Cash Wares on Telegraph Avenue, 1976

I am currently reading “Telegraph Avenue” by Michael Chabon. Somehow, I had the impression this one came out a year or two ago, but I just saw him on the Colbert Report (no, he couldn’t keep pace w/ Colbert either) and this is his “current” novel. Telegraph-Wares

Anyway, it’s fun reading so far (though Chabon’s prose seems at odds for his praise of Hemingway on Colbert) and double fun when something resonates with me. He has a character threaten to sell his plasma – which is EXACTLY what I did back in 1976 when I was stranded in a broken-down van a couple of blocks off Telegraph Avenue.

For those blissfully unfamiliar with selling plasma, this is the quickest cash crop the human body produces. Since the buyers only want your plasma, not all of your blood, when you take your “wares” to “market,” they siphon out some blood, harvest that stuff via centrifuge and then put the red blood cells back in you. That means you’re on this recliner with a hose hanging off your arm (okay, I exaggerate) for close to two hours. For this, I received $5 cash per sale – not sure what the going rate is today. Health concerns cause them to restrict you to selling your plasma no more than twice a week, so this is meager money, but “easy” money.

The thing is, ten bucks weekly barely gave me enough cash for a couple of yogurts per day, so by the third visit, the purchasing agent (nurse, most likely, but I really don’t recall much about the specific conditions) nearly stopped me mid-drain due to my turning pale during the initial extraction. After they pumped me back up, they had me stay there and gave me fruit and juice before they would release me into the wild again. It can be so burdensome moving those inert bodies away from the door and it does tend to discourage new trade.

So when I go in for my fourth visit, they cheerily announce that I have won the weekly lottery drawing, worth $25. Taking that as a sign from somewhere or someone or something that this was not my intended line of work, I claimed my prize, earned my final five from them and departed, never to return. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, with $30 cash in my pocket, I felt like a modern William Randolph Hearst, standing there on Telegraph Avenue facing a world full of opportunity.

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About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
This entry was posted in anecdotes, Buller, money, storytelling, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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