no/

    Zeppelin? Me like.

  5. #5 Birger Johansson
    October 3, 2011

    (OT) New-agers tend to attribute all kinds of wisdom to the ancients and their paintings. In this case the wise old ones were five years old. But still possibly wiser than those you met on the commuter train?

    “Archaeologists uncover prehistoric pre-school” (w/ video) http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-10-archaeologists-uncover-prehistoric-pre-school-video.html

  6. #6 Jonathan Lubin
    October 3, 2011

    Back in an earlier geological era, when I was in high school, a classmate told me that she could get wonderfully tipsy on sodapop, as long as she was with the right drinking companion.

  7. #7 Birger Johansson
    October 3, 2011

    “loudly and happily singing the “raï-rattiratti-raïraïraï-raïraï” kid’s choir chorus from one of Cornelis Vreeswijk’s hits”
    Kids are soooo cute! http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=8Oo8m2oektk
    The scene at the very end is my fantasy about what to do with guys who want to drag me into unwanted talking while trapped with them in transit.

  8. #8 Birger Johansson
    October 4, 2011

    Among psychoactive substances, kava is relatively harmless and is used widely in the Pacific http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava
    -Hemp/Marijuana pose the same lung cancer risk as cigarrettes, and may cause psychosis among teenage users. Plus, potheads are not famous for great intellectual achievements!

    If you absolutely cannot stop smoking, this Swedish tobacco product is substantially safer than cigarrettes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snus

    MDMA may be less harmful than widely believed, but the crap sold on the streets can be mixed with any other narcotic substance. Why not just chew on razors instead. Crack: never use something named after a part of your butt.

  9. #9 JustaTech
    October 4, 2011

    Scandinavian metal! I really enjoyed Nightwish (I believe they broke up), a bit shouty in concert, but delightfully nerdy.

    I must say that I would never have stuck around to be sung at by two strange men, even before the Prozac-snorting, but I imagine that’s an American female thing.

  10. #10 Martin R
    October 4, 2011

    It never occurred to me to move. Jowly pretty much ignored me, and Singer was just friendly, and not drunk enough that I feared he’d puke on me. I’m sure I’d have felt differently if I’d been a woman though.

  11. #11 Birger Johansson
    October 4, 2011

    There is much more stuff by Graveyard on Youtube, but this is what I found in the first 30 seconds
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgI6oy2e66E http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA29f1Z9_JY&feature=related

    In the 1980s, the towns provided places where “garage bands” could practice at modest cost, and this created a wide pool of talent that has bootstrapped the Swedish music scene since. I am not familiar with the scene in other Scandinavian countries, maybe you have experiences?

  12. #12 Don
    October 6, 2011

    Ah Sweden! Why cannot our US druggies and bums be so charming, interesting, and intelligent.

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