Subway Tweaker Woman

Riding the subway back into town today after a morning of looking at sites with an old course mate, I became aware of a loud woman a few seats away who would not sit still. Skinny, early middle age, simple clothes. At first I thought she was talking on her cell phone, but then I realised that she was talking to nobody in particular, keeping up a continuous monologue. What little I could make out was about DJs and clubs and 1990s pop stars. She was wearing a scruffy blonde wig, staring into space, her wide brown eyes quite beautiful in her lean face. At one point I thought she was trying to get my attention because she was leaning into the aisle and facing me, but when I made a little salute and said hello she paid no attention to me, just continued talking, looking quizzical, staring through me. And the constant movement – turning left, turning right, standing up, waving her arms, switching seats, doffing the wig, sitting down, donning the wig – and talking, talking. The people closest to her were fiercely ignoring her, just ducking a little when she flailed her arms. I believe she must have been tweaking on amphetamine. And I believe most Stockholm people my age will know who she was – a certain 1990s pop star. I wasn’t sure until I got home and googled for recent pictures of her.

See also Notice Board Screed and Singer And Jowly Do Drugs On The Commuter Train.


  1. #1 John Massey
    October 23, 2012

    Any hint who this persson might be? Or should I just make a base assumption?

    The Wikipedia photos suggest all of their eyes are blue, so I could be way off base.

    Weird digression – I always assumed it was ‘Ace of Bass’, but it wasn’t, was it? It was ‘Ace of Base’. I don’t get it.

  2. #2 Martin R
    October 23, 2012

    The members of Ace of Base, who are not to my knowledge homeless junkies, were not very good at English. “Base”, to them, meant “mixing table”. So “Ace of Base” meant roughly “Skilful music producer”. To them.

  3. #3 Mu
    October 23, 2012

    The odd part, googling “homeless swedish 1990 popstar” actually produces a hit.

  4. #4 John Massey
    October 24, 2012

    Ah. Thanks, it all makes sense now.

  5. #5 John Massey
    October 24, 2012

    No, it’s too hard for me – there have been just too many Swedish popstars. I tried googling, but I just keep endlessly getting “Lulu discovers the joy of sex at 48.” I don’t get that either – she’s from Glasgow and she’s 63.

    Incidentally, I hadn’t realised there were Stockholmese active in Country music until my daughter emailed me this yesterday – mostly because she was excited about the reference to Emmylou Harris. Nice close harmony. Not your musical taste though, I think.

  6. #6 Birger Johansson
    October 24, 2012

    Tragic, considering that the new generation of prychoactive medicines have relatively mild side effects (with some exceptions for schizoprenia and bipolar disorder) so most people who suffer these kind of symptoms could be 99% better. Unfortumately many have been taught it is more “natural” to make do without pills. And many with medicines quit without consulting doctors.

  7. #7 Martin R
    October 24, 2012

    John, I love First Aid Kit’s song “The Lion’s Roar”! Those sisters are a national treasure. And I like alt-country & country rock a lot.

    Birger, I think Tweaker Woman’s behaviour was due more to a meth habit than to prescription medication.

  8. #8 John Massey
    October 24, 2012

    Yes, good one. I just emailed my daughter telling her to catch “The Lion’s Roar”.

    You might or might not agree with me that Poco were the best country rock band of all time (before your time, of course). What a shame Richie Furay became a born again Christian. I recall my massive sense of disappointment at the time.

    Birger, anti-medication people are a menace. I’ve experienced them first hand while in a position unable to defend myself. In my less charitable moments I hope they all get bowel cancer and are then told to sit in a room and die from it while being denied palliative care and told to put their faith in Jesus.

    Bipolar people are notorious for not taking their meds, I’m told – because when they’re up they feel like they can conquer the world, and the lithium takes that away from them.

    But it sounds like that is not the case for the person in question. Poor woman, whoever she is.

  9. #9 Birger Johansson
    October 24, 2012

    Meth? When I grew up we were warned about the dangers of sniffing glue. I feel old.
    BTW if you are past 21-22 you are unlikely to get any psychotic event from cannabis, but long use will mess with your ability to concentrate. Same danger as tobacco smoking regarding lung cancer, which is a good reason to abstain.

  10. #10 Martin R
    October 24, 2012

    John, I like Poco!

    Birger, I once met a woman who had spent four years of her youth as a full-time stoner on welfare in Copenhagen. She was bright enough, but strangely slow. In conversation, her replies came… just a bit later than expected. It was like talking on a laggy phone line. Always that little wait.

  11. #11 Birger Johansson
    October 24, 2012

    Show her this: “Researchers find that diabetes drug (Exendin-4) could be effective in treating addiction”

  12. #12 Birger Johansson
    October 24, 2012

    Oops, I meant the meth user might need Exendin-4 to quit. For long-time pot users you can only hope time will let the synapses make new connections. Kids, don’t do this:

  13. #13 Birger Johansson
    October 25, 2012

    (OT) Prehistoric human populations prospered before the agricultural boom
    (and along the road of testing plants for food, some were discovered to have psychoactive properties. You might say pothead culture was as inevitable as agriculture!)

  14. #14 John Massey
    October 25, 2012

    I suspect there is something wonky with their dating. I’m not saying I know that, but it looks very odd.

    There is an effort to reconstruct the Australian Aboriginal pharmacopoeia, although a lot of the knowledge may be irretrievably lost. It is claimed that they used literally thousands of different plants for various medicinal purposes.

    So who needs agriculture? Evidently hunter-gatherers were trying a lot of different plants for different effects long before then.

  15. #15 Martin R
    October 25, 2012

    Never mind those forgotten remedies. They probably didn’t do much. Traditional medicine rarely does. No blind tests.

  16. #16 Birger Johansson
    October 27, 2012

    A side effect of that plant testing is that we now know which plants are lethal, which ones makes you slighly sick, which ones taste horrible but may contain nutritients if you are starving, and which ones that are edible.
    The late author Stanislaw Lem suggested we should have a monument dedicated to the unknown plant tester, in memory of those thousands of paleolithic victims who have died helping humankind figuring out what to eat as they moved into new regions. 🙂

  17. #17 Birger Johansson
    October 27, 2012

    (OT) I just realised it should be possible to trace younger settlements by searching for a concentration of these odiferous chemicals… :

  18. #18 Martin R
    October 27, 2012

    I believe preliterate societies were pretty bad at retaining any such knowledge they amassed.

  19. #19 John Massey
    October 31, 2012

    I think the reconstruction effort is more one of sort of ‘culture preservation’ than from any belief that therein lie magical cures – though some of the topical treatments for minor stuff seem to work quite well, unless someone is allergic. It’s maybe a bit like dead language reconstruction – of close to zero utility, but people seem to get very worked up about it.

    Incidentally, I don’t think it could be true that ‘all’ Aboriginal people shared the same knowledge of the the same thousands of plants – that can’t have been true. I’d guess collectively over the whole continent, so each group would have had some maybe couple of dozen plants in their environment that were supposed to be good for certain things. Eucalyptus oil is generally good for just about anything, according to my grandmother, so no doubt most groups had that on their list – personally I found it to be good for nothing except irritating my sinuses.

    One of the things that has me head-scratching is that Aboriginal people had some traditional plant foods that were only rendered non-toxic by some really quite complex processing. It seems to me that arriving at the process by experimentation in the first place could have involved quite a few casualties, but if they had to keep reinventing the process because they were unable to retain it by oral transmission and collective memory, it becomes almost comical. But it can’t have been like that in reality.

  20. #20 Anders
    October 31, 2012

    It’s staggering how quickly a pure gossip posting will turn into a serious discussion about science in the Comments section on this blog!

  21. #21 Martin R
    October 31, 2012

    Haha, you’re right!

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